Tell me, what would you recommend to someone like me as an introduction to biblical Hebrew?
I'm an academic type with a degree in Biblical-Theological Studies, familiar with Greek, but almost totally ignorant of Hebrew. You know, I can remember that Yom means 'day' and that's about it -- I've pretty much focused on the New Testament. I aspire to return to scholarship in the future, however. I wouldn't be able to identify a single Hebrew character.
Unfortunately, it's been 18 years since I taught introductory Hebrew (and seven years since I formally taught anything at all; not by choice). I just don't know what's out there. I found this website, but the emphasis there is for the intermediate student, not the beginner. A number of beginner's texts are mentioned at this commercial site.
Many scholars I know like to use Lambdin (see the website just mentioned). I've consulted it on occasion, but never used it as a textbook. I don't know anything about Kittel or Kelley. I've written a review of C. L. Seow's grammar, but I don't know how it goes over in the classroom.
I learned Biblical Hebrew from the late W. S Lasor's Handbook of Biblical Hebrew, which I believe is out of print. It's a pity, because it is a largely inductive approach, and I've been sold on the inductive method ever since. I don't know if there are any other grammars out there that are as consistently inductive. I've also used in the classroom Moshe Greenberg's Introduction to Hebrew, but it is a little thin (literally and figuratively).
What do the rest of you think? Blog about it, and I'll link to your discussion; or write to me and I'll include your views in an update.
UPDATE (3/8): Eric Sowell@The Coding Humanist writes:
I learned a little Hebrew at DTS using Seow's A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Even though it is packed full of useful information, it is difficult to learn from. I do not recommend it. And, it is very deductive in its approach, so it isn't what you are looking for.Ken Penner e-mails:
Just after I took first year Hebrew they switched to Pratico and Van Pelt's grammar. That one seems better, but I have not had a chance to spend much time in it as of yet.
It sounds like Dave@GracePages, knowing Greek, could use a textbook that errs on the side of being thorough rather than simplistic. If so, I'd suggest Lambdin. Even advanced scholars appeal to Lambdin in a way that is not heard of for other textbooks. Seow would be my second choice (what was your opinion of it when you reviewed it?). I like some things about the organization in Weingreen, but I haven't used it enough to recommend it confidently. I'd recommend staying away from LaSor, though I see great value in the inductive method. It's just not appropriate for self-teaching. I've seen some particularly bad intro. grammars, that I won't mention unless asked. For someone who doesn't know an ancient language already, I'd suggest Futato. I haven't taught from it, but it looks promising.Justin Winger e-mails:
When I taught at Fuller many of us used Simon, Resnikoff, & Motzkin, The First Hebrew Primer (EKS Publishing - www.ekspublishing.com). As with all grammars, there is a compromise, and the compromise here is that the book makes Hebrew very fun and easy to learn but it isn't grammar-intensive and doesn't include some of the finer points of grammar. The focus is instead on getting the student to read Hebrew and enjoy it. There is also a bit of a jump from the "book Hebrew" to Biblical Hebrew, but not a large one if one chooses his/her initial post-grammar texts carefully (the book itself works through Ruth). I found it to be perfect for a Seminary setting in which there were many people who were required to take Hebrew but didn't have any desire to learn it (and many others who were simply scared of it), especially if a few weeks were reserved at the end of the course for just reading the Hebrew Bible, and if the book was supplemented with handouts of the finer points of grammar as needed. As somebody who works with Semitic languages, you might enjoy checking it out. At the end of each chapter they have exercises, a section of Ruth, and a "Tall Tale," which is usually one of the fairy tales translated into Biblical Hebrew. Reading "The Three Little Pigs" in Biblical Hebrew (and a somewhat humorous rendition at that) definitely makes reading chunks of Hebrew fun for the student (even if some teachers might gripe about book exercises in language teaching).Many thanks for all who took the time to write. Note also Chris Brady's and Carl's comments in the comment section below. Dave, hope this helps.
UPDATE II: Danny Zacharias also has some suggestions and observations.