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The Routledge Introductory Course in Biblical Hebrew Paperback – 17 Dec 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (17 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415524806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415524803
  • Product Dimensions: 18.9 x 2.7 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 418,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"This is a comprehensive and very well organized textbook, with clear, detailed explanations. It is also one of the most creative and original I have seen, and will be an excellent resource for learning biblical Hebrew." Aaron D. Rubin, Pennsylvania State University, USA

"For a long time, we have needed this new textbook for Biblical Hebrew. Lily Kahn's Introductory Course maintains the highest standards and incorporates the latest linguistic advances, and yet does not overwhelm or intimidate the student. This course has clearly been written by someone who is both an excellent linguist and an outstanding classroom teacher." Siam Bhayro, University of Exeter, UK

"Finally! Here is a Biblical Hebrew textbook that is comprehensive and academically rigorous but also highly accessible. Descriptions of grammatical features are both concise and conversational and follow a well-thought-out order. A succinct reference grammar distills information covered in the more discursive units. There is a nice mix of interesting exercises and immersion in biblical texts, with a firm emphasis on getting students to DO Hebrew. This is a text that will make Biblical Hebrew not just less daunting but fun."- Johanna Stiebert, University of Leeds, UK.


About the Author

Lily Kahn is Lecturer in Hebrew in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. Her publications include Colloquial Yiddish (2012), also published with Routledge, and The Verbal System in Late Enlightenment Hebrew (2009).

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been studying Biblical Hebrew for a few years now, using the two main textbooks on the market (Ross and Pratico), as well as other materials. Although my background is that of a Greek and Latin scholar, I must admit that, especially at the beginning, I found the study of Biblical Hebrew on those books a bit tedious as well as daunting. If you haven't got any background at all in Hebrew or any other Semitic language (which was my case), those books can put off even the most dedicated of students approaching the language for the first time, as I feel that they presuppose some sort of know-how in Hebrew.
This is what I found completely different about Kahn's course. I absolutely love the stories that make up the continuous narrative throughout the book, as they introduce new vocabulary and grammar structures gradually and at a very comfortable pace. In my teaching experience I have noticed how important is for students to feel 'in control' - although constantly pushed more and more to learn new information, they must always retain a sense of achievement as well, not to get discouraged. The stories give you exactly that, which was a real confidence boost in my Hebrew learning. They also add an element of fun and anticipation in the development of the narrative, which is an incentive to want to know more.
Another strong point is the way the biblical texts are presented in the course - simplified in the first units and less and less so later on. So, you do get a chance to read 'real' Hebrew immediately, but without being intimidated by it (also because all new words are glossed).
The grammar section in each unit is without a doubt the most successful attempt at making a potentially difficult subject matter (in my experience) as simple as it gets.
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Lots of people start studying Biblical Hebrew but never get very far with it. (Out of about 20 people who began my first year Hebrew course, only 8 of them finished!) This book should go some way towards solving that problem. It gets you reading full sentences and engaging with the Biblical text (i.e., the fun stuff) straight away, but without overwhelming you. It therefore makes the experience of learning Biblical Hebrew a real pleasure--a claim not too many other books can make! At the same time, it provides a good level of depth. At the back of the book, for instance, the author includes a host of verb tables, detailing each attested stem and conjugation for I-Gutturals, II-Gutturals, III-Gutturals, III-Aleph, III-He, I-Aleph, I-Nun, I-Yod/I-Waw, Hollows, and Geminates. These alone are worth paying for. It really is a superb textbook. I have no complaints.
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This new Routledge course of Biblical Hebrew is quite nice and easy to read, and it comes with a very helpful web-site. So why do I only give it three stars? It's due to the competition - there are several other courses on Biblical Hebrew that are even better. This is not mean to belittle the effort by the author - the book is good, well-written and helpful, and the three stars rating is in comparison to other books.

I will compare this new course to two of the most used courses on the market.

a. Biblical Hebrew Grammar, by Pratico and Van Pelt.
This course is probably the most used, and in my opinion a better option than the Routledge course. It is MUCH more extensive but at the same time more user-friendly and takes more time to explain the basics. So Pratico and Van Pelt devote more time to the real basics (pronunciation, alphabet) as well as to more advanced material (verb conjugations). As a result, the reader of their book will have an easier start AND come a longer way than the reader of the Routledge course. The downside to Pratico and Van Pelt is the heavy "evangelization" which both Jewish and Christian Catholics and Orthodox might find out of place. Apart from that, though, it's a much better introduction to Biblical Hebrew.

b. Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, by Lambdin.
This is my personal favourite, as it is very detailed on Biblical Hebrew grammar. Then again, it's less user-friendly than Pratico and Van Pelt and more or less assumes a knowledge of linguistic terminology. If that does not scare you, it will give you the most advanced knowledge of Biblical Hebrew in English (there is a much more extensive course yet, but it's in Italian).
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Format: Paperback
I have to say I have been waiting for a language book like this to appear for a long time, including one for beginners in Biblical Hebrew. It is creative in its approach to language, making it very engaging for the student and yet really informative and thorough. To give you an idea of what I mean, e.g. the author has invented narratives in Biblical Hebrew that highlight the grammatical features taught in each lesson, so throughout the whole book you are learning the language whilst reading about the adventures of 'Ha Sus (the Horse)'. These are complemented by passages from the Biblical text thereby giving you a sense of the original source and but also sense of the 'new'.
I previously used the Cambridge Biblical Hebrew workbook, Lambdin and Pratico but left them unfinished as I found them dry and boring. This is why I highly recommend Kahn's book, because its approach is refreshing and provides a very solid base, equal (if not better) to that of the older books mentioned above (e.g. Kahn's contains information about syntax, which Pratico does not). For me, this book proves that language learning doesn't need to be tedious but can actually be fun! The website with all the helpful materials is also a bonus - e.g. getting to hear the audio versions of the texts from the book, etc. - very helpful indeed.
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