Hebrew: A Holy Language

Hebrew: A Holy Language


good evening everyone my name is David Meyers and I’m the new president and CEO of the Center for Jewish history I’m delighted to welcome you to this evening very interesting lecture and discussion I should say that I will first of all I marvel that we’re beginning at 6:36 only six minutes late bye bye la standards that’s unusual I am used to coming to this place as a historian as someone who makes use of the archives and for those of us who have had the privilege of using the archives of the Center for Jewish history I can tell you that this is one of the most treasured institutions in our orbit now I’m a representative in fact employee of the center as of July 1 and it’s also a delight and pleasure because I have the opportunity to promote the importance of history and historical knowledge to a wide public which I regard as an important even almost sacred task and I think all the more so with Jewish history which offers up so many important lessons about the passage of a small minority people throughout history a lesson from which we can learn much about migration waves immigrants and refugees in today’s world this is a place where we learn about Jewish history this is home to one of the world’s great repositories of archival sources in the field of Jewish history and it is so because we are privileged to have as our member partners five great institutions which are vivo the Leo Beck Institute the American Jewish Historical Society the American Sephardic Federation hold your applause until the end if you don’t lie and the yeshiva University Museum the holdings of these member partners constitutes the holiest constitute really one of the great repositories of Jewish archival sources in the world and that is what makes this place such a wonderful source of attraction to scholars professional professional and otherwise from around the world I especially want to call attention to the achieve Universal Music I regard as the exhibiting wing of the Center for Jewish history it was really young as we called you see the university museum and its director dr. Jacob Weiss as well as the efforts of my esteemed predecessor as president of the Center for Jewish history Joe levy it was really Joel and Jacob who forged the connection with Corpus Christi College of the University of Oxford together they have enabled us to host the extraordinary exhibit 500 years of treasures from Oxford which is a collection of Hebrew and other manuscripts from the Corpus Christi collection now some of you maybe all of you who have had a chance to see the treasures in the collection there is a certain irony I have to say in the fact that you see the University Museum the Center for Jewish history and Corpus Christi College are joining forces to show these treasured manuscripts Corpus Christi the body of Christ is of course associated with a Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the Rite of the Eucharist featuring the wafer and the line as the blood as the body and blood of Christ now Jews in the Middle Ages had a very complicated relationship to this right among other reasons they were often accused falsely of puncturing the wafer and according to the council we had at which point blood would spurt out as a way of inflicting bodily damage on the Christian God and the effects of this accusation could be violent and even murder murderous as for example we know in the infamous Lisbon massacre of 1506 so this is just one way in which Jews and Corpus Christi have a vexed relationship and yet what we also know and indeed what we are compelled to recall when we look at the manuscripts that that anchor this really remarkable exhibition is that in addition to that overt level of hostility and enmity Jews and Christians had a very nuanced relationship they engaged in a kind of unarticulated conversation an exchange of cultural values back and forth oftentimes without verbal expression and that exchange of cultural values is reflected in the very culture of the book that Jews and Christians shared in the reverence for the manuscript which they shared and which is so compellingly presented in our exhibition Jews and Christians and this is reflected as well an exhibition shared the commentarial tradition the tradition of providing glosses and interpretations on treasured texts Jews and Christians shared a love for the Hebrew language certainly sir many Jews and certain Christians Christians who learned from June how to lead Hebrew and make use of it in their own scriptural tradition so these are some of the ways in which the relationship between Jews and Christians use in Corpus Christi can and work quite complicated needless to say we live in a different era today when we can study these phenomena and especially the exchange of values with a mix of empathy and critical distance which I regard really is the balance that all historians should seek to strike between empathy and understanding one’s historical objects and critical distance that allows you to offer measured judgment our time is also an era when Jews and Christians can regard each other not only as mortal mortal theological enemies but as collaborators in the work of chronicling the rich cultural expressions of that medieval dialogue and it’s really in that context that I think of our burgeoning partnership with Corpus Christi we are not representatives per se of Judaism and Christianity we are students of those faith traditions and together we have found and forged a new spirit of partnership and collaboration around the study of jewish-christian relations I think it really bodes well for the future and I look forward to building upon this transatlantic relationship with Corpus Christi College before I offer some thanks to those who made this evening possible I do want to encourage all of you in this room to become more involved in the life of the Center for Jewish history which is as I said for practicing historians a kind of Mecca I can mix my religious metaphors but also for those of you who are not practicing historians an extraordinary resource so I invite you to become involved in the work of the center in the most obvious ways and in less obvious ways and is in most obvious ways we actually do have cards that you can fill out to express your support for the center and in the less obvious ways please make sure to contact me and talk to me at the reception following this evening’s program but I’d like to thank just some of those who have helped to make this evening possible beginning with my colleagues here in the building Joe levy Christopher Barthel our director of economic of academic programming and dr. Jacob Weiss of the Shi University Museum I’d also like to thank our friends and colleagues from Corpus Christi immediate past president of a college Richard Carradine and current president Steve Cowley I’d like to thank Nick thorne the development director of Corpus Christi College and those who responsible for shaping the contours of this evenings program professor Mark Smith chair of the Oxford faculty of Oriental Studies who made it possible for professor Yan Euston to be with us Michael Cunningham executive director of the University of Oxford North American office and Michael Cooper senior development executive of the University of Oxford’s North American office and now and finally for me until the end of the program I’d like to invite mr. Jonathon Kagan a Corpus Christi alumnus to say a few words of introduction about the college thank you very much [Applause] ladies and gentlemen let me welcome you on behalf of the Corpus Christi College Oxford together with our colleagues at the Center for Jewish history ueshiba University Museum and the Oxford North American office we are delighted to offer this evening’s event before we proceed I hope you will indulge me a little as I tell you about Corpus Christi College one of the 38 self-governing colleges at the modern University of Oxford in March corpus celebrated its 500th anniversary this was a celebration not simply of longevity but of something more powerful its special place in the story of higher learning in fact well as those of you on the tour heard Corpus is not the oldest Oxford College by any means it was the first true renaissance institution in Oxford where it pioneered humanism a radical departure in intellectual life notwithstanding its name Corpus Christi it is and and it was and is a secular college its founder Bishop Richard Fox a chief adviser to Henry the seventh and Henry the eighth used his considerable wealth to secure a great educational legacy when he established the college he installed John claimant a committed humanist as its first president together they fostered ambitious standards scholarly inquiry across a range of then revolutionary subjects medicine mathematics astronomy and no less significantly Greek in Hebrew the college became an unsurpassed center of classical and scriptural study thanks in part to his remarkable library much of which you can see on view among other achievements it took the lead in the enterprise that resulted in the King James Bible for was John Reynolds the seventh president who proposed to the king that there be an authorized translation which used the corpus Hebrew manuscripts that are here on view the corpus treasures are being displayed to the general public really for the first time they are normally kept in a vault invisible to the world and with difficult access even for scholars they deserve better Erasmus in 1519 looking at the corpus library declared that the spectacle of that trilingual library will