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Frequently Asked Questions About Hebrew Roots

Hebrew Roots FAQ's and Myths

Language

 

Myth. None of the apostles (or Jesus) spoke any Greek, because it was a pagan language. No Jew would ever speak Greek.

A.  The understanding of the diffusion of the Greek language and culture throughout Judea and Galilee, as early as the first century B.C is common thought. The Apostles, at least most of them, read and spoke Greek as well as Aramaic, from their childhood. Palestine at the time of Jesus was virtually bilingual, so that Christ must also have spoken Aramaic and Greek; and He was likely fluent in Hebrew.

We know that Greek was the language of commerce and a common language, Hebrew was the language of the Temple, Latin was for Roman law.  Aramaic was also a common language among the Jews.

Historically we are told that after the conquest of Alexander the Great, the Greek language was spoken throughout the ancient world from about 330 B.C. to 330 C.E. Koine, or common Greek, was spoken in Rome, Athens, Alexandria and Jerusalem. When the Romans conquered the Greeks in 146 B.C. they assumed much of the Greek customs and language themselves. The apostle Paul, writing his letter to the saints in Rome, which was the capital city of the empire, wrote it in Greek, not Latin. 

The Jews of the first century spoke Aramaic as a common language among themselves. Aramaic is in some ways similar to Hebrew. In commerce they used the common Koine Greek that many of the peoples in the area used for hundreds of years. They probably spoke at least two or three languages as many people in Israel still do today. The Roman rulers and their military personnel, who occupied Jerusalem at that time, spoke predominantly Greek and Latin. 

If we look at historical documents we will find that many of the writers of the day, both Jewish and Roman, and also after the time of Christ, wrote in the Greek language. For example.

Flavius Josephus [C.E.37- C.E.100]: Josephus was a Jewish chronicler whose historical writings are viewed as some of the most valuable historical resources for information on Jewish history and early Christianity. Josephus resided in Rome as a guest of the government, where he wrote historical works in the Greek language, although it is believed that his native language was Aramaic.

Cassius Dio was a historian from Bithynia, and his writings were in Greek, although few of them have survived. He was born around C.E. 163, and was a Roman consul in C.E.205 and also in 229. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most valuable discoveries of our day. They have given us a look into the writings of the time before, during, and after Christ. There are literally thousands of scroll fragments. The number of different writings represented is quite large, and they are written in three different languages: Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. There were none written in Latin. It is also important to note, that the Gospels in the New Testament portion of the Latin Bible are translated from the Koine Greek manuscripts. 

Jews historically and today speak Greek. Or whatever language is used where they reside. We also know that the Jews, as shown in Acts 2, spoke many languages and dialects.

Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites (Persian/Iranian dialects), and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, (various dialects, Syrian, Persian, Akkadian, Aramaic) and in Judaea, and (Hebrew,Aramaic,Greek) and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, (various dialects, Greek)

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, (various dialects,Greek) in Egypt, (Arabic, Greek, Aramaic),and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, (Latin,Greek, Aramaic) and strangers of Rome, (Latin,Greek) Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes (Greek, Aramaic) and Arabians, (Arabic, Greek, Aramaic) we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Myth. Hebrew will be the Holy language of heaven or Hebrew is the Holy language heaven or the divine language of Heaven. People can learn it now, from special Hebrew Roots scholars.

A. Is Hebrew a Holy language?

Is Hebrew a special Holy language (leshon ha Kodesh) that is special and different than all of the other languages? Some Hebrew roots teachers have stated that Hebrew is a language so Holy, that it is impossible to even curse in it. Some have also stated that because of its Holiness, it was the language used to create the world, and most assuredly will be the language of Heaven. Let’s first take a look at where all the languages originated from, so that we can better understand the origins of the Hebrew language:

Genesis 11:6  And The LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and the lip one to all of them, and this they are beginning to do, and now all which they have purposed to do will not be restrained from them.

Come, let Us go down and confuse their language so that they cannot understand one another's speech.

8  And the LORD scattered them from there, over the face of all the earth. And they stopped building the city.

9  On account of this its name is called Babel, because the LORD confused the language of all the earth there. And the LORD scattered them abroad from there on the face of all the earth.

Hebrew is a language that evolved historically from proto Canaanite (1400 bce) into Phoenician (1050 bce) then into paleo, middle, and late Hebrew, which finally ended up becoming the Biblical Hebrew (with vowels) that we find today in the Masoretic text. From there modern words were added, and then once again it evolved into the modern Hebrew that is spoken in Israel today. Let’s take a quick look at Biblical Hebrew so that we can examine the “Holy” status of it during Biblical times:

Isaiah 6 (written approx 700 bce)
5 Then I said, Woe is me! For I am cut off; for I am a man of unclean lips (H8193), and I live amongst a people of unclean lips (H8193); for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.
6 Then one of the
seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, snatched with tongs from the altar.
7 And he touched it on my mouth, and said, See, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away
, and your sin is covered.

