[b-hebrew] Hebrew as a spoken language

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Oct 25 16:57:40 EDT 2007

On 10/25/07, Ken Penner wrote:
> I agree, as usual, with Yitzhak's view in this thread.
> I only wish to caution about overstating one thing Yitzhak wrote:
> > Both Qumran Hebrew and
> > Mishnaic Hebrew are very different from the Hebrew found in
> > the Bible.
> My doctoral work is was on Qumran Hebrew, subtitled, "Tense, Aspect, and
> Modality between the Bible and the Mishnah." Yet I am not sure what major
> differences these might be, unless by "Qumran Hebrew" is meant only that of
> 4QMMT or the Copper Scroll.

I was basing myself on such commentaries as in Jacob Licht, "The Rule Scroll"
(Megilat Haserakhim), Ch. 4, in Hebrew: "In the discussion of style of the
Community Rule we had already met the need that the authors felt to create
their own literary language.  In this language they authored all their
works.  It
is mostly based on the Biblical language, but the influence of the languages
that were spoken by the authors, the Common Hebrew of the Second Temple
period, as well as Aramaic, and the influence of the literary Hebrew of that
period.  Therefore, there are obvious differences between the Biblical language,
and the DSS language, in lexicon, in spelling (and pronunciation so far as it
can be inferred), and in the morphology of verbs and nouns and maybe even

He gives an example of a sentence, "wl) lqdm (tyh wl) lht)xr mkwl mw(dyhm."
He notes that the sentence has the sound of Biblical Hebrew -- using the
words (t and mw(d over the word zmn which is Mishnaic Hebrew and is
present only in Esther.  It also has a ring similar to 2 Sam 20:5 "wyyxr mn
hmw(d )$r y(dw".  On the other hand, the use of the Hitpael for )xr is not
Biblical, and in mw(dym he is referring to holidays which can be either
Biblical or Mishnaic.  In the verb lqdm, the use is more similar to Mishnaic
especially when the two roots qdm and )xr are juxtaposed as in the
Mishnaic phrase '($+r) mwqdm ($+r) m)wxr' in Sheviit 10:5 etc.

If necessary, though, perhaps it is more accurate to say that Qumran
Hebrew is generally somewhat different and Mishnaic Hebrew very

Yitzhak Sapir

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