[b-hebrew] Hebrew as a Spoken Language vs. Aramaic

Ken Penner ken.penner at acadiau.ca
Fri Oct 26 16:09:40 EDT 2007

For the record, I agree that Hebrew was a spoken language in first-century Judea. 
I just wanted to correct the impression made by a couple of statements, one by Dave Washburn, and one by Yishmor.

Dave wrote:

> It is widely accepted that "Hebrew" in these passages refers 
> to Aramaic.  See the commentaries.  Also, Jesus' cry on the 
> cross was clearly Aramaic.

The first two sentences above are true, but that is because the majority of NT scholars are not up-to-date with their study of the history of Hebrew. They generally perpetuate theories developed over a hundred years ago (largely by Dalman, using the best data and research available at that time), i.e., before Segal's study, and before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dave's last point that Jesus' cry was "clearly" Aramaic is not quite so clear if one looks beyond the critical editions of the New Testament to the manuscripts themselves. But in any case, that cry was not called "Hebrew," and we're not arguing about whether Jesus could speak Aramaic.

Yishmor wrote:
> > If one says that Hebrew 
> > remained a religious language and so the DSS don't count because they 
> > are religious text, you would be ignoring the many non-religious texts 
> > contained in the DSS that are written in Hebrew.

There were not many non-religious texts found at Qumran. 4Q342-358 are the only ones I know of. And most of these are written in Aramaic; perhaps three are clearly Hebrew.
Some readers might have the impression that "many" out of hundreds indicates a number much larger than three.


Ken M. Penner, Ph.D. (McMaster)
Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software: 

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