Language Helps for the Young Seminarian

You shouldn’t listen to me simply because I know everything.  I don’t.  However, I have made all the mistakes and if you reverse engineer it, you can see what to do.  Depending on the evangelical seminary you are going to, the curriculum will heavily emphasize the languages, sometimes to a glaring fault.  If you take the following considerations to account, your language study at seminary will be much easier (and these are the hardest courses).  I will focus more on Hebrew.  I minored in Greek in college and Greek is a Western language anyway, so it isn’t that hard to learn.  Hebrew is, though.


Go ahead and read, study, and memorize large sections of the textbook before you get to class.  Preferably do this in the three month interval between graduating one school in the summer and going to seminary.   Learn as much vocab as you possibly can.  It’s boring at times and modern day hippie educators say that’s the worst way to learn, but they can jump in a river.  It’s the only way to learn languages at the beginning (Yes, I know of the “immersion” technique, but since there aren’t any ancient Hebrew communities, that won’t work).  Ask the department which text they are using.  Grammars usually don’t change from semester to semester, and even if they do the content is the same.

Lexical Aids

Sadly, the best lexical material is the most expensive.  You can throw Brown-Driver-Briggs in the trash can.  It is much bulkier than other books and it simply isn’t that good.  At the very least you must get Holladay’s.  If you have an insanely rich backer, get Koeller‘s.  If you can’t afford either, van Pelt’s grammar has a very basic lexicon in the back, which combined with the vocab words at the end of the chapter, will give you a good enough vocab.


Go ahead and get the Basic Workbook and the Graded Reader.   Start working through the former immediately.  They will be assigned as homework assignments anyway.

Computer aids

I’m fairly certain much has changed in seven years, but when I was there many students got BibleWorks on their computers.  The profs frowned on it because it made translation too easy.  All you had to do was scroll your mouse over a word and it glossed and parsed it for you.  I would spend 30 minutes parsing ten verses when another student spent two minutes.  On the other hand, when you get to the exegesis classes, you will be required to put many passages in your paper in Hebrew font, complete with pointers and all.   Even if your Word Processor can do that, I didn’t have the intelligence with computers to work it.  Suppose you know how to type in Hebrew font, try putting a Dagesh Lene or a Vocal Shewa between the letters.   Yeah, good luck with that.  With BibleWorks all you have to do is copy/paste.  This literally takes hours off of your paper.  It’s pricey, but it might mean the difference between passing and failing.

Extras that you don’t need but are helpful anyway:

Vocab Reader:  van Pelt and Pratico published this one.  It gives you progressive lists of which words occur the most frequently. If you memorize certain lists, your ability to spot-read will increase.  Technically, you don’t need it, but it is a useful resource.

Old Testament Parsing Guide:  Parses every verb in the Hebrew Bible for you.  If you have BibleWorks you don’t need this.  Be careful how you use this, as it can become an “iron lung.”