William Bradford’s “Some Hebrew Words Englished”

Edited and Introduced by Eric D. Reymond

The Hebrew words, phrases, and verses that William Bradford wrote down in the blank pages that he left preceding Of Plimoth Plantation are the primary record of the Governor’s study of the Hebrew language. Read together, the eight pages of lists and quotations illustrate Bradford’s growing familiarity with Hebrew and its lexicon, as he learns to read the Hebrew alphabet and vowel symbols and then grows more and more familiar with the morphology and syntax of the language. Although all the details cannot be fleshed out, from looking closely at the lists of words, one can discern how Bradford made his lists. Together with the mistakes he made in transliterating and copying, the glosses he gave to the words, and their organization, one can perceive not only how well Bradford knew the language, but also how he learned it, his motivations and interests, and even what he was reading. Among the specific things that the study of his lists reveals is that although Bradford’s knowledge of the language was rudimentary, it was greater than is sometimes assumed. This is an important point since his knowledge of Hebrew is often, even in contemporary appraisals, mischaracterized. He probably should not be considered a “Hebraist,” as some claim, but his vocabularies should not be referred to as doodles.1

Quotations and translations of Hebrew phrases similar to those found in the present text are also preserved at the beginning of his so-called “Third Dialogue,” or, “A Dialogue or 3d Conference betweene some yonge-men borne in New England, And some Ancient-men.”2 Nevertheless, that manuscript contains only one (barely legible) list made up of individual words and phrases together with definitions. So it, on the whole, reveals less about Bradford’s interactions with Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.

In what follows I will first attempt to delimit the sources through which Bradford was learning Hebrew. Next, I will describe how he worked from these sources to make his lists and what these reflect about his knowledge of Hebrew. Finally, I will describe the organization of his lists, the common errors that he makes, and summarize Bradford’s knowledge of Hebrew as we can discern it from his lists. The following are some of the general conclusions to be drawn from this close analysis.

Bradford’s grasp of Hebrew has sometimes been characterized as greater than it was. This study makes clear, however, that Bradford’s knowledge of the language was rudimentary. He makes many mistakes throughout the lists and still seems to be grappling with some basic problems on the last page. Nevertheless, he knew more about Hebrew than might first be apparent from a casual perusal of the word lists. Although many lemmas do not match their glosses exactly, this does not always reflect Bradford’s ignorance of Hebrew, but rather reflects the common manner in which Hebrew words were often defined in his era. Moreover, his knowledge of Hebrew morphology is suggested by his placement of the silluq cantillation symbol to mark the accent or stress on words.

Many of the mistakes that Bradford does make are mistakes due to his dependance on his sources. Although he seems often to parrot the information in these sources, sometimes he does show an independent knowledge of Hebrew. Some of this independence is also reflected in Bradford’s own translations of various verses that he quotes.

Bradford attempted to learn the language as one might learn a spoken language, concentrating on aspects of the pronunciation that were perceptible to him (like the stress/accent of a word) and on vocabulary that expressed everyday objects and actions (like the word for “bucket” and “obey”). Not surprisingly, where English pronunciation does not articulate a distinction that is articulated in Hebrew, Bradford often made mistakes. For example, he frequently had difficulty distinguishing between the seghol (/e/) and the shewa (/ə/) symbols since, although the two symbols once represented different types of vowels, they were pronounced in similar ways in Bradford’s time (as in our own).

Some aspects of Bradford’s lists and quotations are, however, unknown to us. He includes some post-biblical Hebrew vocabulary and it is unclear whence he gets these words. How exactly he made his lists is also unclear, though it is suggested that he likely made preliminary lists of words as he encountered them and later reorganized the words into semantic categories when he wrote them down in the present manuscript.


The words Bradford records are often drawn from commentaries he owned and, in some cases, from other resources, likely borrowed from other members of his community. For example, he seems to utilize a commentary on Psalms and a lexicon by Buxtorf that he does not appear to have owned. According to the list of books in Bradford’s possession at his death, provided in Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs’s Plymouth Colony’s Private Libraries, Bradford owned the following commentaries:

Although the exact editions are not indicated in the contemporary extant sources, Bangs suggests that Bradford used Andrew Willet’s Hexapla in Genesin: that is a sixfold commentarie upon Genesis (Cambridge: John Legat, 1605), Hexapla in Exodum: that is a sixfold commentary upon the second book of Moses called Exodus (London: Felix Kyngston for Thomas Man and John Norton, 1608), and Hexapla in Danielem: that is, A six-fold commentarie upon the most diuine prophesie of Daniel (Cambridge: C. Legge for Leonard Greene, 1610); and Henry Ainsworth’s Annotations upon the first book of Moses, called Genesis ([Amsterdam]: [Giles Thorp], 1616), Annotations upon the second book of Moses, called Exodus (Amsterdam: Giles Thorp, 1617), and Annotations upon the third book of Moses, called Leuiticus (Amsterdam: Giles Thorp, 1618).4 Bradford also had access to and consulted frequently the commentary on Psalms by Henry Ainsworth, which is listed as among William Brewster’s books and which Bangs identifies as The book of Psalms: Englished both in prose and metre, With Annotations (Amsterdam: Giles Thorp, 1612).

Furthermore, it seems likely that Bradford also consulted a lexicon. Among Brewster’s books there is listed “Buxtorff lexicon.”5 Although Bangs suggests that the lexicon is Buxtorf’s Lexicon Chaldaicum Talmudicum, this is unlikely, since Brewster (and Bradford) would have needed instead a dictionary for biblical words.6 As Henry Martyn Dexter suggested, Brewster perhaps had Buxtorf’s Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum, if not some other version of his Biblical Hebrew lexicon, like Epitome Radicum Hebraicarum et Chaldaicarum (Basel: Waldkirch, 1607).7

There were other works in Brewster’s library that contain Hebrew words (in transliteration and/or in Hebrew letters) along with their translations.8 The most useful of these would have been “Piscator in Genosū,” identified by Bangs as Johannes Piscator, Commentarius in Genesin (Herborn: Christopher Corvinus, 1611).9 Another is a Hebrew grammar which is listed simply as “Hebrew gramat[ica].”10 Dexter tentatively identifies it as Johann Avenarius [= Johann Habermann], דִּקְדּוּק לְשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ [diqdūq ləšôn haqqōdeš]: Grammatices Ebraicae Sanctae Lingvae (Viteberg: Johannes Cratonis, 1586), though he notes “there are more than a hundred possibilities.”11 In fact, Stephen G. Burnett tabulates that there were 490 different elementary Hebrew grammars produced in Europe from 1501-1650.12

Brewster’s library also included a copy of John Weemes, The Christian Synagogue (London: John Dawson and George Eld for John Bellamie, 1623), which contains various Hebrew words in the Hebrew alphabet with explanations and transliterations, though without vowels.13 Brewster further had a copy of Sante Pagnini, Psalmi Davidis Hebraici ([Leiden:] Plantiniana Raphelengii, 1608), which is an interlinear Hebrew / Latin text.14

In addition to these, in the library of Thomas Prence is found “the Key of the hebrew tongue,” identified by Bangs as Pierre Martínez [= Martinius], [sic] מַפְתֵּחַ לְשׁוֹן הַקֹדֶשׁ [maptēaḥ ləšôn haqōdeš (sic)] That is the Key of the Holy Tongue; trans. John Udall (Leiden: Francis Raphelengius, 1593).15 In the library of Ralph Partridge is listed “an Hebrew Gramer,” which might have been Wilhelm Schickard, Horologium Hebraum (Leipzig: Michael Wachsmann, 1625).16 And in the library of Love Brewster was “the five books of Moses,” which Bangs identifies as Henry Ainsworth, Annotations Vpon the Five Bookes of Moses and the Booke of the Psalms (Amsterdam: Giles Thord, 1619).17 The same volume seems to have been owned by John Hazell and William Bassett.18

There are many more books that are not identified among the wills and inventories of the early colonists, including those of William Bradford and Ralph Partridge. Conceivably, a small number of these contained Hebrew words and their explanations or could have been useful in studying the language. Also, Bradford would in all likelihood have had access to the library and to the tutelage of noted Hebraist Charles Chauncy until 1654, when Chauncy became the president of Harvard College.19

With the exception of the commentaries by Ainsworth and Willet, it is hard to know for certain which resources Bradford consulted. Lupher suggests that Bradford worked from Shickard’s grammar (complemented perhaps by notes taken by Ralph Partridge from Buxtorf’s Epitome Grammaticae Hebraeae).20 Although this is quite possible, it still leaves unanswered other questions. For example, where did Bradford get the numerals he lists (5.lr.2)?21 Many grammars, including those of Shickard and Buxtorf (at least those I have been able to consult), do not present the numerals in any accessible way, such as a list. Nor do the grammars of Martínez / Udall or Clenardus.22 Some grammars (e.g., one by Johann Isaak Levita) do include such lists, but it is impossible to tell which (if any) Bradford used.23

One very likely source for some of Bradford’s glosses is one of the lexicons of Biblical Hebrew by Buxtorf listed above. Three factors suggest Bradford used one of these lexicons. First, Brewster owned such a lexicon and this would have been available to Bradford. Second, the words Bradford lists are often accompanied by the silluq cantillation symbol; in Bradford’s lists, this symbol marks the stressed syllable of a word. The same symbol is used in the same way in Buxtorf’s lexicons, but is not found in some other Hebrew resources like the lexicons of Sante Pagnini and Sebastian Münster.24 It is found in the interlinear editions of the Hebrew texts by Pagnini and Montano, but only at the ends of verses, where it is expected.25 Third, certain lemmas and glosses agree with Buxtorf against those of Pagnini and Münster. For example, Bradford writes: “כָּתִיֽת [kātît] / tusum [= Latin beaten]” (8.5). This agrees with Buxtorf’s simple gloss of the word, “tusum” (Epitome Radicum), while Pagnini has “Contusio vel contusum” (Epitome Thesauri) and Münster translates a passage “oleum contusum . . .” (סֵפֶר הַשֳּׁרָשִׁים / Dictionarium). Similarly, Bradford writes “עָבוֹֽת [‘ābôt] thicke / densum [= Latin dense],” which agrees with the lemma and gloss in Buxtorf: “עָבוֹֽת Densum, Contortum, Tortile” (Epitome Radicum, sub עבת). Pagnini, on the other hand, does not seem to list the word. Münster has a more descriptive definition: “funis iugi, funis densus & fortis . . . pro catenis . . .” (סֵפֶר הַשֳּׁרָשִׁים / Dictionarium, sub עבת).26

It is also entirely possible that Bradford was working from another person’s notes, even if these were only marginal annotations made in an edition of Ainsworth, Willet, or another book.27 This is an important point. I assume in what follows that Bradford is largely responsible for the ways that he diverges from his sources. These seem to demonstrate some knowledge (albeit rudimentary) of Hebrew and its grammar. If Bradford’s divergences from his sources are due to annotations made by someone else, then it is much harder to say anything about Bradford’s knowledge of Hebrew grammar.

