[b-hebrew] FYI: Aramaic study

fred burlingame tensorpath at gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 18:45:38 EST 2010

Hello Jack:

All of your comments and quotations lead me ... give me .... the following
picture ... in technicolor .... of your conclusion as to the situation that
generally prevailed in bethlehem and other cities of that nation, circa 10


Just like the latin mass in america 1910 a.d., so the 10 a.d., synagogue
service in bethlehem. The congregation filled the building, and listened
politely & attentively to the religious leader speaking a language they
understood not ... at all.

That doesn't sound to me like a living language. That sounds to me like a
dead language eased out of the museum periodically for the people to look at
(listen to, but without comprehension at all).

Of course, if I err as to your conclusion, please correct me.


fred burlingame

On Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 4:30 PM, Jack Kilmon <jkilmon at historian.net> wrote:

>  *From:* fred burlingame <tensorpath at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Monday, December 27, 2010 10:14 AM
>  *To:* Jack Kilmon <jkilmon at historian.net>
> *Cc:* Hebrew <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
>  *Subject:* Re: [b-hebrew] FYI: Aramaic study
> Hello Jack:
> I trust you are having a nice day 3 of christmas.
> I don't mind the falstaff implication of me here ....; though i disagree
> ....; in any event, i have received much education here; and for that i am
> grateful.
> And the response to your learned comments:
> 1. I am not in ארץ ישראל . So, I don't know the haredim. But .... do you
> know that the government sponsors the haredim; excuses the haredim from work
> and military service. America government also enjoys a large group of people
> that the government sponsors; excuses from work and military service. Do you
> tag this latter group as fringe element of society? I am sure they and their
> government would disagree, in both instances.
> *I am going to clip my lengthy response (below) to your previous post
> since the moderator disallowed it on the list but you received it
> separately.  I tried to respond to you and Randall at once.  I will break it
> up into sections and post it sequentially.  I fear, however, that this
> issue, unrelated as it is to the grammar and structure of BH is coming
> swiftly to a conclusion.  The Haredim are irrelevant to this discussion and
> your placing them in the 2nd century in your previous post was confusing.*
> 2. The haredim may well be experts in and consumers of aramaic. But the
> existential question you have deflected. And that remains, does the biblical
> hebrew language ("BH") rest comfortably entombed for millennia with the
> patriarchs here?
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_of_the_Patriarchs
> *Had I not made it clear that I know of no scholar who claims Hebrew
> became a "dead" language.  Rather than repeat myself, please read my
> previous posts.*
> 3. Or ..... does BH continue as a language in common use every saturday
> morning across ארץ ישראל , in its synagogues? Permit me to suggest the
> affirmative answer to that question you have avoided. Permit me to
> also suggest that every day התורה is consumed by and amongst the haredim
> (and a lot of other people) silently and with sound ....and exclusively in
> BH.
> *I don't think anyone who is a lurker on these exchanges will agree I have
> avoided any questions at all.  Just up the street last Saturday many ENGLISH
> SPEAKING Jews who do not know Hebrew listened to a Torah reading in Hebrew
> just as in the 2nd temple period when many Aramaic speaking Jews heard a
> Torah reading in the Lashon haKodesh which was thereafter explained to them
> in their own Aramaic.  Please keep the Haredim out of this.*
> 4. Your nice reproduction of the encyclopedia judaica excerpt focuses on my
> point exactly. The well respected, well credentialed universities and
> publishing houses all across america and elsewhere announce continuously the
> death, funeral and pleasant burial of BH.
> *There you go again.  The Encyclopedia Judaica does not "announce" that at
> all.  Hebrew continued to be used by the literate and the priests and in
> pockets like the DSS Yahad.  The illiterate class (over 05% of the
> population) spoke Aramaic.*
