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The Differences Between Biblical And Modern Hebrew

There are two versions of Hebrew that everyone’s aware of that include Biblical and Modern Hebrew. They have been always considered as two separate languages given the vast differences they have. While they do have differences, they also have a few similarities as well, thus you can’t say they’re completely different languages. What you can say is that they are two different variations of the same language. 

Let’s look at what differences the two variations hold in today’s time. 


1. Grammar and punctuation

When the two variations are compared, the Modern Hebrew seems to be easier to understand. This is primarily because of the lack of grammar and punctuation present in the Biblical Hebrew. 


2. Pronunciation

Most people who speak Biblical Hebrew pronounce it like Modern Hebrew but the two have very different pronunciation. Many of the sounds that Biblical Hebrew has aren’t present in Modern Hebrew. 


3. Vocabulary 

When it comes to the vocabulary, Biblical Hebrew is limited to only 8,000 words as the bible only has these many words. On the other hand, Modern Hebrew has over 100,000 words. 


4. Modern Hebrew’s verb system is similar to English

Modern Hebrew has a verb system (subject-verb-object), that is similar to English, therefore, easier to understand as opposed to Biblical Hebrew. For instance, in Biblical Hebrew, there are only two tenses including perfect and imperfect.


5. Modern Hebrew is a mix of different languages

While Biblical Hebrew is strictly the authentic classical language, Hebrew is a mix of different languages that includes many foreign languages as well. It also includes the language of the Sages and the Middle Ages. 


6. Biblical Hebrew speakers won’t completely understand Modern Hebrew

Modern Hebrew has had many advancements over the years, therefore, someone who has only learned Biblical Hebrew will not be able to understand Modern Hebrew completely. 


7. Modern Hebrew speakers can’t read the Bible easily

Just how Biblical Hebrew speakers find it difficult to understand Modern Hebrew, people who speak Modern Hebrew will not be able to read the Bible easily at all. 


8. Modern Hebrew’s standardized syntax

Modern Hebrew and Biblical Hebrew are very different when it comes to the syntax. Modern Hebrew has a standardized syntax, whereas, Biblical Hebrew doesn’t which makes this variation difficult to understand. 


9. Hebrew underwent a revival around the 19th century

Hebrew underwent a revival in the 19th century, after which it was actively used in communication. This is the time where the two variations of Biblical and Modern Hebrew arose. 


10. Use of Biblical Hebrew is limited

Modern Hebrew is the common language these days in Israel, leaving Biblical Hebrew being used by only a small number of people. It is mainly used for prayers and other religious practices. 


11. Separate dictionaries

It’s no surprise that the two variations of the Hebrew language have their own separate dictionaries. Since the vocabulary is very different from the two, people opt for different dictionaries to search for meanings. 

Many compare the two languages to the English we know now and old English. They’re spoken and written completely different, and they’re used in different contexts.  



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