draw to Oxford in the future of more people than were once attracted to the sights of Rome I think unfortunately have to say that he wasn’t quite right but that is really why we have mounted this show and partnership with our colleagues not simply to celebrate these works of genius and the role of Hebrew and Jewish learning in the foundation of the college but to let you know about our campaign to build a permanent home for them one that will exhibit and digitize and store these texts in conditions ensuring their survival and actually allowing them to be studied the world over if anyone wants to know more about our plans I’m happy to talk to you at the reception Hereafter let me now thank the sponsors of the exhibition the David Berg foundation mr. mark a belly the Roger and Susan Hertog charitable fund the heighth foundation the Cure’s foundation Monticello associates and mr. Bruce Logan but having now told you a bit about the history of Hebrew scholarship at Oxford I think it’s only right that we talk about what’s going on in Hebrew scholarship today at Oxford and let me turn it over down to Michael Cunningham the head of the Oxford office in New York [Applause] Thank You Jonathan it’s always nice to be introduced by a loyal Oxonian a delight to be here this evening I’ve had the honor and privilege of representing Oxford University in the United States for almost 25 years and I particularly like events such as these where we partner with other great institutions and at the risk of sounding immodest we are Oxford we do get to pick pretty closely and pretty carefully when we partner with different institutions and and so what do we look for and it really boils down to one simple thing its excellence we look for excellence in all of the partnerships we form and certainly the Jewish Museum the Jewish Center for Jewish history is is very much part of that tradition of excellence that dedication to excellence and that outreach that is very much part of the modern Oxford by forming these partnerships we show we are not an insular institution we are reaching out or embracing the world and we’re looking for partners to help us in all aspects of what we do and so I’m particularly delighted to be here this evening I must confess I was a little bit doubtful an event in August in New York I thought hmm what will the turnout be like but it’s a testament to all of you that you’re here and that your intellectual curiosity and your devotion to this subject brings you here this evening and certainly I applaud you for being here and thank you for for your attendance this evening I won’t thank everyone who has already been thanks but again just to echo our deep appreciation for the partnership that’s been formed this evening and allowing us both Corpus Christi College and the University of Oxford to tell this story the story begins 500 years ago the University of Oxford’s long and distinguished connection to the study of Hebrew and Jewish Studies some 500 years ago the university amassed one of the great collections of Hebrew manuscripts printed books making it an especially valuable repository for the study of medieval European Jewish civilization those collections are based in the world-renowned Bodley and library but are also scattered around other parts of Oxford most notably the Leopold Miller Memorial Library in our world-class Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies it’s also based of course in some of our colleges most notably Corpus Christi whose treasures are on exhibit here this evening and I must say we are delighted with the Institute installation of these treasures and very grateful to our partners in putting putting together this world-class exhibition today Oxford offers a range of academic studies relevant relevant to tonight’s discussion both at the undergraduate and graduate levels from classical Hebrew language and Hebrew the study of the Hebrew Bible through ancient medieval early modern and modern Jewish history its culture and also society students come to Oxford from all around the world to study Jewish and Hebrew studies to his studies focuses on the history of the religion culture and modern aspects of Jewish people from biblical to modern times while Hebrew Studies focuses more on the language itself the literature the culture and the history of written and spoken Hebrew our students go on to teach and to pursue graduate additional graduate work both at Oxford and at leading institutions around the world and they also go on to hold some of the most important academic chairs in the field of Jewish and Hebrew studies I should say a little bit about the regius professorship of Hebrew which is one of the oldest academic chairs in the world established by King Henry the eighth in 1546 since its inception it has been linked in Christchurch College at Oxford one of our most distinguished colleges the Regis professor is also part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the humanities division and has links to other parts of the university again most notably the Oxford Centre for who Hebrew and Jewish Studies over these centuries the reaches chairs helped to attract to the university one of the some of the best academics working in this field and this tradition continues today Henry the eighth established a post at a time when there was this historical imperative for incisive study of the Bible studying directly connected to the kooky brew language and it riposte that remains relevant today in 1546 so our format for this evening we will hear from our guest guest of honor a lecture in a lecture format and then immediately after the lecture there will be a discussion and then we will open the floor to questions we were very fortunate to have the leader of that question-and-answer the leader of the question-and-answer session another distinguished scholar in the field professor Gary Rensburg professor of Rensburg is professor of biblical studies and Hebrew language and ancient Judaism at Rutgers University he’s held the rank of distinguished professor and since 2004 has served as the Blanche and Erving glory chair of Jewish history at Rutgers where he also holds position in the department of Jewish Studies in the Department of History he’s widely published and highly regarded in his field and his research interests covered the literature of the Bible the history of ancient Israel the historical development of the Hebrew language the relationship between ancient Egypt in ancient Israel the Dead Sea Scrolls and medieval Hebrew manuscripts he teaches and lectures on Jewish history and religion with special focus on the development of Judaism in the post biblical period happily he’s a frequent visitor to Oxford and has served as a visiting scholar at our Center for Hebrew and Jewish studies not once not twice but four times and has always welcome back and you of course we’ll be hearing from him a bit later in the program as he conducts our question-and-answer program our featured speaker is Professor Yan Utzon again the Regis professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford he is a pioneering scholar in the field professor Huston study theology and semantic languages at Bell in Belgium the United States and in Israel he has taught typical languages in Old Testament Studies at the University of Strasbourg for over 20 years before becoming to Oxford before becoming Oxford in 2014 in bringing professor Utzon to Oxford the Faculty of Oriental Studies was particularly interested in his research portfolio portfolio his insightful investigation of textual variants his exacting study of Hebrew grammar and syntax and his Brown great break use of anguished a criteria to date portions of the Hebrew Bible tonight professor Utzon will dress the important and intriguing question is Hebrew a holy language ladies and gentlemen please join me in welcoming professor yan [Applause] thank you Michael for this very nice introduction so I would also like to start by thanking some people from my point of view the initiative for this evening was so taken by Michael Cooper who is here creating the opportunity for this event which i think is at least for me a very very nice opportunity I would also like to thank again Christopher Bartle for taking care of all the practical things and I would like to thank professor Gary Rensburg who was mentioned before who is a good friend and will interrogate me grill me a bit at the end of of my of my presentation I’m also thankful to the three first first three speakers of this evening I feel very intimidated but also encouraged and finally I would like to thank all of you for coming this evening listening to this to this talk some of it will be a bit technical I will speak about my own research and so some of it will maybe be lost on you better or I’m trying not too much but I hope what I would hope is that you get the gist of it that you you see which where I want to get to so the title as you know is how did a brew become a holy language can you all hear me like it’s because I’m calling and yeah okay thanks there can be no doubt that Hebrew has been regarded as a holy language by Jews and Christians since time immemorial and is still so regarded by many but is it the Hebrew differ from other languages not just in the purpose to which it has been said but intrinsically in its inner workings semitism specialists of Semitic languages will mostly deny this to them Hebrew is a normal human language biblical scholars might add it’s a human language which rather by accident came to serve as a vessel for revelation in the present lecture I would like to argue