[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Mar 3 06:41:37 EST 2004

On 02/03/2004 19:50, Karl Randolph wrote:

>Judah haNasi’s maid is not a good example to 
>this discussion—she worked in an environment 
>where Hebrew was spoken, namely Judah haNasi’s 
>house and school: if she had a head on her 
>shoulders and any amount of linguistic 
>ability, she could have picked up Hebrew from 
>her surroundings. Just because she was a maid 
>does not mean that she wasn’t smart nor able 
>to learn Hebrew.

True - but if I remember correctly the point was that she knew Hebrew 
BETTER than Judah haNasi, at least that she had a wider vocabulary. She 
could hardly have learned that from Judah haNasi and his circle.

>... The evidence I have 
>seen indicates that a fluent knowledge of 
>Hebrew was pretty much the realm of the elites 
>by the first century, and for the common 
>people, Aramaic was their primary language.

What evidence? There is evidence pointing the other way as well. The 
most probable situation, it seems to me, is that Aramaic was primary in 
some areas and social circles, and Hebrew in others (and perhaps Greek 
in yet others, though rarely among Jews in Palestine).

>Notice, nowhere do I claim that Hebrew was not 
>spoken fluently by at least a minority elite, 
>just that the evidence pointing to a possible 
>majority of the people speaking Hebrew as 
>their primary language is weak at best.
The important question here is one you have left open. Do you accept 
that there was a continuing community for which Hebrew was the mother 
tongue? That is what the DSS evidence strongly suggests, at least for 
the period before the destruction of the Temple. And if this did exist, 
it is what makes the significant difference from Latin in the modern period.

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

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