[b-hebrew] Hebrew spoken in 1st century

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Wed Nov 17 16:50:55 EST 2004


In your seven questions below, 5-7 clearly are No, so they're off the table. One and two are clearly yes, so they too are off the table.

#4, what's the definition of uneducated people? In the modern West, a person with a third grade education is considered uneducated, but in old China, pre-Pol Pot Cambodia and many other places on the planet, that is a decent education. My understanding is that typical males if not also females, got around a sixth grade education, which included learning the basics of speaking Hebrew. But such a person would be considered uneducated by the priestly caste, who expected an educated person to go on for years after the basic schooling and that one who stopped at about sixth grade was "uneducated". So which definition?

#3 can have two meanings: the language one learns at home before learning any other languages, or the language one knows best and is most facile in speaking. It is possible that one learns one language at home, but speaks another one more fluently. I know many children of immigrants who learned their parents' language first and later English: when they want to speak about simple things, they are at home in both languages. But when they want to discuss complex subjects, they switch to English as it is the language they know better. English has become their first language, the language they turn to first when discussing complex subjects.

I would answer a qualified yes for question #4 and a qualified no for question #3. There is no evidence that I know of anyone in the first century learned Hebrew at his mother's knee, but I'm not going to state that categorically (give me some wiggle room   :-)   ).

Karl W. Randolph.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Penner" <pennerkm at mcmaster.ca>
> On Monday, I will present a paper at SBL arguing that the Greek words
> "Hebrais" and "Hebraisti" consistently refer to Hebrew rather than Aramaic.
> We must be careful not to blur the line between separate questions:
> In first century Judea / Galilee,
> 1. Was Hebrew used at all?
> 2. Was Hebrew spoken at all?
> 3. Was Hebrew anyone's first language?
> 4. Was Hebrew spoken by any uneducated people?
> 5. Was Hebrew the most common vernacular?
> 6. Was Hebrew the only vernacular?
> 7. Was Hebrew the only language spoken?
> It seems to me that the answers to 1-4 are "yes", and 5-7 are "no". I know
> of no view published by an author familiar with Segal's work and the Dead
> Sea Scrolls that denies 1 and 2; and also none that affirms 7. To mention a
> few secondary sources, I would expect Matthew Black to draw the line between
> 2 and 3, Seth Schwartz somewhere between 2 and 4, Fitzmyer and Rajak
> somewhere between 2 and 5, J. Grintz, A. Tal, and M. Wilcox somewhere
> between 4 and 6, Segal and Safrai between 5 and 6, and Harris Birkeland
> between 6 and 7.
> Ken Penner, McMaster/DSS
> Dead Sea Scrolls scholars' list owner,
> http://mailman.McMaster.CA/mailman/listinfo/g-megillot
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