Monday, November 17, 2014

A Social History of Hebrew

William Schneidewind’s “A Social History of Hebrew” attempts a very difficult task, to take create a social history of a language that exists only in text form.  The author gives reasons why this is a difficult task, and they seem legitimate.  He also gives other reasons why this is possible. I am not qualified to judge if he is correct.

After reading much about the history of Hebrew, it strikes me that despite major discoveries in archeology, the discovery and examination of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and advances in the historical study of the bible, how little certainty exists in the field.  Things like dating, influences and the social context of Hebrew in various pre-modern eras are not know, and new discoveries do little but create more questions which may never be known.

Despite this, the non-specialist can read Schneidewind’s book and get a great deal out of it.  It is a semi-technical explanation of the history of Hebrew, and with a bit of background, a reader can gain much insight into the social context of the language from its formation until its rebirth as a living language in Israel.

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