Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review: Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide

If you are taking Hebrew using Miles Van Pelt and Gary Pratico's book Basics of Biblical Hebrew, then this is the book for you.  If you took Hebrew and need a compressed summary of all the basics you need in order to do translation, this is the book for you.

I am currently taking Hebrew under Miles Van Pelt, and my only disappointment is that this book came out at the end of my time in Hebrew rather than before.  Each day after class, Miles gives a specific summary of everything he wants his students to remember when the test is taken the next day.  I would write all of these things down and then end up printing out the chart containing all of the necessary information from the CD-Rom that is included with the BBH Grammar and Charts books.  Then this book came out and I was embittered because each chapter in the Compact Guide contains all the essentials for each subject from the Grammar.  What I would do during Van Pelt's lectures is highlight the most important things that I needed to remember in order to pass the quiz the next day.  Then to review, I'd comb back through and read the things I underlined.  This book contains all of it.  And because it's pocket-sized, you can carry it around with you and review.

This book will not help you learn Hebrew for the first time, but it is perfect for those in the process of already learning, reviewing, and refeshing themselves on their Biblical Hebrew.  It's biggest strength is the convenience of having all the unnecessary stuff burned off and the essential information distilled into its purest form.  Although there are disadvantages to keeping things compact, as far as I've been able to tell, nothing that Van Pelt considers to be of highest importance has been left out, and so you can be sure that this is a good purchase for most people dealing with the original languages (unless you're some sort of weird Hebrew savant).

Besides a topical journey through the language, the book includes a set of verb paradigms and charts as well as a brief and simplified lexicon in the back of the book.  This sure beats lugging around the oversized grammar with you while you're on the go.

The book doesn't release until August 21st, but you can currently get it at the RTS Jackson Bookstore for $15.  Not a bad deal.

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