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Biblical Aramaic is the form of Aramaic that is used in the books of Daniel and Ezra in the Hebrew Bible. It should not be confused with the Aramaic paraphrases, explanations and expansions of the Hebrew scriptures, which are known as targumim.
Biblical Hebrew was gradually reduced to the status of a liturgical language and a language of theological learning, and the Jews of the Second Temple period that started in 516 BC would have spoken a western form of Old Aramaic until their partial Hellenization from the 3rd century BC and the eventual emergence of Middle Aramaic in the 3rd century AD.
Biblical Aramaic's relative chronology has been debated mostly in the context of dating the Book of Daniel. In 1929, Rowley argued that its origin must be later than the 6th century BC and that the language was more similar to the Targums than to the Imperial Aramaic documents available at his time.
Others have argued that the language most closely resembles the 5th-century BC Elephantine papyri, and so is a good representative of typical Imperial Aramaic.Kenneth Kitchen takes an agnostic position and states that the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel is compatible with any period from the 5th to early 2nd century BC.
Aramaic and Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew is the main language of the Hebrew Bible. Aramaic accounts for only about 250 verses out of a total of over 23,000. Biblical Aramaic is closely related to Hebrew, as both are in the Northwest Semitic language family. Some obvious similarities and differences are listed below:
The Aramaic square script was adopted to write Hebrew in place of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet found in earlier inscriptions.
The system of vocalization used is the same for both the portions of the Bible written in Hebrew and the portions written in Aramaic.
Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26 – quotations of documents from the 5th century BCE on the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Other suggested occurrences
Genesis 15:1 – the word (ba-ma?aze, "in a vision"). According to the Zohar (I:88b), the word is Aramaic, as the usual Hebrew word would be (ba-mar'e).
Numbers 23:10 – the word (rô?a', usually translated as "stock" or "fourth part"). Joseph H. Hertz, in his commentary on this verse, cites Friedrich Delitzsch's claim (cited in William F. Albright' JBL 63 (1944), p. 213, n.28) that it is an Aramaic word meaning "dust".
Job 36:2a – Rashi, in his commentary on the verse, states that the phrase is in Aramaic.
Psalm 2:12 – the word (bar) is interpreted by some Christian sources (including the King James Version) to be the Aramaic word for "son" and renders the phrase ?- (nash?q?-bar) as "kiss the Son," a reference to Jesus. Jewish sources and some Christian sources (including Jerome's Vulgate) follow the Hebrew reading of ("purity") and translate the phrase as "embrace purity." See Psalm 2 for further discussion of the controversy.
^Saul Shaked, "Aramaic" Encyclopedia Iranica 2 (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 251
^Rowley, Harold Henry (1929). The Aramaic of the Old Testament: A Grammatical and Lexical Study of Its Relations with Other Early Aramaic Dialects. London: Oxford University Press. OCLC67575204.[page needed]
^Choi, Jongtae (1994), "The Aramaic of Daniel: Its Date, Place of Composition and Linguistic Comparison with Extra-Biblical Texts," Ph. D. dissertation (Deerfield, IL: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) 33125990 xvii, 288 pp.