Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Aramaic and Hebrew in the Second Temple Period

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Choice of Aramaic and Hebrew: Ideological Consideration (Jonathan Ben-Dov).

As others have observed, the Aramaic writings from Qumran are limited in their putative historical background to either one of two periods. Some of these writings refer to the primordial history of the world, at the time of Enoch and Noah, or at the time of Israel’s patriarchs. Others relate to the time after the destruction of Jerusalem, when Israelites were under the rule of the oriental empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. In contrast, no Aramaic writing from Qumran relates to the main period of Israel’s existence in between these periods, that is, the days of Moses, Joshua, the Judges, and monarchies. A few words are due about each of these periods, as well as about the languages chosen to depict each of them, particularly regarding the mimetic function of Aramaic for these Qumran texts and how that language choice enhanced the message of the compositions in the collection. Since the golden age of Aramaic ultimately declined as Hebrew took its place in the first and second centuries BCE, the emergence of Aramaic writings dated generally to this period needs close consideration.

This essay has some fascinating observations. Some of the Aramaic evidence from Amherst Papyrus 63 (also here) is also potentially relevant, notably the Aramaic story about the revolt of Babylon against Assyria.

Earlier essays in AJR's current series on the Dead Sea Scrolls (in honor of the 70th anniversary of their discovery) are noted here and links.