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Re: orion Spoken DSS Hebrew
What started out to me as an attempt to work out the significance of the
various languages and dialects found at Qumran and the other dead sea sites,
has gone a little astray. I think Jack is arguing for a position that we
cannot yet take. Many scholars have come to see that using terms like
halacha for rulings found at Qumran is probably anachronous: well, the same
seems to be the case for the discussion regarding targumim found at Qumran.
Now, immediately prior to the finds at Qumran Albright said "There can be
little doubt that there was a real eclipse of Aramaic during the period of
the Seleucid Empire ... since scarcely a single inscription from the period
has been discovered, except in Transjordan and adjacent parts of Arabia...
After this epigraphic hiatus, Palmirene inscriptions began to appear in the
second half of the first century BC,; recent excavations have brought to
light an inscription dating from the year 44 BC. Inscriptions in Jewish
Aramaic first appeared about the middle of the first century BC..."
It's worth noting that Palmyrene and Nabataean Aramaic were different
varieties from Jewish Aramaic and only pad out Albright's pronouncement for
they have little directly to do with Jewish Aramaic. He is also probably
working with the old idea of the Aramaic of Ezra and Daniel as being
representative of Achaemenid chancellery Aramaic which is a hypothesized
trajectory of the development of Jewish Aramaic, but consulting a grammar of
Aramaic like Bauer-Leander will dispel any idea of the authenticity of the
Aramaic of those two books. This leaves the Aramaic romances to be the only
evidence. And beside the Aqihar romance, which is too early to concern us,
the only Aramaic we have (putting aside the Samarian Aramaic from Wadi
ed-Daliyeh) actually comes from Qumran.
So our evidence for Aramaic is quite poor indeed. A couple of Hebrew texts
translated into Aramaic doesn't mean that we are able to say that this was
because the people spoke Aramaic, especially when we consider that the book
of Tobit, written in Aramaic, is also translated into Hebrew at Qumran -- a
Hebrew targum of Tobit?
Discounting the possibility of Hebrew being a widespread language and
attempting to put it into an almost dead category, as Jack does in his
comparison with genizah texts, doesn't seem to be particularly useful when
we consider that the Qumran texts were written at a maximum of a few
centuries prior to the loss of the temple. The analogy doesn't seem to be
appropriate given its collocations.
I'd also like to ask Jack when targumim qua targumim were actually first
used -- I am discounting his citing of the Qumran translations into Aramaic
as being targumim for he has no way of asserting their usage. And he should
bear in mind that when Jesus quoted the torah it was almost always in the
Why are there Aramaic texts at Qumran? We know that there are two languages
(excluding the few scraps of Greek) and each has a couple of dialects
represented. This would suggest that the documents came from different
sources. A community tends to use only one dialect of one language (see how
well the Coptic language survived). Some of the Aramaic probably originates
in Samaria -- there are a few studies of texts like the Aramaic Levi that
place it as a Samaritan text. I actually can't see any evidence for imposing
the idea that Aramaic was the popular language.
On to Fred Cryer's image of a person who speaks language X at work, language
Y at home and language Z to his god. The situation that Fred describes here
is almost exclusively a case involving immigrants, yet we know that the Jews
were in the Jerusalem area for at least several centuries. The speaking of
language Z also involves a probable anachronistic analogy to the longevity
of church Latin. What sort of longevity might he be suggesting for the use
of Hebrew in Jerusalem liturgies?
It was quite common in those days to have communities settle in the thinly
populated areas or politically hot areas. We have a colony of "Sidonians" on
Gerizim. Various Greek colonies around the Levant. We don't know how many
the Persians set up. I could imagine more than Fred's scenario one of
numerous communities speaking different languages. It would then need a
percentage of merchants who spoke more than one language in order to do
business, tax collectors or their representatives.
I do think we're a long way from understanding the status that these
languages held and how they cohabited. We should be attempting to get closer
rather than forming barracades.
John J. Hays
I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto!