When reading your Bible be aware of changing language

As Bijbelvorser or researcher of the Bible we always want to explore the Bible and therefore we do not stick to one version or translation. We dare to go through a different Bible-version every time we have read one translation. doing so we also want to take an open mind and try to see clearly how they translated the verses and why they took certain words.

Giving preference to literal translations we also should recognise that the text has to be fluid enough to be able to read it. You can not just set a translation machine making the words to fit in a logical structure. Every language has its own peculiarities, and we should try to understand those.

Mostly we are not sufficient fluent in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek to understand the original Biblical writings, and we do have to go on translations.

When we read the older texts we should be aware that those people had a different way to express themselves than we do. But also are contemporary translations we should take up with prudence of the specific way of talking of the translators. In English, French, German, Mandarin or Dutch the translators are going to express themselves probably in a different way.

As Terry Daughtery points out in the discussion of  J Weingreen his book “A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew  2nd Edition”  a Navaho would say “Hunger comes and sit by me” while in English they plainly would speak about being hungry, the same as In Dutch the person would be ‘taken by hunger’.  The Navaho could also say “This water is killing me” like a Flemish person or in Dutch, when they speak about water killing him. In Dutch they could say a person is taken by the waves, is sucked up by the sea, being absorbed or swallowed by the water, while in English they plainly would speak about drowning.

The way of expression and mindset of the original writers, but also of the translators should be known or studied. Then the reader should allow his mind to go on the same wavelength and be carried away on ‘the waves of the sea’ of those writers or translators. Only then the language can come to live like the original writers wanted to move the listeners or readers of their inspired writings.

Terry Daughtery writes:

Hebrew word for rain is also the Hebrew word for blessing, prosperity and G-ds word. Lack of prosperity, G-ds word isn’t going forth if there is no rain.

Shamar (Shem Mem Resh) translated “to keep” as in “to keep my commandments” (Shamar Mitzvot). Shamar means To Guard, to Protect, to Cherish the meaning of the Torah-Instruction. To take care of.

Parar (Peh Resh Resh) translates “to break” or “to trample under one’s foot.” We must guard, cherish and protect its original meaning.

Must understand the meaning and not just the translation. “Do as they teach not as they do.”

The West Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family, Hebrew, is considered by Jews and other ethnic or religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, although other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language was also used by non-Jewish groups, such as the ethnically related Samaritans. Since ancient times Hebrew is considered the Leshon HaKodesh (לשון הקודש) or  “The Holy Language“. It belongs to the Canaanite group of languages. In turn the Canaanite languages are a branch of the Northwest Semitic family of languages.

In the Hebrew language there can be found differnces between Classical Hebrew (the spoken language of ancient Israel flourishing between the 10th century BCE and the turn of the 4th century CE.), Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew or Ivrit.

In the Biblical Hebrew we do find :

  • Archaic Biblical Hebrew from the 10th to the 6th century BCE, corresponding to the Monarchic Period until the Babylonian Exile and represented by certain texts in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach), notably the Song of Moses (Exodus 15) and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5). Also called Old Hebrew or Paleo-Hebrew. It was written in a form of the Canaanite script. (A script descended from this is still used by the Samaritans, see Samaritan Hebrew language.) {Wikipedia}
  • Standard Biblical Hebrew around the 8th to 6th centuries BCE, corresponding to the late Monarchic period and the Babylonian Exile. It is represented by the bulk of the Hebrew Bible that attains much of its present form around this time. Also called Biblical Hebrew, Early Biblical Hebrew, Classical Biblical Hebrew (or Classical Hebrew in the narrowest sense). {Wikipedia}Biblical Hebrew has been written with a number of different writing systems. The Hebrews adopted the Phoenician script around the 12th century BC, which developed into the Paleo-Hebrew script. This was retained by the Samaritans, who use the descendent Samaritan script to this day. However the Aramaic script gradually displaced the Paleo-Hebrew script for the Jews, and it became the source for the modern Hebrew alphabet. All of these scripts were lacking letters to represent all of the sounds of Biblical Hebrew, though these sounds are reflected in Greek and Latin transcriptions of the time. These scripts originally only indicated consonants, but certain letters, known as matres lectionis, became increasingly used to mark vowels. In the Middle Ages various systems of diacritics were developed to mark the vowels in Hebrew manuscripts; of these, only the Tiberian systemis still in wide use.

    Tiberian Hebrew. – The Aleppo Codex of the Bible (and other ancient manuscripts of the Tanakh, cited in the margins of early codices), which actually preserves direct evidence of the application of these rules in the Hebrew Bible in a graphic manner, e.g. the widespread use of chateph vowels where one would expect simple sheva, clarifying the color of the vowel thus pronounced under certain circumstances.

  • Late Biblical Hebrew, from the 5th to the 3rd centuries BCE, that corresponds to the Persian Period and is represented by certain texts in the Hebrew Bible, notably the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Basically similar to Classical Biblical Hebrew, apart from a few foreign words adopted for mainly governmental terms, and some syntactical innovations such as the use of the particle shel (of, belonging to). It adopted the Imperial Aramaic script (from which the modern Hebrew script descends). {Wikipedia}
  • Later we can find the northern dialect of biblical Hebrew, the Israelian Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew, also called Tannaitic Hebrew or Early Rabbinic Hebrew and Amoraic Hebrew.

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Start reading:

  1. Class Notes: Intro to Biblical Hebrew 101 by Terry Daughtery
  2. Another way looking at a language #1 New Year, Books and Words
  3. Another way looking at a language #2 Meanings
  4. Another way looking at a language #3 Abraham
  5. Another way looking at a language #4 Ancient times
  6. Another way looking at a language #5 Aramic, Hebrew and Greek
  7. Another way looking at a language #6 Set apart
  8. Another way looking at a language #7 Lingua Franca
  9. If Jesus spoke Aramaic, why Listen with Only Greek Ears? ARTB Publishing Announces a Solution for Bible Lovers

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Learn Hebrew with dictionaries, online courses and easy Hebrew magazines

8 thoughts on “When reading your Bible be aware of changing language

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