Mishnaic Hebrew
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By the first century Mishnaic Hebrew was the common language of the indigenous population of Roman Judea albeit classical Hebrew was used in Temple worship and in synagogue liturgy. Aramaic, originally the language of the Assyrians, also had become a common language of the region. Greek was prevalent throughout the region as well. The Judea of the first century reflected a multilingual society.

Most scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries regarded Aramaic as the common language of Judea during the first century. See The New Testament Era (Reicke 1968:10, 63) and Eerdman’s Family Encyclopedia of the Bible (William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company 1978:28).

With the discovery of the Bar-Kochba letters the evidence suggests that Mishnaic Hebrew was the prevalent language of a Judean bilingual society wherein the population likely spoke fluent Mishnaic Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Note that Paul spoke to the people, after being taken into custody by the Roman military guard, in the Hebrew language (Acts 21:40) and that Papias held that Matthew first wrote his gospel in Hebrew (Eusebius 39.10, Boyle 1955:127) as held Pantaenus (Eusebius 5.10, Boyle 1955:190).

Page last edited: 02/01/06 09:28 PM

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