4 Differences: Biblical Hebrew vs Modern Hebrew

hebrewpod101Hello Lingua Junkies!

What’s the difference between Biblical Hebrew vs. Modern Hebrew? Well, hello, hello. Today, we’ll touch the tip of the iceberg and try to answer this question. This is a great way for Hebrew language learners to to get acquainted. In this lesson…

  • You’re going to learn a bit about Biblical Hebrew
  • A bit about Modern Hebrew
  • And some differences between Biblical Hebrew vs. Modern Hebrew.

Note, this is not a complete list, not a well-crafted essay, but a start for beginners. However, IF i am missing anything, PLEASE comment below and I’ll add it in.

Hey, if you REALLY want to learn & speak Hebrew with 500+ audio/video courses, lessons by Hebrew teachers – Sign up at HebrewPod101 (click here) and start learning! I recommend ’em as a teacher & learner.

Now, onwards.

4 Differences: Biblical Hebrew vs Modern Hebrew

biblical hebrew vs modern hebrew

Biblical Hebrew:

  1. Biblical Hebrew (or classical Hebrew) was an ancient language that emerged in the 10th century B.C (or 1,000 B.C.).
  2. Over the next several centuries, the Hebrew people used it to communicate.
  3. They also used it to record their History, Religion, Poetry, Philosophy and Culture. A portion of these recordings became the basis of Hebrew Scriptures and the Bible.
  4. During the Roman Period: Biblical Hebrew evolved beyond recognition but it lived on in religious contexts.
    • Why evolved? The Jewish Diaspora. The Roman Empire conquered and exiled the Jews to various countries and nature and evolution took it’s course. Languages got mixed. New dialects were made.

So, in short, Biblical Hebrew is an ancient language. A lot of the ancient scriptures and the Bible were written in it. And, it “died.” Well, not died, but evolved.

Modern Hebrew:

So did Hebrew die as a language? Not completely.

  1. Hebrew experienced a revival in the 19th century – now what we know was “Modern Hebrew.”
    1. This was part of the Zionist Movement, or National Revival Movement to create a state/home for Jews.
  2. During this movement, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a lexicographer (dictionary writer/editor), prepared the first modern Hebrew dictionary.
  3. With the new dictionary, people started using Hebrew again and speaking 1 language. Remember? Because of the movement.
  4. Because of the influence of European languages (remember, the Jewish Diaspora and evolving mentioned above?), Hebrew changed as a language.
    1. Almost all aspects of the language were changed.
      1. Pronunciation
      2. Grammar
      3. Vocabulary

In short, modern Hebrew was brought back but was changed quite a bit.

Learn Hebrew with Hebrew Pod101.comSo now, you know the history. Now, Biblical Hebrew vs modern Hebrew – what’s the difference, language wise? Here are some examples:

1) The word for “I” changed…

  • biblical: anachi -ָא ֹנ ִכי
  • modern: ani -אני

2) Words from outside languages came into modern Hebrew.

  • concrete, which is “beton” in French, was adopted:בטון
  • schnitzel, or שניצל, came from German

And of course there are new words that didn’t exist in ancient times… like:

חשמל – Electricity. מחשב – Computer. מכונית – Car. טלפון – Telephone.

Which brings us to the 3rd point.

3) A Bibical Hebrew “speaker” wouldn’t understand a Modern one. And vice versa.

Okay, let’s just imagine that a Biblical Hebrew speaker had a time traveling machine and traveled to the future.

At this point in history, someone familiar only with Biblical Hebrew would not be able to communicate very well with contemporary native speakers. Why? See reasons 1 and 2 above. Lot’s has changed.

This brings us to the 4th point.

4) A modern Hebrew speaker can not easily read the Bible. Why? See reasons 1 to 3. The language has evolved. The Bible was written in classical/Biblical Hebrew.

Based on this, you know now what you should study.

  • If you want to read the Bible in its intended language, you need to learn Biblical Hebrew. However, you won’t really understand Modern Hebrew. Is that okay?
  • If you want to learn the prayers, Biblical is best… BUT there are modern Hebrew prayers as well.
  • If you want to learn to speak with people in Israel… and talk with everyday people, you need to learn Modern Hebrew.

And that’s it!

Note, this is not a complete list but a start for beginners. IF i am missing anything or if you have some feedback on the differences between biblical hebrew vs modern hebrew…

…leave a comment! I read them all!

Hope you enjoyed this!

– The Main Junkie

P.S. I highly recommend this for Hebrew learners. If you REALLY want to learn to Hebrew with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at HebrewPod101 (click here) and start learning!