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Thread: Paul speaking Hebrew (Hebraisti) in the New Testament - "Aramaic" another modern version blunder

  1. Default Paul speaking Hebrew (Hebraisti) in the New Testament - "Aramaic" another modern version blunder

    This first post will place a lot of the original material, as it has been written over the years.
    More planned to tweak and summarize.

    Facebook - August 31, 2015
    Hebraisti == Hebrew & the "Aramaic" blunder in modern versions
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/purebible/permalink/854829001275657/?match=ZG91Z2xhcyBoYW1w

    ==========================================

    Can't anybody here play this game? The modern versions can't even get the name of a language right .. not even Hebraisti (note the small clue in the sound.)

    ==========================================

    A post placed here:

    Do We Need to Get Inside the Hebrew Minds of the NT Authors?
    Walter Varnar
    https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%...E6z36E4q3qvTfQ
    (not currently up)


    After noting the comment in

    Nerdy Language Majors
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/NerdyLanguageMajors/permalink/634221546680518/
    ==========================================

    POST THAT SUMMARIZES HEBRAISTI SCHOLARSHIP

    While, I agree with your general sentiment, I am surprised about this about Papias:

    "(either Hebrew or more likely Aramaic)"

    As Ken Penner showed rather effectively in two papers:

    “What language did Paul speak in Acts 21–22? Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic,” Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting, Halifax, May 2003.

    “Greek Names for Hebrew and Aramaic: A Case for Lexical Revision,” Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Greek Language and Linguistics Section, November 2004.

    Hebraisti is Hebrew in the NT, including verses like this one referencing τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ:

    Acts 21:40 (AV)
    And when he had given him licence,
    Paul stood on the stairs,
    and beckoned with the hand unto the people.
    And when there was made a great silence,
    he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,


    (Penner notes that there are other words available for Aramaic, ie. Syristi or Chaldee.)

    While Ken Penner was especially writing of the NT, the same should be the application from Papias, of hebraidi dialekto: Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ.

    And all this is also the view of other informed modern writers including:

    [B-Greek] Aramaic or Hebrew in NET Bible
    Randall Buth - July 31, 2009
    https://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/...uly/049973.htm
    l
    ...
    EBRAISTI means, surprise, EBRAISTI, i.e. Hebrew,
    and SYRISTI means, Aramaic, like at Daniel 2.4.
    And NET would need updating if still propagating incorrect views.

    Douglas Hamp discusses a little of how this how tinged modern translations into error:

    The Language Of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic? (2005)
    Douglas Hamp
    https://books.google.com/books?id=12KTD95EhQcC&pg=PA4
    Followup post on the Facebook thread

    Facebook - Sept 1, 2015
    More on the Hebrew-Aramaic topic - the resources, placed here:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/pure...2%3A%22R%22%7D


    More on the Hebrew-Aramaic topic - the resources, placed here:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/Nerd...%22%3A%22R%22}

    ===================

    The reference on the cross is circular to the Aramaic theory. The proper names can be either language. From the first paper below:

    "Proper names are not reliable indicators of language. Aramaic names appear in Hebrew texts, and vice-versa."

    Here are the Ken Penner papers that show the error in the Hebraisti is Aramaic equation.

    ==================

    Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic: A Case for Lexical Revision
    Ken Penner
    https://www.academia.edu/1669907/Ancient_names_for_Hebrew_and_Aramaic_A_Case_for_Le xical_Revision

    What language did Paul speak in Acts 21-22? Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic
    Ken Penner
    https://www.academia.edu/1669906/What_language_did_Paul_speak_in_Acts_21-22_Ancient_names_for_Hebrew_and_Aramaic

    ==================

    See also:

    The Language Environment of First Century Judaea: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels—
    Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Gospels—Volume Two (2013)

    Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean “Aramaic”?
    Randall Buth and Chad Pierce
    https://books.google.com/books?id=F5QXAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA66
    p. 66-109


    ========================================

    ADDED HERE: Note that these may not be meant as public papers.
    Note also that another related paper in the book is online from


    The Origins of the “Exclusive Aramaic Model” in the Nineteenth Century: Methodological Fallacies and Subtle Motives
    Guido Baltes
    http://www.guidobaltes.de/Medien/PDF...ve_Aramaic.pdf
    p. 9-34

    ==================

    Also from the book:


