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2. Bible & Book in the Ancient World. BIB586 Biblical Introduction. 1.0.0 Introduction.

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2. Bible & Book in the Ancient World

BIB586 Biblical Introduction

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1.0.0 Introduction

"In the beginning was the world and the word was with God. Then human beings took it over. In many languages they produced a flood of words. And the world was filled with clay tablets, scrolls, books, bookcases and libraries." [Ellen van Wolde, Words become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1-11, ix]

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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

1. If you believe in the inspiration of scripture, then you value the words.

2. Translations are good, but no translation is able to convey the subtleties of language.

3. Poetry and all figures of speech rely heavily upon the sounds and meanings of the original language.

4. Literary devices and rhetorical structures cannot be accurately interpreted from a translation.

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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

5. Use of commentaries that make reference to Greek and Hebrew.

6. Other Resources written in Hebrew and Greek: Lexicons, word studies, theological works, grammars, concordances, journal articles.

7. Ability to critique the opinions of others. If you do not learn Hebrew and Greek, you will forever be dependent upon the thoughts and ideas of someone else.

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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

8. Enables original research. You can research questions with a concordance, lexicon, and/or computer Bible program. Some of your questions may not be answered in the standard reference works. Furthermore, all reseachers have motives that may not lead allow them to follow the same pathway that you may wish to investigate.

9. Enhances sermon and lesson preparation. Ideas will come to you from the original languages that would otherwise be unavailable.

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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

10. Side benefit: Understanding of language in general. Enhances communication skill.

[Lee Martin, "History of the Hebrew Language," http://earth.vol.com/~lmartin/INTRODUC.HTM, 03-03-2002]

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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

Old Testament Studies:


Aramaic (also Syriac)





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1.0.1 Why Study Bib. Lang.

New Testament Studies:



Aramaic (also Syriac)



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1.1 Hebrew: Introduction

  • "Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. The small residue was written in a dialect of Aramaic known as biblical Aramaic, and comprises three main pieces (Dan. 2:4b-7:28; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26), an odd verse in the middle of Jeremiah (10:11, presumably an early gloss), and two words in Genesis (31:47; "Heap of Witness," title name given by Laban to the Mizpah stone which Jacob's clansmen set up in Gilead). The fact that the central portion of the book of Daniel is written in this dialect led ancient scholars to call it Chaldee, under the impression that this was the tongue spoken by the Jewish exiles in Chaldea (Babylonia)." [Snaith, "The Language of the Old Testament," Interpreter's Bible, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

  • "In the Old Testament the language of the Hebrews is described as the "language of Canaan" (Isaiah 19:18), or the "language of Judah" (Nehemiah 13:24; Isaiah 36:11). The first occurrence of the designation "Hebrew" is in the prologue to Ben Sira, written approximately 130 B.C. The New Testament writers and Josephus used the designation "Hebrew" to refer both to Hebrew and to the locally spoken Aramaic." [Martin]

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

  • "In the literature of later antiquity, the language is usually called "the holy tongue," with reference to the biblical corpus, and the "tongue of the sages," when referring to the language of the oral tradition - that is called rabbinic or mishnaic or tannaitic Hebrew. It is here that we come across the first explicit reference to divergent literary styles." [Schramm, "Hebrew: Structural Overview," Anchor Bible Dictionary, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

  • "Curiously enough, the term "Hebrew" as the in-group common reference to its language is a borrowing from Arabic, first introduced by Saadia Gaon (882-942 c.e.) in his grammatical writings (Skoss 1955). The new designation entered the Hebrew language only when Jews began to write their grammatical studies in their own language a few centuries later." [Schramm, "Hebrew: Structural Overview," Anchor Bible Dictionary, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

  • "Other than as the language of ancient Phoenician colonialism, Canaanite never assumed a major role in the ancient world. Rome defeated its archrival Carthage in the west, and in the Levant Aramaic, originally used east of the Phoenician hill country, gradually spread its domain. As the language of the Jews, Hebrew was the mother tongue of only Jerusalem and its environs at the beginning of the Common Era. In the northern domains of the expanded Hasmonean Kingdom of Judea a form of Aramaic was spoken, simply because the local population

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

carried on the speech habits of their ancestors who were converted to Judaism during the reign of John Hyrcanus I. The Idumeans to the south, who had been converted at about the same time, continued to speak their ancestral Canaanite tongue." [Schramm, "Hebrew: Structural Overview," Anchor Bible Dictionary, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Name

  • "Hebrew probably ceased to be a living language (in the sense of a community mother tongue) around the year 200 c.e. as the result of the Bar Kokhba disaster, when the population of Judea was decimated and the survivors fled northward to the Galilee."

  • ". . . Aramaic which they spoke as a family language was symbiotically linked to the Hebrew they continued to use for more formal purposes." [Schramm, "Hebrew: Structural Overview," Anchor Bible Dictionary, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: History

  • Biblical Hebrew (BH)

    • Early Biblical Hebrew (EBH)

    • Late Biblical Hebrew (LBH)

  • Rabbinical Hebrew, or Mishnaic Hebrew (RH)

  • Medieval Hebrew, also called Rabbinic, the Hebrew of the Middle Ages (MH)

  • Modern or Israeli Hebrew (IH)

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

  • "The family of languages to which Hebrew belongs is grouped by linguists in a phylum called Afroasiatic. The geographical range of Afroasiatic covers northern and central Africa and western Asia. In time, Afroasiatic languages are attested from the 3d millennium b.c.e. (although some languages of the phylum must have existed for at least a millennium before this) until the present." [Schmitz, "Language-Hebrew: Early History of Hebrew," ABD, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

  • "The Afroasiatic phylum has five or six members: Egyptian (later called Coptic, now extinct) and Berber in N Africa, the Chadic family (whose best-known member is Hausa) in sub-Saharan Africa, the Cushitic-Omotic family in the Horn of Africa, and the Semitic family, which includes Arabic and Hebrew. " [Schmitz, "Language-Hebrew: Early History of Hebrew," ABD, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

  • "Hebrew belongs to the family of Afroasiatic languages commonly referred to as Semitic languages. The major division of this family is between East Semitic and West Semitic. East Semitic incorporates the group of dialects called Akkadian; West Semitic includes the Northwest Semitic languages, Arabic, and South Semitic. . . . " [Schmitz, "Language-Hebrew: Early History of Hebrew," ABD, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

  • "The Northwest Semitic languages comprise the Canaanite group and Aramaic. Evidence for early Northwest Semitic begins in the 3d millennium (if one admits some of the features of the language of Ebla) and continues to the end of the LB II period (around 1200 b.c.e.). Some of the distinctive features of Canaanite can be observed in these early Northwest Semitic samples, but the distinction between Canaanite and Aramaic remains difficult to impose until the Iron II period. A recent survey concludes that the Iron Age languages

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

of Syria-Palestine are best viewed as a continuum having Phoenician as one of its poles and Aramaic as the other. Hebrew is probably to be located near the center of this cline " [Schmitz, "Language-Hebrew: Early History of Hebrew," ABD, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Origins

  • "The Canaanite languages include Phoenician (which distinguishes the minority dialect of Byblos from the more widespread dialect of Tyre and Sidon), Hebrew (which distinguishes a northern dialect, probably centered in Samaria, from a southern, the dialect of Jerusalem and Judah), Ammonite, Moabite, and Edomite. The language of the Deir >Alla texts should perhaps also be included." " [Schmitz, "Language-Hebrew: Early History of Hebrew," ABD, CD-Rom Edition]

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Affinities

  • Hebrew & Greek Affinities?

  • Hamito-Semitic Affinities?

  • Proto –Semitic or Common Semitic

    • Akkadian

    • Ugaritic

    • Moabite

    • Ammonite

    • Edomite

    • Phoenician

    • Deir >Alla

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1.1 Hebrew: Proto-Semitic

  • "Bauer and Leander, writing in 1922, assumed that Hebrew was a fusion of an indigenous Canaanite language and newer West Semitic elements brought in by invaders and they were followed by Birkeland in 1940 and Driver. R. Meyer holds that the qat9al and yaqt9ulu systems have different origins and represent a mixing of different of different dialects which took place before the entry into Canaan. . . . A. Bendavid accounts for Aramaisms in biblical writing as a stylistic device used by the authors for variation. Sekine, however, assumes that there were two migrations, Amorite and Aramean, both of which influenced developments in Hebrew."

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1.1 Hebrew: Proto-Semitic

  • Qal passive

  • the prefixes b and l with the sense 'from'

  • the cohortative and jussive modes

  • -t as the indicator of the 3f.s., -a4h as the adverbial marker, and the pronoun )a4no4k|= 'I'.

  • Later innovations are the assimilation of /g8/ and /)/, /h}/ and /h9/

  • the tendency to assimilate /n/

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1.1 Hebrew: Proto-Semitic

  • the partial reduction of diphthongs

  • the change from 3f.s. –t to –a4h

  • the nota accusativi )e4t, which follows upon the loss of case endings

  • later, the spirantization of /bgdkpt/

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1.1 Hebrew: Proto-Semitic

  • "The Proto-Semitic phonological repertoire may be reconstructed as having contained three vowels, a, i, u, which could occur short or long (a4, |4, u4), and 29 consonants (all still distinguished in Old South Arabian). . . ."

  • "Semitic morphology is strongly characterized, especially in its verbal forms, by what are termed discontinuous morphemes, which usually consist of three consonants . . . ."

  • "Nouns in Proto-Semitic may be reconstructed as having three inflectional cases, each marked in the singular by one of the short vowels: e.g.,

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1.1 Hebrew: Proto-Semitic

nominative *ba(lum, 'lord,' genitive *ba(lim, and accusative *ba(lam.

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Phonetics/Phonology:

    • Consonants:

      • Gutturals

      • Profusion of Sibilants

      • 6 letters with double pronunciations

      • Emphatics

    • Vowels:

      • matres lectionis - also called vowel letters (letters "vav," "yod," "he," and to a lesser extent "aleph")

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Vowel points –

    • Tiberias: infralinear (The marks are under the consonants).

    • Babylonian and the Palestinian: supralinear (The marks above the consonants).

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • General Features:

      • Gender: Mas. & Fem.

      • Number: Singular, Dual & Plural

      • These are identified in the Nominal, Verbal, Adjectival, and Enumeratives

      • Grammatical concord is not 100%

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • Nominals: "Nominals are all words that may occur as the subject of a clause and include the principal subclasses of pronouns, proper nouns, and substantives. Personal pronouns, interrogatives, and demonstratives are partially analyzable and are defined by lists. Personal names, also partially analyzable, are characterized by gender assignment and absence of pluralization or dependency. Substantives are subdivided into nouns of variable gender and nouns of assigned gender."

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • Verbals: "Verbals comprise those items that may occur as the heads of predicate phrases, include the existentials, adjectives and verbs per se."

    • "The finite verbal system consists of two indicative sets, a direct command imperative limited to the second persons, and a parallel but partial indirect command, the jussive/cohortative system. One of the indicative paradigms is formed by personal prefixes and gender/number suffixes added to a stem; the other is formed by a fused set of personal and gender/number suffixes associated with a second verb stem. The imperative is formed by

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

gender/number suffixes attached to a stem marginally different from the prefixed indicative verb, while the jussive/cohortative is formed by the addition of personal prefixes as well as gender/number suffixes. "

  • "Nonfinite forms of the verb include verbal adverbs (the "absolute" infinitives of traditional grammars) and the true ("construct" infinitive.")"

