[b-hebrew] hebrew is dead?

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at historian.net
Wed Dec 29 21:02:51 EST 2010

From: "K Randolph" <kwrandolph at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 4:23 PM
To: "fred burlingame" <tensorpath at gmail.com>
Cc: "Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] hebrew is dead?

> Fred:
> 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
> written.
> 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.

Hi Karl.

I am gratified that someone looks at the evidence.  I fear that evidence 
takes a back seat to either a nationalistic fervor or Hebrew chauvinism. 
The Palestinian Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud relate that it was ordered 
by Simeon ben Shetah (120-40 B.C.E.) that every district and major city have 
a Beyt ha-Sefer for the instruction of male children (Yerushalmy Ketuboth 
1c).  I don't think that it meant that every male child went to a Beyt 
haSefer.  It would not have been possible for the larger number of male 
children in the countryside who could not travel to the nearest major city 
that had a school or who had to help at home or on the farms.  The studies 
by Safrai and Meir Bar Ilan conclude less than 5% literacy.

Jack Kilmon 

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list