Biblical Hebrew and the Semitic Languages in the Light of Cultural Antiquity: A New Proposal -- By: Eugene H. Merrill

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:2 (Jun 2019)
Article: Biblical Hebrew and the Semitic Languages in the Light of Cultural Antiquity: A New Proposal
Author: Eugene H. Merrill


Biblical Hebrew and the Semitic Languages in the Light of Cultural Antiquity:
A New Proposal

Eugene H. Merrill*

* Eugene Merrill is Distinguished Professor of OT Studies (Emeritus) at Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 75204. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: Scholars of ancient Near Eastern languages traditionally divide the Semitic languages into three major categories, broken down into numerous sub-categories. Hebrew finds a place in this taxonomy but only as a minor offspring of the great family to which it is related. However, to students of the Bible who take it seriously, Hebrew looms largest of them all because to them it was the divinely chosen conduit through which God revealed himself and his purposes for creation and history. One purpose of this paper among others is to justify the inordinate attention paid to this otherwise marginal tongue. Procedurally the paper will (1) survey the origin and development of the Semitic languages and literatures; (2) locate Hebrew within the larger family of the Semitic languages; and (3) engage the issue of the Hebrew language and the biblical text vis-à-vis their literary and larger cultural contexts.

Key words: Hebrew language, Semitic languages, Old Testament chronology

I. Origin And Development Of The Semitic Languages1

Table 1
Semitic Languages of the Ancient Near East

Proto-Semitic?

East Semitic

Northwest Semitic

South Semitic

   

Akkadian

Proto-NW Semitic

Arabic

Old Akkadian

Old Babylonian

Old Assyrian

Hymnal-Epic...

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