Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Qumran Aramaic: linguistic issues

ANCIENT JEW REVIEW: The Aramaic Language of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Why it Matters and What Lies Ahead (Daniel Machiela).

The cache of Aramaic literature that gradually emerged from the caves near Qumran provides us with an important new window onto Judaism of the Second Temple period. Some of these scrolls furnished early, original-language witnesses to books about which we had previously known only through later translations – for example, 1 Enoch and Tobit – or the Jewish and Christian biblical canons, as in the case of Daniel. Most scrolls, however, offered tantalizing glimpses of Aramaic works that had been lost completely (e.g., the Genesis Apocryphon and Visions of Amram), or were merely echoed in later, significantly-altered writings in Greek (see the Aramaic Levi Document, a source for the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs). In the Aramaic Job copies from Cave 4 and Cave 11 we retrieved our only certain translation of a Hebrew book. Now, with the relatively recent full publication of the Aramaic texts from Qumran, primarily by Émile Puech, we can begin to study these texts as a group, and to appreciate the sum of this material as the skeletal remains of a broad Jewish literary movement.

The most studied and consequential aspect of the Aramaic scrolls to date may well be their Aramaic language. There are several good reasons for this.

An excellent distillation of linguistic issues involving the Aramaic texts from Qumran and a fine contribution to AJR's "Aramaic month." 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.