I started Brad Young's Jesus and His Jewish Parables: Rediscovering the Roots of Jesus' Teachings. In my latest reading, Brad Young defends the view that Jesus' spoken language was Hebrew.
I wrote a post
a few months ago that touched on John Meier's discussion of the
language that Jesus spoke. Meier argued that Hebrew in Jesus' day was
primarily literary, whereas Aramaic was the spoken language in
Palestine. Meier also contends that the existence of Targumim, Aramaic
translations and elaborations of the Hebrew Bible, attest to the fact
that most of the Jews spoke and understood Aramaic.
Young has a
variety of responses to these sorts of arguments. First of all, Young
argues that the Targumim were later than the time of Jesus. Second,
Young notes that most of the documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in
Hebrew, whereas only a few are in Aramaic. After noting that the Manual of Discipline
is in Hebrew, Young states that "It is hard to imagine that the sect
would have written this treatise in a language that would be difficult
for its initiates or members to understand even if the literary nature
of the scroll makes it highly unlikely that it could accurately
represent the spoken language of the people" (pages 40-41). Third,
against the claim that Hebrew was only a scholarly language, Young
contends that the Hebrew Bar-Koseba letters indicate that even mundane
concerns could be discussed in Hebrew. Young offers other arguments as
What does Young do with the times when Jesus in the Gospels
speaks Aramaic? On page 52, he states that "Mark...seems to be
interested to add color to his narrative by adding some Aramaic
phrases." I wish that Young clarified why Mark would do this. Why
would Mark choose to use the Aramaic language to add color to his
Moreover, while Young does well to note that many
Targumim are late, there are some that are early, such as the Targumim
in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I think that Young does well to ask why
Hebrew was so prominent in the time of Jesus, if few understood it.
Could nationalism be a reason for the use of Hebrew, the same way that
some have argued that parts of the Book of Daniel were in Hebrew for