Real Hebrew Bathtub Letters This Time

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my five-year-old son is learning Hebrew, using the materials from Sarah and David. Part of his learning process was to re-shape his English bathtub letters into Hebrew ones, as noted and pictured here. Now (thanks, Diana!) he has real ones:


And he’s pretty happy about them, too:

Son with Letters

More updates on our Hebrew learning adventures soon!

Books for Sale: Hermeneia 38 vol. CD-ROM (Logos), $149, OBO


I’m looking to sell the Hermeneia CD-ROM set (38 vols., 2006). It’s compatible with Logos/Libronix. $149 (and willing to consider offers). See here and here for details on the set.

If you want to contact me about a possible purchase, feel free to use this form, and we’ll talk. I generally do things through PayPal.

2014 UPDATE: I’ve still got the 38-volume set available to sell (unopened), if you’re interested.

UPDATE 2: It’s now sold.

My five-year-old son reviews: The Hebrew Language

Okay, so he’s not really reviewing the Hebrew language, but he is learning it. Wanting to spend more time with my kids this summer, and seeing a voracious appetite for learning in my five-year-old son, I offered to help him learn a language. I told him I could offer Hebrew (of the biblical variety), Greek (koine/New Testament), and Spanish.

He opted for Hebrew. Thinking about demographic trends in the U.S. these next few decades, I gently pushed back: How about Spanish? No. Hebrew. He wanted to learn Hebrew. So we’ve begun.

We’ve been using materials from Sarah and David, a publishing company that specializes in Hebrew language materials for children. The materials are organized in stages, with learning the letters first, then a focus on reading, then finally speaking Hebrew. Here’s a curriculum overview in their own words:

Aleph Bet Story setThe Sarah and David curriculum was built backwards from Bar/Bat Mitzvah with the goal of addressing reading difficulties students continue to have with accuracy and fluency in the upper grades.  Beginning with The Aleph Bet Story and through to The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Book, both teachers and students have a consistent approach to use from year to year to reinforce letters, vowels and reading skills. 

Using the curriculum, schools have found that they can introduce the reading process early, teachers learn instructional cues to guide the learning and students practice skills that can be applied to any reading exercise or text. Used in religious schools across the county, the reading program has also proven to be helpful to resource room teachers, special needs and late-start students, and adult learners.

The very friendly folks at Sarah and David sent us most of the Part One materials for review (and set us up with a Web account, which you can purchase here). My five-year-old and I have had just over two weeks so far with The Aleph Bet StoryThe Aleph Bet Story Activity Book, The Aleph Bet Story WorkbookThe Sarah and David Read Hebrew Primer (from Part Two of the curriculum), and The Aleph Bet Story Audio CD.

We’ll offer a multi-part review as we continue to work our way through the materials. For now, I offer praise for the effectiveness of the learning system. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Or in the bathtub letters, in this case. After less than a week with the materials, my five-year-old son had used bath time to make this:

shin and sin

From right to left (how you read Hebrew), that’s shin and sin, which look like this:

shin and sin print

Cool, huh? I never would have thought to do that.

My five-year-old loves these materials. Nearly every morning on his drive with me to pre-K, we listen to the CD. Nearly every night when I ask him to pick a book to read, he picks one of the Sarah and David books. And he often reads them on his own, or practices the writing and other exercises in the activity book and workbook. I don’t want to be *that dad* who makes his kids learn biblical languages before they can even read Captain Underpants, so I haven’t pushed much at all. He’s really enjoyed learning Hebrew with very little prodding from me.

This has all been really fun for us lately, and Sarah and David has made the learning process smooth and enjoyable.

Thanks to Sarah and David for the books and Web account for the purposes of review. I promised them only honesty, so they have not expected anything of our review. Expect more this summer as we continue to review the materials and learn Hebrew together.

Books for Sale (Word Biblical Commentary, 9 vols., others)

wbcI’m looking to sell 9 volumes of the Word Biblical Commentary set. I’ve listed them (with full condition details) here. If you want to contact me directly about a possible purchase (i.e., not through ebay), feel free to use this form, and we’ll talk. (UPDATE: Books are now sold.)


A few more books for sale:

IVP Bible Background

IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
Like New
ISBN: 978-0830814053
Used just a few times. No markings. In great shape.
$22 (SOLD)


Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG)
for BibleWorks Software
Compatible with BibleWorks 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. I’ve been in touch with BibleWorks to confirm that on completion of sale, one user license transfers to the buyer with no fee, so that you can use BDAG in your BibleWorks. (Must have purchased and own BibleWorks to be able to use this.)
Significant discount from buying new (where it’s $150).
$99 (SOLD)

Ezra Nehemiah BHQ

Ezra and Nehemiah: Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ)
Like New
Taken out of shrink wrap and used just once or twice.
Excellent condition.

$40 (SOLD)

Greek Grammar Wallace

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
Very Good/Like New
Just some edge and cover wear. Light blue cover as pictured, but same contents as dark blue cover.

Free shipping on all orders. If you’re interested in buying–or just have questions–you can reach me using this form, and we’ll go from there. (I use PayPal; shipping is free only domestically.)

