[b-hebrew] hebrew is dead?

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Wed Dec 29 17:23:45 EST 2010


On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 10:42 AM, fred burlingame <tensorpath at gmail.com>wrote:

> it's never easy, jack ...
> discovering the facts at odds with one's cherished beliefs ...
> regards,
> fred burlingame
> Look inside yourself.

I used to be thrilled with the idea that Jesus and his contemporaries spoke
Hebrew as their mother tongue. That’s also what I was taught in class.

But gradually, as more facts came in, I had to start doubting that belief.
What was the last straw was to discover that the post-Babylonian Exile books
of Tanakh have a simpler literary structure, consistent with a population
who spoke Hebrew as a second language, in contrast with those books written
before the Babylonian Exile. That literary pattern shows up if and only if
we accept the books at face value as to the dates in which they were

That’s why I now claim that during the second Temple period, every male at
least was taught Hebrew, it was used in the temple, when Tanakh was read
slowly and deliberately in the synagogs, people usually got at least the
gist of the reading and for popular texts more than just the gist. Important
literary works were written in Hebrew and it was the official language of
records. But on the streets and in the homes, people spoke Aramaic.

Hebrew was a living language in that it was still spoken and literary works
were authored in it, but no one spoke it as his mother tongue.

Karl W. Randolph.

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