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The Semitic language in which practically all the OT was written. In the NT period spoken Hebrew had largely been replaced by Aramaic, but Hebrew survived as a written language and has been revived as the official language of the modern State of Israel. In the NT ‘Hebrew’ denotes either classical Hebrew or the colloquial Aramaic dialect of Palestine.

Apart from brief inscriptions, the only surviving classical Hebrew literature is the OT itself. The vocabulary is small, the style is simple and direct. The earliest Hebrew was written in a form of ancient Phoenician script, running from right to left, which was also the ancestor of the Greek alphabet and of our own. During the Babylonian captivity (c.586–c.538 bc) this gave way to an Aramaizing form of the same script, from which the so-called ‘Assyrian’ or ‘square’ script was developed. This alphabet consisted of 22 signs for consonants. The absence of vowels was remedied first by using certain of the existing consonants to represent both vowels and consonants, and later by the development of a system of strokes and dots known as vowel points.

Subjects: Religion — History by Period.

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