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I am a fairly new student of Biblical Hebrew. For various reasons, I am going to do this on my own, from my home. Please suggest which books I need for serious study in this area.

I have Logos plus the Lexham Hebrew Bible with Morphology resource.

For one, I believe I need a more thorough lexicon than the abridged one that comes with the Lexham Hebrew Bible. Also, I believe I need a definitive Hebrew grammar; I am considering Joüon-Muraoka and Gesenius.

I want solid study to be the only thing standing between me and Biblical knowledge. I don't want to be lacking in important resources, so please mention anything which you consider to be vital.

If you know of a better place to post this question, please let me know.

Thanks!

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  • Do you already have the Abridged BDB (logos.com/product/677/…)? It is free and good for simply reading Hebrew. For study you would want the full BDB (logos.com/product/1796/…). – Perry Webb May 19 '18 at 13:50
  • Logos has made it much easier to read Hebrew. With paper books, you had to determine what BDB considered the root of the word to look it up. Scholars don't always agree on the root. That's what made HALOT popular because it didn't have this problem. Logos finds the word in BDB for you. – Perry Webb May 19 '18 at 13:58
  • And that is also directly the issue with these tools; it makes readers ignorant to open questions because the tool has made a choice already (the reader does not even notice that there is a question!). – user2672 May 19 '18 at 21:02
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not relate to a particular passage of scripture. – Ruminator May 20 '18 at 13:25
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I took Biblical Hebrew first in a university course of around 125 hours in Israel, taught by an expert in the field. When I came back to Canada I tried to read from a unilingual BH Bible with the help of a dictionary and my grammar notes... it was painfully slow and I soon gave up. It was disheartening considering the "pedigree" of the instruction.

A few years later, I had an open slot at my Canadian university and saw that there was an intermediate BH course. Figuring I could catch up, I took it. Even though this one was only about 50 hours, it's been very effective for lasting study; I'm still reading daily about a year and a half after the end of the course, and deepening my knowledge all the time.

Here are some of the differences between the courses if you want to replicate them for self-study:

  • The Israeli course had a strong focus on the linguistics and history of Biblical Hebrew. I loved this as a linguistics student, but it didn't end up contributing to actually being able to read it. That sort of thing should have been reserved for an advanced course, not an introduction. Similarly, as you start, just focus on comprehension. Get into the technicals later. The only core terms (imo) for a beginner of BH are shoresh, smikhut, and binyan.

  • Both courses had us read aloud, but the Israeli course was much larger, so you rarely got much time. At home without someone to check it will be frustrating, but you need to get used to reading the alphabet (vowel pointing and all) quickly and fluidly, so try recording yourself and compare it to online recordings. The urge to speak at a reasonable pace will force you to challenge yourself and you'll notice your intonation improve as you start to understand more.

  • The Canadian course had a comic book version of the Elijah cycle from 1 and 2 Kings, with the verbatim text of the Aleppo Codex as narration and dialogue bubbles. It was great for visual cues and maintaining interest when the language was discouragingly difficult. See if you can find something similar. (I'd link but the reader was a WIP — we had manually bound copies.)

  • The Israeli course gave good suggestions for serious dictionaries. A serious dictionary is of no use when you're starting out. You need a glossary with 1–2 definitions per word. If there are words you desperately want to know more about, look them up in online resources. But mostly you just need flexibility to apply the basic definitions.

  • The Israeli course had us memorize conjugation tables and parse words as we found them in the text. The Canadian course had us write the conjugations of 4–5 verbs per week, usually in one tense, two binyanim or vice versa. Parsing words as you come to them is good but won't help you discover and internalize patterns. Copy conjugations by hand, then write them from memory, then say them aloud with and without notes. Then wait an hour and test your memory.

  • The Israeli course had us go over a text once, jumping around to various places in the Bible, which was nice for an overview. The Canadian course had us proceed slowly and carefully through the Elijah cycle, but also spend maybe 1/4 of the time reading what we'd already read, going back to the first verse we started with and reading a little farther almost every day, eventually covering the same ground more than a dozen times. This was very helpful. It's easy to "get a sense" of what something means, particular if you're familiar with the Bible in English already, but to let it soak in deeply in Hebrew helps you understand the idiom (and again get alphabet and pronunciation practice).