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • Enumeratives: "The enumeratives include an adjective for the word "one," a defective noun of symmetry for the word "two," substantives for the higher items, including "hundred," "thousand," and "myriad," and true numerals for the items between "three" and the multiples of ten. Switch concord occurs as the distinctive syntactic feature in numerical phrases between "three" and "nineteen."

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • Particles: "The term particle is the traditional designation for all residual classes that are neither analyzable nor derivable. This includes the categories of coordinating conjunctions, adverbials, subordinators, and relativizers. The conjunctions and relativizers are defined only by list."

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1.1 Hebrew: Linguistic Overview

  • Grammar:

    • Adverbials: "Other than those adverbs that are derived within the verbal system, this category includes a short list of unanalyzable forms, quantifiers like "also" and "even," and temporals such as "then" and "now."

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1. Bible & Book in the Ancient World

1.2 Aramaic

1.3 Greek

1.4 Trilingualism

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1.2 Aramaic: Introduction

  • "Aramaic is the best-attested and longest-attested member of the NW Semitic subfamily of languages (which also includes inter alia Hebrew, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Moabite, Ammonite, and Edomite). The relatively small proportion of the biblical text preserved in an Aramaic original (Dan 2:4-7:28; Ezra 4:8-68 and 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; Gen 31:47 [two words] as well as isolated words and phrases in Christian Scriptures) belies the importance of this language for biblical studies and for religious studies in general, for Aramaic was

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1.2 Aramaic: Introduction

the primary international language of literature and communication throughout the Near East from ca. 600 b.c.e. to ca. 700 c.e. and was the major spoken language of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia in the formative periods of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism." [Kaufman]

  • "Jesus and his disciples, according to the stories in the Gospels, spoke Aramaic. Parts of the later books of the Hebrew Bible, as well as portions of the Gospels and Acts, are often thought to be translations from Aramaic originals, but even if not they are undoubtedly

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1.2 Aramaic: Introduction

strongly "Aramaized" in their diction. Late biblical Hebrew and rabbinic Hebrew were heavily influenced by Aramaic in both grammar and vocabulary." [Kaufman]

  • "Two of the major translation traditions of the Hebrew Bible - the Syriac Peshitta and the Jewish Targums - are in Aramaic, as are substantial portions of rabbinic literature, the entire literary corpus of Syriac Christianity, and that of the Mandaeans (a non-Christian gnostic sect of S Mesopotamia). After the Moslem conquest, Arabic gradually displaced Aramaic as the literary and colloquial language of the Near East." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

  • "Aramaic is attested over a period of almost 3,000 years, during which time there occurred great changes of grammar, lexical stock, and usage."

  • The major research project in the field - the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon

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1.2 Aramaic: History

1. Old Aramaic (to 612 BCE; 925-700BCE):

  • "This period witnessed the rise of the Arameans as a major force in ANE history, the adoption of their language as an international language of diplomacy in the latter days of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and the dispersal of Aramaic-speaking peoples from Egypt to Lower Mesopotamia as a result of the Assyrian policies of deportation. The scattered and generally brief remains of inscriptions on imperishable materials preserved from these times are enough to demonstrate that an international standard dialect had not yet been developed." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

1. Old Aramaic (to 612 BCE):

  • "This phase is represented by inscriptions on stone and other materials written in the borrowed Phoenician alphabet . . . . The evidence for this phase comes not only from Northern Syria and Upper Mesopotamia, as was known for a long time, but also from Northern Palestine." [Fitzmyer]

  • "Deir (Alla. "This important but fragmentary text, painted on the plaster walls of a cultic installation, recounts a vision of "Balaam, son of Beor," the Transjordanian prophet known from Numbers 22-24. The fact that some scholars classify the language of this text as a Canaanite, rather than an Aramaic, dialect, illustrates that there is no demonstrable dividing line (or, in linguistic terms, a bundle of isoglosses) separating Canaanite and Aramaic at this time." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

2. Official Aramaic (700-200 BCE):

  • "During this period Aramaic spread far beyond the borders of its native lands over the vast territories of the Neo-Babylonian and even larger Persian empires - from Upper Egypt to Asia Minor and eastward to the Indian subcontinent. Unfortunately, only a remnant of the undoubtedly once vast corpus of administrative documents, records, and letters that held these empires together has been preserved, for such texts were written in ink on perishable materials, in sharp contrast to the more durable cuneiform clay tablets of earlier W Asiatic cultures." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

2. Official Aramaic (700-200 BCE):

  • "The bulk of the finds, however, is from Egypt, where the dry climate led to the preservation of papyrus and leather along with the expected ostraca and stone inscriptions. The major Egyptian finds are (1) papyrus archives of the Jewish military garrison at Elephantine/Syene (including deeds of sale, marriage contracts, formal letters to the authorities in Jerusalem, and fragments of literary materials); (2) the correspondence of the Persian satrap of Egypt, Arsames; (3) a packet of letters sent to family members residing at Syene and Luxor, discovered at Hermopolis; and (4) Saqqarah: a late-7th-century papyrus letter from a Philistine king (perhaps of Ekron) asking help of pharaoh against the king of Babylon; and legal and economic records on papyri and ostraca from the 5th and 4th centuries." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

2. Official Aramaic (700-200 BCE):

  • "The Aramaic "official" letters in the book of Ezra are almost certainly composed in Imperial Aramaic, for both their language and their epistolary style are appropriate to the period." [Kaufman]

    • ". . . The majority of the letters normally have the following schema: (1) the praescriptio, (2) the initial greeting, either religious or secular, (3) secondary greetings, (4) the body of the letter, and (5) a concluding statement." [See Fitzmyer, "Aramaic Epistolography," in A Wandering Aramean, 183-204]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

2. Official Aramaic (700-200 BCE):

  • ". . . to Official Aramaic certainly belongs the Aramaic of Ezra, and undoubtedly also the Aramaic of Daniel." [Fitzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

