Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

INTRODUCTION.

CHALDEE LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.

mean.

The Aramean, one of the three grand divisions* of the Shemitish or Oriental languages, comprises two principal subdivisions ; viz. the Syriac, sometimes called, by way of distinction, West Aramean, and the Chaldee, or East Ara

The appropriate region of the latter was the province of Babylonia, between the Euphrates and Tigris, the original inhabitants of which, (related in respect of their origin to the Hebrews and Syrians, and who should not be confounded with the Chaldeans, a tribe which occupied that region much later,) cultivated this language as a distinct dialect, and communicated it to the Jews during the Babylonian exile.

The Chaldeans [Xaldaio, 97] originated, as is evident from a comparison of the statements of Greek authors, (particularly Xenophon,) with those of the Bible, in the mountains of Armenia. Partly overcome by the Assyrians, they removed to the plains of Mesopotamia, and especially of Babylonia, in the seventh century B. C. They afterwards not only gained their own independence, but rose to universal dominion on the ruins of the great Assyrian Monarchy. The name Babylonians (Ezra 4: 9) we apply, on the other hand, to the original inhabitants of Babylonia, who were of a Shemitish (Aramean) stock. To them belonged the language of which we are treating ; and it may therefore not inappropriately be termed Babylonish. For, that the Chaldeans did not speak the same language as the descendants of

* Aramean, Hebrew and Arabic.

:

Abraham who settled in Palestine did, nor even a kindred dialect, is clear from the Chaldaic names of gods, kings, and offices, which appear in the Old Testament after the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and which are connected with the Medo-Persian language, (see Gesenius' Geschichte der Hebr. Sprach. p. 62 seq.), but which admit no adequate explanation from the Shemitish.

The appellation Aramean (language) is derived from 2 Kings 18: 26. Isa. 36: 11. Ez. 4: 7, and Daniel 2: 4. In the first two passages the name 27 is applied to the dialect through which the Assyrian and Chaldean officers made themselves understood in conversation with Hebrews [Jews]; i. e. the universal language of the inhabitants of the Assyrian [Chaldean] kingdom on this side the Tigris. See Gesenius Com. zu Jes. Vol. I. p. 956 seq. In the last case, on the other hand, the Chaldean magians address Nebuchadnezzar in Aramean ; which is indeed remarkable. It is manifest however that the same dialect is meant from the sequel, in which the speech of the magians is inserted in the Chaldee dialect, now so called. In the Greek and Latin languages the term Aramean is not wholly wanting, (comp. Strabo I. p. 212. Ed. Siebenkees), although Syriac is very extensively used in respect to Syria, Mesopotamia and Babylonia, and specially of the languages of these countries. Comp. Xen. Cyrop. 7, 5. 31. Jerome on Dan. 2: 4. Strabo II. p. 58.-On the name applied to the Chaldee by the Talmudists, see Lightfoot Hor. Heb. on John 4: 2. and below No. 2.

Chaldaic, [672772in the Old Testament, signifies the language of the inhabitants of Chaldea proper, which, according to Dan. 1: 4, was the court language under Nebuchadnezzar. On the other hand, Philo uses Xaldaiori of the Babylonian also, and even of the ancient Hebrew.

To what extent the Babyloneo-Aramean was cultivated as a separate dialect, and whether it ever became the language of books, history does not inform us. That it continued in Babylonia, in connexion with the proper Chaldee, as the language of ordinary intercourse, is evident, partly from the above-quoted Scripture passages and from several passages in Xenophon's Cyropaedia, but especially from the well known circumstance, that the exiled Jews found the Babylonish, as a living language, in the provinces to which they were carried. It appears also, from the remains of the Pehlvi dialect, that the Babylonish produced a very great influence upon the ancient language of the Chaldeans, (i. e. the Median.) See Gesenius Com. über Jes. Vol. I. p. 947.

2. By means of the Jews the Chaldee was transplanted into Palestine, where it became the vernacular tongue, and was employed by them, as it had been in Babylonia, as the language of books. Though the Aramean as spoken by Jews partook somewhat of the Hebrew character, no entire or very important corruption of it took place; and to this circumstance alone the Babylonians are indebted, for the survival, or at least the partial preservation, of their language, which, even in the mother country, has, since the spread of Islamism, been totally extinct.

The Jews however did not, immediately after their return, adopt the Chaldee exclusively. It was not until the time of the Maccabees, that this language completely displaced the Old Hebrew, as Gesenius has demonstrated. Gesch. d. Heb. Spr. p. 44. Concerning the Chaldee as the language of books among the Jews, see No. 3. It is clear from Ezra 4: 7, 8, that it was also the government-language of the western provinces of the Persian empire. The Samaritans also spoke a dialect very nearly resembling the Chaldee.

In later times, the name Hebrew (εβραϊς, εβραϊς διάλεκτος, γλώσσα των Εβραίων, εβραϊστί,) was transferred to the Babylonish dialect ; comp. Prol. to Sirach, John 5: 2. 19: 13. Acts 21: 40. 22: 2. 26: 14. Rev. 9: 11. 16: 16. Jerome Prol. to 1. Macc. It was even called nároios ydmora, qorn. 2 Mac. 13: 37. Joseph. Jewish Wars Pref. S 1. The Talmudists, on the other hand, call the Chaldee, in distinction from the Old Hebrew, 777347 7297 7903. See Lightfoot on John 5: 2. Also 90770 [Syriac] Baba Kama fol. 83, 1. Sot. 49. 2. Pesach. 61. 1. Compare C. H. Zeibich de lingua Jud. Heb. tempore Christi. Viteb. 1741. The name Chaldaic did not, however, become totally obsolete. We find it again in Jerome, Prol. ad Tob., Judith.

