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Language of the Bible: Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek

Updated on October 20, 2014

In The Beginning Was The Word

Biblical languages are any of the languages employed in the original writings of the Bible. Due to the significance of the Bible in society, the language of the Bible is studied more widely than many other dead languages.

The two main languages used to record the message of the Bible were Hebrew and Greek. This article will give a brief overview of these languages and discuss the possibility that divine providence had planned the very use of these languages to fit the message and the era to which the message was being conveyed.

Languages of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)

The Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Bible, or the Tanakh , was written in two languages: mainly Biblical Hebrew (Classical Hebrew ), with some portions written in Aramaic (most notably in Daniel and Ezra ). These languages are part of the Semitic Family of languages. The Semitic Family of languages have their origin with Shem: one of the sons of Noah.

There are four divisions in the Semitic Group of languages:

  1. The Eastern Division(Akkadian), sometimes referred to as Assyrian and even Babylonian.

  2. The Southern Division(Arabic and Ethiopic).

  3. The Northern Division(Amorite and Aramaic). Aramaic, also known as Syriac, was the language of Jesus and the disciples, and also the Syrians.

  4. The Northwest Division, which includes the Canaanite subdivision of four dialects: Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite, and Hebrew.

Hebrew was the most biographically suitable language because it is both a pictorial and a personal language, which allowed for God to easily reveal Himself through a message of divine intervention rather than through philosophical propositions. In other words, Hebrew was a language suitable for the expression of God rather than for the use of philosophical reflection upon Him.

For example, consider the story of the Exodus, the plight of the Israelites, and God's personal intervention, when examining the best language for expressing the truth of God to man in a story format.

Hebrew Letters Showing the Name of Jesus

There is still debate over the proper pronunciation, but I believe it is Yah-hoo-shew-ah rather than Yah-shew-ah.
There is still debate over the proper pronunciation, but I believe it is Yah-hoo-shew-ah rather than Yah-shew-ah. | Source

Language of the New Testament

The New Testament was written in Koine, also known as Hellenistic Greek, which was the language of the “common people.” The Koine Greek language found in the Bible is noticeably influenced by the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin languages; borrowing phrases, idioms, and even whole words in its usage. Its alphabet was derived from the Phoenicians (see Northwest Division of the Semitic Group of languages). Koine Greek was spoken and used in literature in the Roman Empire as fluently as Latin.

Koine Greek was an evangelistically suitable language because it was both an intellectual and a universal language, which allowed for the now expressed revelation of God to be interpreted in a theological sense and in a universal context across many people and nations who shared this common tongue.

Books for Bible Language Study


God chose the languages most suitable to communicate His truth according to the designated times of the various stages of His revelation to man. Hebrew was best suited for depicting the deeds of God in direct intervention with men, and the Koine Greek language was best suited for interpreting and propagating a clear understanding concerning God's intended purpose for man and his relationship with God. One can clearly see that God chose the best languages in accordance with time for His will concerning the communication of His message to mankind.


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    • Mandrake_1975 profile image

      Mandrake_1975 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I found a video on Youtube that gave a course in textual criticism and specifically dealt with the Greek. It was very interesting. I wish I could think of the video. It was a very educational video in which the guy was pretty much teaching Greek.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 6 years ago

      I particularly have come to love studying Hebrew. I would eventually like to learn the Greek as well. It truly does aid in understanding more deeply and at times more accurately the scriptures.

      Nice hub and information.