Thursday, June 21, 2018

Overplaying the Aramaïc card

Image result for speaking hebrew bible
Jesus would have spoken Hebrew with
a Galilean accent
Part Four: Overplaying the Aramaïc card

“We should expect there to be sound reasons for interpreting a word
contrary to its etymological meaning and its normal usage”.
Ken M. Penner
This is a promising contribution, along the lines of what I have been at pains to point out in this series regarding the pre-eminence of the Hebrew language in the Bible.
Ken M. Penner introduces his scholarly article, “Ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic: A Case for Lexical Revision”, as follows:
Despite the etymology and the usual meaning of the cognate adjective Ἑβραῖος “Hebrew”, the standard lexicon of New Testament Greek claims that the phrase τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτω “in the Hebrew(?) language” in Acts refers not to Hebrew but to “the Aramaic spoken at that time in Palestine.” ….
Two of the most prominent English translations agree. Although Acts 21:40-22:2 uses the expression τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτω to refer to Paul’s address to the crowd, the New International Version translates using “Aramaic.” Παῦλος ἑστως ἐπὶ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν κατέσεισεν τῇ χειρὶ τῷ λαῷ. πολλῆς δὲ σιγῆς γενομένης προσεφώνησεν τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτω … ἀκούσαντες δὲ ὃτι τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτω προσεφώνει αὐτοῖς μᾶλλον παρέσχον ἡσυχίαν. “Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in  Aramaic, ‘Brothers and Fathers, listen now to my defense.When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic they became very quiet(NIV). The NRSV does call the language “Hebrew” in its translation, but a footnote explains, “That is,  Aramaic.
We should expect there to be sound reasons for interpreting a word contrary to its etymological meaning and its normal usage. After all, Ἑβραΐς is simply a feminine form of the adjective normally meaning Hebrew.It is the masculine form of this word that Paul used when calling himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5). And Ἑβραϊστί means
“in Hebrewboth etymologically and as used by authors before and after the first century. For example, the prologue to Ben Sira says, “For what was originally expressed in Hebrew (αὐτὰ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Εβραϊστὶ λεγόμενα) does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language” (RSV). When Revelation 9:11 says Abbadon is a “Hebrew” name, it uses Ἑβραϊστί (ὄνομα αὐτῷ ῾Εβραϊστὶ ᾿Αβαδδὼν καὶ ἐν τῇ ῾Ελληνικῇ ὄνομα ἔχει ᾿Απολλύων). Revelation 16:16 uses it to explain that Armageddon is the name of the place “in Hebrew” τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον ῾Εβραϊστὶ ῾Αρμαγεδών.
In this article I first review the reasoning behind rendering Ἑβραΐς/Ἑβραϊστί as (in)  Aramaic, then identify patterns in ancient names for Hebrew and Aramaic, in which I show that Ἑβραΐς/Ἑβραϊστί never refers unambiguously to Aramaic but only refers to the Hebrew language.
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