[b-hebrew] Fw: Aramaic to them?

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Wed Mar 3 17:37:20 EST 2004

On Wednesday 03 March 2004 12:05, Peter Kirk wrote:
> On 03/03/2004 10:42, Dave Washburn wrote:
> >On Wednesday 03 March 2004 04:41, Peter Kirk wrote:
> >
> >[snip]
> >
> >>>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.
> >
> >I'm not sure why you keep saying this.  The DSS are religious documents,
> > and according to the prevailing theory they were written by a splinter
> > *religious* group that separated from the Temple cult.  The vast majority
> > of the documents are biblical texts, which of course would be in Hebrew,
> > and the "community" documents set forth religious practices for the
> > group.  So the DSS actually seem to argue more in favor of Karl's
> > suggestion.  There are no grocery lists, letters from Aunt Bertha, or any
> > such "secular" documents among them, which is what would be needed to
> > make them show that Hebrew was a "mother tongue" to this group.  They
> > used Hebrew in their religious documents and practices, but they also had
> > Targums of the biblical texts including Job and Leviticus.  So I really
> > don't think the DSS show what you maintain they do.
> Dave, the argument which I am summarising is based on technical
> linguistic examination of the grammatical forms of Hebrew used in the
> DSS, transitional between late biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew. These forms
> indicate to the linguists who have looked at this that Hebrew was
> changing in the ways characteristic of a living language (i.e. one being
> used as a mother tongue) and not those of a language preserved only in a
> scholarly or religious community. Now I don't have at hand references to
> the original papers on this. Perhaps others on the list do.

I've read most of them, but I suspect that most of the conclusions are flawed 
because they are treating documents that are inherently religious, as though 
they were more or less common speech.  There is no reason not to expect 
exclusively (or primarily) religious language to undergo change of the type 
that is purportedly observed; I also suspect that at least some of the 
changes spotted have been somewhat exaggerated.  But that's a matter for a 
different list.

Dave Washburn
Learning about Christianity from a non-Christian
is like getting a kiss over the telephone.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list