>  My question was, is and continues to be .... does this nice conclusion of
> the mainstream err? .... Surely, the august oxford english dictionary
> recognizes the error ... its error; others' error in this regard. The Oxford
> English Dictionary has receded from the 400 b.c., death, funeral and burial
> of BH ...; and has moved the funeral date forwards to 200 a.d. ... What's
> next? ... The next edition eases the date out to 750 a.d.? The mainstream
> universities also recognized the flat earth as a bald fact for centuries
> ...; and then, ooops ...
> 5. I was not present in ארץ ישראל in 10 a.d. The mainstream conclusion
> that: since aramaic speaking peoples surrounded the land from the east; and
> greek speaking peoples surrounded the land from the west ....;  BH was
> naturally abandoned and buried. And that conclusion sounds reasonable
> enough. But the same circumstances exist today. Arabic speaking peoples
> surround the land; and yet for some strange reason, the israelis insist on
> speaking modern hebrew on the street and BH in the synagogue. Imagine that.
> It seems to me an inference arises that the hebrew resistance to
> assimilation now, represents but a continuation of the tradition then, even
> in 10 ... a.d.
> regards,
> fred burlingame
> *You continue with this "buried" business.  Here is the first sequence I
> earlier posted from the Encyclopedia Judaica:*
> **
> *Aramaic Displaces Hebrew.*
> Aramaic was destined to become Israel's vernacular tongue; but before this
> could come about it was necessary that the national independence should be
> destroyed and the people removed from their own home. These events prepared
> the way for that great change by which the Jewish nation parted with its
> national tongue and replaced it, in some districts entirely by Aramaic, in
> others by the adoption of Aramaized-Hebrew forms. The immediate causes of
> this linguistic metamorphosis are no longer historically evident. The event
> of the Exile itself was by no means a decisive factor, for the prophets that
> spoke to the people during the Exile and after the Return in the time of
> Cyrus, spoke in their own Hebrew tongue. The single Aramaic sentence in Jer.
> x. 11 was intended for the information of non-Jews. But, although the living
> words of prophet and poet still resounded in the time-honored language, and
> although Hebrew literature during this period may be said to have actually
> flourished, nevertheless among the large masses of the Jewish people a
> linguistic change was in progress. The Aramaic, already the vernacular of
> international intercourse in Asia Minor in the time of Assyrian and
> Babylonian domination, took hold more and more of the Jewish populations of
> Palestine and of Babylonia, bereft as they were of their own national
> consciousness. Under the Achæmenidæ, Aramaic became the official tongue in
> the provinces between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean (see Ezra iv. 7);
> therefore the Jews could still less resist the growing importance and spread
> of this language. Hebrew disappeared from their daily intercourse and from
> their homes; and Nehemiah—this is the only certain information respecting
> the process of linguistic change—once expressed his disapproval of the fact
> that the children of those living in mixed marriage" could no longer "speak
> in the Jews' language" (Neh. xiii. 24).
> How long this process of Aramaization lasted is not known. About the year
> 300 B.C. Aramaic makes its appearance in Jewish literature. The author of
> Chronicles uses a source in which not only documents concerning the history
> of the Second Temple are reproduced in the original Aramaic (Ezra iv. 8-22;
> v. 1-6, 12; vii. 12-26), but the connecting narrative itself is written in
> Aramaic (Ezra iv. 23, v. 5, vi. 13-18). In the time of Antiochus Epiphanes,
> the authorof the Book of Daniel begins his narrative in Hebrew, but when he
> introduces the Babylonian sages and scholars as speaking Aramaic to the
> king, as if only awaiting this opportunity, he continues his history in
> Aramaic (Dan. ii. 4, vii. 28).[Other explanations have been attempted in
> order to account for the appearance of both Aramaic and Hebrew in Daniel and
> Ezra. Prof. Paul Haupt supposes that Daniel was originally written in
> Hebrew, that portions of it were lost, and that these portions were supplied
