Readings in Jewish Aramaic
Dr. John C. Reeves
Office hours: by appointment only
Course description: This course provides an introduction to the Aramaic language for those graduate students who are already reasonably conversant with the linguistic structures of biblical Hebrew. We will learn the basic principles of Aramaic grammar, vocabulary, and syntax while simultaneously reading and translating Aramaic texts drawn from the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish epigraphic inscriptions, and rabbinic literature.
Frederick E. Greenspahn, An Introduction to Aramaic (2d ed.; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).
K. Elliger, et al., eds., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1977).
Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (reprinted, New York: Judaica Press, 1980). It is available online here.
Most Aramaic texts will be reproduced and distributed as needed by the instructor from the following works:
Klaus Beyer, Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984).
Gustaf Dalman, ed., Aramäische Dialektproben (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1896).
Adalbertus Merx, ed., Chrestomathia Targumica (Berlin: H. Reuther, 1888).
Jul. Henr. Petermann, ed., Brevis Linguae Chaldaicae (2d ed.; Berlin: G. Eichler, 1872).
Hermann L. Strack, Grammatik des biblisch-aramäischen (6th ed.; München: C. H. Beck, 1921).
Recommended purchases: (* = not available at UNC Charlotte bookstore)
*Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1961), or later reprints. I can provide you with an electronic copy of this resource.
*Joseph A. Fitzmyer & Daniel J. Harrington, A Manual of Palestinian Aramaic Texts (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1978).
*Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (2d ed.; Ramat-Gan: Bar Ilan University Press, 2002).
Supplementary readings and/or exercises will be assigned or distributed by the instructor as needed.
a. Diligent attendance. Almost perfect attendance is an essential requirement for this course. Each class session builds upon the knowledge gained and skills acquired during previous meetings. Moreover, oral recitation and discussion of assigned readings comprises a significant portion of almost every class session; if you are not present to recite or otherwise participate, a value of 0 for this portion of your grade is the inevitable result. The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, class preparation, homework exercises, performance on quizzes (should such be required), and oral recitation will constitute 100% of the final course grade.
b. Critical discussions. Almost every week during a portion of the class period students will orally expound and collectively discuss the content of at least one secondary article or essay that has been previously assigned by the instructor. Individual students may be asked to present and guide our discussions. The readings will initially come from the bibliography of articles listed below. The instructor’s evaluation of the student’s contributions to these assignments will be factored into the class preparation component of the final course grade.
c. Each student is responsible for all lectures, class discussions, assignments, and announcements, whether or not he/she is present when they occur.
d. It is the policy of UNC Charlotte for the Fall 2020 semester that as a condition of on-campus enrollment, all students are required to engage in safe behaviors to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Such behaviors specifically include the requirement that all students properly wear CDC-compliant face coverings while in buildings including in this classroom. Students are permitted to remove face coverings in the classroom only when I explicitly grant permission to do so (such as while asking a question, participating in class discussion, or giving a presentation) and while at an appropriate physical distance from others. Failure to comply with this policy in this classroom may result in dismissal from the current class session. If a student refuses to follow this policy, s/he will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity for charges under the Code of Student Responsibility.
a. The grading scale used in this course is as follows:
b. One of the requirements of this course is to complete the work of the course on time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for late work—an illness or other emergency. ‘Emergency,’ however, does not include your social involvements, travel plans, job schedule, disk, wi-fi, and/or printer failures, the state of your love life, your obligations to other courses, or general malaise over the state of the world. The world has been in a mess as long as anyone can remember, and most of the world’s work is done by people whose lives are a mass of futility and discontent. If you haven’t learned yet, you had better learn now to work under the conditions of the world as it is. Therefore:
1) All assignments are due at their announced dates and times. In other words (and please note well!), there will be NO MAKEUP OPPORTUNITIES scheduled. All missed assignments (these include weekly oral recitations!) will be averaged as a 0 in the computation of the course grade. No exceptions will be considered or granted.
2) Written homework exercises must be typed, double-spaced, and submitted by email to me in either Microsoft Word or Adobe format prior to the start of the class for which they have been assigned. No physical copies of homework will be accepted or returned. Written homework exercises are assessed according to the following formulae: √+ = A (roughly 5 or fewer errors); √ = B (roughly 6-20 errors); √- = U (more than 20 errors and/or incomplete work).
3) For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; B=85; C=75; U=35.
4) Since your diligent physical participation is critical for the success of this course, attendance at class meetings will be monitored by the instructor. One absence is regrettable; two absences are the limit of tolerability. Three (3) or more absences will result in an automatic U for the course. Please note that the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
c. For absences related to COVID-19, please adhere to the following:
- Do not come to class if you are sick. Please protect your health and the health of others by staying home. Contact your healthcare provider if you believe you are ill.
- If you are sick: If you test positive or are evaluated by a healthcare provider for symptoms of COVID-19, complete this form to alert the University. Representatives from Emergency Management and/or the Student Health Center will follow up with you as necessary, and your instructors will be notified.
- If you have been exposed to COVID-19 positive individuals and/or have been notified to self-quarantine due to exposure, complete this form to alert the University. Representatives from Emergency Management and/or the Student Health Center will follow up with you as necessary, and your instructors will be notified.
To return to class after being absent due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or due to a period of self-quarantine, students should submit an online request form to Student Assistance and Support Services (SASS). Supporting documentation can be attached directly to the request form and should be from a student’s health care provider or the Student Health Center, clearly indicating the dates of absences and the date the student is able to return to class. Instructors will be notified of such absences.
If you are absent from class as a result of a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine, I will try to help you continue to make progress in the course by providing remote learning resources and/or assignments. Please bear in mind that the final decision for approval of all absences and missed work in this course is determined by the instructor.
d. Assistance and solicitation of criticism is your right as a member of the class. It is not a privilege to be granted or withheld. Do not hesitate to request it nor wait too late in the course for it to be of help.
e. A very important online resource for all things Aramaic is the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon.
f. The standards, requirements, and procedures set forth in this syllabus are subject to modification at any time by the course instructor. Notice of such changes will be by announcement in class, or by email, or by changes to this syllabus posted on the course website at https://pages.charlotte.edu/john-reeves/course-materials/.
ARAMAIC LANGUAGE AND CULTURE BIBLIOGRAPHY
Philip S. Alexander, “Jewish Aramaic Translations of Hebrew Scriptures,” in Martin Jan Mulder, ed., Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (CRINT 2.1; Assen/Philadelphia: Van Gorcum/Fortress Press, 1988), 217-53.
______, “The Rabbinic Lists of Forbidden Targumim,” Journal of Jewish Studies 27 (1976): 177-91.
Paul-Alain Beaulieu, “The Babylonian Background of the Motif of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3,” Journal of Biblical Literature 128 (2009): 273-90.
Moshe J. Bernstein, “Divine Titles and Epithets and the Sources of the Genesis Apocryphon,” Journal of Biblical Literature 128 (2009): 291-310.
Yochanan Breuer, “Aramaic in Late Antiquity,” in Steven T. Katz, ed., The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume IV: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 457-91.
______, “The Aramaic of the Talmudic Period,” in Shmuel Safrai, et al., eds., The Literature of the Sages, Second Part: Midrash and Targum, Liturgy, Poetry, Mysticism, Contracts, Inscriptions, Ancient Science, and the Languages of Rabbinic Literature (CRINT 2.3b; Assen/Minneapolis: Royal Van Gorcum/Fortress Press, 2006), 597-625.
Sebastian Brock, “Jewish Traditions in Syriac Sources,” Journal of Jewish Studies 30 (1979): 212-32.
Raymond A. Brown, “Arameans, Aramaic, and the Bible,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 7 (1948): 65-90.
John J. Collins, “Jewish Apocalyptic Against its Hellenistic Near Eastern Environment,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 220 (1975): 27-36.
Steven D. Fraade, “Rabbinic Views on the Practice of Targum, and Multilingualism in the Jewish Galilee of the Third-Sixth Centuries,” in Lee I. Levine, ed., The Galilee in Late Antiquity (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1992), 253-86.
Jonas C. Greenfield, “Aramaic and its Dialects,” in Herbert H. Paper, ed., Jewish Languages: Themes and Variations (Cambridge, Mass.: Association for Jewish Studies, 1978), 29-43.
______, “Aramaic in the Achaemenian Empire,” in Ilya Gershevitch, ed., The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume Two: The Median and Achaemenian Periods (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 698-713; 918-22.
