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

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 Quora.com)

1 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

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