Biblical Aramaic is the form of
Aramaic that is used in the books of
Ezra in the
Hebrew Bible. It should not be confused with the
Targums – Aramaic paraphrases, explanations and expansions of the Hebrew scriptures.
Biblical Aramaic's relative chronology has been debated mostly in the context of
dating the Book of Daniel. In 1929, Harold Rowley argued that its origin must be later than the 6th century BCE and that the language was more similar to the
targums than to the Imperial Aramaic documents available at his time.
Biblical Hebrew is the main language of the Hebrew Bible. Aramaic accounts for only 269 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:
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 במחזה (ba-maħaze, "in a vision"). According to the
Zohar (I:88b), the word is Aramaic, as the usual Hebrew word would be במראה (ba-mar’e).
Numbers 23:10 – the word רבע (rôḇa‘, 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".
Job36:2a ("כַּתַּר־ לִ֣י זְ֭עֵיר וַאֲחַוֶּ֑ךָּ") –
Rashi, in his commentary on the verse, states that the phrase is in Aramaic.
Psalm 2:12 – the word בר (bar) is interpreted by some Christian sources (including the
King James Version) to be the Aramaic word for "son" and renders the phrase נשקו-בר (nashəqū-bar) as "kiss the Son," a reference to
Jesus. Jewish sources and some Christian sources (including Jerome's
Vulgate) follow the Hebrew reading of בר ("purity") and translate the phrase as "embrace purity." See
Psalm 2 for further discussion of the controversy.
For many centuries, from at least the time of
Jerome of Stridon (d. 420), Biblical Aramaic was misnamed as "Chaldean" (Chaldaic, Chaldee). That label remained common in early
Aramaic studies, and persisted up to the nineteenth century. The "Chaldean"
misnomer was consequently abandoned, when further research showed conclusively that the Aramaic dialect used in the Hebrew Bible was not related to the
ancient Chaldeans and their language.
^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.
^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.