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Willem Th. van Peursen

Published On


Page Range

pp. 223–272


  • English

Print Length

50 pages

Computational Linguistic Analysis of the Biblical Text

Chapter of: Linguistic Theory and the Biblical Text(pp. 223–272)
Historical linguistics enjoys a venerable history among the many subfields of linguistic study. Many of the tools employed in histori-cal linguistics, as well as some of its theoretical concepts, are well-suited for biblical studies which engage in the ancient languages of the Bible. Knowledge about the kinds of language change common to many of the world’s languages can be useful as one type of evi-dence for the periodisation of biblical books. Additionally, knowledge about the external linguistic influences that shaped the biblical languages, as well as their prior histories (both Semitic and Indo-European) provide a helpful context for studying many syn-chronic aspects of the texts of Scripture. Furthermore, text-critical judgments about the biblical text can be strengthened when in-formed by knowledge of language change across the manuscript tradition. In short, historical linguistics offers a number of unique insights for biblical scholars engaging in the study of the biblical languages. Key words: Historical linguistics, diachronic, sound change, anal-ogy, Indo-European, Semitic


Willem Th. van Peursen

Professor of Old Testament, Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije University Amsterdam

Willem Th. van Peursen (PhD, Leiden University, 1999) is Professor of Old Testament at the Faculty of Religion and Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His publications include The Verbal System in the Hebrew Text of Ben Sira (Brill, 2004), Language and Interpretation in the Syriac Text of Ben Sira (Brill, 2007), and The Two Syriac Versions of the Prayer of Manasseh (with Ariel Gutman; Gorgias, 2011).