I taught Old Testament in Institute last semester, but we only did Genesis. I’ll try to post some thoughts on that at a later time. We’re continuing with the OT, and adding something new and spicy; students who come 30 minutes early will also be learning some Biblical Hebrew.
Now, how much can be learned in 30 minutes of class time per week, over 3 months? Perhaps enough to lose one’s utter dependence on translations and get a feel for the foreignness of the language. I think my goals are fairly realistic, namely, to have them capable of 1) reading and pronouncing 2) recognizing roots and binyanim*, and most importantly 3) knowing what resources exist and how to use them.
We’ll be using a free grammar (pdf download) that looks decent, and I like the approach the authors lay out in the introduction. I’ve also recommended they take a look at Hebrew4Christians, particularly the grammar sections.
For those with some training under the belt already, I’m excited about a resource to appear in May, A Reader’s Hebrew Bible. The text is identical to the standard Masoretic text found in BHS, but replaces the textual apparatus with glosses for any word that occurs less than 100x. This means, in essence, that someone who knows all the basic Hebrew vocabulary can pick up the OT and just read through (provided they also understand grammar and syntax). A 62-page preview containing the Contents, Introduction, Abbreviations, and text samples form Genesis, Amos, and Ezra (with some Aramaic sections included) is available from one of the editor’s homepages (pdf download). Further information is available from Zondervan (the conservative Evangelical publisher), Amazon (preorder for $31.49!), and a discussion with the editor, Phillip Brown, on the Bibleworks forum.
I’ve been playing with the preview. This is a good way to both learn vocabulary, and also just read through quickly. I can easily see taking this to Church or Institute and teaching out of it. The introduction notes that it’s “designed to facilitate the regular reading of the Scriptures in Hebrew and Aramaic” and has several advantages.
” It eliminates the waste of precious study time occasioned by thumbing through a lexicon. It removes the inconvenience of using a second volume of glosses. It acquaints them with the glosses of the foremost Hebrew lexicons in English. It also allows students to focus on learning Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary in its literary context rather than in isolated word lists. And RHB removes the biggest hindrance to reading the Hebrew Bible devotionally- unknown vocabulary.”
Another useful feature- “Many a beginning student has puzzled long over an apparently inscrutable form in the Hebrew Bible only to discover with frustration that it was a proper noun. Since the total occurrences of such proper nouns number over 16,000, they have been excluded from the footnotes. Rather than ignore them entirely, RHB distinguishes such proper nouns from the normal text by screening them in gray.” PN’s occurring more than 100x are assumed to be well known, and not greyed.
* binyanim are the different consonantal modifications one makes to a verb to change the semantics. Whereas English uses lots of helping verbs to make passives (“He is being beaten”) and causatives (” I made him sweep the floor”, Hebrew and other Semitic languages have specific patterns of modifying the three-letter root to bring about these Semantic differences. These are called binyanim.