This website will equip participants with sufficient vocabulary, grammar, and cultural context necessary to learn biblical Hebrew sufficiently well to read and translate much of Hebrew Bible. Put another way, the goal of the course (and one that motivates the approach — discussed below) is to develop a knowledge of biblical Hebrew necessary and sufficient to delve more deeply into the Hebrew of the Old Testament (hereafter called the Hebrew Bible) than can be done by reading the various English translations.
After completing the course, the student will be familiar with the following concepts:
- How to translate any arbitrary Hebrew verse using the BDB Hebrew-English lexicon and other on-line biblical Hebrew language resources.
- A basic Hebrew vocabulary consisting of about fifty of the most common words found the Hebrew Bible (the Hebrew Bible has a very small vocabulary and 50 of its most common words are sufficient to work out significant portions of the biblical text).
- What constitutes the characteristics of a good translation and why ancient biblical Hebrew can not be translated word-for-word into modern English.
- The differences between the ancient Hebraic worldview and those of modern, Western cultures and how these differences are (or are not) reflected in contemporary English Bibles.
- The Hebraisms of the New Testament (which was written in Koine Greek) and their significance — theologically, liturgically, and morally.
Biblical Hebrew is not a spoken language, it is a language that is to be read with care and deep reflection. Accordingly, the emphasis is not only reading Hebrew, but how to consult other resources. In other words, the student will learn how to read and translate biblical Hebrew as do professional translators — with a Hebrew lexicon (and other resources) close at hand.
How is this course different?
In the Preface to their text book, Biblical Hebrew: A Student Grammar, John Cook and Robert Holmstedt make the following claim:
Our concern for classroom pedagogymethods of instruction is based on the simple observation that many of the textbooks on the market provide the student with entirely too much information. We found ourselves instructing our students to skip entire sections in some of the textbooks we used.
I couldn’t agree more. It is my belief that learning to read a language, any language, is best accomplished in the manner of children. Consider how a child learns to read: first they learn to speak the language by associating spoken words (from parents, siblings, etc.,) with concrete concepts. The word “bad”, for example, might be understood by a child as associated with behavior that results in discipline and “good” describes behavior that is rewarded. By three years of age, most children have an extensive vocabulary and the ability to frame coherent sentences, if not whole paragraphs without ever having had the benefit of alphabets and grammar. Many children between the ages of three and four can communicate easily with adults, yet they have no idea what letters and words are. Put another way, when children begin reading lessons, they know nothing of words and alphabets, much less verbs, prepositions, past participles and the like.
In the normal course of events, children of about 4 or 5 years of age are then introduced to the letters and symbols that represent the words they have been hearing and speaking for a couple of years. Called phonics, the child sounds out letters and syllables for words with which he or she has been speaking for a couple of years.
In this course, we learn the sound of a word and its meaning before we learn its spelling. In this class, you will first learn to recognize the spoken word. Significantly, the student hears them as they are used in the biblical text.
It might be helpful at this point to look over the first lesson. Indeed, you should try and complete the lesson. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be to learn a strange new language like Hebrew. Click here, then return when you are done.
So, how does this work, exactly?
For each word (or set of words) introduced in a particular lesson, I will provide a recording of one or more verses, most of which are read directly from the Hebrew BibleVerses are almost always read by a professional reader.. The student’s task is an easy one: He or she is to listen to the verse(s) and try to hear the word being taught in that particular lesson. In this way, the student becomes familiar with the rhythms and accents of the language. Later in the course, the student will then be introduced to that same verse but written using the Hebrew letters. By end of lesson 2, having learned the pronunciation and meaning of a set of Hebrew words, learning to read these same words using the Hebrew letters becomes almost trivial.
About the Course
Over the course of the classes, the students will learn:
- The Aleph-Bet (the Hebrew consonants and vowels)
- Vocabulary: approximately 50 of the most common words in the Hebrew Bible.
- The following theologically significant Hebrew words as encountered in the biblical text. Some of these words are God, love, faith, grace, truth, justice, and mercy.
- How to use a Hebrew Bible Lexicon and a number of on-line Hebrew research tools.
- Blessings and Prayers in biblical Hebrew, including but not limited to:
- The Priestly Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26)
- Micah 6:8
- Deut 6:4-7 (the Shema)
Introduction to the Course (a little history)
Now, go and study