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orion Spoken DSS Hebrew
Thanks, Fred Cryer, for your response.
I found it strange that despite the data that Qimron sets out, he and
Strugnell could say, "We believe that the language of MMT, more than
that of any other Qumranic text, reflects the spoken Hebrew of Qumran."
["An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran", Biblical Archaeology
Today, ed. Janet Amitai (Jerusalem 1985) p406] The spoken nature of DSS
Hebrew seems apparent.
He even mentions the Bar-Kochba letters and some of their similarities
to DSS Hebrew. One might wonder what Bar-Kochba had to do with the
speakers of DSS Hebrew, if it weren't a widely spoken dialect/ideolect.
There does seem to be some explaining to do in all this. Without
resorting to the possibility that the inhabitants of Judea were
linguistic wizards, how can there be a strong Greek component, as seen
in commemorative and funerary inscriptions (along with the Babitha
archive), a strong Aramaic component, and at least two forms of Hebrew,
the DSS variety and the Late Biblical --> Mishnaic variety. (We may
grant that two varieties of Hebrew were somehow either regionally based
or class based -- the most usual explanations for dialect differences.)
I don't believe that there were many sufficiently bilingual speakers who
were comfortable in both languages, let alone trilingual. That Nahal
Hever and Wadi Murabba'at attest to three languages in close proximity
asks for understanding.
These finds do show that Aramaic was marginally more used, at least in
what has been preserved.
Still, one thing that intrigues me is the fact that so many flavours of
Hebrew can be seen among the DSS. If MMT is representative of the bulk
of the texts why is it in a different dialect? And while we are on such
unlikely to be answered questions, why is the large Isaiah text from
cave 1 basically in DSS Hebrew and not in standard Biblical Hebrew?
John J. Hays
I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto!