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Too bad Avraham chants and that his tone is inconsistent. He occasionally swallows while reading and takes a breath. He sounds like he reads without pause. Other than that it would be more pleasing to listen through his recordings. I still prefer Bertonov better, but it's not free and that's mostly why you did not mention him. Bertonov may not pronounce the Ayin as it's suppose to be but you just pointed out that Avraham doesn't always perfectly follow the vocal shewas. So in the end, I rather listen to something I will not fall asleep with.

Thanks for pointing out Librivox, didn't know about it.

Bob MacDonald

Mechon-Mamre is a great site - sometimes I have wished for more of a story telling lilt from Avraham Shmielof but it is a classic sound and he did read the whole thing!

You never noted my difficult question on translating the end note in some TNKs at the end of the psalter. I have a friend who is going to help but I would be curious how you would interpret this.


I listened to Librivox. Heih..I'll stick with Bertonov and Avraham.

Hey John, how about genuine recordings of Biblical Greek, do you know of any that you've been satisfied with?

I know about John Simon at, I also know about Kostas Katsouranis, a young linguistic from Athens who tries to reproduce the ancient pronunciation and made his own youtube videos (he's popular know)
He does it very well:

John 1-14:

Revelation 13:


Yep, Mechon-Mamre is a site from where you can download all of Avraham's TNK recordings.

Bob MacDonald

Hmm "He ayinizes words which have an ayin at the onset of a syllable" - I listened a second time and did not find a significant difference to my ear between aleph and ayin. Aleph in vayomer is elided and there is no appreciable guttural at all, but in ha-aretz the guttural is pronounced. The ayin's did not sound deeper. I was told that only the Yemeni can pronounce ayin any more :)

Thanks for getting me to listen - I am much better than I was 2 years ago at following and without the English even. I never get lost reading musical scores though I used to - but I can still get lost following Hebrew. All I say to those who are learning is - a little every day and the change will come - even to an old brain.

Simon Holloway

No difference between אֵת and אֶת? What sort of difference would you advocate? So far as I am concerned, they are entirely homophonous. There is a trend amongst Americans to pronounce the tsere as a diphthong and the segol as a short /e/, but this is not something I've ever heard anywhere else in the world. Granted, the tsere is a longer vowel, but that shouldn't make a difference to a uniconsonantal word that only takes a small stress, if any at all.


John - why niggle about "et" vs. "eyt" if you're going to say that Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation is probably the best way to go? I'm with Simon - the "ey" pronunciation for tsere has always sounded like a (slightly annoying) American-Jewish accent to me, even if the distinction might be accurate historically. In any case, I'd call this a preference, not an error.

I agree that Shmuelof is superior - his pronunciation of dagesh hazaq and guttorals (@bob - they are there) is very pleasant, as is his intonation. Reminds me of Arabic. He does occasionally make errors. At one point (I wish I could remember the reference!) he very clearly burps right in the middle of a word, and then just keeps going. It's hilarious.

Hebrew Scholar

The Librovox recording of Genesis 1 sounds like an Israeli speaking Hebrew, or at least someone who has been in Israel for a long time. He is pretty fluent. Are you saying that Israelis are "wrong" when they speak Hebrew? That's quite a claim, John! Is your spoken Hebrew better or more authentic than Israelis? Wow! Next you'll be saying that your American accent is more authentic than British English or Australians.

Gary Simmons

Although I can't make any particular statements about whether Avraham Schmuelof's pronunciation veers off-course, I thank him because his recording is how I memorized Psalm 23 (though I chant at a different rhythm, especially verse 4).

I, too, would like your take on Greek, John. Honestly, anything other than my own Erasmian (or an attempt to fuse a semitic accent into it) sounds unnatural. Modern pronunciation absolutely makes no sense to my ears, but then again, I learned Erasmian and that alone from day one. On a side note, I tend to take accents as a rough guideline.


Wow, this is an interesting discussion.

