Friday, August 08, 2008

"Koiné" Hebrew?

Today's New York Times has a story about the display of the Qumran (aka "Dead Sea") scroll of Isaiah in a special exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Israelis are flocking to read the Hebrew words first put to the parchment 2,100 years ago, some leaving in tears because of the connection they feel to the past.  No one uses Latin or Koiné (classical) Greek as their primary language anymore, but Hebrew is still in use.

But something else is becoming apparent.  Israelis are losing touch with "classical Hebrew", and as they attempt to read the scroll, they're realizing that they cannot understand ancient Hebrew prose.  Because it's a "living language", it has evolved, and continues to do so.  So much so, that it's becoming more difficult for a person fluent in Hebrew to read an ancient text.  

Could Hebrew be facing what has happened with the Greek language?  Read the story.

By the way, if you'd like to see the "Isaiah scroll" for yourself, the museum has it available online.  Click here, and remember, you're stepping back 2,100 years in history.

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