Study of Hebrew

Discussion in 'Languages' started by RPEphesian, Mar 19, 2018.

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  1. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I love the the languages, but with so many life changes the opportunities are a bit more restricted.

    I don’t want to take on a seminary course at this time, but am struggling for the best way to proceed with Hebrew, a way that would be most effective.

    I had thought of doing some deep study in Genesis, as I have spent a large amount of time just in the first three chapters (changing your view of baptism makes you wonder just what else you missed). By studying Genesis in Hebrew, going through the grammar and vocabulary slow and carefully and analytically, I see the following advantages:

    1) It’s one of the oldest forms of Hebrew in Scripture, thus all later developments in the language inevitably start with the Pentateuch Hebrew as its baseline
    2) The Pentateuch is one fifth of the Hebrew OT
    3) The Pentateuch is all by one author, thus ensuring consistency
    4) The later books of the OT are going to trace their theology to the Pentateuch anyway
    5) I’m already absorbed with Genesis anyway, so it should enhance my study

    From what I had heard from the pastor at my church, the one real challenge of Hebrew is verbal paradoxes, but once you get past this and understand the rather basic grammatical structure of Hebrew it’s almost just a matter of acquiring vocabulary. So, all things considered, my guess is that what I get from the 5P will inevitably appear regularly throughout the rest of the Hebrew OT.

    All advice, in support or in recommendation of an alternative, are much appreciated!
     
  2. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    How many other languages do you speak/read besides English?

    I think you'd need at least a textbook and a lexicon. Perhaps (Basics of Biblical Hebrew + Workbook) and the lexicon by Holladay.

    Seems like often people start with something like Ruth or Jonah. They are short, relatively simple, and you might feel more encouraged having completed a couple smaller books before launching into the pentateuch.
     
  3. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I can read and speak Spanish, read Intermediate Biblical Greek, and some very basic Hebrew.
     
  4. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Get a good basic Hebrew grammar, like Weingreen, or Pratico. Work through that. Pay special attention to the weak verb forms. They are very tricky to master. The grammar is not especially difficult (nowhere near as difficult as Greek). Vocab is definitely the bear, though, since all verbs are trilateral (three consonants). Also, start subscribing to the Daily Dose of Hebrew videos.
     
  5. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I forgot to mention that I am using Allen Ross, and have taken one semester of Hebrew already through CBTS. I still have Ross.

    Not that I'm not listening to recommendations.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2018
  6. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    These are good suggestions for people who have the basics down. The Basics of Biblical Hebrew Graded Reader has a sampling of different Biblical texts with notes and is a step easier than launching out into the text on your own. Jonah and Ruth are straightforward Hebrew, grammatically and text critically, and will enable you to complete a whole book which may be encouraging. Ruth has the added advantage of a lot more feminine forms than most Biblical texts.

    The Pentateuch does have a couple of grammatical oddities compared to Classical Biblical Hebrew (Joshua - 2 Kings, for example. It is relatively straightforward, compared to Late Biblical Hebrew (think Chronicles and Ecclesiastes). If you are working through it slowly, you can grow in your knowledge by looking up all of the references in the Scripture index in the back of a good grammar. That's going to take a lot of time, and most of them won't mean much to you. Generally, the ones in the higher numbered sections, dealing with syntax rather than morphology will be more interesting as a reader. A good commentary could also provide you with some help; the Word series has a number of grammatical observations in tiny print after the translation which might be more manageable, though as a commentary the series is very variable; Wenham on Genesis is helpful; Budd on Numbers utterly worthless.

    In general, the best language study is the study you actually do, not a "perfect" goal that is unattainable. Even the most basic attempt to read from the Hebrew will yield fruit over time, even if you don't look up every grammatical oddity. And the recommendation of "Daily Dose of Hebrew" is also a good tip.
     
  7. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Do you think you could clarify your second paragraph?
     
