Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Was Aramaic or Hebrew Part of the Palestinian Arabs of Today?

Syriac-Aramaic Alphabet
Nadene Goldfoot                                                                       
Early Aramaic-alphabet

Evidently, Jesus, the Christian founder,  spoke Aramaic in his day.  This is why Christians have taken an interest in the ancient language.  The Pope came and visited with Netanyahu and mentioned Aramaic, not giving into the fact that people continued using Hebrew as well.  Hebrew was revived and used again after 1880 with the waves of Jews coming into "Palestine" in what was called aliyahs  from Russian territories who had suffered from  pogroms.  Now it's the language of Israel once again.
Yeshua (Jesus) in Aramaic
The letters, read from right to left, look like Hebrew to me and
would be: Yud, Shin, Vuv, Ayin.   I would call this old Hebrew.
Even I can read it as Hebrew.  
Hebrew Alphabet
The language of Israel was  and still is Hebrew.  It had only been used in the synagogues for centuries in prayers and the readings in the Torah and Tanakh.
The Hebrew letter A (Aleph) through the ages
However, Aramaic emerged as an international language, especially used for commerce from the period of the late Assyrian and Persian kingdoms of the 6th century BCE.  This is found as evidence by the many inscriptions found in Asia Minor, Egypt, India and in other places where it was never the native language.  The Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar,  had attacked Israel in 597 and 586 BCE and had taken many captives.  They destroyed the 1st Temple of Solomon.
Hebrew, Arabic and English sign
Hebrew pronunciation:  Ya-roosh-al-eye-eem
Aramaic  was for many centuries, the  vernacular spoken in Judea.  The Romans had been occupiers much before 70 CE when they destroyed the Temple by burning it down and captured the inhabitants to be sold as slaves or used for their own as slaves. King Herod, appointed by the Romans, died in 4 BCE.  10 years later, Judea was under direct Roman administration.  The Romans suppressed Jewish life and this resulted into sporadic violence which escalated into a full-scale revolt in 66 CE.  Titus led his superior Roman soldiers to battle against the Jews and wound up razing Jerusalem to the ground in 70 CE.  Then they defeated the last Jewish outpost at Masada in 73 CE.  Finally, Aluf Bar Kochba took Jerusalem back in 132 CE but was finally killed in battle in 135 CE.  It was then that the Romans renamed the Jewish land to Palaestina, after the Phoenicians who were Israel's enemies.  They renamed Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina.

Life regained itself, however, from the Romans who caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the siege of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country, along with the many thousands more who were sold into slavery.   Jews and Judaism survived Rome by making adjustments.  Instead of the Temple that they burned to the ground, Jews created synagogues in places they had been taken.  The Sanhedrin wass reconvened in Yavneh in 70 CE and later in Tiberias.  There was a small remaining Jewish community that gradually recovered and grew with returning exiles.  Rabbis and the synagogue became the focus of Jewish settlement.  Many remnants of synagogues have been found at Capernaum, Korazin, Bar'am, Gamla and other places.  It was our Halakhah, the Jewish religious law, that served as the common bond among the Jews and was passed on from generation to generation with our Hebrew writings and our oral laws.  .

Biblical readings had to be translated from the Hebrew to Aramaic in the synagogues for the benefit of congregants who didn't understand Hebrew anymore.  It persisted as a literary tongue for a long time and was the language of the Zohar and of later kabbalistic poetry.

This Aramaic is looked upon as intermediate Western Aramaic which was the language of the Palestinian Talmud.  We have 2 Talmuds; the Palestinian written there, and the Babylonian Talmud, written when Jews had to live in Babylonia.  The Aggadic Midrashim, Targum Jonathan and the Samaritan translation of the Pentateuch and the eastern Aramaic was included in this grouping.

Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves at Khurbet Kumran, 7.5 miles from Jericho in 1947.
The writers, from a Jewish sect,   lived there until 68 CE.  They were from writings of the Bible and were
written in Hebrew.  There was an Aramaic version of the Book of enoch.  You can see them today in Israel where they are housed at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.   Their discovery has advanced the study of the Hebrew text of the bible, as the previous known oldest versions date from the Middle Ages.  
The Torah, the 5 Books of Moses,
All in Hebrew

Jews who have settled in Israel since 1948 that came from the Kurdish districts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Persia (Iran) and Russia still spoke new Aramaic as the Nestorian Christians there did also.

Formal literary dialects of Aramaic based on Hasmonean and Babylonian  were followed by other dialects.  and Western varieties were spoken in Judea in the time of Jesus.  Old Judean Aramaic was the prominent dialect of Jerusalem and Judaea.  The Ein Gedi region was the where you found the Southeat Judaean dialect.  Samaria had its distinctive Samaritan Aramaic, where the consonants "he", "heth" and "ayin" all became pronounced as "aleph".  The Galilean Aramaic where Jesus came from in the Gospel story is only known from a few place names, , and in Galilean Targumic, some rabbinic literature and a few private letters.  It had a number of distinctive features;  diphthongs that were never simplified into monophthongs.  In the East of the Jordan, the various dialects of East Jordanian were spoken.  Around Damascus, Syria and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, Damascene Aramaic was spoken.  As far north as Aleppo, Syria, the western dialect of Orontes Aramaic was spoken. Note this was in Syria, which was then part of Israel.
English read from left to right
Hebrew read from right to left
it means "GOOD LUCK!"
ma--ZEL   TOV
The languages of Hebrew and Aramaic influenced each other.  Hebrew words entered Jewish Aramaic.  Aramaic words entered Hebrew.  The Christian New Testament was written in Greek.  It often preserved non-Greek semiticisms, including transliterations of Semitic words, and mistakes were often made.

No, Palestinians of today came from surrounding lands and were Muslims. In fact, the people hadn't followed Islam until Mohammad came along, born in 570 CE and died in 632 CE.  It was the 3rd religion of the Middle East.  It was those Russian Jews who came in the 1st to 5 aliyahs who attracted them since they figured they could get jobs in their building of towns in the late 1800s.  .   Their language was Arabic unless they were Christian Arabs and might have spoken an Aramaic dialect.

At the junior high in Safed where I taught English, the Arab students took Hebrew and the Jewish students took Arabic.  The students would get together later and help each other with their homework.  I don't think it was as hard for them since Arabic is also similar to Hebrew, and they all read from right to left.  

Resource: The New Standard Jewish encyclopedia
Update 7/31/16 book:  Hidden Gospel, by Neil Douglas-Klotz, on Aramaic, history, background, definitions, a Sufi with one parent Jewish, another not.  Mostly covering the Aramaic in the 1st century BCE and CE. ; includes CDs on subject with chanting


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Oh oh, what did I do? I didn't removed it on purpose. I was trying to bring it into view!

  2. Khan left a very nice message and suddenly it has disappeared from my page here. What did I do?
    "khan has left a new comment on your post "Was Aramaic or Hebrew Part of the Palestinian Arab...":

    very nice knowledge about the languages history ,

    Thank you Khan. I'm glad you read it and enjoyed learning about the history. I enjoyed finding these facts.

  3. Hmm, I just realized that my Swedish maternal grandmother, who spoke Swedish, would say Yam and Yelly for Jam and Jelly. She couldn't pronounce our J sound, like like in Hebrew! I wonder is there's a connection. How many other languages use the Y sound for the English J sound?