Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar/Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar-Workbook/Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar-Classroom DVDs
Stallman, Robert C., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
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Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar. By Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi. Invitation to Theological Studies Series. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006, xviii + 364 pp., $49.99. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar-Workbook. By Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi. Invitation to Theological Studies Series. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006, xi + 335 pp., $29.99. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar-Classroom DVDs. By Russell T. Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi. Invitation to Theological Studies Series. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006, 6 discs, $49.99.
Invitation to Biblical Hebrew adopts a deductive approach to teaching biblical Hebrew (BH) by focusing on phonology and then morphology. The grammar, workbook, and DVDs represent what Fuller and Choi think students should master in two semesters, equipping them to translate simple prose. Admitting BH cannot be learned in a year, they plan to offer an intermediate book on syntax, comprising a second year of Hebrew. Through this "layered" approach to teaching BH that Fuller employs at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the authors hope students will know BH well enough to use it in Christian ministry.
The authors' approach focuses on rules that are explained and demonstrated in the various chapters. Students imitate the forms through exercises and repeat the material until it is thoroughly engrained in their memory. Sometimes this involves memorization of paradigms, but more often the authors try to ease the burden of learning BH by expecting memorization of rules of syllabification, vowel reduction, assimilation of weak letters, and vowel patterns of verbs.
The plan of the book is as follows. Chapters 1-6 deal strictly with phonology, leading to the "heart of the grammar," namely four rules of vocalization in Proto-Hebrew that lead to five rules of syllables in BH. Exercises at this level ask students to apply these rules to convert BH words into Proto-Hebrew and vice versa. The rest of the book builds on this foundation and is devoted to morphology, first of nouns and adjectives (chaps. 10-16); then the strong verb in all stems (chaps. 17-28); then various classes of weak verbs (chaps. 29-38). Chapters typically end with review questions, a vocabulary list, morphological drills, and translation sentences. Only the last two chapters assign a passage for translation (Gen 20:1-8 and 9-18). The book ends with thirty-four pages of charts; a comprehensive vocabulary list; subject index; some review; and sixteen pages of color-coded verb charts.
The grammar is carefully planned and executed. It is large, and the pages have enough white space for students to write notes. The workbook closely follows the content of each chapter, providing answer keys and additional drills. The aim of the grammar is translation of BH prose, but the workbook does not comment on the way its English translations were produced. The DVDs present Dr. Fuller at his desk, kindly teaching the material to an individual viewer. One additional camera angle allows the user to view his handwritten illustrations of morphology. Each lesson typically closes with his encouragement for the student to go learn the vocabulary and work the drills. He offers no tutelage on these matters nor any help in reading.
Invitation to Biblical Hebrew is part of Kregel's Invitation to Theological Studies series of primary textbooks for seminary study. According to the publisher, "ITS provides foundational works that are both intellectually stimulating and spiritually refreshing." Unfortunately, this book is neither. Its unwavering devotion to the deductive approach has left little room for helpful pedagogical imagination. The message and language of the OT is rich, but this grammar lacks a single paragraph offering a noteworthy exegetical comment, light from a word study, or insight from a facet of history or culture, let alone any spiritual encouragement to the user. …