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Re: [Synoptic-L] The Aramaic-Greek transition (resent with signature)

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  • R. Steven Notley
    Jack I have to catch a train into the city to teach. So, I won t have any more time for this ongoing discussion which I am sure would remain unresolved
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 14, 2003
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      Jack

      I have to catch a train into the city to teach. So, I won't have any more time for this
      ongoing discussion which I am sure would remain unresolved anyway. However, you can
      imagine one's frustration to point out examples of Hebrew (literary and colloquial) in
      use in various and diverse religious/social environments, only to hear the response that
      those "exceptional" examples of usage prove the rule (i.e. only exclusive knowledge of
      Hebrew). With that line of logic, all evidence can be used to be counter-evidentiary.

      You state, "the scrolls do show us that *some groups* in Palestine were conversant in
      Hebrew. They do not show us, however, that most people in Palestine were conversant in
      Hebrew."

      My question remains the same and has yet to be answered. What firm data is there to
      indicate that Hebrew was unknown by "most people in Palestine?"

      best regards,
      R. Steven Notley
      Nyack College NYC

      "John C. Poirier" wrote:

      > Steven,
      >
      > I’m with Jeffrey Gibson on this one. The writings of Qumran are inadmissible as
      > evidence for the principal spoken language of first-century Palestine, just as the
      > writings of the Vatican are inadmissible as evidence for the principal spoken
      > language of twentieth-century Italy.
      >
      > There certainly is a sense in which the use of Hebrew at Qumran was
      > “countercultural.” (Cf. Schniedewind’s description of Qumran Hebrew as an
      > “antilanguage.”) The Qumranic use of Hebrew was ideologically driven, and as such,
      > counts more strongly as evidence *against* the widespread use of Hebrew than as
      > evidence *in favor* of it. Granted that Qumran writings appear with different
      > registers--most are closer to Biblical Hebrew but a few (4QMMT, the Copper Scroll)
      > are closer to Mishnaic Hebrew--the scrolls do show us that *some groups* in Palestine
      > were conversant in Hebrew. They do not show us, however, that most people in
      > Palestine were conversant in Hebrew.
      >
      > I’m not sure what is served by your mentioning Geiger’s position. None of those
      > arguing against the widespread use of Hebrew fall into the Geiger camp: Fitzmyer,
      > Barr, Vermes, Schwartz, Hezser, etc., all recognize that Hebrew was a spoken language
      > *somewhere* in the first century. They simply insist that *somewhere* doesn’t mean
      > *everywhere*, and that the epigraphic and rabbinic evidence only supports the view
      > that Hebrew was spoken in certain religious connections. Those who argue in favor of
      > a widespread use of Hebrew always point to Qumran and to the Bar Kochba letters, but
      > these are the places where we would *expect* to find exceptions to the rule that
      > Aramaic was the principal spoken language.
      >
      > In other words, evidence that Hebrew was spoken by *some* in Palestine does not
      > constitute evidence that the *majority* spoke Hebrew. There are different types of
      > multilingual situations: there is a sort of “distributive multilingualism,” in which
      > multiple languages are spoken in a community, but the average person did not speak
      > more than one, and there is a type of multilingualism that we find in Israel today,
      > where almost everyone speaks several languages. Unfortunately, many scholars writing
      > in support of a Hebrew vernacular fail to recognize the difference between these two
      > situations. Recently, Abraham Tal wrote a *horrendous* article confusing these
      > situations, and Fraade’s 1992 article makes the same mistake, although less
      > conspicuously, and in spite of giving the impression that he discusses the evidence
      > carefully.
      >
      > You write that you “know of no evidence of monolingual ‘pockets’ in first century
      > Judaea,” and construe evidence (rabbinic?) of proto-Pharisaic familiarity with Hebrew
      > as evidence for the linguistic situation of “the most widespread sector of society.”
      > But isn’t this like polling modern Rabbis on their knowledge of Hebrew, and
      > extrapolating that, since these Rabbis represent the most widespread sector of Jewish
      > society today, most Jews today are conversant in Hebrew? To my mind, the rank and
      > file of first-century Palestine constitutes a huge “monolingual pocket.” The
      > epigraphic evidence, I think, indicates that first-century Palestine conforms more to
      > the model of distributive multilingualism: everyone (or at least every Jew) would
      > have known Aramaic, many of them would also have known Greek, and a minority would
      > have known Hebrew.
      >
      > I also think that the James ossuary tells us clearly that the language of Jesus’
      > brother was Aramaic.
      >
      > John C. Poirier
      > Middletown, Ohio
      >
      > Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      > List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...


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    • Dennis Sullivan
      ... From: John C. Poirier To: ; Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 11:11 AM Subject: Re:
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 14, 2003
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "John C. Poirier" <poirier@...>
        To: <notley@...>; <Synoptic-L@...>
        Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 11:11 AM
        Subject: Re: [Synoptic-L] The Aramaic-Greek transition (resent with
        signature)



        I also think that the James ossuary tells us clearly that the language of
        Jesus'
        brother was Aramaic.

        John C. Poirier
        Middletown, Ohio
        ++++++++++++++++++
        Greetings, Jack!

        More precisely, the ossuary proves that the family's stonecutter spoke
        Aramaic--unless Ya'akov had the foresight to engrave his own ossuary
        inscription before his death. The ossuary may have been prepared as long as
        a year after his demise.

        I originally mentioned this in jest at our luncheon with David Bivin last
        November, but the logic works.

        Dennis Sullivan
        Dayton Ohio



        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...


        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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      • John C. Poirier
        Thanks for this, Dennis. Good to hear from you. (I m ready to go back to that Mexican restaurant.) It seems to me that the language of the James ossuary
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 14, 2003
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          Thanks for this, Dennis. Good to hear from you. (I'm ready to go back to that
          Mexican restaurant.)

          It seems to me that the language of the James ossuary would have been dictated
          by James' followers, or possibly his family. Certainly, the decision to have
          any inscription at all was probably not in the hands of the stonecutter (about
          70% of the ossuaries in Rahmani don't have any inscription at all), so
          presumably the decision as to what language to use would have been made by
          whoever decided to have an inscription. But even if it was the stonecutter who
          decided to use Aramaic, that still counts *in some way* as linguistic evidence
          for the first century. (Unless, of course, the last half of the inscription
          [which was written by a different writing instrument] was added a century or so
          later, and if we allow that *bar* could be colloquial Hebrew, in which case we
          would only have evidence for Aramaic in the second century.) Like everything
          else in history, it all boils down to probability.

          Unfortunately, it appears that a lot that should have been said about this
          ossuary was left out of the *BAR* article.


          John C. Poirier
          Middletown, Ohio


          Dennis Sullivan wrote:

          > More precisely, the ossuary proves that the family's stonecutter spoke
          > Aramaic--unless Ya'akov had the foresight to engrave his own ossuary
          > inscription before his death. The ossuary may have been prepared as long as
          > a year after his demise.
          >
          > I originally mentioned this in jest at our luncheon with David Bivin last
          > November, but the logic works.
          >
          > Dennis Sullivan
          > Dayton Ohio


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