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The Death of Hebrew
All of Richard's points about the cessation of Hebrew as a vernacular are
well taken. I would only emphasize that once a vernacular has itself
become a model for a literary and liturgical language, stray texts in that
language are very hard to date. Surely there were no native speakers of
Hebrew in the middle ages, but the point of its death may be hard to fix
more precisely than that.
> ... Many see Hebrew as a kind of eternally burning
If one remembers that "eternal flames" are constantly relit by deliberate
human effort, I'd say the image isn't an inappropriate one.
Finally, I think that Saenz-Badillos' project was simply to cite the
important scholarship and the linguistic evidence available without trying
to draw a neat picture. His unwillingness to answer questions definitively
may be frustrating, but I also think it is a responsible way to work. As
Richard says, this does take us our of our field; my original intention
was only to mention the book's existence.
Seth L. Sanders
Dept. of Near Eastern Studies
The Johns Hopkins University