a different view although Hebrew did not start out as a holy tongue over time it really did become one as a language of Scripture Hebrew comes with a heavy baggage of mystique although the Bible itself says very little about it later tradition both Jewish and Christian regarded Ebru as the language of God himself the language of creation and the language of all humanity before the confusion occasions at the Tower of Babel rabbinic Midrash found proof of this within the Bible itself according to Genesis 2 verse 23 Adam said when God had created the woman from his rib you know the scene God brings him Eve and he says this now is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man it actually sounds fine in English but it doesn’t work well in most languages of the world in Greek for instance goon a woman does not rhyme with an air man and in Latin Muhly air woman has nothing in common with fear man but in Hebrew the play on words is perfect she shall be called woman because she was taken from each man there you have it Adam must have spoken Hebrew when he said listen and God must have been speaking Hebrew with him in different variations the idea that Ebru was the primordial language mysteriously surviving among the descendants of Abraham was adopted by most Jewish and Christian authorities from antiquity through the Middle Ages long voices of dissent existed gregory of nyssa a church father of the fourth century dismissed the notion that God spoke Hebrew at cRIO creation as literalistic nonsense nós vanities or in hebrew Rambam hebrew scholar and commentator of the bible of the 12th century 12th and 13th century math manatees in a commons on genesis 45 verse 12 argued that hebrew was a Canaanite dialect which the children of israel adopted after settling in the land but the dissenters remained isolated and had little impact even in the modern period most scholars continued until the middle of the 18th century or so to accept the idea that Hebrew had been the original language of all humankind if Hebrew is of divine origin one expected to be completely different from other languages more expressive more precise and more truthful confirmation that Hebrew did in fact differ from other languages was found again in the creation accounts when God created the animals he brought them to Adam and Bible says he brought them to Adam Adam to see what he would call them and whatsoever Adam called every living creature was the name thereof genesis to verse 19 surely the exegetes of the bible reasons surely God knew the names of the animals before Adam pronounced them it follows them that Adam did not name the animals arbitrarily but gave them the names they really had in God’s language in Hebrew you zbs of Caesarea another 4th century church father blending this intelligence with plato’s teaching in his cratylus concluded that Moses in using the Hebrew language and I quote had arranged the names of all things about him in exact accordance with their nature right in Hebrew you call a cow para because it is really a para this is the right word for similar sentiments are found not only with authors who like Eusebius had little or no hebrew but also with authors who were intimately familiar with this language today views of the Hebrew language have changed for various reasons an obvious one is that Hebrew is again and has been for almost 70 years a national language in the State of Israel Hebrew is used not only to study the Bible but also to buy ice cream Lida to discuss football this is the European football that you actually play with your foot right no not the American football CAD or Reagan and to curse local politicians the phenomenon of modern Hebrew relative Isis the notion that Hebrew is a sacred language but long before the creation of the State of Israel long before the resurrection of Hebrew as a spoken language the notion that Ebru was a holy tongue had come to be discredited among specialists in the 18th century even before a little bit but especially in the 18th century advanced research on comparative semitic s’ showed not only that Ebru aramaic and arabic were closely related this had been known since the 9th century at least but also that arabic retains many features that are more archaic than their equivalent in hebrew arabic retains several consonants that have gone lost in hebrew this shows that in on the relative scale arabic is in certain features older than hebrew arabic has a case system that is preserved only in residual forms in hebrew such observations make it difficult to suppose that hebrew was the original language concurrently historical research showed that the people of israel emerged relatively late on the scene thousands of years after other civilizations civilizations such as those of Egypt or Mesopotamia in all logic israel’s language 2 belongs to this later period – capital will Helen Googe a news very great difficulty of the beginning of the 19th century Ksenia showed how the Hebrew language changed over the biblical period manifesting more archaic traits in earlier texts and more modern elements in later texts because Aeneas concluded that Ebru is not a divine language eternal and immutable but a human idiom obeying the general laws of jet linguistics and adapting to socio cultural and political influences through time taken globally it is fair to say that the study of ancient Hebrew over the last 300 300 years or so has moved away slowly but surely from the idea that Hebrew is a holy tongue in the non-academic world one can still find ideas expressed when I quote a recent book at Adam this is a quotation at a metaphysical level the words of Hebrew expressed the very essence of what they describe while the words of other languages simply represent a consensus of the masses vocation continues as a god-given language the meanings of the world words of Hebrew are divinely inherent while the connection of words their meaning in other languages is simply arbitrary and of course such statements echo a tradition spanning millennia you can already find this kind of development in Philo in the first century that they are no longer accepted among specialists today in the present lecture I will try to show nevertheless that Hebrew may reasonably be considered a holy tongue although religion although originally a human language an ordinary human language it became over time the sacred idiom fit for religious purposes and ever so slightly unfit for everything else so my first point is the sacral ization of Hebrew as the Bible itself remembers Hebrew was not the language of the patriarchs who were Arameans from a submissive potamia or further afield hebrew was according to the bible the language of canaan a local northwest semitic dialect spoken in the land long before there is any mention of a people of Israel classical Hebrew such as it is attested in the other books of the Bible is very similar to Moabites a trans jordanian language and close to the Phoenicians along the coast if the Israelites or some of them came to Canaan from elsewhere an ocean for which there is very little hard effort but which is affirmed throughout the Hebrew Bible if the Israelites came to Canaan from elsewhere they must have adopted the language from the local population after their arrival as we saw this was already held by enough manatees similar cases of language shift have been observed elsewhere when populations migrate the newcomers after one or two generations adopt the local language there are many parallels of this in our world today but I will give a biblical example and the Philistines most probably spoke some ancient indo-european dialect related to Greek the Philistines are Greek coming from the Greek Isles and settling in the Gaza Strip what’s today the Gaza Strip they spoke some kind of Greek but soon enough they adopted a Canaanite dialect very close to Hebrew and Phoenician we have a handful of inscriptions of Philistines and are in some form of Hebrew so they switched to the local language the presence of a group of is of a group called Israel in Canaan at the end of the thirteenth century before the Common Era is confirmed by the Vernetta Steely Pharaoh tells about a campaign he did in Canaan and he found some Israelites there and this presence shows up in the archaeological record too from a loose Association of villages and regions Israel turns into a more centralized entity and by the end of the 10th century before the Common Era still two kingdoms Israel and do that emerge ancient Hebrew is spoken throughout the territory of territory of both although in different dialects with the constitution of States the possibility possibility of producing national religious literature is created at the royal court scribes would record archives prophecies old songs and collect collections of ancestral tradition it is probably – this period let’s say from the 10th century onwards that the earliest it is probably to this period that the earliest biblical texts go back what has come down to us in the Bible is written mostly in the Giudice dialect the northern kingdom as you know was incorporated into the Assyrian Empire after 722 before the Common Era and a large part of its population including all those who could read and write were exiled to faraway countries any northern texts or traditions preserved in the Hebrew Bible would have been transmitted by a to dehyde scribes and Gary Rensburg who is here this evening with us is a great specialist of these northern traditions in the Hebrew Bible a watershed occurred following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 before the Common Era I hope