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[XTalk] HMt and Hebrew in 1 c Israel

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  • Yuri Kuchinsky
    Crosstalkers, Doubts have been expressed by Jack and others as to what extent Hebrew was used in Israel in the 1 c. These doubts seem to be misplaced. Hebrew
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 3, 2000
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      Doubts have been expressed by Jack and others as to what extent Hebrew was
      used in Israel in the 1 c. These doubts seem to be misplaced. Hebrew was
      certainly both spoken and written in Israel in the 1 c. Much religious
      literature was written at that time in Hebrew. Here's some info from the
      Enc. Britannica,



      Palestinian literature [Hellenistic period]

      During this period literature was composed in Palestine in Hebrew,
      Aramaic, and Greek, with the exact language still a subject of
      dispute among scholars in many cases and with the works often
      apparently composed by more than one author over a considerable
      period of time. Most of the works composed in Hebrew, many of them
      existing only in Greek--Ecclesiasticus, I Maccabees, Judith,
      Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Baruch, Psalms of Solomon,
      Prayer of Manasseh--and many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are generally
      conscious imitations of biblical books, often reflecting the
      dramatic events of the Maccabean struggle and often with an
      apocalyptic tinge (involving the dramatic intervention of God in


      [Book of] Enoch (perhaps originally written in Hebrew)


      _Jubilees, Book of_ also called THE LITTLE GENESIS, pseudepigraphal
      work (not included in any canon of scripture)...

      Jubilees is preserved in its entirety only in an Ethiopic
      translation, which was derived from a Greek translation made from
      the Hebrew. Fragments of the Greek and Hebrew texts are also extant.
      ... Book of Jubilees (now known to have been
      composed in Hebrew, as seen by its appearance among the Dead Sea
      Scrolls), and Biblical Antiquities, falsely attributed to Philo
      (originally written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek, but now
      extant only in Latin) ...

      [end quote]

      And here's some more very strong support for the currency of Hebrew in 1
      c. Israel,



      The sacred language: Hebrew and the vernacular tongues

      The transformation of Hebrew into a sacred language is, of course,
      bound up with the political fate of the people. In the period
      following the return from the Babylonian Exile, Aramaic, a
      cognate of Hebrew, functioned as the international or imperial
      language in official life and certainly gained a foothold as a
      vernacular. It did not, despite claims made by some scholars,
      displace the everyday Hebrew of the people. The language of the
      Mishna, far from being a scholar's dialect, seems to reflect--in the
      same way as the Koine (common) Greek of the New Testament--popular
      speech. Displacement of Hebrew--both in its literary form in
      Scriptures and in its popular usage--did take place in the
      Diaspora, however, as evidenced by the need to translate
      Scriptures into Greek in some communities and into Aramaic in

      [end quote]

      All this indicates very clearly that there can be no serious objections to
      HMt being at home in Israel in the 1 c. or later.

      As far as the inscriptional evidence is concerned, as Joseph A. Fitzmyer
      notes in his "The Languages of Palestine in the First Century A.D.", often
      it is impossible to say in which language the funeral inscription is made,

      "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 not sure indication of a
      Hebrew proper name, even though it is often used to distinguish Hebrew
      from Aramaic inscriptions on the ossuaries." (1997 reprint, p. 44)

      Fitzmyer, himself, is certainly persuaded of the use of Hebrew in this
      time period,

      "That Hebrew was being used in first-century Palestine is beyond doubt, as
      we have been saying..." (ibid, p. 45)

      Also, we have numerous Patristic sources indicating the existence of a
      Hebrew Mt in the early centuries of Christianity. Were all those Fathers
      of the Church imagining all those things? After all, they consistently
      report contacts with Jewish Christian groups of all sorts, all having some
      sorts of Hebrew gospels of Mt, most likely different versions and

      It would certainly appear as rather presumptious for any historian to
      dismiss all that evidence out of hand.



      Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku

      The world is made up, for the most part, of fools or knaves, both
      irreconcilable foes to truth; the first being slaves to a blind credulity,
      which we may properly call bigotry, the last too jealous of that power
      they have usurped over the folly and ignorance of the others -- which the
      establishment of the empire of reason would destroy -- George Villiers
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