Dec 1, 2008

Bivin on Hebrew as a Spoken Language in First-century Israel

David Bivin has an interesting post affirming that Hebrew was a spoken language in First-century Israel (contra much current scholarship). I found the following comment most interesting.

Randall Buth has pointed out to me a fascinating indication that Hebrew was the spoken language in the first century. The Jewish historian Josephus describes an incident that took place during the siege of Jerusalem (War 5:269-272). Josephus relates that watchmen were posted on the towers of the city walls to warn residents of incoming stones fired from Roman ballistae. Whenever a stone was on its way, the spotters would shout “in their native tongue, ‘The son is coming!’” (War 5:272). The meaning the watchmen communicated to the people was: Ha-even ba’ah (the stone is coming). However, because of the urgency of the situation, these words were clipped, being abbreviated to ben ba (son comes). (This well-known Hebrew wordplay is attested in the New Testament: “God is able from these avanim [stones] to raise up banim [sons] to Abraham” [Matt 3:9 = Luke 3:8].)

You can read the entire post here.

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