Biblical Aramaic is the form of the Aramaic language that is used in the books of Daniel, Ezra and a few other places in the Hebrew Bible. It should not be confused with the Aramaic paraphrases, explanations, and expansions of the Jewish scriptures known as targumim.
In 2 Kings 18:26, the linguistic situation is directly referred to, as Jerusalem (during the reign of Hezekiah) was besieged by the army of Sennacherib in 701 BCE. The 2 Kings account sets the meeting of the ambassadors of both camps just outside the city walls. Hezekiah's envoys pleaded that the Assyrians make terms in Aramaic so that the people listening would not understand. Thus, Aramaic had become the language of international dialogue, but not of the common people.
Biblical Aramaic's relative chronology has mostly been debated in the context of dating the Book of Daniel. In 1929, Rowley argued that the origin must be later than the 6th century BCE and that the language was more similar to the Targums than the Imperial Aramaic documents available at his time. Others have argued that the language most closely resembles the 5th century Elephantine papyri and is therefore a good representative of typical Imperial Aramaic.Kenneth Kitchen takes an agnostic position, stating that the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel is compatible with any period from the 5th to early 2nd century BCE.
Aramaic and Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew is the main language of the Hebrew Bible. Aramaic only accounts for about 250 verses out of a total of over 23,000. Biblical Aramaic is closely related to Hebrew as both are in the Northwest Semitic language family. Some obvious similarities and differences are listed below.
Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26 – quotations of documents from the 5th century BCE concerning the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Other suggested occurrences
Genesis 15:1 – the word במחזה (ba-maħaze, "in a vision"). According to the Zohar (I:88b), this word is Aramaic, as the usual Hebrew word would be במראה (ba-mar’e).
Numbers 23:10 – the word רבע (rôḇa‘, usually translated as "stock" or "fourth part"). Rabbi J.H. Hertz, in his commentary on this verse, cites an unnamed scholar's claim that this is an Aramaic word meaning "dust."
Job 36:2a – Rashi, in his commentary on this verse, states that this phrase is in Aramaic.
^Saul Shaked, "Aramaic" Encyclopedia Iranica 2 (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 251
^Rowley, Harold Henry (1929). The Aramaic of the Old Testament: A Grammatical and Lexical Study of Its Relations with Other Early Aramaic Dialects. London: Oxford University Press. OCLC67575204.[page needed]
^Choi, Jongtae (1994), "The Aramaic of Daniel: Its Date, Place of Composition and Linguistic Comparison with Extra-Biblical Texts," Ph. D. dissertation (Deerfield, IL: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) 33125990 xvii, 288 pp.