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Biblical Hebrew

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Biblical Hebrew!

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Biblical Hebrew!
A Comprehensive Method

CD-ROM for Windows and Macintosh
Davka Corporation, (2003)
Ages 13 - Adult

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 23, 2004

If you truly want to understand the meaning of the Bible, you need to read it in its original language - Hebrew. There are many fine, and authoritative translations of the Bible in existence, however even the best translation does not capture the true meaning, nor the poetic beauty of the original Hebrew. Learning to read Biblical Hebrew may seem like a daunting task - but it doesn't have to be. Davka's new interactive software program, Biblical Hebrew: A Comprehensive Method will have you reading actual Biblical passages in almost no time at all. This is a complete course in Biblical Hebrew, and in Hebrew grammar. It also offers insights into the history and geography related to The Bible.

This course begins with a preparatory lesson that introduces you the Hebrew alphabet and its vowels, how to pronounce the letters, and introduces you to both the block and cursive forms of writing Hebrew. This introduction is followed by twenty-six lessons. Each of these lessons includes an actual passage from the Bible, in vowelized Hebrew, along with an English translation and a grammatical analysis of each word in the passage. In addition, grammar lessons related to the passage are also included, as well as three different types of interactive exercises that test you on your comprehension of each passage that you study. As the course progresses, these passages increase in length and complexity.

In all, this course includes more than 150 hours of instruction and more than 200 interactive exercises. It also includes supplemental information, such as a complete overview of Hebrew grammar (this is a course in its own right), a history of the Hebrew language, an interactive Bible atlas, short biographies of the Bible personalities cited in the readings, and a Hebrew-English dictionary.

This program gives you the opportunity to hear the words of the passage you are studying read aloud, either word for word, verse by verse, or an entire section of text at one time. The Bible passages are read by a woman who speaks clearly and whose pronunciation is easy to emulate. This program also gives you the option of hearing the cantillation of the text in either traditional Ashkenazic, traditional Sephardic, or contemporary Reconstruction. All the cantillations are chanted by a male voice.

Before beginning this course I highly recommend that you go through the help file. Listening to the entire help file only takes about 10 minutes (you can go through it in sections, if you prefer). The help file describes how the software works, how to effectively navigate through the course material, and it explains the function of all the buttons found in the course.

To use this software, you need to have your screen resolution set to at least 800X600 pixels. If you don't, you will get a warning message telling you to change your display settings. On my copy of the Biblical Hebrew this warning message, as well as some sample pages that are shown in the help files, were in French. Even if you don't know any French, the meaning of the error message is obvious, and the sample pages are just to show what the page they are referring to looks like. The actual text of the help files, as well as the text in the actual course is, as required, either in Hebrew or English. I just wanted to warn you about this tiny quirk in case you follow my advice and go through the help files before starting the course and wonder why some French text is showing up. The reason is, I imagine, because the course was originally written in French and was then translated - extremely well, into English. This was the only issue that I encountered while using this software. I tested it on a computer running the Windows XP Home Edition, and it worked perfectly. The software is designed to work on any computer with CD-ROM drives and running Windows: 98/ME/2000/XP or Macs: System 7.5 and above.

After working through the twenty-six lessons in this course, studying the grammatical information, and practicing what you have learned, you should find yourself reading the Bible, in Hebrew, with ease. In addition, by listening to the auditory components of the software, you will gain a familiarity with spoken Biblical Hebrew, and how the Bible is chanted within the various traditions. Throughout, the course is lavishly illustrated with pictures of Biblical figures and scenes, and with the flora of the Holy Land.

This course is perfect for total beginners, those with some familiarity with Hebrew, either Biblical or Modern, and those wishing to brush up on their Biblical Hebrew skills. The program is easy to use, the exercises are fun and challenging, and the course, as a whole, provides an excellent introduction to the Bible and Biblical Hebrew.

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