[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Tue Mar 2 18:49:52 EST 2004

On 02/03/2004 15:07, Karl Randolph wrote:

>Sorry, Peter:
>I should have been more clear.
>In the same way that Europeans were studying 
>Latin for centuries after it was no longer 
>spoken outside of academia, church and 
>government, so I understand that the first 
>century study in Judea and Samaria would have 
>had Hebrew as the cornerstone of their 
>education. Likewise, just as only a small 
>minority actually achieved fluency in Latin in 
>Europe, so only a minority (though probably 
>somewhat larger) actually achieved fluency in 
>The pattern I was looking at was not the 
>specific language, but the pattern of language 
>acquisition and usage.
>Karl W. Randolph.
Thanks for the clarification. Well, this probably describes well the 
situation of Hebrew among Jews in the mediaeval and early modern 
periods, in fact probably right up to the late 19th century. But how far 
back does this situation go? The older opinion that it dates right back 
to the Babylonian exile seems to have been discredited by the DSS 
evidence that Hebrew was a living language during the period that the 
DSS were written. The evidence from Judah haNasi's maid suggests that 
this was not yet true even c. 200 CE; the maid was hardly one of an 
academic or religious elite! No, it seems clear that at least until this 
time there was some community using Hebrew as an everyday language, 
probably as a mother tongue; it was not just a language learned by 
specialists, so the pattern you have noted does not apply. Judah 
haNasi's surprise may be because he had the same misconception as you, 
that in that time the language was only spoken by specialists like 
himself. The debate must be on how large this mother tongue community 
was at various times, and where it was situated geographically and socially.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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