The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

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Ben C. Smith
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The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:36 pm

Was the Hebrew prevalent in the Qumran scrolls a deliberate decision to retain a holy language against surrounding languages like Mishnaic Hebrew or Aramaic (or even Greek or Latin)?

Martin G. Abegg, “Hebrew Language,” in The Dictionary of New Testament Background, page 461: 461 First, is Qumran Hebrew antilanguage? In other words, is it a purposed reaction to the language (MH [= Mishnaic Hebrew] or Aramaic) of the nonsectarian Jews (Schniedewind). There are several indications among the scrolls that this is the case. 1QHa 12:16 reports that the people had corrupted the words of the prophets with “stammering speech and a strange tongue” (see also 1QHa 10:19). CD 5:11-12 states that the Pharisees had taught the statutes of God’s covenant with a “blasphemous language.” On the other hand, the Qumran psalmist refers to his own language as the “tongue of one of your disciples” (1QHa 15:10).

1QHa, column 10, lines 16-19: 16 [All] men of deceit mutter against me like the sound of the din of turbulent waters; devilish schemes are [all] 17 their thoughts. They throw into the grave the life of the man in the mouth of whom you have established and imparted understanding. 18 You placed in his heart to open the source of knowledge for all those who understand. But they have changed them for an uncircumcised lip 19 and a strange tongue [ולשון אחרת], that of a people without understanding, and so they will be ruined by their mistake. ~

1QHa, column 12, lines 12b-18a: 12b But you, O God, abhor every plan of 13 Belial and your counsel remains, and the plan of your heart persists endlessly. But they, hypocrites, plot intrigues of Belial, 14 they search you with a double heart, and are not firmly based in your truth. A root which produces poison and bitterness is in their thoughts, 15 with stubbornness of heart they inquire, they search for you among the idols, place in front of themselves the stumbling-block of their iniquities, they go 16 to search for you in the mouth of prophets of fraud attracted by delusion. They speak to your people [with] stut[ter]ing lip and strange tongue [ולשון אחרת] 17 to convert to folly all their deeds with deceit. For they have not chosen the path of your [heart] nor have they listened to your word. For they said 18a of the vision of knowledge, “It is not certain,” and of the path of your heart, “It is not that.”

1QHa, column 15, line 10: 10 And you, my God, you have placed me for the downtrodden of the holy council; you have [...] in your covenant, and my tongue is like your disciples [ולשוני כלמודיך].

CD-A, column 5, lines 11b-13a: 11b And also they defile their holy spirit, for with 12 blasphemous tongue [ובלשון גדופים] they have opened their mouth against the statutes of God’s covenant, saying, “They are unfounded.” They speak abomination 13a against them.

These examples come from the sectarian texts, not from a shared Judaic heritage.

Ben.
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StephenGoranson
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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by StephenGoranson » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:52 am

Elisha Qimron in his revised 2018 volume, A Grammar of the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, page 35: “It has been claimed that DSS Hebrew occasionally uses archaistic features [footnote: For instance, Kutscher, Isaiah, p. 327] Some archaistic features are also sporadically used in one scroll or another. But when such features are used exclusively in most of the DSS, this should be viewed as reflecting the spoken language rather than an archaistic usage….”
Also relevant: W. Schniedewind, “Qumran Hebrew as an Anti-Language,” JBL 118 (1999) 235-52; S. Weitzman, “Why Did the Qumran Community Write in Hebrew?” JAOS 119 (1999) 35-45; S. Segert, “Hebrew Essenes—Aramaic Christians,” Mogilany1985: papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls Offered in Memory of Aleksy Klawek (ed. Z. Kapera: Qumranica Mogilanensia 15; Krakow: Enigma, 1998) 169-84.
An abstract of a paper to be given later this year at the Society of Biblical Literature virtual annual meeting mentions alternate views. (Unfortunately, the paper presentations will be accessed only by paid members.) “The Varieties of DSS Hebrew as Reflected in Syntax, and the Sociolinguistic Situation Underlying Qumran Hebrew Variety” by Maria Maddalena Colasuonno of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
The abstract begins:
“Hebraists unanimously agree that the Hebrew language of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) includes Late Biblical, Samaritan and Tannaitic Hebrew features as well as Aramaic traits, even though there is no consensus concerning the nature of the language of the DSS so far. Morag, Ben-Ḥayyim, and Qimron allege that the DSS reflect a spoken variety; in contrast, Kutscher and Blau state that DSS Hebrew is a literary variety with interferences from spoken Hebrew and Aramaic. Furthermore Tov, Dimant, and Schniedewind suggest that one-third of the scrolls displays hallmarks of a sectarian or an anti-language. All these hypotheses require further qualifications. DSS Hebrew does not reflect a single variety, but at least three distinct dialects that differ typologically. Morag identifies three varieties: General Qumran Hebrew (GQH), to which the majority of the scrolls belongs; Qumran Mishnaic, the variety attested in Miqṣat Maʿaśe ha-Torah (4QMMT); and the Hebrew idiolect of the Copper Scroll (3Q15). My contribution aims to challenge the GQH label,….
If interested in the whole abstract (or to search for other subjects mentioned), enter the author last name here:
https://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Congr ... etingId=37

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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Oct 02, 2020 4:25 am

