Language code switching in Daniel/Syriakh

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Tue Jan 1 03:57:11 EST 2002

shalom Martin, 

Saw this in passing, hope it fits with the earlier thread:

>In NT-times the Greek term "hebrais" was used in a wider sense than our
>"Hebrew" is used today. Every good Greek dictionary will tell you this.

Every good dictionary will tell you that SYRIAKH is the word for Aramaic
in Greek and so used, with by-forms, wherever ...
LXX, Josephus, Aristeas, etc.

>In Acts 21:40 and 22:1 the same term ("hebrais") is used when Paul spoke
>those in Jerusalem "in the Hebrew tongue". 

Sounds like a clear reference to Hebrew.

>Of course he wanted to address
>their hearts (see the context!) and used the lingua franca of those Jews:
>Aramaic. (Acts 1:19 says that the proper tongue of those in Jerusalem used
>the word "Aceldama" [= field of blood"], which is Aramaic.)

This makes the same monoglot assumption endemic in NT studies. The people 
were a tri-lingual society. The Pharisees won the hearts of the people and 
passed on their ORAL law--in Hebrew. (until 200CE, when Aramaic took 
over) Call them elitist if you want, call the Qumran covenanters, elitist,
call them 
all elitist, but Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek were all in common use in the
century. As for Hebrew/Aramaic, it's sort of like Spanish and Italian for
being raised were both are commonly used--not a problem.

>The same wide use of Hebrew can be seen for example by Josephus. (Example:
>Antiquities, Book 3,chapter 10, verse 6, where he says that the Hebrews
>the word "asartha" for Pentecoste which is due to the Aramaic "asarta" but
>not to the Hebrew "aseret".)

Greek strongly prefered endings in 'vowels' for Semitic loan words, plus
had interface
with Aramaic throughout the Middle East. That is why the LXX, when
from Hebrew uses SIKERA in Greek (from Aramaic?-no-just Greek preference) 
and Pascha (Aramaic?-no-just Greek preference). Josephus' use is just fine
Hebrew. The only counter-evidence in the whole of Greek lit that I have
for Hebrew=Aramaic are PROPER place names in the NT. Like Los Angeles and 
Ian in English, meaning 'angels' and 'beloved' respectively. Yes, Aramaic
was widely
used in the first century and had been the official language in the Persian
period. But
it wasn't the exclusive means of oral communication among Jews in the land
of Israel. 
So one needs to respect and include the other evidence that is provided,
Acts 22.


Randall Buth
Director, Biblical Language Center
and Lecturer, Biblical Hebrew
Rothberg International School
Hebrew University

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