Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide (Review)

Published: RTR 71, no. 3, 2012

Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide

Miles V. Van Pelt, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. xii + 212

ISBN: 9780310326076

Van Pelt of Reformed Seminary in Jackson is known in connection with Basics of Biblical Hebrew and Basics of Biblical Hebrew (both in conjunction with Gary Pratico), and has also published English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew. He is well-placed, then, to produce this small and slender handy-reference of Biblical Hebrew. It is not designed to be an introduction to the language. It would suit students and pastors who want to continue to use their Hebrew, but do not want to clutter their desks with a full-scale Grammar.

A three-fold structure is adopted: basic phonology, the nominal system, and the verbal system. This is followed by verb charts, and a lexicon (which is probably too short to be of help when reading a text, although it could serve as a vocabulary refresher). Unfortunately, there is no index, so to find what a ‘directional particle’ is, one has to look through the Table of Contents (it is listed under ‘Particles’, in the ‘Nominal System’ section). If one wanted to find ‘paragogic nun’, since this is not listed in the Contents, one would need to know to search through the pages on the ‘Qal imperfect’. The guide is better suited to reading through rather than dipping into.

The surprise is just how much is packed into the guide. By pp 6–7, syllabification is discussed, including paragraph-length explanations of the tonic, pretonic, post-tonic and propretonic positions. Latin terms are included, thus Nun Paragogicum (p 84), rather than ‘paragogic nun’. For those with past experience of Hebrew, this compact guide provides ample assistance.