Friday, September 30, 2016

The Linguistic Development of Hebrew

Hebrew developed from the Canaanite language spoken by people of Abraham's time. In Abraham's time rulers and their royal advisors spoke many languages. The ability to speak, read and write more than one language continued to be a requirement for ruler-priests in Jesus' day. Many of these men served in the Sanhedrin, the Beth Din HaGadol (The Great Court).

Priests belonging to prominent families were highly regarded members of the Sanhedrin. A "prominent" family was one whose lineages could be traced back to Horite Hebrew ruler-priests, what Jews call their Horim. (In English Bibles Horim is Horite.) These members of the Sanhedrin served under the presidency of the high priest who bore the title nasi (ruler, king, prince).

The third century Rabbi Johanan enumerates the qualifications of those in the Sanhedrin as follows: they must be tall, of imposing appearance, of advanced age, and scholars. They were required to be adept in the use of foreign languages. When testimony was given to the Sanhedrin in a foreign language, at least two members who spoke that language were required to examine the witness. There was also a third member who understood the language. These three members constituted a minor court of three, who then reported the testimony to the entire Sanhedrin.

Looking at the diagram below, trace Hebrew back to its "West Semitic" origin. In which language family is the Semitic group classified? To look at other languages in this family, go here.

With what other languages does Hebrew share this lineage?

How many solar symbols do you see in the Canaanite alphabet?

Related reading: The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; Early Written Signs; Ancient Canaanite Inscriptions

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