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I read from the internet where most articles say:

A. The common language used by the Jews around 1st century BCE to (at least) the beginning of 1st century CE was Greek and the Scripture they use is in Greek too.

Example of source-A:

The Septuagint (also known as the LXX) is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language.

By the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., most people in Israel spoke Greek as their primary language.


But some other articles say:

B. The common language used by the Jews around 1st century BCE to (at least) the beginning of 1st century CE was Hebrew & Aramaic while the Scripture they use is in Hebrew language.

Example of source-B:

None of the Dead Sea Scrolls mention anything about the Septuagint. All of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in Hebrew or Aramaic.

The Dead Sea Scrolls do prove that the "sacred language" (the language used in sermons, rituals and commentaries) of the Jews in Palestine around the time of [Jesus] was Hebrew – not Greek.


My question:

Is there any reference text from the Rabbis who live around 1st century BCE to (at least) the beginning of 1st century CE from which can be concluded that the answer is A or B ?


I would like to add another reference link:

When the Hebrews returned to the land of Israel, around 500 BC, it was believed that the Hebrews had abandoned the Hebrew language and instead spoke the Aramaic language, the language of their captors in Babylon. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, in its first edition in 1958, stated; "[Hebrew] ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century B.C." However, much textual and archeological evidence has been discovered over recent years, which has revised this long established theory.

One of the most compelling evidences for the continued use of Hebrew into the 2nd Century A.D. is a letter from the Jewish General Simon Bar Kockba (Shimon ben Kosva, as the first line of the letter states in the above picture), which is dated at 135 A.D., which he wrote during the second Jewish revolt against Rome. This letter, along with many others, was written in Hebrew, establishing the fact that Hebrew was still the language of the Jewish people, even into the second century AD.

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  • 1
    Just to point out, both of your sources are clearly Christian in origin and represent a Christian-centric view of history which may not nicely match up with the Jewish view.
    – Daniel
    Jan 25 '19 at 15:04
  • 3
    In most religious Jewish houses in America, you'll find religious books in Hebrew, Aramaic, and English. I'm not sure why finding the exact same phenomenon on a smaller scale 2000 years ago is surprising to anybody.
    – Heshy
    Jan 25 '19 at 15:06
  • @Daniel, I realized that. That's why I put a question here hoping that I can get an input on how is the point of view from Judaism about this. Thank you.
    – karma
    Jan 25 '19 at 15:33
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    Just for the record, the Dead Sea Scrolls' official site deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive -- has 140 results for Dead Sea Scroll fragments in Greek, ranging from Biblical works to mundane stuff like receipts.
    – Gary
    Jan 25 '19 at 18:32
  • @Gary, for the Hebrew language, the link said it has 778 results. It seems among those 778 there are 12 results from the Scripture.
    – karma
    Jan 25 '19 at 19:10
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Maybe I can contribute although I am a Christian; I have studied this question based on the question which was the language commonly spoken in the time of Jesus which is the last century of the Jewish state and one or two centuries later than the requested period, and I had discovered this question before.

I observe that

  • In Eusebios, Church History, is said that

Matthew, who had first preached among the Hebrews, wrote the Gospel he preached in his mother tongue when he also wanted to go to other peoples for he sought to replace those from whom he parted with what they had lost by his departure.

The claim that Matthew wrote in Hebrew is confirmed in other sources. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus, from Galilee. The author Eusebios is quite late (around 300 A.D.) but he is quoting older sources.

There are no preserved Christian sources in Hebrew, but ifever it comes to the aspect of the original language (citations or references), this language is Hebrew, not Greek and not Aramaic.

Among the literal citations, some seem to be Aramaic, and some Hebrew, and although all received texts are in Greek, it is never related that Jesus or the people around him spoke Greek.

It is also reported that Shimon Kefas, a disciple who later went preaching in Greek and Latin speaking areas, had difficulties to express himself and needed the help of translators.

Even Christian sources do not give any evidence that Greek was a commonly spoken language but rather of the opposite. In contrast to the majority teachings of todays Christian theologists who teach that Aramaic was the most common language of the time, older Christian sources confirm that Hebrew was spoken, and Aramaic had a certain importance, too.

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This is only a partial answer:

In the aforementioned time, Judaism had already spread out widely. Jews lived in Syria and Persia (today mainly Iraq), where Aramaic was the common language, in the Mediterranian areas where Greek was the common language, in Ethopia, where Geez was the common language and probably also in Arabia and Jemen where Arabic was the common language and in southern Egypt where people spoke Koptic.

It is sure that Hebrew has always remained the language that a Jew living abroad learned when he had an education in religion. Nevertheless, Hebrew was a foreign language to them as it later was for Jews spread around the world.

The crucial question is what language would usually have been spoken in the Main Lands, Juda and the Galil (also in Samaria, situated in between, which followed a differnt sect of Jewish religion).

Christian scientists in the late 20th Century often stated that Hebrew was not used as a common language among the inhabitants of Juda and the Galil but rather they spoke Aramaic. The thesis that Greek was the most common language is hardly ever defended.

Now, we observe that:

  • Many texts of the Tanakh were written after the Babylonean Captivity. Almost all of them were written in Hebrew, not in Aramaic. It is certainly false to say that the Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity had abandoned Hebrew for Aramaic. Else, the contemporary texts that speak of the Babylonean Captivity or the re-establishment of the Temple would have been written entirely or partly in Aramaic.
  • Only a part of the Jews was brought to Babylon. There must have remained a common people in the Main Land; there was no other people settling in the Land; it would not have been possible that the prisoners returning from Babylon could establish a Jewish people without any reported conflict. It is not likely that those people had abandoned their language.
  • Hebrew dominates religious texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls even if they were written in the community (thus in their time), but Aramaic was used to a smaller extent, also Greek, even few Latin.
  • Greek was certainly the most international language in the greater area after Alexandros conquered the whole region; many people, including the Romans, used Greek to communicate with people speaking other languages. It is likely that many people in the Land of Israel knew some Greek but it is unlikely that common people used it speaking to each other.
  • After the destruction of the 2nd Temple, texts were still written in Hebrew, above all the Mishna. The fact that the Gemara of the Babylonean Talmud is written in Aramaic is logical as it was written in Babylon where Aramaic was spoken.

These arguments speak in favour of the thesis that Hebrew remained the most important language at least in religious context, but possibly also in common life.

In the following centuries, Greek was not a commonly learned language in Judaism, whereas even educated Christians hardly ever learned Hebrew. On this background, the importance of Greek in Jewish religion and culture is under-extimated in Judaism and over-estimated in Christianity.

There is enough evidence that Greek was not the language commonly spoken in Erez Israel at this time. Still, there remains the open point: Was language was commonly used among common people Hebrew or Aramaic?

Although this is a historic question rather than a question on Religion, contributions showing signs in favour of one or the other will be welcome.

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