    The Use of Hebrew and Aramaic in Epigraphic Sources of the New Testament Era
    Guido Baltes
    http://www.guidobaltes.de/Medien/PDF...nd_Aramaic.pdf
    p. 35-65

    Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts, with an Application for the Gospels and Pseudepigrapha
    http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.co...inguishing.pdf
    .P. 247 -319|

    Here is a summary of what we have from Ken Penner

    Ken Penner Hebrew in the NT Bibliography

    Those two papers will give us good summaries of the material originally called:
    “What language did Paul speak in Acts 21–22? Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic,” Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting, Halifax, May 2003.
    “Greek Names for Hebrew and Aramaic: A Case for Lexical Revision,” Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Greek Language and Linguistics Section, November 2004.


    Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic: A Case for Lexical Revision (2003)
    Ken Penner
    https://www.academia.edu/1669907/Anc...xical_Revision

    What language did Paul speak in Acts 21-22? Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic
    Ken Penner
    https://www.academia.edu/1669906/Wha...ew_and_Aramaic


    Here is the very fine endorsement of the Ken Penner scholarship (and my comments) by Randall Buth placed on the b-greek forum.

    [B-Greek] Aramaic or Hebrew in NET Bible
    Randall Buth - July 31, 2009
    https://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/...ly/049973.html

    > Mitch Larramore Augusta, GA
    >As I read the NET Bible, the translators simply can not decide whether or not to translate hEBRAISTi "Hebrew" or "Aramaic." What is
    >going on behind the scenes that is causing this confusion? Should it be Hebrew or Aramaic? It can't be both, can it?

    Steven Avery
    Ken Penner did an excellent SBL presentation on this question, which includes language and history and culture, presented at the SBL in 2004.

    One post on b-greek was at:

    [b-greek] Hebrew =/=Aramaic
    http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-greek/2003-May/025398.html

    These materials used to be online in various forms. Essentially I believe it is safe to say that his case that Hebraisti == Hebrew and that the Greek word for Aramaic would be distinct, (a form of Chaldee or Syriac) was very strong. I may have a summary in my archives, but better would be to ask Ken Penner for the full material.

    The Reformation Bible scholars, eg. the Geneva and King James Bible, always understood this as Hebrew as well. Apparently it changed when a non-discarded theory (partly due to DSS) of Hebrew atrophy in the 1st century became popular in the 19th century. However modern texts do not always catch up so quickly to modern rediscoveries.

    Shalom,
    Steven Avery


    Steve is essentially correct on all points, including the "now-discarded" theory (that still serves as the matrix viewpoint for many in NT studies). However, the view that 'Hebrew' EBRAISTI means 'Aramaic' is older than the 19th century and goes back to the reformation era when contact with Eastern Syriac churches brought the 'Aramaic' view. The 'Aramaic' view is formed on four and more misconcalculations,

    1) a lack of knowledge that words/forms like RABBOUNI were Hebrew, since they didn't find them in the Hebrew Bible, and

    2) forgetting that names of a foreign etymology cross language borders, (Ian is an English name, a Scottish name, a Hebrew name, all of the above. A person could use Golgotha as a Hebrew word), and

    3) not recognizing that Greek replaced Hebrew forms with Aramaic ones as a matter of preference, e.g. sikera instead of sekar when 'translating' the LXX, or writing PesaH as PASXA instead of PESAX when translating from Hebrew. Greek interfaced with Aramaic over the whole mideast but only interfaced with Hebrew in Yehud.

    4) an assumption that people were relying on targums in Israel as their scripture in the first century. Something that the DSS have shown to be false. (DSS only have "Job" for certain, and that from an Eastern source.)

    5) Josephus and others did not confuse the languages as is alleged by moderns who seem to confuse them. When Josephus said that SABBATA meant 'rest' in Hebrew he was correct. Shabat is not a verb in Aramaic (they used naH) and the -A ending of SABBATA comes from the processes behind point 3 above'. Josephus even knew that the 'patriarchal language' was Hebrew, see War 5:272, which shouldn't be surprising for a highly educated tri-lingual.

    So, contra BDAG,

    EBRAISTI means, surprise, EBRAISTI, i.e. Hebrew, and SYRISTI means, Aramaic, like at Daniel 2.4.

    And NET would need updating if still propogating incorrect views.