you don’t mind these historical landmarks they’re very important I always tell my students you should remember three days all right I’m sure you all know this but just do a thousand before Christ that’s David right beginning of the kingdom everything that’s before David is before a thousand and this the fall of summer ayah 7 722 and then the fall of the jerusalem temple 587 if you have those dates all the rest is organized around it so 587 is a very important date the fall of the jerusalem temple the exile of the truth of the of judah – to babylon up to that point hebrew is a national language after it hebrew slowly turns into the language of an ethnic ethno-religious group the exiles were few in number their ties with the homeland were limited and the pressure to assimilate to their new surroundings was very strong in these circumstances there would have been every reason for the jew diet exiles to adopt another language I remain aramaic the lingua franca as their language at least in writing this is not what happened he Ebru carried on and was kept alive not only in writing but also as it seems in base based speech as a result the language thrives throughout the Babylonia so the sixth century the Persian the Hellenistic and the Roman period at least to the Bar Kokhba revolt in 130 to 135 of the Common Era most of the late biblical books this is the persian period the book of Ben Sira in the Hellenistic period 90% of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Roman period and most of the early earliest rabbinic literature also from the Roman period are written in a rich and vigorous Hebrew there is some irony but there is a lot of Hebrew Hebrew is a living language Hebrew thrived it something happens to it along the way subtle changes in the meaning of words and subtle changes in the use of grammatical constructions altered its nature somehow braced refer to a golden period of Hebrew literature before the Exile and a silver period after the GD in exile but this aesthetic judgment does not touch on the essence of the of the process it would be more correct to say that the social function of Hebrew undergoes a change existing alongside other languages notably Aramaic Hebrew adapted to its own particular niche in the life of its speakers so what was this niche it was this religious ethnic use right that I wanted to speak about but let’s look first at what changes a phenomenon illustrating the change our words with a general meaning that come to be used exclusively to designate specific religious items or concepts an illustration of this process can be found in the Hebrew word you all know I’m sure there are many Hebrew scholars here but even if you are not a Hebrew scholar you know the word Torah in most or Ebru world and most of the biblical books Torah simply means teaching or direction in proverbs 1 verse 8 the teaching Torah of another is evoked alongside the instruction of a father it is not mother’s teaching Torah to their children is mother’s teaching table manners to their children right the Torah of the mother is you know what what mothers who are here know they teach their children right there karai’s instruction it’s direction in life in Leviticus the term is frequently used to designate technical instruction on sacrifices and ritual acts into tirana me this Torah designates the collection of legal instructions contained in the book in the latest books of the Bible however Torah takes on a different meaning it now refers to the book in which Jewish law is written down a quote from Nehemiah 8 verse 4 they discovered written in the law and Torah that the Lord had commanded through Moses that the Israelites should live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month the mean this meaning of surah is practically identical with the one that is still common today from a general purpose word Torah changed into a religious term how semantics specialization is a very common development in all languages and the one example of Torah would mean little if it were isolated but there are many other examples everyday everyday words are taken out of general use and we strict it to a particular religious meaning the word Mincha gift or tribute takes on a special meaning of offering sacrifice the word no 8th moment appointed time turns into a designation of the Israelites festivals and the adverb tamid which means always comes to designate the daily offering in the jerusalem temple means literally there always meaning the daily sacrifice for all these words and there are several more the more general meaning is common in biblical books up to the Babylonian exile well the special religious meaning is found particularly in books of the post-exilic era chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Daniel words taken out of general news because they were given a religious meaning are often replaced with new modern everyday words for instance the word more aids a point at time when it shifts to the meaning festival is replaced with the Aramaic word is among appointed time and the bay mistakes for everything there is a time right now calls among for everything there is a it’s a new word it’s not the biblical lord of classical word boy the process we observed in the late biblical books continues into post biblical hebrew in the hebrew of the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls several additional examples can be found Masum these takes on the meaning of observance of divine precepts are IOT nakedness comes to designate laws on incest gear immigrants turns into a technical term for proselyte and shemitah remission release takes on the meaning sabbatical year each of these words people deserves a close study if taken together they definitely illustrate a tendency in the history of the Hebrew language during the Persian and Hellenistic periods words with a general meaning over time receive a special religious meaning which in many cases though not always comes to represent the only meaning of the word one might say that these words are transferred from the profane sphere to the sacred they are devoted to a particular religious use the process may be described as a type of sacral ization of language of course only a tiny portion of the language is affected in this way Hebrew continues to be used in many non-religious but what counts is not the quantity of words concerned but the direction of the change two additional remarks on these words first it is to be noted that the linguistic status of these words also changes also changes we move from vocabulary to terminology if this makes sense in a way a word like Torah really does represent Torah when it refers to the Torah right to the to the Pentateuch let’s say to the five books of Moses a word like Torah really does represent a word intrinsically reflecting its meaning as we said before right its meaning is not flexible it has a single reference secondly it is worth noting that all the words discussed in this section point back to items or concepts defined in Scripture this goes without saying for Torah which designates a written corpus as such but all the others to share this characteristic MOA deem our religious festivals prescribed in Torah min ha and Tamid our sacrifice ordained in the Torah are a oats are degrees of intermarriage forbidden according to Leviticus 18 and 20 and shemitah is the sabbatical year as the Fed as defined in Deuteronomy 15 this scriptural quality of the Hebrew language in this second period characterized is a much more peculiar linguistic feature to which we turn presently so that’s my second point reuse of scriptural phases of phrases I’m sorry reuse of scriptural phrase I stated to do thy exiles continue to use Hebrew during and after the Babylonian exile what motivated them to do so in Babylonia they must have used Babylonian to communicate with their neighbors and as is now attested by a newly discovered archive from this precise period two or three years ago five years ago I don’t know cache of documents written in Babylonian in cuneiform but authored by Jews were discovered in Babylonian locations and they show that Jews made contracts with their neighbors in in Babylonia whether they were written by Jews is not certain they may have been written by Babylonian draftsman but they are they express the contracts to which the Jews subscribe for everything having to do with international affairs and administration they would have used Aramaic that was certainly the norm from the Persian period onwards from all we know beasts Judah is blended in perfectly in their new surroundings nevertheless it appears that alongside Babylonian and Aramaic the Judah IT in exile upheld the tradition of speaking and writing in Hebrew among the first generation of exile this stands to reason of course and perhaps among the second generation it remains understandable but Hebrew continued to be used for much longer when the exiles return to the homeland in small numbers at first at the end of the sixteenth century after seventy years according to Jeremiah and more massively from the second half of the fifth century onwards that’s almost 150 years after they went away when they returned they brought back their Hebrew with them it is true that the land was not empty during the exilic period lower social strata remained there but the Jews of the return did not decide to speak Hebrew for the sake of those who had remained in the land from the accounts in Ezra Nehemiah it appears rather that there were many conflicts between those who returned and those who never left so why did they continue for all these years centuries to