Hebrew Language

I have been very interested in our discussions of families of languages. I didn’t realize that other empires , besides Rome, had ruled with particular languages that were uniform throughout their empire. As we have discussed the Hebrew alphabet, the written characters actually come from the Babylonian captivity when Aramaic was the ruling language of the empire. The Hebrews in captivity learned Aramaic and then used the characters to express written Hebrew.

This has challenged (maybe?) what I have assumed are major reasons that Jesus came into the world at the time and place that he did. I thought that having a standard of Greek across the Roman Empire was of vital importance to the timing of the Messiah. In addition to the Pax Romana, (Roman Peace), having a language with which the gospel could spread across the Roman Empire seemed to a primary reason to send Christ at this time.

Has a “lingua franca” been a common theme in history? I know that Latin was a scholarly “lingua franca” that allowed the scholors of the earlier church to freely communicate and interact with each others work.

On a side note, does having a ruling language seem in any way to parallel the Tower of Babel story? People desiring power and god-like status to accelerate their power growth with the ability to communicate without hinderance? Just a thought…

Back to learning the shema…


6 Responses

  1. Some scholars suggest that the background to the Tower of Babel is the breaking up of Akkadian into various dialects (or perhaps the fact that Sumerian died out and was replaced by Akkadian in its various dialects).

  2. By the way, when French merchants traveled along the coasts of Africa and to various Islands–what language did they use to communicate with all these people who had their own native tongues?

    • I think if they traveled often enough, they would learn those languages on the basic level. I think merchants could have had pretty good language abilities. One of the outstanding examples would be Heinrich Schliemann. If I am not mistaken he learned languages of all countries he had been to. What is more interesting that his method was just memorizing texts.

  3. I think it is a good point about vernaculars, but still I think the Greek and then Roman Empires were bigger than Babylonian one. Besides, the Jews wouldn’t have been ready for Messiah’s coming during exile or post-exile period. They still had to accumulate those ideas they got during Intertestamental Period.

  4. The people who traded with the French learned their language, the lingua (tongue) of the “franks” (the French).

    The term lingua franca originally meant “the French Language”, but when French became a common international language lingua franca came to mean that.

  5. So with the “breaking up of Akkadian into various dialects” as the possible background to the Tower of Babel, does anyone here buy the whole “Urspreche (not sure if that’s spelled correctly; my German ist nicht gut)” hypothesis? Is there a possibility that Akkadian (or Sumerian) was in some sense a “primal” language? And if so, how does that fit into our understanding of the Biblical creation narratives and their (possible) background in Sumerian culture?

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