I may be biased, but the best way to learn the biblical languages is through formal theological education. There’s nothing that can quite compare to dedicating a couple of years of your life to study, interact with biblical Hebrew professors, and learn in community. Seminary is the best way to learn biblical Hebrew.
But seminary is not an option for many pastors, let alone Christian laypeople.
Can you still learn Biblical Hebrew without seminary?
The answer is yes. While it will be harder, yes, you can.
In last week’s post, we took a look at how to learn biblical Greek without a seminary degree. Today I’ll point your attention to the Old Testament and show you some resources to help you learn biblical Hebrew.
Why Study Biblical Hebrew
Before giving you the resources you’ll need, let’s quickly answer this question: why should a Christian be interested in studying biblical Hebrew? After all, it’s quite difficult and laborious.
A few thoughts come to mind:
- Since the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, learning biblical Hebrew will get you as close to the original writings as possible.
- For pastors and preachers, learning biblical Hebrew can help you better exegete Scripture.
- For fun
I studied biblical Hebrew for several months. I took Hebrew I and II last summer. We covered three chapters a day and were quizzed on new material every class period. It was brutal. It felt like I studied all day long — like that was the only thing I did all summer. Nevertheless, it was a rewarding experience. Now that I’ve learned some biblical Hebrew, I’ll point you to some resources that may help you to learn the language.
1. Beginning Biblical Hebrew by Mark Futato (Book)
In many ways, this will be your most important resource. It is designed for beginners — for those who have no working knowledge of biblical Hebrew.
The book is accessible and easy to use. In each chapter, Futato carefully explains the biblical Hebrew language, unpacking things in an easy to understand way. Each chapter has:
- Explanation of a new grammatical theme
- 10 vocabulary words to memorize
- Practice assignments and homework
- Practice translating sentences
The beauty about learning biblical Hebrew on your own is that, unlike learning it in seminary, you can work at your own pace. You don’t need to feel the pressure to keep up. You won’t have to worry about grades. And you can take as much time as you need.
Here’s an important side note: I think you should recruit someone else to join you on your journey of learning biblical Hebrew. Similar to going to the gym, you will feel a lot more inspired to learn biblical Hebrew if you have someone to encourage you and keep you accountable.
I would recommend buying the book, going through one chapter a week, and meeting with someone to discuss what you’ve learned. You learn best in community.
2. Daily Dose of Hebrew (Website)
Once you start to get the hang of things, check out DailyDoseofHebrew.com. It is one of the most helpful biblical Hebrew websites around. As the name suggests, every single day, they exegete a new Bible verse from the Old Testament. They do this on video and walk you through step-by-step how to exegete Scripture in Hebrew. The website also has tons of tools and resources to help you dive deeper into Hebrew. I highly recommend it.
This book is basically a vocabulary book. They give you all the words of the Old Testament and tell you how often it’s used. A helpful book, this is the vocabulary book that we used for all my vocab quizzes in one of my Hebrew classes.
4. A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Book)
Not the easiest book to read, but filled with helpful syntactical and grammatical rules of the Hebrew language. Probably one you won’t read from cover-to-cover but rather will be a resource that you turn to if need be.
5. BillMounce.com/Hebrew (Website)
You can find some helpful resources on the subject from Bill Mounce’s site.
7. Bible Software
The two most popular are Logos and Accordance. Many of my friends have Accordance and love it. Either one is fine. Logos gives its Basic edition away for free, which you can download here.
OK, enough of the resources. I’ve probably already overwhelmed you. The key is just to get started somewhere, work on it consistently, and not give up. Of course, ask the Lord for help, and try to recruit someone on this adventure.