Nevertheless, it seems likely that Bradford himself was responsible for most of the entries and divergences from his sources, as can be inferred from the somewhat awkward translations he offers of biblical passages. Note especially the translations that incorporate un-idiomatic repetition: “[ju]dging judge the / []pore” (Jer. 22:16; 3.ur.1); “In euery age and age, familie and familie, / prouince and prouince, citie and citie” (Est. 9:28; 5.ur.1); “If from a thread to a shoe latchet, and if I take, / any thing that is thine” (Gen. 14:23; 5.lr.1). A more seasoned reader in Hebrew would not have made these translations. Rather, these are exactly the kind of translations early (English-speaking) students of Hebrew come up with, in order to identify each of the Hebrew words and to familiarize themselves with certain syntactic constructions that are unlike those of English. Moreover, this seems to be what Bradford means when he writes that his “aime and / desire is, to see how the words, / and phrases lye in the / holy texte” (3.ur). If, as seems likely, Bradford was crafting his own translations, relying on his own (rudimentary) knowledge of the language to translate these phrases, then it stands to reason that in his lists of words he was also sometimes drawing on his own knowledge of Hebrew.

The manner that Bradford worked from the commentaries and reference works was inconsistent. Sometimes he repeated exactly the transliterations and glosses he found in the commentaries, though in most cases he paraphrases what he finds. As demonstrated below, it is often clear from which commentary he is working because he frequently repeats mistakes or idiosyncrasies from a specific commentary.

Even among the lists of words in the Hebrew alphabet, Bradford drew individual words from the commentaries. The commentaries do not spell words with Hebrew letters, but instead render the Hebrew in transliteration. These are often ambiguous and so Bradford had to make educated guesses regarding the Hebrew vowels and consonants. He often spelled words correctly and it can be assumed that this reflects some knowledge of Hebrew phonology and morphology. However, on not a few occasions his attempts at writing a word in the Hebrew alphabet based on a transliteration failed. The resulting vocalization is either an impossible formation or in other instances is another Hebrew word entirely. Examples of this are described below (under “Frequent Errors Relating to Hebrew Orthography”).

Relationship between Lemmas and Glosses

In many cases, the Hebrew word that is listed does not match the gloss exactly in terms of meaning. It is unlikely that this reflects Bradford’s misunderstanding in every instance. Due to the rather predictable nature of Hebrew morphology, it is relatively easy to distinguish between a conjugated verbal form of a particular root (e.g., שָׁתִיתָ šātîtā “you drank”) and the most basic (or lexical) form of the same root (e.g., שָׁתָה šātāh “to drink”). To understand this a bit better, it helps to know something about the Hebrew verb and how it is cited in vocabulary lists and dictionaries.

In Hebrew, verbal and nominal forms are distinguished primarily by their vowels and affixes (i.e., prefixes and suffixes) applied to a three-consonant root.28 A given sequence of vowels and/or affixes will often be peculiar to just one verbal or nominal form. For example, the sequence of first-root consonant + qamets (ā) + second-root consonant + patach (a) + third-root consonant + suffixed -tā (i.e., CāCaC) is peculiar to the qal second masculine singular (= 2ms) form of the suffix conjugation (usually indicating a perfective sense) of any given strong verb: שָׁמַרְתָּ šāmartā “you guarded.”29 This sequence of elements (i.e., CāCaC) is peculiar to this one verbal form, so any word exhibiting this order of elements would be a 2ms suffix conjugation verb. In some weak roots (where one of the three root consonants is lost) the sequence of elements is slightly different: CāCîtā: שָׁתִיתָ šātîtā “you drank,” cited above, though all weak verbs of this type would exhibit this same pattern of elements. Nouns and adjectives are similarly predictable. So, for example, a word with the pattern CeCeC is usually a noun (e.g., מֶלֶךְ melek “king”).

The most basic form of the verb and the one often cited as the dictionary lemma is the qal third masculine singular (= 3ms) suffix conjugation. This form is typically distinguished by the sequence CāCaC (or CāCāh for some weak roots). For example, the verb שָׁמַר šāmar is the qal 3ms suffix conjugation of the root שׁמר. Since it is a 3ms form, it would normally be translated “he guarded” in a narrative context, but in a vocabulary list or a dictionary, it would be translated with the English “to guard,” since English uses the infinitive for definitions of verbs.

Bradford follows this custom. Verbs are mostly given in their lexical (i.e., qal 3ms suffix conjugation) forms and glossed with English infinitives or infinitive phrases. Note just some of those in the first column of the first page: “[ta]phash, to handle”; “Ragaz, to be stired wt / anger, fear, or / Greefe”; “palas, to peise, or waigh” “chaphar, to cover . . .”; “zabal, to dwell”; “shacan, to dwell” (1.1); and some of those of the first column of the eighth page: “שָׁאַל [šā’al] to aske, or craue,”; “נָשָׁהֽ [nāšāh] to forget”; “שָׁכַחֽ [šākaḥ] ye same”; “כָלָא [kālā’] to restraine, or / withould”; “חָשַׁב [ḥāšab] to esteeme, or repute”; “נָפַלֽ [nāpal] to fale” (8.1). In some cases, Bradford has correctly supplied the Hebrew vowels himself and this reflects some knowledge of Hebrew morphology. For example, he writes: “שָׁתַף [šātap] to ouerflow,” relying presumably on the transliteration and gloss of Willet (Danielem 9 on Dan. 11:22): “shataph, to ouerflow.” Willet’s transliteration does not distinguish between a taw (= /t/) and tet (= //), nor between the qamets (= /ā/) and patach (= /a/). Although Bradford mistakenly writes a taw for a tet (the word is really שָׁטַף šāṭap), he does represent the correct sequence of vowels, qamets and then patach.30

Nevertheless, sometimes Bradford lists an inflected verbal form while still glossing it with an English infinitive. For example, Bradford cites “שָׁתִיתָ [šātîtā]” (7.4), which must be understood as a second-person form “you drank” (given the sequence CāCîtā), though he translates it with the English infinitive phrase: “to drink.” It is inconceivable that he considered this the lexical form (i.e., שָׁתָה šātāh), much less the true Hebrew infinitive (שְׁתוֹת šətôt). Bradford even lists independently the lexical form of the verb “to drink” (though not with the correct vowels): “שָׁתַה [šātah] to drinke” (8.5).31 Bradford certainly knew “שָׁתִיתָ [šātîtā]” was the 2ms form of the verb, but what was less clear to him, perhaps, was the basic idea of the verb, so he indicated in English the most basic sense of the word “to drink.” In short, Bradford sometimes wrote down an inflected form of the verb and then intentionally glossed it with an English infinitive since this was all he needed in order to understand the inflected form.

It is likely that Bradford similarly understood a number of other entries as conjugated verbs or particular verbal forms, though he glossed them with English infinitives (or even adjectives). For example, note “דִמִּיתָ [dimmîtā] / to thinke or / suppose” (5.lr.4), which in its context (Psa. 50:21) should be translated “you thought.” The form “רָֽצו [rāṣw]” (5.lr.4) is a misspelling of רָצוּ rāṣû “they ran,” but is glossed by Bradford “to rune [= run].” The Hebrew “נִמְלְצוּֽ [nimləṣû]” (8.1) would be translated according to its inflection as “they were sweet” (see its only occurrence in Psa. 119:103), though Bradford glosses it as simply “sweete.”32 Note also “יְלַמֵּד [yəlammēd] / to teach” (1.4), though it would be translated according to its inflection “he will teach”; “יֵהוֹדוּ [yēhôdû] to celebrate / or praise” (8.2), though according to its inflection “they will praise” or “let them praise.”33

In addition, Bradford likely understood that the participles he glossed with English infinitives were not the most basic forms of the verbs. Note just some of the qal participles he lists: “Iosheb [= יֹשֵׁב yōšēb], to site [= to sit]” (1.2); “גוֹעֵרֽ [gô‘ēr] to re-/buke” (5.lr.5) and “גוֹעֵרֽ [gô‘ēr] to rebuke or / reprooue” (8.3); “אֹרֵג [’ōrēg] to weave / a web” (7.3); “רֹדֵףֽ to follow, or / pursue” (8.1); “מֹחֶהֽ [mōḥeh] to blote / out” (8.1); “יֹשֵׁב [yōšēb] to Inhabite, / or site downe” (8.1); “לֵץ [lēṣ] to mocke” (8.1); “יוֹדֵֽעַ [yôdē‘] to know, regard, / or acknowledg” (8.2).34 Even the qal plural participle of שׁוּב is glossed with an infinitive phrase “שָׁבִיֽם [šābîm] / to returne” (8.5), though the context from which the same verb is quoted in 5.lr.5 (שָׁבִיֽם אֶליְהוָֹה [šābîm ’el ’ădōnāy (yəhōwāh)]) presumes the translation in context “you return” (1 Sam. 7:3).

Bradford was likely trying to learn the forms that he thought most useful, that is, those that occur frequently, those that he could use to communicate himself, and/or those that occur in passages he liked to read. In addition, he probably listed those forms which exhibit features that exemplify something of a verb’s inflection. While the qal participle is not the lexical form of the Hebrew verb, it is rather commonly encountered and would likely have been the form that Bradford used if he composed his own Hebrew sentences or phrases (whether just orally or in writing) in the present tense. As for the verbal form “שָׁתִיתָ [šātîtā],” although it does not occur in the Bible, it is an expression he could have used in reference to his daily activities, and it illustrates the way that III-heh (or III-yodh) verbs inflect. In addition, Bradford was learning the specific forms in the texts that he was reading. The verb מָלַץ mālaṣ only occurs in the form נִמְלְצוּ nimləṣû, so memorizing the inflected form is, in some ways, the most efficient way of learning this vocabulary item.

Due to the rather straightforward etymological relationship between nouns and verbs it is sometimes enough to know the sense of the verb in order to make sense of related nouns. So, when Bradford cited a noun and glossed it as though it were a verb, this does not necessarily reflect his ignorance of the word’s morphology or grammar. For instance, he glossed the noun “מְרִי [mərî]” (which means “rebellion”) with the infinitive phrase “to rebell” (7.2), though the lexical form of the verb is מָרָה mārāh. It seems at least possible he understood that “מְרִי [mərî]” is a noun, expressing the abstract notion related to the verb. Similarly, note the entry “הֶֽלֶךְ [helek] to walk” (7.5). The word הֶלֶךְ helek only appears twice in the Bible and seems to have a different sense in each occurrence: “flowing” in 1 Sam 14:26 and “traveller” in 2 Sam. 12:4. The sequence of two seghol vowels (e-e) mark it as clearly distinct from the lexical form of the verb הָלַךְ hālak, which form was likely present as the first entry in his lists “[halach,] to walke” (1.1). The word “הֶֽלֶךְ [helek]” too was quite possibly construed as a noun though it was glossed as a verb.

