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

From: Dale M. Wheeler (dalemw@teleport.com)
Date: Sat Sep 23 2000 - 20:21:15 EDT


Reply interspersed...

At 12:04 PM 9/23/00 -0400, yochanan bitan wrote:
>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, etc.], 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 Greek.
> >In fact, one would have to seriously ask why any of the NT writers
> would write anything in Hebrew,
> >since there were so few people who could actually speak the language in
> the 1st cent (that's why
> >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...)

While I don't dismiss them as cranks, I certainly do dismiss them as
representative of Judaism, especially the form practiced by the general

>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
>LXX-Job42.17) 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 Galilee) 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.)

That certainly is one way to read the evidence. One the other hand, it
seems to me just as plausible to say that the Aramaic works at Qumran are
the same types of oddities as the Greek "Horoscopes" and philosophical
treatises found there; isolated texts telling us nothing in detail about
the existence or use of such types of texts within the general populations,
since these texts were "collected" by people who used Hebrew when it came
to the "Bible".

Of course this lack of evidence cuts both ways; if one wants to say that
there wasn't any Aramaic Targum to be read in synagogue after the
traditional reading of the Hebrew text, so that the common people could
understand Torah, because there are only a few fragmentary documents from
Qumran, then when it comes to any type of semitic Ur-text for any NT book
one is facing *absolute* silence as to their existence. One would have
sure thought that if there were *any* semitic autographs, whether Hebrew or
Aramaic, some physical evidence would have been preserved...but there's no
trace *at all*. BTW, I'm not implying that you think some of the NT was
written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic (I think we talked about this one year at
SBL, but, frankly, I can't remember the upshot of the discussion), its just
that the Vorlage and/or the autographs was the topic of discussion that got
this started.

But, since I agree with you that the existence of a full blown Targum in NT
times is speculative at best (I actually am aware of this data...cf., the
first chapter of my dissertation from 1987; this is one of the reasons I
object to people saying that the NT writers are consulting Targums,
Midrash, etc., when quoting the OT...but that's a whole 'nother
issue). However, it doesn't seem to me to be too big of a stretch of the
data to say that the Targums were in the process of developing as a text
given the existence of QJob. As we know from the LXX, such things didn't
spring into existence full grown, but rather were the compilations of oral
traditions written down by different folks at different points in time and
different places. Given the fact that there is no clear evidence that the
general populace spoke or read Hebrew in 1st century Palestine, its seems
reasonable to me that the targummic tradition was still in its formative
and oral stages. Thus the rapid rise of the written Targums would coincide
with the rise of the other written "rabbinic" documents (Midrash, etc.),
and would share a certain common origin with them, ie., they had been in
existence in both oral and piecemeal written form for a long time prior to
the 2nd century. Thus I still think in synagogue in the 1st century the
Hebrew text was "re-read" in Aramaic or Greek for the "pew-sitters",
whether that was done from a manuscript or translated on the
fly...otherwise the common folk wouldn't know the OT basis for what they
were being exhorted to do by the priests/teachers.

But, of course, none of this has anything to do with whether there were
originally semitic originals of the NT...except negatively.

>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 it.

Ok, I'll not *assume* that Jewish Christians did not write any documents in
Hebrew, as long as you don't *assume* that they did...(-:

You're not suggesting that just because the trained leaders, priests,
scribes, who had to deal with the Hebrew OT in their daily work, could read
and write Hebrew, that the general populace understood and used Hebrew as
well, are you (anymore than pew-sitters today know Greek) ?? I'm not aware
of any evidence that indicates that 1st century Jews in general knew
Hebrew, and that is, in my mind, the fundamental issue. So unless one of
the apostles wrote specifically to Qumran or to the "scribes and
Pharisees", it would still seem to me that his work would fall on deaf
ears. For me the basic issue is still; why would Christians write in
Hebrew or Aramaic when trying to communicate the Gospel to general
populations?? And unless you think that the Gospels were written like
Jewish documents--to preserve their traditions for the select and closed
community--I can't see why what "rabbinic" writers did has any bearing on
what Christian writers were doing.

>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.])

No offense taken...as I said above, I agree with you that there are no
extant 1st century "rabbinic" documents and there probably weren't any. I
also agree with you that NT folks in general seem unaware of this, leading
to the type of comments--decried so artfully by Jacob Neusner--like "we can
understand this NT passage based on what the rabbis said on this matter.",
or, "this writer is quoting the form of the OT used in the Targum", or,
"he's writing a midrash (or worse "midrash-pesher"; as if that's a
hermeneutical procedure, not a genre of literature, which didn't yet exist).

>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 !

I'm assuming that the presence/absence of TOTE is not your only criterion
for deciding that Mark was Hebrew and Matthew Aramaic, esp., since it is
Mark alone who preserves the Aramaic forms of words (Mark 5:41, 7:34, and
15:34.). It has always been my impression reading the Gospels that, if
anyone, it was Mark who leaned toward Aramaic style, while Matthew was just
generally semitic-Koine and Luke was an attempt to clean up his sources
into acceptable Hellenistic/Koine. You are certainly right about Acts
16ff., being direct from the mind and hand of Luke, the educated Greek.

At any rate, again I can't see that any of this is, as you say, anything
more than stylistic use of Koine based on the writers' backgrounds, native
languages, and sources. On the other hand, I'm not so sure that, looking
at the Koine papyri, that there really was a *significantly* different
"Jewish" Koine, as opposed to a hellenized or latinized one. I'm persuaded
by Hengel, et.al., that 1st century Judaism was so decisively
interpenetrated by Hellenism that in many many (if not most) case, they no
longer knew the difference (eg., Daube on the origins of Hillel's rules of
interpretation). Judean Jews, like Mark, *may* have spoken Koine with a
little more semitic flavor that others, but Matthew was a Galilean and
Greek was evidently the "native" language there and had been for some time;
I can't really fathom why Paul or Luke would necessarily speak a semitic
form of Koine.

However, none of this rises to the level of saying that there were semitic
documents behind the autographs, as far as I can see.

>(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.)

Will do...

Will we see you in Nashville (a delightful place...I lived there for a
couple of years)??


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-251-6478 E-Mail: dalemw@teleport.com

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