Hebrew is a Semitic language. The word Semitic comes from the name Shem, named in Genesis (6:10) as the son of Noah , whose descendants lived in the Middle East. Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic are Northwest Semitic languages, and Arabic is Southwest Semitic. All are examples of Semitic languages, which have similar characteristics, such as the presence of guttural letters formed in the pharynx or larynx; a consonantal system with three-letter word roots to connote meaning; and changes in the form or morphology of the word root through the addition of prefixes, infixes, and suffixes to determine the precise sense and function of the word.
Hebrew was the original language of the Israelites. Hebrew tradition, the Torah itself, as well as Jesus and the New Testament writers name Moses as the divinely inspired author of the Law or Pentateuch (see Genesisand Genesis 3:15). It is believed that Moses lived in the latter part of the second millennium BC (1500-1200 BC). Archeology has yet to discover the precise time that Moses lived and led his people during the Exodus from Egypt, or the actual script utilized by Moses to write the Torah. Furthermore, no original manuscript by the author of any biblical book has yet been discovered!
Phoenicia (now Lebanon) was a peaceful sea-faring nation expert in navigation and trade that developed their alphabet around 1400 BC in an effort to communicate with their diverse trading partners that encircled the Mediterranean Sea. It was the Phoenician alphabet that was widely received throughout the Mediterranean world, as it was only 22 letters based on sound, as opposed to the myriad of symbols in cuneiform and hieroglyphics prevalent at the time. The Hebrew alphabet known as Ketav Ivri or Paleo-Hebrew was nearly identical to the Phoenician alphabet that follows:
The Hebrew language adopted the square script alphabet of Imperial Aramaic, known as Ketav Ashuri.
Tradition holds that Ezra adopted the Aramaic square alphabet in place of the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet during the post-exilic Restoration of Israel in the fifth century BC. As the Aramaic alphabet became the Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew papyri and parchments were then primarily written in Aramaic script. The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet has persisted to the present day solely with the Samaritans. The Biblical Hebrew text available to us today is thus written in the Hebrew language with the adopted Aramaic alphabet.
Jesus and his Apostles spoke Aramaic. However, the Aramaic language was largely replaced by Arabic with the rise of Islam in the seventh century AD. Aramaic does persist in the liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Chaldean, Maronite, and Syriac Churches, and remains a spoken language among scattered villages throughout the Middle East, especially among the Assyrians and Chaldeans.