  • The Israeli course had a unilingual Bible and a dictionary, as I mentioned. For the Canadian course I bought an all-in-one Bible, the BHS Reader's Edition. I still use this as my main text and can't recommend it highly enough. It's unilingual except that the rarer words (< 70 uses) are defined at the bottom of the page, and the harder parsings are also given. I find it easy to keep my eye on the Hebrew whenever possible, but consult the bottom when I'm feeling overly challenged. In the front it has a summary of key grammatical points and the back has conjugation tables and a glossary of the words with > 70 uses.

Now, for the actual grammar textbook. I do suggest looking at someone else's suggestion for that, because in my courses, the grammar was supplied by (a) the instructor and (b) photocopies made from a variety of books. But like I said, keep it simple to begin with.

An interlinear is also a nice convenience. But the online one at BibleHub is almost useless (except as a set of links to Strong's entries). The English given rarely corresponds to the use of the Hebrew word in context and doesn't even show accurate grammatical info or word breaks. I don't think many online ones will be good in this respect. A print one with a good scholar's name attached is probably better.

Studying BH has been very different from the other languages I've learned because it's almost purely comprehension. This makes memorizing forms difficult because you don't put them into use and rescue them from abstraction. So above all, read, read, read at least a few verses every day!

Happy studying!

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  • Your thorough and thoughtful answer is very helpful! Thanks! – grgoelyk May 21 '18 at 15:22
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One resource I have found to be excellent is http://biblehub.com/interlinear/. I think it would be wise to reference two or more translations as well, one more literal, like the Amplified Bible, and the other a "dynamic equivalence" like the New Living Translation or The Message. This is one way to prevent your own rendering from being way off the mark! You can view up to 5 translations side by side on www.biblegateway.com. Happy Scripture studying!

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HebrewTools.org

There are two tools at HebrewTools.org: one to practice verb forms ("Parse Trainer") and one to interactively translate a text ("Clause Formatter").

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Literal translations

A good, syntactically relatively literal translation can help to compare with. However, ideally you take a modern translation, which are lexically usually better.

(Feel free to add more translations / languages.)

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  • I like the JPS, but personally wouldn't use it to compare Hebrew/English for language study. Though they say their philosophy is to produce idiomatic Hebrew, I find they prefer by far to create idiomatic English. While you could argue often that they've shown what the Hebrew really means, it makes identifying which words contributed to which translations hard. – Luke Sawczak May 19 '18 at 13:49
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SHEBANQ

SHEBANQ is a system in which you can easily search for words, forms and syntactic structures in the Hebrew Bible. You need to specify your search in a query language, which gives the system a bit of a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it can be really useful. A usage example is given here. The wiki gives a lot of guidance and examples as well.

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Blue Letter Bible

This is an alternative to the already mentioned BibleHub. I find its user interface more comfortable. They also have Android and iOS apps.

I use this only for interlinear reading and online access to the text. However, do note:

  • The commentaries are mediocre at best, usually written from a Christian point of view, not reasoning from the text but from theology.
  • The text lacks critical annotations as you would find in the BHS.
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Dictionaries: Gesenius and/or Koehler-Baumgartner (HALOT); NIDOT / TDOT

As for dictionaries, the 18th edition of Gesenius, edited by Meyer and Donner, is state-of-the-art.

An alternative in English would be Koehler-Baumgartner (also known as HALOT), but Gesenius is worth learning German in my experience (of course, it depends what your goals and priorities are).

For more in-depth lemmas for important words, there is NIDOT, the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. However, in almost all cases I find TDOT (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament) to be more helpful and extensive.

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Grammars: Joüon-Muraoka and/or Bauer-Leander

As for grammars, I'm primarily using Joüon-Muraoka, which you already mentioned. It is up-to-date and especially for syntax it is excellent.

For phonology and morphology, Bauer-Leander is excellent (though German).

I'm not aware of any grammars that treat semantics in depth. If you are into verbal semantics, Cook, Time and the Biblical Hebrew Verb is a very interesting read, which could almost be a new grammar section.

Depending on your current level, you may want to work with a study grammar first. Lettinga (French / Dutch) is good. I don't know what English ones are good; suggestions welcome.

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