In the lessons discussing Examples of Biblical Aramaic, we have seen that sections of the Tanakh are written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. These sections include:
Two words in Genesis.
A sentence (a complete verse) in Jeremiah.
A significant portion of Daniel and Ezra.
Why should these particular sections be written in Aramaic and not Hebrew? While numerous theories abound and unproven speculations are rampant, we would like to suggest one possibility.
The Tanakh was given by YHWH to the Jewish people. It is therefore written in Hebrew, the Holy Language. However, Aramaic is used whenever the Jewish people are absent from the Land of Israel, or when YHWH’s Word is primarily intended for the nations (Gentiles), not just for Jews. Therefore, Aramaic is used whenever a Holy Language is still needed (since this is the Inspired Word of YHWH) but when either the nations are primarily being addressed, or when Israel is no longer in the Holy Land.
Consider how this suggestion works out in the passages above:
In Genesis, Jacob (Israel) leaves Erets Israel and moves to Mesopotamia. Laban speaks Aramaic, and so temporarily Jacob also has to speak Aramaic. Laban named the pillar of stones in Aramaic, and Jacob was outside of the Land of Israel at this time.
The verse in Jeremiah was intended for the surrounding nations, not for Israel, and was therefore given in Aramaic.
The portions of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic were given while Israel was in exile in Babylon and were also intended for the surrounding nations to understand. Daniel, in particular, covers prophecies related to the nations, and therefore Aramaic was again used.
A pattern is therefore emerging. Hebrew is used when Israel is being addressed, in the Holy Land. Aramaic is used when Israel is out of the Holy Land, or when the surrounding nations are being addressed.
This explains why the New Testament was written in Aramaic (i.e. the Peshitta or Aramaic New Testament) and not in Hebrew, Greek, English or any other language. The New Testament covers the time when Israel is in the diaspora, and when the gospel message was directed primarily to the nations (Gentiles). It is therefore written in Aramaic.
However, after 2000 years, Jews are once again returning to Erets Israel. Israel is back in the Holy Land, and Hebrew (the Holy Language) is being spoken again. Hebrew will once again take its rightful place among the nations of the world, and is set to become The Future Language of the World.