continue to speak Hebrew if there was every reason not to a different explanation is needed if Hebrew was kept alive among Jews in the Diaspora and in the community later around the rebuilt rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem the reason must have been at least partly of a religious nature exilic and post-exilic prophets continued to prophesy in Hebrew because they linked up with a pre-existing prophetic tradition and defying stories like those of Jonah or Esther were told in Hebrew because they mirrored earlier stories in that language much literary creativity of this period was invested in adding to existing Hebrew Hebrew texts the book of Isaiah and the Book of Jeremiah are excellent examples each in its own way of such for tribal the German word meaning the continued elaboration of earlier books of course you continue writing a book in the same language as as it’s written in but it was not just a matter of writing books Hebrew was used in speech as well it changed under the influence of other languages we see that in the Book of Ezekiel where there are many Babylonian long words Ezra Nehemiah Chronicles many Aramaic long words and also throughout the late books quite a number of words borrowed from Persian the evidence comes from written texts of course but it strongly suggests that Hebrew was spoken the massive impact of foreign language testifies to a situation of languages in contact lying languages bleed into one another in a spoken situation not when you’re writing and so this shows that Hebrew was a spoken language in all this period so why did they write and speak in Hebrew over this long period in exam the exhibit community continued to use Hebrew down the generations because they defined their identity in light of texts to which they attributed religious authority the Hebrew Bible did not exist as such at this period but some form of proto biblical texts parts of what we have in the Pentateuch parts of Samuel Kings parts of the latter prophets all composed before the Exile started playing scriptural role so there is some form of Bible some form of Scripture in a very real sense the axilla Kiryat sees the origin of a book religion the true deities in Babylonia defined themselves as an ethnic religious group in light of a set of written texts this is why they continue speaking the language of these texts among themselves this is a highly peculiar relation of a human group to the language they speak this is something I think that is unparalleled the situation of an ethnic group this relation of the Netley group so the language they speak accounts for another phenomenon in history to which I will now turn in the late books of the Hebrew Bible one finds a number of expressions that ostensibly continue earlier usage yet differ from it in curious ways let us look at an example the Pentateuch and the older historical books use the idiomatic expression to fill so-and-so’s hands in the meaning to ordain so-and-so to a priestly office I quote from Exodus 29 verse 9 the priests office shall belong to Aaron and to his sons by a perpetual statute a new Moses shall consecrate Aaron and his sons the Ebru says your Moses shall fill the hand of Aaron and the hand of his sons fill the hands to consecrate to the priesthood in Chronicles a post-exilic book this same expression is used in a different meaning in 1 chronicles 29 verse 5 King David appeals to his people to give gold silver and precious stones for the building of the temple after having enumerated all he is willing to donate himself he goes on to say who then will offer willingly filling their hands today to the Lord here the expression does not imply ordination to a priestly office but drannit generosity how did the expression come to change its meaning a likely explanation is that the group that produced Chronicles found the expression to fill so in Saul’s hand in ancient texts let’s say in the book of Exodus or in the Book of Kings but fail to understand it correctly they didn’t know what it meant it was already old Hebrew they took the expression literally so to speak estimating that one fills one’s hands with things to give they then proceeded to use the ancient expression in their own writing with the new meaning they themselves had given to it reuse or recycle of classical expressions is found also in other languages in English the phrase a sea-change is taken from Shakespeare’s play Tempest but I’m not sure how many English speakers today realize that it comes from Shakespeare nor that they know what it meant in its original context in Shakespeare it’s about somebody who’s changed because he’s been lying in the sea for a long time or it’s early changed him but in English today if he change is used in a very different way what happens in the Bible is a little different all the same the authors of Chronicles probably knew full well that fulfill so in those hands occurred in the book of kings and they knew although wrongly as it turns out what it meant they thought they knew what it meant their use of the expression was designed to give their own writing an aura of antiquity and authenticity a single example means little but there are several other words and expressions in chronicles Ezra Nehemiah and Esther that attests the same phenomenon some of the grammar – of the late biblical books follows that of earlier texts but illustrates unfamiliarity with the precise nuance it originally expressed let us expect inspect an other example in classical Hebrew King let’s say of the Pentateuch and early historical books and ending our and ending our could be attached to the imperative to signify movement toward the speaker less you know less means go away right Libra the Bible to relax means go away or go from A to B but Leija with this ending means come here in later stages of the language this ending fell into disuse these are ending with the imperative is late in the rare in the late biblical books and in the Dead Sea Scrolls and it is missing in rabbinic Hebrew its meaning to was forget forgotten early on and we discovered only some twenty years ago by a professor Steve Frostburg of the Hebrew University in the latest book of the books of the Hebrew Bible notably in manomaya the form is used a number of times I stated but it is not used correctly it doesn’t mean movement toward the speaker the forum was taken over because it sounded ancient they found it in the old texts but its function was forgotten that our ending has now become a mere embellishment the reuse of archaic forms of language has been described in terms of pseudo classicism a classical expression is used in nature writings in a way that indicates it was lifted from the earlier text and we vivified on the basis of exegesis not of natural language use the pseudo classical understanding of words is often tested independently in the ancient versions or later exegetical literature it shows that the procedure did not happen at hoc at the initiative of a single late author but was part of a more general interpretive knowledge disseminated in Jewish circles during the post-exilic period pseudo classicism increase exponentially in the Dead Sea Scrolls out of many examples I will again present only one ancient Hebrew as a word shocked at the rise from a root shahe meaning to be deep which means a pig jihad is a pig literal one like in the proverb who’s so diggeth a pit shall fall therein or as a figure of the grave this word is not attested in the latest books of the Bible but it does re-emerge in the Dead Sea Scrolls where it is found almost 50 times was a favorite word many of the occurrences can be interpreted on the supposition that jihad has the same meaning as in the Bible and it’s often translated like that the adversaries of the sect are called men of the pit if you’ve read the Dead Sea Scrolls in English translation you have seen these were men of the pit it recurs very often there are however some expressions that make this meaning unlikely such as waves of shaphat like waves of the pits it’s not so good and arrows of shaphat arrows of the pit some of the most perceptive commentators on the scrolls have argued therefore that jihad in the Dead Sea Scrolls does not mean pit but destruction a meaning derived from a different Hebrew root right the Shaheed is to destroy the word shaphat is classical but it’s used in the meaning destruction is pseudo-classical there are many other examples in the Qumran text the phenomenon of pseudo classicism is a revealing one it shows that two Jews of the late Persian and Hellenistic periods classical Hebrew was not at that language the language of the plenitude Lucy was not a dead language to be deciphered respectfully but the living language to be exploited as much as possible living in the Diaspora or in occupied territory they considered scripture their real home country the considered scripture their real home country and its language their native idiom they didn’t speak the language of a land they spoke the language of a poker and so they used this language even if they didn’t understand it correctly this is the point I suggest where a normal human language turns into something else if scripture is regarded as divine and if its language is adopted as a means of communication in preference to all other languages then this new language deserves to be regarded as a sacred idiom as a holy tongue pseudo-classes isms are found throughout the later history of Hebrew until today I must limit myself to one final example in modern Hebrew the word for dwarf a small person is as you probably know gone mad this usage is based on a passage in