3. Middle Aramaic (200 BCE – 200 CE):

  • "In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Greek replaced Aramaic as the administrative language of the Near East, while in the various Aramaic-speaking regions the dialects began to develop independently of one another. Written Aramaic, however, as is the case with most written languages, by providing a somewhat artificial, cross-dialectal uniformity, continued to serve as a vehicle of communication within and among the various groups. For this purpose, the literary standard developed in the previous period, Standard Literary Aramaic, was used, but lexical and grammatical differences based on the language(s) and dialect(s) of the local population are always evident." [Kaufman]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

3. Middle Aramaic (200 BCE – 200 CE):

  • ". . . The emergence of "real local dialects." This phase belong the dialects of (a) Palestine and Arabia: Nabatean, Qumran, Murabba)at, that of the inscriptions on Palestinian ossuaries and tombstones, of the Aramaic words preserved in the Greek texts of Josephus and the NT, and some of the texts of early Palestinian rabbinic literature; (b) Syria and Mesopotamia: those of Palmyra, Edessa, and Hatra, and perhaps also the beginnings of the early Babylonian rabbinic literature." [Fitzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

4. Late Aramaic (200 CE – 700 CE):

  • "These Aramaic texts of various areas and dialects have further peculiarities that distance them even more from Official Aramaic than those in the Middle phase. They fall into two larger geographic subdivisions: (a) Western: the dialects of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Samaritan Aramaic, and Christian Syro-Palestinian Aramaic; (b) Eastern: the dialects of Syriac (further distinguished into a western [Jacobite] form and an eastern [Nestorian] form), Babylonian Talmudic Aramaic, and Mandaic." [Fitzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic: History

4. Late Aramaic (200 CE – 700 CE):

  • "What is striking in the Late phase of Aramaic is not only the elements that set off its various local dialects, but also the mounting influx of Greek words and constructions into almost all dialects of the language. Though the Hellenization of the eastern Mediterranean areas, such as Palestine and Syria, began much earlier, the sparse incidence of Greek words in Aramaic texts of the Middle phase stands in contrast to that of this phase." [Fitzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

1. Phonology:

  • 22 alphabet

  • Consonant differences with Hebrew:

    z > d

    v > t

    c> j

    c > q [

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Noun):

  • "The most notable difference between Aramaic and the other NW Semitic dialects is the presence of the suffixed definite article -a4()). Probably in origin the same form as the Hebrew and Phoenician ha-, the suffixation of this deictic element gives Aramaic the appearance of having three noun states (absolute, construct, emphatic [or determined]) rather than two (absolute and construct) as in Hebrew. . . . "

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Noun):

  • "Note, vis-à-vis Hebrew, the final nun as opposed to Hebrew mem in the m. pl. abs. and likewise the nun in the f. pl. abs. instead of the expected taw. Standard Old Aramaic does seem to use the taw f. pl. for attributive adjectives, however . . . ."

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Verb) :

  • "The three basic conjugations (stems) are the basic stem (Pe>al: katab/yiktub, etc.), factitive stem (Pa>el: kattib), and causative stem (Hap>el: haktib). Passives are expressed by internal vowel modification of the active form (presumably using the vowel pattern u-a in the derived conjugations as in Hebrew; Middle Aramaic has a basic passive stem Pe>|4 l in the perfect - identical with the passive participle - but no evidence for such a form is found this early.) No certain Nip>al is attested in normative Aramaic, . . . ."

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Verb) :

  • ". . . a separate jussive form exists, differing morphologically (and orthographically) from the imperfect in its absence of nunation in the 3 m pl. and 2 m pl. (and, presumably, the 2 f. s, as in later Aramaic) and in final weak roots, where the imperfect ends in -h (presumably /e4/), the jussive in -y (probably, simply /|4/). "

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Verb) :

  • "The two forms are also distinct when they have pronominal suffixes, where (as in Hebrew) the imperfect inserts the so-called "energic" nun between the stem and the suffix, while the jussive does not. "

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1.2 Aramaic: Linguistic Overview

2. Morphology (Verb) :

  • "It is now clear that the so-called "imperfect consecutive" narrative tense was common to Old Syrian Aramaic and Hebrew. Its former designation "converted imperfect" is a misnomer. It is a remnant of the archaic prefixing preterite tense surviving from some earlier stage of the Semitic languages and still to be found in Old Aramaic . . . ."

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1.2 Aramaic & the NT

1. "Though certain patristic writers, such as Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Julius Africanus, were, in general, aware of Aramaisms in NT Greek, the history of the inquiry into the Aramaic substratum began only with the Renaissance and the Humanists' return ad fontes." [Fritzmyer]

2. "The recovery of earlier Aramaic from extrabiblical sources has been largely an achievement of this century; and when it comes to Palestinian Aramaic of the first century it is almost a matter of discoveries of the last two decades. As a result, the older material that has been written on the problem of Aramaic and the NT can only be used today with great caution." [Fritzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic & the NT

3. ". . . the diversity of books in the NT and the difficulty that this diversity causes for the inquiry. How few Aramaisms are claimed for the writings of Paul . . . . Most discussions of the Aramaic problem have been limited to the Gospels and Acts, but even there the problem differs, depending on the gospel, whether it is a Synoptic or John; and each of them has problems that are not the same as the Aramaic substratum of Acts, if it exists at all." [Fritzmyer]

4. ". . . so-called Semitisms and the Semitic background of the NT. There are obviously times when one can legitimately discuss maters that are best grouped as pertaining to the Semitic background of the NT . . . . But . . ., the discussion of the Aramaic background of

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1.2 Aramaic & the NT

the NT should be limited to Aramaic evidence, and to Aramaic evidence of the period contemporary with or slightly prior to the composition of the Greek New Testament writings themselves. The ideal period would be from the first century and the beginning of the second up until the revolt of Simon ben Kosiba (132-135)." [Fritzmyer]