H8193
שׂפת / שׂפה
śâphâh / śepheth
BDB Definition:
1) lip, language, speech, shore, bank, brink, brim, side, edge, border, binding
1a) lip (as body part)
1b) language
1c) edge, shore, bank (of cup, sea, river, etc)
Part of Speech: noun feminine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: probably from H5595 or H8192 through the idea of termination (compare H5490)

Here is another example of how the same word lip or language is used:

Zephaniah 3 (approx 620 bce)
9 For then will I restore to the people a pure (H1305) language (H8193), that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one accord.

H1305
בּרר
bârar
BDB Definition:
1) to purify, select, polish, choose, purge, cleanse or make bright, test or prove
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to purge, purge out, purify
1a2) to choose, select
1a3) to cleanse, make shining, polish
1a4) to test, prove
1b) (Niphal) to purify oneself
1c) (Piel) to purify
1d) (Hiphil)
1d1) to purify
1d2) to polish arrows
1e) (Hithpael)
1e1) to purify oneself
1e2) to show oneself pure, just, kind
Part of Speech: verb
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root

Since we know that Isaiah spoke and wrote in Hebrew, and he himself said that he is a man of unclean lips (speech), and since God stated in Zephaniah, which is a book that was written after Isaiah that he will restore a pure language, then it is obvious by the text that Biblical Hebrew is not a pure language currently, nor was it at the time of Isaiah (700 bce).

In Zephaniah 3:8 we read this:

Therefore, wait for Me, declares the LORD, for the day I rise up to the prey. For My judgment is to gather the nations, for Me to gather the kingdoms, to pour My fury out on them, all My hot anger. For all the earth shall be burned up with the fire of My jealousy.

From the above passage, it should be clear that the pure language has not been established yet.  

One possible theory, is that the restored pure language could possibly be the language that God used to converse with Adam and Eve in the garden. This language was before the fall, and hence they had no knowledge of good and evil, therefore corruption could have not been spoken by them.

Secondly, we need to examine the fact that there are parts of various books in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that are written partially in Aramaic (Daniel, Ezra, Jeremiah, Genesis). Aramaic is a language that came out of Canaan, where the people worshipped idols, and was also spoken in pagan Babylon during the captivity. If Hebrew is a Holy language, then why would God mix the language used by a pagan cultures with Hebrew in the Scriptures? In the book of Daniel, in the portion where the Aramaic begins, it opens like this:

Daniel 2:4  And the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will reveal the meaning.

In the passages directly following the opening, we find Aramaic words such as Melecha (H4430), Shamaya (H8065), Elahh (H426), and others throughout the text. The Aramaic continues until to the end of chapter seven, spanning almost five chapters. It should be noted that Abraham came from Ur of Chaldees, and then in obedience he left his pagan culture, and crossed over into the land that God had promised him which became Israel.

Nehemiah 9:7  You are the LORD the God who chose Abram, and brought him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and appointed his name, Abraham.

It should also be noted that there are loan words which are transliterated from Greek to Aramaic in the book of Daniel (3:5,7,10,15). The word zither (Aramaic קִיתָרוֹס qitaros (H7030) - Greek  kitharis (G2788), the word for harp (Aramaic פְּסַנְתֵּרִין p˙santerin (H6460) - Greek psalterion (from G5567-5568) and pipes (Aramaic סוּמְפֹּנְיָה sumpon˙yah (H5481) - Greek symphonia (G4858), are all of Greek origin.

There are fifteen Persian (Iranian) loan words recorded in the book of Daniel. There are also Persian words such as the name of Esther (H635) found in the book named in honor of her, purim which is derived from the Persian word pur or purruru (H6332) which would be goral (H1486) in Hebrew, as well as the word paradise (H6508) which can be found in three books. (Neh 2:8, Eccl 2:5, Song 4:13)

Next, we should examine the use of languages in first century Judea, listed below (parenthesis) are a few of the possible languages spoken in those regions at that time. Please keep in mind that the list is by no means comprehensive:

Acts 2 (written approx 63 ce)

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, [languages] as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites (Persian/Iranian dialects), and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, (various dialects, Syrian, Persian, Akkadian, Aramaic) and in Judaea, and (Hebrew,Aramaic,Greek) and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, (various dialects, Greek)

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, (various dialects,Greek) in Egypt, (Arabic, Greek, Aramaic),and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, (Latin,Greek, Aramaic) and strangers of Rome, (Latin,Greek) Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes (Greek, Aramaic) and Arabians, (Arabic, Greek, Aramaic) we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Would God through His Holy Spirit allow the apostles to speak, in what some Hebrew roots teachers have claimed to be pagan languages, if they truly were according to God’s standards? If this was the case, wouldn’t it have been easier for the apostles to speak only in Hebrew, and then for God to miraculously have all of the different people who spoke the many other languages, be able to understand what the apostles said in the “Holy language” of Hebrew? Instead the apostles spoke, and praised God in what some have taught are unclean pagan languages that they claim no self respecting Jew would ever speak. Some Hebrew roots teachers have circulated the “myth” that the Jews of that day believed it was better to eat swine flesh, than to speak Greek. I guess the apostles never got the memo on that, nor did the Holy Spirit, or maybe there was a shortage of swine flesh at that time, because as they were being led by the Holy Spirit, they spoke Greek as one of the many languages. This is detailed in the passage recorded in Acts. Keeping in mind, that since Greek was established as the common language, and the language of trade since the rule of Alexander almost four centuries before the time of Christ in 332 bce, that many others throughout the Roman empire also spoke and understood Greek as well.