    ERRWSQE
    Randall

    --
    Randall Buth, PhD
    www.biblicalulpan.org
    randallbuth at gmail.com
    Biblical Language Center
    Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life
    And I thanked Randall and responded:

    [B-Greek] Aramaic or Hebrew in NET Bible
    Steven Avery - July 31, 2009
    https://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/...ly/049977.html


    Thanks, Randall. for the summary and additional information. First here are some notes from Ken Penner. They are still on the Net, very nicely.

    Ken Penner -
    What language did Paul speak in Acts 21-22? Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic.? (old url gone, use new)

    ==================

    Some additional notes, there are about five different b-greek threads going back to the 1990s.

    [biblical-studies] Aramaic was called "Hebrew"? - 2003 forum
    discussion - Ken Penner
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblical-studies/message/3376

    [B-Greek] PASXA and SIKERA --transliteration from Hebrew - Ken Penner
    http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-greek/2007-April/042555.html

    Hebraisti == Hebrew - What language did Paul speak in Acts 21:22 ? -
    my summary notes of the articles above
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Messianic_Apologetic/message/7527

    ====================

    Second we, could mention the book by Alan Millard about literacy, although he does not address this translational issue so cogently he does emphasize Hebrew as a common language of the day.

    Reading and Writing In the Time of Jesus. (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000)
    http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Millard_Jesus.shtml
    http://books.google.com/books?id=TCrfgC6QWp0C

    And some of the historical scholarship on Hebraisti is mentioned
    in the summary by Douglas Hamp

    Discovering the Language of Jesus Hebrew or Aramaic?
    http://www.ccsom.org/languageofjesus/

    ===============================

    Randall
    >However, the view that 'Hebrew' EBRAISTI means 'Aramaic' is older than the 19th century and goes back to the reformation era when contact with Eastern Syriac churches brought the 'Aramaic' view.

    I would be interested in any specific references on this. Afaik, there were no actual Reformation Bibles that translated the word Hebraisti as Aramaic (or anything other than Hebrew) but it was a type of very invigorating scholarship.

    Randall
    >The 'Aramaic' view is formed on four and more misconcalculations (snip)

    Thanks for this fine summary !

    Randall
    >So, contra BDAG, EBRAISTI means, surprise, EBRAISTI, i.e. Hebrew,
    >and SYRISTI means, Aramaic, like at Daniel 2.4.
    >And NET would need updating if still propogating incorrect views.

    Agreed.

    En passant, the Bar Kochba letters might be worthwhile to mention, and the poetry at Qumran (this is emphasized by Dr. Norman Golb). These were discoveries that helped current the scholarship misemphasis.

    Acts 21:40 (KJB)
    And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs,
    and beckoned with the hand unto the people.
    And when there was made a great silence,
    he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
    Note that it still would be good to find out what Reformation Bible texts or writings supported the Aramaic theory.

    Steven Avery

  2. Default Hebraisti == Hebrew - What language did Paul speak in Acts 21:22 ? --- 2004 post on Messianic_Apoogetic forum

    Back in 2004 on the Messianic_Apologetic forum:

    [Messianic_Apologetic] Hebraisti == Hebrew - What language did Paul speak in Acts 21:22 ?
    https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Messianic_Apologetic/conversations/topics/7527

    Here is a cross-post, with enhancements, from a forum discussing the Bible versions issues, and re: the New Testament, the claim that the people in Israel, especially Jerusalem, really didn't speak Hebrew at that time, and that the "Hebrew", as when Paul spoke in Acts to the people in the common tongue, actually meant Aramaic...

    The modern scholarship has finally caught up with the King James Bible - 1611
    .. Hebrew means Hebrew :-)

    btw, this is an area where some of the anti-Hebrew-roots people get it wrong .. they are too quick to align with the faulty scholarship that thinks Hebraisti refers to Aramaic, or that the common tongue was Greek.. eg. (old Geocities url)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    From a Bible Version Forum (WhichVersion)

    Non-King James Bible Person
    Show message history
    Pro-King James Bible
    > Wow, you are amazing. When the Bible SAYS Paul spoke the Hebrew tongue, you say it wasn't
    > really Hebrew.

