Cover image for Aramaic in Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity: Papers from the 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Duke University Edited by Paul Flesher and Eric M. Meyers

Aramaic in Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity

Papers from the 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Duke University

Edited by Paul Flesher and Eric M. Meyers

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Duke Judaic Studies

Aramaic in Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity

Papers from the 2004 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Duke University

Edited by Paul Flesher and Eric M. Meyers

From the 700s B.C.E. to the late 300s B.C.E., Aramaic was the international language of the ancient Near East. With the arrival of Alexander the Great in the 300s, Greek supplanted Aramaic, but Aramaic did not disappear. Although it gradually broke apart into dialects, in many regions of the former Persian Empire, Aramaic became the lingua franca of peoples in the regions of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. As a result, a wealth of important works were written in Aramaic and have survived, from apocryphal and rabbinic texts to numerous translations of Scripture (targumim) and liturgical texts, as well as legal documents, letters, and inscriptions. In the decades following the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E. and the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135, large numbers of Jews migrated from Palestine to Babylonia. One of the three dialects of Aramaic used in Babylonia eventually formed the linguistic basis for the Babylonian Talmud, along with Hebrew.

 

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  • Table of Contents
From the 700s B.C.E. to the late 300s B.C.E., Aramaic was the international language of the ancient Near East. With the arrival of Alexander the Great in the 300s, Greek supplanted Aramaic, but Aramaic did not disappear. Although it gradually broke apart into dialects, in many regions of the former Persian Empire, Aramaic became the lingua franca of peoples in the regions of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. As a result, a wealth of important works were written in Aramaic and have survived, from apocryphal and rabbinic texts to numerous translations of Scripture (targumim) and liturgical texts, as well as legal documents, letters, and inscriptions. In the decades following the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 C.E. and the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135, large numbers of Jews migrated from Palestine to Babylonia. One of the three dialects of Aramaic used in Babylonia eventually formed the linguistic basis for the Babylonian Talmud, along with Hebrew.

In Syria and northern Mesopotamia, Aramaic also developed into an important local language called Syriac. As Christianity began to grow, especially after its legalization under Constantine in the fourth century, Syriac took on a new role. While most Christians in the Mediterranean world adopted Latin and/or Greek for religious purposes, those in Syria used Syriac, and it played a major role in the formation of Christianity in the lands nearest its origins during its first millennium. The churches translated Scripture into Syriac, as well as using the language for commentaries, sermons, and liturgical works.

The essays in this fine volume came into being during a six-week residential seminar in the summer of 2004 held at Duke University and directed by the editors. The seminar focused on Aramaic in postbiblical Judaism and early Christianity and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The important essays included here were written as a result of that seminar. Most were written in residence, and all were done in discussion with the seminar’s participants and stellar faculty, which in addition to Eric Meyers and Paul Flesher included Lucas Van Rompay, Michael Sokoloff, Douglas Gropp, Tina Shepardson, and Hayim Lapin. The essays are arranged in engaging three sections: Awakening Sleeping Texts, the Details of Language, and Recasting: Making Old Texts New.

Acknowledgements

Abbreviations

Introduction

Awakening Sleeping Texts

Reconsidering the Letter of Mara bar Serapion David Rensberger

‘Transgressive’: Meaning and Implications of wl in Jewish Syriac Text and Translation Sigrid Peterson

The Composition of the Qenneshrê Fragment Michael Penn

Dating by Destruction: A Date Formula at Nabratein and Zoar Eric M. Meyers

When? “After the Destruction of the Temple” Paul V.M. Flesher

The Details of Language

The Function of the Active Participle in the Aramaic of Daniel Tarsee Li

Tracing the History of a Legal Term of Art: The Word Azarah in Biblical, Tannaitic, and Targumic Literature Madeline Kochen

The Adverb ’ulay (“perhaps”) in the Piety and Prophecy of the Hebrew Bible and Early Versions William Reader

Translating the Hebrew particle ky ‘m into Aramaic and English: An Exploration through the Targums and the Peshitta Blane W. Conklin

Recasting: making an old text new

The Usage of the First Person in the Genesis Apocryphon Stephen A. Reed

Syntactic Double Translation in the Targumim Michael Carasik

The Fish Grows Bigger, Angelic Insertions in Neofiti and Pseudo-Jonathan David L. Everson

Hapax legomena and the Development of Proto-Onqelos: The Case of Genesis Kyong-Jin Lee

The Wisdom of the Sages: The Rabbinic Rewriting of Targum Qohelet Paul V. M. Flesher

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