Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

Did the majority of Jewish people know the Hebrew language during Jesus’s time?

1 Comment

The Jerusalem Talmud  has a very telling line which says it all:

ד’ לשונות נאים שישתמש בהם העולם – ואלו הם:  לעז לזמר, רומית לקרב, סורסי לאיליה, עברי לדיבור

Dalet leshonot naim sheyishtamesh bahem ha’olam—ve’elu hem:
la’az lezemer, romit laqrav, sursi le’iliyah, ivri ledibur

Meaning: “There are four languages that everyone should use, and they are: Greek for singing, Roman for battle, Syrian [Aramaic] for lamentations, and Hebrew for speech.”

‘Nuff said.


(Originally written in reply to a question at


Author: יונתן אור-סתיו | Jonathan Orr-Stav

Hebrew-English translator, editor, author. מתרגם עברית–אנגלית, עורך באנגלית, וסופר.

One thought on “Did the majority of Jewish people know the Hebrew language during Jesus’s time?

  1. Your answer is, as usual, factually correct and relevant. But still.. (oy!)
    I use: Yiddish / PA ‘Dutch’ for cattle, exasperation, and other succinct social comment/
    English for careful, detailed analysis
    Spanish for tear-jerk listings of what’s ‘en mi corazon’
    And Hebrew , sadly, for combat with folks what don’t ‘get’ the above…
    Tried a ‘Google Archive’ search for newspaper accounts of the last days of Jesus’s brave attempt to redefine Jewish practice and concepts back then. ‘HaAretz’ has him a poster-child for a grab-bag of ’causes’ of which he might in fact have been unaware ; ‘Yediot’ has the big-gun Hebrew-language op-ed-niks calling it both a ‘mahapach!’ (revolution) but also ‘over-rated’.
    And the orthodox rags are filled with ‘parshanut’ over whether his donkey was white enough to pass kosher-muster.
    Ha, like you said, mebbe stick to our own tongue for ‘lamentations’.?
    I continue to enjoy your food for thought here, and Shabbat shalom.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s