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The religious and linguistic landscape at the time of the Arab invasion

Reader comment on item: Not Stealing Palestine but Purchasing Israel
in response to reader comment: Modern Greeks and Ancient Greeks.

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Aug 7, 2018 at 15:03

RC you wrote:

>Christian Palestinians were predominately the descendants of the Byzantine Christian population that inhabited the Holy Land prior to the Islamic conquests in the 7th century. As for the Muslim Palestinians, I always believed that they were descendants of numerous Bedouin tribes that gradually infiltrated into the area since the demise of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291.

This is a very brief introduction to the linguistic and religious landscape of the Middle East in late antiquity.

At the time of the Arab invasion of Palestine and Aelia (Jerusalem) after the death of Muhammad in 632CE almost all of the population in Palestine spoke Syriac/Aramaic including the Jews as well as Armenian. Remember Jesus' first language was Aramaic (BTW Syriac is Middle Aramaic) And yes, the language of the Synagogue was Hebrew. However, it might come as a surprise to some that Aramaic was not far behind (remember The Mourners Qaddish ܩܕܝܫܐ קדיש is Aramaic, and yes some of the words eg: Yugadal is not Aramaic but Hebrew as there is no Gadal root in Aramaic/Syriac. Surprisingly enough many Arabic speakers can understand it) Even the Arab tribes in Greater Syria and Mesopotamia be it the Lakhmids or the Ghassanids spoke Syriac or a hybrid of Syriac and Arabic as attested in the language of the Qur'an where the reader of the Qur'an (without the help of al-Mufasereen) must have some command of Syriac to be able to understand what the text is saying

How about the religious landscape at the time of the Arab invasion? It was predominantly Christian (various denominations be it Melkites, Jacobites, Nestorians, Armenian etc...) with a significant Jewish presence as well as pagans. The Arab tribes followed mostly non-Trinatarian Syrian Christianity

So, were those Arab invaders from al-Hijaz? May be but not likely! However, Syriac speakers called them Tayyaye which is the Syriac word used for local Arabs They also called them other names including Sarqaya (thieves compare with Arabic Sariq or thief) which is most likely the source of the word Saracens!

How about the Greek language and Hellenism? Greek was a very important language and not unlike English language now. It was the language of the NT and the language of education and the educated elite, medicine and philosophy but not the language of the masses (compare with the language landscape in Egypt in the 7th century and Greek v Egyptian/Coptic).


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