Languages of Scripture

The scriptures were written in Hebrew and/or in Greek. Both languages used the letters of the alphabet to double as numerals. It follows that any word may be read instead as a number: or put another way, every word has a 'number value'. Here is one of several reasons why no translation to a different language can be relied upon to convey the full meaning present in the original.

Reading scripture in translation alone has always been a great mistake. As a practice it has contributed to generations of people missing the central message entirely - so being led far astray.


Hebrew is a Semitic language. It is written from right to left using twenty two consonant characters.

At Gn.3:4 the serpent promises 'eternal life' to Eve:

Gn.3:4 in Hebrew

This was the language of the Israelites before the exile to Babylon (586 BCE). Later its use declined in favour of Aramaic. By the first century CE, when the gospels appeared, Hebrew had been a dead language for several centuries. Yet in recent times, prompted by the Zionist movement, it has been re-established for use in today's state of Israel.

Early Hebrew was written without vowels. This could give rise to ambiguity in meaning. The current scheme for denoting vowels, through the use of diacritical markings, was developed by Jewish scholars in the ninth or tenth century CE to facilitate consistent reading of Hebrew scripture.

The foundation for scripture is the Book of Genesis, first inscribed in Hebrew at an unknown date, perhaps around 500 BCE. Other books were then added - and a tradition grew up around these writings that any copies must be perfect copies, with no alteration permitted.


Publicly justified on grounds that the 'Word of God' must not be changed in any way, this insistence also ensured that any special devices included in the text by the original authors would be preserved intact - and not edited out by later copyists who imagined they were 'clever' enough to improve upon what had been written.


Greek is an Indo-European language. Early Greek was written from right to left. There followed a period when the direction of writing was reversed for each successive line. But from the fifth century BCE Greek was written consistently from left to right using eighteen consonants and six explicit vowels.

At Gn.3:4 the serpent promises 'eternal life' to Eve:

Gn.3:4 in Greek

With its extensive vocabulary, Greek lends itself to the drawing of subtle distinctions. It is a language ideally suited for poetry, philosophy and scripture.

The Hellenist world was established in the wake of conquests made by Alexander the Great [356-323 BCE]. In that era Greek was adopted as the language of learning in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Around 250 BCE the Book of Genesis was rewritten in Greek. It was not long before the other books of Hebrew scripture had been rewritten too.

These books of scripture in Greek would provide the textual reference against which the later books of the New Testament (as it has come to be known) would be written.

Amongst these later Greek texts were the four gospels and the several 'Pauline' letters.


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