Summary of How Biblical Languages Work – Chapter Two

              Chapter two of How Biblical Languages Work deals with the reading and writing of Hebrew and Greek. Emphasis is also given on the pronunciation of the languages. The author points out that the written form of language cannot always convey the full meaning of the original oral communication. This is why understand how to pronounce the words is so important. Due to the lack of understanding how the Biblical languages sound, Hebrew and Greek names are often inconsistently translated in our English Bibles.

                The author also describes the three types of writing systems. The three basic writing systems are as follows: logographic (word writing), syllabic (symbol for each syllable), and alphabetic (symbol for each distinct sound in a language). It is pointed out that the traditional characters of Chinese are an example of a logographic writing. In such a language system, each symbol represents an idea rather than a sound or a group of sounds. The most common writing system is the alphabetic system. The author notes that the guiding principle of an alphabet is that one symbol represents one sound. English, however, violates this principle as the English language has twenty-six letters, but yet over forty-two sounds. As in English, Hebrew and Greek may have symbols that have more than one sound. Just as English, Hebrew and Greek has also changed over the years. It is important that the student of the Bible takes into consideration the changes in language. This does not produce a doubt of God’s Word, but rather, a greater appreciation for the miraculous preservation of scripture down through the years of changing languages and cultures.

                The author of How Biblical Languages Work also deals in chapter two with the sounds of language. Attention is given to the places of articulation such as: labial, dental, alveolar, palatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, and glottal. In dealing with the sounds of language, the author specifically addresses the sounds of Hebrew and Greek respectively.

                Understanding how the writing systems of Greek and Hebrew work will give a better perspective about the language than if you just memorize the alphabets. The written language is an imperfect reflection of the spoken language; however, it does give adequate information for future generations. Understanding and knowing how the various sounds relate to each other will help you to understand the changes that take place within words.

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