> later from an Aramaic translation. See A. Kamphausen, "The Book of Daniel"
> ("S. B. O. T."), p. 16; J. Marquart, "Fundamente der Israel. und Jüd.
> Gesch." p. 72.—G.]The employment of the two languages in these Biblical
> books well illustrates their use in those circles in which and for which the
> books were written. In point of fact, at the time of the Second Temple, both
> languages were in common use in Palestine: the Hebrew in the academies and
> in the circles of the learned, the Aramaic among the lower classes in the
> intercourse of daily life. But the Aramaic continued to spread, and became
> the customary popular idiom; not, however, to the complete exclusion of the
> Hebrew. Nevertheless, while Hebrew survived in the schools and among the
> learned—being rooted, as it were, in the national mind—it was continuously
> exposed to the influence of Aramaic. Under this influence a new form of
> Hebrew was developed, which has been preserved in the tannaitic literature
> embodying the traditions of the last two or three centuries before the
> common era. So that even in those fields where Hebrew remained the dominant
> tongue, it was closely pressed by Aramaic. There is extant an almost unique
> halakic utterance in Aramaic ('Eduy. viii. 4) of Yose b. Joezer, a
> contemporary of the author of Daniel. Legal forms for various public
> documents, such as marriage-contracts, bills of divorce, etc., were then
> drawn up in Aramaic. Official messages from Jerusalem to the provinces were
> couched in the same language. The "List of the Fast-Days" (nullMegillat
> Ta'anit), edited before the destruction of the Temple, was written in
> Aramaic. Josephus considers Aramaic so thoroughly identical with Hebrew that
> he quotes Aramaic words as Hebrew ("Ant." iii. 10, § 6), and describes the
> language in which Titus' proposals to the Jerusalemites were made (which
> certainly were in Aramaic) as Hebrew ("B. J." vi. 2, § 1). It was in Aramaic
> that Josephus had written his book on the "Jewish War," as he himself
> informs us in the introduction, before he wrote it in Greek. That he meant
> the Aramaic is evident from the reason he assigns, namely, that he desired
> to make this first attempt intelligible to the Parthians, Babylonians,
> Arabs, the Jews living beyond the Euphrates, and the inhabitants of
> Adiabene. That the Babylonian diaspora was linguistically Aramaized is shown
> by the fact that Hillel loved to frame his maxims in that language.
> *The Targum, the Aramaic Version of the Scriptures.*
> The oldest literary monument of the Aramaization of Israel would be the
> Tarcum, the Aramaic version of the Scriptures, were it not that this
> received its final revision in a somewhat later age. The Targum, as an
> institution, reaches back to the earliest centuries of the Second Temple.
> Ezra may not have been, as tradition alleges, the inaugurator of the Targum;
> but it could not have been much after his day that the necessity made itself
> felt for the supplementing of the public reading of the Hebrew text of
> Scripture in the synagogue by a translation of it into the Aramaic
> vernacular. The tannaitic Halakah speaks of the Targum as an institution
> closely connected with the public Bible-reading, and one of long-established
> standing. But, just as the translation of the Scripture lesson for the
> benefit of the assembled people in the synagogue had to be in Aramaic, so
> all addresses and homilies hinging upon the Scripture had to be in the same
> language. Thus Jesus and his nearest disciples spoke Aramaic and taught in
> it (see Dalman, "Die Worte Jesu").
> When the Second Temple was destroyed, and the last remains of national
> independence had perished, the Jewish people, thus entering upon a new phase
> of historical life, had become almost completely an Aramaic-speaking people.
> A small section of the diaspora spoke Greek; in the Arabian peninsula Jewish
> tribes had formed who spoke Arabic; and in different countries there were
> small Jewish communities that still spoke the ancient language of their
> home; but the great mass of the Jewish population in Palestine and in
> Babylonia spoke Aramaic. It was likewise the language of that majority of
> the Jewish race that was of historical importance—those with whom Jewish law
> and tradition survived and developed. The Greek-speaking Jews succumbed more
