Diachronic Analysis And The Features Of Late Biblical Hebrew -- By: Mark F. Rooker

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 04:1 (NA 1994)
Article: Diachronic Analysis And The Features Of Late Biblical Hebrew
Author: Mark F. Rooker

Diachronic Analysis And The Features Of Late Biblical Hebrew

Mark F. Rooker

Criswell College
Dallas, Texas

The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence for the existence of a later linguistic strand within the Hebrew Bible known as late biblical Hebrew. After surveying the history and methodology of the diachronic study of the Hebrew language, I examine orthographic, morphological, and syntactical evidence, which demonstrates a linguistic shift from the preexilic to the postexilic period. I demonstrate how these same late biblical features of the postexilic period became commonplace in Rabbinic Hebrew and in the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I discuss the different views regarding the reasons biblical Hebrew experienced linguistic change and argue that the events of the Babylonian exile contain all the components linguists regard as necessary to account for language change. An appendix is provided which contrasts the fourteen accepted features of late biblical Hebrew with their early biblical Hebrew counterparts.

Key words: Linguistics; Hebrew; Hebrew/Late Biblical; Hebrew/ Postbiblical

An earlier form of this paper was presented to the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 23, 1992.


Historical linguistics and the comparative method of language analysis were developed by European scholars who observed the resemblance between European languages and Sanskrit early in the nineteenth century.1 The historical analysis of Hebrew and Semitic languages was delayed for another one hundred years since it was commonplace for Hebrew, the Semitic language which naturally received the most attention, to be considered a sacred language. This notion, ipso facto, precluded any linguistic alteration.2

Diachronic Study Of Biblical Hebrew3

The catalyst for the historical or diachronic study of the Hebrew language was Arno Kropat’s Syntax des Autors Chronik, which appeared in 1909.4 Kropat’s landmark study was devoted to analyzing the linguistic features of Chronicles. His modus operandi was contrasting the language of Chronicles with the parallel passages in Samuel- Kings. Presupposing that the Chronicler had as his source a massoretic prototype of Samuel-Kings, Kropat was able to differentiate the language of the Chronicler through the Chronicler’s linguistic adjustments. This work was an extremely important contribution ...

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