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JSmith: Bible History

To: alt.religion.christian,talk.religion.misc,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.atheism,
From:  nagasiva
Subject: JSmith: Bible History
Date: 11 Apr 1996 01:24:54 -0700

[Reposted with standing permission]

To: fiatlvx elist
From: Jeffrey Smith 
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 1996 20:39:50 -0500 (EST)

To briefly recapitulate the history of the Bible:
The Scriptures were written by God and the Prophets, or else various 
other people [if your theology is sufficiently liberal], in Hebrew.  
Hebrew was the main spoken language of the Jewish people until some time 
in the Second Temple period, and remained a living language, albeit no 
one's native language (that we know of), with continued development as a 
vernacular, throughout the centuries thereafter (unlike, say, Sanskrit or 
Latin, but much like Greek, though with lesser changes over time).  
Aramaic became the daily language for the Jews of Southwest Asia, just as 
it was the daily language of most of their neighbors--barring the Greeks 
and those indiginous (Sp?) communities that used Greek.   Therefore, the 
Rabbis developed Targumim--official translations into Aramaic to be 
delivered with the Hebrew text on public occasions.  [If you were able to 
study it, you could study it in Hebrew anyway].  The best known of these 
is that of Onkelos, attributed to a convert [supposedly a relative of 
Hadrian].  The targum Onkelos has often been used to decide how the 
rabbis felt a particular passage should be interpreted.  The LXX was in 
origin a Greek targum, although eventually disavowed when it was adopted 
by the Christian community, and when Greek speaking Jews became a less 
important segment of the Jewish people.
There are several versions of the Hebrew text.  The rabbis developed one 
recension, known as the Masoretic text.  But we know of others, most 
notably the Samaritan and the version on which, apparently, the LXX is 
based.  Judaism today recognizes the Masoretic text only as the authentic 
text of Scripture, although reference to the others is not unknown among 
even the most Orthodox inclined academics.  The King James was translated 
from the Masoretic text *I believe*, with reference to the LXX and 
others.  The same is also true [again, *I believe*] of St. Jerome's 
version of the Vulgate.
The Peshitta is [I am very unfamiliar with it] apparently an targum made 
independent of the Rabbinic tradition, and I am not sure if it was 
derived from the Masoretic text or another version of the Hebrew.  But if 
you are interested in the Aramaic text, consult Onkelos as well.
Also remember that Aramaic is not far removed from Hebrew itself.  It 
sounds like a polysyllabic dialectal form, although I don't want to 
assert that it is mutually understandable with Hebrew.  The major portion 
of the Talmud, the Gemara, is in Aramaic, as is the Zohar (in a medieval 
pastiche heavily laced with Hebrew, it seems).  The well known prayers 
called the Kaddish and Kol Nidre are also in Aramaic, if you have a 
Hebrew prayerbook available.

May the Divine Compassion be upon you and upon us all.
Jeffrey Smith

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and with hope;
They threatened its life with a railway share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

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