StephenGoranson wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:52 am
Elisha Qimron in his revised 2018 volume, A Grammar of the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, page 35: “It has been claimed that DSS Hebrew occasionally uses archaistic features [footnote: For instance, Kutscher, Isaiah, p. 327] Some archaistic features are also sporadically used in one scroll or another. But when such features are used exclusively in most of the DSS, this should be viewed as reflecting the spoken language rather than an archaistic usage….”
Also relevant: W. Schniedewind, “Qumran Hebrew as an Anti-Language,” JBL 118 (1999) 235-52; S. Weitzman, “Why Did the Qumran Community Write in Hebrew?” JAOS 119 (1999) 35-45; S. Segert, “Hebrew Essenes—Aramaic Christians,” Mogilany1985: papers on the Dead Sea Scrolls Offered in Memory of Aleksy Klawek (ed. Z. Kapera: Qumranica Mogilanensia 15; Krakow: Enigma, 1998) 169-84.
An abstract of a paper to be given later this year at the Society of Biblical Literature virtual annual meeting mentions alternate views. (Unfortunately, the paper presentations will be accessed only by paid members.) “The Varieties of DSS Hebrew as Reflected in Syntax, and the Sociolinguistic Situation Underlying Qumran Hebrew Variety” by Maria Maddalena Colasuonno of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
The abstract begins:
“Hebraists unanimously agree that the Hebrew language of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) includes Late Biblical, Samaritan and Tannaitic Hebrew features as well as Aramaic traits, even though there is no consensus concerning the nature of the language of the DSS so far. Morag, Ben-Ḥayyim, and Qimron allege that the DSS reflect a spoken variety; in contrast, Kutscher and Blau state that DSS Hebrew is a literary variety with interferences from spoken Hebrew and Aramaic. Furthermore Tov, Dimant, and Schniedewind suggest that one-third of the scrolls displays hallmarks of a sectarian or an anti-language. All these hypotheses require further qualifications. DSS Hebrew does not reflect a single variety, but at least three distinct dialects that differ typologically. Morag identifies three varieties: General Qumran Hebrew (GQH), to which the majority of the scrolls belongs; Qumran Mishnaic, the variety attested in Miqṣat Maʿaśe ha-Torah (4QMMT); and the Hebrew idiolect of the Copper Scroll (3Q15). My contribution aims to challenge the GQH label,….
If interested in the whole abstract (or to search for other subjects mentioned), enter the author last name here:
https://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/Congr ... etingId=37
I would want to distinguish between two different (though obviously potentially related) claims:
  1. The use of Hebrew at Qumran was a deliberate attempt to distinguish the proper language or dialect for theological discussion from improper languages or dialects.
  2. The use of Hebrew at Qumran, to that end, included deliberately distinguishing features designed to set it apart from other languages or dialects.
Given that claim #2 kind of presumes claim #1, do you think that claim #1 is true, that both claims are true, or that neither is?
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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by StephenGoranson » Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:17 am

I’m not sure I can fully answer the questions. One limitation is that though we have considerable Qumran Hebrew (as well as other, older texts found there), we have little contemporary non-Qumran Hebrew to compare with. Rather, mostly earlier (e.g., eventually Biblical) and later (e.g., Mishnaic Rabbinic) Hebrew.
Yes, there appear to be special features, such as in pesharim. By the way, despite his description in Vita, Josephus may not have had access to all texts represented in Qumran mss, such as pesharim. And cryptic script mss show limited access, too. Likely, prayer was centered on Hebrew, rather than Aramaic or Greek. 4QMMT, as a letter, may differ somewhat, as it was intended to be understandable to the addressee. And 3QCopper, with its sort-of “telegraph” style may be in its own category.
Since the text quoted above mentions “anti-language,” which may not be a category commensurate (for comparison) with the issues of literary and spoken Hebrew style (or styles) and such, I mention a different view: Eibert Tigchelaar, “Sociolinguistics and the Misleading Use of the Concept of Anti-Language for Qumran Hebrew,” in The DSS and the Study of the Humanities (2018) 195-206.

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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 05, 2020 4:32 am

Okay, thanks. I guess I always used to consider the language at Qumran to be evidence of the use of Hebrew in Palestine at the time (and it still is, I think), but now I am wondering how much of a countercultural statement it was making.

If I remember correctly, the province of Québec in Canada actually fined a restauranteur a few years ago for including Italian food names on the menu (instead of French): the bureaucratic misfiring of a law which is actually viewed favorably by many overall. So the use of Canadian French in Québec is apparently being pushed artificially, to some extent, yet it is also genuinely the native tongue of many Québécois.
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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Ulan » Mon Oct 05, 2020 9:56 am

As far as I know, the scholarly consensus (I use that term lightly) has mostly shifted to a position that some form of Hebrew was still spoken in some rural areas of Judea well into the 1st century AD, but not really in Jerusalem or Galilee.

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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:40 am

So the use of Canadian French in Québec is apparently being pushed artificially, to some extent, yet it is also genuinely the native tongue of many Québécois.
As a Canadian (who has not been to la belle province in some time) Montreal and Hull = English-speaking but mainly French rest of the province French only unless in the company of some immigrants. My mother used to have Québécois friends who didn't speak a word of English from Montreal. Italian originally.
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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:08 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:40 am
So the use of Canadian French in Québec is apparently being pushed artificially, to some extent, yet it is also genuinely the native tongue of many Québécois.
As a Canadian (who has not been to la belle province in some time) Montreal and Hull = English-speaking but mainly French rest of the province French only unless in the company of some immigrants. My mother used to have Québécois friends who didn't speak a word of English from Montreal. Italian originally.
I visited Montréal once, years ago, just for part of a day, and the waitress at the sidewalk café I lunched at greeted me in French but then spoke perfect English. That evening I was in Trois-Rivières, a couple of hours away (if memory serves), and nobody at the restaurant I chose for supper spoke English.
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Re: The Hebrew tongue at Qumran.

Post by Secret Alias » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:58 pm

That's what I remember. But like most places immigrants have changed the dynamic. I think that was Trudeau Sr's original plan for stabilizing Canada - i.e. diluting the French-English antagonism with foreigners. Two reasons Canada escaped the last separatist vote - immigrants and native people.
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