5. ". . . in treating of the Aramaic background of the NT, and especially the sayings of Jesus within it, one has to reckon with (a) the well-known refractory process of underlying oral tradition; (b) the coloring of the tradition by a later faith-experience of the early Christians; (c) likely additions to the traditional collections of sayings, made perhaps in a spirit of a

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1.2 Aramaic & the NT

genuine extension of his words or an adaptive reinterpretation of them to new situation; (d) words actually put on his lips by early Christians (e.g., in the Johannine discourses); and (e) the language of the given evangelist. When due regard is had for these legitimate factors, then the real discussion about the Aramaic substratum of the sayings of Jesus can be undertaken." [Fritzmyer]

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1.2 Aramaic & the NT

6. ". . . the Aramaic background to the sayings of Jesus has often been argued on the testimony of Papias' statement about the First Gospel: Matqai/oj me.n ou=n VEbra<di diale,ktw| ta. lo,gia suneta,xato, h`rmh,neusen dV auvta. w`j h=n dunato.j e;kastoj, "Now Matthew compiled the sayings in a 'Hebrew' dialect, but each person translated (interpreted?) them as best he could" (Eusebius, His eccl. e.39.16). Even granting for the moment that VEbrai<di diale,ktw| most likely means "in the Aramaic language," the collection of logia so written remains an unknown quantity, and the relation of it to the sayings of Jesus in our Greek First Gospel is highly debatable."[Fritzmyer]

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1.3 Greek

  • "Palestine stood at the crossroads of the Roman Empire. Merchants and soldiers, travelers and pilgrims from far and wide crowded into the Holy City (Acts 2:9-11). Amid their babel of tongues, three above all others could be detected. These three were those in which Pilate wrote the inscription fastened to the Cross: Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (John 19:20)." [Metzger]

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1.3 Greek: Introduction

  • "The Greek language has played several roles in connection with the Bible of Jews and Christians. Apart from the fact that the Greeks and their language are mentioned in it, there occur first of all some Greek loanwords in the later books of the Masoretic Text (MT).

  • Second, Greek is the language of one of the oldest versions of the OT, the Septuagint (LXX), which was probably antedated only by the earliest Aramaic Targums. It is, furthermore, the original language of some additional books in the LXX canon not

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1.3 Greek: Introduction

included in the MT canon.

3. Finally, it is Greek in which the NT has come down to us, parts of which (Pauline letters) are undoubtedly to be seen as original compositions. As the order of these different aspects reflects the increasing importance of Greek with regard to the Jewish people, it will be appropriate to subdivide this article in accordance with it." [Mussies]

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1.3 Greek: Roots

  • "What is the relationship of Greek to other languages? By tracing certain linguistic features various languages (especially stable lexical terms – e.g., parts of the body), linguists are able to determine how languages relate to each other genealogically (e.g., tres [Latin], trei/j [Greek], and tryas [Sanskrit]). It is often argued that although Sanskrit is not the mother of Greek and Latin, it is their older sister. All of these go back to a now lost Indo-European language." [Wallace]

  • "The Mother Tongue of all languages apparently had as many as ten children, each of whom were in turn parents of rather large families. One of these ten children was "Proto-Indo-European," from which we get Greek, Latin, Romance languages, Germanic language, etc." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek: History

1. Pre-Homeric (up to 1000 BCE):

  • "As early as the third millennium BCE, tribes of Indo-European peoples wandered into Greece. The natural barriers there eventually created several dialects. That is, as they settled they were cut off from one another – consequently, a different dialect emerged for each local group. Unfortunately, because we lack literary remains, we know very little from this period about Greek language." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek: History

2. The Age of Dialects, or the Classical Era (1000 BCE – 330 BCE):

  • "Geography and politics (e.g., independent city-state) caused Greek to fracture into several dialects, four of which were predominant. There exist today few literary remains of the other dialects." [Wallace]

  • "The main dialects were Aeolic (whose extant remains are only poetic, e.g., Sappho), Doric (also with only poetic remains, most notably of Pindar and Theocritus). Ionic (found in Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, and Hippocrates), and by fare the most influential, Attic." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek: History

  • An offspring of Ionic, Attic was the dialect of Athens, during the "golden age" of classical Greek (4th-5th centuries BCE). In this golden age, Athens was both the political and literary center of Greece. "Classical Greek," though technically referring to all four dialects, is normally equated with Attic Greek, because of the proliferation of literary works that come from this dialect. . . . In it were composed the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the comedies of Aristophanies, the histories of Thucydides and Xenophon, the orations of Demosthenes, and the philosophical treatises of Plate." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek: History

3. Koinh, Greek (330 BCE – 330 CE):

  • "The Koine was born out of the conquests of Alexander the Great. First, his troops, which came from Athens as well as other Greek cities and regions, had to speak to one another. This close contact produced a melting-pot Greek that inevitably softened the rough edges of some dialects and abandoned the subtleties of others. Second, the conquered cities and colonies learned Greek as a second language. By the first century CE, Greek was the lingua franca of the whole Mediterranean region and beyond. Since the majority of Greek-speakers learned it as a second language, this further increased its loss of

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1.3 Greek: History

3. Koinh, Greek (330 BCE – 330 CE):

subtleties and moved it toward greater explicitness (e.g., the repetition of a preposition with a second noun where Attic Greek was usually comfortable with a single preposition)." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek: History

4. Byzantine (or Medieval) Greek (330 CE – 1453 CE):

  • "Koine Greek was transformed into Byzantine Greek when Constantine was converted. By reversing the edicts of Diocletian's persecution (303-311), Constantine gave the language a largely religious hue. Ecclesiastical Greek was born." [Wallace]

  • "When the Empire split between East and West, Greek lost its Weltsprache status. Latin was used in the West (Rome), Greek in the East (Constantinople)." [Wallace]

