Book Reviews Old Testament

Book Review: Keep Up Your Biblical Hebrew in Two Minutes a Day: Vol 1 (Jonathan Kline)

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You spend time learning massive amounts of paradigms ad nauseum, learned the definitions of words that look the same (at least you did for the quiz), and you’ve even learned some syntax to boot. But now you’ve completed the course, and in order to keep going on, you have to actually read the text. Where does one start reading Hebrew? And how does one keep up with Hebrew? Or what if you have slipped? How do you get it back without scouring all of your notes in the time that you no longer have? 

A year and a half ago I reviewed Hendrickson Pub’s biblical Hebrew reader’s edition, which parses difficult words and gives you a gloss of the more uncommon vocabulary words. Now Hendrickson Pub has put out two volumes of Keep Up Your Biblical Hebrew in Two Minutes a Day. Written by Jonathan Kline, the academic editor at Hendrickson Pub, these volumes are almost like Daily Dose of Hebrew on paper. How does it work?

Let’s begin on Day 1. The verses here are not given in any particular order, but this first verse on Day 1 is Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and (וְ) the earth.

Kline tells you that וְ can mean “and” or “but” and that it occurs 50,524 times in the Hebrew Bible, and for the Hebrew words Kline provides the corresponding Strong’s number. He gives the transliteration to help you know how to pronounce the word (or conjunction/article). Then he provides the Hebrew text (accent marks are left out) so you can read and parse for yourself:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Kline then breaks the verse down word by word or sometimes with a few words at once depending on how the translation goes. I’ve put the וְ in red here, but in the book the וְ is highlighted. But on Day 2, Kline uses Psalm 25:5, a verse that has the conjunction you just learned (וְ) and a new word (or here, an article–הַ, which means makes the noun definite. In English, you would add “the”).

Lead me in your truth and (וְ) teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the (הַ) day long.

הַדְרִיכֵנִי בַאֲמִתֶּךָ וְלַמְּדֵ֗נִי כִּי־אַתָּה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׁעִי אוֹתְךָ קִוִּיתִי כָּל־הַיּוֹם

Day 3 adds something new (the preposition לְ). Then, using 1 Samuel 1:2, you see how the לְ functions while the וְ and the הַ are reinforced.

This is the pattern for the rest of the book, through Day 365, although at Day 49 Kline reinforces the words from Days 46 and 48, not from Day 47. You’ll see this more as you go along. On Day 199, the words from Days 123 and 197 are reinforced. You have to work more to memorize the vocabulary since they won’t always come from the previous two days you covered.

Recommended?

I think this book is a fantastic way to help reinforce or regain your Hebrew. It’s been a while since I’ve done much with Hebrew, and even though I know all of the bold Hebrew words in the beginning of the book, I don’t usually know all of the words in the rest of the verses. On Day 20 I’m reading Haggai 2:14, and there are enough words in there I don’t know that I can’t merely speed read the verse. But the relief is that I don’t need to know all of those words yet. I only need to know the three words Kline has given me. I can take the time to look up those words, to pick up a grammar and see how each clause functions. I can do as much or as little as I want. But at least I have three words that I get to rehearse, and I have worked on my Hebrew habit one more day in a row.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon or from Hendrickson Publishers!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Hendrickson Publishers. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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