The implicit connection between nominal and verbal senses is much clearer in those instances in which Bradford glossed a Hebrew noun with both an English noun and an English infinitive phrase. For example, “Ghneber” (= עֵבֶר ‘ēber) is glossed as “to pase [= pass] over / ye name of / Heber” (1.1). The transliteration presumes the personal name Heber (or, what is pronounced today as Eber); the English infinitive phrase, however, implies the verbal form עָבַר ‘ābar, which would have been transliterated “ghnabar.” Bradford did not need to write this latter form out since it was obvious to him what the vowels would be. In a similar way, the noun “מַעֲנֶהֽ,” which means “answer,” is glossed with a Latin noun “responsum” and an English infinitive phrase “to answer” (8.5), though the lexical form of the verb, עָנָה ‘ānāh, is not listed. Again, this most likely reflects Bradford’s familiarity with this verb. The noun “טֶֽרֶף” is glossed accurately with the Latin noun “rapina [= prey, plunder]” as well as the infinitive “to / take away by / force” (8.3). The latter gloss reflects the sense of the verb, טָרַף ṭārap, though the verb is not listed. The noun “סַעֲרָהֽ” is glossed first with the infinitive “to trouble” (reflecting the verb סָעַר sā‘ar) and then more precisely with the Latin noun “turbo [= tempest]” (8.3). The noun “שֶֽׁבֶר” is first glossed accurately with a Latin noun “fractura [= fracture],” and then with an English adjective and infinitive, “broaken or / to break” (8.4) (which reflects the verb שָׁבַר šābar).35

The reverse also happens; sometimes verbs are glossed as nouns. Note, for example, that the verb “בָּרַךְ [bārak],” which means “to bless” is glossed with just one word: “blesing” (8.1). In this case, perhaps we are meant to construe the gloss as an elliptical expression for “to give a blessing.” In another example a lexical form of the verb is glossed with both an infinitive and a noun: “Chaphar [= כָּפַר kāpar] to couer, ye pro-/pitiatorie, or cover / of ye mercie seate” (1.1). The word for the mercy seat is instead כַּפֹּרֶת kappōret, something that Bradford would have known from consulting Ainsworth (Annotations 377 on Exod. 25:17), who transliterates it “caporeth.” In this case, Bradford’s lemma and gloss are taken from Willet, who had a similar tendency to list verbs but to gloss with nouns. Note first the lemma “A mercie seate, or propitiatorie,” which Willet (Exodum 572 on Exod. 25:17) somewhat opaquely attempts to explain: “caphar signifieth both to cover, and appease: but the first rather here: it served also for the cover of the Arke.” Willet assumes that a reader familiar with the Hebrew text will understand that “caphar” is not the noun, but the most basic representation of the verb or root from which one may derive the sense of nouns like כַּפֹּרֶת kappōret “mercy seat.”

In other places too, Willet blends nominal and verbal associations when he describes the meaning of words. He cites the lexical form of a verb and associates it with nouns. For example, in attempting to explain the meaning of the noun תְּשׁוּקָה təšûqāh “desire” (in Gen. 4:7), Willet (Genesin 60 on Gen. 4:7) describes the sense of the root from which he believes the noun derives: “shuch [= שׁוּק šûq], signifieth both a conuersion, and turning, and a desire.” In attempting to describe the meaning of the name “Beersheba,” he says “shabaugh [= שָׁבַע šāba‘], signifieth both seuen, and with little alteration of the points, to sweare.”36 Note, however, that the word for seven is שֶׁבַע šeba‘ or שִׁבְעָה šib‘āh.

Although a disparity between lemma and gloss can sometimes reflect the conventions of Bradford’s time or his own terse manner of identifying meaning, in other cases, it is clear that he does not understand the grammatical nuances of the Hebrew words he copied down. For example, he writes “נוֹקֵם [nôqēm] / נָּקְּמוּ [nnāqqəmû] vengeance” (1.4), though נָּקְּמוּ nnāqqəmû is an impossible Hebrew formation. Instead, it seems likeliest that he has miscopied הִנָּקְמוּ hinnāqəmû “take vengeance!” (appearing only in Jer. 50:15), mistakenly thinking that the initial heh of the verb form was extraneous.37 A similar misunderstanding is presumed for “אֲמִין [’ămîn] faith or / asurance” (7.1). Hebrew exhibits several words for faith or faithfulness, but אֲמִין ’ămîn is not one of them. Note the following: אֱמוּנָה ’ĕmûnāh “steadfastness, fidelity”; אֲמָנָה ’ămānāh “faith, support”; אֹמֶן’ōmen “faithfulness”; אֵמֻן ’ēmūn “trusting, faithfulness.”38 Presumably, Bradford here has misinterpreted a verbal form like יַאֲמִין ya’ămîn “he will believe” as an extraneous initial yodh followed by the noun אֲמִין ’ămîn.

In other places he likely confused a noun for a verb. Note, for example, “עַוָּה [‘awwāh] to ouerturne” which in Hebrew is clearly a noun (“ruin”); it occurs a total of three times in the Bible, all three times in a single verse (Ezek. 21:32 [= English 21:27]: עַוָּה עַוָּה עַוָּה אֲשִׂימֶנָּה ‘awwāh ‘awwāh ‘awwāh ’ăśîmennāh “I will make it a ruin, a ruin, a ruin”). For this word, Bradford’s confusion is easily explained by the translation of the verse in the KJV and Geneva Bible, where the noun is translated with an English verb: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it.”

On at least two occasions Bradford did not seem to understand that the word he copied comprised a prefixed preposition followed by a noun. He wrote “beraghah, mishcheefe” (1.2), though the expression (בְּרָעָה bərā‘āh) means more literally, “with evil.” Bradford was likely confused due to the note by Willet (Exodum 727 on Exod. 32:12), which reads: “beraghah, to a mischiefe.” Similarly, he lists “לִיקְּהַת [liyqqəhat] / obedience” (8.5), though this is actually a combination of a preposition (לְ ) followed by the construct singular form of the noun יְקָהָה yəqāhāh (or יִקְהָה yiqhāh), only occurring in Pro. 30:17, and could be translated “to the obedience of.”39 A preposition together with following noun are also glossed as though just a noun in the entry “לְשָׁרֶךָ [ləšārekā] thy nauell” (4.lr.2).40

There are a variety of other errors. For example, the definition of “עָקְבֽ [‘āqəb] ye heele, or foot-/sole; put also / for reward” (8.1) conflates two different nouns: עָקֵב ‘āqēb “heel” and עֵקֶב ‘ēqeb “reward.” The numerals “שְׁמֹנַתֽ [šəmōnat] eight” and “תִּשְׁעַת [tiš‘at] nine” both at 5.lr.2 are inflected (i.e., construct) forms, not the absolute forms we would expect in a word list: שְׁמֹנָה šəmōnāh and תִּשְׁעָה tiš‘āh, respectively. Similarly, “יְרֵאֽ [yərē’] fear, or / reuerence” (7.5) is the construct form of יָרֵא yārē’ “one who fears”; “עֲמַל [‘ămal] labore, or / molestation” (8.1) is the construct form of עָמָל ‘āmāl.

In the entry “שֶֽׁרֶת [šeret] to min-/ester” (5.lr.5), Bradford seems to have misunderstood what he was writing. He has marked the first syllable as accented or stressed. It seems that Bradford is cribbing from the note of Willet (Genesin 394 on Gen. 39:4): “shereth, to minister.” Willet is commenting on a verse that includes a piel prefix conjugation of this verb, so it is conceivable that the transliteration shereth represents the piel 3ms suffix conjugation of the verb, which should be written שֵׁרֵת šērēt. This form, however, would not be accented on the first syllable. Since Bradford rarely misplaced the accent mark, it seems possible that he read Willet’s transliteration erroneously as a noun or more likely an infinitive. Some infinitives have two seghol vowels and end with a taw (e.g., שֶׁבֶת šebet “to dwell,” לֶדֶת ledet “to bear,” רֶדֶת redet “to go down”).

In short, Bradford’s entries sometimes evince a disparity between lemma and gloss. This does not always reflect ignorance on Bradford’s part, but simply the conventions he was working under (as well as the rather predictable morphology of Hebrew). Nevertheless, in some cases, he clearly did not understand what he was copying.

Silluq Symbol

Although it is often hard to determine whether or not Bradford understood what he was copying and though it is the case that his spelling of Hebrew words betrays ignorance of certain symbols, one mark that is frequently correct is the silluq cantillation mark that he used to indicate the accented or stressed syllable in a word. As noted above, the same mark is used in Buxtorf’s lexicons for the same purpose. The placement of the accent mark suggests that Bradford was paying attention to at least some small details in Hebrew spelling.

His careful attention to this slight mark is made clear in two entries at 8.4. First, he listed the word “מַּֽטָּה [maṭṭāh] beneath / Infrà” with the accent correctly set on the first syllable.41 Most words with an initial mem and a final -āh vowel, however, are accented on the second syllable, as with the entry that occurs one word after מַּֽטָּה maṭṭāh: “מַכָּהֽ [makkāh] plague.” In fact, most words are accented on their last syllable in their lexical forms. One category of commonly occurring words where this does not happen, however, is the segholate nouns, where the accent falls on the first syllable. Bradford almost always places the accent on these words correctly (e.g., “טַֽעַם [ṭa‘am] / taste” [4.lr.1]; “בֶּֽטֶן [beṭen] ye belly” [4.lr.2]; “אֹֽכֶל [’ōkel] meate” [6.1]; “עֹֽשֶׁר [‘ōšer] riches” [6.4]; “דֶֽרֶךְ [derek] a way” [6.5]). Bradford even gets the accent right on certain relatively uncommon verbal forms like the hiphil imperative: “הַצְלִיֽחָה [haṣlîḥāh] prosper” (8.5).

Given the inconsistency in other facets of his Hebrew composition, Bradford’s reliability in this area is surprising.42 This is all the more unexpected since the small mark may appear inconsequential to the beginning student. Sometimes, the placement of an accent may suggest that Bradford had a greater understanding of the Hebrew than we might at first give him credit for.

For example, note how Bradford writes the following entry: “קָֽבָה [qābāh] to curse, or / execrate” (8.1). At first glance, this appears to be the lexical form of a verb with the root consonants קבה qbh (< qby). Since no verb in Hebrew with these consonants means “to curse,” we might assume that Bradford has simply become confused in some way. The form that Bradford lists is really the qal masculine singular imperative of the verb קָבַב qābab, which occurs only in Num. 22:11 and 17 and would be more explicitly translated “curse!” Is this an example of Bradford seeing this imperative in a Hebrew text or quotation and knowing its sense, but not realizing its true etymology (i.e., that it is from קָבַב qābab and not קָבָה qābāh)? Perhaps. But, consider the silluq symbol that marks the accent/stress. If the form that Bradford lists were the lexical form of the verb, then the accent would be on the last syllable: קָבָהֽ qābāh, as Bradford indicates in numerous other cases. Instead, Bradford has correctly set the accent on the first syllable. Is this enough to suggest that he knew the word to be not only an imperative, but one from the root קָבַב qābab? It is hard to decide. What can be said with more confidence is that he likely did not think that “קָֽבָהqābāh was the lexical form of the verb.