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1.3 Greek & the Bible

1. Greek loanwords in the Hebrew-Aramaic Bible.

2. Greek in Egypt as the Language of the Septuagint

  • "The presence of a large number of Jews in Egypt before the Hellenistic period is likewise an established fact. The prophet Jeremiah was forced to settle there, together with many others who had remained in Palestine after the Exile (Jer 43:5-7). Possibly, however, the book of Deuteronomy, which reflects King Josiah's legal reform, implies that one of his predecessors (that is before 640 b.c.) had bought horses in Egypt

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1.3 Greek & the Bible

and paid with Israelite slaves (17:16). The Aramaic papyri from Elephantine, too, show that a Jewish garrison was stationed there at the southernmost border of Egypt during the 5th century. And finally, the Letter of Aristeas (12-14) makes mention of many Jewish prisoners of war who were taken to Egypt by Ptolemy I (323-283 b.c.)." [Mussies]

  • "Quite naturally, in order to communicate they made use of the official language of the new rulers rather than the vernacular Egyptian or Aramaic. The Elephantine papyri show that the Jews in Egypt in their daily life had given up Hebrew for Aramaic, the language of the

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1.3 Greek & the Bible

Persian government, and no doubt they continued to use Aramaic for some time among themselves after Egypt had been liberated from Persian rule. The fact, however, that the Hebrew OT had to be translated into Greek shows that after some time many of them no longer understood Hebrew and Aramaic and could not make use of Aramaic Targums (if they ever had them in Egypt in this early period). [Mussies]

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1.3 Greek: Septuagint

1. "According to Aristeas, Ptolemy II motivated the creation of the LXX version with two arguments. First, he wanted the library at Alexandria to contain a copy of the Jewish law. This may reflect the historical reality of a specific juridical need: the king may have wished to enable his officials to consult that law code to which such large minorities in Egypt and Palestine - which then formed part of his kingdom - constantly referred." [Mussies]

2. "Second, it is expressly stated that Ptolemy wanted to bestow a favor through it (the LXX) upon the freed Jewish slaves living in Egypt, on the Jews in the Diaspora, and on those yet to be born (Aristeas 38; Jos. Ant 12.48). This makes sense only if it reflects a

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1.3 Greek: Septuagint

reality in which many if not most Jews outside of Palestine could not (or could not sufficiently) read and understand the Hebrew Torah, but spoke and were well versed in Greek. In fact, Aristeas at the end of his letter relates how the completed Greek version was read in Alexandria to the assembled Jews, who approved of it and even asked for a copy (Aristeas 308; Jos. Ant 12.107-8)." [Mussies]

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1.3 Koine Greek: Introduction

1. "Several characteristics of the koine distinguish it from classical Greek of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Perhaps the most comprehensive term describing these various features is the word "simplification." Shorter and simpler sentences supplanted the highly complex structure of classical syntax. Instead of the wealth of coordinating and subordinating conjunctions and particles--one of the "glories" of ancient Greek--a relatively few of the more commonplace connectives were forced to express all kinds of relationships. Most people, in conformity with the same tendency toward simplification, preferred direct discourse, with its less complicated syntax, to indirect discourse. Again,

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1.3 Koine Greek: Introduction

the special forms of verbs, nouns, and adjectives which had been employed when but two people or objects were referred to (the dual number) fell into disuse and were then forgotten. A similar fate was to be in store for the optative mood--which appears but sixty-seven times in the whole New Testament. In short, the subtle refinements of form and syntax of classical Greek failed to survive in the koine." [Metzger]

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1.3 Koine Greek: Introduction

2. "In addition to this tendency toward simplification there was also a constant striving for emphatic and vigorous expression, characteristic of every vernacular. It is by this proneness to emphatic expression that one accounts for the noticeable growth in the use of prepositions in composition with verbs as well as with their objects. The increased use of pronouns as subjects of verbs which do not require them, the preference for compound and even double-compound (sesquipedalian) words for simple words, the use of the vivid present tense instead of the future, the large number of words in the diminutive formation, the replacement by prepositional phrases of constructions originally involving merely the proper case--all of these are

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1.3 Koine Greek: Introduction

indications of striving after emphasis at the expense of precise and refined expression." [Metzger]

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1.3 Koine Greek: Terminology

  • "Koinh, is the feminine adjective of koino,j ("common"). The feminine is used because its (implicitly) modifies dia,lektoj, a (second declension) feminine noun. Synonyms of Koine are "common" Greek, or, more frequently, Hellenistic Greek (which normally implies that Greek is a second language – i.e., the speakers have become Hellenized [cf. Acts 6.1])." [Wallace]

  • "Both New Testament Greek and Septuagintal Greek are considered substrata of the Koine. (The LXX, however, is so heavily Semitized – precisely because it is entirely translated Greek – that it is normally treated as in a class by itself.)" [Wallace]

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1.3 Koine Greek: History Facts

1. "The golden age of Greek literature effectively died with Aristotle (322 BCE)."

2. "The Koine was born with Alexander the Great's conquests."

3. "Hellenistic Greek began with Alexander's troops who came from all the regions of Greece. The troops, then, produced a leveling influence."

4. "It developed further as a second language of conquered peoples, when new Greek colonies sprang up due to Alexander's victories. The conquests, then, gave Greek its universal nature."

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1.3 Koine Greek: History Facts

5. "Koine Greek grew largely from Attic Greek, as this was Alexander's dialect, but was also influenced by the other dialects of Alexander's soldiers. "Hellenistic Greek is a compromise between the rights of the stronger minority (i.e., Attic) and the weaker majority (other dialects)."

6. "This new dialect, however, should not be perceived to be inferior to Attic. It was not a contamination of the pure gold of classical Greek, but a more serviceable alloy for the masses."

7. "It became the lingua franca of the whole Roman Empire by the first century CE."