    Schmuel
    This alone is the real critical issue, and if you are not reading the King James Bible, you might think that the Greek Text is referring to Aramaic and not Hebrew in some or all of the following verses
    which translate and/or footnote the Greek -
    Hebraikos - Hebraisti - Hebrais - Hebraios

    (after all, that is what many of the "scholars" and bible correctors said ....until modern scholarship caught up to the King James Bible :-)

    Luke 23:38
    And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew,
    THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

    John 5:2
    Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool,
    which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

    John 19:13
    When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth,
    and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement,
    but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

    John 19:17
    And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull,
    which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

    John 19:20
    This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city:
    and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

    Acts 21:40
    And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs,
    and beckoned with the hand unto the people.
    And when there was made a great silence,
    he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

    Acts 22:2
    (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them,
    they kept the more silence: and he saith,)

    Acts 26:14
    And when we were all fallen to the earth,
    I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue,
    Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

    Phillipians 3:5
    Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
    an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

    Revelation 9:11
    And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit,
    whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon,
    but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

    Revelation 16:16
    And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Phillipians 3:5 passage is especially telling .. a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" .. clearly the same word was used for the Hebrew language as for the Hebrew culture... If the New Testament wanted to indicate the language of Aramaic, other words were available in Greek eg. "Syriac" or "Chadaisti".

    Of course it helps if you actually believe that the New Testament is the Inspired, Inerrant and Preserved Word of God :-)

    Now, with a little study, and assistance from the scholarship of Ken Penner, it becomes very clear that the evidence from the Bible is that eg. Paul spoke in Hebrew.in Acts 22, even for those who are less sure of the Scriptures Authority.

    The primary modern study on this question is by Ken Penner.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20030610...ken_penner.htm
    Ken Penner
    https://web.archive.org/web/20030511...3programme.htm
    Canadian Society of Biblical Studies - Ken Penner (McMaster University)
    "Did Paul Speak Hebrew? Ancient Names for Hebrew and Aramaic"

    So, here are notes from a talk given by Ken Penner. He talks clearly and forthrightly on this issue, so his conclusions ends up sounding like a King James Bible person, even if that is not remotely his Bible orientation, and even if he is simply looking at the real scholarship :-)

    http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/paper...ais/index.html
    What language did Paul speak in Acts 21:22 ?
    Ancient Names for Hebrew and Aramaic
    http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/paper...is/hebrais.htm (Web page) OR
    http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/paper...is/hebrais.doc (Word file)

    http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/paper...s/handout1.pdf Shorter Handout OR
    http://s91279732.onlinehome.us/paper...s/handout2.pdf Longer Handout (recommended)

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    FOR CONVENIENCE - SOME SUMMARY NOTES ON THE TALK NOTES :-)

    Paul is said to have spoken in "te Hebraidi dialekto",
    which by sound alone, we would expect to mean �in the Hebrew dialect.�

    Paul uses the same adjective, Hebraios, to call himself a �Hebrew of Hebrews�.

    the focus of the present paper: whether ancient authors consistently distinguished between Hebrew and Aramaic ( affirmative)

    If it can be demonstrated that Hebrew and Aramaic are consistently distinguished and only Hebrew is certainly called Hebrais or Hebraisti, we can no longer justify translating Hebrais as �Aramaic� in Acts 21 and 22. (affirmative)

    Ancient usage consistently distinguishes Hebrew from Aramaic;

    the Bauer-Danker lexical entry for the words Hebrais and Hebraisti need to be revised to remove the assertion (or implication) that these words refer to any form of Aramaic. Hebrais, Hebraisti and other words for the Hebrew language are clearly and consistently distinguished from those for the Aramaic language

    We now know Hebrew was still alive in the first century, so we cannot so easily dismiss statements indicating that the use of this living Hebrew was widespread.

    It seems likely then, that Aramaic was too low a language to be on the cross after all, and too unimpressive for Paul to use with the crowd in Jerusalem, when he could fully expect Hebrew to be understood by his audience.


    Notes from Ken Penner talk:
    (Suggestion: Print out the Worksheet as well)
    ================================================== ===================
    Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic, “Brothers and Fathers, listen now to my defense.” When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic they became very quiet.

    At least, that is how the New International Version puts it. But as your handout shows, Paul is said to have spoken in te Hebraidi dialekto, which by sound alone, we would expect to mean “in the Hebrew dialect.”

    Yet recent translations, including the NIV just read and the NRSV on your handout, have interpreted this phrase to mean Aramaic. The NRSV does call the language “Hebrew”, but the translators felt obliged to include a footnote explaining, “That is, Aramaic.” The NIV actually places “Aramaic” in the translation itself. These interpretations are not without basis. As you can see from the excerpt on the handout, they are backed up by the standard lexicon of New Testament Greek, which states forthrightly that “these passages refer to the Aramaic spoken at that time in Palestine.”

