- Weekly Hours2 hrs
- Duration9 Months
- AccreditationThis course is worth 3 credits at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This course takes you through the history of Biblical Hebrew as it evolved throughout the ages and introduces you to language registers and ancient literature, like the Dead Sea Scrolls.Read More
Dr. Ohad Cohen
Dr. Ohad Cohen was a linguistics researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he is now a Faculty Member at the Department of Hebrew…
Introduction & Basic Terms
Welcome to Course E! In this unit we introduce the basic concepts that will direct our discussions in this course. How does a “diachronic” description of the Hebrew language differ from the “synchronic” description that has guided our first four courses? What is “comparative Semitic linguistics,” and how can this help us to better understand the Hebrew?
As our course will follow the timeline of the Hebrew language from early to late, we begin by discussing the consonants of the Proto-Semitic language that preceded biblical Hebrew. How did the 29 original Semitic consonants become the 23 that we see in the Hebrew of the biblical text? How does this affect our understanding of Hebrew vocabulary?
Consonant Shifts: Emphatics
In this unit we continue our discussion of consonant shifts in Semitic languages and how this phenomenon affects the vocabulary of biblical Hebrew. What are the “emphatic” consonants? How many were there in Proto-Semitic, and how did they enter biblical Hebrew? These are the questions we will answer as we look through biblical vocabulary for examples.
Consonant Shifts: Uvulars
We conclude our discussion of consonant shifts by examining the history of the Proto-Semitic uvular
consonants [ġ] and [h] and their relationship to the Hebrew gutturals. What are “uvular” consonants? How can the Greek of the Septuagint teach us more about how these consonants shifted in the Hebrew language?
Archaic Biblical Poetry
In this unit we begin to turn our attention to the earliest stage of Hebrew that we see in the biblical text: Archaic Biblical Poetry. What are the three distinct stages of Hebrew that we see in the text, and how can we distinguish archaic poetry from the other two? What are some of the methodological problems with identifying these texts as archaic?
The Song of the Sea
We continue our study of the ancient Hebrew seen in the “Song of the Sea” (Exodus 15:1-18). What additional signs of archaic language are apparent in this poem? What are some ways in which comparison to other Semitic languages can help us here?
The Song of Deborah
Continuing our discussion of archaic poetry, we move to the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. What are some of the signs of early language we see in this text? We’ll learn about an unusual verb form and examine some of the poetic structures used in this song.
Archaic Poetry: The Question of Dialect
In this unit, we expand our discussion of archaic poetry to include the larger question of different dialects in the biblical text. Did local dialects vary in different regions of ancient Israel, and how do we know? We will explore this issue of dialect by examining the relative pronouns used in archaic poetry and elsewhere.
Archaic Poetry: Summary
Over the last four units, we have isolated specific linguistic phenomena in the Song of the Sea and the Song of Deborah to learn about the language of archaic poetry. What are some of the methodological problems with comparing this language to classical prose? What evidence about the linguistic history have we seen in the morphology, syntax, and vocabulary of these songs?
The First Temple Period
In this unit we turn our attention to the next stage of the Hebrew language: the “First Temple Period.” What are the historical boundaries of this stage, and where does it appear in the biblical text? What was this language called by its speakers? After addressing these general questions, we will begin to discuss how the vocabulary of this period is distinct.
First Temple Prose: The Verbal System
In this unit we continue our discussion of Hebrew in the First Temple Period by turning to the verbal system. After giving a brief overview of the verb forms we discussed in our previous courses, we will focus on the sequential verb forms Wayyiqtol and Weqatal. How are these forms used in similar ways in First Temple prose, and where do they differ?
First Temple Verbs, con’t
In this unit we will begin by continuing our discussion of the Wayyiqtol form. Does this verb always mark
chronological sequence, or does it also have other uses? We will then turn our attention to the unusual verb form ןוּל ְט ְק.Howִי ancient is this form, and does it have any special meaning in Biblical Hebrew?
First Temple Period: Summary
The purpose of this unit is to summarize the distinguishing characteristics of the First Temple Period language that we have discussed. During what period of time was this stage of Hebrew written down? How do its vocabulary, syntax, and morphology set it apart from both archaic poetry and the language of the Second Temple Period?
Hebrew Inscriptions (First Temple Period)
How can we learn about First Temple Period Hebrew from sources outside the biblical text? Over the past
century, archaeologists have found a number of inscriptions from this time period that offer new insight
into the Hebrew language. After seeing a general overview of these inscriptions, we will focus on the
Siloam Tunnel Inscription found in Jerusalem.
