A Very Brief History of Hebrew

Hebrew is one of the few ancient languages still used in a modern context. Hebrew is member of the Semitic Language group. From ancient Israel throughout the Diaspora to the present day, Hebrew has been one of the languages of the Jewish people. It is written using an Aramaic alphabet and is written and read from right to left.

The development of Hebrew has passed through 4 major phases:

Biblical Hebrew is the classical form of the language and is the language that the first five books of the Old Testament or Tanakh was written in. The oldest written example of this version of Hebrew is the Gezer Calendar that dates from the 10th Century Before the Common Era (BCE) about the time of Davidic Kingdom of Israel. By the time of Jesus, in the 1st CE, Aramaic had replaced Classical Hebrew in common usage but Biblical Hebrew was still used in worship and to read the Tanakh.

Amoraic Hebrew is the Hebrew of the Mishna and Talmud. This form of the language is also called Rabbinic Hebrew. This version grew out of the Jewish Diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and achieved its final, classic structure by the end of 2nd Century CE.

Medieval Hebrew is the version used to translate Arabic into Hebrew and then into other languages. With the necessity to express technical and philosophical ideas from Classical Greek and Medieval Arabic caused a great deal of borrowing of terminology and grammar from those other languages, or to create expressions from than existing Hebrew, gave rise to a distinct style of Hebrew that was well suited to discussions of philosophy and science.

Updated and revised in the 19th Century CE, Modern Hebrew has had to borrow many words and concepts from Western Languages such as German, English and Yiddish. Modern Hebrew is the official language of modern Israel.


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