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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Greek in Jerusalem/Palestine

This is Sunberg Jr. Again.

"A significant change that has come about during the second half of the past century is a growing awareness of the Hellenization of Jerusalem/Palestine Jewry. The Greek section of Joseph A. Fitzmyer's presidential address to the Catholic Biblical Association entitled "The Languages of Palestine in the First Century A.D." is the best summary of recent developments known to this author and will be followed here with some additions. Already, by about the middle of the second century B.C.E., the Septuagint was cited in Jerusalem: Eupolemus, a Jewish historian, usually identified with the ambassador sent to Rome by Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 8:17; 2 Macc 4:11), based his history on the Septuagint version of Chronicles. Among the Aramaic text is found; in Dan 3:5 the names of three musical instruments, the lyre, the harp, and the bagpipe, "are given in slightly Aramaicized forms of clearly Greek names" (Kitharas, Psalteriou, symphonia). Daniel appears in Hebrews and Aramaic in its proto-canonical form, but its deuterocanonical form is in Greek. Carsten Colpe has collocated a list of Jewish writers who wrote in Greek; fragments of some of their writings are preserved in church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea. Only a few of these relate to first century Palestine, the most important being Justus of Tiberius and Flavius Josephus, both writing mainly historical works. Although Justus was Josephus's adversary, Josephus acknowledged his skill in Greek; He wrote a history of the first Jewish revolt against Rome, Parallel to that of Josephus, of which Joseph was highly critical.
At the close of his Antiquitates judaicae, Joseph tells us about his experience with Greek. On the one hand, Josephus says that he had labored hard, not only at Greek grammer but, also at Greek prose and poetry and was not unversed in Greek culture. Few Jews attained skill in Greek; he himself had not gained proficiency in pronunciation because of his constant need to revert to his native tongue (patrios. . . synetheia). But such skill was readily achievable by freedom and even slaves, if they wished. Besides, proficiency in “the speech of many many nations” was not highly regarded among Jews. With them, knowledge of the Jewish law was all important and in this hr excelled far beyond his fellow countrymen, so that even as a youth of fourteen the chief priests and leading men of Jersalem constantly sought him out for the precise meaning of their ordinances. During the latter part of the War he sometimes interpreted for Titus. Josephus initially wrote Bellum judaicum in his native tongue (probably Aramaic) for Jewish consumption, but later translated it with help into Greek. He wrote his Greek works, not in Palestine, but in Rome. His equivocal attitude toward Greek tells us little about the extent of the use of Greek in Palestine in his day.

Despite Josephus’s indecisive testimony, as Fitzmyer says, “there are many other considerations that persuade us that Greek was widely used at this time” in Palestine. A number of Hellenistic cities were founded in Palestine, including the Decapolis, Pella, and Didon. Similarly, older towns were turned into poleis: Acco became Ptolemais; Rabbat Ammon became Philadelphia; Philoteria was established on the western shore of Lake Gennesaret; Joppa was Hellenized; Beth Shan became Scythopolis; Strato’s Tower became Caesarea Maritima, Samaria, Sabaste, and others. These spread Hellenistic culture into their surroundings.

Epigraphic material testifies to us the use of Greek. Shortly after the middle of the twentieth century, Erwin R. Goodenough published his monumental Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period. He found that Greek names were nearly as common as Hebrew and Aramaic names together on Jewish tombs in Palestine in the time of Christ. Approximately one-third of the names on ossuaries from 150 B.C.E. to 150 C.E., probably antedating the fall of Jerusalem, are Greek. One Greek inscription from Jerusalem, dated pre-70, records the building and dedication of a synagogue “for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the Commandments.” The inscription is in Greek; the name of the builder, theodotos, son of Vettenos, is Greek. He was a Priest, and he, like his father and grandfather before him, was Archisynagogos (synagogue ruler). The dedication inscription is written in Greek, and Goodenough thought the Law was read in Greek in this synagogue. Just as the Dead Sea Scrolls were breaking upon the World, how could Goodenough have been so prescient as to write of this dedicatory tablet:

Even if we had only this inscription, we should hereafter unwarranted in setting Hellenized Judaism as Alexandrian, over against the Judaism of Palestine, that is in contrasting them as two distinct geographical entities each unified within itself.

Other inscriptions include the “balustrade” inscriptions from Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. Two copies have been found; they read, “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and enclosure around the temple. Whoever is caught will render himself liable to the consequent penalty of death” (cf. Acts 21:28-29).
The saga of the Dead Sea Scrolls began in 1947 when Bedouin brought Seven ancient scrolls to Jerusalem for sale. Apocrypha (deuterocanonical books) and Pseudepigrapha were found, including a number not previously known: the Genesis Apocryphon; Noah texts (1Q19; 4Q246?, 534); a Jacob text (4Q537); Joseph texts (4Q371-73); the Qahat; (Kohath) text (4Q542); Amram (Exod 6:20) texts (4Q378-48); Moses texts (2Q22; see first Psalms scroll from Cave 11); Jeremiah texts (4Q383-84[?]; cf. 385b, 387b); Ezekiel texts (4Q384 [?] - 390, 391); Daniel texts (4Q242 [243-45, 551?]); and an Esther text (4Q550?). Other texts include commentaries on Biblical material, legal texts, writings for worship, poetic compositions, eschatological works, wisdom texts, and biographical notes. Pages 83-85

