[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?
kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Mar 3 14:03:59 EST 2004
On second thought, maybe Judah haNasis maid
is a good story for evidence in this question
after all: Judah haNasi himself did not expect
that a common person had fluent knowledge of
Hebrew. If there were a community of Jews for
whom Hebrew was their mother tongue, Judah
should have known about it and it would not
have been a surprise that a maid from that
community would know Hebrew. That Judah was
surprised indicates that either Judah was
ignorant of Jewish society (which I think is
highly improbable) or that this is evidence
that such a community did not exist. (If the
maid knew Hebrew better than Judah haNasi, the
question remains, where did she learn her
Hebrew? But there are answers that do not
require a living community of Hebrew speakers,
such as being herself from an educated home.)
In Europe in 1300, virtually all legal
documents, trade agreements, business
contracts, church documents, high literature
and so forth were written in Latin: is this
evidence that there was a community of
fullers, blacksmiths, fishmongers, weavers,
farmers and others for whom Latin was their
mother tongue? We know from history that that
was not the case.
The same case existed in 1910 in China
concerning an official Chinese language that
no one outside of an educated elite spoke
Similarly, the existence of the DSS, legal and
religious documents do not in themselves
indicate that there was at that time a
community of Jewsbakers, farmers, fishers,
potters, etc.for whom Hebrew was their mother
tongue. But we do have evidence from a variety
of sources (you know them better than I) that
indicate common people spoke Aramaic with a
smaller group speaking Greek and apparently a
very small group speaking Latin.
I leave the door open that Hebrew could have
been the mother tongue of at least one group
within Judea and Samaria in the first century,
but I have yet to see such a group identified.
All I have seen so far is evidence of an
educated elite and those living and working
Karl W. Randolph.
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Kirk <peterkirk at qaya.org>
> On 02/03/2004 19:50, Karl Randolph wrote:
> >Judah haNasis maid is not a good example to
> >this discussionshe worked in an environment
> >where Hebrew was spoken, namely Judah haNasis
> >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 wasnt 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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