    On what is this rendering based? We should expect there to be sound reasons for interpreting a word contrary to its etymological meaning and its normal usage. After all, Paul uses the same adjective, Hebraios, to call himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. I will take a few minutes to review the reasoning behind rendering Hebrais as Aramaic, before offering a fresh analysis of ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic, in which I will show that Hebrais most likely does refer to the Hebrew language.

    The strongest reason for translating Hebrais as Aramaic are the four Aramaic-looking words which John’s gospel specifically calls Hebraisti: In 5:2, we find Bethzatha, in 19:13 Gabbatha, in 19:17 Golgotha, and in 20:16 Rabbouni. The first three words are considered Aramaic because their ending, -a, looks like the Aramaic suffixed article (in addition, Bethzatha is etymologically Aramaic, not Hebrew). Rabbouni appears mainly in Aramaic rabbinic texts.

    Josephus exhibits some similar usage. He doesn’t often refer to the Hebrew language directly. But he does he attribute an Aramaic-looking word, ending in alpha, to the Hebrew language. In Antiquities 1.33 he says the word sabbata is “according to the dialect of the Hebrews”. The Hebrew form, Shabbat, does not have a final A.

    Philo too claims a word ending in alpha is Hebrew. Repeatedly, he says Pascha is what Hebrews call Passover in the ancestral (presumably Hebrew) language. The Hebrew form would be Pesach.

    It seems then, that several first century writers could give the name Hebrew to words which look distinctly Aramaic to us. If Hebrew was thought to be a distinct language at all, the distinction appears blurred, or at least, the names for the two languages were used indiscriminately. If this is the case, we should be open to the possibility that when the author of Acts says Paul spoke in the “Hebrew” dialect, the language he used was actually Aramaic.

    This possibility that the name Hebrew could denote Aramaic, is transformed into a definite probability, if traditional conclusions about the linguistic environment of first century Palestine are accepted.

    In the view articulated best by Gustav Dalman and Theodore Zahn a century ago (as noted in the lexical entry on your handout), Hebrew was not a spoken language in the first century, or it was at least greatly overpowered by Aramaic. In short, if Hebrew was not spoken, Paul didn’t speak it. This line of reasoning holds that because the Hebrew people normally used Aramaic rather Hebrew, Aramaic could be called the language of the Hebrew people, and therefore the Hebrew language.

    However, in the century since Dalman and Zahn wrote, of course, the major manuscript finds in the Judean desert have vastly increased our knowledge of the linguistic environment of first century Judea. In addition, linguistic studies of the vocabulary and grammar of the Mishnah present strong evidence that Mishnaic Hebrew was a living language. So it is now evident that Hebrew was used much more than it appeared to be a century ago. Consequently, the probability that Hebrew means Aramaic should be revised to a simple possibility, and a possibility due for reevaluation at that. The fundamental premise behind the lexical entry and the modern translations (namely that Hebrew and Aramaic were not clearly distinguished) is a premise that can be tested, by examining the ancient usage of names for Hebrew and Aramaic to see whether they were distinguished or not.

    It is this question that is the focus of the present paper: whether ancient authors consistently distinguished between Hebrew and Aramaic. If it can be demonstrated that Hebrew and Aramaic are consistently distinguished and only Hebrew is certainly called Hebrais or Hebraisti, we can no longer justify translating Hebrais as “Aramaic” in Acts 21 and 22.

    In the quest to determine whether ancient authors distinguished between Hebrew and Aramaic, I decided to use the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae to examine all references to the names of these languages in the Septuagint, Josephus, Philo, New Testament, and all other Greek authors up to the third century. Likewise for the names of these languages in Hebrew and Aramaic texts, I checked the comprehensive Aramaic lexicon project, in Sokoloff’s Jewish Palestinian Aramaic dictionary, Jastrow’s dictionary, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the secondary literature on the topic. I primarily wanted to find overt references to the language, rather than to ethnicity. I therefore first looked for adverbs such as Hebraisti and Suristi, adjectives which are normally used for the language, such as Ivrit, Aramit, Suriake, Hebrais, as well as the more general adjectives such as Hebraios Suriakos, and Chaldaios, when these were used in conjunction with a word denoting language. I purposely discounted references which did not name the language (for example, Josephus’ “ancestral language”) stated only what the Hebrew people called something. Such references can be of only secondary value, as circumstantial evidence. If (as the traditional view holds) the Hebrew people spoke Aramaic, either one of the two languages could be the one in view in such statements. Still, these statements cannot be entirely ignored, and I will seek to bring them to bear in my conclusions.

