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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Language

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( לָשׁוֹן [Chald. לַשָּׁן ], tongue; שָׂפָה). An indication of the manner in which man may have been led to the formation of a vocabulary is thought to be given in Genesis 2:19. But it is evident from the whole scriptural account of creation that speech was coeval with the formation of our first parents. At a later date the origin of the various languages on the earth (see Van den Honert, De lingua primaeva, L.B. 1738) is apparently given in connection with the building of the tower of Babel (comp. Romer, De linguar. in extruenda turri Babyl. ortu, Viteb. 1782) and the dispersion of men (Genesis 11); but it is probable that the diversities of human speech have rather resulted from than caused the gradual divergence of mankind from a common center (Diod. Siculus, 1:8; comp. Jerusalem, Fortges. Betracht. Brschw. 1773, page 263 sq.; Eichhorn, Diversitatis linguar. ex tradit. Semit. origines, Gotting. 1788; Abbt, Vermisch. Schrift. 6:96 sq.). (See TONGUES, CONFUSION OF).

The later Jews inferred from Genesis 10 that there were generally on earth seventy (nations and) languages (compare Wagenseil, Sota, page 699; Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. page 754, 1031, 1089: see a list in the Jerusalem Talmud, Megill. fol. 71, chapter 2). Individual tongues are only mentioned incidentally in the Bible, as follows: the Canaan fish (שְׂפִת כְּנִעִן, Isaiah 19:18), the Chaldean (כִּשְׂדַּים לְשׁוֹן Daniel 1:4), the Aramean (אֲרָמַית, familiar to the Assyrians [2 Kings 18:26], the Magians [Daniel 2:4], and the Persian officials [Ezra 4:7]), the Jewish (יְהיּדַית, i.e., Hebrew; 2 Kings 18:26; Nehemiah 13:24; compare Esther 8:9; Josephus, Apion, 2:2), the Ashdodite (אִשְׁדּוֹדַית, Nehemiah 13:24); in the N.T. the Hebrew, i.e., Syro-Chaldee ( ῾Εβραϊ v ς, ῾Εβρα Þ στί, Acts 22:2, etc.), the Greek ( ῾Ελλησικη, ῾Ελληνιστί , John 19:20; Acts 21:37; Revelation 9:11), the Latin ( ῾Ρωμα Þ στί, John 19:20; Luke 23:8), and the Lyconian (Λυκαονιστί , Acts 14:11). It is remarkable that, in all the intercourse of the Hebrews with foreign nations, mention is very rarely made of an interpreter (Genesis 42:23); but the passages in 2 Kings 18:26; Isaiah 36:11, prove that the common Jews of the interior at least did not understand the Aramaean dialect. That the Jews of later times, especially the bigoted citizens of Palestine, despised heathen languages, is notorious (Josephus, Ant. 20:11, 2); that they made use of the Greek, however, is evident from the Talmud (Sota, 9:14; comp. Jadaim, 4:6, where Homer is mentioned), to say nothing of the N.T. Winer, 2:498. (See HELLENIST).

The question as to the common language of Palestine in the time of our Lord and his apostles has been keenly discussed by learned writers with very opposite conclusions. On the one hand, Du Pin (Dissert. 2), Mill (N.T. page 8), Michaelis (Introd. 3), Marsh (ibid. notes), Weber (Untersuch. ub. d. Ev. der Hebraer, Tü b. 1806), Kuinol (Comment. 1:18), Olshausen (Echtheit der Evang. Konigsberg, 1823, page 21 sq.), and especially De Rossi (Della lingua propria di Cristo, Parma, 1772), and Pfannkuche (in Eichhorn's Allgem. Bibliothek, 8:365 sq.) contend for the exclusive prevalence of the Aramaean or Syro-Chaldee at the time and in the region in question. On the other hand, Cappell (Observatt. in N.T. page 110), Basnage (Annul. ad an. 64), Masch (Von der Grundsprache Matthcei), Lardner (Supplement to Credibility, etc., 1 c. 5), Waleus (Commentarius, page 1), and more particularly Vossius (De Oraculis Sibyll. Oxon. 1860. page 88 sq.), and Diodati (De Christo Graece loquente, Neap. 1767, London, 1843), insist that the Greek alone was then and there spoken. Between these extremes Simon (Hist. Crit. du N.T. Rotterd. 1689, c. 6, page 56), Fabricy (Titres primitifs de la Revelation, Rome, 1773, 1:116), Ernesti (Neuste theol. Bibliothek, 1 [1771], 269 sq.), Hug (Einleit. in d. N.T. Tub. 1826, 2:30 sq.), Binterim (De ling. originali N.T. non Latina, Dusseld. 1820, page 146 sq.), Wiseman (Horae Syriaae, Rom. 1828, 1:69 sq.), and the mass of later writers, as Credner (Einleit. in d. N. Test. Halle, 1836), Bleek (id. Berl. 1862), and (though with more reserve) Roberts (Language of Palestine, London, 1859) hold the more reasonable view that both languages were concurrently used, the Aramean probably as the vernacular at home and among natives, and the Greek in promiscuous and public circles. For additional literature on this question, see Fabricius, Biblioth. Graeca, 4:760; Biblical Repository, 1831, page 317 sq., 530 sq.; and the monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Progqrammatum, page 18. On the Greek of the N.T., (See NEW TESTAMENT). On the tongues cognate with the Hebrew, (See SHEMITIC LANGUAGES).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Language'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/l/language.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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