Similarly, note the entry “רַחַםֽ [raḥam] mercifull, or / compationat” (8.3). At first glance this seems to be a noun that, in the singular form listed by Bradford, should be glossed as “womb.” In the plural, רַחֲמִים raḥămîm, it has the sense “compassion.” The related adjective is רַחוּם raḥûm “merciful.” All the same, the noun is a segholate type noun and would be accented on the first syllable (i.e., רַֽחַם raḥam). Moreover, it is most commonly found with seghol vowels (i.e., רֶחֶם reḥem). So, the form that Bradford cites is doubly odd if it is the noun (i.e., it has patach vowels not seghols and it is accented on the wrong syllable). Given the consistency with which Bradford elsewhere correctly places the accent on these types of words, together with the gloss and his tendency to confuse vowels, it seems more likely that this is intended to be the lexical form of the verb, רָחַם rāḥam which most often means “to have compassion for.”

Finally, consider the entry “טַֽבַּח [ṭabbaḥ] a cooke” (7.3). This seems to be a simple misspelling of טַבָּח ṭabbāḥ “cook, body guard, executioner” (accent on the last syllable). If so, Bradford would have written a patach instead of a qamets, which would not be too surprising, but he also would have placed the accent on the first syllable instead of on the last. This he rarely does. The misspelling may have been triggered due to confusion with the etymologically related טֶבַח ṭebaḥ “slaughtering,” which is accented on the first syllable and appears in pause with an initial /ā/ vowel: טָבַח ṭābaḥ, again with the accent on the first syllable. Nevertheless, perhaps more likely is a confusion due to reliance on the transliteration of Willet (Genesin 381 on Gen. 37:36), who writes: “cooke: . . . the word tabach bee sometime vsed in that sense.”43 Bradford frequently transferred transliterations of Hebrew words he found in his commentaries into Hebrew letters. If, in fact, Bradford is doing this here, then, he himself must have added the accentuation (since Willet does not indicate this). This would seem to reflect some knowledge of Hebrew morphology since a word that contains a sequence of two short /a/ vowels (i.e., two patachs) is usually a segholate noun and, therefore, is usually accented on the first syllable, as with “שַֽׁחַת [šaḥat] coruption” (7.4); “שַֽׁחַר [šaḥar] aurora / daybreak” (8.1) and “אַֽחַר [’aḥar] after, put / for ye west” (8.2). In short, Bradford likely thought Willet’s “tabach” reflected a segholate noun, which he supplied with the correct vowels and the correct accentuation. If this interpretation is correct, of course, this also means that he once again mistakenly put a daghesh (or dot) in the middle-root consonant where it does not belong; in addition, this interpretation means he was unaware of the true spelling of the word “cook.”44

How Bradford Worked from His Commentaries and Sources

Bradford shows a deference to his sources, often copying words and explanations directly from them without double checking them against other Hebrew resources. This seems to reflect the fact that he was learning the language primarily (if not exclusively) from these sources. His deference is seen repeatedly in various ways, as illustrated in the examples of errors cited in the paragraphs above. To illustrate the frequency of such errors, note the following mistakes in the first column of the first page, all derived from a reliance on Willet’s commentaries. Following Willet, Bradford wrote “sh” (= šin /š/) for “s” (= śin /ś/) in “[ta]phash” (instead of “[ta]phas” = תָּפַשׂ tāpaś “to grasp”). Due to Willet, he disregarded the adverbial morpheme -āh on “temanah” (= תֵּימָנָה têmānāh) and translated “ye south” though the word should be translated “toward ye south” or something similar. Following Willet, he lists “zuz, a post” though no such word exists in Biblical Hebrew. Similar examples of mistakes are easily multiplied.

Bradford also sometimes demonstrates an inattention to details when reading the commentaries and/or an ignorance of basic words. We have already noted his inaccurate gloss of בְּרָעָה bərā‘āh “with evil” as simply “mishcheefe” (1.2), misreading or misconstruing Willet’s gloss (Exodum 727 on Exod. 32:12) “to a mischiefe.” Note, in addition, the repeated errors involving the word שִׁקּוּץ šiqqûṣ “abomination.” Bradford copied the incorrect transliteration of the word in its singular and plural forms from Willet (in relation to Dan. 9:27), writing (as did Willet) an /a/ vowel instead of /i/: “Shakutz abomination” and “Shakutzim abominations” (1.3).45 When he copied the word into Hebrew letters on page 5, he again wrote the mistaken vowel /ā/ but also neglected the doubled qoph: “שָׁקוּץ [šāqûṣ]” (5.lr.5), presumably because he was again relying entirely on Willet’s transliteration.

Another example of Bradford’s dependence on his sources is found in his list of “The titles given to God, / in Exodus 34” (2.1). In this compilation of divine titles and epithets, arranged circularly on the page, Bradford offers the English translations “forgiueing, & / pardoning,” though these are unaccompanied by a corresponding Hebrew word or transliteration. These reflect the common verb נָשָׂא nāśā’ in its participial form נֹשֵׂא nōśē’. Presumably Bradford did not include the transliteration of this participle since it was not transliterated in Willet. This reflects his ignorance of the Hebrew word. Furthermore, it seems to reveal a lack of interest (or ability) in consulting the Hebrew text itself.

Although the preceding paragraphs illustrate how Bradford relied often too faithfully on a single source and sometimes did not pay careful attention to what he was copying, he does sometimes show independence of mind, even rarely correcting what he found in the commentaries. Note, for example, the translation of “Rabh chesed” (= רַב חֶסֶד rab ḥesed) as “much in kindnes, / or benignitie” (2.1), which does not match the gloss of Willet (Exodum 820 on Exod. 34:6) “abundant in kindness,” though Bradford’s following entry, “Veemeth abundant in truth,” seems to be derived from Willet’s transliteration (“Veemeth”) and title to one of his paragraphs (“7.Abundant / in truth”).

Other awkward expressions that reflect Bradford’s own attempts to render Hebrew words have been mentioned above and are discussed in the following section, “The Biblical Quotations and Their Translations.” In these he seems to be attempting to match each Hebrew word with an English one, perhaps to emphasize the rhythm of the expressions, but probably also to see more easily the way that the words hang together in a sentence or phrase. One finds similar translations in homework done by first year Hebrew students today.

Sometimes it seems that Bradford has come up with his own English gloss for a Hebrew word since the gloss is not found in other resources. Take, for instance, the entry “חָשַׁבֽ [ḥāšab] to reduse” (8.4). The English “reduse” means “recall” and was apparently especially popular in the 1600s (according to the OED). Nevertheless, I could not find any resource that defined or glossed חָשַׁב ḥāšab with this English verb.

Contrary to most instances, in at least one case Bradford transliterates a Hebrew word correctly, though his source, Willet, did not. At 2.2, Bradford seems to be cribbing from Willet since he lists two words consecutively that are also listed together in Willet’s commentary, though the words really have little to do with each other and are not found together in a Hebrew text. Bradford’s entries are: “Iagaghn [= יָגַע yāga‘], to fainte” and “Gauagh [= גָּוַע gāwa‘], to expire, or / give up ye ghost,” both of which correctly reflect the Hebrew.46 The first of these is transliterated by Willet (Genesin 267 on Gen. 25:8) incorrectly as “iagaug,” a mistake that is also found in numerous other editions of Willet’s commentary.47 The correct transliteration of “Iagaghn” by Bradford suggests perhaps that here he is following a Hebrew text or perhaps following someone else’s correction of Willet.

In still another place, Bradford gives the lexical form of a word, though the commentary he seems to be consulting does not list it. Bradford lists two words sequentially: “אִישׁוֹֽן [’îšôn] ye black / of the eye” and “בָבָהֽ [bābāh] apple of / ye eye” (7.3). Due to their proximity and their translations, it seems that Bradford is drawing from Ainsworth’s commentary on Psalms (Annotations 2:442 on Psa. 17:8).48 Ainsworth is commenting on a phrase (אִישׁוֹן בַּת עָיִן ’îšôn bat ‘āyin, which means “the pupil, the daughter of the eye”) that was commonly explained in the 1600s as exhibiting both words (אִישׁוֹן ’îšôn and בָּבָה bābāh, but the latter in a contracted form [בַּת bat]) and which Ainsworth translates: “the black of the apple of the eye.”49 Ainsworth explains in his note: “The black] That is, the sight in the midst of the eye, wherein appeareth the resemblance of a little man; and thereupon seemeth to be called in Heb. ishon, of ish, which is a man . . . Of the apple] So we call that which the Heb. here called bath, and in Zach. ii.8, babath . . .” What is significant is that Ainsworth does not transliterate בָּבָה bābāh in its lexical form. Taken together, Bradford’s entries imply that he was using Ainsworth’s commentary for the sense of the two words, but was relying on another Hebrew resource for the lexical forms of the words. What this resource was is not clear, but it was not Ainsworth’s commentary, nor was it Pagnini’s and Montano’s interlinear Hebrew text since this does not identify the lexical form of this word.

In the case, of “צֵבִי [ṣēbî] / a faune, of / pleasantnes,” Bradford may be copying from Ainsworth (Annotations 1:75 on Gen. 14:2), who transliterates and glosses the word: “Zebi, which signifieth glory, pleasantness, and a roe.” If so, then the misspelling of צֵבִי with a sere instead of a shewa (צְבִי ṣəbî) can easily be explained (the transliteration “e” could be construed as either indicating a sere or shewa); but, at the same time, it implies that Bradford was aware that the word began with a sadeh and not a zayin. The sadeh letter is elsewhere transliterated by Ainsworth with a “ts” where it refers to a word that is not a personal name (e.g., “Tsits” = צִיץ ṣîṣ).50 Does Bradford’s transliteration imply that he was familiar with the word from another passage or phrase?

Words and Phrases Not from the Bible

Bradford includes several words and phrases in his lists that do not appear in the Bible. Several of these are scholarly reconstructions (“בֹּֽאֶשׁ [bō’eš] stink, / an i[” [6.5]) or misunderstandings (“Rubh, a boy” [2.3]) that Bradford has copied from Willet, Ainsworth, or Buxtorf. In addition, Bradford includes phrases that are made up of biblical words, but which do not appear together in the Bible: “רוּחַ־הַקֹדֶש [aḥ-haqōdeš] holy spiret” (7.1); “אֵל־אָמַרֽ [’ēl-’āmar] god spake” (7.2). In other cases among the present lists, he isolates forms of words that do not occur in the Bible: “שָׁתִיתָ [šātîtā] to drink” (but meaning more precisely “you drank” [7.4]). These are words and phrases that sound biblical, and perhaps were found in other Hebrew compositions to which Bradford had access. Note, for example, the non-biblical Hebrew texts that preface some resources (e.g., the note in Münster’s סֵפֶר הַשֳּׁרָשִׁים / Dictionarium). Or, these were phrases that Bradford composed on his own.

In addition, there are several words that are attested only in post-biblical Hebrew texts and/or in Aramaic. These include the month names (5.lr.1): “אִייָר [’îyār] April”; “אָב [’āb] July”; “מַרְחֶשְׂוָן [marḥešwān] marchesuan / October”; “תִּשְׁרִיֽ [tišrî] september.” The source of these names is unclear.

