Hebrew

Translating

TC recently opined concerning how his Greek suffered in 2009. Ever since I graduated from seminary in 2004, my knowledge of Hebrew has considerably weakened. In an attempt to remedy this unfortunate state, I’ve been reviewing Hebrew grammar and vocabulary for a little while now and I am noticing improvement. Though memorizing paradigms and vocabulary are important, I have found actually translating the text to be more beneficial for relearning what I thought was forever burned into my brain.

One example from seminary reinforces this for me. I took a Hebrew exegesis class on the Psalms and one of our assignments was to recite Psalm 23 (with no helps or prompts obviously) before the class. It was a minor assignment, only a small percentage of the final grade, but it turned out to be a most helpful exercise. I, of course, memorized it and recited it and went on with the remainder of the semester toiling through the quizzes, paper, and exams. But even now, so many years later, I remember that psalm. I stumble through a couple of the verses, but because I learned to read it and say it, I feel it stuck with me.

Now, depending on the text I am reading and/or translating, I see a word that is used in that psalm, regardless of the inflection, and I can usually parse it so that I can move on in the text. It is so time-consuming to stop and look up a word in a lexicon or in the footnotes (I use A Reader’s Hebrew Bible for my current endeavor). So when I run across those occasional words that occur in Psalm 23, I am reminded of the importance reading, translating, and memorizing have in my efforts to become proficient in Hebrew.

Are there any particular methods you have used that have been helpful?

,שָׁלוֹם

Jason

Hebrew

Hebrew Vocabulary

One of the things necessary to mastering a language is to learn the vocabulary (obviously!). In my recent endeavors to strengthen my Hebrew skills to their former glory, I began reviewing vocabulary. I did this primarily through translating and reading from the Hebrew Bible, which has been a slow and arduous task. I also employed flash cards, specifically the Master Set of Bible Flash Cards from EKS Publishing. This particular set is keyed for use with their The First Hebrew Primer, 3d ed. There are 335 words in this set, which represent the words in the HB that appear at least 200 times, many of them occurring more than 500 times. Clearly I will need to master these and the words that occur less frequently, but I was pleased with the amount of vocabulary I have retained since my days in seminary. I would guess I knew approximately 85% of these 335 words. I still have a long way to go, but I was pleased to have remembered this much!

שָׁלוֹם,

Jason

Bible, Books, Greek, Hebrew

Coming Soon from Zondervan

Some of you may be miffed about the whole TNIV thing, but Zondervan has a wonderful new bible slated to be published in 2010:  A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible! (HT: Matthew Montonini)

I know several folks have made known their disgust over the TNIV because they had shelled out a hefty sum for a study bible. The same goes for me with this one–I spent a fair amount purchasing the Hebrew and Greek reader’s bibles, only now to know they will be combined. I guess it was only a matter of time…

And, yes, I will likely purchase one of these–it looks like a lovely bible!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Books, Greek, Hebrew

More Light on the Path

Since I first heard of this devotional guide, I have wanted to purchase a copy. It is entitled More Light on the Path: Daily Scripture Readings in Hebrew and Greek. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

“Following in the tradition of the well-received Light on the Path, which was published in the early 1980s, More Light on the Path provides a unique and useful resource for pastors and seminary students who desire to keep their biblical language skills well-honed. Like the earlier volume, this work consists of brief daily readings drawn from the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. Grammatical notes and translation helps are provided with the text, and in most instances, the reader will be able to work through difficult sections without having to turn to lexicons or other reference works.”

Does anyone reading this post own a copy (or a copy of the first edition)? What are your thoughts on it?

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Bible, Greek, Hebrew, New Testament, Old Testament

Bible Reading

I have taken up a task that I set about to start some time ago, but for various reasons, did not start in earnest: reading through the Bible in the original languages. Though I have exegeted many passages from both testaments, I want to focus on reading through the text, vocalizing aloud as I go through in hopes of retaining more of the text in my memory. I am under no delusion that this will be an easy task, but I think it will be very rewarding.

The tools I will use in this endeavor are:

A Reader’s Greek New Testament: 2nd Edition by Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski

Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament by Warren C. Trenchard

A Reader’s Hebrew Bible by Philip A. Brown,  II  and Bryan W. Smith

Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew by Miles V. Van Pelt and Gary D. Pratico

I am much more nimble working through the Greek and have long needed to shore up my Hebrew, so hopefully I will accomplish this, as least as much as such an exercise could do so.

Has anyone else taken up this task?

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Books, Hebrew, Old Testament

Genesis

I have recently become quite interested in Genesis, particularly in the so-called “primeval history” of chapters 1-11. My interests typically translate into a sermon series (if possible), so it will likely be with Genesis 1-11. My struggle right now is deciding which works will best serve me in studying these chapters, whether or not I actually preach through them.

