[b-hebrew] Understanding Aramaic & understanding Hebrew

George Athas gathas at hotkey.net.au
Sun May 30 04:05:21 EDT 2004

Hi Patrina!

I'd like to echo Trevor's remarks and say that Aramaic was sufficiently different from Hebrew as to be beyond the recognition of Hebrew speakers. The problem today is that Hebrew has attained a greater status than Aramaic, to the extent that we often get the impression that Aramaic is a dialectal derivative of Hebrew. I think that mistaken impression is due to Judean history and the use of the two languages through the centuries for the people of Judah.

However, the truth is quite different. In the ancient world, Aramaic was by far the more dominant language -- it had a wider sphere of influence and usage. The difference between Aramaic and Hebrew could be likened to the modern day difference between French and Italian: there is a lot of overlap, but not to the extent where one language is intelligible to the other.

Best regards,

Lecturer in Biblical Languages
Southern Cross College
Sydney, Australia

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Patrina 
  To: b-hebrew 
  Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 11:40 PM
  Subject: [b-hebrew] Understanding Aramaic & understanding Hebrew

  Please would someone explain to me whether Aramaic is different enough
  from Hebrew that speakers of one language wouldn't be able to understand
  speakers of the other language, or would they be able to follow the
  majority of it apart from an occasional word?  Previously I have assumed
  that the differences might be like me listening to Shakespeare's English
  compared to modern English.  For example, the Aramaic version of "My El,
  my El, why have you forsaken me?" being understood by a Hebrew speaker as
  "My El, my El, why have you slaughtered me?" is a thought that has
  crossed my mind, but I might be misunderstanding.

  I am puzzling over 2 Kings 18:26-28 about how much Hezekiah's people
  would, or wouldn't, have understood Rabshakeh delivering a message on
  behalf of the Assyrian King.  2 Kings 18:26 - "Then Eliakim the son of
  Hilkiah, and Shebnah and Joah, said to Rabshakeh, "Speak now to your
  servants in Aramaic, for we understand {it;} and do not speak with us in
  Judean in the hearing of the people who are on the wall." NASB

  I'm wondering about the above verse, because the implication is that the
  Judeans wouldn't be able to understand Aramaic, but Rabshakeh refuses to
  do as Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah ask, having the full intention to be
  understood by all the people within hearing of his voice (v.27). 
  Wouldn't the listeners have understood the gist of it fairly easily

  Patrina Nuske Small
  Adelaide, South Australia
    patrina at bestmail.us

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