  8. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    Which bit?
    The Pentateuch has more defective spellings, and doesn't use the feminine pronoun (it's a consistent ketiv-qere).
    Late Biblical Hebrew is distinctly (but not radically) different from classical Biblical Hebrew - though the extent to which it is simply late rather than a distinct dialect is a subject of debate.
    Morphology has to do with the shape of words - why is there a doubled letter or a dagesh in this form. Generally, those points are of interest to grammarians, more than readers. Syntax has to do with phrases and sentences and so is generally more interesting to the average reader.

    Let me know if you have specific questions about any of these.
     
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  9. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I've gone the route of finishing up Allen Ross's "Biblical Hebrew" along with the David Clemens supplement I have. Making a big study project of Genesis is probably too ambitious until I at least get through that, though I'll be keeping the Hebrew text open while going through since I'm studying Genesis anyway.

    Iain, I'm not sure what you meant by the "higher numbered" sections.
     
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Any idea why the BDB lexicon puts together the cognates words around the same lexicon root word, while modern ones force you to chase the various similar words scattered in the Hebrew text?
     
  11. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    Modern lexicons are alphabetical (more or less), while BDB is arranged by Hebrew verbal roots. Most people, especially language beginners, find the modern ordering much easier to use, since they don't necessarily recognize the root buried in the middle of the word. It's not self evident that the noun ma'akal (food) should come next to 'akal (he ate), particularly for those who are still trying to work out even whether it is a verb or a noun. And they are usually looking the word up to find the meaning(s) of that word, not a possible connection to a related verb. If the connection to the verbal root isn't self-evident in English (as in the above example), I wouldn't encourage students to formulate significance from it. Stick to the meaning(s) listed for the noun in the lexicon.
     
  12. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    So why did the BDB decide to do it the way that they did?
     
  13. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    From the preface:

    As to the arrangement of the work, the Editors decided at an early stage of their preparations to follow the Thesaurus, and the principal dictionaries of other Semitic languages, in classifying words according to their stems, and not to adopt the purely alphabetical order which has been common in Hebrew dictionaries. The relation of Semitic derivatives to the stems is such as to make this method of grouping them an obvious demand from the scientific point of view. It is true that practical objections to it may be offered, but these do not appear convincing. One is that it compels the Editor to seem to decide, by placing each word under a given stem, some questions of etymology which in his own mind are still open. The number of such cases, however, is comparatively small, and the uncertainty can always be expressed by a word of caution. And even if the objection were much more important it would be better to assume the burden of it, in order to give students of Hebrew, from the outset, the immense advantage of familiarity with the structure and formative laws of the Hebrew vocabulary in their daily work. Another objection incidental to this arrangement is thought to be the increased difficulty of reference. This difficulty will diminish rapidly as students advance in knowledge, and by the practice of setting words formed by prefix or affix—or otherwise hard for the beginner to trace—a second time in their alphabetical place, with cross-references, it is hoped to do away with the difficulty almost entirely.
     
  14. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    How would you view their assessment in this ?
     
  15. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    They are expert linguists who expect their students to be preparing to be the same. As a result, they don't make many allowances for weakness. In my experience, beginning students have quite a bit of difficulty tracking down words in BDB, unless they are fortunate to find one of the few editions that have an alphabetical index. So it is easier to start off with Holladay, which being based on the newer Kohler-Baumgartner, is in a few places more up to date (e.g. the possible translation of nephesh as "throat" in some contexts). Nevertheless, BDB has a wealth of information that Holladay doesn't have, so it is my go to day to day lexicon. But I can't say that the collection by roots is particularly useful to me in most of my work. If I need a high level of precision, I would go up to HALOT or the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, both of which are multivolume works, beyond the beginner level. But either Holladay or BDB will meet the daily need, and if you access them in electronic format - e.g. through Bibleworks - then the ordering becomes irrelevant.
     
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  16. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Is the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew worth getting in its abridged 1 volume form?
     