Two non-biblical words are listed consecutively: “עַבֵרָה [‘abērāh] transgres-/sion” and “שְׁלֵמוּת [šəlēmût] Integritie” (7.4). Bradford must have learned these from another source. Perhaps he had access to a lexicon of Aramaic like Buxtorf’s, or perhaps he read some marginal notes left by someone else in his own or another’s books, or perhaps he received some oral instruction on Hebrew from someone.

It is also worth mentioning that in the Hebrew lists in the “Third Dialogue” (14.1), Bradford lists two phrases that appear first only in early rabbinic works, including Sifra, which is a commentary on Leviticus: “[רִית]גֵר־בֶן־בְּ [gēr-ben-bə(rît)] / proselite, son / of ye couenante” and “גֵר צֶדֶק [gēr ṣedek] / a proselite of righ/teousness.” (See the Appendix to this section.)

Frequent Errors Relating to Hebrew Orthography

When it comes to the spelling of words in the Hebrew alphabet, Bradford repeatedly confuses the various dots that are used to distinguish letters and vowels. To understand the frequency and significance of the mistakes, one must know a little about Hebrew orthography. The daghesh is a dot that has two functions.

First, it distinguishes a spirantized versus non-spirantized pronunciation of six consonants, though in contemporary pronunciation one does not hear the distinction for /g/, /d/, and /t/.

daghesh non-spirantized no daghesh spirantized









/ʁ/ (like the “r” of Parisian French)




/ð/ (like the “th” in “this”)




/χ/ (like the “ch” in “Chanukah”)








/θ/ (like the “th” in “thin”)

Bradford, however, either places this daghesh where it does not belong (e.g., “זֵכֶּר [zēkker] memorie” [7.5]) or, more frequently, omits it altogether (e.g., “פִי [] ye mouth” [4.lr.1]; “בֶֽרֶךְ [berek] a knee” [4.lr.2]; “תֵל [tēl] a tommbe” [6.4]; “כוֹס [kôs] a cup” [7.3]; “גֹאַל [gō’al] to redeeme” [8.1]; “דוּד [dûd] a basket” [8.2]). The lack of a daghesh is especially common with gimmel, daleth, and peh. In the case of gimmel and daleth it is significant to note that the distinction between spirantized and non-spirantized consonants are (at least today) not regularly made.

Second, the daghesh represents the doubling of non-guttural consonants.51 Bradford here often places a daghesh where it does not belong (e.g., “נָּעִיֽם [nnā‘îm] pleasant” [1.4 for an intended נָעִיֽם nā‘îm]; “מַּבּֽוּל [mmabbûl] / the pro-/per name / of Noah’s / floud” [1.4 for an intended מַבּֽוּל mabbûl]; “אֶנֹּשְׁ [’ennōš] sory man” [4.lr.1]; “גַבִּישׁ [gabbîš] haile” [4.lr.3 for an intended גָּבִישׁ gābîš]; “אָחּוּֽ [’āḥḥû] a meadow” [6.1 for an intended אָחוּֽ ’āḥû]; “יַֽיִּן [yayyin] wine” [6.1]) and neglects it where it does belong (e.g., “שָׁקוּץ [šāqûṣ] desola-/tion” [5.lr.5 for an intended שִׁקּוּץ šiqqûṣ]; “חִטָה [ḥiṭāh] wheat” [6.1 for an intended חִטָּה ḥiṭṭāh]; “צִפֹר [ṣipōr] a sparow” [6.2 for an intended צִפֹּר ṣippōr]; “אִשָׁה [’išāh] a wife” [4.lr.1 and 6.3 for an intended אִשָּׁה ’iššāh]; “רוּחַ־הַקֹדֶש [aḥ-haqōdeš] holy spiret” [7.1 for an intended רוּחַ־הַקֹּדֶש aḥ-haqqōdeš]; “פִסֵחַ [pisēa] lame” [7.2 for an intended פִּסֵּחַ pissēa]). It is again relevant to note that the distinction between doubled and non-doubled letters is rarely heard in today’s articulation of Hebrew. Such mistakes are found in contemporaneous publications, like the title to Martínez and Udall’s Key, which (at least in its 1593 edition) has the following title: מַפְתֵּחַ לְשׁוֹן הַקֹדֶשׁ [maptēaḥ ləšôn haqōdeš] where the last word should be spelled with a daghesh in the second letter: הַקֹּדֶשׁ haqqōdeš.

The mappiq is a dot that occurs in a word-final heh to indicate that the letter was actually pronounced (i.e., as [h]) and was not a mere mater (marking the presence of a preceding vowel). Bradford neglects the mappiq twice: “בֵיתָה [bêtāh]” translated “her house” (3.lr.2 at Pro. 14:1) for an intended בֵיתָהּ bêtāh and “יָה [h]” (4.ur) for an intended יָהּ yāh. Not surprisingly, the distinction between a final heh that is articulated as a consonant and one that is not is a distinction that is hard to hear, especially for someone who knows Hebrew pronunciation only as an ancient language.

In Hebrew there is one letter, ש, that represents two sounds; these sounds are distinguished based on the diacritic dot above the letter. With a dot over the right arm (שׁ), the letter is called šin and represents /š/ (= ʃ in IPA symbols or the sound of “sh” in English). With a dot over the left arm (שׂ), it is called śin and represents a historical phoneme /ś/ (= ɬ in IPA symbols, a lateral fricative, pronounced somewhat like a slurred “sl”); this sound merged with the /s/ phoneme (the “s” in “sit”) already by the turn of the era. Bradford renders the etymological śin as a šin numerous times; these are some examples: “sharad [= שָׁרַד šārad] to remaine” (1.2); “עֵֽשֶׁב [‘ēšeb] herbs” (4.lr.4); “שָׁדֶהֽ [šādeh] a feeld” (6.1); “שִׁמְחָהֽ [šimḥāh] mirth, or / gladnes” (7.1); “שֵֽׁכֶל [šēkel] Ingenius” (8.3). It is significant to note that Bradford’s list of Hebrew letters in “Dialogue” does not distinguish between the two letters.52

Various vowels and vowel symbols are frequently confused, especially those that look or sound similar. Bradford sometimes wrote a sere symbol (composed of two dots side by side, representing /ē/) where he should have written a shewa (composed of two dots one on top of the other, representing /ə/ or the absence of a vowel). Note, for example, “חֶמֵלַת [ḥemēlat] clemencie, or / mercie” (8.1), likely a misspelling for the construct form חֶמְלַת ḥemlat “mercy of.”

In other cases, Bradford mistakenly writes a sere or seghol (representing /e/) for a vocal shewa. In these cases, the confusion between the vowels often derives from Bradford’s reliance on transliterations which represent the vocal shewa, the sere, and the seghol all with the Roman e, reflecting presumably a common pronunciation of the Hebrew vowels by modern speakers. Note, for example, “צֵבִי [ṣēbî] a faune, of pleasantnes” (8.5), derived from Ainsworth’s transliteration “Zebi” (Annotations 1:75 on Gen. 14:2), for an intended צְבִי ṣəbî.53 Similarly, “נֵשָׁמַה [nēšāmah] / breath” (4.lr.1), derived from Ainsworth’s transliteration “neshamah” (Annotations 1:12 on Gen. 2:7), for an intended for נְשָׁמָה nəšāmāh; “מֶשַׁרִיֽם [mešarîm] / equality / or right-/nes” (5.5), derived perhaps from Willet’s transliteration “mesharim” (Danielem 9 on Dan. 11:6), for an intended מֵישָׁרִים mêšārîm; and “בֶּֽאֶר [be’er] a pite or / well” (6.1), derived from Ainsworth’s transliteration “Beer” (Annotations 2:89-90 on Num. 21:16), for an intended בְּאֵר bə’ēr. These types of mistakes are fairly common in the lists. Less commonly, a shewa is used to represent what should be sere: “קְץ [qəṣ] finis / an end” (8.2), derived perhaps from Willet’s transliteration “ketz” (Danielem 502, appendix, second exercise, answer 1), for an intended קֵץ qēṣ.

Also relatively common is the confusion of the two /a/ vowels, patach and qamets. These too are transliterated by a common Roman letter (a) and are not distinguished by modern speakers. Like the preceding, these are often misspelled due to a reliance on transliterations: “עַרוּם [‘arûm] / craftie, or / subtill” (7.2), derived perhaps from Willet’s transliteration “gnarum” (Genesin 45 on Gen. 3:1), for an intended עָרוּם ‘ārûm; “גָת [gāt] a winepress” (7.3), derived perhaps from Ainsworth’s transliteration “Gath” (Annotations 2:424 on Psa. 8:1), for an intended גַּת gat.

Only rarely are the consonants confused. In these cases, a common pronunciation or graphic shape of a letter is to blame. Note, for example, “שֻׁלְכָֽן [šulkān] a table” (6.5) for an intended שֻׁלְחָן šulḥān where the kaph is written for the similar-sounding ḥeth. In “חֵֽקֶץ [ḥēqeṣ] wile [= will] or / desire” the qoph is written for a peh: חֵפֶץ ḥēpeṣ. It is common for beginning students to mistake the qoph for peh since the qoph looks like a Roman pee. Numerous other errors are also made, some of which are described below.

Copying Errors and How Bradford Composed His Lists

Bradford also made various copying mistakes, sometimes repeatedly with the same word. Note, for example, the misspelling of the Hebrew word מָעוֹז mā‘ôz. The first time he tried to write this word he copied a ḥeth or perhaps a heh (the paper is slightly abraded) instead of ‘ayin: “מָחֹז [māḥōz or מָהֹז māhōz] strength” (5.lr.4), based on Willet’s ambiguous transliteration “mahoz.”54 The second time Bradford got the middle consonant correct, but mistakenly wrote the last consonant as nun instead of zayin: “מָעוֹֽן [mā‘ôn] power, or / strength” (8.2).

Even more egregious are the errors involving the word שִׁקּוּץ šiqqûṣ “abomination.” We have already noted above (in the section “How Bradford Worked from His Commentaries and Sources”) that Bradford copied the incorrect transliteration of the word three times from Willet (twice at 1.3 “Shakutz abomination” and “Shakutzim abominations” and once at 5.lr.5: “שָׁקוּץ [šāqûṣ]”).55 But, not only did Bradford misspell this word on page 5, he also mistranslated it: “desola-/tion.” Instead, it should be translated “abomination,” as he translated it on page 2 and as Willet translates it. The mistranslation on page 5 seems likely to be related to the word’s occurrence in Daniel where it occurs before the verb שָׁמַם šāmam “to be desolate” in various related phrases: שִׁקּוּצִים מְשׁוֹמֵם šiqqûṣîm məšômēm “. . . abominations, he shall make it desolate” (Dan. 9:27; KJV, Geneva Bible);56 הַשִּׁקּוּץ מְשׁוֹמֵם haššiqqûṣ məšômēm “the abomination that maketh desolate” (Dan. 11:31; KJV)57 and שִׁקּוּץ שׁוֹמֵם šiqqûṣ šômēm “the abomination that maketh desolate” (12:11; KJV).