    The results of my search showed a general consistent distinction made between names for Aramaic and Hebrew. You can follow the handout for a chronological list of these names.

    Beginning with the Persian period, the earliest extant reference to Aramaic is found the Elephantine papyri, where it is called Aramit, just as in the transitions to Aramaic in Daniel and Ezra. This is the same name used in the biblical story told in 2 Kings 18; and its parallel in Isa 36, where the Arameans are asked not to speak Yehudit, which the citizens of Jerusalem could understand, but rather Aramit.

    In the Greek period, this story gets translated in the Septuagint with the language names Ioudaisti and Suristi. This same name for Aramaic, Suristi, is also found at the transitions to Aramaic in Daniel 2 and Second Esdras. Ben Sira’s grandson calls the Hebrew of Ecclesiasticus Hebraisti. The epilogue to Job in the Septuagint refers to a Syriac book about Job. The word Chaldaisti is added once to indicate Aramaic in the Septuagint of Daniel. Aristeas says the Jewish scriptures are not written in Syriac, though they are commonly thought to be. In all these cases, the languages are distinct.

    Philo however is ambiguous: he does call the language of the Bible Hebraisti once, but usually he calls it Chaldaic. For example, in Moses 2.26 he says to palaion egraphesan hoi nomoi glossh Chaldaike “the laws were written in the Chaldaic language”, as also in 2.31 and 40.

    Josephus on the other hand, keeps the two names distinct: he changes the Ioudaisti (or Yehudit) of Second Kings to Hebraisti, and keeps Suristi for Aramaic. This change from Ioudaisti to Hebraisti is significant because it is not what one would expect if Josephus thought Hebraisti could refer to Aramaic. Instead he chooses to call it Hebraisti, precisely when a contrast between Hebrew and Aramaic is desired. In his mind, Hebraisti was the most appropriate name for the language he wished to distinguish from Aramaic.

    The trend, as the table on the handout shows, is that in the centuries up to and including that in which the New Testament was written, Hebrew and Aramaic are usually distinguished. Hebrew is called Canaanite, Judean, and Hebraisti, and Aramaic is called Aramit, Suristi, and Chaldaic. After an exhaustive search of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database, I found only one exception to this rule: Philo, who calls Hebrew biblical texts Aramaic (Chaldaic), but even he never calls Aramaic Hebrew!

    In the centuries immediately following the New Testament, we again have evidence from both Christian and Jewish sources that the two languages were distinguished. On the handout I have included only two of the most prominent writers to contrast Hebrew (called Hebrais or Hebraeum) with Aramaic (called Syristi or Syrum). Likewise, in rabbinic writings, Hebrew is regularly Ivri or sometimes lashon haqadosh and Aramaic is Sursi or sometime Targum. The two are contrasted, never equated or confused.

    It is only beginning with Eusebius, at a time long after the Bar Kokhba revolt, that we find Aramaic called Hebrew. Eusebius says the Aramaic Gospel of the Hebrews is in the Hebrew tongue. Likewise, although Epiphanius at times distinguished Hebrew from Syriac, he also implied they both were Hebrew dialects: the one dialect is called “deep” Hebrew and the other Syriac Hebrew. And around 600 CE, Joannes Moschus did call the vernacular of Palestine Hebraisti. But this blurring of the distinction between Hebrew and Aramaic only appears beginning in the fourth century.

    Therefore only a few indicators prevent us from immediately concluding that in the first century Aramaic was always clearly distinguished from Hebrew: Philo calling the Bible Chaldaic, John’s Aramaic-looking words, and indications that the linguistic environment may have been bilingual, rather than trilingual. I’ll say more about this last point later, if time permits. All these points deserve further consideration, but even of the most problematic texts, only John appears to actually call Aramaic Hebrew.

