Can anyone give a review on the main differences between Hebrew and Aramaic? Of course, I am asking in the context of the Bible, but if there are some other known ones that lay outside of the biblical linguistics, they are also welcome. I guess the writing system of these two was just the same, no?
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The two languages are related (both are Northwest Semtic languages) and eventually shared a script. Hebrew, prior to the exile used its own script called Paleo-Hebrew. It was still used afterwards in isolated places and instances, but what we now call Aramaic Square replaced it for the most part. Though they share many common words and large pieces of grammar (noun states are the same and verbal stems are similar), there are differences.
In the same way that English is a Germanic language that, after a French invasion, incorporated so much it's structure as to be mutually unintelligible, so too Biblical Aramaic is Hebrew that was infused with the Assyrian language after the conquest of Israel. Aramaic itself is Assyrian, and there are many, many dialects. When most people talk of it nowadays, however, they are referring to the amalgamation that resulted.
Aramaic is used in parts of Daniel and Ezra- books written in exile, as one would expect. It uses Hebrew characters but has a foreign vocabulary and grammar.
By Jesus' time, Aramaic (and Koine Greek) was the lingua Franca - not the ancient Hebrew. The Torah itself had been translated into a book called "The Peshitta" which was an Aaramaic translation, in the same was that the KJV is an English translation of the LXX.
They are both west Semitic and have a very obvious shared root language. They also use the same script. However, there are a handful of differences in the way they developed. For instance, the long 'a' was retained in Aramaic but changed to a long 'o' in Hebrew in some words. Also, the original tav was retained in Aramaic but changed to a shin in Hebrew.
I want to point out an important difference between Aramaic and Hebrew by comparing some specific words in Aramaic and Hebrew.
1) In Hebrew, "Ben" means Son. For Example, "Ben"jamin. But in Aramaic, "Bar" means Son.
By the time of Jesus, Aramaic was the language of Israel. Not Hebrew. Just look at the names in English NT Bible- "Bar"tholomew, "Bar"abbas, Simon "Bar" Jonah, "Bar" Jesus, "Bar"nabbas, "Bar"sabbas, "Bar"timaeus, etc. A common female name during the time of Jesus was Martha which in Aramaic means "Mistress or Lady."
In Josephus' Jewish Wars, we see that Simon Bar Giora was one of the three leaders who fought against Romans in Jewish Wars. "Bar Giora" means "son of a proselyte" in Aramaic.
2) In Our English Bible, We see Jesus speaking Aramaic. For Example, We see Jesus saying "Talitha Cum" or "Talitha Cumi" in Mark 5. Talitha is Aramaic. If it was Hebrew, then "Yaldah" would have been used instead of Talitha.
3) In Mark 15:34, we see Jesus saying "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani." Through sabachthani, it is confirmed that it is Aramaic. If it was Hebrew, then Azabthani would have been used instead of Sabachthani. Aramaic word "Sabachthani" (from Aramaic verb "sabach") in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 is not used in Hebrew. However, both Aramaic and Hebrew has "Sabakh" (slightly different pronunciation) which means to praise or to glorify.
4) In Mark 14:3, In Aramaic Peshitta, it says Simon the Potter in Mark 14:3. Aramaic word "Gariba" means Potter and Aramaic word "Garoba" means Leper. Gariba can be confused with Garoba, because it was written without vowel markers in first century AD. While Aramaic words are identifical, they are not in Hebrew. The Hebrew for a potter is יוצר (yotser) while leper is צרוע (tsaru'a).
I want to point out that in order to differentiate Aramaic from Hebrew, we first have to recognize that Aramaic was called Hebrew in first century AD, because it was spoken by Hebrews. That is why the New testament says, "Hebrew" not "Aramaic." When Jews say "Hebrew", they are referring to their "Hebrew tongue." Hebrew tongue during the first century Israel was Aramaic. Peshitta Tanakh is First Century Old Testament written in Aramaic.
Just like we call Deutsch "German", because it is the language of German People. Jews are called Hebrews, because they are the descendants of Abraham who is called a Hebrew (Genesis 14:13, Philippians 3). Even today, many Iraqi jews call their aramaic "hebrew" (Hebrew tongue is called "Ibraith" in Aramaic), because it is the language of Hebrews.
Thus you see, that Both OT Hebrew and Aramaic have at times been referred to as "Hebrew." While we often think of Hebrews using Hebrew, surviving Aramaic documents of Jewish Wars written by Josephus, available in Codex Ambrosianus, demonstrates that Aramaic was in prominent use by the Hebrews. Judean Aramaic was also known as Hebrew in order to differentiate the way Aramaic is spoken in Judea and Aramaic spoken in Galilee and Syrian regions.
Through Matthew 26:73 and Mark 14:70, Peter was exposed by his Galilean Aramaic speech among people. Judeans used Dead Scrolls Alphabet for Aramaic while Syrians used Estrangela Alphabet for Aramaic in first century AD. The Galilean accent of Aramaic would have sounded to the Judean Aramaic somewhat like Cockney sounds to a British aristocrat. Even in Talmud, Galileans are ridiculed for their Galilean Aramaic.
One of the most noticeable differences between the two languages (Hebrew and Aramaic) is the position of the definite article, 'the'. Let's use the Hebrew word for potter (Yotser) as an example. In Hebrew, the definite article of the word will be in the front - "Ha-Yotser." But Aramaic places the definite article at the end of the word, thus the 'tha' at the end of 'Talitha' is the Aramaic definite article on a feminine noun.
In 1 Corinthians 16:22, we read Maranatha. Maranatha is Aramaic. If it was Hebrew, then it would have been "adonainu atha."
In Old Testament (during ancient times), Aramaic was spoken by Laban (uncle and father in law of Jacob), Laban's family, and in Padan Aram (where Laban and his family lived). When we read Genesis 31, we see Laban saying "Jegar Sahadutha" which means Witness Pile. That's Aramaic. Jacob who spoke Old Hebrew called it Galeed. Jacob must have spoken both Hebrew and Aramaic since his mother Rebekah (sister of Laban) knew Aramaic very well and Jacob stayed with Laban and his family for 20 years (Genesis 31). We also know that Jacob married two of Laban's daughters who spoke Aramaic. Jacob left Laban after the birth of Joseph.
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Hebrew and Aramaic are both West Semitic languages with common ancestry in Phoenician and Canaanite roots. Hebrew is about 200 years older, and based on a Canaanite dialect spoken around Jerusalem. Aramaic originated in Damascus, Syria, not Assyria which is modern day Iraq. Aramaic was used by the conquering Assyrians and Persians in their occupied lands because it was easier to teach than their own languages. Hebrew stopped being spoken and written after the Exile. Aramaic became the lingua franca. Later replaced by Greek.
Ezra's copyists transferred the Hebrew content of the OT to newer manuscripts with Aramaic script! But everyone spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew!
Torah was recopied during Ezra's time using a different script. Different reasons are given for the change: