Baker Academic

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Suggestions for a Hebrew Textbook? - Le Donne

I got an interesting query today from a friend. The email was to a few folks who have taught intro to Biblical Hebrew. He wrote:
Hi fellas,
Hope you're all well. A quick question for you all: have any of you taught biblical Hebrew recently? If so, do you have any suggestions on textbooks? I'm teaching it next semester in kind of a strange format: an 8-week intensive class, with one two-hour session a week for the duration. Obviously not ideal for a language module. Anyway, I think I'll need something quite accessible as most are non-specialists and they'll need to do a quite a bit of work on their own.
Any suggestions welcome....
I replied:
I had to mix and match with several books and online resources. I leaned on Seow and Kelly et al. a great deal, but didn't like either of their first three chapters... I started with phonetics of proper names and went from there. You can recognize a whole host of Hebrew names with only about ten consonants and three vowels. So I tried to get my students over the hump of sight and sound recognition before I moved into alphabet and syllables, etc. Also, I like to start by showing the development of the characters from metanyms to metaphors.  
I even tried to use this book once, but I was a failure with this tool. The three times I tried it, most of my students learned almost nothing... so there's that. 

As with many other episodes in my life, I realized after I wrote the email that I was the absolute wrong person to weigh in on this query. Any suggestions?



  1. the best is still weingreen's. seow's isn't bad either.

  2. I have always found Futato’s grammar to be the most helpful.

  3. I'm currently evaluating Hebrew textbooks for an 8 week online grad course. It seems Hebrew language textbooks are exploding right now. While there are several that are standard texts, more detailed, and/or less "Christian" in their approach to the language, it is hard to beat Pratico and Van Pelt for their accessibility and ease of use.

    Zondervan have also produced many attendant resources to go along with this text. Of interest might be their DVD in which Van Pelt lectures through the text himself. In an intensive course, this could provide the option of requiring students to watch certain video lectures before a class session, thus doubling instruction time while allowing more time for in class review.

    I'm not sure I'd go with this choice in a single or two semester long Hebrew class, but in an intensive setting it has certain advantages.

  4. There's a lot of repetition and some need for supplementation (e.g., kethiv-qere), but the "First Hebrew Primer" by Simon, Resnikoff, and Motzkin ( is a very accessible text. The way many of the exercises are structured could also lend quite easily to their adaptation to engaging students in pronouncing/speaking the language, if one wanted to go that route to some extent too.

  5. I learned using Lambdin's textbook. I think it's still the standard in many biblical Hebrew classes especially the intensive classes.

  6. Danny Zacharias suggests:

  7. How about:
    Biblical Hebrew: A Student Grammar by John A. Cook and Robert D. Holmstedt?

  8. The updated version:

  9. Lambdin is almost certainly too much for an 8 week intensive; especially with non-specialists. I've used Futato and Pratico--I prefer Pratico.

    You may have a look at Jo Ann Hackett's _Basic Intro to Biblical Hebrew_; it's designed for use as a one-semester textbook, which may be easier to adapt to 8 weeks than the others.

  10. I'd say Lambdin is probably too intense for most non-specialists. I've used Pratico and Futato--I prefer Pratico.

    You may have a look at Jo Ann Hackett's grammar (Hendrickson 2010), since it's designed to be used in a one-semester class.

    Hopefully I didn't just post a duplicate.

  11. I second the vote for Ross. The chapters are short and he minimizes paradigms and memorization, making it less intimidating to use. He supplies a 'mechanical parsing' method that is very helpful.

    -John Markley