______, “Standard Literary Aramaic,” in André Caquot and David Cohen, eds., Actes du premier Congrès international de linguistique sémitique et chamito-sémitique, Paris, 16-19 juillet 1969 (The Hague: Mouton, 1974), 280-89.
J[onas]. C. Greenfield and M[ichael]. Sokoloff, “Astrological and Related Omen Texts in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 48 (1989): 201-214.
Robert Hayward, “The Date of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Some Comments,” Journal of Jewish Studies 40 (1989): 7-30.
______, “Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan,” Journal of Jewish Studies 42 (1991): 215-46.
Tawny L. Holm, “The Fiery Furnace in the Book of Daniel and the Ancient Near East,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 128 (2008): 85-104.
Paul Kahle, “The Translations of the Bible,” in idem, The Cairo Geniza (2d ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 1959), 191-208.
Stephen A. Kaufman, “Dating the Language of the Palestinian Targums and Their Use in the Study of First Century CE Texts,” in D. R. G. Beattie and M. J. McNamara, eds., The Aramaic Bible: Targums in Their Historical Context (JSOTSupSer 166; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 118-41.
Samson H. Levey, “The Date of Targum Jonathan to the Prophets,” Vetus Testamentum 21 (1971): 186-96.
Christa Müller-Kessler, “The Earliest Evidence for Targum Onkelos from Babylonia and the Question of its Dialect and Origin,” Journal for the Aramaic Bible 3 (2001): 181-98.
Donald C. Polaski, “Mene, Mene, Teqel, Parsin: Writing and Resistance in Daniel 5 and 6,” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 (2004): 649-69.
John C. Reeves, “Manichaica Aramaica? Adam and the Magical Deliverance of Seth,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 119 (1999): 432-39.
John C. Reeves and Lu Waggoner, “An Illustration from the Apocrypha in an Eighteenth Century Passover Haggadah,” Hebrew Union College Annual 59 (1988): 253-68.
Zeev Safrai, “The Targums as Part of Rabbinic Literature,” in Safrai, et al., eds., The Literature of the Sages, Second Part …, 243-78.
Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135): A New English Version (3 vols. in 4; rev. & ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Martin Goodman; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973-87), 2:20-28.
Avigdor Shinan, “The ‘Palestinian’ Targums: Repetitions, Internal Unity, Contradictions,” Journal of Jewish Studies 36 (1985): 72-87.
______, “Dating Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Some More Comments,” Journal of Jewish Studies 41 (1990): 57-61.
Morton Smith, “Aramaic Studies and the Study of the New Testament,” Journal of Bible and Religion 26 (1958): 304-13.
Richard C. Steiner, “The Heading of the ‘Book of the Words of Noah’ on a Fragment of the Genesis Apocryphon: New Light on a ‘Lost’ Work,” Dead Sea Discoveries 2 (1995): 66-71.
______, “Papyrus Amherst 63: A New Source for the Language, Literature, Religion, and History of the Aramaeans,” in M. J. Geller, et al., eds., Studia Aramaica: New Sources and New Approaches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 199-207.
Harry Sysling, “The Use of Dramatic and Erotic Elements as a Literary Technique in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan,” Journal for the Aramaic Bible 1 (1999): 147-61.
Abraham Tal, “Is There a Raison d’Être for an Aramaic Targum in a Hebrew-Speaking Society?” Revue des études juives 160 (2001): 357-78.
Ben Zion Wacholder, “The Ancient Judaeo-Aramaic Literature (500-164 BCE): A Classification of Pre-Qumranic Texts,” in Lawrence H. Schiffman, ed., Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990), 257-81.
Joseph Yahalom, “Angels Do Not Understand Aramaic: On the Literary Use of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Jewish Studies 47 (1996): 33-44.
 Normally this specific course requires as its minimum prerequisite: (1) the successful completion at UNC Charlotte of LACS 1201 and 1202; i.e., ‘Introduction to Biblical Hebrew I’ and ‘II’; or (2) an equivalent sequence of introductory biblical Hebrew courses at another institution of higher learning; i.e., amounting to two semesters, three quarters, or one year; or (3) the verbal permission of the instructor.
 Almost every class meeting will conclude with the assignment of readings and homework drawn initially from Greenspahn. Unless stated otherwise, such assignments fall due at the next class meeting.