Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pulpit Review: Intermediate Language Resources

Van Pelt, Miles V. and Gary D. Pratico. The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. 307 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (P)

Van Pelt, Miles V. and Gary D. Pratico. Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Reading the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. 237 Pages. Paper. $18.99. (P)

Mounce, William D. A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek: Companion to Basics of Biblical Greek and Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. 206 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (P)

Language study is exceptionally important.

I commend Zondervan for their recent releases to help those learning both Biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek. Here are three intermediate language resources for your academic edification.


"A Hebrew vocabulary guide that gives the student everything he or she needs in order to master basic Hebrew vocabulary and to expand knowledge of biblical Hebrew.

"A guide for mastering basic Hebrew vocabulary

"This guide helps seminary and Christian college students learn Hebrew vocabulary. A special feature of the guide is that it groups the vocabulary in three basic consonants. • All words occurring ten times or more in the Hebrew Bible in descending order of frequency • Primary roots and all words derived from roots occurring ten times or more • Unusual and difficult word list, such as proper names, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, particles, and verbs" (publisher's website).

"A little vocabulary can go a long way" (ix).  

I love the approach of Van Pelt and Pratico in this department, especially with older learners. Second-career seminarians often have Hebrew understandably, but unfortunately, omitted from their curriculum. Perhaps if study was more focused, learning a second biblical language would be more realistic to do and more practically helpful.

Learning 1,903 Hebrew words is a daunting task, but less daunting than comparable resources. The 1,903 in question comprise every Hebrew Bible word that is used 10 times or more. Zondervan's companion A Reader's Hebrew Bible has explanatory information for words occurring less than 100 times in the Hebrew Bible. This is why I classify The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew as an intermediate resource.

I also found helpful the alphabetical list of proper nouns (with Asaph and Esther next to one another in Hebrew spelling, 139). I wish I would have had Word List 5, "Identical Words with Different Meanings Listed Alphabetically" a decade ago!

Visit for more resources online from these authors.

Van Pelt and Pratico are your guides for our next volume, too:

"This graded reader introduces the second-year Hebrew student to various types of biblical Hebrew literature and contains various notations to assist him or her in the further advancement of Hebrew translation and exegesis.

"A Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew is the ideal next-step resource for the student who has completed a year of elementary Hebrew, or it can be used as a refresher for the pastor or scholar whose language skills have diminished due to lack of use. Immersion in the language is the best way to reinforce what you have already learned and to gain greater proficiency in using the language for exegesis and preaching. A Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew is a structured introduction to the reading of biblical Hebrew texts.

"Through these readings, you will be able to review basic Hebrew grammar, become familiar with issues of intermediate grammar, and gain confidence in handling the Hebrew text. The readings chosen for inclusion, which are arranged generally in order of increasing difficulty, span the whole of the Old Testament and represent some of the most important Old Testament texts from the standpoint of biblical history, theology, and exegesis.

"The many notes that accompany the text include information on grammar, exegetically significant constructions, vocabulary words, idioms, bibliographic information, and more.

"Parsing exercises are included with each reading, and there is room for you to write your own English translation" (publisher's website).

I have mixed feelings about one of the Hebrew texts selected, Joshua 24:14-18, Translation 14 (103ff). Verse 15 has often been used with parts cut out (usually with 14 omitted and most of verse 15 AWOL, too) in order to support the false teaching of decision theology (cf. John 15:16). Perhaps, just perhaps, this exegetical exercise can help Hebraists-in-training to read Scripture in context, particularly, "If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose..."

And that completes my critique of Graded Reader. Now, I'd like to share some praise. :)

Graded Reader lives up to its intended goal for intermediate students to immerse them in the Hebrew text. This is essential! I remember my fear before, during and after my "Readings" class because we had to be on our "A" game with both Hebrew and Greek for the same class. I had been a math and history double-major at university and had studied Spanish and German. Learning two biblical languages in the first year of seminary was intimidating. I may recommend focusing on one and then on the other, much like many colleges and universities already do.

I was very pleased to see...
  • The colorful quote from Martin Luther on page x in the introductory material
  • Numbers 6:22-26 as Translation 10, 67ff
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34 as Translation 22, 169ff
  • Psalm 23 as Translation 25, 190ff
  • An invitation to hear biblical texts read in Hebrew at
Watch for more Hebrew study resources from Zondervan on their website and in other reviews here at QBR.

"This companion to Basics of Biblical Greek and Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics contains annotated readings from the New Testament designed for second-year students of the Greek language.

"Making the leap from the basics of biblical Greek to its real-life application can be a frustrating challenge for students of intermediate Greek. A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek was developed to make the transition easier. It takes beginning exegetes from simple to progressively more difficult biblical texts. Students can now learn New Testament Greek the way they would any other language: through a graded program. A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek applies an inductive method to learning intermediate Greek grammar. It provides a workable introduction to exegesis, word studies, and developing a large vocabulary; and it assists the student in preparing for class, allowing classroom time to be put to its most effective use. - Twenty Greek passages are presented in graded order. - Difficult and unfamiliar grammatical constructions are explained. - All words that occur fewer than 20 times in the New Testament are defined. - An "Exegetical Discussion" section helps the exegete gain a deeper understanding of the language. A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek is the result of ten years of use and refinement by the author in an actual classroom setting" (publisher's website).

We now turn our attention to the Greek New Testament, with a similar resource, A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek.

Lutheran users will want to note:
  • the quote from the Westminster Shorter Catechism on page 3
  • a question on page 5 about "limited atonement" ("particular atonement")
  • A question for "Calvinists/Arminians" on John 15:16 (18)
  • A law-only sermon outline on Mark 8:34-38 (43)
Two tracks are available depending on individual/class need (xi). Something similar to Mounce's "phrasing" is found in the 1534 Luther Bible and the lectionary volumes that accompany Lutheran Service Book (2006).

Students may wish to laminate a good copy of the "Cheat Sheet" (xxv/xxvi) as "an inductive method of introducing you to intermediate Greek grammar."

Other highlights are the inclusion of 1 Timothy 4:6-16; Acts 2:22-42; and Colossians 1:1-23.  All three are very helpful to the pastoral task, teaching about salvation, and teaching and practicing Holy Baptism.

Visit for information on Mounce's computer software.

I am thankful for these (and previously reviewed) Greek and Hebrew resources from Zondervan for Christian clergy and laity to learn, relearn, or refresh biblical language skills for the sake of our own growth in Christ and the mission of the Church.

While Zondervan has a good handle on an affordable price-point for paperback editions, I would encourage the publisher to make some of these resources also available in hardcover (for durability and future study).

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.