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

dwashbur at nyx.net dwashbur at nyx.net
Fri Oct 26 16:11:50 EDT 2007

On 26 Oct 2007 at 12:39, Bryant J. Williams III wrote:

> Dear Dave,
> K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, Chapter 7, "Principles of
> Linguistic Studies," III: (c), "The Question of Aramaisms," pp. 145-146. See
> also page 108, footnote 84.
> In this section of the book he cites or quotes the following: Eissfeldt, R.D.
> Wilson, BASOR 89 (1943), C.H. Gordon, C. Viirolleaud, E.J. Young, J.
> Aistleitner, M. Dahood, A. Dupont-Sommer, Wiseman, W.F. Albright, E. Forrer, E.
> Ebeling, B. Meissner, etc. just to list a few. He further uses the Amarna
> Letters and Assyrian texts from Tiglath-Pileser I of the prove the point.

I'll have to see if I can get my hands on that work, because I'm not sure I can see what the 
Amarna letters or Assyrian texts would have to do with the so-called Intertestamental 
> What I think is happening is that when Aramaic became the official language of
> most of the Levant Hebrew was still spoken and used through to the Rabbinic
> period by the people. 

This is where we disagree.  I think it was used by the religious leaders and some of the elite, 
but not by the common people except in contexts such as synagogue rites etc.

> The references to "Hebrew" in the New Testament is
> commonly understood to refer to Aramaic. I think this is wrong.

Once again, we disagree.  And I have no problem with that.

> interpretation of the Aramaic phrases are  mentioned. 

Can you develop this a little more for me?  I'm not sure what you're saying.

> The references to Hebrew
> being spoken, e.g., Paul in the Temple precincts during his arrest, is actually
> Hebrew. The Sanhedrin meeting for Jesus' trial would have used Hebrew. 

Perhaps, though I doubt this is certain.  In any case, Jesus probably would have understood 
it, being somewhat of an unofficial rabbi himself.  As for Paul's address, I think the jury is 
still out, especially since we know that Aramaic was spoken and even have some examples 
of transliterated Aramaic, but there's no word in the New Testament for "Aramaic."

> example of one language being used but another used at the same time would be
> Koine Greek during the ascendancy of the Roman Empire from roughly 200 BC to 200
> AD. Greek was the official language of the Roman Empire, while Latin was still
> used. By 200 AD, if not earlier, the situation reversing itself, at least in the
> West, while Greek was still used by the Byzantine Greek East. 

But once again, we're not talking about a complete displacement of the people to a land 
where a different language was spoken and nobody gave a rip what their previously-native 
tongue was.  So Greek really isn't analogous.

> From a closer time
> period, after the Battle of Hastings, Norman French was used in England by the
> nobility, but it was the Saxon English that was used by the common people.
> Eventually, although Latin was still used in churches, official decrees, etc.,
> it was English that was understood by almost everyone. 

Same objection.  The English weren't transported back to France where English wasn't used 
at all.

> Thus, I can still see
> very much of Hebrew being understood by all classes of people through the
> Rabbinic period especially considering that Latin, Greek, Hebrew was used on the
> indictment of Jesus.

The question there would be, who wrote it?  If the Sanhedrin wrote it, it might have been 
Hebrew.  But the stories tell us the Roman procurator wrote it and the Sanhedrin objected to 
it.  Would Pontius Pilate be likely to have known Hebrew?  Considering what we know about 
the man, he probably thought both languages sounded like gibberish :-) and couldn't have 
cared less which one actually went on the placard.  I'm assuming he had an underling do 
the actual work, and can easily see him telling such an underling, "Write it in Latin and 
Greek and whatever that other noise is that these people make."  So again, it seems to me 
that the evidence is equivocal, at the very least. 

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

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