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Beginning Biblical Hebrew

A Grammar and Illustrated Reader

series: Learning Biblical Hebrew

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This innovative textbook by two leading experts in Biblical Hebrew combines the best of traditional grammars, new insights into Hebrew linguistics, and a creative pedagogical approach. The material has been field tested and refined for more than a decade by the authors, who are actively engaged in teaching Biblical Hebrew and in scholarly discussions and research.

Beginning Biblical Hebrew includes fifty brief grammar lessons with accompanying workbook-style exercises, appendixes providing more detailed explanations, and a full-color reader--bound at the back of the book for right-to-left reading--that incorporates comics, line drawings, and numerous exercises, all in Hebrew. The work offers a realistic approach to beginning Hebrew, helping students comprehend texts without overloading them with too much information. Professors in seminary and university settings can adapt the book to either one-semester or full-year courses.

This book is accompanied by free online resources. Click the red eSources banner above for more information.


"I used Beginning Biblical Hebrew in draft form with twenty undergraduates this year, and the textbook succeeded grandly. Having taught Hebrew students for the past thirty years, I can say that this present class is the most advanced I have ever had. They read extremely well, they have a good grasp of the fundamentals, and they have a developing understanding of syntax that will prepare them for subsequent study in Hebrew readings and exegesis. This grammar is characterized by current terminology, new discussions that reflect the best of what current research has to offer, and well-considered exercises and readings. I highly recommend it."

Martin Abegg Jr., professor of religious studies and director, Dead Sea Scrolls Institute, Trinity Western University

"In recent years, I have tested three different beginning Hebrew grammars in the classroom and have reviewed about a dozen others with that purpose in mind. I am delighted to have found Cook and Holmstedt's Beginning Biblical Hebrew, which is a mature and delightful alternative. Pedagogically speaking, it is just about perfect. It presents necessary information succinctly without overwhelming beginners. It also entices and immerses students with comicbook-style readings and a graphical presentation of vocabulary. Students begin to read, rather than decode, Hebrew almost from the beginning."

Daniel Driver, associate professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, Nova Scotia

"Each year sees the publication of several new biblical Hebrew grammars. Invariably, their deductive approach requires a motivation-crushing amount of contextless memorization, and only a fraction of students have the heart to continue past the first semester. Cook and Holmstedt's grammar is a breath of fresh air. It engages students at multiple levels through inductive and holistic approaches to language acquisition. If you want your students to learn Biblical Hebrew in a deep and substantial way, and help them enjoy the process as well, then this grammar is exactly what you are looking for."

Charles Halton, Houston Baptist University

"Cook and Holmstedt have produced an innovative guide to the acquisition of Biblical Hebrew that effectively utilizes the best of contemporary linguistics and pedagogy while maintaining interest through interactive techniques and an emphasis on comprehending texts rather than grammatical principles."

Mark A. Throntveit, Luther Seminary

"This phenomenal book accomplishes many things that I want a contemporary Biblical Hebrew textbook to do. The use of illustrations is a great step forward in vocabulary acquisition, but better still is the use of Hebrew to teach Hebrew. Even so simple a thing as writing words such as דָּגֵשׁ and בִּנְיָן in Hebrew instead of in transliteration adds significant value to this textbook, not to mention using Hebrew terms for סְמִיכוּת relationships and other grammatical concepts. Beginning Biblical Hebrew is sure to invigorate the teaching and learning of Biblical Hebrew in many classrooms."

Chris Heard, associate professor of religion, Pepperdine University

"Because it not only embraces fresh methods but also rethinks their linguistic and pedagogical foundations, this volume will stand out in the crowded market of introductory Biblical Hebrew textbooks. This isn't a rehash; it's a reboot. To have these creative ideas assembled into this ambitious synthesis will allow instructors to try out new approaches with relative ease."

Christopher B. Hays, D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Cook and Holmstedt's beginning Hebrew grammar and illustrated workbook stands as a welcome contribution to teachers of Biblical Hebrew. The text aims at language acquisition rather than grammar retention, and this is a point that makes the volume so useful. Current in its philosophy of language, relevant in its presentation and pedagogy, and thoroughly focused on the ancient Hebrew text, this beginning grammar will serve Biblical Hebrew language learners for years to come."

Heath A. Thomas, director of PhD studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (USA); Fellow in Old Testament Studies, The Paideia Centre for Public Theology (Canada)

"For languages, childlike learning is best. As young children, people talked to us, and we quickly acquired our new language with no formal grammar. Preeminent Semitic linguists and proven teachers Cook and Holmstedt have brought us the verified successes of childlike learning and second-language acquisition strategies. The student will acquire Biblical Hebrew through sight, sound, storytelling, and playacting. Formal grammar during these early stages of learning is as it should be--minimal. Beginning Biblical Hebrew is an uncluttered, learner-friendly path to joyfully understanding Biblical Hebrew."

