Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew

One of the most difficult things about learning Biblical Hebrew is making the jump from finishing an introductory Hebrew course to reading the Bible in Hebrew. The Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew is a helpful tool for students making this transition.

What is the Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew?

Miles V. Van Pelt and Gary D. Pratico published the Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Reading the Hebrew Bible in 2006. They wrote the book primarily to help two kinds of students: first, students making the “jump” from introductory to intermediate biblical Hebrew, and second, people who studied Hebrew some time ago and wish to refresh their skills.

The book consists of 30 passages taken from different sections in the Bible: the Torah (13), Prophets (11), and Writings (6). Passages are presented according to the order they are found in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and generally speaking, the passages become more difficult as the book progresses.

The pedagogy behind the book is somewhat reverse from that of most introductory Biblical Hebrew courses. Instead of first learning Hebrew grammar and then reading the Bible (deductive learning), the Graded Reader allows students to read passages from the Bible in Hebrew first. Then, through their encounters with specific textual features, students continue to learn Biblical Hebrew (inductive learning).

Key Features of the Graded Reader

The Graded Reader does not just present a collection of passages from the Hebrew Bible, but also contains a great deal of helpful information associated with each passage. Here are the most important features of the Graded Reader:

  • Glosses (short definitions) are provided for each word that appears less than 50 times in the Hebrew Bible. This saves a great deal of time for intermediate students. Also, by not including definitions for words used more than 50 times, the Graded Reader helps to reinforce the vocabulary that a student will have already learned in an introductory Hebrew course.
  • Each passage has multiple notes that provide grammatical explanations for specific features of the Biblical Hebrew found in the passage. This can include explanations about general grammatical features, specific syntactical constructions, and difficult-to-parse verbs, etc. These explanations are the most valuable part of the Graded Reader. They are the reason that you can use the Graded Reader to learn Biblical Hebrew inductively.
  • There is also a parsing key located in the back of the Graded Reader. This parsing key provides the correct parsing (root, binyan, tense, person) of every single verb in the reader. This can be very helpful for students wanting to strengthen their verb parsing skills.
  • The Graded Reader is very easy to use. The fonts are large and quite readable, and there is space for students to write their own translations within the book.

Passages included in the Graded Reader

The authors of the Graded Reader did two very helpful things in choosing the passages to be included in the reader:

First, they chose passages that are appropriate for advanced beginners and intermediate students of Biblical Hebrew. Students who have completed a year of Biblical Hebrew will find that the texts are just the right level of difficulty – the passages are not so easy as to be boring, and they are not so difficult as to be excessively frustrating.

Second, the authors chose passages that are significant (significant historically, culturally, theologically, etc.). In fact, students who use the reader will probably have already read most of these passages in English. By choosing such familiar passages, students are better motivated to read and study each passage carefully.

Here is a list of the passages included in the Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew:

1. Genesis 1:1-5 – In the Beginning
2. Genesis 2:1-3 – The Seventh Day
3. Genesis 26:1-6 – God’s Promises to Isaac
4. Genesis 35:9-15 – God’s Promises to Jacob
5. Genesis 43:1-8 – Jacob Sends Benjamin to Egypt
6. Exodus 3:1-12 – The Burning Bush
7. Exodus 6:1-8 – I am the LORD
8. Exodus 34:1-6 – The LORD Proclaims His Name
9. Leviticus 19:1-4 – The Demand for Holiness
10. Numbers 6:22-26 – Aaron’s Blessing
11. Deuteronomy 6:1-15 – The Shema
12. Deuteronomy 11:18-23 – Teach These Words to Your Children
13. Deuteronomy 31:1-8 – Be Strong and Courageous

14. Joshua 24:14-18 – Joshua’s Challenge to Serve the LORD
15. Judges 3:7-11 – The LORD Delivers Israel with Othniel
16. Judges 10:10-15 – Cry to the Gods Whom You Have Chosen
17. 1 Samuel 15:10-24 – To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice
18. 2 Samuel 7:1-9 – David’s Desire to Build the Temple
19. 1 Kings 8:22-26 – Solomon’s Prayer
20. 2 Kings 17:34-40 – You Shall Fear the LORD
21. Isaiah 43:1-6 – You Are Precious in My Eyes
22. Jeremiah 31:31-34 – A New Covenant
23. Ezekiel 37:1-6 – The Valley of Dry Bones
24. Joel 3:1-5 (2:28-32) – I Will Pour Out My Spirit

25. Psalm 23:1-6 – The LORD is My Shepherd
26. Psalm 100:1-5 – Hymn of Praise
27. Psalm 121:1-8 – The LORD Will Keep You
28. Ezra 7:6-10 – A Model for Generations to Come
29. 2 Chronicles 1:7-10 – Solomon Asks for Wisdom
30. 2 Chronicles 7:1-4 – The Glory of the LORD Fills the Temple

Final Verdict

The Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew is not a revolutionary book, but it is extremely helpful and convenient. It simply presents a good selection of relatively simple passages found in the Hebrew Bible and provides useful explanations regarding the grammatical features of these passages. For many students, this is exactly the kind of resource that they need.

Information about purchasing the Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew can be found by clicking on the image below:

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