An Introduction to Hebrew

My name is Matthew (Matt) Jones, if you weren’t aware. Matthew come from ancient Hebrew, a Semitic language family from the Fertile Crescent (Akkadian and Arabic are two other examples of Semitic languages) the oldest of which used cuneiform. Biblical Hebrew has been passed down through various Jewish traditions. For much of the history of Hebrew, which is designed as an aural language, vowels were not used. The Masoretes (who preserved much of the reading tradition) essentially realized that people would not remember how the writing was supposed to be pronounced as time moved on so added vowel “points” which are largely dots written below (and some above) the consonants so the reading tradition could be preserved. This addition of vowel points occurred in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D.

The Hebrew alphabet consists of 23 letters, all of which are consonants. There are also eight vowels points. Some of the consonants were also used as vowel letters (this happened because there was a move to introduce vowels to the text before the Masoretes added the vowel points, but because it was already part of the tradition, they left them in along with their new vowel points). Hebrew is read from right to left and will always start with a consonant (although that consonant can be silent). Now for a few words (I apologize if you are not able to see the text, the transliteration is linked to an image of the Hebrew):

שָׁלוֹם shalom – peace, prosperity - blog post on Shalom
אֱלֹהִים elohim – God, gods
אָדָם adam – Adam, man, humankind
יְהוָה or יהוה yhvh – was read “adonai” (which means Lord) – Now as Yahweh: the LORD, the personal God of Israel
מַתִּתְיָהוּ mattithyahu – Matthew: literally “gift of Yah”, Yah being the abbreviated version of YHVH

Well there is a VERY brief introduction that probably hasn’t told you very much. But really, Hebrew is very interesting and is fun to speak (lots of throaty sounds). Pick up either Introducing Biblical Hebrew by Allen Ross or Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar by Gary Pratico.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I can attempt to answer!
Ή χάρις του κυρίου ημων Ίησου Χριστου μεθ’ υμων.

[UPDATE] Commentor WERBEH has a great daily Biblical Hebrew blog, check it out!

Categories: Regent College, Religion
  1. October 26th, 2005 at 23:13 | #1


    Don’t forget that there is an exception to the beginning consonant rule. The conjunction waw can be a “historically” long u, or shureq, at the beginning of some words. Best of luck with your continued study!

  2. October 26th, 2005 at 23:27 | #2

    Heh, there are ALWAYS exceptions. :)

  3. October 27th, 2005 at 08:44 | #3

    HA! Ain’t that the truth. :)

  1. October 26th, 2005 at 22:33 | #1
  2. November 1st, 2005 at 23:20 | #2
  3. November 1st, 2005 at 23:27 | #3

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