to its organic structure, already suffered more considerable losses than the Arabic, which appears much later on the historical horizon; (2) that, notwithstanding this fact, we cannot at once and in all points concede priority to the latter; (3) that it is a mistake to consider with some that the Aramaic, on account of its simplicity (which is only due to the decay of its organic structure), is the oldest form of Semitic speech.
See Gesenius, Gesch. der hebr. Sprache u. Schrift, Lpz. 1815, §§ 5–18; Th. Nöldeke’s art., ‘Sprache, hebräische,’ in Schenkel’s Bibel-Lexikon, Bd. v, Lpz. 1875; F. Buhl, ‘Hebräische Sprache,’ in Hauck’s Realencycl. für prot. Theol. und Kirche, vii (1899), p. 506 ff.; A. Cowley, ‘Hebrew Language and Literature,’ in the forthcoming ed. of the Encycl. Brit.; W. R. Smith in the Encycl. Bibl., ii. London, 1901, p. 1984 ff.; A. Lukyn Williams, ‘Hebrew,’ in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, ii. p. 325 ff., Edinb. 1899.
[a] 1. The name Hebrew Language usually denotes the language of the sacred writings of the Israelites which form the canon of the Old Testament. It is also called Ancient Hebrew in contradistinction to the New Hebrew of Jewish writings of the post-biblical period (§ 3 a). The name Hebrew language (לָשׁוֹן עִבְרִית γλῶσσα τῶν Ἑβραίων, ἑβραϊστί) does not occur in the Old Testament itself. Instead of it we find in Is 1918 the term language of Canaan, and יְהוּדִית in the Jews’ language 2 K 1826.28 (cf. Is 3611.13) Neh 1324. In the last-cited passage it already agrees with the later (post-exilic) usage, which gradually extended the name Jews, Jewish to the whole nation, as in Haggai, Nehemiah, and the book of Esther.
[b] The distinction between the names Hebrew (עִבְרִים Ἑβραῖοι) and Israelites (בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל) is that the latter was rather a national name of honour, with also a religious significance, employed by the people themselves, while the former appears as the less significant name by which the nation was known amongst foreigners. Hence in the Old Testament Hebrews are only spoken of either when the name is employed by themselves as contrasted with foreigners (Gn 4015, Ex 26 f. 318 &c., Jon 19) or when it is put in the mouth of those who are not Israelites (Gn 3914.17 4112 &c.) or, finally, when it is used in opposition to other nations (Gn 1413 4332, Ex 211.13 211). In 1 S 133.7 and 1421 the text is clearly corrupt. In the Greek and Latin authors, as well as in Josephus, the name Ἑβραῖοι, Hebraei, &c., alone occurs. Of the many explanations of the gentilic עִבְרִי, the derivation from עֵבֶר a country on the other side with the derivative suffix ־ִי (§ 86 h) appears to be the only one philologically possible. The name accordingly denoted the Israelites as being those who inhabited the ʿeber, i.e. the district on the other side of the Jordan (or according to others the Euphrates), and would therefore originally be only appropriate when used by the nations on this side of the Jordan or Euphrates. We must, then, suppose that after the crossing of the river in question it had been retained by the Abrahamidae as an old-established name, and within certain limits
- That Hebrew in its present form was actually developed in Canaan appears from such facts as the use of yām (sea) for the west, nègeb (properly dryness, afterwards as a proper name for the south of Palestine) for the south.
- The Graeco-Roman form of the name is not directly derived from the Hebrew עִבְרִי, but from the Palestinian Aramaic ʿebrāyā, ‘the Hebrew.’