First of all, I didn't mention Bertonov because he is not available online except in the sense that you can order audio CDs by him online. Here is a link with a sample:

A few remarks:

Note that Bertonov distinguishes tseres from seghols, just as Shmuelof does.

Simon and Danny,

This has nothing to do with Yankee imperialism. It's an old tradition to distinguish the two vowels in biblical pronunciation. It goes back without a doubt to the tradition the Tiberian Masoretes preserve, as is clear from their tractates and secondary literature on the topic.

That the distinction is not always preserved in spoken Israeli Hebrew is beside the point.

The pedagogical goal, in terms of a pronunciation style of biblical Hebrew, is one in which as many of the oppositions of the traditional reading tradition are preserved as possible, without re-inventing the wheel as it were, the wheel being Israeli Hebrew.

For that reason, I do not teach students to pronounce the full set of begadkefat oppositions of Tiberian Biblical Hebrew. Just the ones preserved in Israeli Hebrew.

That's because it's helpful for students of biblical Hebrew to be conversant in Israeli Hebrew, with a relatively seamless move from one pronunciation style to the other.


I heard the swallow, too. Yes, Shmuelof is a little rough here and there. I like the fact though that he puts feeling into the intonation based on the underlying semantics of the text. Others prefer to pattern their intonation of biblical Hebrew texts on some sort of pseudo-sacred monotonizing pattern; in that case, Bertonov is your man (I have not listened to enough of Bertonov to know for sure just how monotonizing his intonation is).

In my view, it's better though riskier to structure one's intonation and pauses in greater conformity to the underlying semantics of the text. Even if those semantics run counter to the tradition accents; in that case, one needs to argue one's case. That, any rate, is the kind of intonation I have always tried to encourage in the classroom.

Hebrew Scholar,

I was trained to pronounce biblical Hebrew by an Egyptian-born, Israeli-schooled scholar, Menahem Mansoor. Like many in his generation, he pronounced biblical Hebrew as Shmuelof and Bertonov do. He liked to ayinize words (he was also fluent in Arabic). He kept his seghols and tseres distinct when reading Miqra. He didn't overlook nesiga. He doubled consonants as called for, but more naturally than Shmuelof does. He was careful about vocal shvas (though of course this is a tricky topic). If he was conversing in plain-old modern Hebrew or modern Arabic, he would adjust to patterns typical of those vernaculars.

If Israelis that you know do not switch to a distinctive style when pronouncing Miqra, I say, so much the worse for them. Their loss.


I like the way Randall Buth pronounces the Greek of the NT. But I really don't know much about the options out there.


Thanks John!


I like this reading in Ancient Greek from Kostas:

Very Genuine.

G. Kyle Essary

This will sound crazy, but my Hebrew pronunciation has recently been critiqued by Malaysians, especially on doubled consonants.

I teach Bible studies to a group of homeless guys once a week, and a couple of them knew of my love for Hebrew and the OT and asked me to teach basic Hebrew. We've progressed to basic vocabulary and reading and there have been a few times when I would say a word (for them to repeat), and they would say, "No, it's..." even though they had never heard the Hebrew word. Sometimes they've been right!

Malay primarily comes from Arab spice traders in the 15th century (although has also been influenced by English, Chinese, indigenous languages and Quranic Arabic). It's been really cool since they don't necessarily recognize the word immediately, but when I say it they recognize its Arabic cognate.


Malay could very well help your group pronounce Hebrew better than those whose mother tongue is an Indo-European language.

Luke Powell

LibriVox is a great service, at least in theory. In practice sometimes it leaves something to be desired. I just tried to listen to Lucretius' The Nature of Things and was dismayed to hear that it was read by a woman named Leni, who apparently is Portuguese. I have listened to her before and know that she badly mispronounces so many basic English words that it is hard to follow the text. One would think that there would eventually be many good readings of the Torah available from many open sources. In general these are really the early days of voice recordings of texts, perhaps one day most major texts will be available in many famous versions.


Very helpful remarks, Luke, Thank you.

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