Hebrew is a language belonging to the world of the ancient Near East. It is the language of the Hebrew prophets and the medium in which they wrote prophecies, historical narratives, poetry, speeches, and general religious texts. It is the language of the Hebrew Bible, and Hebraic passages and idioms can be located in the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, and other scriptures. In fact, the authors of the Book of Mormon noted that they were not able to write in Hebrew because the plates were not “sufficiently large,” but they added, “if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record” (Mormon 9:33).
Other ancient religious texts written in Hebrew include the Mishnah, sections of the Talmud, Tosephta, Aggadot, Responsa, and many others. Nonscriptural Hebrew records of antiquity include the Mesha Stone, the Siloam Inscription, the Lachish Letters, the Gezer Calendar, and the Nash Papyrus. Additionally, the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls, “an entire library containing over 800 volumes,” were composed in Hebrew.
Students of Hebrew can easily branch into a study of related Semitic languages, including Babylonian, Assyrian (Akkadian), Arabic, Ethiopic, Aramaic, Ugaritic, and Phoenician. Further, those with a knowledge of Hebrew may choose to investigate one or more of the dialects of the Jewish dispersion that have Hebrew roots, including Judaeo-Greek, Judaeo-Arabic, Judaeo-Persian, Ladino, Yiddish, and Judaeo-Aramaic. Needless to say, “we do not study ancient languages in order to translate from them, but to read, ponder, savor and if possible, sound the depths of those things which cannot be translated but only tentatively paraphrased”1. In other words, a knowledge of Hebrew opens additional levels of inspiration to the individual who works a given text, whether it be the Hebrew Bible or the Lachish Letters.
Hebrew did not pass away with the Hebrew prophets, nor did it disappear at the time of the rabbinic authorities of Jesus’ day. It was an object of interest and the means of literary communication to generations of Hebraists, both Jewish and Christian, during the Middle Ages. Noteworthy is the fact that some 1200 books were written and published in the Hebrew language during the medieval period, dealing with such topics as religion, science, medicine, grammar, history, and anthropology. It was during the early stages of the same era that Hebrew became the primary means of communication to Jewish mystics and many of the Jewish mystical texts were written in the Hebrew language. According to one Jewish mystic tradition, Hebrew is the mother of all languages, the language that Adam and Eve spoke. Hebrew is “the language in which God spoke to Adam and Eve and in which they spoke between themselves”2.
Hebrew has remained a vital feature to Jews throughout the world to the present day, for it is the modern vernacular for some four million Jews worldwide. Written Hebrew is featured on posters, advertising signs, stamps, highway signs, coins, newspapers, journals, books, brochures, restaurant menus, magazines, posted notices, prayer books and signs on shops, hotels, and other establishments. Spoken Hebrew is utilized in theaters, movies, television and radio stations, youth camps, schools, clubs, synagogues, restaurants, shops and other business establishments, government offices, municipalities, in the homes and on the streets of Israel.
As the liturgical language of Judaism, Hebrew is the sacred tongue spoken and read at the time of the Jewish fasts and festivals, including Passover, the Day of Atonement, Rosh HaShanah, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Shavuot, Purim, and Tisha B’Av. It is the holy language in which religious Jews communicate with God. In short, Hebrew is the language of Jewish culture, religion, and civilization.
The primary goal of Hebrew 131 & 132 is to help you gain the tools necessary to read the Hebrew Bible: grammar, verb forms, and vocabulary. Learning activities, such as parsing verbs and translating passages from the Hebrew Bible on a regular basis, are designed to assist you in meeting the learning outcomes. We will give you sufficient opportunity to practice new skills prior to completing the Speedback assignments and examinations. In fact, the Speedback assignments and examinations serve as evaluation tools for both student and instructor.
Upon completion of this course, participants will have acquired the skills necessary to:
The next course in the series, HEB 132, builds upon the principles you learn in HEB 131. If you continue with the second course, you will advance your knowledge of grammar, verbal forms, and vocabulary until you become proficient at translating the Hebrew Bible.
You will need these materials to successfully complete the course:
The course is organized into a set of 27 lessons. Each lesson parallels the principles in the corresponding chapter of Thomas O. Lambdin’s Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. Note, however, that the lesson numbering is not the same as the chapter numbering. Lambdin’s book begins with a “chapter 0,” so the lesson numbering is actually one digit off (Lesson 1 corresponds to Chapter 0, Lesson 2 corresponds to Chapter 1, and so on).
Careful reading of the lesson material is essential to success in this course. Each lesson includes learning activities to give you the opportunity to practice your skills.
Each lesson includes an online vocabulary quiz, as well as several ungraded but entertaining and informative interactive activities to help you cement the concepts, grammar, and vocabulary you learn.
The online lessons also include translation exercises, based on the Translate sections in Lambdin’s textbook. Work out your translations, then type them into the text boxes for each question and click the gray check mark to see how your translations compare with the suggested translations.
At the conclusion of each lesson is a Self Check to help you assess your understanding of the lesson material. The questions on the Self Check focus on vocabulary and grammar concepts and include a translation assignment. Self Checks do not count toward your course grade, and you can take them multiple times. Completing the Self Check exercises is an important step in preparing for the graded Speedback assignments.
Your course grade comes from your scores on the Speedback assignments and midcourse and final exams.
Speedback assignments consist of objective questions that assess your understanding of each lesson with a focus on vocabulary and grammar, and translating Hebrew to English. Speedback assignments are graded, and you can take them only once (no retakes allowed). Speedback assignments are computer graded, so you receive immediate scoring of your assignment and feedback for to any wrong responses.
Due to the nature of this course's learning outcomes, the exams are only available in a paper format. Please plan for shipping time.
This course includes both a mid-course and a final exam to allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar principles. You also demonstrate the ability to synthesize your knowledge by translating Hebrew sentences into English. The midcourse exam covers materials in lessons 1–13. The final exam is comprehensive. Remember that you must complete both exams at a proctored location.
Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.
Your grade is based on your performance on the lesson Speedback exercises, the midcourse exam, and the final exam, according to this weighting:
The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.
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Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)
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27 computer-graded assignments, no retakes allowed
A computer-graded mid-course exam and an instructor-graded final; may retake each once for a fee; must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course
Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.
Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.
All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.
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Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602-1514