been to ulpan?

Bryan Rocine 596547 at
Wed Sep 23 06:49:33 EDT 1998


You wrote:

would it be better to get
> out the books and cassettes for Modern Hebrew from the Foreign Service
> before working my way through the Bible, or is Modern Hebrew different
> enough from Biblical Hebrew that I should focus on Biblical Hebrew?
> Jonathan

Well, let's see..._glidah $oqolad_ "chocolate ice cream" that won't be
of much use in reading the Bible.  ;-)  Even when there is overlap in the
Ancient and Modern lexicons, the frequencies of the items may be rather
different.  I.e., a word that is used two or three times in the HB may be
used very frequently in Modern Hebrew.  It pays to learn that word if you
are walking in a shuk a in Israel, but not if you are reading the HB in the
privacy of a study in America.  Then there is the matter of technolgy:  I
know folks can tell you lots of stories about how the Modern Israeli was
able to come up with clever words for modern items based on Biblical
vocabulary , but no one could be creatrive enough.  Jonathan, you'll like
this one:  _m:xa$B"n_ "computer" based on the Biblical root _xb$_ "think." 
So many new words have had to have been coined for Modern needs that are
not Biblical at all.  Take _$ampu_ for instance.  Do you know what it
means?  *Shampoo*!   It really brings us to an interesting point about the
HB's lexicon:  at only about 8000 items it is hardly big enough to live by.
 Therefore, in the HB we see only a fraction of a language, a rather
specialized fraction at that.  What is the Biblical Hebrew word for "ear
wax," "giggle," "boring"?  What was the Every-day-life lexicon of Ancient
Israel?  40,000 items?

Not only is a lot of the vocabulary different, Modern Hebrew is more or
less an Indo-European style language when it comes to tense and syntax with
the following basic equivalents:  the qatal for past, the participle for
present, the yiqtol for future.  Learning this will create a wrong
impression and a bad pattern of thought for reading BH which has rather
different, un-tensed verbal semantics.  (Yeah, I kow, here we go, on verbal
semantics again!)  The most common verbform in the HB, the wayyiqtol, is
not used in MH.  Clauses in MH have made a considerable shift in favor of
S-V word order as compared to BH.

Conversational courses stress speaking and listening, all money in the bank
when you study BH, but they tend to save reading, oral or silent for late
in the course, so the student doesn't really get a chance to develop the
grapheme/phoneme relationships that would be helpful to a *reader* of the

On the good side, a good-sized handful of the most used particles and
every-day-type words are the same in BH and MH.  There is a lot of
similarity in the morphology of BH and MH.  Many phrases are constructed
the same way.  I hear MH is a good bit closer to BH than it is to Rabbinic
and/or Medieval Hebrew.  

In short, if you want to drive from Syracuse to Cleveland, why would you
want to go through Pittsburg?  Take the express route instead.


B. M. Rocine
Associate Pastor
Living Word Church
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13208


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