[b-greek] Targum and Jewish Greek [was: Semitic ... Speech in...Paul?]

From: yochanan bitan (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Sat Sep 23 2000 - 12:04:02 EDT

shalom Dale and b-greek,

I would have skipped the comments on ebraisti
[i.e. Hebrew, which can also be used for adopted place names,
and which is not syristi=Aramaic, cf. LXX Job 42.17, Daniel 2.4, Aristeas,
and I gratefully agree with your assessment on 1Cor1.23-25 and Paul.
One could add the sentence-final placement of ESTIN as a Greek feature,
also the use of conjucntives like TE and the MEN/DE pair.
Indeed, 1 Cor 1.23-25 looks like it would test out as 'Greek' if Raymond
Martin's criteria were applied.

However, the following statement seems to go against the warning of James
Barr (1989) that NT scholarship is out of touch with specialists on 2nd
temple Hebrew dialects. At least it would easily be misinterpreted by
reading it against the 'typical' background Barr mentions.
So I will bring a few often-overlooked items regarding Aramaic Targum and
Hebrew and then return to a relatively transparent test example of Jewish

> In fact, one would have to seriously ask why any of
> the NT writers would write anything in Hebrew, since there were so
> people who could actually speak the language in the 1st cent (that's
> they had the LXX and the Targums).

1. A major group in Israel wrote "all" their texts in Hebrew, namely "the
Children of Light", though they collected and read works in Aramaic, even a
bit of Greek. (Before dismissing them as cranks read on...)

2. The Targum (Jewish Aramaic Bible), as a working text for the Hebrew
Bible, did not exist in the first century, at least not in Provincia Judea!

This is often such a shock to NT people that I will paraphrase:
Multiple copies of Job in Aramaic at Qumran prove that Hebrew Job was
special (ask anyone who tries to define its dialect)
and that an Aramaic translation circulated widely enough in the Middle East
to get to Judea and be accepted at Qumran in more than one copy. (Aramaic
Job was also used [in Alexandria] for the LXX translation. See
Multiple works in Aramaic prove that Qumran people accepted and used
Aramaic, too.
However, the profound LACK of ANY other clear, Aramaic Bible texts
strongly suggests
that Qumran and their Judean neighbors (in the Roman sense, including
were NOT using a Targum in the first century.
(Lev 16 fragment appears to be just that, a fragment from a work that
included Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement. If targums were in use, one would
expect much, much more at Qumran. We have multiple Tobit, Enoch, and a long
list of extrabibiblical Aramaic religious books, but no bible, 'cepting
Job, 4Q and 11Q.)

3. A second major group in Israel, closest to the common people, passed on
all/most their oral teaching in Hebrew, finally writing it down 200CE. The
oral law included things like parables, 'rabbi stories', popular exegesis
and many items intended for a general audience.
[I am not saying that theorectically, Jewish Christians could not do
differently, but did and would they ALWAYS avoid Hebrew?]
In any case, the popular Jewish oral law example means that one may NOT
ASSUME that Jewish Christians did not use Hebrew or write any documents in

4. When the targum began to be used in newly-coined Palestina, probably
150CE and following, it appears to have been a repository of midrashic
hints and to present a 'rabbinic spin' to the canonical text. Only in
post-talmudic times did the 'stripped-down' Babylonian targumic tradition
replace the Palestinian tradition.

** Anyway, my main point is
that "everyone/most" today assume that the targum existed and was in common
use in the first century.
The assumption is so strong that when a very LOUD SILENCE comes from our
present evidence,
no one hears the silence because it is in a different direction from where
they are looking.

(Metaphor mix ironically intended, as illustrating a current point of
deafness in the field. [PS to Dale, this is not intended personally but is
using your comment to illustrate something common in the NT field.])

Of course, the above mainly has relevance in B-GREEK for the language of
the gospels, Acts and Revelation, not the epistles,
though Turner tries to blend everything into Jewish Greek, a possibility
for some details but impossible as a linguistic composite for gospels and
Acts together. Paul's Greek may reflect such a Jewish Greek since he
probably studied Greek literature under Gamliel's famous Greek school.

Mathew and Mark may be the simplest examples to illustrate the issue of
"Jewish" Greek and Semitic background.

Mark "everywhere" uses KAI in telling past events. It is blatantly a
non-Greek style, but it is Hebraic, not Aramaic, since he never includes
narrative TOTE as a conjunction.

Matthew frequently uses KAI in telling past events. It is blatantly a
different non-Greek style, but includes TOTE as a narrative conjunction
almost 60 times in past descriptions and is clearly Aramaic, not Hebraic.

Luke frequently uses KAI in telling past events. It is blatantly a
different non-Greek, especially in comparison with Acts 16-28, and is
Hebraic, not Aramaic.

Are any of the three "Jewish Greek"? Maybe one of the above, but not all of
the above.
Frankly, it is more likely that all of the above are idiosyncratic and
being influenced by non-Greek elements (in various modes of influence) and
that none of them are a Jewish Greek creole. Especially Luke, since we
presumably see his normal style in Acts 16-28, where the Greek is pretty
clean Hellenistic/Koine, even when Paul is speaking Hebrew, Acts 22 ! (If
you want more than these general hints you'll have to wait a couple of
years for a monograph on Luke and non-Septuagintalisms.)

Randall Buth

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