[b-hebrew] FYI: Aramaic study

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at historian.net
Mon Dec 27 21:24:57 EST 2010

From: "fred burlingame" <tensorpath at gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, December 25, 2010 11:03 AM
To: "Randall Buth" <randallbuth at gmail.com>
Cc: "Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] FYI: Aramaic study

> Hello Randall:
> Thanks for your nice comments.
> Let's assume for a moment that biblical hebrew language died and received 
> a
> pleasant burial during the second temple period.

JK:  You would be assuming wrong.  Hebrew remained the language of the 
Tanakh and continued to be used in certain pockets like the DSS community, 
the priesthood and the literate, even continuing to develop dialects. 
Aramaic was the commonly spoken language by the illiterate class (more than 
95% of the people).

> Then, a small question arises ...; where did this come from ?
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleppo_Codex
> a. Did it magically drop out of the sky one day in 1010 a.d.?

No, it was scribed by one Salomon Ben Wia's in 920 CE (not 1010) in the Ben 
Ashur Scriptorium in Tiberias and pointed by Aaron Ben Ashur himself..

> b. If not, the implication arises that plenty people, invested many years
> and much time, developing a high level of proficiency in a complex 
> language,
> in order to generate the document.
> c. But if the language dead and gone for centuries, where did the language
> records originate that allowed training of the people in "b."
> d. And why would "b" expend much of their lives cloistered in preparing a
> document which consists of a dead language? A language for which aramaic,
> greek, arabic, latin, etc., speakers simply have no daily use. It's one
> thing to hit the print button, and print out a copy of a book in a dead
> language. It's quite another for a small army of people to devote their
> entire lives to preparing a single document in a dead language.
> Alice in Wonderland has arrived.

Fred, I don't know how to respond to these questions if you think anyone 
believes Hebrew was dead for centuries.  It was no more dead than Latin was 
dead in the Vatican and monasteries where the Bible was only allowed in 
Latin after Jerome's Vulgate.  Hebrew was maintained by the Masoretes, the 
Rabbis who wrote the Mishnah and the discussions of the Mishnah were written 
down in the language of those discussions, Aramaic. Combined they became the 
TALMUD.  Hebrew was a living language of the Tannaim, the Amoraim, the 
Savoraim, Geonim, the Acharonim and in Rabbinical Judaism.  Do you go to 
Schul?  The readings from the Torah are in Hebrew. The Cantor sings in 
Hebrew and Aramaic.  The congregation speaks English, or German or whatever 
language they speak outside of Israel.


> regards,
> fred burlingame
> On Sat, Dec 25, 2010 at 1:49 AM, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> 
> wrote:
>> shalom Jack,
>> I wouldn't want to get between you and the discuss with Fred, but a
>> few of your data need updating.
>> >How many B.C.E. targums does it take?  One?  Three?  100?  Is 4Q Targum
>> Leviticus sufficient?
>> > Is the Genesis Apocryphon sufficient?  I think the Targum of Job is 
>> > more
>> than sufficient.  >
>> You're a little too accepting here. Finding a Greek prophet scroll
>> doesn't lead you to posit Greek as the common language of Judea, does
>> it? Isn't it preferable to ask its pedigree, where it originated, and
>> what it was doing there? Ditto for Aramaic Job.
>> Muraoka showed that the Qumran Job targum appears to have come from
>> the East. Muraoka, 1974. Hardly surprising.
>> As for me, I would not accept the Genesis Apocryphon as a translation
>> like what you see in the LXX, or even Onkelos. But if you are
>> expanding the canon for a rewrite like Genesis Apocrypohon, you could
>> add Aramaic Tobit. (Now I am pretty sure from the features of the
>> language that Tobit was first written in Hebrew. But if you posit
>> Aramaic, then the Hebrew 'targum' to Tobit becomes evidence in exactly
>> the opposite direction that you are arguing.)
>> > where even the LXX was eschewed.
>> Actually, we have Greek Bible in the Judean desert texts and Qumran.
>> and oodles of Greek loanwords in rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic.
>> > The LXX's epilogue to Job (42:17b): outos ermhneuetai ek ths suriakhs
>> biblou  "this was translated from the Aramaic  book" clearly refers to a
>> targum. ...  You think this is speculation?>
>> I'm especially glad to see you mention Greek Job. Have you ever
>> noticed that all of these Second Temple references are to Job?
>> Two Qumran texts, Talmudic references to two of the Gamilel family,
>> and LXX, all focus on Job. Anything special about that book that would
>> cause its rather wide circulation in Aramaic?
>> This is surely worthy of some speculation.
>> >There are many more and I have examined them all. The same for some
>> ostraca and graffiti.
>> > ... this graffiti, with its primitive execution, poor spelling and poor
>> orthography is in Aramaic...not a single example of Hebrew.  See 
>> "Aramaische
>> Texte vom Toten Meer mit Ergänzung" by Klaus Beyer.>
>> Jack, if you've looked at all of the graffitti, you've surely noticed
>> the Hebrew ones. Beyer's statements, if they say that there are no
>> Hebrew ones, just don't make any sense at all. Beyer would be wrong.
>> I remember Beyer's 1984 arguments as prejudicial in the extreme: he
>> accepted 1st century Phoenician as a living language because a Greek
>> writer mentioned it, but denied any and all Hebrew if he could put
>> Aramaic usage in the same locale, too. that's just bad
>> sociolinguistics. Sort of a holdover from the beginning of the
>> twentieth century.
>> Anyway, have fun, just keep it fair.
>> blessings
>> Randall
>> --
>> Randall Buth, PhD
>> www.biblicalulpan.org
>> randallbuth at gmail.com
>> Biblical Language Center
>> Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
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