Academic journal article Researchers World

Classical Hebrew Tongue and Old Testament Study

Academic journal article Researchers World

Classical Hebrew Tongue and Old Testament Study

Article excerpt


The paper investigated the significance of Hebrew tongue to the study of Old Testament. Authors of the "Hebrew canon, the law and the Book' (Old Testament) wrote in a language and culture far removed from our own and their key contractual obligation was to be intelligible for their own time. It requires training on our part to understand them in their own language. It is discovered that by learning Hebrew one learns the Jewish mindset, world view and Hebraic thought patterns. Hebrew is the key to Jewish self-sufficiency; its universality has helped to break down the barrier between the religious and the secular in Jewish locales. It is the best means and method to remove the clothing from the Scripture for apt intelligibility for our time and culture.

Keywords: Classical, Hebrew, language, Old Testament, Study


During the first one thousand years of Jewish history, Hebrew was spoken as a language. During the next two thousand years it was mainly used for literary purposes and as the language of worship. In modern times, Hebrew has once again become a living language, as well as the authorized dialect of the Israelites. But the Modern Hebrew is a modern construction which differs widely from biblical or classical Hebrew.

The ancient TaNakh ( ?????????? ?????????? ??????? ), rendered in Hebrew, is today called the Old Testament. Hebrew is the language of the culture, religion and civilization of the Jewish people since ancient times. Akao (1999) posits that Hebrew language is one of the indispensable tools for the study of the Old Testament. For any Old Testament or biblical scholar, a sound or working knowledge of Hebrew language is a pre - requisite.

Biblical or Biblical Hebrew represents the Hebrew language spoken by Jews between 1200 and 200 B.C. Although the language did not remain constant over the years, the form in which we now have it in Old Testament is the standardized form spoken during the Monarchical period, when most of the biblical writings were compiled or written. It may be mentioned in passing that, in the post-exilic era, spoken Hebrew came under the strong influence of other languages like Aramaic, Persian, and later Greek. But Biblical Hebrew was almost unaffected because it had already assumed literary form. This point becomes glaring when biblical Hebrew is compared with Rabbinic Hebrew of the Mishna.

Biblical Hebrew has affinities with other cognate Semitic languages. In fact it belongs to the northwest ancient Semitic language family which includes Babylonian, Assyrian, Arabic, Ethiopia, Aramaic, Ugaritic and Phoenician. A comparison with any of these language system helps at times to throw light on a difficult situation arising in course of exegetisation. Excavation in Syria and Palestine since the First World War has helped a lot in aiding textual, epigraphical and comparative philological study of Hebrew and other Semitic languages.

Unlike some of these languages from the same language family, Hebrew was originally written without vowels and its speakers depended, to a great extent for the correct pronunciation, on the context of the oral articulation of the language (Ebo 2005). Before the introduction of vowels, the difference in meaning was indicated and known only through pronunciation. The introduction of vowels was therefore, a welcome innovation to ease the problem of students studying Hebrew as a second language.

The innovation is owed to Jewish scholars called Massoretes (traditionalists/transmitters), who in Tiberias during the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. perfected a system of vowel notation and added it to the received consonantal text. And because the modern printed version of the Hebrew Bible derived from the activities of these scholars or Massoretes, it is commonly referred to as the Masoretic Text symbolized as MT.

Apart from the fairly large number of Universities in Nigeria and elsewhere offering courses in Religion or Christian Religious studies, there are over one thousand Christian Theological seminaries. …

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