[b-hebrew] Incidental Evidence from the Talmud

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 02:45:19 EDT 2009


On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 9:08 PM, Yitzhak Sapir <yitzhaksapir at gmail.com>wrote:

> In any case, the whole story can only be interpreted to mean that
> a significant period of time later than the Mishnah -- some 200
> years or so -- Hebrew was still being spoken by common folk,
> even if not by the higher class Rabbis themselves who spoke
> Aramaic.  The other anecdote that is related with a date is also
> to an authority of the late 4th century CE.  This is significant
> because the two corroborate each other -- that during the 4th
> century CE, Rabbis would use the Hebrew that the common
> folk would speak to interpret the Mishnah and Bible.  Besides,
> this text is not polemical in any way.  If it were, it would only
> be about the meaning of serugin.  R' Haggai would claim it
> means "intervals," and a contrary authority would claim it
> means something else.  So again, the story is incidental to
> the hypothetical polemic.
> Yitzhak Sapir
> The problem with this story is that it does not indicate several details
that have bearing on our question:
How long was the servant woman in the employ of the rabbi?
Where did she learn her Hebrew?
How old was the woman?
At what age did she start working for the rabbi?

If this is the only example, then it weakens your argument. If the woman
started working for the rabbi when she was young, was constantly around
students as they practiced their Hebrew, even heard the rabbi speaking
regularly, and if she had a good ear for languages, it is very possible that
she learned her Hebrew at the rabbi’s house and school, and after several
years could have learned almost as much as the rabbi himself. She could have
learned more than the students, who were not around as long as she was.
Hence, this story is too vague even to be good evidence.

The same with the other references in Talmud—to vague to be proof. It could
even be evidence that Hebrew was used in the same manner as medieval Latin,
that’s how vague the evidence is.

Karl W. Randolph.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list