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Biblical Hebrew


Biblical Hebrew, also referred to as Classical Hebrew, is the archaic form of the Hebrew language that was spoken in the first half of the 1000 BC. The Hebrew Bible and vario
us Israelite inscriptions were written in Biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew differ with respect to grammar, vocabulary, and phonology. The Biblical Hebrew dialects flourished between the 12th and 6th centuries BC and comprise all of the Hebrew Bible with the exception of several Aramaic sections and isolated loanwords.

Linguistic and Historical Background

From a linguistic viewpoint, the Classical Hebrew language is usually divided into two major periods: regular Biblical Hebrew and later Biblical Hebrew. Later Biblical Hebrew shows first signs of what would later become Mishnaic Hebrew. Philological studies of the later Biblical books has shown the option that an effort was made to write in Biblical Hebrew even during the era when the spoken Hebrew was more similar to Mishnaic Hebrew, possibly because the Biblical Hebrew was perceived as a model of correct written Hebrew.
Regular Biblical Hebrew is further divided into the so called ‘Golden Age’ Biblical Hebrew (before 500 BCE) and ‘Silver Age’ Biblical Hebrew (500-60 BCE). Within the Biblical Hebrew dialects there are also distinct differences between the language of Biblical Hebrew prose and of Biblical Hebrew verse; some say that the verse dialect of Biblical Hebrew reflects an earlier form of Biblical Hebrew.
There are only a few authentic archaeological documents from the Biblical era that were written in Biblical Hebrew or similar languages. The scarcity of documents hinders the study of Biblical Hebrew. However, Biblical language is considered one of the eras of Biblical Hebrew. Modern adaptations of Biblical Hebrew are in active use today, mostly in the form of various modern Jewish dialects of Hebrew, as well as Samaritan Hebrew.

Biblical Hebrew characteristics

6 or 7 out of 29 phonemes have disappeared from Biblical Hebrew. Most words in Biblical Hebrew are derived from a verb root which is considered to consist of three consonants, or alternatively of three syllables some of which may have “null” vowels. There are exceptions to this rule though most of these are loan words from non-Semitic roots. Biblical Hebrew vocabulary is known to us only from the Biblical Hebrew in the bible. The words are mostly parallel to words in Semitic languages, or Aramaic and Akkadian.

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