Book Review: Learning Biblical Hebrew

I was both intimidated and excited to pick up “Learning Biblical Hebrew: Reading for Comprehension: an Introductory Grammar” by Karl V. Kutz and Rebekah L. Josberger. Their bios are on the back of the book as follows:

Karl V. Kutz (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is professor of biblical languages at Multnomah University in Portland, OR. For over two decades his teaching and mentoring of students in the language and literature of the Hebrew Bible has cultivated students’ passion for the biblical text , shaped and transformed their lives, and led to the establishment of an outstanding program for the study of the Hebrew Bible.

Rebekah L. Josberger (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, OR. Since coming to Multnomah in 2009, she has focused on developing a solid Hebrew program that enables and encourages students to learn Hebrew well enough to use it for personal growth and ministry long after they leave seminary. She teaches Old Testament with a focus on biblical theology and continues research related to Torah.

I have no formal experience in Hebrew, but learning it has been a recent interest of mine so I was delighted for the opportunity to read this. From the point of view of a layman, this Hebrew introductory grammar may be a little difficult to grasp without the aid of a classroom education, but I do think it is possible through patience, diligence, and focus. Prior experience with the language could be helpful, but I do not believe necessary in order for a new student to be able to comprehend the material, provided that they devote the time and energy required.

In chapter 3 Syllables and Reading Hebrew, the authors state “One of our goals in this grammar is not just to teach you facts but also to help you integrate them so that you come away with an understanding of how the language works” which is one of this grammar’s greatest strengths, not merely presenting facts to be memorized — though there is some of that — but also explaining the “why” or the principles that are vital to understanding the language.

The companion workbook, which was recently released, contains the exercises and vocabulary referred to at the end of each chapter and will likely benefit the student more than reading the grammar without it.

In the back of this grammar are 6 appendices covering an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew accents, creating a grammatical diagram, creating a thematic outline, transliteration, and verb paradigms which contains helpful verb charts.

Whether one is considering picking up “Learning Biblical Hebrew” as a seminary or Bible college student, or as a layman seeking to dig deeper into the riches of one of the original languages of scripture, this introductory grammar will be a valuable resource to have on one’s shelf. I suspect I’ll be referring to it frequently in the future.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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