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The texts are dated between and B. These tablets contain many words and phrases that are almost identical to words found in the Hebrew Bible. The poetic structure of the Ugaritic language is mirrored in many passages of the Old Testament, such as the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. The scribes of Ugarit wrote in a modified cuneiform script that was virtually alphabetic; this script prepared the way for using the simpler Phoenician writing system.


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A number of texts from various parts of the Near East contain West Semitic words and phrases. The most important of these are the tablets from the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna.

Vines Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words With Topical Index Word Study

These tablets were written by the petty rulers of the Egyptian colonies of Syria-Palestine and by their overlord, the pharaoh. These glosses tell us much about the words and spellings that were used in Palestine during the time when Paleo-Hebrew emerged as a distinct language. The Hebrew language probably came into existence during the patriarchal period, about B. The language was reduced to writing in about B. These early inscriptions were carved on stone; the oldest known Hebrew scrolls were found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea, and they date from the third century B.

While some secular Hebrew texts have survived, the primary source for our knowledge of classical Hebrew is the Old Testament itself. The Origin of the Hebrew Writing System.


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  • Greek tradition claims that Phoenicians invented the alphabet. Actually, this is only partially true, since the Phoenician writing system was not an alphabet as we know it today. It was a simplified syllabary system-in other words, its various symbols represent syllables rather than separate vocal components. The Hebrew writing system grew out of the Phoenician system. The Hebrew writing system gradually changed over the centuries. From to B.

    This script was last used for copying the biblical text and may be seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls. But after the Jews returned from their Babylonian Captivity, they began to use the square script of the Aramaic language, which was the official language of the Persian Empire.

    Jewish scribes adopted the Aramaic book hand, a more precise form of the script. When Jesus mentioned the jot and little of the Mosaic Law, He was referring to manuscripts in the square script.

    The book hand is used in all printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. A Concise History of the Hebrew Bible. Undoubtedly the text of the Hebrew Bible was updated and revised several times in antiquity, and there was more than one textual tradition. Many archaic words in the Pentateuch suggest that Moses used early cuneiform documents in compiling his account of history.

    Scribes of the royal court under David and Solomon probably revised the text and updated obscure expressions. Apparently certain historical books, such as First and Second Kings and First and Second Chronicles, represent the official annals of the kingdom. These books represent the historical tradition of the priestly class. The message of the prophets was probably written down sometime after the prophets delivered their message.

    There is a variety of writing styles among the prophetic books; and several, such as Amos and Hosea, seem to be closer to colloquial speech. This would have taken place about B. The next two centuries, which brought the Babylonian Captivity, were the most momentous times in the history of Israel. This language became more popular among the Jews until it displaced Hebrew as the dominant language of Judaism in the Christian era. There is evidence that the Old Testament text was revised again at that time.

    After the Greeks came to power under Alexander the Great, the preservation of Hebrew became a political issue; the conservative Jewish parties wanted to retain it. But the Jews of the Diaspora- those living outside of Palestine-depended upon versions of the biblical text in Aramaic called the Targums or Greek called the Septuagint.

    Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index

    Both the Targums and Septuagint were translated from Hebrew manuscripts. There were substantial differences between these versions, and the Jewish rabbis went to great efforts to explain these differences. After Jerusalem fell to the armies of the Roman general Titus, Jewish biblical scholars were scattered throughout the ancient world and the knowledge of Hebrew began to decline.

    From A. The scholars who did this work are called Masoretes, and their markings are called the Masora.

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    The Masoretic text that they produced represents the consonants that had been preserved from about B. The Masoretic text dominated Old Testament studies in the Middle Ages, and it has served as the basis for virtually all printed versions of the Hebrew Bible. Unfortunately, we have no complete text of the Hebrew Bible older than the tenth century A. The earliest complete segment of the Old Testament the Prophets is a copy dating from A. While the Dead Sea scrolls yield entire books such as Isaiah, they do not contain a complete copy of the Old Testament text.

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    Therefore, we must still depend upon the long tradition of Hebrew scholarship used in the printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. The first complete printed edition of the Hebrew Bible was prepared by Felix Pratensis and published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in Some scholars continue to use the teen Chayyim text as the basic printed Hebrew Bible.

    The Hebrew of the Old Testament. The Hebrew of the Old Testament does not have one neat and concise structure; the Old Testament was written over such a long span of time that we cannot expect to have one uniform linguistic tradition. In fact, the Hebrew of the three major sections of the Old Testament varies considerably. In addition to the linguistic differences between the major sections, certain books of the Old Testament have their own peculiarities.

    For example, Job and Psalms have very ancient words and phrases similar to Ugaritic; Ruth preserves some archaic forms of Moabite speech; and First and Second Samuel reveal the rough, warlike nature of the colloquial idiom of the era of Solomon and David. As Israel changed from being a confederation of tribes to a dynastic kingdom, the language changed from the speech of herdsmen and caravan traders to the literary language of a settled population.

    While the books of the New Testament reflect a Greek dialect as it was used over a span of about 75 years, the Old Testament draws upon various forms of the Hebrew language as it evolved over nearly 2, years. Therefore, certain texts-such as the early narrative of the Book of Exodus and the last of the Psalms-are virtually written in two different dialects and should be studied with this in mind.

    Characteristics of the Hebrew Language. Because Hebrew is a Semitic language, its structure and function are quite different from Indo-European languages such as French, German, Spanish, and English. A number of Hebrew consonants cannot be transformed exactly into English letters. Therefore, our English transliterations of Hebrew words suggest that the language sounded very harsh and rough, but it probably was very melodious and beautiful. Most Hebrew words are built upon a three-consonant root. The same root may appear in a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb-all with the same basic meaning.

    For example, ketab, is a Hebrew noun meaning book. A verbal form, katab, means to write. There is also the Hebrew noun ketobeth, which means decoration or tattoo. Each of these words repeats the basic set of three consonants, giving them a similarity of sound that would seem awkward in English. It would seem ludicrous for an English writer to compose a sentence like, The writer wrote the written writing of the writ. But this kind of repetition would be very common in biblical Hebrew. Many Old Testament texts, such as Genesis 49 and Numbers 23, use this type of repetition to play upon the meaning of words.

    Hebrew also differs from English and other Indo-European languages in varying the form of a single part of speech. In common usage, the title is often shortened to Vine's Expository Dictionary , or simply Vine's. In his preface to the book, Vine wrote, "The present volumes are produced especially for the help of those who do not study Greek, though it is hoped that those who are familiar with the original will find them useful. If there are several Greek words that may translate to the same English word, Vine's distinguishes the shadings of meaning and connotation that may be lost in the English translation.

    For example, there are a number of Greek words that may be translated by the English word love.