from the eighth and seventh centuries whichcontain Neo-Assyrian legal formulae.
Hence, in order to reconstruct the transfer of literature from cuneiform to alphabetsthere are two main possibilities to consider.One is that Babylonian literature occasion-ally appeared to have been translated intoAramaic, Mandaic, or Syriac, although ithas never been possible to identify the exactAkkadian source or
for a later Aramaic literary text.
A second possibilityis that already in the court of Assyria liter-ary texts were being composed in Aramaic,without necessarily having been translatedfrom an Akkadian original, since we knowthat Aramaic was widely used in Assyriafrom at least the seventh century
. A goodexample of such a composition was the proverbs of Ahiqar,
which became popular in Greek circles and were known to Clementof Alexandria and Strabo, as well as in rab- binic literature,
and such Aramaic textsalso facilitated the transmission of Mesopo-tamian culture into later periods. One im- portant late source, however, which has yetto be properly mined for cuneiform relics isthe Babylonian Talmud, a rich repository of information regarding Babylonian life inthe second to fifth centuries
.There are several reasons why the Baby-lonian Talmud has been neglected as a wit-ness to late Babylonia. First of all, the per-spective of the 19th century
Wissenschaft des Judentums
school of interpretation of Jewish texts is that the Talmud was to becompared with Classical texts, mostly inGreek. There are several reasons for thisapproach, both valid and invalid. On onehand, when dealing with the Mishnah, Jeru-salem Talmud, and various Midrashim, allof which were primarily composed or edited in Palestine, a considerable amountof Greek influence can be detected reflect-ing strong Hellenistic influences of theRoman East.
Such is not the case, however,in the Babylonian Talmud, the Aramaic por-tions of which were composed in Babylo-nia, far removed from the Roman Empireand virtually any Hellenistic influence. Al-though some knowledge of Greek may haveexisted in Seleucid Babylonia among theruling classes, or among some foreign peo- ples, certainly by the Parthian and later Sas-sanian periods Greek was not spoken andnot known by the local population, includ-ing Babylonian rabbis.
Despite the effortsof the
Wissenschaft des Judentums
schoolto de-orientalise Judaism by associating theTalmud with Classical texts, the Babylo-nian setting of the Babylonian Talmud can-not be disregarded. There are almost noGreek loanwords in Babylonian Aramaic,
See inter alia M. Fales, “An Aramaic Tablet from TellShioukh Fawqani, Syria,”
46 (1996), 81-121; E.Lipi
ski, “Aramaic clay tablets from the Gozan-Harranarea”
33 (1995), 143-50, and T. Kwasman, “TwoAramaic legal documents,”
For an example of wisdom texts which appears to befrom Akkadian, cf. R. Murray, “Aramaic and Syriacdispute poems and their connections,” in M.J. Geller, J.C.Greenfield and M.P. Weitzman (eds.),
(Oxford, 1995), 157ff, see pp. 158-60.
See J.M. Lindenberger,
The Aramaic Proverbs of Ahi-qar
(Baltimore, 1983), 16-17, who argues that Aramaicwas the original language of this text, rather than Akka-dian.
Hellenism in Jewish Palestine
(NewYork, 1962); idem.,
Greek in Jewish Palestine
(NewYork, 1965); S. Kraus,
Griechische und lateinische Lehn-wörter im Talmud, Midrasch und Targum
The great differences between the cultural contexts of the two Talmuds – the Jerusalem and Babylonian Tal-muds – were largely ignored in earlier studies. The cul-tural gulf between the Græco-Roman world of Palestineand the Parthian world of Babylonia was large. The veryfew Greek words, such as
, whichfind their way into the Babylonian Talmud, were intro-duced into Babylonia as Greek loanwords in MishnaicHebrew or Palestinian Aramaic, although words such as“
” for “apostate” is a misuse of the Greek term“Epicurean.” For this reason, no Babylonian Amora can be demonstrated to have been influenced by Greek wri-ters, nor is it likely for any aspect of scientific thought tohave penetrated into Parthian Babylonia, the arch-enemyof the Roman Empire.