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Biblical Hebrew vs Modern Hebrew

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Background & History:

Around 9 million people worldwide are speaking Hebrew, and modern Hebrew is the official language - שָׂפָה רִשְׁמִית (safa rishmit) in Israel.

Hebrew flourished as an everyday spoken language in the Kingdoms of Israel – cnaan – כְּנָעַן (cnaan) during about 1200 to 586 BCE. At a certain time in the late 2nd century CE or a little later, most Jews ceased to use Hebrew as a spoken language, but it continued to be used as a literary language, and was the main writing language of the Jews. Almost all the books of the bible are written in ancient (Biblical) Hebrew – עִבְרִית מִקְרָאִית (evreet mikraeet). For a very long time, This language was not spoken, until its revival as a spoken language in the late 19th century.


What are the differences?

Today's Hebrew - the one we speak, hear, read, and write every day - is a new Hebrew. This Hebrew is different from the Hebrew of our forefathers. It is a mixture of all its ancient sources: the biblical Hebrew language, the language of the Sages and the language of the Middle Ages, with some new additions: new Hebrew words, foreign words that came from foreign languages, and words and phrases from slang. So it is quite possible that In one sentence you can find old words of more than 3000 years old, with some new words that were born a year or two ago. If we will let an Israeli person read the bible, he will be able to read it and understand some of it, because the alphabet is exactly the same, and the pronunciation too. However some biblical words we don’t use today, and to understand the meaning, one will need the help of experts, or - Biblical commentators – פַּרְשָׁנֵי מִקְרָא (parshaney mikra). There are about 8,000 words in the Bible. Some of the words are equivalent to words in the nearby Semitic languages, and there is also a borrowing of words from other languages, such as Aramaic אֲרַמִּית (aramit) - and Akkadian.

Various words in the Bible are singular words whose meaning is not clearly known. Many biblical words have several meanings, and the structure of the biblical sentence is also very different from modern Hebrew. Therefore, in order to understand the Bible, the majority of the people read it with the help of commentators books.


Why do we need to learn biblical Hebrew? We think that is it always best to read the book in the language it was written in. That is why we want to make it possible to anyone who wants to know a little more, read the biblical stories, know how the ancient language sounded like, and of course - to pray in correct biblical Hebrew – the way it was meant to be pronounced. If you didn’t know - Israeli schools teach the bible starting from the first grade. They learn about all the important biblical events, and the meaning behind them. Many people want to learn Hebrew for various reasons. Some want to learn Hebrew for business purposes, academic purposes, and some people want to learn Hebrew out of solidarity with the Jewish people. According to Jewish tradition, the angels use this language, Therefore, the language is called the Holy Tongue - שְׂפַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ (sfat hakodesh)


What can you do in order to read and understand the Bible?

Well, we built a very simple and straightforward Biblical Hebrew course. It goes like this: You will learn all the letters.

How to pronounce them, by learning the biblical vowels.

Reading simple words at first together with the teacher, and then getting familiar with many common biblical words.

Reading full verses, and after that, reading a full chapter ( together with us )

Along with a lot of extras and quizzes that will make sure you get all the practice you need. Try it out, good luck, and make sure that next time you pray, you do it the right way!

For Biblical Hebrew - Start Here

For Modern Hebrew - Start Here

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