Ancient Hebrew vs. Modern English

Ancient Hebrew letters for the word father.

Ancient Hebrew letters for the word father.

I wish I knew the ancient Hebrew language. I would love to read Genesis through the language of the people who wrote it. My heart is breaking over the way people want to pick apart the Bible for perceived errors in it. I suspect the “errors” they are pointing out have more to do with understanding the language and translating it into our modern English than anything else.

The ancient Hebrew language had a much smaller vocabulary than we have today. Humor me while I make a simple comparison to illustrate my point. I found on Amazon.com a book, Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, with this description: “All the Hebrew words of the Bible are connected to their roots and defined within their ancient cultural context and meaning.” This book has 616 pages.

I also have a fairly recent copy of the Merriam-Webster Children’s Dictionary on my bookshelf. This book has 913 pages. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary as found in one online reference contains 2230 pages. If you have ever seen an unabridged Dictionary in a library you know that there are many more words on a page than you would find in a 600 page book you expect to pick up and read. I wish I knew the actual number of word entries for each of these books.

It should be obvious without any further crunching of numbers that the ancient Hebrews communicated with fewer words. They weren’t writing doctoral theses, nor should their writing reflect that kind of knowledge of their environment.

Does this disqualify these writings of any value? Absolutely not! Does this mean they are not inspired by God? Again, it does not. I find quite the opposite to be true. I am totally wowed over the amount of scientific understanding God was able to share with these people within the bounds of their limited language and understanding. Furthermore, archaeologists have discovered evidence of the cities, cultures, and people named in the Genesis accounts, and continue to find more supportive evidence every year.

My prayer is that Christians will become more tolerant of one another in their interpretations of the Scriptures. Let us recognize the difficulties in translating the ancient languages, and become less knit-picky over passages that are a little less than clear. If we can’t become more flexible, we will only alienate more people, including our own children and grandchildren.

There are basic truths that we must hold our ground on. God is real. He created everything in creation in a systematic way. God deserves our love and worship. Sin separates us from God. Rejecting God and his Son Jesus is the ultimate sin. We show our love for God by accepting his Son and by living according to his commands.

I am impressed with the website “Ancient Hebrew Research Center: Plowing through history from Aleph to Tav” and plan to spend more time reading it hoping to understand ancient Hebrew a little better. I encourage my readers to spend a little time reading it as well.


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