Questions, Insights, & Responses

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#62 - Hebraisms in the New Testament

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #62:

By searching on Emanuel Tov, I found your information page on the net. I am very interested in getting an understanding of hebraisms in the New Testament, especially where this occurs in all the four gospels when the evangelists describe how the women came to the grave "early in the morning the first day of the week", or, as it is put in Greek: "en de te mia ton sabbaton".

Scholars almost unanimously take that "mia ton sabbaton" is a hebraism. I am not so sure. One scholar refers to the use of hebraisms in the LXX, quoting Genesis 1;5: "...and it became evening and morning the first day." "The first day" translated into Greek: "hemera mian".

I would be very grateful to get some help to understand how one can explain this expression as being a hebraism as the expression in Genesis 1;5 also can translate: "...and it became evening and morning day one".

Response #62:

You have a legitimate question, because I am unaware of any indication from any scholarly works with which I am familiar that Gen 1:5 is associated with the Semitic use of numbers in the account of the women coming to the grave "early in the morning the first day of the week."

Matthew Black (An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, Third Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967, page 124, and see also pages 136-138) writes:

As you very likely know, even today in homes where several languages are spoken, there are frequent mixtures of expressions in several languages -- even in the same sentence. (This is certainly the case in my own home.) Such expressions are almost never references to a sentence in some classical literature of one of those languages (such as Gen 1:5). They simply reflect the way that people use the languages available to them. Since Greek was the language of the Roman empire, it was natural for Jewish followers of Jesus to have their Greek speech and writing influenced by their Aramaic and Hebrew language thinking.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note, as pointed out on the webpage at,


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer