The Lutheran translation still holds its own to some extent against the French translation with the older generation of the Alsatian community in Paris
|November 7, 2011||Posted by webmaster under All text of Schweitzer Quest Jesus, chapter seventeen||
Adolf Neubauer, Reader in Rabbinical Hebrew at Oxford, attempted a compromise. It was certainly the case, he thought, that in the time of Jesus Aramaic was spoken throughout Palestine; but whereas in Galilee this language had an exclusive dominance, and the knowledge of Hebrew was confined to texts learned by heart, in Jerusalem Hebrew had renewed itself by the adoption of Aramaic elements, and a kind of Neo-Hebraic language had arisen. This solution at least testifies to the difficulty of the question. The fact is that from the language of the New Testament it is often difficult to make out whether the underlying words are Hebrew or Aramaic. Thus, for instance, Dalman remarks—with reference to the question whether the statement of Papias refers to a Hebrew or an Aramaic “primitive Matthew”—that it is difficult “to produce proof of an Aramaic as distinct from a Hebrew source, because it is often the case in Biblical Hebrew, and still more often in the idiom of the Mishna, that the same expressions and forms of phrase are possible as in Aramaic.” Delitzsch’s “retranslation” of the New Testament into Hebrew is therefore historically justified.
But the question about the language of Jesus must not be confused with the problem of the original language of the primitive form of Matthew’s Gospel. In reference to the latter, Dalman thinks that the tradition of the Early Church regarding an earlier Aramaic form of the Gospel must be considered as lacking confirmation. “It is only in the case of Jesus’ own words that an Aramaic original form is undeniable, and it is only for these that Early Church tradition asserted the existence of a Semitic documentary source. It is, therefore, the right and duty of Biblical scholarship to investigate the form which the sayings of Jesus must have taken in the original and the sense which in this form they must have conveyed to Jewish hearers.”
That Jesus spoke Aramaic, Meyer has shown by collecting all the Aramaic expressions which occur in His preaching. He considers the “Abba” in Gethsemane decisive, for this means that Jesus prayed in Aramaic in His hour of bitterest need. Again the cry from the cross was, according to Mark xv. 34, also Aramaic: ‘?????, ?????, ???? ??????????.’ The Old Testament was therefore most familiar to Him in an Aramaic translation, otherwise this form of the Psalm passage would not have come to His lips at the moment of death.
It is a quite independent question whether Jesus could speak, or at least understand, Greek. According to Josephus the knowledge of Greek in Palestine at that time, even among educated Jews, can only have been of a quite elementary character. He himself had to learn it laboriously in order to be able to write in it. His “Jewish War” was first written in Aramaic for his fellow-countrymen; the Greek edition was, by his own avowal, not intended for them. In another passage, it is true, he seems to imply a knowledge of, and interest in, foreign languages even among people in humble life.
An analogy, which is in many respects very close, to the linguistic conditions in Palestine was offered by Alsace under French rule in the sixties of the nineteenth century. Here, too, three languages met in the same district. The High-German of Luther’s translation of the Bible was the language of the Church, the Alemannic dialect was the usual speech of the people, while French was the language of culture and of government administration. This remarkable analogy would be rather in favour—if analogy can be admitted to have any weight in the question—of Delitzsch and Resch, since the Biblical High-German, although never spoken in social intercourse, strongly influenced the Alemannic dialect—although this was, on the other hand, quite uninfluenced by Modern High-German—but did not allow it to penetrate into Church or school, there maintaining for itself an undivided sway. French made some progress, but only in certain circles, and remained entirely excluded from the religious sphere. The Alsatians of the poorer classes who could at that time have repeated the Lord’s Prayer or the Beatitudes in French would not have been difficult to count. The Lutheran translation still holds its own to some extent against the French translation with the older generation of the Alsatian community in Paris, which has in other respects become completely French—so strong is the influence of a former ecclesiastical language even among those who have left their native home. There is one factor, however, which is not represented in the analogy; the influence of the Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora, who gathered to the Feasts at Jerusalem, upon the extension of the Greek language in the mother-country.
 Franz Delitzsch, Die Bücher des Neuen Testaments aus dem Griechischen ins Hebräische übersetzt. 1877. (The Books of the N.T. translated from Greek into Hebrew.) This work has been circulated by thousands among Jews throughout the whole world.
Delitzsch was born in 1813 at Leipzig and became Privat-Docent there in 1842, went to Rostock as Professor in 1846, to Erlangen in 1850, and returned in 1867 to Leipzig. By conviction he was a strict Lutheran in theology. He was one of the leading experts in Late-Jewish and Talmudic literature. He died in 1890.
 Studia Biblica I. Essays in Biblical Archceology and Criticism and Kindred Subjects by Members of the University of Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1885, pp. 39-74. See Meyer, p. 29 ff.
 See Meyer, p. 47 ff.
 See Meyer, p. 61 ff.
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