Ezekiel where a people named gamma deem the gamma dives is listed as one of many nations trading with Tyre in later times this nation was forgotten you don’t know who the gamma Deitz are and I don’t know and even Gary Rensburg who is here doesn’t know they are forgotten from the pages of history in later times this nation was forgotten and the name was derived from the noun Gomez no Gomez means a short cubed from here to here right the long cubed is from here to here and the short Cuba is a gomen so if they were that big there were only small hey the interpretation is found first into Rome’s Vulcan Jerome was translating from the Hebrew and he translates gamba deem as pygmy pygmies from the Greek pig miring people of the length of a cubit the interpretation is very old it’s already found in the fourth century but the active use of the word cannot in the meaning dwarf is attested for the first time in 1788 in a writing of the Jewish ask Allah the Jewish encyclopedia writer had to refer to Dwarfs and he didn’t know the Hebrew word so he took this one he said damn that’s that’s the meaning it that’s been given to it and today in Hebrew you call Dwarfs come at him the process of pseudo-classical derivation characterizes the history of Hebrew over the entire pure post biblical period until today the time has come to conclude this lecture I have argued that Ebru changed within the biblical period turning from an ordinary language into something different a holy tongue orienting its users towards a history of divine intervention as related in Scripture the consecration of everyday words to a religious meaning is one indication of the change the phenomenon of pseudo classicism is another the change accounts for the extraordinary vitality of Hebrew Hebrew continued in daily life until the 2nd century CE Eve or Kafka whare I already mentioned this after that it ceases as a spoken language but Hebrew never dies out all through the Talmudic period through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance new literature is created in Hebrew and logic discussions the tragical poetry exegetical writings but also writings on grammar on philosophy on medicine etc very quickly I know my time is up but very quickly two more illustrations of this vitality of Hebrew one is the exposition that some of you visited or and others may visit later the exposition treasures from the library of Corpus Christi College where there are these medieval manuscripts illustrating the encounter between the Christian world and Jewish learning with evil manuscripts in in Hebrew showing that in the 13th century people were producing new texts in in Hebrew and the second illustration is a course I taught in Oxford for a few several times with my colleague Adriana Jacobs she told me she might show up and I’m thinner now she’s not that Adriana Jacobs who lives in New York and another colleague whose cultural anawa Weinberg where we took a Hebrew literature from the beginning to the end right from Adriana is a specialist of the modern Hebrew poetry Joanna does rabbinic Hebrew and I’m a biblical scholar so which took a biblical story like let’s say the wife of Potiphar tries to seduce Sir Joseph and then how did the rabbi’s explain this in the Middle Ages and how does this resonate how does the story resonate in modern Hebrew poetry it was a very interesting course and it shows that Hebrew literature is a is a unit right from 1000 before the Common Era until today Hebrew as it has evolved is not the language of a specific country but the language of a book and the language of the people living by the book over the last century or so Hebrew has again become a spoken day-to-day language to its speakers Ebru is simply their native language yet the words they use have a hidden face this was true in butI and it is true today the speakers of Hebrew the simple mention today in Israel the simple mention of dwarfs or any number of other nouns and verbs may under the right circumstances trigger a reminiscence of a of a biblical passage I would like to end by quoting a passage from the German Jewish philosopher and a France rosensweig in the preface to a translation of Hebrew poems by Yehuda Halevi rosen sike comments on the difficulty of rendering biblical allusions when you translate the poetry into German what do you do with biblical allusions this gives him an occasion to slip in and unreal a dated inside I translate his difficult German into English it’s a long quote but listen to it all Jewish poetry in the Diaspora indexes its condition of being indexed in exile it’s a philosopher all Jewish poetry in the Diaspora indexes its condition of being in exile ignoring this condition would mean to record the world world in immediate fashion as this other poetry but the world surrounding this poetry is one of Exile and it must retain this character if poetry in the Diaspora were to abandon its poster and take in the surrounding world unmediated the surrounding world would become its home and thus would cease to be exile the exiling of the surrounding world is accomplished by means of the constant presence of scriptural language I’ll read this sentence again my whole lecture is in this one sentence the exiling of the surrounding world is accomplished by means of the constant presence of scriptural language these typical illusions with this language a different reality displaces that of the surrounding world and be moats the latter to the status of an illusion in this perspective a quotation is by no means decorative appendage rather it is the warp to the roof of speech rosensweig speaks here of literary techniques and not of language per se yet the idea he expresses is close to what I have argued in this lecture writing in Hebrew in the 6th century before the Common Era in the Middle Ages or today implant implies a form of expatriation in which the fictional world of scripture becomes more real than the real world a language that accomplishes this deserves being called a holy [Applause] thank you very much Yann for that very enlightening and illuminating lecture and we’ll have time for a Q&A that I’ve been given the task of engaging with you on for a few moments before we move to the audience participation of the program it’s just you know as I was sitting here listening to you it’s a staggering narrative it really is I want to take us to where you took us to Ezekiel and second Isaiah living in the Exile in sixth century Babylonia in the case of Ezekiel direct exile from Jerusalem and in the case of second Isaiah responsible for the end of the book of Isaiah of generation or two later did they have the biblical text in written form that the Jews leave Jerusalem and takes roles do you envision it all in their minds that they just have their biblical text in their hard drive that they have personal hard drives that they have physical Scrolls with them would you comment upon that yes thank you very much for this question which is an important one in biblical studies today and many of my colleagues especially in continental Europe would say that they didn’t write they wrote everything later I think it’s quite plausible that they took Scrolls with them when they went into a to exile if these stories and traditions were dear to them they would have taken them and they were elite right the people were went into exile were the elite so they were the writing and reading class and and they were the ones who would be attached to these to these writings I think what clinches it is that the the prophets that you mentioned Ezekiel and second Isaiah although they rarely quote scripture they allude to it all the time but then summers book on the second Isaiah I think is very clear in in showing that even the later strata of the Torah were known to this to this poet and almost in the form in which we have it allusions to Genesis one very precise and and other texts that are not among the oldest of the Pentateuch and any Ezekiel also you have a lot of interaction I would say especially with the with Leviticus and so we don’t know of course nobody we weren’t there but it’s a I think there is no other way to explain what we see in the pages of the Bible than to say that that there was some form of not the Bible of course but some form of emerging scripture did play a role for them thank you so I’m going to proceed chronologically and we’re starting in the sixth century and I’ll just move a century later or now in the fifth century and we’re really in the heart of what we call the Persian period in the land of Israel all Jews in the world in fact we’re living in the Persian Empire during the fifth century from the Land of Israel we have the biblical material you mentioned Ezra and Nehemiah a little bit later chronicles and so on where are the archaeological finds we have really no Hebrew we have plenty of Hebrew from archaeological sites before 587 it places like a-rod and Malaysian a little bit earlier than that Sumeria and so on but we don’t have the material you have any thoughts on this yes thank you the dark hole for us it’s a dark hole black hole but this doesn’t pertain only to Hebrew as as you know right there are almost no epigraphic texts for the whole Persian period at all there are no more we have large archive of our Aramaic text from elephantine II in Egypt there was a group of Jews who wrote the letters to Jerusalem in in Aramaic but in the Land of Israel we have neither able nor Aramaic nor Persian Oran or anything else so it is really a black hole which I think illustrates the fact that there were many or few Jews in Jerusalem and that this was really a dark