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Q&A

Resources for a speaker of Modern Hebrew to learn Biblical Hebrew?

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Re-asking a question I answered elsewhere:

As a speaker of modern Hebrew I[1], I can tell that some things have changed since the Hebrew of the bible -- some words I think I know just don't make sense. Are there any studies that compare the two languages, that would help people whose knowledge of modern Hebrew might be hindering reading of ancient texts?


  1. Not I Monica, but "I" the original asker. ↩︎

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I don't know if it counts as a study, but how about a relevant textbook?

The book Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew by Marc Zvi Brettler looks like it will help you. It's used in the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College and probably other places (though I only have first-hand knowledge of HUC). Some academic programs I'm aware of start by teaching (or otherwise ensuring that students know) Modern Hebrew and then teach older forms based on that.

There are, as you observed, key differences between modern and biblical Hebrew (and the idea of one "biblical Hebrew" also doesn't stand up to scrutiny). These differences are in both form/grammar and vocabulary.

From the author's preface:

Yet BH and MIH are two different languages -- or at the very least, two substantially different dialects of the same language. MIH is certainly useful for reading the Bible, but no one can understand the Hebrew Bible knowing only MIH. There are significant differences in vocabulary, spelling, verb formation, use of verbal suffixes, and word order.

Learning biblical Hebrew as a speaker of modern Hebrew in our Resources category summarizes some key points from this book.

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