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Discovery Magazine 9/1/2014

Hebrew and Aramaic

by  AP Staff

One of the languages that eventually resulted from the events at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 was the Hebrew language. This was the language spoken by the people of Israel, and much of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew language was even mentioned and quoted in the New Testament. For example, in Acts 21, the apostle Paul was speaking in Jerusalem, and it says that “he addressed them in the Hebrew language” (vs. 40). Again, in Acts 26, when Paul was talking to King Agrippa he said, “…I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language…” (vs. 14).  The Hebrew language was highly respected among the Jews. It was something that set them apart from their neighbors in the Promised Land, and they were proud of the fact that they were God’s chosen people through whom the Messiah would come.

Hebrew Aramaic

Hebrew was not the only language that was used to write the Old Testament. The Aramaic language was also used to write some of the Old Testament. Aramaic was very similar to Hebrew in a lot of areas, including the fact that they both used the same alphabet. Aramaic was the language of the nations of Persia, Assyria, and Babylonia, and each of these nations held the Israelites in captivity for a period of time. Parts of the book of Ezra were written in Aramaic, as well as portions of Daniel. In the book of 2 Kings, the servants of King Hezekiah asked the Assyrian leaders to speak to them in Aramaic (2 Kings 18:26). Aramaic was also spoken by some people in the time of Jesus, as shown in John 20:16.

Both the Hebrew language and the Aramaic language were used in writing the Old Testament. We may not be able to speak ancient Hebrew or Aramaic, but we can at least understand some of the history behind the languages. This will help us better understand the Bible, which can help us become stronger Christians.

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