The Use of Hebrew and Aramaic in the Epigraphic Sources of the New Testament Era

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The widespread conviction among New Testament scholars that Aramaic, and not Hebrew, should be considered the “Jewish vernacular” of the first century c.e. and therefore the  “mother tongue of Jesus,” was shaped in the nineteenth century by prominent scholars like Abraham Geiger and Gustaf Dalman, who were, without doubt, experts in their fijield.  However, the textual evidence they could base their conclusions on was thin at that time: no literature, neither Hebrew nor Aramaic, was extant from the period in question and archaeological research in the land of Israel had only just begun. Geiger had to base his thesis about the artifijicial character of Mishnaic Hebrew solely on the text of the Mishnah itself. Dalman, in his influential work Die Worte Jesu (The Words of Jesus), had to build his theses on the lexical Semitisms within the works of Josephus and the New Testament, the Aramaic parts of early rabbinicliterature and on the assumption that targum was already an “ancient practice” in the early second century c.e., since no Aramaic texts from the period in question were available to him. Hence, two prominent Aramaic scholars of our time have described the situation as follows:
The position of Aramaic in our period was long a somewhat ironic one. The central importance of the language was universally recognized, and many scholars . . . supposed it to be the Semitic vernacular of Palestine to the virtual exclusion of Hebrew; yet actual texts in Aramaic from our period have until recently been very scanty.

Quelle: The Language Environment of First Century Judaea (Jerusalem Studies in the synoptic Gospels Vol. 2) – hg. von Randall Buth und R. Steven Notley, Leiden: Brill 2014, S. 35-65

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