[b-hebrew] Hebrew as a spoken language

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Thu Oct 25 17:41:35 EDT 2007

On 25 Oct 2007 at 19:26, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:

> On 10/25/07, Dave Washburn wrote:
> > In addition, I would point out that the Bar Kokhba letters, like the DSS, were
> > produced by a small corner of the populace that had a specific purpose in
> > mind; the DSS were religious documents, and the BK revolt was fiercely
> > nationalistic.  It would make sense to use Hebrew simply to make the
> > movement stand out, and says nothing at all about the general population.
> > So the scant documentation that we do have is equivocal, and really doesn't
> > give us a picture of the "man on the street."
> The question is not whether some people stopped speaking Hebrew.   The
> question is whether Hebrew survived as a spoken language in some
> communities.  Both Eastern and Western varieties of Aramaic still survive
> in various communities in Arab countries, despite the lingua franca having
> been Arabic for a thousand years.  Can we deny that Hebrew did not
> similarly survive, slowly dying out over centuries in various communities?  It
> would rather seem that the converse -- that Hebrew had become completely
> extinct in all towns after Aramaic became the lingua franca -- is very unlikely.
> If Aramaic remained spoken in various towns over a thousand years,
> suggesting that Hebrew remained spoken half as long is actually very
> reasonable.

This appears to be a straw man argument, because I don't know of anyone who actually 
claims it died  out *completely*.  The argument is that it ceased to be a street language.  I 
have seen plenty of claims that the DSS, BK documents, etc. PROVE that it was still a 
commonly-spoken language at the time of Jesus and such, and my point is that they prove 
no such thing.  To paraphrase your statement above, the question is not whether some 
people stopped speaking Hebrew.  The question is whether *most* people stopped 
speaking Hebrew.  The available evidence would suggest the answer is "yes" and the DSS 
and such do not negate that conclusion.

Dave Washburn
Why do it right when you can do it again?

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