One of the most bewildering aspects of biblical studies is the study of ancient languages like biblical Hebrew and Greek. In some circles using Hebrew or Greek is frowned on. In many it is a necessary evil. The aspiring pastor must prove he can pass a few semesters of the languages. After this, he will likely use Greek sparingly and Hebrew not at all. In our day and age, however, there is a proliferation of bible study tools available to bring the wealth of language learning to the fingertips of even interested lay students. There is no excuse for a pastor to not grapple with the original text to some degree.
Paul Wegner has provided a tool to help out busy pastors and once-upon-a-time Hebrew students. His new book Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors explains just how to put even a beginning level of Hebrew to use in preaching and studying the Bible.
The book is laid out very simply, and is designed to be a tool in itself. It starts with an explanation of why Hebrew study matters, and why pastors should take pains to try and use it. Wegner goes on to discuss the tools that are available to help use Hebrew. He compares software programs, Hebrew grammars and other study aids. The book proceeds to discuss how to study a passage using exegesis, literary analysis, theological analysis, and application. Wegner then goes on to explain how to put it all together and prepare an OT sermon. He illustrates just how to do this. The book closes with a discussion on various ways of keeping Hebrew language study fresh, and includes several appendices as aids in their own right.
The book is written in a simple and straightforward style, which makes it accessible to students of all levels of proficiency in Hebrew. Even those with no knowledge of Hebrew would benefit from this book as they plan on pursuing some kind of training in the language.
I learned several helpful things to benefit my own study of Hebrew. Structural analysis of Bible passages is apparently easier with Hebrew than Greek. (This gives some hope!) I also learned to be wary of older Hebrew study tools which prize etymology too much, specifically Brown, Driver and Brigg’s lexicon. Modern study has shown the history of words does not always impact their meaning at a given time. On that note, the study of Hebrew nouns is going to be most beneficial and rewarding. This is different than Greek, where verbs are key. The book also includes an excellent list of recommended scholarly and lay commentaries for each OT book.
I can’t recommend this little book enough. If you have studied Biblical Hebrew or if you think you will (or you should), you would be blessed in having this book.
Paul D. Wegner is professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary and is the author of three books, Bible Introduction: The Journey from Texts to Translations; A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible; and An Examination of Kingship and Messianic Expectation in Isaiah 1-35. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Institute for Biblical Research, Society of Biblical Literature, and Tyndale Fellowship.
My thanks go out to Leslie Paladino of Kregel Publishers for furnishing me with a review copy of this book, at my request.