To learn a new language is daunting and to most, it feels unachievable. I think the reasons are obvious. To learn a new language we need to learn a new “alphabet”, new grammar rules, and a seemingly endless list of vocabulary words. On top of that, we need time! Trust me, I understand that learning a new language is a huge task.
But when we think of the why behind why we are learning a new language, things change just a little bit. When it comes to learning Biblical Hebrew, the pushback is real and it makes sense as to why we “can’t” do it. But the ability to be able to read and understand the Hebrew Scriptures is just life-giving. To be able to go to the original language and understand the nuance of a particular text is invigorating.
But now the question must be asked, “How do I do it and how much does it cost?” Thankfully our friends at Zondervan Academic have a number of resources that are designed to walk us from being completely unfamiliar with the Hebrew language to being able to translate the text for ourselves. In this post I want to share with you a number of these resources that are designed to help you either learn the Hebrew language or to refresh your knowledge that you gained in seminary.
Hebrew I & II Course
Zondervan Academic has teamed up with Dr. Miles V. Van Pelt to develop 32 video lectures walking us through their textbook, Basics of Biblical Hebrew. In case you don’t know, Dr. Van Pelt is the Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages, Director of Summer Institute for Biblical Languages, and Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
In each lecture, Dr. Van Pelt talks to us, the students, shares “handouts” that we can follow along with, and writes on the screen in order to show us how various aspects of the language works. These lectures help me to feel like I am sitting in class learning from Dr. Van Pelt himself. The content follows along seamlessly with the text book making it a legitimate course to learn Hebrew I & II.
The Basics of Biblical Hebrew 1 class will walk us through:
1. Hebrew Alphabet and Hebrew Vowels
2. Syllabification and Pronunciation
3. Hebrew Nouns
4. Definite Article and Conjunction Waw
5. Hebrew Prepositions
6. Hebrew Adjectives
7. Hebrew Pronouns
8. Hebrew Pronominal Suffixes
9. Hebrew Construct Chain
10. Hebrew Numbers
11. Introduction to Hebrew Verbs
12. Qal Perfect – Strong
13. Qal Perfect – Weak
14. Qal Imperfect – Strong
15. Qal Imperfect – Weak
16. Waw Consecutive
The Basics of Biblical Hebrew 2 class will walk us through:
1. Qal Imperative, Cohortative, Jussive
2. Pronominal Suffixes on Verbs
3. Qal Infinitive [Construct and Absolute]
4. Qal Participle
5. Issues of Sentence Syntax
6. Niphal – Strong
7. Niphal – Weak
8. Piel – Strong
9. Piel – Weak
10. Pual – Strong
11. Pual – Weak
12. Hiphil – Strong
13. Hiphil – Weak
14. Hophal – Strong and Weak
15. Hitphael – Strong and Weak
If this seems daunting…well, in a way, it should. But is it achievable? Can you actually take this course and understand what these words even mean, much less the content of the chapter? Absolutely. An emphatic yes! I’m really not putting myself down, but if I can do it (which I just finished recently), then trust me, you can do it too.
Each chapter consists of a video lecture from Dr. Pelt, a study section that walks us through the notes found in the text book, a vocabulary section where we need to memorize about 10-15 words, and then a quiz. There is a midterm and a final as well. This is a legitimate course that I have been through and I would recommend to anyone.
Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar
The textbook for this class is well-written, well-formatted, and easy to reference and follow. I don’t say this lightly. I have read other beginning Hebrew books that were not as user friendly as Basics of Biblical Hebrew.
Basics of Biblical Hebrew Workbook
Along with the textbook, a highly valuable resource is the workbook. This workbook will walk you through hundreds, probably thousands of examples to test our knowledge of what we are learning. One feature I love about this workbook verses others I have seen is that the sample phrases and sentences we are asked to translate are straight from the Hebrew Scriptures, and not just a random Hebrew phrase. How exciting is that when the text you translate comes straight out of the Bible?! Amazing!
Charts of Biblical Hebrew
Another resource Zondervan offers is a chart book full of key diagrams that help us to learn various aspects of the language. Whether the endings to certain words, or verbal conjugations, this chart book is extremely valuable. In addition, this chart book also contains a DVD with hundreds of additional charts to use to aid in our learning of the language.
Old Testament Hebrew Vocabulary Cards
When it comes to learning vocabulary words, what is a tried and true method? Index cards. Well Zondervan has also released a box of 1,000 Hebrew vocabulary cards. These cards are in order as they are found in Basics of Biblical Hebrew so it is easy to pick up the 10 or so cards that you are studying in a given week. These cards are more, however, then simply the Hebrew word on the front and the definition on the back. These cards also contain the frequency of the word being studied, any alternate spellings, the plural form, and whether or not it shows up in any other common Hebrew books. This was and is a valuable resource that I still use!
Basics of Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Audio
Does anyone commute to school or work? Well Zondervan, in addition to the vocabulary cards has also released a CD of someone reading the Hebrew words and the definition. I have spent hours upon hours upon hours listening to this CD in my commute to and from work. Hearing the Hebrew words spoken has helped me tremendously in my pursuit of understanding the Hebrew language.
Additional Resources that I Recommend to You:
The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament
The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew
English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Gude (My personal favorite!)
Hebrew for the Rest of Us
Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories
All in all, I couldn’t recommend this course and resources to you enough. The Hebrew language is the chosen language of God to communicate His words to us through the majority of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew Scriptures are invaluable for one, because they are God’s Word, but also because through them, we learn about God himself, his character, his attributes, and his redemptive work through history.
Don’t hesitate. If you’ve been considering learning Biblical Hebrew, this course will help you on your way. And how about this? Within the first few weeks, you will be able to translate simple phrases in the Bible!! You can do it!