period in a certain sense my my German friends thinks that think that the whole Hebrew Bible was written in this period but that means that almost everybody would have been writing right and so I don’t think that’s right I think many texts were produced before the Exile when you know there were scribes and there was a king who could tax his countrymen to pay those scribes I want to take us to the other end of the Jewish exile the most well-known of course is the exiled to babylonia in the 6th century and that community continues we get so much material from for example Ezra and Nehemiah who returned in the 5th century back to the land of Israel but there was a large migration of Jews to Egypt as well Book of Jeremiah refers to this in particular it would only make geographical sense if the Babylonians were attacking in one direction and you didn’t want to fight or withstand them you would flee in the other direction which of course would take you to Egypt we know very little about that Jewish community during those centuries until we get to the 3rd century and I want to just applaud another aspect of Yon’s scholarly work which is not been mentioned up until now and that is he’s also one of the leading scholars in the world of the Septuagint the translation made by the Jews of Egypt Alexandria in the middle of the 3rd century of the Torah and eventually the later books done under the patronage of King Ptolemy ii so i want to take us to that community yan didn’t mention this this at all today to what extent and you’ve written on this and I want to just invite you to say to share your knowledge of this with the audience so what extent that the translators know Hebrew obviously they must have known he were to translate the book into Greek to Tehran to Greek and who were they were they locals did they come from Jerusalem there’s all the theories are floating out there and this is a key issue in the history of the Hebrew language I wanted you to just say a few words about that yes thank you that’s really a wonderful question so in two words I would say that the translators of the Pentateuch were Jews after the – brother were in Egypt they use many aramaic words which don’t maybe proof a lot but they do some Egyptian words – and I come ofE which is a weight or measure and a fee which is the grass that grows along they are Egyptian words we know from the HTML you you know better than I that they are tested in Egyptian and so they were Jews who had been living in in Egypt for a long time and they wrote for the local community so to my mind this means that there were some learners people who still no know quite a bit of Hebrew enough to translate it to the Torah as you say but the knowledge the actual knowledge of the holy Tom was receding and so they they thought well either we’re going to stop being Jews or going to stop being Torah oriented Jews or we have translated it translate the Torah into the local language so this was a very momentous decision which is different from the option taken in other branches of Judaism right I think in Babylonian exile they didn’t abandon Hebrew they didn’t translate the Torah into Aramaic and then get rid of the Hebrew right so in the Western Diaspora there is a different attitude the knowledge of Hebrew is good but it’s not excellent there are when you often the everyday words like Bo and Alex are right to go and accommodate they get right but when when they are rare words often you can see that translators of the Septuagint are actually guessing right they get it from the context oh yes I don’t want to denigrate their work but it’s not it’s not a very good translation we don’t want to direct I could see more about it with no we don’t want to denigrate the work of the great translators of the the Septuagint the Greek translation of the Torah which has actually emerged again to duty on and without other scholars is a whole new field of great importance in the field of Jewish Studies especially with an increased awareness of the lots of archaeological information and pairi and so on forthcoming from that wonderful dry climate of Egypt which has preserved everything for us let’s move staying with a little slightly later now as I said preceding some book chronologically the Maccabee in revolt the middle of the second century we have a colleague at UCLA bill Schneider wind who is argued actually colleague of David Myers who has argued that there was a revival in Hebrew consciousness language consciousness we have these coins and using the old script you want to say something about well how do you engage with this material how would you teach this yes thank you so what I try to describe in the lecture is this attachment to Hebrew let’s see the biblical language is the is the national language right so they try to keep it alive to develop it to use it and to exploit it and but this process is maybe not entirely linear right there could be ups and downs and periods when it was easier to do this and periods when it was more difficult and so I think it stands to reason that in the Maccabean period when they were again the nation-state they would also have a heightened interest in in Hebrew and try to say new things I know the first book of Maccabees is transmitted in in Greek but it was originally written in Hebrew and so this was sort of the history of their movement right so I think the theory is a good one to say that there was a sort of Renaissance right but this doesn’t mean that that it was new I think the initial decision to continue Hebrew was taken in the in the sixth century and it went through many phases later and when I when I began and I said something about the breathtaking narrative it really is phenomenal that a community in diaspora and the turn and just you know continue to really hold on to that Hebrew language and that’s certainly the takeaway point that I take from this evening so with that I think we’ll just ask Chris I think you’re going to be fielding the Q&A and thank you thank you so much I have a little friend who is that who the loser who’s a Greek Orthodox and the point about Septuagint that according to Tom ode there were 72 scribes and there is all translate these famous words alma or vaisya as the personals I speak personally I think I speak I speak Greek pardonnez means Noren so do you have a real extant copy of this Torah from you from which they translated personals if you say this this this work is Alma how do you notice that this was a lot had three centuries before Common Era because the oldest copy of Torah we have I think it’s the Allah but Allah Arabic codex which is the from seven so how can you prove that this word was Alma and multiple people output or any other word if you don’t have this copy and Talmud says that 72 scribes and they all translated the same text yes thank you so you’re referring to the Book of Isaiah not due to the Torah right the the word Alma Alma is translated as part in also in the famous text in Isaiah 7 which was then taken by Christians as being a prediction of Christ so but the question is an important one we very often our Greek evidence for the Bible is older than the Hebrew evidence and we have a Greek Greek fragments of doctor of the Deuteronomy that are from 200 before Christ and we don’t have any Hebrew or we didn’t have before the Dead Sea Scrolls right so this would be part of my answer that the Dead Sea Scrolls are much much earlier than the the complete manuscripts that we that you refer to right we used to have complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible from around thousands in the Common Era but with the Dead Sea Scrolls we go back 100 and 1200 years back to the 3rd century before cried and and the Dead Sea Scrolls show you know they are partial they are only fragmentary but they show that the manuscripts were be from the Middle Ages are very faithful to the to the old tricks so I think biblical scholars don’t see any reason to doubt that in Isaiah 7 the word was really alma and the reason why it was translated as Parthenos was had to do with the interpretation of the the translator mighty it’s not an illegitimate illegitimate way you know al na means a young woman so usually young women in Israel were supposed to be virgins so if she wasn’t married she should be a virgin and so he translated as version virgin you know the way you can translate sometimes when you translate you you take some freedom some Liberty with the original text thank you would you care to comment on the following it seems to me an issue presented from Russia’s perspective you quoted a verse from Genesis in the Hebrews by a Corazon che mode and Adam called names or living things toe suppose that the collection for example known as dad became in the book of Exodus comments on this verse in Genesis and says that Adam named were living things in in the 70 languages not just in Hebrew and there’s a there was another collection of total thought that make similar comments on other verses I’ve traced this actually there was there was a debate about this among the rabbis in the Talmud Jewish ami tract ain’t Magilla first chapter on the ninth hour how the ninth Mishnah and there were two schools of thought one is the one that Rashi has to what many of us you know in our from our elementary school education and that Hebrew seems to be the formative language of the world but there’s another school of thought among the rabbi’s that the world itself was created in 70 languages and people spoke 70 languages and understood each other’s language until the time of the Tower of Babel when they lost that ability to understand other