Gary A. Long, professor of biblical and theological studies, Bethel University

The Authors

  1. John A. Cook

    John A. Cook

    John A. Cook (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages and director of Hebrew instruction at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is also a research fellow at the University of the Free State,...

    Continue reading about John A. Cook

  2. Robert D. Holmstedt
    © Studio G Photography

    Robert D. Holmstedt

    Robert D. Holmstedt (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is professor of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario. His primary research interest is the linguistic study of Northwest Semitic languages.

    Continue reading about Robert D. Holmstedt


"Online resources provide students with the opportunity to view flashcards for reviewing glossary and also listen to audio files of Hebrew exercise sentences, lesson vocabulary, and readings. Professors also have the opportunity to request sample quizzes and exams, lesson plans, and an instructor's manual with an answer key. . . . The table of contents ingeniously blends the progression of the grammar presentation with the illustrated readings from the other section of the book. . . . The kernel of the book is very well and carefully written but equally impressively designed. With its focus on especially pragmatics, the textbook delves into a subject sometimes avoided by other grammars--a joy to read, a joy to use, and a joy to teach from!"

Bálint Károly Zabán,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Cook and Holmstedt have been producing instructional materials since 1996, not only incorporating best theory and practices from the field of second-language acquisition but also responding to feedback from actual use in the classroom. The result is a fresh, intentional, creative, and richly supported set of materials geared to help students joyfully discover the meaning of basic Biblical Hebrew prose. . . . Beginning Biblical Hebrew excels at bringing a sweeping breadth of material to students in ways that support genuine language learning as focused on the biblical text. . . . Cook and Holmstedt offer a significant and unique contribution to the field of introductory Hebrew grammars. BBH reflects thoughtful design that meets the requirements of effective instruction in the real world."

Robert C. Stallman,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Beginning Biblical Hebrew (hereafter BBH) offers a fresh and engaging way to teach Hebrew that encourages more lasting learning and use of the language. . . . Cook and Holmstedt have developed a genuinely new and distinctive approach for introducing Biblical Hebrew to language learners. . . . Intentional embrace of multisensory learning both in the classroom and in a student's own study will implement the strengths of Cook and Holmstedt's approach to full effect. All told, BBH is worthy of thoughtful consideration as an effective means of advance toward a hopeful end: the ever-greater opening of the Hebrew Bible to the next generation of students."

Scott N. Callaham,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"The primary strength of this book is its innovative, pedagogical approach. It seeks to develop a way of comprehending biblical Hebrew texts rather than achieving mastery in translation. . . . The book, which consists of fifty brief chapters, is written in the style of a workbook. Illustrative charts, lists, and diagrams are found throughout. Extensive corresponding glossaries (Hebrew-English and English-Hebrew) are included. Aspects of the Hebrew readings meant to be translated are illustrated by means of cartoons, thus providing intriguing and inviting clues for translating."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Beginning Biblical Hebrew developed out of [the] authors' mutual dissatisfaction with the limits of Hebrew grammars. The resulting text comes at the end of several years of practical adaptation in the classroom. . . . The exercises [in the Illustrated Reader] give students a helpful context by which they can interact with and acquire the Hebrew terms and concepts with which they are working. . . . By embracing SLA [second language acquisition] practices, Cook and Holmstedt have provided a road map for further work in this direction. Cook and Holmstedt treat the language acquisition process as a contextual, whole-brained process, and in doing so, they provide a great service to their students. Beginning Biblical Hebrew is a cool breeze in what has often been a desert of biblical Hebrew pedagogy."

William K. Bechtold III,

Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament

"[The authors] have created an introductory textbook for biblical Hebrew that is quite unique. . . . People who have taken or taught biblical Hebrew will find this book to be different from others. The authors have given us a minimalist textbook. Lessons can be two or three pages long. The content is rarely data oriented, but instead focuses on the basics and then encourages students to jump right into reading and writing Hebrew. This does not mean that important paradigm charts and so forth are missing. There is a bit scattered here and there through the lessons as well as Appendices in the back for students to consult. The back contains Hebrew-English and English-Hebrew Glossaries as well. The most impressive element is the Illustrated Reader at the end of the book (with illustrations from Philip Williams) which allows students to visualize the passages that they are translating. . . . As someone who has studied Hebrew I think the authors are trying to do something that could prove very helpful for many people."

Brian LePort,

Near Emmaus blog