Pages 88-90 says

“We turn now to the findings of
Greek texts in the Judean Desert. Cave 4 at Qumran yielded fragments of some 575
manuscripts. Greek fragments of Leviticus and Numbers were found. Cave 7 yielded
fragments of about nineteen very fragmentary manuscripts, all in Greek,
including the Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch 6). In Cave 7 the legible manuscripts
are all in Greek. The Qumran caves provide a circumscribed offering of Greek
texts that for this study only show the presence of Greek writings of Biblical
and extrabiblical material. In 1952 fragments of a Greek version of the book of
the Twelve were offered for sale at the Ecole Biblique in East Jerusalem. The
Bedouin identified the sight from which they came as south of Wadi Murabba at,
later identified as the “Cave of Horror” in Nahal Hever. An expedition to this
cave in 1961 recovered an additional thirteen fragments of this text, all dating
from the Simon ben Kosiba revolt (132-135 C.E.). Dominique Barthelemy was given
this material to research and publish, resulting in his les devanciers d’Aquila:
Premiere publication integrale du texte des fragmentes du Dodecapropheton.
Barthelemy provides a transcription and analysis of the scroll and locates
its place within the development of the Greek Bible. He was able to determine
several features distinquishing this text from the standard Septuagint text(s)
current in Egypt. The Murabba at book of the Twelve text proved to be from the
last half of the first century B.C.E. to (more likely) the last half of the
first century C.E. It is a revision, not of the current Septuagient text in
Egypt, but of an earlier old Greek translation and contains several
distinguishing Hebraisms. Perhaps the most common is that Hebrew gam is
translated kaige, which has come to be the name with which the recension is
dubbed (pp. 31-32). These Hebraisms have resulted in the identification of other
books belonging to this recension, including the long form of Daniel and Baruch
in it if a closed Hebrew canon had obtained at the time. It appears to have been
this form of the Book of the Twelve that Justin used in his quotations. It
closely parallels the fifth column of Origin’s Hexapla.
In addition to the
kaige recension of the Book of the Twelve, the Cave of Horrors produced other
items of importance to this inquiry. There were coins of the first and second
centuries C.E., including nine from the second revolt; Aramaic deeds dated in
“the year 3 of Isreal’s Freedom” (134 C.E.); gain transactions; contracts of
marriage and remaaiage; fragments of philosophical and literary texts; texts
written in a Greek shorthand. Two letters in Greek were found addressed by
“Simeon ben Koseba, Prince of Israel” to “Jeshua ben Galgola, commander of the
camp.” One letter from the Cave of Letters in Wadi Habra is of Particular
interest. It is written by one Soumaios. The editor of the letter, B. Lifshitz,
thinks soumaios is a greek form of Simeon ben Kosibah, the real name of Bar
Kokhba, leader of the second revolt. If not Bar Kokhba, then someone closely
associated with him writing to the same two lieutenants to whom Bar Kokhba wrote
the other two letters and about the same matter. He writes, “No[w] (this) has
been written in Greek because a [des]ire has not be[en] found to w[ri]te in
Hebrew” (Egraphe d[e] Elenisti dia t[o hor]man me eupeth[e]nai Ebraesti
g[ra]psasthai). Here, at a time when nationalism must have been strong, Bar
Kochba or someone close to him preferred to write in Greek rather than Hebrew.

The last items take us to the very heart of first century C.E.,
Palestinian Judaism, and demonstrate its Hellenization. These include the Greek
book of the Twelve manuscript (leading to the definition of a probably late
first century C.E., Palestinian, Pharisaic, Greek recension of the Hellenistic
Jewish Bible, produced by the Jerusalem proto-rabbinate, that included the long
form of Daniel and the booj of Baruch), and other artifacts from the Cave of
Horros (especially the two letters composed in Greek by Simon bar Kosiba, the
commander of the army in the second revolt of the Jews against the Romans). The
Pharisiac Kaige recension lies very close in time and place to the canonization
of the Palestinian Jewish Bible; we find in it material that proved later to be
extracanonical, similar in kind if not quantity to what we suppose to have been
the situation in Hellenized, Jews. And we have the commander of the forces in
the revolt, at the very heart of Palestinian Jewry, Hellenized, preferring to
write in Greek to an officer in his troops! For these foregoing reasons it is
evident that the area of Jewish Hellenization in the first century B.C.E. to the
first century C.E. (to 70) included Palestine and extended eastward to the
Jordan River and the Dead Sea.

Modern scholarship shows alot of evidence for a hellenized Palestinian Jewry. So the sharp distinction between greek this and hebrew that, wasn't as sharp as what some protestant groupsm once thought. Post Christian Jews started to reject Hellenistic culture more and more as Christianity grew more and more powerfull. Before this time, the Jews were clearly Hellenized.


[1] pages 83-85, [2] pages 88-90 by Albert C. Sunberg Jr., in the book "The Canon Debate" edited by McDonald and Sanders, Hendrickson Publishers, 2002


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