The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jun 20, 2015

Resources for Studying and Teaching Biblical Hebrew (by a Greek specialist)

The Lord has a sense of irony! After 5 years in doctoral studies focusing on Greek under one of the premiere NT Greek scholars in America (in my humble, biased, and totally correct opinion), one of the first things I was asked to teach at Baptist College of Ministry was Biblical Hebrew. It has been a fantastic and very rewarding experience, yet I sincerely wish that I had not neglected my Hebrew during my years at Southeastern. Despite the fact that I had a solid array of credits in Hebrew (and also took Aramaic), nevertheless I let it slide (though, in my defense, I did read through the Septuagint during those years). Let this be a lesson to you, potential doctorates! You never know where or what you'll be teaching, so retain at least basic competency in all areas of your field. Hopefully, I've learned my lesson and now try to incorporate a little Hebrew a day into my personal Bible study (along with my English, Greek, and German Bibles).

The old cliche is true: you really haven't learned a subject until you have to each it. A lot of things have started clicking with me now, including the discourse structure of Hebrew narrative (and its stark contrast with Hebrew poetry, with the relative lack of conjunctions in the latter); in addition, I've begun to engage more with the scholarly literature and more technical issues (e.g., is the "preterist" the third tense along with perfect and imperfect?)

For  our first semester textbook (in addition to the Stuttgartensia Hebrew Bible, Holladay's lexicon, etc.), we used Pratico and Van Pelt's Basics of Biblical Hebrew along with the accompanying workbook. I almost went with Allen Ross' Introducing Biblical Hebrew, but felt that Pratico/Van Pelt was more user-friendly to beginners. 

For second semester, the required textbooks were Arnold and Choi's handy A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax and Chisholm's excellent and very practical From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew [Waltke and O'Conner's syntax is still the modern standard, of course, but way too expensive in my opinion for a textbook; our library has it, fortunately].

In addition, in my own personal study and lecture prep, I have grown very fond of C. John Collins' work. His Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary is absolutely fantastic and just what I needed to challenge me both exegetically and theologically. For class, I made my students read both C. John Collins' article "A Syntactical Note on Genesis 3:15: Is the Woman's Seed Singular or Plural?" in Tyndale Bulletin vol. 48 (1997), as well as the necessary supplementary article by T. Desmond Alexander, "Further Observations on the Term 'Seed' in Genesis," the very next issue. Alexander deals with some texts that Collins did not cover, but I agree with the overall point of both of them (I would state, however, that in order for Genesis 3:15 to refer to the Messiah, it's not necessary to demonstrate that every occurrence of a singular pronoun in reference to zerah necessarily refers to a single person--only that the substantial majority do). Finally, I have worked through (with a bit more difficulty), Anson F. Rainey's influential article on "The Ancient Hebrew Prefix Conjugation in the Light of Amarnah Canaanite," Hebrew Studies (1997), a very influential article (viewable for free on JSTOR, though downloading a pdf is a bit expensive).

Finally, for a little bit of fun. If you haven't yet listened to Josh Tyra's famous "I am the very model of a Biblical Philologist," then click here, and you're welcome (warning: it's only funny if you like Hebrew or are familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan).