So, after watching “60 Minutes” last Sunday, my Dad and I get into a big discussion about religion in politics, the life & death of Jesus, the whole nine yards. Now, I’ve read the Staff Report on the authorship of the Bible, the other one on who killed Jesus, I read the boards a lot, I figure I can take him on.
Then he tells me, “Did you know that none of the Bible, Old or New Testament, is written in Hebrew?” He proceeds to recite a big story about how it was written in Greek or Aramaic or something, then translated into Hebrew and all the other languages, so basically we can’t trust any of it. And of course, he prefaces it all with, “I forget where I read or heard this, but.”
After some searching, I came upon this thread, which says that the Old Testament was originally in Hebrew. Personally, I think he’s suffering from CRS and making stuff up, but I want to prove him either wrong or right. So if someone knows the answer, great, but please post a link or book I can look up, not just an assertion.
Well, that’s what I remember, having gone through the whole Bar Mitzvah process and all…
But my real question is whether the OT was originally written in Hebrew or not. I don’t know where my dad might have learned that it wasn’t, that it was only translated into Hebrew later, but it might actually be a theory that someone postulated yet can’t prove. That’s what I’m looking for, some verification either way.
Well, since the vast majority of the people in the world believe that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, and it is your father who is making the contrary assertion, the burden of proof is on him, not on you.
In any event, the Mishna and the Talmud (composed roughly 100 BCE - 500 CE) all quote the Bible in Hebrew. So does every major Jewish commentator and legal text from the times of the Mishna onward; so it definitely existed in Hebrew at least at that point.
Secondly, many of the passages in the Bible would not make sense in any other language. The names of Jacob’s sons, for example, are based on emotions that their mothers felt when they were born. The name “Reuben” is meaningless in English, but clearly comes from the Hebrew word “Ru-ah” meaning to see. There are countless other examples of this in the Bible.
I can see where someone would hear the statement “Aramaic is as closely related to Hebrew as Spanish is to Portuguese” and jump to the conclusion that that means “The Bible was originally written in Aramaic”.
Isn’t it always? Seriously, he usually pulls this stuff, says things like, “I know I read it somewhere, but can’t remember where,” but then expects us to take what he’s saying as God’s honest truth. What DDG posted seems like the kind of thing he’d hear and then mis-remember.
Zev, thanks for the Mishna & Talmud examples. I figured I could count on you for backup either way. Since you say that they quote the OT in Hebrew, does that imply the Mishna & Talmud weren’t in Hebrew? As far as I knew, they were.
And I knew I should have pulled the “burden of proof” argument out of the hat; it’s used so often successfully here. Knowing me, it would’ve backfired, though…
In addition to all the above, it is a fact that the New Testament (which is of course considered part of the Bible as the term is used by everyone but Jews) has been translated into Hebrew. (Please do not get us off on a hijack rant on Messianic Jews, etc.; I’m merely supplying one additional datum that might have had something to do with av8rmike’s father’s misinformation.)
Seriously, after posting the above, a real question related to this topic occurred to me:
The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, contains a fair number of books beyond what the Jewish Bible and Protestant Old Testament include, these being what are generally referred to by Catholics as the deuterocanonical books and by Anglicans and Protestants as the Apocrypha. They were apparently considered Scripture by the Seventy but were not written in Hebrew (except for the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach) and were not included in the canon accepted at Jamnia. (These too may have contributed to the “translated into Hebrew” idea of the OP.)
What status do they have in Jewish thought and reading? Do you ever look at Tobit or First Maccabees? Do you consider them of (religious) value?
Personally, not much. The Apocrypha may have some historical value, but Orthodox Jews (and most other Jews, I would wager), by and large don’t consider them. I, personally, don’t own a copy of the Apocrypha and aside from Maccabees, have never even looked at any of the books.
BTW, it should be noted that the story of the creation of the Septuagint is related in the Talmud (Megillah, 9a, I think… I’d have to look up the exact page to be sure) and it is clear from there that only the Pentatuch was translated by these sages. The other books (including the rest of the Hebrew Bible and the Apocrypha) were translated by others at a later date.
A bit of additional clarification here: Aramaic was also the lingua franca in Palestine, where the Talmud Yerushalmi (“Jerusalem Talmud”) was compiled - it too was written in Aramaic (though a bit of a different dialect). In fact, it would appear that Aramaic was already the lingua franca in Palestine at the time the Mishna was compiled, but at that time scholarly studies were conducted in Hebrew, for which reason the Mishna was written in that language.
There’s something else to consider. Latin.
Throughout the New Testament there are Latinisms, Latin words annd names spelled in Greek, or Latin idioms more or less literallty translated in to Greek. (Granted Paul did not use many; his travels did not take him to many areas where Latin was spoken.)
And none occur in the Septuagint, the famous Greek translation of the “Old Testament” that was begun around 200 B. C.
The point is, of course, that the existence of Latinisms in the New Testament mark it as written around the latter part of the First Century; and the absence of Latinisms in the LXX (Septuagint) would make sense for a work written primarily in Hebrew.
(I note, incidentally, that in Dr. James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, he calls part of the work the “Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary,” using “Chaldee” as a term he apparently preferred to “Aramaic,” but I think that’s just splitting hairs. :))
The very first personal names in the Bible are Hebrew: Jehovah: “he causes to be.” Adam: “man.” (may be related to dam, “blood.”)
*Eve" (Hebrew Khawah, “living.” (Adam gave her this name, according to Genesis, because “She had to become the mother of everyone living,” that is, of course, all humans living on Earth except for Adam and Eve themselves.)
Thomas Mann included the translation of this name in his great novel Joseph and His Brothers. It has to be Hebrew, because the Aramaic word for son is bar.
Another OT play on words is in the story of Susannah and the Elders. The mullas of those days lusted after Susannah, and because they couldn’t get her, out of spite they made up an accusation of adultery. Daniel cross-examined them and got her acquitted. He questioned them separately and found inconsistencies in their story, which proved it false. He asked them under what tree the alleged adultery occurred.
The funny thing is that the tree names are used to make puns that only work in Greek, not Hebrew.
“Where didst thou see them?” “Under a mastic tree (skhinos).” “The angel of God shall cleave (skhisei) thy soul to-day.” “Under a holm-tree (prinos).” " The angel of God shall saw thee in two (prisei)."
I beg to differ, Zev.
According to the Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary in Dr. James Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew name Adam is indeed akin to dam, “blood”; it is also akin, according to Strong, to adamah, as you note.