Book Review: Michael Sokoloff’s A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic of the Byzantine Period

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From the third to the seventh century A.D., the Jews of Palestine used Aramaic as their primary spoken and written language. This dialect has been of considerable interest to Christian scholars, and some have argued that it is the closest dialect to the Aramaic which Jesus would have spoken.

From the third to the seventh century A.D., the Jews of Palestine used Aramaic as their primary spoken and written language. This dialect has been of considerable interest to Christian scholars, and some have argued that it is the closest dialect to the Aramaic which Jesus would have spoken.

Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian AramaicHebrew was used in the first century both in a colloquial form, close to what is found in the Mishnah, as well as in a literary form, close to what is found in the Hebrew documents discovered at Qumran. There is some evidence to suggest that Aramaic was also used with two different “registers,” a literary dialect and a colloquial dialect. The colloquial Aramaic dialect is probably best represented in the Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (JPA) of the Palestinian Talmud and Midrashic stories. Whether Jesus taught mainly in Hebrew or in Aramaic, the dialect of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic recorded in post-Mishnaic sources is a major cultural and linguistic storehouse for our knowledge of New Testament times.

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