Arad Letters and Samaria Ostraca
In this unit we continue our discussion of First Temple Period inscriptions by examining several ostraca found in the Judean town of Arad and the Israelite town of Samaria. In addition to offering us a more detailed glimpse into the daily life of biblical times, these inscriptions can help us to address the question of the different dialects of First Temple Period Hebrew.
Mesad Hashavyahu Inscription
Our discussion of ancient Hebrew inscriptions continues with an ostracon found in a town near the Judean coast. In this letter of complaint to a local official, we will again find both similarities to the biblical text and some interesting variants. What can our observations teach us about the cultural and linguistic reality of the First Temple Period?
1TP Inscriptions: A Summary
In this unit we will summarize what we have learned about Biblical Hebrew from the inscriptions we have
discussed in the last three lessons. What in these inscriptions is similar to Biblical Hebrew, and how are they different? What can the differences teach us about the history of the Hebrew in the biblical text?
The Second Temple Period
We now turn the focus of our discussion to the Second Temple Period. When did this period begin, and what biblical books does it include? Why is the Aramaic language so significant for understanding the development of Hebrew during this time?
In this unit we continue our discussion of Second Temple Period Hebrew by examining its unique linguistic characteristics, such as vocabulary from sources outside the Hebrew language (e.g. Persian and Aramaic). How can we determine when an Aramaic word is actually a late element in Hebrew and not simply a reflection of the shared heritage of these two languages?
Late Biblical Hebrew in 1QIsa
In this unit we explore the later stages of the Second Temple Period by examining the Isaiah Scroll (1st c.
B.C.E.) discovered at Qumran. What are the signs that this scroll reflects the language of its time, while the Masoretic version preserves more closely the original text of Isaiah? What can these signs teach us about the development of Hebrew in this period?
Infinitive Construct in the Second Temple Period
A significant change in the use of the infinitive construct form occurred in the Second Temple Period. In this unit we will examine some of the different contexts in which this form appears. Which verb form(s) fulfilled these roles in First Temple Period literature?
Infinitive Absolute in the Second Temple Period
As with the infinitive construct, so too the use of the infinitive absolute went through a significant development in the Second Temple Period. After reviewing the common uses of this form in the First Temple Period, we will see which verb form(s) it can replace in later Hebrew and in which contexts this exchange is likely to occur.
Second Temple Period: Summary
In this unit we will summarize what we have learned over the last few units about Hebrew in the Second Temple Period. What are some of the unique linguistic features that characterize the language of this period and distinguish it from earlier and later stages of Hebrew, both in its vocabulary and in its syntax?
Language of the Dead Sea Scrolls
In the final section of our course, we will examine the language of the later Second Temple Period, as reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Where and when were these scrolls found, and why are they so significant for our understanding of Hebrew? What can the phonetic spelling in these scrolls teach us about the Hebrew language of this period?
Vocabulary of the Dead Sea Scrolls
In this unit we continue our discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls by examining the vocabulary used in these texts. Most of the vocabulary is familiar to us from Biblical Hebrew, but we will see that it shares a special affinity with late Biblical Hebrew. What can be said about the vocabulary that does not appear in the biblical text? Do we know it from any other sources?
Dead Sea Scrolls: הלטקאו
We turn back to the Hebrew verbal system in this unit, examining a verb form that is widely used in the Dead Sea Scrolls: the הָ לְָטְָקָ אָוform. Do we see this form in any stage of Biblical Hebrew? How can a comparison between the different stages of Biblical Hebrew, and even between Hebrew and the Moabite language, help us to trace the history of this verb form?
Dead Sea Scrolls: Summary
In this unit we will summarize what we have learned about the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls. How does this language relate to both Late Biblical Hebrew and Rabbinic Hebrew? How is it unique within itself? Understanding more about the language of these scrolls gives us a broader picture of the historical development of the Hebrew language.
Where We’ve Been
In this final unit we pause to look back at how far we’ve come since Unit 1. We have discussed over 1,000 years of the historical development of the Hebrew language, from pre-biblical consonant shifts to Biblical Hebrew (archaic poetry, First Temple Period, and Second Temple Period) to the later language of the Dead Sea Scrolls. What characterizes each of these stages?
This Course is Fully Acknowledged by the Hebrew University
- Get full academic credit for this course from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Valid in any academic institution that acknowledges credit from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Receive an official Israel Institute of Biblical Studies certificate upon completing this course
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- Recorded LessonsAll lessons are recorded and available on demand.
- Technical SupportAvailable 24/7 to assist you.
- Extra Practice SessionsA weekly teacher session for Q&A and discussion groups.