[b-hebrew] the dead returns

Nir cohen - Prof. Mat. nir at ccet.ufrn.br
Tue Dec 28 16:08:36 EST 2010

> If modern Hebrew evolved from Biblical Hebrew, the latter cannot be dead -
nothing can evolve from something dead!

> ERGO, Biblical Hebrew hasn't really died, it evolved.

> Rivka Sherman-Gold 

as an israeli, i agree completely that the bible is perfectly readable
and understandable to a present-day speaker of the laguage. i am not sure
whether this argument alone suffices to eliminate the possibility that 
hebrew disappeared completely and later was revived. but there is plenty of
evidence this was not the case.

i should also add (all from memory) that the absence of written documents in
some communities (even well before the 10 century) was compensated by
emissaries whose sole profession was to memorize part of the text 
(Torah as well as talmud) and recite it. i think at some point they 
were called MA(E)GIDIM. correct me if i am wrong, but this practice 
was in effect as early as talmudic time and as late as hassidic time, 
both in israel and in the diaspora, mostly restricted to the rabbinical schools.

i can only guess they recited the torah in hebrew and the talmud as in the
original (a hebrew-aramaic mix), and doubts were settled between the
communities using the internet predecessor (SHU"T). whether they also 
cleared their throats in perfect hebrew, i do not know... 

[aramaic also fell out of favor between the greek and roman occupation,
ceasing to be understood by the average jew. but if i recall 
correctly, the aramaic needed for reading most of the talmud is 
minimal and is restricted to a small number of "logical implication 
words" which were easily memorized by the students.] 

this state of affairs complements, rather than contradicts, the obvious need,
formed by large groups both within and outside the jewish community, to
translate the torah to other languages. as a non-expert, i do not enter the
question whether this translation occured before or after a hebrew written
complete text was produced.

nir cohen

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