Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts

Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts

Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts

Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts

Synopsis

Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts is the first comprehensive study of the role of languages and texts in the religions of the Greco-Roman world, including Judaism and Christianity.It explores bilingualism, language learning, literacy, book production and translation, as well as some of the more explicitly religious factors, including beliefs about language, missionary zeal, ritual, conservatism and the power of a priestly establishment. Sacred Languages and Sacred Texts sheds new light on the role of the power of words, spoken and written, in religion.

Excerpt

Until comparatively recently scholars working on Jewish and Christian scripture in antiquity, and the primary biblical languages, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, have often tended to work in isolation. Jewish Studies specialists concentrated on the Hebrew and Aramaic sources, frequently neglecting relevant Greek, Latin and Syriac data. Old Testament experts were rarely interested in what happened to the Hebrew text after the end of the ‘Old Testament period’ (second century BCE) and after it was translated into other languages. New Testament scholars often knew little or no Hebrew and Aramaic. a whole field of study, known by the bizarre and tendentious title ‘Intertestamental Studies’, had to be invented to deal with all the other parts of Jewish and Christian scripture traditionally (and no less tendentiously) known as ‘apocryphal’ or ‘pseudepigraphical’. This involved the specialist study of Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian and other languages in which some of the texts survive, and yet another discrete compartment in the field was created.

As we approach the end of the twentieth century, however, the fragmentation of the study of the first Christian centuries into confessional, canonical compartments has begun to be a thing of the past. the Jewishness of Christian scripture, and of Christian origins generally, is now acknowledged. Students at all levels are much more aware of the need to have some knowledge of rabbinic Judaism if they want to appreciate the nuances of the Gospels and Paul. the enormous significance of works like D. Daube (1984) The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, W.D. Davies (1948) Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, G. Vermes (1973) Jesus the Jew and E.P. Sanders (1985) Jesus and Judaism, as well as the work of historians like Fergus Miller and Martin Goodman, who are both classicists and Jewish Studies experts, is being increasingly appreciated. Even the

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