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Re: orion Spoken DSS Hebrew
At 23:05 97/11/20 +0100, John Hays noted (as part of a much longer post):
>Fred Cryer has basically challenged believers of the "Aramaic as
>language of the populace" to provide some serious indication why other
>people should believe them.
I was also taught that Aramaic was the common language of the time, and I'm
still finding it hard to be objective about this - probably something to do
with my bias as a Christian because of the hints in the NT. But I have to
agree with Prof. Hays that, at this point, we should still refrain from
So, what *can* we say? I toss the following out for critique by the list:
1. The very existence of Aramaic targums strongly suggests that there were
at least *some* people in Judea who understood Aramaic but not Hebrew. (For
parts of the diaspora, one could make the same argument about the LXX and
Greek). I cannot think of any way to demonstrate if the converse were true
- i.e., whether there were any who understood Hebrew but not Aramaic.
2. The widespread use of Aramaic in the scrolls (together with hints in the
NT, etc.) suggests (but does not prove) that Aramaic was the *most* widely
used language (which does not say *exclusively* used in any context).
3. On the other hand, the evidence presented by Prof. Hays (and previous
posts in this thread) make it highly likely that Hebrew remained a spoken
language through to at least the Bar Cochba period.
4. There is no warrant to assume that bi- or multi-lingualism was
restricted to "scholars". Until recently I lived in Toronto, where I often
met people for whom English was their fourth or fifth language. True, many
of them were immigrants to Canada; but many Africans, for example, had
grown up speaking two or three tribal languages plus the colonial language,
so they had been multilingual from childhood. These were intelligent
people, but not necessarily academics.
Conclusions? Still nothing certain, I must admit. Anyone want to offer a
correction or further observation?
While I'm responding to Prof. Hay's post, let me ask another question. His
diagram suggests that the language of MMT and Mishnaic Hebrew are
descendents of Late Biblical Hebrew. I have *no* expertise in this area,
but I have been told by those who do that Mishnaic Hebrew is not a direct
descendent of Biblical Hebrew, but from a related dialect. Is there general
agreement about this? Would this make a difference to Prof. Hay's
suggestions about the relationship between MMT and the rest of the scrolls?