It is plain, from the nature of the case, that the Babylonish language would, as spoken and written by Jews, i. e. by those who inhabited Palestine, receive something of the Hebrew character. That such was the fact will be more particularly shown below, No. 3. Still the assertion is incorrect, that the Chaldee which we have, (and which has come to us only through the Jews,) has been extraordinarily corrupted by them, or is a mixture of Hebrew with pure Babylonian. See Michaelis Abh. v. d. Syr. Spr. 36 seq. Wahl Geschichte d. morg. Sprachen. $ 78 seq. Meyer Hermeneut. d. A. T. vol. I. p. 266. Comp. Jahn Ein

+

1

. נִקְטַל for מִקְטָל or הַיוֹם for יוֹמָא , מַלְכִּים for מַלְכִין

leitung ins A. T. I. 248, 284. For, from a comparison of the Chaldee (as it is found in the old Targums, for example,) with the Syriac, which we learn from native Syrian authors, it is evident that the Chaldee has all the most important peculiarities of grammatical form and syntactical construction, as well as the greatest part of its stock of wordscopia verborum, in common with the Syriac. Its prominent features are those of an Aramean dialect. On the other hand, those traits in which the Chaldee differs from the Syriac and agrees with the Hebrew, are few; and those few relate mostly to orthography and punctuation. See No. 4. But why may not all this be regarded as dialectic difference ? As widely as the Aramean was extended, it was natural that, like other languages extensively in use, it should split up into different dialects. The Hebrew and Phenician, notwithstanding their original relation and vicinity, exhibit variations of this kind. Besides, it would be difficult, on the other supposition, to say why the Jews varied from the Aramean character in so few points, and those such as differed from the Hebrew not more than others which they have left untouched: why for example, they said 2007: instead of bu??, ? instead of x07, which certainly did not savor more of foreign idiom than

, The periods of Persian and Grecian supremacy introduced some Persian and Greek words into the Babylonish (though less than into the Syriac); whence even the Targum of Onkelos is not free from Greek words. But the Saracen dominion, which commenced with the invasion of Babylonia by the hosts of the Kaliphs, A. D. 640, soon totally annihilated the ancient language of the country, so that, at the present day, not a relic of it exists in the East: and the story that the Chaldee is now spoken in some villages near Mosul and Mardin, (Niebuhr Reise II. 363), is without probability and is not confirmed by more recent travellers. For another account, which however is not well attested, see Eichhorn’s Bibliothek VIII. 435. But see Appendix on this subject.

3. The principal remains of the Chaldee dialect in our possession are the following (1) In the canonical books, Ezra 4: 8-6: 18. 7: 12–26. Daniel 2: 4–7: 28. Jerem. 10: 11. (2) A class of translations and paraphrases of the books of the 0. Test. [Targums) which have originated in different ages, and which exhibit very considerable varieties of linguistic and exegetical character.

Note 1. In respect to linguistic character, with which alone we are

at present concerned, these remains of the Babylonish dialect may be divided into three classes. The purest Chaldee, (i. e. the freest from Hebraism,) appears in the Targum of Onkelos on the Pentateuch. Similar to this in respect to words, orthography and grammatical construction, but somewhat inferior, is the Biblical Chaldee, which is interspersed throughout with Hebrew peculiarities; e. g. the substitution of for whether quiescent or not, the Plural termination b, the Dual form, the conj. Hophal. Finally, the remaining Targums are composed in a language, not only abounding in foreign words, but exhibiting many peculiar forms, (e. g. Hiphil pin from bp, preformative of the Infin. Paël, Ithpeël and Ithpaäl,) part of which resemble the Syriac or Rabbinic, (as prefixed to the 3d p. Fut. and the syllable na prefixed in Passives,) and part arise from contractions, (as in the numerals). These peculiarities have been noticed, though inadequately by Eichhorn (Einl. ins A. T. II. 6 seq. 90 seq). They deserve indeed to be collected into a separate treatise. In the sequel the later Chaldee will constantly be distinguished from the earlier.

Note 2. The language of the Talmud is commonly termed Chaldee. The Mishna and the Gemara are however very different. The former is written in a dialect nearly resembling the Hebrew, and is only disfigured by some Chaldee forms; the style of the Gemara exhibits the fundamental characteristics of Chaldee, both in respect to the roots of words and their grammatical conformation-still it is to be regarded, especially the Jerusalem Gemara, as a very corrupt Chaldee. Its grammar needs therefore to be treated separately. See J. E. Faber Anm. z. Erlernung des Talmud. und Rabbin. Gött. 1770.

Note 3. The Chaldee [Syrochaldaic] originals of several of the Apocryphal books [those which were written in Palestine] are lost. See Jerome Prol. ad Tob., Judith, I. Macc. and the Intrr. of Eichhorn, Bertholdt and De Wette. Josephus also wrote his work on the Jewish War in the Syrochaldaic language, (Jewish War, Preface § 1).

[ocr errors]

4. The Chaldee with which we are now concerned sustains, as is apparent from the slightest observation, a near relation to the Syriac, and shares with that dialect all its essential peculiarities, both in respect to the forms of words and their themes, but differs from it in details sufficiently to claim separate individuality as a dialect. These variations concern rather the grammatical forms than the themes of words, and especially punctuation, in

« IndietroContinua »