> and more to the influence of Christianity, while the Jews who spoke other
> languages were soon lost in the obscurity of an existence without any
> history whatever.
> *Language of Amoraim.*
> In these centuries, in which Israel's national language became superseded
> by the Aramaic, the literature of Tradition arose, in which Aramaic was
> predominant by the side of Hebrew; it was a species of bilingual literature,
> expressing the double idioms of the circles in which it originated. In the
> academies —which, on the destruction of Jerusalem, became the true foci of
> Jewish intellectual life—the Hebrew language, in its new form (Mishnaic
> Hebrew), became the language of instruction and of religious debate. With
> but few exceptions, all literary material, written and oral, of the
> tannaitic age, whether of a halakic or non-halakic description, was handed
> down in Hebrew. Hence the whole tannaitic literature is strongly
> distinguished from the post-tannaitic by this Hebrew garb. The Hebrew
> language was also the language of prayer, both of the authorized ritual
> prayers and of private devotion, as handed down in the cases of individual
> sages and pious men. According to a tannaitic Halakah (Tosef. Ḥag.,
> beginning; compare Bab. Suk. 42*a*), every father was bound to teach his
> child Hebrew as soon as it began to speak. It is no doubt true that there
> was a knowledge of Hebrew in non-scholarly circles of the Jewish people
> besides that of the Aramaic vernacular; indeed, attempts were not lacking to
> depose Aramaic altogether as the language of daily intercourse, and to
> restore Hebrew in its stead. In the house of the patriarch Judah I., the
> female house-servant spoke Hebrew (Meg. 18*a*). The same Judah is reported
> to have said that in theland of Israel the use of the Syriac (Aramaic)
> language was unjustifiable; people should speak either Hebrew or Greek
> (Soṭah 49*b*; B. Ḳ. 83*a*). This remained of course only a pious wish,
> exactly as that deliverance of Joseph, the Babylonian amora in the fourth
> century, who said that in Babylon the Aramaic language should no longer be
> used, but instead the Hebrew or the Persian (*ib.*).
> When the Mishnah of Judah I. provided new subject-matter for the studies in
> the academies of Palestine and Babylonia, the Aramaic language was not slow
> in penetrating likewise to those seats of Jewish scholarship. As shown in
> the two Talmuds—those faithful "minutes" of the debates, lectures, and
> deliberations of the colleges—the Amoraim partially adhered to the Hebrew
> form of expression for their propositions and explanations: but the debates
> and lectures in the academies, together with the deliberations and
> discussions of their members, were, as a rule, in Aramaic; and even the
> terminology of their exegeses and dialectics was Aramaized. The older
> collections of haggadic Midrash also evidence the fact that the language of
> the synagogue addresses and of the Scripture explanation in the amoraic time
> was, for the greater part, Aramaic. As a justification for the preponderance
> thus given to Aramaic within a field formerly reserved for Hebrew, Johanan,
> the great amora of Palestine, said: "Let not the Syriac (Aramaic) language
> be despised in thine eyes; for in all three portions of sacred Scripture—in
> the Law, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings—this language is employed." He
> then quoted the Aramaic fragments in Gen. xxxi. 47; Jer. x. 11; and Dan. ii.
> (Yer. Soṭah vii. 21*c*). The same idea is probably intended to be conveyed
> by Rab, the great amora of Babylonia, when he says that Adam, the first man,
> spoke Aramaic, which, therefore, was not inferior to Hebrew in point of
> antiquity (Sanh. 38*b*). But the same Johanan felt it his duty to oppose
> the possibility that Aramaic should ever become the language of prayer, by
> declaring that "He who recites his prayers in the Aramaic tongue, will
> receive no assistance from the angels in waiting; for they understand no
> Aramaic" (Shab. 12*a;* Soṭah 33*a*). This utterance, however, did not
> prevent the Ḳaddish-prayer—said at the close of the public addresses, and
> later of more general employment—from being recited in amoraic times in the
> Aramaic language, or the insertion, later, of other Aramaic portions in the
> prayer-ritual.
> *Jack Kilmon*

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