The entry “שָׁקוּץšāqûṣ follows immediately after the entry “מֶשַׁרִיֽם [mešarîm] equality / or right-/nes,” which itself is a misspelling likely due to transferring a transliteration from Willet into Hebrew letters.58 The word מְשׁוֹמֵם məšômēm (found in Dan. 9:27 and 11:31) is transliterated by Willet “meshomem” two pages before his transliteration “shakutzim.”59 Moreover, although Willet recognizes that the word is a participle and means “makes desolate” (as reflected in the KJV and Geneva Bible), he (following others) prefers to take it as a substantive, “desolation.” Given these factors, it seems likeliest to me that Bradford intended to write two entries on page 5, the first “מְשׁוֹמֵםməšômēm and the second “שָׁקוּץšāqûṣ. Instead, he wrote the Hebrew for the second entry, “שָׁקוּץšāqûṣ, and then the English gloss for the first, “desola-/tion.”60

This partially reconstructed sequence of entries (i.e., מֶשַׁרִיֽם mešarîm, followed by מְשׁוֹמֵם məšômēm, followed by שָׁקוּץ šāqûṣ), all derived from transliterations in Willet, also suggests to us the manner that Bradford was copying items from the commentaries. It seems likeliest that Bradford was copying from another, preliminary list of words and glosses he had made. This best explains why a word transliterated by Willet on page 9 (“מֶשַׁרִיֽם [mešarîm]”) of his commentary would have sat just above another from page 356 (מְשׁוֹמֵם məšômēm) and does sit above still another from 358-59 (“שָׁקוּץ [šāqûṣ]”). In addition, the hypothetical confusion outlined above, where Bradford mistakenly wrote “שָׁקוּץ [šāqûṣ]” instead of “מְשׁוֹמֵםməšômēm is best explained if what he was copying from had a similar sequence of words (i.e., the words already in Hebrew letters or in transliteration: “mesharim equality or rightness; meshomem desolation; shakutz abomination”).

Note two similar copying errors. One occurs with the entry “צַר [ṣar] broad, or / wide” (6.5). The gloss is the exact opposite of the word’s real meaning: “narrow, tight.” The word for “broad, wide” is instead רָחָב rāḥāb. The reason for Bradford’s confusion here is most easily explained as a copying error from another piece of paper where צַר ṣar and רָחָב rāḥāb were listed together. In copying that list to the pages of this manuscript, Bradford’s eye slipped and instead of supplying the gloss “narrow” he supplied the gloss for the word that followed צַר ṣar.

Another error seems to have resulted in the last entry of Bradford’s lists: “אֲחֵיכֶםֽ [’ăḥêkem] / to fight” (8.5), though the lemma should be translated “your brothers.” The verb “to fight” would be cited (presumably) לָחַם lāḥam. In this case, Bradford seems likely to have become confused while copying vocabulary from a text like 1 Kgs. 12:24: וְלֹא־תִּלָּחֲמוּן עִם־אֲחֵיכֶם wəlō’-tillāḥămûn ‘im-’ăḥêkem “and you will not fight with your brothers” (which is identically expressed in 2 Chron. 11:4 but without the paragogic nun on the verb [תִּלָּחֲמוּ tillāḥămû]). Again, it seems likeliest that Bradford was working from a preliminary list where the two words were listed next to each other or one on top of the other (i.e., לָחַםֽ [lāḥam] to fight, אֲחֵיכֶםֽ [’ăḥêkem] your brothers). Instead of writing the entry לָחַםֽ lāḥam, his eye skipped ahead and he wrote “אֲחֵיכֶםֽ [’ăḥêkem]” instead. Presumably because he thought he had just written לָחַםֽ lāḥam he supplied the gloss “to fight.”

Finally, notice that the lists, as explained below, are often thematically or semantically organized. Semantically related words sit next to each other in these lists but seem to be drawn from different biblical passages and from different sources. Based on this diversity, it seems likely that at least portions of the lists were copied from another preliminary list. That is, Bradford would have jotted down words he wanted to learn as he encountered them in his readings. At some later time, he organized these individual items into categories and then copied these into the first pages of his manuscript.

Organization of the Lists

The pages are mostly organized into columns of words. The first column is the one to the far left and the last the one to the far right, as reflected for example in the uncramped far left column of page 8 and the cramped far right column on the same page.61 This seems only natural to us, but it should be kept in mind that several Hebrew lexicons and resources are organized in the opposite manner, that is in a manner reflective of how Hebrew is read, from right to left, with the first column on the right and the last on the left.62

Throughout the eight pages Bradford has tended to group words together, often just pairs of words, but sometimes larger groups, with the largest groupings of words occupying whole columns and having a title at their head. The basis for these groupings differs, though the primary principle is semantics. That is, words with similar meanings are often grouped or paired together.

Note the following, organized as a list for convenience. The labels in quotation marks are Bradford’s own:

  • generic categories of people, including: man, woman, boy, girl (4.lr.1)
  • various words for body parts (4.lr.1, 4.lr.1.5, 4.lr.2)
  • items related to the “habitable” world, including: world, heaven, stars, sun, cloud, snow, lightening, cold, heat, winter, summer (4.lr.3)
  • items related to what is “transitory,” including: time, year, month, day, hour, night, dust, tree, cedar, thorn, seed, and fruit (4.lr.4)
  • “the names of ye months” (5.lr.1)
  • “numbers” (5.lr.2, 5.lr.3)
  • animals (6.2)
  • items associated with royalty and governance, including: king, prince, priest, scepter, crown, throne, honor, splendor (6.3)
  • familial terms (6.3)
  • polar abstractions, including: good / bad, great / little, rich / poor (6.4)
  • items associated with war, including: sword, trumpet, camp, enemy, tomb (6.4)
  • items associated with buildings and rooms, including: wall, palace, altar, ark, table, vessel, candle, gate, window, place, pathway, roof (6.5)
  • items associated with positive experiences, including: pure, truth, law, commandments, holy spirit, knowledge, joy, innocence, strength, justice, wisdom, blessing (7.1)
  • items associated with negative experiences, including: anguish, weep, violence, tears, fear, rebel (7.2)

Some shorter lists, also sometimes labeled by Bradford, include:

  • celestial bodies, including three words for sun (“Shemesh . . . / Cheres . . . / Chammah . . .”) and two for moon (“Lebanah . . . Iareach”) (2.1)
  • types of offerings, including whole, guilt, grain, peace, wave offerings (2.1)
  • “The titles given / to God . . .      Rachum . . . Channun . . . Erech . . . Rabh chesed . . . Veemeth . . .” (2.1)
  • “The Honourable Names / of the most high God . . . יֵהוָֹה [yēhōwāh], יָה [h], אֵל [’ēl], אֱלֹהִים [’ĕlōhîm], אֱלֹהֵי [’ĕlōhê], אֲדֹנָי [’ădōnāy], שַׁדדַי [šadday], אֵהיֵה [’ēhyēh]” (4.ur)

In still other cases, smaller groups of words are listed together. For example, on the first page, in the first column, we find a pair of words relating to the southern desert in ancient Judah (“temanah, ye south / Negeb, the south, of / drines [= dryness]”). This pair (both occurring in Exod. 36:23) is immediately followed by two words glossed as “wilderness” (“Ghnarabah, a desert or / wilderness / Midbar, a wildernes”) that occur in different places in the Bible. Similarly, note the sequence further down in the same first column: “lun, to lodge all night. / zabal, to dwell. / shacan, to dwell. / [s]habeth, to Inhabit, or dwell.” It should be mentioned that these words do not occur together in a single biblical passage. In fact, the word reflected by the entry “zabal, to dwell” occurs only once in the Bible. Such pairings and small groupings of words could easily be multiplied, especially in those pages not dominated by longer lists (especially pages 1, 7, and 8).

More rarely, similar sounding words are grouped together, though they share nothing semantically. Note, for example, the pair “דֳכִי [dŏkî] / contrition / דֳמִי [dŏmî] / silence” (5.5) and the similar sounding words with dissimilar senses: “Ratson [רָצוֹן rāṣôn], fauorable accepta-/tion / Retsach [רֶצַח reṣaḥ], murder” (2.2).63 Note these other sequences:

  • Nagaph, to smite
  • phagangh, to rune [= run] upon
  • phahah, to crie out
  • Nagash, to exacte, or / opprese” (2.3);

as well as:

  • מְנָתֽ [mənāt] a portion
  • שְׁנַתֽ [šənat] sleep
  • תַּחַת [taḥat] under
  • אָהַבָתּֽ [’āhabāt, likely intending אַהֲבַתֽ ’ahăbat] love” (7.5).64

In still other cases, these principles overlap, as in the following sequence where the words “Rodh” and “Dodh” are juxtaposed, though they are not semantically related, but rather related to neighboring words:

  • Nasach, to shed, or power / out. of wch comes
  • Nasich, a prince, or gouer-/nour.
  • Rodh, to bear rule.
  • Dodh, beloued.
  • Yedid, beloued, or / a dearling (2.2).

Such pairings and groupings of words reflect, it would seem, an interest in the subtle connections between and among words.

A third way in which the lists are organized is according to how they occur in the commentaries. It seems that Bradford sometimes noted down words in the order in which he encountered them in his commentaries. This is especially apparent on the first pages which are not dominated by long lists of semantically related words. For example, at 1.2, twelve words occur in the sequence in which they occur in Willet’s commentary on Exodus:

  • Iosheb [11:5], Iarash [15:9], mecushphas [16:14], Tsaphichith [16:31], Iedughim [18:21], Nakah [20:7], Chabad [20:7], bagadh [21:8], baghar [22:4], shabah [22:9], badad [30:34], sharad [31:10].

The verse label that is listed after each entry above is not necessarily where the word occurs in the Bible, but rather where it occurs in Willet’s commentary. For example, “Iedughim [i.e., יְדוּעִים yədû‘îm]” occurs in Deut. 1:15, though it is listed in a note on Exod. 18:21.

In another example (at 1.3), Bradford lists words as they occur in two psalms:

  • shamor [Psa. 17:5], thamok [17:5], yether [17:4], Gnathak [31:19], Rachas [31:21], Matsor [31:22].

In this case, Bradford draws from the commentary by Henry Ainsworth, as suggested, for example, by the close similarity of glosses for the word “Yether”: “is sumtimes / overplus, also / dignitie, or ex-/celencie” (Bradford) and “For this word jether is used sometimes for excess in quantity . . . sometimes it noteth also the excellency or dignity” (Ainsworth).