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1.3 Koine Greek: History Facts

8. "When is Koine Koine? Though Koine Greek had its birth in c. 330 BCE, this was its physical birth, not its linguistic. One should not suppose that all of a sudden, with the conclusion of Alexander's final battle, everyone began speaking Koine Greek! Just as a newborn baby does not immediately speak, it took some time before Koine really took shape." [Wallace]

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1.3 Scope of Koinh, Greek

1. Time:

  • "Roughly, 330 BCE to 330 CE. Or, from Alexander's conquests to the removal of Roman Empire's capital from Rome to Constantinople. With the death of Aristotle in 322 BCE, classical Greek as a living language was phasing out. Koine was at its peak in the first century BCE and first century CE." [Wallace]

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1.3 Scope of Koinh, Greek

2. Time:

  • "For the first time, Greek was universalized. As colonies were established well past Alexander's day, and as the Greeks continued to rule, the Greek language kept on thriving in foreign lands. Even after Rome became the world power in the first century BCE, Greek continued to penetrate distant lands. (This was due largely to Rome's policy of assimilation of cultures already in place, rather than destruction and replacement.) Consequently, even when Rome was in absolute control, Latin was not the lingua franca. Greek continued to be a universal language until the end of the first century." [Wallace]

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1.3 Types of Koinh, Greek

1. Vernacular or Vulgar (e.g., papyri, ostraca):

  • "This is the language of the streets-colloquial, popular speech. It is found principally in the papyri excavated from Egypt, truly the lingua franca of the day." [Wallace]

    2. Literary (e.g., Polybius, Josephus, Philo, Diodorus, Strabo, Epictetus, Plutarch):

  • ""A more polished Koine, this is the language of scholars and litterateurs, of academics and historians. The difference between literary Koine and vulgar Koine is the difference between English spoken on the streets and English spoken in places of higher education." [Wallace]

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1.3 Types of Koinh, Greek

3. Conversational (New Testament, some papyri):

  • "Conversational Koine is typically the spoken language of educated people. It is grammatically correct for the most part, but not on the same literary level (lacks subtleties, is more explicit, shorter sentences, more parataxis) as literary Koine. By its very nature, one would not expect to find many parallels to this – either in the papyri (usually the language of uneducated people) or among literary authors (for their language is a written language)." [Wallace]

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1.3 Types of Koinh, Greek

4. Atticistic (e.g.,Lucian, Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Dio Chrysostom, Aristides, Phrynichus, Moeris):

  • ""This is an artificial language revived by litterateurs who did not care for what had become of the language . . . ." [Wallace]

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1.3 Summary of NT Koinh,

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

1. Latin:

  • "The evidence of Latin in first-century Palestine indicates that it was used mainly by the Romans who occupied the land and for more or less official purposes. Thus there are dedicatory inscriptions on buildings and aqueducts, funerary inscriptions on tombstones of Roman legionnaires who died in Palestine, milestones on Roman roads with Latin inscriptions, and the ubiquitous Roman terra-cotta tiles stamped with various abbreviations of the Tenth Legion . . . ." [Fitzmyer]

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

2. Greek:

  • ". . . it is not possible to document the use of Greek in Palestine prior to Alexander or to indicate what influence it might have had then. The earliest Greek text found there is apparently the bilingual Edomite-Greek ostracon dated in the sixth year of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (227 BC) . . . at Khirbet el-Kom. . . . Prior to this discovery the earliest known inscription was that erected by Anaxikles, a priest of the royal cult of Ptolemy IV Philopator, who was installed a Joppa shortly after the Egyptian victory over Antiochus III at Raphia in 217 B.C. it gives clear evidence of the use of the language by foreigners, but says little about the use of it by the indigenous population." [Fitzmyer]

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • "When the Hellenization of Palestine under Antiochus IV Epiphanes began, his efforts were aided by the Jews themselves, as both 1 Maccabees and Josephus make clear. There seems to be little doubt that the use of Greek language was part of this assistance. . . .

  • "Though the names of a host of Hellenistic Jewish litterateurs who wrote in Greek are known, and some fragments of their writings are preserved in patristic authors such as Clement of Alexandria, or Eusebius of Caesarea, most important of these are Justus of Tiberias and Flavius Josephus, both of whom wrote mainly historical works. . . ." [Fritzmyer]

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • Josephus, at the end of Antiquities: "My compatriots admit that in our Jewish learning I far excel them. But I labored hard to steep my self in Greek prose [and poetic learning], after having gained a knowledge of Greek grammar; but the constant use of my tongue hindered my achieving precision in pronunciation. For our people do not welcome those who have mastered the speech of many nations or adorn their style with smoothness of diction, because they consider that such skill is not only common to ordinary freeman but that even slaves acquire it, if they so choose. Rather, they give credit for wisdom to those who acquire an exact knowledge of the Law and can interpret

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

the Holy Scriptures. Consequently, though many have laboriously undertaken this study, scarcely two or three have succeeded (in it) and reaped the fruit of their labors."

  • "Several famous Greek inscriptions are extant from this period. There is the Greek inscription forbidding non-Jews to enter the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple, the Jerusalem synagogue inscription which commemorates it building by Theodotos Vettenos, a priest and leader of the synagogue, the hymn inscribed in the necropolis of Marisa, the edict of Augustus (or some first-century Roman emperor) found at Nazareth

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

concerning the violation of tombs, the Capernaum dedicatory inscription, and the numberless ossuary inscriptions, some written in Greek alone, others in Greek and Hebrew (or Aramaic) from the vicinity of Jerusalem.

  • "From the Murabba(at caves have come examples of grain transactions (Mur 89-107). IOU's (Mur 114), contracts of marriage and remarriage among Jews (Mur 115-16), fragments of philosophical and literary texts (Mur 108-12), even texts written in a Greek shorthand (Mur 164). The letters from a cave in the Wadi H}abra indicate that Greek was also used in a less official kind of writing. From the period just before the

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

Second Revolt there is a batch of letters which are communications between Bar Cochba and his lieutenants, and surprisingly enough written in Greek."