Jesus spoke Aramaic while on the Cross, and in some other passages found in the New Testament. If Hebrew was the Holy language, why would Jesus choose to speak Aramaic in these passages, and especially in Mark 15:34? It is written in Scripture, that when He addressed the Father from the Cross, He cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” which is clearly in the Aramaic language. Jesus most likely conversed in Greek or possibly Latin with Pilate at His trial. He also spoke in a Hebraic language (some scholars say Aramaic) to Paul on the road to Damascus in the book of Acts. Paul, who wrote thirteen or fourteen books of the New Testament spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, probably Latin (Roman citizen), and because he lived in Tarsus at an early age, he possibly would have spoken a local dialect which would probably be related to modern Turkish. Some scholars have theorized that Paul may even have spoken a few other languages or dialects that he would have learned while traveling abroad establishing the assemblies.

There is an argument sometimes presented that Hebrew is the language of God, because of an errant belief that He wrote the Ten Commandments in Hebrew with His own finger into the tablets made of stone. The Ten commandments were not written in what we consider Hebrew, and we are able to discern this due to the time frame when they would have been written. The language of that time was proto Canaanite which has been definitively established through archaeological finds. It is theorized that proto Canaanite is the language that Abraham spoke, and the language that God may have used to converse with him. (approx 1800 bce) The Ten Commandments were given before the five books of Moses (Torah), which is dated approximately 1500-1400 bce when proto Canaanite was still in effect as a language. Other languages used by many of the idol worshipping cultures of the area were also derived from it such as the dialects of the Amorites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizites and Jebusites, and then Greek was developed from the Canaanite/Phoenician alphabet later around 750 bce. If the Ten Commandments had been written in Hebrew as we know it, then Moses and the children of Israel would have not been able to understand what was written. This is because it is a different alphabet due to the fact that Hebrew script, which is a derivative of proto Canaanite, only came into being in the 9th century bce, a full six centuries later.

Also keep in mind, that Moses was raised in the court of Pharaoh, so he probably spoke Akkadian as well as the proto Canaanite and Phoenician languages that the Hebrew slaves would have spoken, so there would be no problem reading the tablets in proto Canaanite or Phoenician.

Some Hebrew roots teachers have stated that the only way one can really effectively understand the Old Testament Scriptures, is by learning to read and understand them in the Hebrew language. Currently, English is spoken (sometimes as a second language) by a much larger percentage of the six billion people in the world today, than the five million people world wide who currently speak Hebrew. This works out statistically to be a negligible percentage of the worlds population that speaks and understands Hebrew. Would God have been so short sighted as to write His word into Hebrew, which for the most part was a dead language until recently resurrected in the last half of the nineteenth century as modern Hebrew, if it could not be accurately translated and comprehended in other languages such as English? If translating from one language to another creates such a serious problem, then wouldn’t this also be true in reference to the Torah starting out in proto Canaanite, evolving from there to Phonecian, then to paleo Hebrew, middle Hebrew, late Hebrew, and then to the Biblical Hebrew that we have today over a span of twenty four centuries? This should be something for us to consider, but not to trouble ourselves too greatly over, because it is written:

Psalm 12:6-7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Myth. It is not possible to curse in Hebrew.

A. Isaiah was clearly a prophet of the Lord who spoke Hebrew. He stated,

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

One merely needs to do a search on the internet with 'hebrew swear words" or "hebrew curse words" to know that this is blatantly false as well. It's not the language that is the issue. It's the spiritual condition of the person and what comes out of their mouth.

Matthew 15:16-20 And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? 17. Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Myth. Clarity will comes through word studies and research with books like Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons. By recognizing Hebrew idioms and learning the differences between modern translations, bad translations and humanism., which muddle our understanding, but learning the ancient Hebrew language, is just the start to really studying the scriptures. We also need to learn the Hebrew culture.

A. We are called to study to show ourselves approved, and that is something many take seriously. And many do not. It is a mistake broad brush believers in such a way.

2Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

Galatians 6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

1Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Are there any Scriptures which state, "Clarity comes through word studies and research with books like Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, (and hence rabbinic writings). We need to recognize Hebrew idioms and learn the differences..."?

Peter said, 2 Peter 1:2-12 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6. And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 12. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.

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Hebrew Roots FAQS & Myths

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Sacrifices, Feasts, Celebrations

Names For God & Jesus

Who Is Jesus

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Scriptures

Note: "Strong's" for Hebrew and Greek Word definitions from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong

"Thayers" >  Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

"BDB" >Brown-Driver-Brigg's Hebrew Definitions

07/09/2012

 

All Scripture King James Version unless otherwise stated

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