BAR 42:05, Sep/Oct 2016
How Biblical Hebrew Changed
People often think of the Hebrew Bible as having been written in a single language called Biblical Hebrew and this language being the same from beginning to end. In fact, the Hebrew language went through three different phases during the Biblical period, and these three phases are reflected in different passages and books. In short, Biblical Hebrew is far from being homogeneous.
Despite its seemingly uniform façade—beginning with Genesis and ending with Chronicles—beneath the surface, various strata reflect considerable diversity. A linguistic analysis of this data often allows us to mark chronological milestones in the history and development of Biblical Hebrew as crystallized and preserved in the so-called Masoretic text, the standard Hebrew Bible in use today.a The great Semitists and Hebraists of the 19th century already dealt with this matter, and modern linguistic scholarship confirms their basic chronological conclusions.