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6 Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Differing Phenomena of Targum and Translation in the Second Temple Period and Post-Second Temple Period

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Chapter Summary

For well over a century now the study of Aramaic language and literature during the Second Temple period and the "language of Jesus" have been closely intertwined. This chapter traces the subject of the language in which the Gospels were originally composed and the language used by Jesus and his disciples for teaching and conversing all the way back to the early second-century witness Papias, who testified that "Matthew composed his history in the Hebrew dialect, and every one translated it as he was able". The central argument is that the evidence of translation gives little or no support to those wishing to show that Aramaic was the generally used vernacular during our period to the exclusion of Hebrew. In fact, it seems to point quite plainly in the direction of a widespread bi/multilingualism, with Hebrew being widely understood and spoken, undoubtedly alongside Aramaic.

Keywords: Aramaic; Gospels; Hebrew; Jesus; Second Temple period

10.1163/9789004264410_008
/content/books/b9789004264410_008
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