than the native tongue so my question is does this refresh reflect perhaps some type of universalism as opposed to the particularism that some would would attribute to having a Hebrew be the primary informative tongue of the world wonderful very nice so this shows that the exegesis of the Bible can bring up all kinds of interpretations right and so I didn’t know this interpretation of the version in Genesis I thank you for pointing that out and I love it I think it’s really really nice that you know when some rabbis say Hebrew some others say no it wasn’t necessarily Hebrew it might have been all the languages and but of course they are struggling with the same question right what what is going on and which language were they speaking and what was the status of Hebrew and of the other languages and and this in our prayer approach today you know we we see this as as playful interpretation but not as the real meaning of the text right of languages change right it’s not possible that Adam would have given the names of the animals in 70 languages because they would have changed through time so they it’s a a temporal approach right there are two different schools but their starting point is the same right and and they react to the same questions that jump out of the text but that I thank you very much I think in this case the question is much more interesting than the answer if I can be permitted just to chime in and a good example of this and John will love this one but you know this already is the biblical hebrew word t xu e means cucumbers but eventually he who took on the greek word melaka phone and so in modern hebrew Kishu IAM was used for squash right so you have this kind of this as vegetables not not animals I realize but this is exactly what happens and you know Hebrew adopts the Greek word for cucumber and then uses the old word for cucumber for squash it’s just wonderful how these things happen in language could you please comment on the phenomena of gematria in Biblical Hebrew and do you think is it sheer coincidence and perhaps nonsense or is it divine thank you if I have to choose between these two I will say that it’s nonsense that’s a hell but but but I think you know I think the best practitioners of gematria our people are very attuned to a tradition and they don’t come up you know I if somebody tells me the Bible predicts the name of Hitler then I say this is sheer nonsense I’m sure you can calculate it but it’s not it’s simply not true it’s not possible but this is not true of all uses of gamut area right there is a use of gamut area that is prolonging old insights that are part and parcel of the Jewish traditional exegesis and then I say okay I would never venture to explain the Bible this way but I accept the lesson is that a fair way of answering I’m not distributing the the floor right you have to you have to try and catch Christmas eyes there’s a short narrative is my staff has brought first tractate of the childhood in which there’s an argument to you about the rabbis about whether you could say prayers Hebrew or the language of the of the place where you are in your date of language at the majority of Rabbi take positions that you can say it’s your native language because you should understand what you say when you’re when you’re vomiting when you pray and but you who the Hadassah see the head of the rabbis at the time of this argument of this disc view takes the position that you should say it it keeper and he takes it very very firmly in the table utak text but I was wondering whether you could comment on what the dynamics might be with respect to the Hebrew language at the time of dispute these get at getting of the third century probably there so very nice it’s a very nice passage which I knew but which I hadn’t interpreted in this way right because it’s about the use of Greek right they literally they say can you say yeah no I like I like the way you contextualize it so I would say that the you who Diana see he he is the champion of the approach that I tried to illustrate in my lecture right which is how Hebrew became holy tongue his colleagues who say you should be open to other language they are more like the translators of the Septuagint right you say well it’s more important that people understand and that we keep the same language yes I think you Donna C is making himself the mouthpiece of the the official there is no official Jewish opinion right but I mean the mainstream the mainstream Jewish opinion which accounts for the way Hebrew grew and I think in this period it was relevant and it was relevant a hundred years later and it was relevant a hundred years before that it was relevant at every point in time after the first generation of exile Hebrew was always menaced by extinction because the Jews spoke many other languages and there was no reason to keep to Hebrew except the Bible I apologize for chiming in again but I actually brought this passage thinking I might raise it this evening Lee but it is a great opportunity the same rabbi Odin se is quoted in the Talmud Bavli that sort of questioning why aramaic is used in the land of israel and he says Lashon ha’qodesh Allah shown you even eat you should use either Hebrew or Greek which is quite remarkable I guess so you even in the same rabbinic tradition you have different views about what rebbe reb you Tennessee’s attitude towards the Hebrew language was it’s really striking that he would think that Greek was up there with Hebrew as the language is to be used just take one more question taken from the other side of the auditorium yes could you explain and comment on the prophetic perfect tense as used in Sunnah yes I wrote I I’m sorry for bragging I wrote a book on the on the verbal system in Biblical Hebrew 450 pages so I I know the answer to your question but I’m afraid of boring the audience right but in one word I would say that the prophetic perfect I think exists right because it’s it’s contested I think there are prophecies that were prophets says such and such a thing has already happened but it hasn’t happened and I explained it as a variant of the perfect of certainty but when you when you when something is certain you can you can present it as something that is already done yeah it’s yeah in the past tense yes it’s it’s I think a stylistic usage as in English right you can say to somebody you’re a dead man alright it doesn’t mean that they are already but you’re certain you’re going to kill I mean right in in a in a western movie right you’re a dead man right you understand what I say I’m saying you can say something that’s not literally true to make a make a point and I think it’s called I think it’s simply the bit of leave a verbal system and it’s an easy reach of my chair at all times available at your local bookstore there dad we could go on for a very long time and I’m going to beg your indulgence to go on for just a little bit longer because I just have a question with which to conclude the evening and which I think really gets at the richness of the Hebrew language as reflected through the prism of an unlikely source which is German Jewish thought you concluded by talking about Rosen’s flag and his view of Hebrew as in a kind of linguistic embodiment of Exile and I want to juxtapose of that view of Hebrew that that view of Hebrew as expatriation exile to the view articulated by one of Rosen’s Fikes interlocutors from the vie mark context in a text which you probably know which is Gershom Scholem famous letter to rosen flag on occasion of rosin flags fortieth birthday in which Sholem admonishes speakers of Hebrew in Palestine in the 20th century from submitting to a kind of secularist mindset that ignores the extraordinary power and resonances of traditional Hebrew which contained as he famously referred to it an apocalyptic thorn and so we have these two on one hand Hebrew as exile and on the other Hebrew as a kind of terrifying act of normalization emerging from the same cultural milieu and it suggests again the extraordinary resonances of hewants capacity to the ex and its opposite it would see look if you have a concluding like shit okay thank you very much for mentioning this this letter of Gershom Scholem which I do know very well I think it illustrates two sides of the same coin right that what what Gershom Scholem is upset about is the panel ization analyzation of hebrew right that if you start speaking it in all kinds of secular context you sort of obscure this this traditional side but it shows that what what he calls this apocalyptic storm means that it’s always there and it might jump on you at any moment and so it’s warning speakers of modern hebrew know what you’re doing right and so I think even in French we say unclear right in in the in the absence of this extraordinary force of Hebrew it’s it’s there even even when it’s not there it is there it doesn’t make sense right absolutely the presence of the absent I have to say this is my first event at the Center for Jewish history and if it’s like this every night we have a very long and promising future together I would like to just efficiently name since we’ve talked a lot about naming our participants tonight first of all professor Gary Rensburg for a really wonderful engagement with our students and professor young Houston’s for not just a breathtaking narrative but an absolutely spellbinding one that captivated the audience in time and along with our friends from Corpus Christi and the University of Oxford I now invite you to join us for a reception thank you very much [Applause]

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