I’m happy to announce the opening of our course Readings in the Hebrew Bible: An Advanced Course in Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (HE210). For this course, we will be using the intermediate textbook by John Cook & Robert Holmstedt called simply Intermediate Biblical Hebrew (Baker: 2020).

I’ve put together some pre-course information and reading that will help you consider joining, in addition to a handout including Hebrew terms and other information on the course and a Moodle for the course. The course will cost $200 per student, and students will also be responsible for purchasing the textbook. It is recommended that students also have a reliable dictionary of biblical Hebrew and/or a vocabulary guide (link the one mentioned in the brochure).

We will incorporate as much spoken Hebrew as possible in the course. This will include questions in Hebrew about the stories and comic pictures, as well as retelling of the stories in Hebrew. Students will not be expected to speak Hebrew perfectly. This course is based on intermediate materials, but it is geared toward pushing students to express themselves in the forms of Hebrew that they are reading.

To get signed up, fill in the following form. Payment will be possible through PayPal, as well as the possibility of giving donations to simply support what we do here at The Hebrew Café.

Continue reading “Readings in the Hebrew Bible (HE210)”

Rabbinic Hebrew, the language of the Jewish sages from the time of the Second Temple and just after, represents a period in the history of the language in which Hebrew had ceased to be spoken in most places as a native language. However, the amount of literature preserved in the language is massive. It includes the Mishnah (the heart of the text that grew to include the two sets of Gemara [in Aramaic]), the Tosefta (a separate text that contains many legal rulings similar to what is contained in the Mishnah), the Baraita (a set of Hebrew-language sayings similar to Mishnah teachings that are generally contained within the Aramaic text of the Gemara), and the Midrash (stories that illustrate events and tales from the lives of the biblical characters and the rabbis that serve to illustrate Torah principles).

Together with my friend Jordan Furutani, I will be hosting a course in rabbinic Hebrew (also called mishnaic Hebrew ) over Zoom. The course will work through the textbook An Introduction to Rabbinic Hebrew by Miguel Pérez Fernández (Brill, 1999). The tentative start date is January 1, 2021. The most updated information can be found here.

To get enrolled, send me an email. All course-related correspondence will be through our private Facebook chat group.

As you might be aware, Jonathan has been writing a series about the word order of the biblical Hebrew verbal sentence. The significance of that series and what he is arguing might be lost, however. Therefore, I wanted to write a short entry to let you know why I have become a recent convert to Cook and Holmstedt’s proposal for the re-examination of the standard or “unmarked” word order in biblical Hebrew.

Anyone who learned Hebrew through the standard channels will generally tell you that the normal word order in Hebrew is verb-subject-object (VSO). That is, the verb appears first, then the subject, and then whatever other information (the object, adverbs, etc.). Take, for example, the following quote from the popular introductory grammar The Basics of Biblical Hebrew by Gary Pratico and Miles Van Pelt (133 [§12.14]):

In Hebrew, however, normal word order for a verbal sentence is verb-subject-object as the following example illustrates.

בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1).

In this example, the verb is in first position (בָּרָא), the subject in second position (אֱלֹהִים) and the two objects follow the subject (הַשָּׁמַיִם and הָאָרֶץ).

This is wholly incorrect for a few reasons, but you cannot blame these authors for making such a statement when even Gesenius, the most famous of biblical Hebrew grammarians, has the following to say (Kautzsch, 456 [§142f]):

According to what has been remarked above, under a, the natural order of words within the verbal sentence is: Verb—Subject, or Verb—Subject—Object. But as in the noun clause (§141l) so also in the verbal-clause, a variation of the usual order of words frequently occurs when any member of the sentence is to be specifically emphasized by priority of position.

So, why has this topic occupied so much of Jonathan’s thoughts here on the blog of The Hebrew Café? Why does any of this matter for students of biblical Hebrew? And, how can we know for sure that the information on word order presented in these grammars is so incorrect?

Continue reading “A Recent Convert”