Blogs, Reviews

Book Review: Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching

Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors by Paul D. Wegner

Published by Kregel

ISBN: 0825439361
ISBN-13: 9780825439360

Amazon ǀ CBD ǀ Kregel

Many thanks to the kind folks at Kregel Publishing for this review copy!

Anyone who has set out to learn biblical languages, whether in college/seminary or some other avenue, knows that that without regular work in Aramaic, Hebrew, and/or Greek, there will be little retention of whatever amount you may have learned at a given time. This is especially true for pastors, whose schedules often make regular language work difficult, at times seemingly impossible. No matter how you slice it, this will affect the pastor’s preaching and teaching to some degree.

This is essentially the problem Wegner identifies and seeks to remedy in this book. He certainly does not offer or promise a wholesale guarantee that this book will solve such problems, because the problem amounts to neglect on the part of the student/pastor, but he writes to encourage and provide practical advice on how to use biblical Hebrew when preparing sermons. He writes “for all Bible school and seminary students who have struggled through at least one year of Hebrew grammar and are wondering how they will ever be able to retain it” and “for pastors who need some encouragement to refresh and maintain their knowledge of the biblical languages” (8).

The book is divided into the following chapters:

  1. The Big Question – essentially an identification of the problems that inspired the book and the “why” of studying biblical Hebrew.
  2. Tools of the Trade – a discussion of the various tools at the exegete’s disposal; he lists 14 essential tools for developing a sermon from the biblical text.
  3. The Goals of Biblical Exegesis – a road map of sorts that guides the exegete through a condensed exegetical process that includes brief descriptions of various critical and analytical approaches (narrative, historical, textual, etc).
  4. Developing a Practical Plan – a homiletical unit focused on developing a sermon from the fruit of exegesis. He employs the acronym READTHEBOOK to describe this process (I don’t feel like typing it all out!).
  5. Making Exegesis Practical – Here Wegner offers various tips on how to keep up one’s exegetical skills by remaining diligent in studying the original languages. Basically translate from the Hebrew text regularly and stay on top of vocabulary.
  6. Appendix A – a table of numerous OT commentaries from evangelical and non-evangelical scholars.
  7. Appendix B – OT textual criticism worksheet
  8. Appendix C – a brief tutorial on doing word studies in Hebrew
  9. Appendix D – an annotated sermon worksheet
  10. Appendix E – a syntactical analysis of Psalm 23

Overall Wegner provides very practical information for the student and/or pastor that should help alleviate some of the minor frustrations that are the result of neglecting one’s Hebrew. One of the better aspects of this book is the discussion of resources that are available (he even gives a general price range for many). For the student/pastor who may not be confident what to choose from the ever-expanding inventory of exegetical tools, this book will prove a good first step. Some of the tools that Wegner suggests are not for the faint of heart nor for the Hebrew novice, such as Waltke and O’Connor’s grammar and HALOT, but the majority of the books and software suggested are easily manageable.

Wegner’s book is a helpful and handy guide (clocking in at only 153 pages excluding indexes) for those who wish to get back in the preaching-from-the-OT saddle, though it will only help you start the process. Some of the endorsements on the back cover may give the impression that this is a defining volume, but it is hardly that. Nevertheless, Wegner has made the daunting task of preaching from the Hebrew bible seem a bit more manageable.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching”

  1. Thanks for the info on this volume. Sounds like a good read and useful resource. I preach/teach weekly from the OT (on Wednesday nights) and the NT (Sunday AM service) and theology (Sunday nights; though will after the first of the year begin working through the Psalms for this service). I find it helpful for me to always translate my texts (though at times I just focus on the central portions due to time constraints, but I’ve found that I’m able to do more and more in a shorter time as I continue this practice). I just may need to add this resource to my Amazon list. Thanks again!

  2. Rick: Glad you found it useful. I really need to try and translate all the texts I preach every week, but sometimes I just don’t have time. Hebrew is still slow going a lot of times (depending on the text). I have been preaching from the psalms for several months now (I am on Ps. 20) and it has been a great study. I find that we can often resonate with the psalmists struggles and glories! Hope your study goes well.

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