    Is John’s usage anomalous, then? How can his mixing of terms be explained? The standard explanation that it was normal for Aramaic to be called the Hebrew language is inadequate in light of the otherwise consistent distinction made between Hebrew and Aramaic. But a clue to the solution may be found in the Bar Kokhba letters just mentioned. These letters, unavailable to Dalman and Zahn a century ago, are from the early second century CE. Some are in Aramaic, some in Hebrew, and some in Greek. Especially noteworthy for our purposes is the use of Aramaic names within Hebrew letters, and vice-versa. The line from the Hebrew deed of sale found at Muraba`at noted on your handout is only one of many with Aramaic names using bar for son.

    It is common practice to use the ben/bar distinction to categorize inscriptions as either Hebrew or Aramaic. But it appears (not only from these letters) that names are not reliable indicators of language. Names are notoriously resistant to translation. For instance, if I were speaking to a French person, I might tell him, “In English Nouvelle Ecosse is called Nova Scotia,” much like John could say, “In Hebrew, that place is called Bethzatha.” In neither case is an etymological claim being made: certainly Nova Scotia is etymologically Latin, and Bethzatha is etymologically Aramaic. But when we say Nova Scotia is the English name, what we are saying is that’s what English speakers call this province. We are not calling Latin English. Similarly, when John says the place is called Bethzatha in Hebrew, he is not necessarily calling Aramaic Hebrew; all he is saying is that’s what people call the place when speaking Hebrew. So the instances of John calling place names Bethzatha, Gabbatha, and Golgotha Hebrew are not nearly as weighty as they first appear.

    Similarly, the occasions where Philo and Josephus use Aramaic-looking words also involve proper names, often names of special occasions: Pascha and Sabbata. Even if the pronunciations “Pascha” and “Sabbata” were historically Aramaic, these may still have been the names used when speaking Hebrew. But here, the argument is on shakier ground. It is much easier to believe that a Hebrew speaker would adopt topographical names from Aramaic than adopt originally Hebrew holy day names from Aramaic back into Hebrew.

    Yet somehow we have to explain the Septuagint rendering of these holy days. There we do in fact find both Pascha (43 times, as an indeclinable neuter singular noun), and sabbata (a neuter plural noun with singular meaning). Are we to imagine that the Septuagint translators were working from Aramaic Vorlagen? Hardly! Josephus and Philo, in their use of the names Sabbata and Pascha were simply copying well-established Septuagint usage; they were not calling Aramaic words Hebrew.

    But why would the Septuagint use these forms ending in alpha, which makes them look Aramaic? It is commonly thought that the alpha endings on many semitic words transliterated into Greek is a clear indication of their Aramaic origin, because the Aramaic singular determined state is marked by an aleph and pronounced as a long A. But Blass-Debrunner-Funk’s Greek grammar explain that alpha endings can be added to semitic loanwords to help Greek pronunciation, as it does for the form sabbata. Greek abhors words ending in a stop consonant such as tau. Alpha was a natural sound to add, to keep the word from ending with a consonant.

    If then, as it appears, proper names are not reliable indicators of source language, and neither are alpha endings, we are left only to explain the form Rabbouni, which is said to be a Hebrew word in John 20. A century ago, when our access to Mishnaic Hebrew texts was through printed editions, it is true that Rabbouni was known only in Aramaic texts. Since then, Kutscher has shown that it could also be Hebrew, and in fact our best manuscript of the Mishnah, codex Kaufmann, at Taanit 3:8, has rabbuni rather than the ribbono of the printed editions, showing that rabbouni was considered a perfectly acceptable Hebrew word.

    So where does this leave us? Ancient usage consistently distinguishes Hebrew from Aramaic; the evidence adduced to the contrary can be accounted for: First, John’s Rabbouni can be considered Hebrew after all. Second, Josephus and Philo’s Pascha and sabbata are straight from the Septuagint. Third, John’s three place names called Hebraisti, namely Bethzatha, Gabbatha, and Golgotha should not be given much weight in the light of the Bar Kokhba letters which show Aramaic names in Hebrew documents and the resistance of proper names to translation. Thus all the Aramaic-looking words cited could easily have been used in Hebrew speech. Finally, Philo’s claim that the Bible is written in Chaldaic is insubstantial, given that he probably knew neither Hebrew nor Aramaic.

    But lest I be misunderstood, let me clarify what I am not arguing.

