Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gzella on the cultural history of Aramaic

Aramaic, the English of the Levant in Antiquity

A holistic approach to Aramaic can uncover a shared backdrop of distinct cultural and religious traditions, help to trace their origins in the absence of other historical or archeological information, and enable one to appreciate the rich texture of certain words and expressions in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

See Also: A Cultural History of Aramaic (Brill, 2015).

By Holger Gzella
Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic
Leiden University
January 2015
Even a bird’s-eye (or rather a satellite’s-eye) view of the history of Aramaic like this one shows that each attempt at renewing and enriching Aramaic philology feeds into many academic debates, such as theology, history, sociolinguistics, language contact and change, or multiculturalism. It is firmly connected to the patrimony of the entire Near East and thus has a potentially high profile at an interdepartmental level. This is the principal justification for maintaining in-depth expertise in one or two of the major periods of Aramaic in present-day Faculties of Humanities. But whoever views complexity as such as meaningful and valuable, may well study Aramaic as an end in itself, independent of its possible applications – and will be amply rewarded.