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Teaching Classical Hebrew

25th August 2006

I will be teaching Introduction to Classical Hebrew again this year. I have almost ten years experience teaching Hebrew and I can say that I still love teaching it! For my introductory course am going to use Kittel’s text, which is now in its second edition:

Biblical Hebrew: Text and Workbook, Second Edition.
Bonnie Pedrotti Kittel, Vicki Hoffer, Rebecca Wright
New Haven: Yale, 2005. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com

While I have a number of issues with this text, including the fact that the second edition is only a negligible improvement over the first (if even that), I still find it the best for introducing undergrads to the language of the Hebrew Bible. I like its inductive approach, though I do augment it with a series of more deductive handouts to give students the “big picture” before the text actually provides it. I have developed a number of resources for teaching introductory Hebrew with Kittel and most of them are available on my “Resources for Kittel” page. I also have a discussion of introductory Hebrew grammars available here.

In regards to Classical Hebrew grammars, Joe Cathay has a good blog post where he surveys some Hebrew grammars. I pretty much agree with Joe, though I have never found LaSor that helpful. I’m also not sure that when it comes to grammars there are only “basic” and “advanced.” While there is some truth to the notion that learning Hebrew is an “either/or” proposition, I see an important role for intermediate grammars.

Intermediate grammars are helpful for students to make the jump from the basic understanding of the language gained in a one-year introductory course to being able to understand the discussions in GKC, Joüon and Muraoka, or Waltke & O’Connor. There are two different types of intermediate grammars: those that focus on developing reading ability with some attention to matters of morphology and syntax (I would put Ben Zvi’s grammar in this category); and those that provide a summary discussion of the advanced grammars (I would put Arnold and Choi, Williams, and van der Merwe in this category). While the taxonomy of “introductory – intermediate – advanced” may not be ideal, I still prefer it to Joe’s (too) two broad categories of “basic – advanced.”

You can see my discussion of intermediate and advanced Hebrew grammars on my “Annotated Bibliography for Mastering Biblical Hebrew” page.

Finally, Michael Bird over at Euangelion posted on teaching resources. In regards to Hebrew one article (among many) that I found quite helpful in my thinking about how to teach Classical Hebrew is an article by David W. Baker called “Studying the Original Texts: Effective Learning and Teaching of Biblical Hebrew” in Make the Old Testament Live: From Curriculum to Classroom, edited by Richard S. Hess and Gordon J. Wenham (Eerdmans, 1998; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).

All my online Biblical Hebrew resources may be found here.


2 Responses to “Teaching Classical Hebrew”

  1. tim bulkeley Says:

    Tyler, please look at our דָּבָר: Biblical Hebrew Vocabularies collaborative project. It allows teachers to provide their students with multimedia vocabularies for regular learning based on the textbook they are using.

    Students get to see something like this “Vocabulary” (they also get a printable flashcard for use on the bus ;-) .

    Teachers can go to the teachers’ site and make up vocabs that are exported to their own server/LMS and if need be contributors (approved teachers) can add words that are currently missing. Though since we have over 500 words already done the need for this should not be huge for an Intro course!

  2. Kent Says:

    Have you seen the new electronic edition of the 2005 edition of the Joüon/Muraoka Grammar? I thought you might be interested:

    A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Rev. ed., by Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka