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The many countries in which Syriac was spoken
Part 4 of 'The many countries in which Syriac was spoken'

Josephus is a very important witness in proof of the extent to which Syriac was known and used in the first century. He took part in the war against the Romans which led to the destruction of Jerusalem, A. D. 70. He was taken captive by them, and was well acquainted with all the events connected with the war. He wrote a history of it in Syriac; and states how great a multitude of people, living in different nations, from near the Caspian Sea to the bounds of Arabia, could read and understand what he had written in Syriac.
He afterwards wrote the same history in Greek, that those who spoke Greek, and those of the Romans, and of any other nation who knew Greek, but did not know Syriac, might read it also. He says, that in order to write the Greek history, he used at Rome the aid of persons who knew Greek; that Greek was to him a "foreign language;" (Jewish Antiquities, Book I.); and that very few of his countrymen knew it well. (Jewish Antiq. Bk. XX., Chap. IX.) He says in his two books against Apion, that Apion and others "had undertaken to make false charges against his history." In a long defence of it, he said of the Greeks, (Book I, Chap. 8,) "They see that some Greeks of the present time dare to write about these things, who neither were present at them, nor have taken care to get information from those who know about them." "But I have written a true history of the whole war, and of the particular events which occurred in it; for I was the general of those whom we call Galileans, so long as it was possible to resist; and I was taken and made captive by the Romans. Vespasian and Titus then kept me in custody, and compelled me to attend them." During the siege of Jerusalem, "Nothing was done which escaped my knowledge; for while I was observing whatever was done by the encamped army of the Romans, I carefully wrote it down; and I was the only person who understood what was told by those who delivered themselves up. Afterwards, having obtained leisure at Rome, the whole of my work being in a state of readiness, I made use of some to work with me in respect of the Greek tongue; and in this way I completed my account of those transactions. I had so strong a conviction of the truth of that account, that the first persons whom I selected to bear witness to it, were the chief commanders of the war, Vespasian and Titus. To them first, I gave my books; and I gave them afterwards to many of the Romans who had fought together in the war." It is evident from this account, that Vespasian and Titus knew Greek, and that if any of the Jews who delivered themselves up to the Romans during the siege, could have spoken Greek, Josephus would not have been the only person who understood them.
Josephus, in the Prologue to his Greek translation of the history of the war, says, "I have proposed to translate into the Greek tongue, and to relate for those who live under the rule of the Romans, what I before composed in the language of my own country, and sent to the upper barbarians." A. M. Ceriani, of Milan, speaks of a part of this history as still existing in the Ambrosian Library of Milan, in Syriac. There is other proof that Syriac must be the language which Josephus calls that of his own country. Josephus says, "I thought it would be unbecoming to overlook the perversion of the truth with respect to events so important, and that Parthians, and Babylonians, and the remotest Arabians, and those of our own race beyond the Euphrates, and those of Adiabene"--a part of Assyria--"should know correctly, by means of my diligence, whence the war began, and amid what great sufferings it proceeded, and how it ended; and that the Greeks, and those of the Romans who were not in the war, should be ignorant of these things, and should be deceived by flatteries or fictions." If we compare the countries mentioned in this passage of Josephus with those named in Acts ii., as countries from which devout Jews had come who were then "dwelling at Jerusalem," we find in both accounts Parthians, Arabians, and dwellers in Mesopotamia. The words of Josephus prove that Syriac was well understood in these countries as well as in Palestine; and that the tongues spoken by the apostles, which excited the surprise of those who came from these countries, must have been other tongues than Syriac, which was spoken or read both in Palestine and in these countries. Peter, after the miraculous gift of tongues, addressed "all" these persons
then dwelling at Jerusalem, (Acts ii., 5, 14,) and must have spoken in a language which "all" could understand; for he intreated all to "hearken to his words." (Acts ii. 14.) This is proof that there must have been some language which all understood, and as Josephus states that Syriac was so generally known throughout the East, and there is no proof that any other language was so generally known there, it seems that the language to which Peter intreated all to hearken must have been Syriac. So that the events of that Pentecost concur with the testimony of Josephus to show how widely the Syriac language was understood.

Shlama w'Burkate, Larry Kelsey

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The many countries in which Syriac was spoken - by Larry Kelsey - 02-02-2004, 02:10 AM
....... - by Larry Kelsey - 02-02-2004, 03:17 AM
......... - by Larry Kelsey - 02-02-2004, 05:31 AM
Re: - by Larry Kelsey - 02-21-2004, 10:19 PM

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