R: RE: James: Hebrew or Aramaic?

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at mclink.it
Tue Dec 24 22:38:08 EST 2002


>>The Watchtower literature endorses the hypothesis that in the first
>>century, Jews spoke Hebrew instead of Aramaic.
>
>They're not the only ones. There is quite a bit of debate regarding the

>language of first-century Jewish speakers.

One can see from the collections of letters from 
the Bar-Kochba period that some people spoke 
Hebrew while others spoke Aramaic and still others 
Greek.

There are a few comments in the Mishna which 
indicate that the Jerusalem centre used Aramaic 
while Judea used Hebrew. (I've got the reference 
somewhere in anyone wants it: it's based on the 
actual words that are used -- in one context 
Aramaic, in the other Hebrew.)

The Dead Sea Scrolls plainly show that Hebrew was 
a spoken language because the spelling often 
differs from the biblical spelling, and that 
spelling attempts to be more phonetically exact, 
adding yods, waws and alefs to help. The writers 
were conscious of pronunciation. There are a 
number of morphological differences which indicate 
linguistic change and there are a number of 
Aramaisms which indicate that the language had 
felt the effect of Aramaic.

Beside the biblical texts, the DSS show at least 
two other dialects of Hebrew in operation at the 
same time.

>>Recently, the ossuary belonging to Jesus's brother, James, has come
out to
>>light. It's been stated in the media that there is an Aramaic
inscription
>>on it. Is it true?

It's almost certainly half fake. There is a change 
of script and a change of hand from the first half 
to the second. Well-formed letters in the first 
half make way for ill-formed ones in the second.

The yods in the first half are fine and small, 
while the ones in the second half are clearly 
different. If the letter taken as a dalet in the 
second  half is such, then it was so badly done 
that it doesn't fit the quality of the first half 
at all. And so people start to invent way-out 
reasons for the obvious differences. The scribe 
was rushed! He broke his tool!

If you want a formal statement on the bogus nature 
of the second part of the inscriptions, search the 
net for "rochelle altmann james ossuary" and you'll 
find a rather strident attack on its authenticity.

>It's true that the inscription is Aramaic. I'm not going to touch the
>question of the inscription's authenticity :-)

And here am I rushing in...

>>If so, how does it affect the hypothesis of Hebrew
>>speaking Jews?
>
>If it's authentically first-c., I think you would have to say that it 
>shows at least limited use of Aramaic. In this respect, it doesn't 
>contribute much to our knowledge, since we already had similar 
>inscriptions in Aramaic from that period. One common theory is that 
>Hebrew was more common in Judea and Aramaic in Galilee, which I suppose

>would fit with Jesus's brother.



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