R: RE: James: Hebrew or Aramaic?
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
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
>>Recently, the ossuary belonging to Jesus's brother, James, has come
>>light. It's been stated in the media that there is an Aramaic
>>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
>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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