In my last post, I posted a video clip of one of my class sessions for beginning biblical Hebrew. One of the accusations sometimes leveled at us who try to teach using Communicative Language Teaching is that we are not using/teaching biblical Hebrew but modern Hebrew. While it is true that “slip-ups” are possible, generally speaking I try to avoid any modern Hebrew term that is not in the Hebrew Bible, or can be deduced from the Hebrew Bible. Thus, for example, I never talk about a cat in my class, or use the word עַכְשָׁיו (mishnaic and modern Hebrew for BH עַתָּה ‘now’) because we do not have those specific items mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. (Instead, I talk about lions, but avoid the פִּיל ‘elephant’, since a Hebrew text to 1 Macabbees did not end up as part of the Hebrew canon.)
In one sense, the distinction between modern and biblical Hebrew is somewhat artificial. Much of biblical Hebrew is found in modern Hebrew unchanged. I’ve heard it said, for example, that all the morphology of modern Hebrew is found in biblical Hebrew. (E.g., the shape of the word רָאִיתִי ‘I saw’ is the same in both.) So in one sense, it is inconsequential if I do end up talking about “cat” in my class using the word currently used in modern Hebrew, because by doing so I am not undoing or contradicting anything a student would have to learn to know good biblical Hebrew; I am just adding to it. Still, keeping the two distinct is a good exercise.
Thus, I have two questions:
- Was there anything in the video clip that was not biblical Hebrew, that I should avoid using in the future?
- In several instances, I “suppressed” my inclination to use modern Hebrew and used an alternative that is more in line with biblical Hebrew. How many of these instances are there, and what are they? What would have been the common way to express it in modern Hebrew? Is there an even better way to express the thought in biblical Hebrew than the one I used? Or what other biblical options are available?
Let me know what you think. And since this is the BLC’s blog, I’ll get Randall to weigh in on the responses as well.