  17. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    Every book is worth getting for some people and not for others. It is a good resource, especially for those engaged in more scholarly work, but I wouldn't regard it as essential for every pastor. It also includes information about post-Biblical Hebrew, most of which isn't terribly relevant to most of the readers here, and has no Aramaic section to help with Daniel and Ezra (yes, Aramaic is a Biblical language too...). It's $167 in hardback, so it's not cheap
     
  18. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I might add that HALOT is more valuable (in my opinion) than DCH, though I have both unabridged. In may ways, the Theologicla Dictionary of the Old Testament has stuff that nothing else has, but that is pricey, too. NIDOTTE is probably better along those lines for pastors.
     
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I like Holloday better than BDB.
     
  20. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Is that the OT counterpart to the older NT Brown set that was recently updated under Dr Silva?
     
  21. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I try to use both of them, as they are in my Logos bible software package.
     
  22. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Yes.
     
  23. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Just curious to how you see the NT/OT version of Kittle stacking up to those 2 sets from Zondervan?
    The theological Dictionay of the OT/NT?
     
  24. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    David, in the OT arena, I have found so far that NIDOTTE is more concise, but also more comprehensive. That is, they don't say as much about each word, but they cover more different words than TDOT does. Also NIDOTTE is considerably more evangelical/conservative than TDOT. TDOT often resorts to literary layers and emendation to solve problems.

    In the NT arena, NIDNTTE is considerably more valuable (especially now in the updated version) than TDNT. For one thing, the first four volumes of TDNT were published before James Barr's pasting of the etymological method. There are still some exegetical nuggets buried in TDNT, but it is easier to find the information in commentaries most of the time, as they will all have read TDNT anyway. Moises Silva is one of the top linguists in the field. I wouldn't want to be without any of them, however.
     
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  25. R. Andrew Compton

    R. Andrew Compton Puritan Board Freshman

    The value I've found in the abridged volume is that it acts like a concordance of the epigraphic Hebrew corpus and Judean Desert texts. It just contains glosses, and is not as exhaustive as the unabridged set in terms of citations (plus it has some of the shortcomings of the set as a whole which have been discussed in various reviews - e.g., insufficient attention to language development that happens from the earliest inscriptions to the Dead Sea Scrolls), but you get a snapshot of a huge collection of words that occur outside the OT for only about $45 (last time I checked).
     
  26. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    How would the use of those dictionaries be used differently than using saying a Hebrew/Greek lexicon then?
    I once had both of the Zondervan OT/NT dictionary sets, the colin brown edition, but went to all software based books in Logos now, and did not purchase them to replace the sold set. Would they be a worthwhile investment again?
     
  27. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Lexicons are more concerned with straight glosses than dictionaries, though there is some overlap, of course. I would say that the lengthier dictionaries are expansions on the lexicons and give more explanation and context. It is not to say that one is better than the other, per se. I would say that NIDOTTE and the revised NIDNTTE are very much worth the investment, especially in digital format, where you can click on the verses cited, and it will take you straight to the part of the dictionary where your verse is discussed. However, if you don't have HALOT and BDAG, I would get those first. A well-equipped library will have them all.
     
  28. R. Andrew Compton

    R. Andrew Compton Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't want to speak for Lane, he may know of additional benefits of NIDOTTE/NIDNTTE vis-a-vis other lexicons, but where I've found them to be most useful is that they give more information than HALOT/BDAG/etc. in that they discuss the importance of the given word's use in a particular ANE and/or biblical passage and how that might relate to theological questions. The straigh-ahead lexicons (if I might call them that) will often be more exhaustive in cataloging word occurrences, but do not give anything more than suggested word meanings. This is, of course, quite valuable, which is why I encourage students to have both a lexicon like HALOT and a theological lexicon like NIDOTTE.
     
  29. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks, so that would be how you use the lexicon and dictionary in combination?
     
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