I currently own only two commentaries on Genesis: John Walton’s volume in the NIVAC and Kenneth Mathews’ first volume in the NAC. Walton’s commentary is very good, but less technical and Mathews’ is also very good. I also own the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, but this is very non-technical and offers mostly summary assessments of background material.

As I perused the works available on Genesis, my list of potential purchases grew rather quickly. I narrowed the list to these, but I will definitely have to narrow further, perhaps to only 5-6 volumes.

Genesis in Interpretation by Walter Brueggemann

Genesis, with an Introduction to Narrative Literature in Forms of the Old Testament Literature by George W. Coats

Genesis in The Anchor Bible by E. A. Speiser

Genesis: A Commentary in the Old Testament Library by Gerhard Von Rad

Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account by John Sailhamer

Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce Waltke

Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary by John C. Collins

Handbook on the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy by Victor P. Hamilton

Genesis 1-15 in the Word Biblical Commentary by Gordon J. Wenham

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis-Leviticus edited by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland

Genesis : Be-Reshit: The Traditional Hebrew Text with New JPS Translation by Nahum M. Sarna

Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis by Allen P. Ross

Genesis 1-17 in the NICOT by Victor P. Hamilton

Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary by John H. Sailhamer

I’m interested in what you might think of these volumes, particularly you guys whose specialty is OT. I’m also open to suggestions for other works that might not be listed here.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Hebrew

Train a child…

Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis provides not only the many stages of exegesis, but practical examples in some of those stages as well. One such example I found interesting. In the section dealing with translations, Stuart uses Proverbs 22:6 as a good example of translating a text yourself in order to see what modern translators might have rendered in a way that has become well-known to the general Christian populace rather than what the text might actually read.

He states that the verse is usually translated this way: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (p. 41). Jews and Christians throughout history have certainly found this verse to be a veritable guarantee that if we train our children according to Scripture, they will be godly people throughout their lives. The truth, however, is that many Jewish and Christian families have raised their children according to Biblical truth only for one or more of those children either to never actually profess faith in Christ or make a “profession” and later abandon faith. For many, leaning heavily upon this rendering of Proverbs 22:6, perhaps begin to doubt the reliability of God’s word or try to find a way to reconcile this apparent discrepancy between promise and reality.

Stuart, as I mentioned, makes a very interesting suggestion. He suggests that several words/phrases as they rendered in the translation above could actually carry different meanings that would significantly alter that translation and provide another point of view that is viable.

Those phrases/words?

על־פי as “according to” instead of “should” and דרכו as “his way/own way” instead of “the way,” thus rendering the verse “Train a child according to his own way and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Stuart explains: “The real point of the verse, you conclude, is that a child who is allowed selfishly to do what the child wants when young will have the same selfish tendencies as an adult” (p. 41).

I have not spent much time in the Hebrew of Proverbs, so I won’t dispute this. It does, however, seem to be very plausible and sensible to translate the verse this way.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

PS – As you probably know, the Hebrew is somewhat difficult to post, so sorry for the absence of a dagesh, vowel pointings, etc. (not that you Hebrew junkies need them anyway!).

Books, Grammar, Hebrew

Hebrew Grammar

Yesterday, I received my copy of Duane Garrett’s A Modern Grammar for Classical Hebrew. I have only used a handful of intro grammars for Hebrew (The First Hebrew Primer by Simon, Motzkin and Resnikoff; Biblical Hebrew: Step by Step by Menahem Mansoor; Biblical Hebrew Grammar by Bailey and Strange) and this is my favorite one thus far.

My initial positives of the book are its layout (typeset is not crowded, large pages) and the employment of what Garrett calls “diglot weaves.” These are sentences or clauses that have Hebrew words/phrases inserted into largely English sentences/clauses. They really are helpful for learning the language and especially for brushing up on forgotten vocabulary and verb/noun forms.

For what it’s worth, I recommend this grammar. As I stated here, I would have preferred to have the new edition, but was too impatient to wait for July!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Books, Grammar, Hebrew

Hebrew Grammar

I decided to purchase a new Hebrew grammar so that I could shore up some weaknesses in my Hebrew skills. I narrowed the field to four volumes:

Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Second Edition by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt

A Modern Grammar for Classical Hebrew by Duane Garrett.

Introducing Biblical Hebrew by Allen P. Ross

Learn Biblical Hebrew by John H. Dobson

After reading numerous reviews, I decided on Duane Garrett’s A Modern Grammar for Classical Hebrew. I wanted to purchase Brian Webster’s The Cambridge Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, but it will not be available until the summer, and I don’t want to wait that long.

Have you any thoughts on Garrett’s grammar?

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason