Biblical Hebrew: Language and texts

Level 5 - DT2002-03

This module will enable students to develop both a thorough grounding in the Biblical Hebrew language and the necessary knowledge to perform translations, analysis and exegesis of the Hebrew Bible in its original language.

The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is a key text in the study of Divinity and a deep understanding of this text is crucial for historical, theological, and narrative analysis. As the text is composed almost completely in Biblical Hebrew, knowledge of this ancient language is a vital tool for developing that deep understanding.

Topics covered

Main topics of the module include:

  • The Hebrew alphabet, vocalisation, syllabification and tone, the definite article, the conjunction waw (units 1-4)
  • Nouns (gender and number); Verb conjugations: qal qatal, yiqtol, wayyiqtol (5-8)
  • Adjectives, demonstratives, the construct chain (formation and use) (9-13)
  • Possessive suffixes, personal pronouns, suffixes on prepositions, cardinal numbers (14-18)
  • Verb conjugations: qal weqatal, active participle, volitives, infinitives construct and absolute (19-23)
  • The qal passive participle, stative verbs, ordinal numbers, object suffixes on verbs (24-27)
  • Verbal stems: the nifal, hifil, hofal (27-29)
  • Verbal stems: the piel, pual, hitpael (30-32)
  • Weak roots: I/II/III-guttural, III-alef, III-he, I-alef (33-36)
  • Weak roots: I-n, I-y/w, hollow, geminate; minor stems (37-40)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be expected to be able to: 

Knowledge and understanding 

  • Recall common Biblical Hebrew words, roots, and forms;
  • Read and translate original texts in Biblical Hebrew, with the aid of a dictionary.

Intellectual and cognitive skills 

  • Conjugate strong and weak verbal roots in all verbal stems;
  • Parse Biblical Hebrew words and analyse their morphology;
  • Analyse common Biblical Hebrew syntactical structures.

Practical and transferable skills 

  • Memorise words and patterns;
  • Be prepared to perform exegesis of Biblical texts with reference to the original language.

Assessment

A 3-hour unseen written examination (100%).

Tutor in Biblical Hebrew

Ben Whittle Divinity tutor

Ben Whittle

Ben Whittle is a graduate of University College London and is finishing his PhD on the translation of Biblical Hebrew verbal stems into the Greek of the Septuagint. He is interested in all ancient languages and linguistic topics, but his particular focus has been on the interaction between languages, either as result of language contact or translation.