A Basic Introduction to Biblical Hebrew: with CD

by Jo Ann Hackett

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Retail: $39.95
Size: 7 x 9.25 inches
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 330
Pub Date: 2010
ISBN: 9781598560282
ISBN-13: 9781598560282
Item Number: 56028X
Categories: Language and Reference

Product Description

Linguistics expert and long-time educator Hackett offers a robust introduction to biblical Hebrew grammar and the Masoretic text. The graded exercises from Hebrew to English are intended to introduce the student to the many possibilities of biblical Hebrew prose. Later lessons include texts taken from the Masoretic text of the Old Testament with footnotes to explain unusual or advanced formations. Classroom tested and suitable for self-study as well, this quick-moving one-semester course (30 lessons) features clear, readable explanations, exercises, and examples that provide students with an effective foundation in original language usage. This textbook is also suitable for an entire first-year’s study of Biblical Hebrew conducted at a slower pace.

Course work includes an overview of the history of the Hebrew Bible; deductive lessons on recognition, drawing, and pronunciation of consonants and vowels; memorization and recitation of the alphabet; and proper spelling of words; as well inductive experience in translating biblical passages.

The accompanying CD includes:
• Vocabulary lists for each of the 30 chapters
• Hebrew-to-English portions of exercises for all chapters
• Major paradigms for the whole book (nouns, pronouns, verbs in all their various
• A reading of Genesis 22:1-19 (Appendix C)

• Vocabulary lists
• Printable Hebrew-to-English exercises
• Appendix A: Consonants of Biblical Hebrew
• Appendix B: Vowels of Biblical Hebrew
• Appendix C: Genesis 22:1-19 (conversationally paced reading) • Appendix D: Chart and flow sheet for finding the root of weak verbs
• Verbal paradigms
• Complete answer key for English-to-Hebrew and Hebrew-to English exercises

Excellent textbook for students who wish to progress beyond using simple reference works and ideal for those who wish to read the Hebrew Bible deeply, widely, and accurately, as well as for any who wish to pursue advanced studies in the Hebrew Scriptures.


"This book, of thirty chapters, is meant for a semester’s study. The author studied at Harvard and has been teaching biblical Hebrew for over thirty years. She has made some pedagogical choices. The Hebrew alphabet is gradually introduced through lessons one to five. The strong verbs are dealt with in all their forms before the weak verbs are introduced. The terms 'perfect' and 'imperfect' do not appear, rather the 'suffix conjugation' and 'prefix conjugation,' the latter being dealt with first. Converted perfect or waw-consecutive is renamed 'consecutive preterite.' Paradigms follow the English order from first person to third person. Answers to the exercises are contained in the accompanying CD, which also includes the pronunciation of the Hebrew-to-English exercises in lessons 1–15 and in Gen 22:1-19. Visual effect is used to advantage in Appendix H (Verbal Paradigms) by indicating in blue the forms added to the root. No excerpts from the biblical text itself are given; however, a second volume (in preparation) will contain graded readings of biblical passages."
The Bible in Review

"Hackett (Middle Eastern Studies at the U. of Texas, Austin) presents this Biblical Hebrew introductory textbook designed for classroom use. The text is divided into 30 lessons starting with the very basics such as the Hebrew alphabet. Vocabulary and grammar exercises are included in each lesson as well as a guide to reference works. Included with this textbook is a CD containing quiz answers, pronunciation guides, and readings of reference works such the Old Testament. This text is intended for use in a one-semester college course on Biblical Hebrew, but would also serve a self-motivated Hebrew learner well."
Book News, Inc.

“With this volume, Jo Ann Hackett joins a growing list of contributors who have recently published introductory grammars for Biblical Hebrew (BH). Her high level of scholarship in the field and extensive experience at both the college and graduate levels are clearly evident here. The text of the book is logical and clear; its layout is clean with a moderate amount of white space and very readable fonts. There are no illustrations but most verbal paradigms at the end use some color to emphasize features helpful to remember (see Appendix H). The CD contains an extensive number of PDF files with embedded audio clips of Hackett and John Huehnergard pronouncing Hebrew words and also some longer items. David Levenson reads Genesis 22:1-19. The inclusion of both a male and female voice is most welcome. The files are easy to use and the audio quality is clear. They should be of gTeat help to beginning students, though some teachers will find the readings unnaturally slow and over-pronounced. The audio-enhanced PDFs cover exercises for about half the book, vocabulary words, paradigms, and the main reading from Genesis. The others files on the CD contain printable material from the appendices and a full answer key to the exercises (wisely separated from the bound volume). . . . At this point in the review it should be clear that Hackett's Basic Introduction is a respectable and substantive addition to the field of introductory grammars. It is a good example of a common North American academic approach to learning BH and is neither sectarian nor idiosyncratic. I have found Hebrew instructors as a whole to be an innovative and resourceful lot. For them, this grammar provides a solid and flexible core with which to work. Suitable for use in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate classes, it should fit well in the curricula of mainstream Hebrew instruction.”

