[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Mar 1 12:37:30 EST 2004


When I visited Germany some three decades ago, 
the Germans were very surprised that I had 
been allowed to study Hebrew without knowing 
any Latin.

The classical Gymnasium program was very 
strict: first Latin, then after a few years to 
be introduced to Greek for a couple of years, 
only then possibly to learn Hebrew. But they 
had already bowed to modernity in requiring 
their students to study a couple of years 
English. So here I came, even with only one 
year of U.S. study of Hebrew, with better 
knowledge of Hebrew than their students, but 
no Latin.

That’s why the editors of the BHS expected 
knowledge of Latin. And it is this pattern 
that is one of the evidences why I don’t 
think the common people in Judea and Samaria 
spoke Hebrew in the market, on the street or 
at home.


Except for the story of Judah haNasi’s maid, I 
had heard all your other examples, and they 
remain unconvincing (as for Juday haNasi’s 
maid, the story as originally told to me was 
that Judah haNasi himself was surprised that 
his maid knew Hebrew).

We have been over this before, and I don’t 
want to beat it into the ground because, while 
there is evidence both ways, the preponderance 
of the evidence that I know of indicates that 
the fluent use of Hebrew was limited to an 
educated religious and governmental elite, 
while it was expected that the common man to 
have studied and understand at least some 
Hebrew. That would mean that, as a sign of 
higher class and erudition, the common man 
would try either to write up his legal 
documents in Hebrew, or hire an educated man 
to do so for him. If a trader or Babylonian 
visitor remained in Jerusalem long enough to 
learn Hebrew, that would indicate that he was 
either of a financial elite, or his cliental 
was: a common pilgrim couldn’t afford to stay 
long enough to learn the language. As for the 
Mishnah, it was written by that elite.

This is not a polemic as I can see the 
arguments of both sides, it is just that I see 
one side’s evidence *slightly* more convincing 
than the other.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>

> On 28/02/2004 13:13, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >...
> >I can think of two more recent examples of the 
> >same pattern: up until a few centuries ago, it 
> >was the sign of an educated man that he could 
> >speak in Latin, and there are some even today, 
> >though I expect there are no more than a few 
> >thousand people can speak it fluently. In this 
> >regard, Latin is still a living language. ...
> >
> It still seems to be assumed that users of the Hebrew Bible know Latin, 
> or at least it was when BHS was published 1976/77. Hence Philip's 
> problem with "vel".
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/

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