  • "Sou[mai]os to Jonathe, (son of) Baianos, and Ma[s]abbala, greetings! S[i]nce I have sent to you A[g]rippa, make h[ast]e to send me b[e]am[s] and citrons. And furnish th[em] for the [C]itron-celebration of the Jews; and do not do otherwise. No[w] (this) has been written in Greek because a [des]ire has not be[en] found to w[ri]te in Hebrew. De[s]patch him quickly fo[r t]he feast, an[d do no]t do otherwise. Soumaios. Farewell."

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • Acts 6.1 Problem

  • ". . . Jesus' use of Greek. This question has been raised from time to time for a variety of reasons, and obviously little can be asserted about it. "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Matt 4.15) has often been said to have been an area of Palestine where the population was more bilingual than in the south, e.g., at Jerusalem. Hence it is argued: Coming from an area such as this, Jesus would have shared this double linguistic heritage. While it must be admitted that there were undoubtedly areas where less Greek was used than others, nevertheless the widespread attestation of Greek material in Palestine would indicate that "Galilee

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

of the Gentiles" did not have a monopoly on it. The general evidence that we have been considering would suggest the likelihood that Jesus did speak Greek." [Fritzmyer]

  • "However, what evidence there is that he used Greek yields at most a probability; if it be used to insist that we might even have in the Gospels some of the ipsissima verba Iesu graeca, actually uttered by him as he addressed his bilingual Galilean compatriots, then the evidence is being pressed beyond legitimate bounds."

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

3. Aramaic:

  • "If asked what was the language commonly spoken in Palestine in the time of Jesus of Nazareth, most people with some acquaintance of that era and area would almost spontaneously answer Aramaic. To my way of thinking, this is still the correct answer for the most commonly used language, but the defense of this thesis must reckon with the growing mass of evidence that both Greek and Hebrew were being used as well. I would, however, hesitate to say with M. Smith that "at least as much Greek as Aramaic was spoken in Palestine." In any case, the evidence for the use of Aramaic has also been growing in recent years."

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • Before 1947:

    • The first of the rabbinical writings, Me6gillat Ta(a6n|=t, dating from the first Christian century.

    • Numberless ossuary and sepulchral inscriptions.

    • "The most important to the extended texts are the Uzziah plaque, commemorating the first-century transfer of the alleged bones of the famous eighth-century king of Judah, an ossuary lid with a qorban inscription that illustrates the use of this Aramaic word in Mark 7.11 . . . ."

    • Syntax of the NT

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • "Since the discovery of the Qumran material it is now evident that literature was indeed being composed in Aramaic in the last century B.C. and in the first century A.D. The number of extant Aramaic texts of literary nature is not small, even though fragments of them found in the various Qumran caves may be. Only a few of these texts have been published so far: the Genesis Apocryphon, the Prayer of Nabonidus, the Description of the New Jerusalem, the Elect of God text; parts of such texts as the Testament of Levi, Enoch, Pseudo-Daniel, a Targum of Job, and a number of untitled text to which a number has merely been assigned. Reports have been made on still other Aramaic texts from Caves IV and XI,

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

such as several copies of Tobit, of the targums of Job and Leviticus, of a text mentioning "the Son of God" and "the Son of the Most High" in phrases remarkably close to Luke 1.32, 35. All of this points to an extensive Aramaic literary activity and an Aramaic literature, at least used by Essenes, if not composed by them."

  • ". . . an Aramaic IOU, dated in the second year of Nero (i.e., 55-56), came to light in one of the Murrabba(at caves, and a letter on an ostracon from Masada. And from a slightly later period comes a batch of legal documents, composed in Aramaic as well as in Greek and Hebrew, from caves in the wadies Murabba(at, H}abra, and Seiya=l. Many of these still await publication." [Fritzmyer]

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

4. Hebrew:

  • ". . . the earliest epigraphic material points heavily in the direction of Hebrew, as a Canaanite dialect, dominating the land. It was never completely supplanted by Aramaic after the exile, when the latter became more commonly used because of its international prominence. It is, however, often asserted that Aramaic was the only Semitic language in use in Palestine at the time of Jesus and the Apostles. But there is clear indications, both epigraphically and literary, that Hebrew continued in use in certain social strata of the people and perhaps also in certain geographical areas. The evidence, however, is not as abundant as it is of Aramaic." [Fritzmyer]

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

  • ". . . the number of Qumran text written in Hebrew far outnumber those in Aramaic, and these bear witness to a lively literary productivity in the language. It is not great literature, no more than the Aramaic literature of the time; even the War Scroll and the Thanksgiving Psalms are scarcely exceptions to this, though they are the most literary pieces in the Qumran scrolls. However much of this Qumran Hebrew composition dates from the last two centuries B.C. But the pe6s]a4r|=m, which exist in only one copy of each pe4s]er and were written for the most part in the late Herodian script, may be regarded as first-century composition. They are literary

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

compositions, reflecting on earlier stages of the sect's history and interpreting the biblical books in the light of that history and of the sect's beliefs. Along with the rest of Qumran Hebrew, the language of these texts represents a slight development beyond that of the late books of the OT. It has been called a "neo-classic Hebrew," lacking in spontaneity and contaminated by the contemporary colloquial dialect." [Fritzmyer]

  • "The evidence for colloquial Hebrew is not abundant. What is surprising is that there is scarcely a Hebrew inscription from Palestine in the first century outside of the Qumran material – the inscription of the Be6ne= H9e6z|=r tomb being

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1.4 Multilingualism in 1st A.D.

almost the sole exception. There are, of course, ossuaries with Semitic names that could have been inscribed by Hebrew-speaking Jews as well as by Aramaic-speaking Jews. The use of ben instead of bar in the patronymics is no sure indication of a Hebrew proper name, even though it is often used to distinguish Hebrew from Aramaic inscriptions on the ossuaries." [Fritzmyer]