Hebrew: An Ancient Forgotten Language With No Written Vowels
ANCIENT HEBREW THEN
Ancient Hebrew (Phoenician) characters, with no vowel points,
from the Moabite Stone dating back to around 800 B.C
ANCIENT HEBREW NOW
The modern Hebrew characters above have added Medieval rabbinical vowel points beneath the words to show the best guess at their original sounds. The English word "God" above should be translated as "gods" since the Hebrew "Elohim"? is plural. In other words, the first line in the Bible reads: "In the beginning the gods created the heavens and the earth," but you ain't suppose to know this.
Modern English is often thought to be a difficult language to translate, with its irregular spellings, numerous shades of meanings, variations in pronunciations, incorporation of countless foreign words, difficult idioms, and other peculiarities and inconsistencies. However, none of these could begin to compare with one major translating difficulty found in the biblical language of Israel, especially since Hebrew ceased to be a commonly spoken language hundreds of years before Jesus Christ arrived. “In regard to the Old Testament, the Hebrew language, as anciently written, was the most difficult of all languages to translate,” wrote Bible-scholar John E. Remsburg in his work entitled The Bible. In one of thirty weekly installments from his book which began to appear in The Truth Seeker at the beginning of January in 1901 he went on to explain that
"It was written from right to left; the words contained no [written] vowels; there were no intervening spaces between words, and no punctuation marks. Even with the introduction of vowel points [dots or marks below the words that indicate vowel sounds] many words in Hebrew, as in English, have more than one meaning. Without these points, as originally written, the number is increased a hundred fold. The five English words, bag, beg, big, bog, and buy, are quite unlike and easily distinguished. Omit the vowels, as the ancient Jews did, and we have five words exactly alike, or rather, one word with five different meanings. The Hebrew language was thus largely composed of words with several meanings. As there were no spaces between words, it was sometimes hard to tell where a word began or where it ended; and as there were no punctuation marks, and no spaces between sentences, paragraphs, or even sections, it was often difficult to determine the meaning of a writer after the words had been deciphered."
Here is the best known passage in the Bible printed in English as the Jews would have written it in Hebrew:
It’s no wonder Saint Jerome (340?-420), who published the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, admitted: “When we translate the Hebrew into Latin, we are sometimes guided by conjecture.” Furthermore, Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736), a Swiss Protestant theologian and scholar, even went so far as to maintain that “the learned merely guess at the sense of the Old Testament in an infinity of places.” This is in large part because of the ancient Hebrews’ failure to write down their vowels and of the language subsequently falling into disuse. And the adding of the relatively modern vowel points, by a few belated Dark-Age rabbis, in order to make up for this deficit, naturally casts very great suspicion and doubts on how the Hebrew vowels were originally sounded and used.
Verifying the recent appearance of these vowel points, the renowned J. Paterson Smyth, B.D., LL.D., Litt.D., an author of several books on the Bible, maintained that “these marks are of comparatively modern date, certainly not older than about 500 or 600 AD.” And he added; “We can imagine then what a sensation was produced when Elias Levita, a very famous Hebrew scholar, about the year 1540, proved to the world that these vowel marks were not in existence for hundreds of years after the time of our Lord!” Of course this caused some controversy at the time, but Dr. Smyth concluded that “no scholar now thinks of doubting the comparatively recent origin of the Hebrew vowel points.”[ii]
Nobody today knows for sure how the original Hebrew was pronounced, regardless of the tales commonly propagated about the Jewish rabbis carrying on an accurate oral tradition for thousands of years. Our knowledge of the evolution of languages would almost certainly deny the likely possibility of such. If old King Solomon were to walk through Jerusalem today and hear the Hebrew spoken there now, he would probably stop in astonishment, listen in amazement, shake his head in bewilderment, and finally conclude that he must be in a foreign country.
[i] If you can’t decipher the passage posted above, click the "The Biblical Answer." This will then take you to "the best known passage in the Bible."
[ii]The Old Documents and the New Bible, An Easy Lesson for the People in Biblical Criticism, New York 1915
Note: Beware of Jewish spin doctors on the Internet who will lead you astray on this subject!
NOTES ON TWO OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS ABOVE:
The Moabite Stone illustrated above, with one of the Hebrew national gods, the LORD or GOD "Yahweh" of the Bible mentioned, bears an inscription of Mesha, King of Moab, who reigned at the beginning of the ninth century B. C. Here upon, he records his deeds and victories over Israel that, needless to say, hardly agree with the account in the third chapter of II Kings. The Moabite Stone was discovered by Rev. F. Klein, at Dibham, in the land of Moab, on August 19, 1868. It measures 3 ft. 10 in. by 2 ft. 2 in., and is inscribed with thirty-four lines of text, each word of which is separated by a dot. About a year after its discovery, the Arabs, hearing of its contemplated removal, broke it into a number of fragments; but fortunately a paper squeeze of the inscription had already been made, so the whole text has been preserved. This is just one of thousands of examples of how religion has played into the destruction of knowledge and history. We won't bother the reader here with a cumbersome translation of the stone, which is probably as distorted as the biblical account.
This old Shechem manuscript above, a copy of many previous copies of copies of the original, is written in characters similar to (if not exactly like?) the ancient Hebrew in use thousands of years before the Jews adopted square letters with vowel points. As new copies were made, the old ones were destroyed, so the priestly scribes had the opportunity to add, modify, and omit what they wished without fear of any comparisons being made to earlier versions. This is evidenced in the fact that the earliest fragment of a complete Pentateuch manuscript (copy) extant bears a date as late as the ninth century A.D. Yet, pieces of Egyptian manuscripts have survived since around 2,500 B.C. The New Testament, originally written in Greek, is a slightly different story. However, the two were eventually combined a few hundred years after Christ, after certain priestly alterations were made, to allow both Jews and Christians to worship the same god (Yahweh) or gods today.
This page was last modified on Tuesday, January 19, 2016