[b-hebrew] GDD (was not: Self-mutilation)

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Sat Oct 9 19:23:48 EDT 2004


On Saturday 09 October 2004 12:27, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:
> Dear Dave,
>
> >On Saturday 09 October 2004 08:14, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:
> >>  Dear Karl,
> >>
> >>  >We don't know when the Damascus Document was authored, but from the
> >>  >sounds of it, it was centuries after the last of the Hebrew canon.
> >>
> >>  HH: The date attributed to it is about the first century B.C.
> >
> >We're not sure if this date refers to the copies we have preserved or to
> > the composition of the actual document.
> >
> >>  >  In other words, at a time when the people on the street spoke
> >>  >Aramaic and only the scholars spoke Hebrew more or less fluently
> >>  >(much like the medieval monks spoke Latin). Thus it is very likely
> >>  >that GDD in the Damascus Document is either an Aramaic loan word or
> >>  >a late development of GDWD into a verb.
> >>
> >>  HH> These ideas that GDD in the Damascus Document is an Aramaic
> >>  loanword or a back development from a noun are arbitrary assumptions.
> >>  The Damascus Document is a Hebrew document, and GDD is a biblical
> >>  word.  We don't know that the authors didn't know Hebrew. Quite a lot
> >>  of the Dead Sea Scrolls, even the non-biblical material such as
> >>  letters, are in Hebrew. Here is a quote about the Dead Sea Scroll
> >>  period from _Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation_, by Michael Wise,
> >>  Martin Abegg, and Edward Cook:
> >>
> >>  Hebrew was manifestly the principal literary language for the Jews of
> >>  this period. The new discoveries underlined the still living,
> >>  breathing, even supple character of that language. A few texts
> >>  pointed to the use of Hebrew for speech as well as writing. . . .
> >>  Rabbinic Hebrew was shown to be no invention, but simply a
> >>  development from the ordinary spoken Hebrew of biblical times.
> >
> >Um, you have a problem here, HH, because there are no letters in the DSS. 
> > All of the non-biblical material is religious in nature, which to me only
> > strengthens Karl's statement about Hebrew in that time period.  I still
> > haven't figured out how scholars such as Tov and the three cited above
> > use material that is exclusively religious (DSS, ossuaries, etc.) to
> > claim that Hebrew was not an exclusively religious language!  Its
> > structure, vocabulary, etc. was somewhat fluid, yes, I'll give them that.
> >  But we have no evidence whatsoever to show that Hebrew was used "on the
> > street" as it were, or that there really was such a thing as "ordinary
> > spoken Hebrew" in the
> >intertestamental period.
>
> HH: I was including the Bar Kochba letters among the Dead Sea Scrolls:
> http://articles.jerusalemperspective.com/articles/DisplayArticle.aspx?Artic
>leID=1606
>
> The Letters
>
> However, the most significant discoveries fell to
> Prof. Yigael Yadin. On the northern side of the
> Hever Canyon, he found a cave that had been
> occupied by supporters of Bar-Kochva seeking
> refuge from the advancing Roman armies.
> Apparently among those hiding in the cave - now
> known as the Cave of Letters - were the two
> military commanders of nearby Ein-Gedi. A batch
> of eighteen letters, most of which were from
> Bar-Kochva's headquarters to these officers
> before they took refuge in the cave, were found
> hidden in a water skin. Composed in Aramaic and
> Hebrew (and in two cases in Greek), all but one
> of the letters were written on papyrus. The
> single exception was inscribed on four narrow
> slats of wood.

I'm familiar with them.

> The letters, which were written towards the close
> of the revolt, provide an indispensable insight
> into the way the country was governed during its
> three years of independence, and reveal that
> Bar-Kochva ran an orderly administration with the
> help of scribes trained in the Hellenistic
> official procedure. Most of the documents found
> deal with mobilization orders and supplies.
>
> A number of the letters show Bar-Kochva to be
> concerned with fulfillment of the commandments,
> despite the difficult wartime conditions. In an
> Aramaic letter he orders the commander of a town
> near Bethlehem to supply the troops in Beitar
> with the "four species" (date palm frond, myrtle
> branch, citron and willow branch) needed to
> celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. In
> another communiqué, written in Hebrew, Bar-Kochva
> reproaches the commanders of Ein-Gedi for not
> sending supplies to the front fast enough: "In
> comfort you sit, eat and drink from the property
> of the House of Israel, and care nothing for your
> brothers." The portrait of Bar-Kochva that
> emerges from Yadin's finds is that of a stern
> leader who did not tolerate the slightest
> opposition from his subordinates.

Yup.  Bar Kokhva's revolt was quite religious in nature, which supports my 
point that Hebrew was primarily used for religiously-oriented writing. 

> In 1961 Yadin returned to the Cave of Letters for
> another search. His team once again hit pay dirt,
> finding five small, tightly rolled papyri.
> Examination showed the documents to be deeds,
> three in Hebrew and two in Aramaic. The Hebrew
> documents clearly were written by an expert
> scribe, with the script being similar to printed
> Hebrew used today.
>
> Even though the deeds were drawn up by a
> professional scribe, they contain a number of
> colloquialisms causing some scholars to suggest
> that contrary to popular assumption, Hebrew at
> the time was a living and developing language.
> This is also reflected in the economic and
> military documents found in the Judean Desert.
> Yadin suggests that Bar-Kochva may have gone as
> far as making Hebrew the official language of the
> newly-established Jewish state (Bar-Kokhba, p.
> 124). The widespread use of Hebrew in the period
> is confirmed by coins minted during the revolt.
> All fifty-one different types of coin found from
> that period have Hebrew inscriptions.

In other words, he was trying to inject a "retro" idea into his revolt, i.e. 
use Hebrew instead of Aramaic or Greek.  The fact that he felt a need to 
include use of Hebrew in his attempt to return to the "good old days" 
strongly suggests that it was hardly a street language by that time.  And as 
I recall, a lot of coins from that time, as well as from the intertestamental 
period and surrounding times, had inscriptions in *paleo* Hebrew script.  Do 
we want to argue that this script was still in common use alongside square 
script, as well?  The material from Nahal Hever actually supports my 
position, because we have a heavy dose of religious push coupled with an 
attempt to restore something old that had apparently been all but lost.  And 
as we know, in the end it didn't work.  Even his own documents had to be 
written in Aramaic and Greek as well as Hebrew; if Hebrew was as common as 
some claim, the question then is, why?

-- 
Dave Washburn
http://www.nyx.net/~dwashbur
"No good.  Hit on head."   -Gronk



More information about the b-hebrew mailing list