“A direct hands-on approach characterizes Jo Ann Hackett's introduction to basic biblical Hebrew. In 30 lessons, the basics of biblical Hebrew lexicography, morphology, and phonology are presented in the traditional textbook format: grammar, readings, vocabulary, and translation exercises. Following the introductory chapter on the hi story and linguistic setting of biblical Hebrew, and several chapters on Hebrew orthography, consonant, vowel, and syllabication, Hackett (University of Texas at Austin) focuses on facets of the Hebrew substantive, verbs, and syntax in general. Her chapters, terse paragraphs accompanied by tables, charts, and information boxes, discuss the state of the noun (simple, definite, and construct), adjective (predicate and attributive), pronouns (subject, possessive, direct, indirect, and demonstrative), prepositions, interrogatives, and waw conjunction. Similarly, verbal terminology, and the conjugational patterns, stems, forms, and tenses of the Hebrew verb are analyzed. Appendixes include Hebrew-English, English-Hebrew word lists; the reading of the Aqudah (Genes is 22: 1-19); and Hebrew verbal paradigms. This is not a semester text (contra publisher's claim) due to the necessity of more repetitive classroom exercises to deal with the obtrusive nature of content and diachronic readings. The CD-ROM provides assistance in Hebrew phonology, reading, and answers to the exercises. This work is highly recommended.”
ARBA Online

"In conclusion, Hackett's work is well-formulated for instructors who want a coherent, deductive introduction to biblical Hebrew grammar to use in a traditional classroom or an online course as well as for first-year students who choose independent learning. Her distinct approaches to key pedagogical issues are worth scholarly consideration, and her articulate descriptions and creative supplements make this book a valuable resource for any library."
Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

“Jo Ann Hackett’s grammar, the fruit of decades of classroom instruction, is clearly written, well-organized, and easy to follow. She succeeds in getting method out of the way, so to speak, so that students may directly encounter the Hebrew language. Hackett understands that language teaching must carefully build chapter upon chapter, and has laid down each lesson so that if the student applies herself or himself, each lesson can bear the weight of all that follow. For example, Hackett luxuriates over the Hebrew alphabet by devoting her first five chapters to it, but recognizes that these (to most students) exotic symbols and sounds must be comprehended as the foundation for the entire study of the language. That she includes a CD for vocalization and review of exercises in the language commends her work to students who need that avenue for access to Hebrew.

“It is no small attempt to fashion a grammar that aims, as Hackett’s does, to equip students in the use of Biblical Hebrew in a one-semester course. While one might have hoped for more detailed examinations of the function of Hebrew’s seven major verb families/buildings, and for longer excerpts of Scripture from the Hebrew Bible in order to expose students to the living context of this discipline (as in Thomas O. Lambdin’s grammar), what Hackett sets out to do she has in fact accomplished, superbly.”

”Ignatius Loyola, in his Ratio studiorum, counseled Hebrew teachers to "plan [their] teaching techniques so as to reduce and relieve ... that outlandish harshness which in the mind of some bedevils the study of this language." This sage advice has influenced some of the more than a dozen introductory Hebrew grammars now in print, though not all. In any case, a skilled teacher such as Professor Hackett can do more than "relieve" alleged "harshness." She can help the language live in the students' minds and hearts. This grammar, though no substitute for the living teacher, helps do that.

“Most Hebrew grammars follow similar patterns, differing mostly in the order of presentation of some grammatical elements and in the quality of the exercises. They are essentially interchangeable, and choosing one over the others is a matter of personal preference. Hackett's grammar differs from the norm in several important respects. First, it is designed to be taught in one semester. She has kept exercises brief and paced the book in a way that respects the realities of beginning a language. Hence the alphabet requires four lessons (chs. 2-5), and so do the weak verbs (chs. 25-28). This arrangement may seem odd to those accustomed to other grammars, but it does respect the needs of the learner. Students often struggle to consolidate the basic elements and then learn quickly large amounts of subsidiary material. This grammar coheres well, and the brevity of the exercises permits the presention of all the weak verbs at once after all seven of the major binyanim of the strong verb.

“Second, many student-friendly elements grace the book, including numerous pullout boxes with mnemonics and other learning devices, the listing of paradigms as regular vocabulary (rather than as add-ons), the early appearance of pronouns, an overall vocabulary list at the end of the book (both English-Hebrew and Hebrew-English), a description of the most important Masoretic cantillation marks, and excellent chapter and unit summaries. The accompanying CD also serves students well by pronouncing vocabulary words, paradigms, and even unusual English words from selected parts of the book. It is easy to use, requiring only free software from Adobe.

“Third, Hackett has abandoned many of the traditional descriptors of Hebrew grammar. Thus the perfect verb has become the suffix conjugation, and the imperfect with waw-conversive is the consecutive preterite. These labels reflect the history of Northwest Semitic grammar more accurately and should help students be less confused by not imposing an Indo-European (English or Greek in most cases) system of verbal tenses on an aspectual system such as Hebrew.

