Universiteit Leiden

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Holger Gzella

Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic

Prof.dr. H. Gzella
+31 71 527 2255

Holger Gzella is a Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Holger Gzella

Video: In search for the language of the bible

Research is always in motion and therefore very interesting. Unfortunately, we see only a small part of what's happening our country's many universities and research institutes. Fast Facts strives to make actual research visible and accessible.

Professor Holger Gzella created the following video clip in cooperation with De Jonge Akademie, to introduce his search for the language of the bible. You can view prof. Gzella's video clip here.


I supervise MA and PhD theses on pre-modern Semitic languages and texts, with a particular focus on Syria-Palestina between ca. 1200 BCE and 700 CE. My area of expertise includes Biblical and Qumran Hebrew, all older forms of Aramaic, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Comparative Semitic Linguistics, as well as the cultural history of the relevant speech area and the history of Semitic Studies.


The study of Hebrew and Aramaic is devoted to languages which have been used as a principal means of expression by a great number of different cultures from the Ancient Near East up to the present time. My approach to these and related idioms, as well as to the rich literatures written in them, applies ways of thinking informed by historical and comparative linguistics to straightforward grammar: I passionately try to broaden the horizon of conventional philology and to critically reflect upon its roots in the European grammatical tradition. More specifically, I am at the moment above all interested in verbal syntax, language change and phenomena of language contact, taking care to situate Classical Hebrew as well as the older varieties of Aramaic in their wider Semitic context.


From 1993 to 1997, I studied Classics at Oxford University, but then switched to Semitics and Assyriology. I carried out graduate research on the Hebrew Bible at the University of Münster (1997-1999; PhD Fall Term 2000/1, summa cum laude) and on various Semitic languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome (1999-2002; licentiate summer 2002, summa cum laude). Subsequently, I was awarded a post-doctoral research fellowship from the Thyssen Foundation in order to work at the University of Heidelberg (2002-2005). After temporarily replacing Otto Jastrow on the Chair of Semitic Philology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Fall Term 2003/4), I completed my Habilitation (2004) on the interaction of tense, aspect, and modality in Imperial Aramaic and stayed on in Heidelberg as Privatdozent. In March 2005, I was appointed full professor at Leiden University and took the Chair of Hebrew and Aramaic.

Key publications

  • (2016, ed.) Aramäisches Wörterbuch, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament vol. IX, Stuttgart, Kohlhammer (XXIV pp. + 896 cols.).
  • (2015) A Cultural History of Aramaic. From the Beginnings to the Advent of Islam, Handbuch der Orientalistik I/111, Leiden, Brill (XVI + 451 pp.).
  • (2014) “Language and Script”, in: H. Niehr (ed.), The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria, Handbuch der Orientalistik I/106, 71-107, Leiden, Brill.
  • (2013) “Expansion of the Linguistic Context of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: Hebrew Among the Languages of the Ancient Near East”, in: M. Sæbø (ed.), Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: The History of its Interpretation, Vol. III/1: The Nineteenth Century, 134-167, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
  • (2011, ed.) Languages from the World of the Bible, Berlin/New York, De Gruyter (256 pp.).
  • (2011) “North-West Semitic in General”, in: S. Weninger et al. (eds.), The Semitic Languages. An International Handbook, Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, 425-451, Berlin/New York, De Gruyter.
  • (2009) “Voice in Classical Hebrew against its Semitic Background”, Orientalia 78, 292-325.
  • (2009) “Dating the Aramaic Texts from Qumran: Possibilities and Limits”, Revue de Qumran 24, 61-78
  • (2004) Tempus, Aspekt und Modalität im Reichsaramäischen, Veröffentlichungen der Orientalischen Kommission der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz 48, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz (X + 408 pp.).​


I teach various phases of Hebrew and Aramaic on all levels, courses on the historical-comparative grammar of the Semitic languages, and the history of Syria-Palestine in antiquity.

Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SMES Hebreeuws en Aramees

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 2.01a


Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Univ Centre for Linguistics
  • LUCL Taalwetenschap

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 2.01A



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