chapter  5
7 Pages

LANGUAGE AND WRITING IN EARLY ROMAN GALILEE

Social location of a potter’s abecedary from Khirbet Qana
ByEsther Eshel, Douglas R. Edwards

Language reflects the environment in which persons construct reality. It conveys a variety of meanings depending on context, persons using it, mode of presentation, or type of medium. The language of Galilee in the Early Roman period (63 BCE-135 CE) has been a matter of some debate. What language or languages did the general Jewish public speak and write in the first century? How literate were people in this period? How likely would it be that someone like Jesus, the son of a techton (carpenter? stone mason?), in other words a member of the artisan class, be able to take a scroll of Isaiah and read from it (Luke 4:16-20)? Most constructions of the language fields in which Jesus and Galilean Jews operated come from analysis of texts, all of which were written in Greek (notably Josephus and the New Testament) and parallels drawn from the large corpus of manuscripts in Judaea and surrounding areas (Millard 2000). Josephus of course says that he had an earlier version of his work in his native tongue (War I:3), which most suppose to be Aramaic.