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Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar Paperback – April 24, 1992
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"It is a pleasure to recommend Kelley's effort, tested in forty years (a biblical generation) of classroom teaching. It represents a solid beginning for the Hebrew novice to wander the map of the Hebrew Bible with confidence and surety."
About the Author
Page H. Kelley (1924–1997) was professor of Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Timothy G. Crawford is dean and professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in the College of Christian Studies, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas.
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Although it's not necessary you should also consider pruchasing the handbook that goes along with this, as it gives one additional practice aside from just containing the answers to the exercises in this grammar. Anyway, I'm very pleased and would recommend this grammar to anyone. This is the launchpad to more advanced grammars like Waltke & O'Connor and then Gesenius. Very important stuff in Kelley's grammar - don't let the "Introductory Grammar" fool you, this book is substantial, not in size (453 pages) but in substance. For instance, I cruised through the first four chapters and even through the fifth, but by the sixth suddenly the rules became much more complex, requiring a review of chapter five because you are required in the exercises to write out a noun with the definite article AND the propositional prefix - which essentially means knowing the proper vowel of the prefix based upon the first consonant and vowel of the noun, and then drop that consonant but retaining the vowel. Something like that. So it's complicated at first. But I really think these first six chapters have opened up so much to me concerning the Hebrew text, explaining why things are written in Genesis the way they are. Which makes me suspect I'll feel the very same when I get to chapter seven, haha. If you want to be challenged and enlightened, this book will not disappoint!
- the layout of each chapter can be confusing, with charts for every exception and variant. These makes it hard for students to discern what is most important or foundational.
- the table of vowels does not tell students which are long or short (or unchangeable) despite these being key for what follows
- the rules for pronouncing shewas are unclear
- the descriptions of grammar are wordy. Yes, he is a bit less technical than Seow, but not always more clear!
- vocabulary is listed at the end of the chapter. Why, oh why, can't grammar books list vocab at the beginning of the chapter like Croy's Greek grammar? It makes so much more sense.
- he includes vocab in the examples that has not yet been learnt by students and/or is not in the vocab list.
- the presentation of Hebrew as a language full of intricate rules is problematic. This is not a criticism unique to Kelley, but a Jewish scholar-friend pointed out that Hebrew is usually taught far more inductively to Jews. This emphasis on rules can reinforce (at the most subconscious level) an attitude about Judaism that it is a rule-based, legalistic religion.
On the positive side - the exercises and the additional exercise key book are great. I will probably continue to use some of these as additional exercises for students.
Advantages of Kelley's book:
I love how he combed through the Bible and found actual verses for the exercises in each chapter. It gives a feeling of authenticity to the book, and the joy of working through the Bible rather than fabricated textbook examples. Each chapter has a LOT of helpful exercises of many different kinds, particularly verb identification. There is also an answer key (sold separately) which makes this book ideal for self-study.
I thought the way he handled weak verbs was unhelpful. His book is very step-by-step: he teaches almost everything about nouns, then moves into verbs, then weak verbs. So there are 10 chapters at the end of the book that focus on weak verbs alone. Some of these chapters were unnecessary, such as certain types of weak verbs that don't lose any of their root consonants - only the vowels change, but one can intuit these pretty easily. Other chapters he overcomplicated immensely, focusing on intricate phonological rules that don't seem necessary to understand biblical Hebrew.
Given the verbs are the most difficult thing about Hebrew morphology, I feel he should have introduced them from the get-go, introducing individual weak verbs along the way and treating them as special irregular cases. Then one is dealing with strong and weak verbs while learning everything else rather than slapping them all at the end of the textbook.