What is Translation? (Karen Jobes)

Professor Jobes (now at Wheaton) writes:

Bible translators stand at the intersection of the biblical world and their own, with the task of communicating an ancient text in a contemporary language. The Greek translator of Isaiah provides interesting examples of the issues and problems this task presents. For instance, he sometimes substituted the more familiar names of local Greek deities in place of the long-forgotten names of pagan Semitic deities being denounced. Is it “right” to substitute contemporary terms that would clearly communicate the message to the readers in place of ancient terms and idioms that would be accurate but meaningless? Where do accuracy and clarity meet in “getting it right”?

The whole article is here and worth reading.

Review of Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Video Lectures

Miles Van Pelt keeps turning out the hits. Through Zondervan he has published resources that fill a gap in original language learning in biblical studies. I’ve reviewed (with approval) his Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide, his Basics of Biblical Aramaic, and have been grateful in my Göttingen Septuagint primer to link to a short two-page abbreviations sheet he produced for that critical edition of the Septuagint.

This fall Zondervan released Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Video Lectures.

The DVDs work “chapter by chapter, section by section” through Pratico and Van Pelt’s Basics of Biblical Hebrew grammar textbook. The videos are “the basic content in lecture form for the grammar.” Here’s how Van Pelt recommends using the DVDs:

  1. Read the chapter of Basics for Biblical Hebrew “for simple content overview.”
  2. Watch the lectures.
  3. Go back to the printed chapter and memorize the relevant information (vocabulary, paradigms, charts, grammar).
  4. Complete the workbook exercises.
  5. Check your answers.

Each DVD chapter corresponds to a chapter in the textbook. The DVDs come with a pdf file that includes summary charts. Throughout the lectures Van Pelt refers to these charts and the screen moves to them as he is speaking.

There is nothing particularly novel or revolutionary in the videos that is not already covered to some degree in the textbook. But especially for a student who is making her or his way through the book alone, the video lectures serve to reinforce the material in a new medium. Even a student taking a course with a live lecturer could benefit from watching these alongside the class.

Van Pelt is a solid lecturer. If not overly exciting, he communicates concepts clearly. For just about anyone making their way through the grammar, it will be easy to follow these lectures.

He offers good study tips in the introduction, and continues to encourage learners throughout the 36 lectures. My favorite tip: “Begin reading your Hebrew Bible as soon as possible,” and, “Take that Bible with you everywhere.” I remember that often in my first year of Hebrew (I used the Van Pelt and Pratico text), I wanted to just be able to read the Hebrew Bible. There are examples throughout the grammar from the Bible, but learning charts and paradigms first can be tedious. This is perhaps a necessary tedium.

Or is it? Some people disagree that paradigm memorization outside the context of a text or conversation is ideal pedagogy for language learning. (Look at how babies acquire language, after all, the argument goes–by hearing, talking, etc., not by memorizing grammatical rules.) Even dead or ancient languages should be taught as “living languages,” proponents say. So some Hebrew textbooks encourage instead a text-based inductive approach.

Van Pelt at one point in the lectures says, “Languages are meant to be accessed and decoded in your mind,” though “decoding” is something a language learner ought to try to move away from as quickly as possible, as she or he seeks fluency. And an early strong verb paradigm has Van Pelt saying, “You must memorize this paradigm, like a ROBOT!”

Hebrew and other languages have been taught this way for a long time, and some language learners may not mind it. I, for example, find paradigm memorization tedious, but not overly difficult. If I have an end goal firmly in mind–reading the Hebrew Bible–I have motivation to repeatedly go over verb conjugations.

But I don’t think this approach will work for everyone, and the potential viewer of these videos should understand that Van Pelt takes a paradigm-memorizing approach to learning Hebrew, with not much inductive learning or interaction with the biblical text. (I think of my high school Spanish teacher, who would not answer classroom questions asked in English, but would simply say, “¡En Español, por favor!”)

Van Pelt and Pratico’s materials use verbal diagnostics. Paradigm charts show in red what the unique prefixes and suffixes and vowels are for each verbal stem, so that it is not just rote memorization of multiple verbs. The diagnostics are a time-saving feature in this sense. As here:


For those interested in verbal theory, Van Pelt uses perfect (“completed action”) and imperfect (“incomplete action”) nomenclature to describe verbs.

The lectures are well-produced and alternate between views of charts like the one above, real-time writing (like a dry-erase board), and Van Pelt speaking. The clarity of the lectures is a strong point, as they reinforce the material in the textbook well.

If a student is already assigned the Pratico and Van Pelt text, he or she should seriously consider using the lectures as an additional study aid, if one is needed. If a student or professor has a choice as to which text to use for learning Hebrew, though, it is worth considering (either in addition or instead) other “living language”/inductive approaches. Randall Buth’s Living Biblical Hebrew or John H. Dobson’s Learn Biblical Hebrew are two possible texts.

Chapter 1 of the lectures is here, if you want to get a flavor of the lectures (it’s just over an hour):

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy. You can find the Basics of Biblical Hebrew Video Lectures here at Amazon. The Zondervan product page is here.

Göttingen in Logos is On Sale Friday

Photo by Logos
Photo by Logos

$369.95 for the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos Bible Software. It’s on sale for International Septuagint Day, all day Friday (midnight to midnight). If you click here, it adds to your cart, and you can purchase from there–whether you already have the academic discount or not. Marked down from $700.

I reviewed the Göttingen Septuagint in Logos here. Its product page is here.