Learning Biblical Languages


#1

Should I learn Hebrew or Greek first? Does anyone have a suggestion as to what materials I should use? Recommendations? Could I start with the modern language and then work my way through ancient or should I learn Biblical Hebrew before modern and same with Greek? Does anyone here speak either or does anyone know a good online community that speaks either?

Right now my plan is to start with modern day Hebrew and then work backwards. I haven’t decided on a tool yet. I think a woman at my church speaks Hebrew and we’re sort of friendly so I thought I’d ask her to help me, but I’d like to have my own fairly complete resource.

If you could recommend something off Amazon, I’d appreciate it, as I have a giftcard there.


#2

Hello,

I too am planning on learning some foreign languages. I am planning on starting with Italian - as I already have some knowledge of it - and then will proceed to other languages. I read the following book which is very informative - amazon.com/How-Learn-Language-Barry-Farber/dp/1567315437/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2/002-7663241-8814409?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174610446&sr=8-2

I wish you well on your linguistic journey.


#3

Learning the ancient or modern versions of a language will undoubtedly provide good foundation to learn the other, but assuming you know neither, then start with the language you want to learn. So if you don’t know any flavor of Greek, but you want to learn Greek to study the New Testament, study Biblical Greek. There’s no need to go through modern Greek first.

The learning course people usually take is basic Greek, then advanced Greek. Sometimes, people also start overlapping with basic Hebrew. Greek is somewhat easier to learn because of its closer ties to English.

Check out Basics of Biblical Greek by William Mounce, available on Amazon.com. I highly suggest getting both the grammar and the workbook.


#4

Consider learning Latin so you have a deeper understanding of the Mass and can easily follow along at Latin Mass and know Ecclesiastical Latin terms. There’s also a goldmine of historical, theological and Church material in Latin.

Next, tackle biblical greek because of the NT, then later hebrew.

If you want to learn the biblical languages for apologetics purposes and you live in the USA, definitely go with the greek before the hebrew because there are quite a lot of distortions and twisting of meanings of words in the New Testament by evangelicals etc. You are also more likely to have face-to-face encounters with anti-Catholic “christians” who distort the NT away from the original greek. By and large, the contesting of Hebrew words will be done online.

Long-range—If you are interested in learning these languages for apologetics or theological purposes, I’d say consider learning to read German or French, as so many great Catholic thinkers of the past few centuries—as well as today— have written in those two languages. (I don’t myself, but I am seriously considering it right now after reading the bibliographies of several books for their sources)

Do yourself a favor and read these two articles by Jimmy Akin where he discusses this subject at length (including suggestions for sources):
Part 1:
catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0407bt.asp
Part 2:
catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0409bt.asp


#5

Just a thought, but I would start with Greek, particularly if it is your first foreign language. Greek is an indo-european language and as such, it is more closely related in grammer and vocabulary to English. In contrast, Hebrew and other Semetic Languages are far more remote. As for the question of whether you should start with modern Greek, I don’t think that is necessary. In fact, considering the fact that Greek is usually taught as part of the classics cirriculum in most Universities, it is probably easier to find classes on classical Greek (which I believe, is closer to Bibilical Greek than modern Greek).


Bill


#6

Great advice!

Latin is like a “gateway language” in many ways. It’s a great model language, and once you master Latin, you’ll know most of the grammatical terms you need. Koine Greek will seem easy in comparison (verbs are little more complex, though) because of its reliance on prepositions and things of that nature.

  1. Latin (same alphabet, inflected, many English cognates)
  2. Koine Greek (different alphabet, inflected, many English cognates)
  3. Biblical Hebrew (different alphabet, not declined, almost no English cognates).

Hebrew is definitely the odd man out because it’s semitic and not classical.

Good luck!


#7

My mother bought me a book on Biblical Hebrew last night, so Biblical Hebrew it is! I want to be able to read the Old Testament, so once I can do that I’ll move on to Greek, and then Latin. So far it’s been interesting, as I’ve learned to pronounce the Hebrew letters and a few words and a little bit of conjugation. The book seems to be very good. It teaches you based off of the Old Testament, so I’m learning to read exactly what it is I want to read.

Thank you all very much for your input. (BTW, I can already read French, who are you talking about?). I didn’t get to the articles, but I’m going to read them right now. Thanks again everyone!


#8

Good for you, Rawb. Let us know how that book is once you get into it a bit----recommend the title if you like it.

Regarding the French: for instance----Henri De Lubac, Yves Congar, Paul Claudel, Jean Danielou, Jean Guitton, Maurice Blondel, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Ignatius Press has an english translation of a great book by Congar called The Meaning of Tradition.
It makes one think of “bible alone” people as unnecessarily and sadly closed-off from reality and the fullness of Christ. It helps you realize the Catholic faith is a very real communication and participatory life with Christ. (Available on Amazon for ten bucks—well worth it.)

Here’s a good This Rock article about Maurice Blondel:
catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0004fea3.asp


#9

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