There are relatively few verbatim repetitions of Hebrew words and their glosses in the lists. Note, for example, “אֵשׁ [’ēš] fire” (4.lr.1) and “אֵשׁ [’ēš] fire” (6.4); “Gnets trees” (2.1) and “עֵץ [‘ēṣ] a tree” (4.lr.4). Sometimes there is an overlap in the lemmas and glosses though not exact repetition, as with “Charon, wrath, or colore” (1.1) and “חָרֹן [ḥārōn] wrath, In-/flamed” (7.4); “Shemesh ye comoñe name of ye sune, / signifing seruice” (2.1) and “שֶֽׁמֶשׁ [šemeš] ye sune” (4.lr.3); “דָבַקֽ [dābaq] to cleaue / unto” (7.4) and “דָבַקֽ to ad-/here, or / cleaue / unto” (7.5).65 In other cases, the single Hebrew word is glossed in different ways in its two occurrences: “gnaden, pleasure, or / Lust,” (1.1) and “עֶֽדֶן [‘eden] pleasante” (7.1); “אִישׁ [’îš] a man” (4.lr.1) and “אִישׁ [’îš] a husband” (6.3); “אִשָׁה [’išāh] a woman” (4.lr.1) and “אִשָׁה [’išāh] a wife” (6.3); “אַף [’ap] ye nose” (4.lr.1) and “אַף [’ap] anger” (7.4); “פֶֽלֶה [peleh] / wonderfull” (5.lr.4) and “פֶֽלֶא [pele’] a miracleake” (8.2). In one instance, the same word is listed twice on the same page: “חָשַׁב [ḥāšab] to esteeme, / or repute” (8.1) and “חָשַׁבֽ [ḥāšab] to reduse” (8.4). More often, different but related words or forms are found: “Iachah, to obay” (2.3) and “לִיקְּהַת [liyqqəhat] obedience” (8.5) and “shamor, to obtaine” (1.2) and “מִשְׁמֶֽרֶת [mišmeret = “guard, watch”] to keepe, or / keeping” (8.1); “שָׁתִיתָ [šātîtā] to drink” (7.4) and “שָׁתַה [šātah] to drinke” (8.5).

The Purposes of the Lists

Why exactly Bradford selected the words that he did (and not others) is hard to know. The commentaries are filled with Hebrew words that are transliterated, defined, and discussed and which Bradford does not copy down. Often the words that Bradford lists are extremely rare (as with “zabal” mentioned above; also “mecusphas [= מְחֻסְפָּס məḥuspās], round” [1.2]; “לִיקְּהַת [liyqqəhat] obedience” [8.5]) and certainly are not useful for a beginning student in learning to read the Hebrew Bible. We can assume that Bradford understood that learning a single word (like “zabal”) would allow him to make an educated guess about other related words that occur more frequently (e.g., like זְבֻל zəbūl “lofty abode”). Nevertheless, why would he not list the more common words too?

The words that Bradford lists are not always the ones that appear in the biblical texts that he seems to be reading. In the list of words above that parallel the comments to Exod. 15-31, we have already noted that “Iedughim [= יְדֻעִים yədū‘îm] knowne, or famous” occurs in Deut. 1:15, though it is listed in a note on Exod. 18:21. This is not the only word like this in this list. Reference to the word “badad [= בָּדָד bādād] alone” occurs in a note on Exod. 30:34, though the actual word that appears in this passage is another (related) word: בַּד bad “alone.” So, although Bradford was drawing from comments on related verses, the lists are not conceived as aids to reading specific biblical texts.

Rather, it seems, at least in part, Bradford is attempting to learn Biblical Hebrew as though it were a spoken language, listing items like month names and words for “buckett” (“דְלִיdəlî), “to obay” (“Iachah” = יָקָה yāqāh), “round,” and “obedience” (cited above) that would be essential in communicating day to day affairs, though these words (like month names and “דְלִי [dəlî] buckett”) are themselves particularly rare or do not occur in Biblical Hebrew in a form at all like the one Bradford cites (like “Yachah to obay”). Even the meanings of some frequently occurring words are ignored in favor of senses that seem more useful in day to day life. For example, he glosses “chema” as “butter” (= חֶמְאָה ḥem’āh or חֵמָה ḥēmāh) at 1.4 though the more common “chema” (i.e., חֵמָה ḥēmāh) means “wrath.” Moreover, he finds the definition “butter” in a comment to a passage (Dan. 11:44) where the word actually means “wrath.”

This is not to say that Bradford did not want to know what the Hebrew of the Bible meant. He certainly did and numerous notes show his interest in theologically significant items. Yet, his lists show a broader interest in knowing not only the words of biblical texts, but others as well. Thus, he lists several words and phrases that are not from the Bible at all, as mentioned above in the section “Words and Phrases Not from the Bible.” And these are in addition to the several non-biblical phrases found on page 14 of his “Third Dialogue.”

When William Bradford writes that he wants to learn “somthing of that most / ancient language . . . / in which God, / and angels, spake to the holy patriarks, of old / time; and what names were giuen to things, / from the creation” (3.ur), he is expressing a wish to learn not just the Hebrew of the Bible, but the Hebrew that was used by the patriarchs, angels, and God. Bradford does not wish simply to know how to read the scripture; he wants to be able to communicate in its language, as though it were a living language that anyone could speak. The idea that learning Biblical Hebrew meant speaking it is reflected in the first sentence of the grammar of Pierre Martínez (translated by John Udall), mentioned above: “Grammar is the art of speaking well; as in the Hebrue tonge to speak Hebrue.”

Bradford’s study of Hebrew was, of course, part of a broader interest in biblical languages shared with many of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially, but not exclusively, with those who were attempting to distance themselves from the interpretations and theologies of the Catholic church. Curiosity with the Hebrew language is exhibited in a number of ways during this period. Hebrew began to be studied at various universities throughout Europe and even among the newly established schools in America, including at Harvard College where Hebrew became a prerequisite. Grammars and other pedagogical tools proliferated. Hebrew was even promoted as a means of epistolary communication among like-minded intellectuals.66 In Bradford’s immediate environment, however, there were only a few individuals who owned Hebrew books (as outlined above in the section “Sources”) and would have been able to read them.

Bradford’s personal desire to experience the language of the patriarchs, angels, and God must also have been shared among many of his contemporaries, even if they did not express it as he did. Many protestants regarded themselves as the “New Israelites” and it makes sense that they would have wanted to have some experience with the language of the original Israelites.67 As Eric Nelson writes in relation to the seventeenth-century Dutch protestants and their belief that they were reenacting biblical events: “The dominance of this paradigm guaranteed that the study of Hebrew would find itself at the center of Dutch intellectual life.”68

Exegetical motivations also underlie the study of Hebrew in this period for fairly obvious reasons. Individuals and groups who no longer trusted the ancient interpretations offered by Augustine, Aquinas, and others associated with the Catholic church wished to read the Bible and interpret its texts for themselves. Bradford no doubt shared such motivations too. This does not come through in his stated reasons for studying the language, but something of the intellectual cachet of knowing Hebrew is reflected in his quotation of Hebrew verses without translation on the title page of his “Third Dialogue.”69

In addition to Bradford’s theological motivations and his interest in experiencing the language of the patriarchs and angels, his linguistic curiosity also likely influenced his selection of words and phrases. In his poetry, Bradford exhibits an inclination for wordplay and a pleasure in words themselves. Note, for example, Michael G. Runyan’s comments that Bradford “exhibits . . . a sprightly baroque turn of mind in a persisting tendency to indulge in wordplay.”70 Similarly, Runyan writes: “Bradford seems to partake somewhat of the attitude, probably more respectable in his time than in ours, that the medium we use to transmit our thoughts contains an element of ludicrousness which is to be periodically hunted out for pure sport.”71 Bradford’s interest in the “medium” of language is demonstrated in numerous ways. His occasional habit of grouping words according to their sounds has already been noted above.

An affinity for the multiple meanings of words and their “ludicrousness” seems also to be reflected in some of the words and glosses that he records. For example, he notes (1.2) the curious relationship between different words, as with the apparent sense “whore” for “Kedesah” (= קְדֵשָׁה qədēšāh) though the word derives from the root associated with holiness, קָדַשׁ qādaš, offering somewhat cryptically the entry: “Kedesah, of / Kadas,” “a whore by ye / holy. contrary.” Similarly, he notes the etymological link between words for usury and biting (1.3); as well as the link between the words for merchant and “talebearer” (5.6). He also notes where words have a particular sense that would ordinarily go untranslated, as with “sory man” (4.lr.1). Lastly, numerous Hebrew phrases Bradford copies contain the idiomatic repetition of a particular word, as described below. Although one can assume that Bradford understood the sense of the phrases from his memory of the Geneva Bible or KJV, or, if not, that he could easily find the sense by consulting his Bibles, he still translates these phrases such that the repetition in the Hebrew is mirrored in the English.

The Biblical Quotations and Their Translations

Bradford cites many words and phrases that occur only once in the Bible. Due to their rarity, these can be in some instances considered like quotations, though Bradford does not identify where they occur in scripture. For example, the transliterated phrase “matzedike / harabbim, yustifing / many” (1.3; = מַצְדִּיקֵי הָרַבִּים maṣdîqê hārabbîm “those who justify the many”) occurs only in Dan. 12:3. Among the other short phrases are חֲגֻרַת־שַׂק [ḥăgūrat-śaq] / girte with sack-/cloth. Joel./.1.8 (5.lr.2); “רִיבוֹ / רִיבַן [rîbô // rîban] ten thousand, times / ten-thousand / dan: 7.10.” (5.lr.3); “שָׁבִיֽם אֶליְהוָֹה [šābîm ’el ’ădōnāy (yəhōwāh)] / returne unto / the Lord” (1 Sam. 7:3; 5.lr.5).

In addition to these shorter quotations, Bradford quotes entire verses and portions of verses. The following are the verses that are quoted, according to where they occur in the first eight pages.

  • 3.lr.1: Psa. 33:5; Gen. 1:10 (or similar verse); Gen. 2:18; Exod. 20:12 (= Deut. 5:16); Pro. 5:18; Hos. 4:11; Gen. 4:10; Jer. 22:16
  • 3.lr.2: Psa. 53:6 (English 53:5); Pro. 19:4; Pro. 20:14; Pro. 18:22; Psa. 5:8 (English 5:7); Psa. 1:3; Pro. 14:1; Psa. 24:4
  • 5.ur.1: Gen. 8:22; Est. 9:28; Psa. 118:9; Psa. 103:13
  • 5.ur.2: Lam. 4:7; Pro. 30:17; Gen. 2:24; Isa. 6:3
  • 5.lr.1: Gen. 14:23

The topics of the verses are often related. On the third page of Hebrew writings, in the first column, although the quotations begin with a declaration of the universal חֶסֶד ḥesed “loving-kindness” of the deity (Psa. 33:5) and the deity’s recognition and positive evaluation of creation (e.g., Gen. 1:10), the five quotations that follow concern relationships between members of a family (i.e., the necessity and pleasures of marriage, respect for parents, the negative effects of over-consumption and infidelity, the conflict between brothers).

The quotations in the second column of the same page instead address directly or implicitly (based on their original context) the importance of a wise, sincere, and righteous life. For example, the first quotation (Psa. 53:6), in its original context, refers to an inconceivable fear that befalls the ignorant. The next (Pro. 19:4) concerns wealth and the insincerity it inspires in others; the third (Pro. 20:14) the guile and deceit of commerce. The fourth (Pro. 18:22) declares the benefits of “finding a wife.” The fifth (Psa. 5:8), in its original context, contrasts the speaker of the psalm with those that are deceitful. The sixth (Psa. 1:3), again in its original context, describes the benefit of the one who is far from the scornful and wicked. The seventh (Pro. 14:1) emphasizes the practical benefits of wisdom. The eighth and last (Psa. 24:4) again evokes (on its own and in its original context) the importance of honesty and truth.

