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How different are Ancient and Modern Hebrew?


I just wanted to know how different Ancient and Modern Hebrew are? If you learned one, would you be able to understand the other well? Is Ancient Hebrew still worth learning?


(P.S: First post in the Hebrew section!) I can't wait to try out the course when it it released:) Who else is excited?

June 21, 2016



It is like reading Shakespeare A native Hebrew speaker will understand most of it.


I was very disappointed to know my previous knowledge of biblical Hebrew (from Sunday school) would not be as helpful. The letters are mostly the same but not having the dagesh/nikkud really threw me for a loop. I was like "How can I know how to pronounce this word!?" But I think the course does a good job of explaining that. I knew a little bit of modern Hebrew from Wednesday classes at Temple but when we got a new Rabbi he said no more conversational Hebrew, only biblical. I completely lost interest in going. : (

I would like to say the word for "king" and "bread" are the same in biblical and modern Hebrew, so I guess there is a little overlap vocabulary-wise.

So excited for this course!!


Haha it's interesting that you give those examples. It's true that king and bread are mostly the same, but even there there are differences in meaning. לחם means bread in ancient Hebrew, but it can also be a general word for food, unlike in Modern Hebrew. In ancient Hebrew מלך means king, and מלכה means ruling queen, but not the wife of a king. In Modern Hebrew, מלכה can means ruling queen or queen wife.


Hebrew has gone through 4 stages of development: 1. Biblical (before 0 CE) 2. Rabbinic (~0-700 CE) 3. Medieval 4. Modern

The introduction of Greek to the Semetic world caused significant development in Hebrew grammar (specifically the adoption of modern verb tenses). Medieval Hebrew was a literary language and mostly differs from rabbinic Hebrew because of the adoption of new words from Greek and Arabic philosophy. SamRLevitt covered the creation of modern Hebrew in his answer except the grammar doesn't reflect Yiddish much at all, it stick pretty closely to the rules of classical hebrew.

TL;DR Modern Hebrew employs the same grammatical system as classical (post-biblical) Hebrew, but has a contemporary vocabulary. Learning classical Hebrew is worthwhile if you want to study the bible in the original or any premodern Jewish text.


A lot of the syntax of Modern Hebrew and many of its idioms reflect Yiddish. Plus there are a lot of loanwords from Yiddish. Really only the morphology reflects the rules of classical Hebrew. Other than that it's kind of a mix of Hebrew, Yiddish, Arabic, and German grammar.


I pray three times a day in Classical Hebrew (also called Biblical Hebrew, never Ancient) and it's very different. I don't speak either fluently, but according to HebrewPod101, which is the website I started learning Hebrew on, they are not mutually intelligible. Fun fact, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revived Modern Hebrew and based it on the Classical form, which had only a few speakers in Palestine but was preserved by the Jewish people as a liturgical language. It's grammar was heavily influenced by Yiddish, and it is today spoken by 7 million people worldwide, more than 5 million of whom are Jewish.


It's sometimes referred to as Ancient Hebrew, Classical Hebrew, Iron Age Hebrew, etc., but usually Biblical Hebrew. Also, most of the prayers are not in Biblical Hebrew, but a poetic, quasi-biblical form of Mishnaic Hebrew (except the parts taken from Tanakh.)


i studied biblical hebrew for a few years in high school and it DEFINITELY gives you a big head start in modern hebrew. even the things that are different are quite easy to figure out. obviously there is a ton of new vocabulary in modern hebrew that biblical does not have, and a lot of biblical hebrew vocab is likewise obsolete in 2016. other than new vocab, i find modern hebrew completely intelligible based on the intermediate knowledge of biblical hebrew i have. i haven't found the lack of vowel marks all that difficult either.


If someone came in speaking biblical hebrew, Hebrew speakers would understand but be very confused. Biblical Hebrew stopped being a spoken language many years ago so there are many differences, but it is similar enough to work. Start with modern hebrew and then move on to biblical if you want.


Wow, I'm so behind n these threads! ^_^ In short the similarities are: - alphabet, - a lot of vocabulary, - most grammatical forms (but not always usage!), - language family. Differences: - number of words (Modern has more -- doh!), - word order, - number of verb forms, - pronunciation.

Longer explanations about each of the above here: https://www.quora.com/How-similar-are-Biblical-Hebrew-and-Modern-Hebrew/answer/Marta-Krzeminska

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