“The test of a grammar must be its effectiveness in reaching its stated goals. Can disciplined teachers teach diligent students the basics of Hebrew grammar in one semester and then proceed in the second semester to reading the biblical text (especially prose narrative)? Often, the answer should be yes. Teachers must keep the end in mind, not worrying about the exercises lost or the variations from their experience with another grammar. Students should be further along at the end of a year with Hackett's grammar than with a different one. Also the occasional students learning Hebrew on their own, or more often, brushing up after having left the language for a time, should be able to use this grammar effectively to make progress. There is no magic reason for requiring a semester and a half to finish an introductory grammar rather than less time. Anything that helps learners get to the biblical text sooner and with greater skill should be welcome. This grammar promises to do just that. It deserves wide adoption in our schools as we try to deepen our ministers' (and thus our churches') knowledge of the Bible.”
Restoration Quarterly

“Teachers of Biblical Hebrew are always on the look-out for new ways of teaching an ancient and venerable language. Generations of students have used the old faithfuls of Weingreen, Davidson and Lambdin and so it is good to see firstly that the market has not dried up (i.e.) that Biblical Hebrew is still being taught, and that experienced teachers such as JoAnn Hackett are willing to place the fruits of their rich experience at the disposal of others. Professor Hackett's text book is divided into thirty lessons, which would fit into fifteen-week semesters or ten-week terms, though she acknowledges that the last six lessons are considerably more challenging than the first twenty-four, and so a certain flexibility will be needed. In that she is certainly correct, for the first five lessons are a simple introduction to the background of the language and the alphabet (both consonants and vowels), and many students and teachers will wish to cover this ground rather more quickly. This book does not transliterate except when absolutely necessary (i.e.) when first introducing a new consonant or vowel, which means that the student is quickly used to reading Hebrew without relying on a transliteration. One potential difficulty is that the Hebrew words used in the exercise and vocabularies are, although written in a very clear font, rather small. It is no mistake that children learning to write tend to use rather large letters: they become easier to form and with time, they learn to write in a 'normal' size. As with the majority of grammars, the Hebrew here is a little too small for this reviewer's liking. The pronunciation taught is, as is now usual, that of modern Israeli Hebrew, but Hackett also indicates where this differs from the traditional pronunciation. This is one area where the CD comes into its own (designed for a computer rather than a CD player). The CD contains a [.pdf] file of the exercises, vocabulary lists and of Genesis 22: 1-19, and the student can hear how the various words and texts should be pronounced.

“Professor Hackett avoids the traditional nomenclature of the verbal system, preferring to refer to the perfect and imperfect 'tenses' as 'prefix conjugation' and 'suffix conjugation' as appropriate, as is common in more modern grammars. The 'waw consecutive' becomes known as a v_qatal form. The forms of the Binyamin (qal, niphal, etc.) are retained. Hackett may be criticised by some for inventing a grammatical neologism, the 'consecutive preterite', for the 'converted imperfect', or va-yiqtol tense, but she does not hide the traditional vocabulary from the student, and so he is prepared to use other grammars and know what they mean!

“The exercises are largely made up by the author (both English into Hebrew and vice-versa), rather than being taken from or adapted from the biblical text, although biblical examples are used when feasible, particularly later in the book. A relatively unusual feature is the introduction of the masoretic accents, which most grammars (if they appear at all) leave until an appendix at the end. This is a helpful innovation, since it means that the student has a further tool they can use to read and understand the Hebrew text more quickly, particularly of use when encountering lengthy verses with construct forms for the first time (and later). It also includes information on the derived stems polel, polal and hitpolel, again which are usually omitted from beginners' grammars and yet should be recognised. The appendices contain Hebrew-English and English- Hebrew vocabulary lists, advice on writing the consonants, transliteration, the text of Genesis 22: 1-19 (clearly reproduced in sense units), a very helpful section on finding the root of 'weak consecutive preterites', and of course paradigms, with the key features in blue ink.

“Answers to the exercises are to be found on the CD, which is a helpful device. The student will (hopefully) be less tempted to cheat by just looking at the back of the book, and yet imagine that they are succeeding in learning the language. Professor Hackett has produced a useful addition to the Biblical Hebrew text book market, and even if a teacher chooses not to use it in its entirety, it will no doubt find a useful place on their shelf as a further resource.”
The Downside Review

Author Bio

Jo Ann Hackett, for many years Professor of the Practice of Biblical Hebrew and Northwest Semitic Epigraphy at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is professor of Middle Eastern Studies at UT–Austin. She is the author of numerous monographs, including The Balaam Text from Tell Deir Alla; and has contributed to The HarperCollins Study Bible and The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Hackett is esteemed by her students for her ability to train them in both the fundamentals and intricacies of original language usage.

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