The quotations of the fifth page are somewhat longer than those of the third. Three of the eight quotations clearly relate to relationships between family members (especially between parents and children). But here, the more perceptible consistency among the quotations is simply the language itself. Each of the quotations involves repetition in one way or another. The first (Gen. 8:22) contains a list of opposite pairs (e.g., “could and heate, and sommer and winter”). The second (Est. 9:28) consists of four distributive expressions that Bradford translates literally. The effect in English is awkward, though it does communicate something of the Hebrew rhythm (e.g., “In euery age and age, familie and familie”). The third (Psa. 118:9) comprises a “better-than” saying where the repetition involves the parallelism between semantically similar infinitives (i.e., “It is beter to trust in ye Lord, then to trust / in princes”). The fourth (Psa. 103:13) is another comparison where the verb “hath pitie” repeats (i.e., “hath pitie [רַחֵםֽ raḥēm] . . . / . . . hath pitie [רִחַםֽ riḥam]”). The four quotations of this column can be read as a cento poem, though I doubt Bradford intended it as such since the others cannot be read in the same way.

The quotations of the second column continue the repetitive language. The first (Lam. 4:7) contains three comparisons (e.g., “her nazarels were purer then snow, they / were whiter then milk”). The second (Pro. 30:17) and third (Gen. 2:24) contain strong parallel structures in their two halves (e.g., “moketh his father . . . despiseth . . . mother” and “leave his father and mother . . . clave unto his wife”). The last (Isa. 6:3) contains the famous repetition of the angels: “Holy, holy, holy, is Iehouah /of hosts.”

Many of the words in these quotations are also found in the lists, but not all of them. Similar quotations appear in Bradford’s “Third Dialogue.”72 It is curious to note that several of the quotations in the present manuscript follow the KJV (Gen. 2:24; Hos. 4:11; Pro. 30:17; Lam. 4:7 [with the exception of one word that is Bradford’s own]) rather than the Geneva Bible (Pro. 14:1; 19:4; 20:14). He follows Ainsworth in contradistinction to the above translations in three instances (Psa. 1:3; 33:5; 103:13). And, he puts the Hebrew into his own words in most examples (Gen. 2:18; Gen. 14:23; Isa. 6:3; Jer. 22:16; Psa. 5:8 [English 5:7]; 24:4; 53:6 [English 53:5]; 118:9; Pro. 18:22; Est. 9:28).

The Nature of the Hebrew and Bradford’s Knowledge of It

Since perhaps as early as Cotton Mather’s Magnalia, there has been a tendency among scholars to characterize William Bradford’s familiarity with Hebrew as greater than it actually was. Mather, in describing Bradford’s acquaintance with various languages, notes that “Hebrew he most of all studied.”73 In more recent times, Bradford is qualified not infrequently as a “Hebraist.”74 He is even labeled a “Hebraist of competence” by Shalom Goldman in 1993 and Pablo Kirtchuk in a 2013 article.75 Mather’s characterization (if it should be taken seriously) must be understood in the context of the early European immigrants to the continent, where there were no universities and few books. Bradford was not producing any original observations on the language; nor was he writing pedagogical tools or anything that can be construed as new work on the language.

As David A. Lupher has most recently observed, echoing earlier observations, Mather’s characterization is not reflective of the true nature of Bradford’s acquaintance with the language.76 Bradford’s knowledge of the language, instead, was rudimentary, as he himself seems to suggest in the prefatory pages of this manuscript. If Mather was correct in his assessment that Bradford studied Hebrew more than any other language, perhaps it was because it was the least understood by him.

We have had occasion above to observe the various ways that Bradford might have understood or not understood Hebrew. One other piece of data should be taken into account. There are very few prefix conjugation verb forms found in his lists. There are far more verbs listed in their suffix conjugation forms or participial forms, even a fair number of words cited in their imperatival forms. Does this suggest that he did not attempt to memorize this part of the verbal paradigm or does this reflect the kinds of texts he was reading, texts (like Proverbs) where there are fewer such forms?

In the end, it seems that Bradford had only a basic knowledge of Hebrew. Nevertheless, his grasp of the language was not as limited as it might first appear. The discrepancy between lemma and gloss does not always reflect Bradford’s ignorance. His ability to transfer words he found in transliteration into Hebrew letters, often supplying the correct vowels and disambiguating similar consonants, suggests a familiarity with the lexicon of Hebrew. In addition, his correct placement of the silluq cantillation symbol suggests his basic understanding of Hebrew morphology. It seems that he was likely self-taught from his books, though some words or phrases might have been learned via personal instruction perhaps from area ministers or other university-trained individuals.77

Bradford’s familiarity with Hebrew, therefore, should not be exaggerated, yet it should also not be dismissed. Some historians, perhaps reacting against previous scholars’ overstatements of Bradford’s linguistic ability, seem too quick to downplay his work. Michael Hoberman, for instance, writes: “None other than William Bradford doodled Hebrew grammar exercises on the inside cover of his work ‘Of Plimouth Plantation.’”78 Certainly, Bradford’s lists of vocabulary items are not without error, yet they still reveal a careful consideration of certain aspects of the language and it seems inaccurate to suggest these are mere doodles.

A note on the Transliteration of the Hebrew Words

Transferring the information from one writing system to another is never easy, as exemplified in the inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate attempts of Bradford himself to transliterate Biblical Hebrew into the Roman alphabet. In part due to the ambiguities inherent in this process, a brief description of the transliteration of the Hebrew words is necessary.

Where a word is represented in the Aramaic / Hebrew block script in Bradford’s manuscript or in my notes I have transliterated this word into the Roman alphabet so that those less familiar with the Aramaic / Hebrew script can more easily read what Bradford wrote and can more easily understand my descriptions. Note that where Bradford has made mistakes, I have transliterated these mistakes.

Each consonant is transliterated according to its standard Roman equivalent, as reflective of first millennium spelling. No distinction is made between spirantized and non-spirantized letters.

Table 1: Transliteration of Biblical Hebrew Consonants

Letter Transliteration of Biblical Hebrew letters: modern / 1600s Name of letter Phonemes of (Classical) Biblical Hebrew, ca. 800 BCE given in IPA symbols79 Phonemes of (Tiberian) Biblical Hebrew, ca. 800 CE given in IPA symbols


’ / ∅





b / b



b (v)


g / g, gh



g (ʁ)


d / d, dh



d (ð)


h / h





w / u, v





z / z





/ ch, h


ħ or x



ṭ / t





y / I, j





k / c, ch, k



k (χ)


l / l





m / m





n / n





s / s





‘ / ∅, gh, ghn


ʕ or ɣ



p / p, ph



p (f)


/ ts, tz


s ʔ

s ʔ


q / ck, k


k ʔ



r / r





ś / s





š / sh





t / t, th



t (θ)

The vowels have been transliterated according to their values in the mid-first millennium BCE. This is the standard manner of transliterating Biblical Hebrew vowels and seems to reflect Bradford’s own understanding of the vowel signs. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that this is really an anachronistic transliteration and does not represent the actual sounds that the vowel signs initially were designed to represent. The vowel signs were invented in the Middle Ages (ca. 800s CE) in order to represent the sounds of the oral tradition as it was known to the medieval scribes of that time. In contrast to the phonology of earlier Biblical Hebrew, the oral tradition of the medieval scribes did not usually rely on distinguishing between long and short vowels (i.e., vowels pronounced for a relatively long or short time), but rather relied on the distinct qualities of the vowels. Thus, although in an earlier era, a speaker could distinguish different meanings based on the difference between a “short a” and a “long a” (both pronounced with the same quality, but distinguished by the length of time it took to pronounce them), a scribe of the Middle Ages would not. Instead, what was earlier a “long a” was pronounced with its own quality in the Middle Ages (i.e., as the “aw” in the North American pronunciation of “saw”).

The vowel signs (presented beneath, above, and around the consonant bet /b/) are listed below, together with their name, their transliteration as used in this book and, in brackets, the value of these signs for the scribes who invented this system of notation in the Middle Ages.

Table 2: Transliteration of Biblical Hebrew Vowels

Hebrew transliteration modern / 1600s (both reflecting ancient pronunciation) Tiberian pronunciation / name, ca. 800 CE, given in IPA symbols


i or ī / i




î / i




ē / e




ê / e




ēh / e or eh




e / e




eh / e




a / a




ā or o / a or o




āh  /  a or ah




ō / o




ô / o




u or ū / u




û / u



In addition, the ultra-short vowels are transliterated in the following ways: בֲּ ă; בֱּ ĕ; בֳּ ŏ. The shewa symbol (בְּ) will be transliterated as ə (in places where it reflects a historical vowel that has reduced). If it occurs where no vowel existed in the first millennium BCE, then it is not transliterated. In addition, epenthetic vowels (i.e., vowels secondarily inserted into words) will typically be transliterated as superscript letters (e.g., רוּחַ a), with the exceptions of the second vowel in words and morphemes like מֶלֶךְ melek “king”; בַּעַל ba‘al “lord”; and מַעֲנֶה ma‘ăneh “answer” and the hiriq in final syllables like כָּפַיִם kāpayim “two palms.” The yodh or waw that was once part of a diphthong is considered simply a mater (e.g., בֵּית bêt “house of” [from an earlier *bayt]). Finally, where a consonant appears that is simply part of a graphic convention and was never pronounced, it will be transliterated as a superscript letter (e.g., in the suffixes on the plural form of דָּבָר dābār “word”: דְּבָרֶיהָ dəbārey “her words” and דְּבָרָיו dəbārāyw “his words”). However, an aleph that is the result of a graphic convention is simply transliterated (as with the negative particle לֹא lō’ “not”).

Note on the Text

Bradford’s Hebrew exercises take up eight pages preceding OPP. “Some Hebrew words englished” are on pages [6v] and [7r]. The third page, headed “Though I am growne aged,” is [7v]. Leaf [8r] is titled, “The Honourable Names of the most high God,” though this exercise takes up only the top register. The remainder of that page, plus pages [8v]-[10r], constitute the bulk of the glossaries. For ease of reference, the pages are numbered in the transcription below as pp. [1]-[8].

Ink and handwriting changes within the Hebrew lists indicate that the first two pages, titled “Some Hebrew words englished,” were written at a different time from [7v] through [10r]. Either Bradford completed the first two pages and then ceased the project for a time, or, more likely, he began on [7v] (i.e., the third page), and, when he ran out of room (only one blank verso separates the end of the Hebrew lists from the opening of OPP), he turned back to the empty pages prior. The crisp brown ink of pp. [7v] to [10r] compares with that Bradford used to write his “Third Dialogue,” suggesting they were written in close proximity, that is, c. 1652. The duller, thinner brown ink of “Some Hebrew words englished” may therefore be even later.