Hebrew's Theological Significance

According to Jewish tradition, Hebrew is the original language of humanity and the language spoken by God.

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An alternative understanding of Genesis 11:1, proposed by Hebrew University Assyriologist Aaron Shaffer and published by William W. Hallo, translates Genesis 11:1, “All the earth was of one speech and corresponding words.” This reading sees in this verse a reference to the bilingualism of ancient Near Eastern civilizations beginning in the third millennium B.C.E. It intimates that the bilingualism of Judaism is part of Judaism’s legacy front the ancient Near East. Regardless of their real connection to Genesis 11:1, both the idea of Hebrew as God’s language and the phenomena of bilingualism and multilingualism are part and parcel of Jewish religious life from biblical times.

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Dr. Mayer Gruber

Dr. Mayer Gruber is Associate Professor in the Department of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University.