[b-hebrew] question

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Oct 23 10:13:49 EDT 2009


> [Karl]
> >This continues a discussion of the claim that those who know modern Hebrew
> will have a harder time internalizing Biblical Hebrew correctly. This
> discussion was started off list,>
> I'm not sure that discussion even relates to Karl's claim here. The
> discussion
> started about what was meant by 'internalization', to which Karl had made
> a comment "as I am more fluent in it [BH] than in any translation."
> Which didn't
> make a lot of sense, so I brought up the question offline.

You may have intended that it deal with what I meant by “internalization”,
but it very quickly returned to the question of the how modern Hebrew
affects the understanding of Biblical Hebrew by your sentence that you

> This 'question post' still leaves 'internalization' undefined, as well
> as someone
> more fluent in BH than a mother tongue. In any case, it
> would be better to start off with neutral wording.
> I thought I was clear that when dealing with Biblical subjects, I’m more at
home in the original languages than in any translation. I also wrote that
that was limited to the Biblical subjects, of which grammar is not one of

> Perhaps the need for editing the wording of this post can best be shown
> by 'balancing' Karl's statement with the opposite question:
> "... that those who don't know modern Hebrew will have a harder time
> internalizing biblical Hebrew correctly."
> But that might simply be commiting the opposite error.
> Better would be:
> How does Biblical Hebrew handle the structures and vocabulary of
> things like

The only things we can be sure about are Biblical subjects that are
mentioned in Tanakh. Anything beyond that starts to become more and more

> a. "conditional clauses" with qatal,

Seeing as they are so seldom, I think there should be a more systematic
study made before coming out with a definitive answer.

The example you gave is more of a rhetorical conditional rather than a true
conditional to be acted on.

> b. expressions of 'wanting' and 'obligation',

These two questions can be rather involved.

Many places where in English we would use the idea of wanting, Biblical
Hebrew instead uses a subjunctive of the action involved without mentioning

The second question of ‘obligation’ has what you listed as “obligation”
expresses more the idea of ‘responsibility’. Where ‘obligation’ is meant, it
is usually expressed by an imperative or a Yiqtol used as an imperative.

> c. the Hebrew name of 'Hebrew', and

That I have already answered that there is no attestation for it. שפת כנען
in the context used in Isaiah could refer to Aramaic or another language, it
is not necessarily Hebrew.

> d.  veqatal?

Good question. Looking over discussions on this list and elsewhere shows
that the meaning of the various declensions of the Hebrew verbs is still an
open question with weqatal being one of those declensions.

> Then some follow up questions, like
> How does any of this relate to modern Hebrew, if at all?

It shouldn’t.

> And finally maybe the best follow up question
> how does one internalize biblical Hebrew?
> Just by reading it over and over and over again until one dreams in it. In
my case, I have dyslexia, and my strategy for coping is reading in context.
In order to do that, I had to learn to anticipate what sort of word to
expect next given the word I am reading at the moment. And again, the way to
learn to anticipate is to read the text over and over and over again until
that anticipation becomes automatic, without conscious thought.

> blessings
> Randall
> --
> Randall Buth, PhD
> www.biblicalulpan.org
> randallbuth at gmail.com
> Biblical Language Center
> Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

In my case, I studied one year of Hebrew at college, then started reading
the text. Almost immediately I realized that some of the lessons learned in
class did not fit the text I was reading. (I never heard the phrase “First
Year Lies” until James mentioned it, but it fits and I like it.) That
extended even to the vocabulary I was reading in the dictionaries (Gesenius,
BDB). So I decided merely to read for comprehension, and let the finer
points of grammar grow on me, in the same manner as a child learns his first
language. That’s why much of what I know is according to what “feels right”
and not according to formal rules of grammar. That’s also why when I first
saw the “Jehoash Stone” forgery, my first reaction was that it didn’t “feel

If that isn’t internalization, what is it?

Which gets back to the question, is it possible to internalize Biblical
Hebrew without learning modern Hebrew? To which I turn that question around
by asking, is it possible to get that innate feel for the language when
distracted by studies into cognate languages and more at home in later
versions of Hebrew, such as Mishnaic and modern Hebrews?

Karl W. Randolph.

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list