    I am not arguing that Hebrew was more commonly used than Aramaic in Palestine in the first century. In fact, my thesis depends on Aramaic being the dominant language at that time or at least at some earlier time. It is true that Aramaic inscriptions discovered in Palestine outnumber those in Hebrew. I am not arguing that Jesus taught in Hebrew rather than in Aramaic. After all, Jesus’ words in Mark (when not Greek) are mainly Aramaic. And I am certainly not arguing that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew.

    What I am arguing is that the Bauer-Danker lexical entry for the words Hebrais and Hebraisti need to be revised to remove the assertion (or implication) that these words refer to any form of Aramaic. Hebrais, Hebraisti and other words for the Hebrew language are clearly and consistently distinguished from those for the Aramaic language; any apparent evidence to the contrary suggests at most that Aramaic might possibly be an occasional referent of these words, which as it happens (apart from John’s proper names) always denote Hebrew.

    In consequence, the entry in future editions of Greek lexica should gloss Hebrais as “Hebrew”, noting not that “these passages refer to the Aramaic spoken at that time in Palestine,” but that at most it is possible that the New Testament authors might mean Aramaic. Future translations of the New Testament should also render Hebrais as “Hebrew”, although it would not be indefensible to reverse the NRSV footnote and say, “or possibly, Aramaic.”

    What are the implications of this recognition that Hebrais means Hebrew rather than Aramaic? The foremost implication concerns the languages in use in first century Palestine. If Dalman was right that Hebrew was a dead language at the time, we would be hard pressed to believe that Paul could have addressed the crowd in Hebrew. The author of Acts expected his readers to think of Hebrais as a language understood by the people of Jerusalem, even if the fact that Paul spoke Hebrew surprised them enough to silence them. The argument was rather circular: we have hardly any evidence of Hebrew use, compared to Aramaic. Therefore Hebrew was not in use. Therefore statements indicating the use of Hebrew must actually refer to Aramaic.

    Lest we be tempted to make light of the work of these impressive scholars, let us remember that at the time Dalman and Zahn wrote, the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls was decades in the future, and much of the evidence we have for the linguistic circumstances of first-century Palestine was not available to them. But now it is incontestable that the Hebrew remained in use through the period; the hundreds of Qumran documents abundantly testify to at least the literary use of Hebrew by at least some religious groups. The fact that the sectarian Rules, which were presumably understandable to the members of the sect, were written in Hebrew suggests that the language was not only literary. The presence of Hebrew letters among the other Aramaic and Greek Bar Kokhba letters indicates that Hebrew was not a special language for religious purposes only, though perhaps there were nationalist connotations to the use of Hebrew rather than Aramaic or Greek. The vocabulary and syntax of the Mishnah show that Mishnaic Hebrew was a living language, not an artificial construct based on the scriptures and the Aramaic vernacular. We now know Hebrew was still alive in the first century, so we cannot so easily dismiss statements indicating that the use of this living Hebrew was widespread.

    Most recent treatments of the subject agree that three languages were in common use in first-century Palestine: Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew (Latin was not one of them). However, the one puzzle in this tri-lingual environment, dominated by Aramaic, is: why is Aramaic or Syriac so little mentioned in our literature? In the New Testament, in Josephus, and in the Bar Kokhba letters, Hebrais is mentioned, but only twice is Syriac mentioned, and those both come from Josephus’s sources. When one might expect Aramaic to be mentioned, we hear only of Hebraisti. When a Jewish language is contrasted with Greek, it is called Ivrit, not Sursi. The inscription on Jesus’ cross is said to have been in Latin, Greek, and Hebraisti. The author of one Bar Kokhba letter apologized for writing in Greek rather than Hebraisti. Where is the mention of Aramaic? It is conspicuously absent. Is it possible to infer from this silence that that Aramaic was called Hebrew after all? Or might there be another explanation? If pressed, I would have to admit I find attractive Rabin’s argument that Hebrew and Greek were the two high-status languages, and Aramaic the vulgar. This would account for the Bar Kokhba letter writer’s apology for writing in Greek rather than Hebrew, without mentioning Aramaic, and also for the rabbinic insistence on Greek or Hebrew rather than Aramaic. After all, when the fourth-century hermit Hilarion of Gaza, whose high-register language was Greek, performed an exorcism on a camel, it was in Aramaic. It seems likely then, that Aramaic was too low a language to be on the cross after all, and too unimpressive for Paul to use with the crowd in Jerusalem, when he could fully expect Hebrew to be understood by his audience.
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