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Hebrew New Testament
HEBREW NEW TESTAMENT
 
While it can easily shown that Hebrew was a spoken language in Israel during the time of Y'shua, there are no Hebrew New Testament manuscripts available today that would indicate an original Hebrew autograph.  All Hebrew New Testament Bibles today have been translated from either Greek or Aramaic texts.  The oldest Hebrew manuscripts, translated into Hebrew from Greek, are dated to the 15th Century.1
 
     Alister McGrath, former Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford and numerous other scholars, assert that First Century Jewish followers of Y'shua were faithful religious Jews therefore must have been fluent in Hebrew.  They only differed from contemporaries in Judaism because of their acceptance of Y'shua as Messiah.  True, but the New Testament itself tells us that the lingua franca, the common spoken language of Israel was the sister language Aramaic.  Acts 1:19 the KJV reads, "And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood."  Aceldama is Aramaic, which tells us that "the dwellers at Jerusalem" spoke Aramaic as their proper tongue.  So we have very good reason to believe that Y'shua (Jesus) and his disciples spoke both Hebrew and Aramaic.
 
     Ongoing excavations in the Galilee and Golan, Israel are now uncovering many First Century Aramaic inscriptions written with Hebrew letters, this is where much of the confusion exists.  The relationship between Hebrew and Aramaic is so close that most natural born Israelis (known as "sabras") cannot distinguish between Hebrew or Aramaic inscriptions.  To date, no reputable honest scholar has ever provided evidence of NT texts originating from Hebrew originals.  Cultic pseudo-scholars operating within "Hebraic Roots" or "Sacred Name" circles are making foolish wild-eyed claims of ancient Hebrew New Testament texts to benefit the ears and religious theologies of their followers.  In reality no "Hebrew Roots" or "Sacred Name" leader is willing to present themself publicly for debate, they will though sit behind anonymous online pen names working against scholarship and honest dialogue by hurling hubristic or vitrilistic obsenities at others.  The reader must beware that there is a huge difference between proper "debate" and presenting one's falacious opinions in the absense of peer review and questioning.
 
     The original Netzari (Nazarene) Jewish based faith fell into rapid decline due to the Jewish-Roman wars (66-135) and the growing anti-Judaism that is best personified by Marcion in the second century.  With help from the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century the Netzarim (original followers of Y'shua) faded quietly into an underground movement by the fifth century.  Gentile based Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, however, while the Gospel was travelling West in Greek it continued the journey East in Aramaic to the point that incredibly, scholars have discovered sixth century Aramaic New Testament inscriptions in China!
 
     Although Hebrew is clearly the kadosh lashon (holy tongue), and the language of the Tanakh (Old Testament), Aramaic is also used in the Tanakh and was employed for Jewish commentaries, the Talmud (Oral law) and numerous Jewish writings, simply because Aramaic was used more widely used within the Jewish world than Hebrew .
 
     Modern Hebrew script is based on the "square" letter form, known as Ashurit (Assyrian), developed from Aramaic script.  There is little doubt today that Aramaic has been displaced by Hebrew as the everyday spoken language of Israel, but that the chief predecessor of Hebrew in the Middle East was the very closely related Aramaic
 
     Scholars remain divided over pretty much everything the exact dating of linguistic transitions being no exception, a majority of scholars follow Geiger and Dalman, that Aramaic became a spoken language in the land of Israel as early as the start of Israel's Hellenistic Period in the 4th century BCE.  And, from that period Hebrew began to function less as a spoken language and more as the holy tongue, which is again speculation.  Segal, Klausner, and Ben Yehuda are notable exceptions to that viewpoint.  During the latter half of the 20th century, accumulating archaeological evidence and linguistic analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls that view has been challenged.  The Dead Sea Scrolls, uncovered in 1946-1948 near Qumran, revealed a proliferation of ancient Jewish texts in Hebrew, and far less texts in Aramaic, which proves nothing really when dealing with an ultra-religious sect such as the Essenes. Qumran scrolls may indicate that Hebrew texts were readily understandable to the average Israeli and that the language had evolved since Biblical times as spoken languages do, but the fact remains that Hebrew and Aramaic are such close languages that in many cases we're arguing over dialect rather than distinct language terminologies.
 
     Recent scholarship suggests that archeology indicating Aramaic speaking Jewry is simply evidence of a multi-lingual society, not necessarily that either Hebrew or Aramaic was the primary language spoken in Israel. Clearly Hebrew and Aramaic co-existed within Israel as spoken languages, however most scholars now date the demise of Hebrew as a spoken language to the end of the Roman Period, or about 200 CE.  They suggest that it continued as a literary language down through Byzantine Period from the 4th century CE.  Some Hebrew linguists postulate the survival of Hebrew as a spoken language until the Byzantine Period.
 
     Although the exact roles of Aramaic and Hebrew remain hotly debated, there is also plenty evidence of a trilingual scenario within the first century land of Israel.  Both Hebrew and Aramaic functioned as the mother tongue for ancient Israelis, both have powerful ties to Israel's history, origins, and to the golden age and as the language of Israel's religion.  Aramaic continued to function as the international language with the rest of the Mideast predominately spoken in Northern Israel; and eventually Greek functioned as an additional international language with the eastern areas of the Roman Empire.  Communities of Jews (and non-Jews) immigrated to Judea from other lands and continued to speak Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek.
 
     Judeo-Aramaic is believed to be used in the Galilee (northern Israel), Greek is believed to have been concentrated within the former colonies and governmental centers, and Hebrew monolingualism may have continued in the smaller southern villages of Judea.
 
     Clearly the Greek New Testament contains Aramaic place names and quotations, and although the language of such Semitic glosses (and in general the language spoken by Jews in scenes from the New Testament) is usually referred to as "Hebrew" or "Jewish" in the text, this term often applies to Aramaic instead.  Abraham is considered Hebrew but his mother tongue was Aramaic, as was Isaac and Jacob's Aramean language.
 
     Thankfully, since Aramaic and Hebrew are such closely related languages, Hebrew readers are able to read the Aramaic in the Aramaic English New Testament and recognize it according to the strength of their Hebrew vocabulary.
 

1 Some of Shem Tob's biggest advocates today are Karaites, along with misquided Hebrew Roots and Sacred Namers in America. Netzari Jewish Rabbi Baruch Ben Daniel writes; "Only myoptic pseudo-scholars on a religious high would be so unsophisticated as to conclude that Shem Tob's shabby work was based on some Hebrew New Testament original.  Karaites are haters of Y'shua (Jesus) and the New Testament, so it should come as little surprise that Karaite leaders would support a polemic, hateful work of a fellow anti-Messiah religious Jew.  Gaining personality cult status from "believers' has never been so easy for Karaites thanks to Ephraimite-American, Two House, Hebruised Roots leaders.  Over the last decade hundreds of souls have been churned through the Hebruised Roots and Sacred Names movements in America winding up with great disdain for Y'shua and his teachings in favour of regurgitated "cutting edge Hebruised" Karaite theological identities."  Don't forget, you heard it here first at www.hebrewnewtestament.com.

 
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