As a student of the Hebrew Bible for some 20 years, I have found that in studying the Biblical languages, three elements must be included: vocabulary, grammar and sight reading. The first two elements are reinforced by the third, thus making the third of chiefest importance if one is to retain their knowledge of Hebrew or any other language for that matter. Today’s options for the Hebrew student are far better and more affordable than they were 20 years ago. In 2007 Zondervan released its “Reader’s Hebrew Bible” and more recently Hendrickson released a similar volume based upon the text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttengarnsia (BHS). Such Hebrew Bibles are based upon the idea of learning and retaining of vocabulary by way of word frequency. That is to say, the text of such Bibles have numbers beside words in the text that occur 100 times or less in the Hebrew text (for the Zondervan Reader’s Bible) and 70 times or less (Hendrickson’s Reader’s Hebrew Bible). Such an approach enables the student to aquire and retian their vocabulary more easily.
Another method that Hebrew teachers have employed for many years in increasing reading proficiency is by having students read Hebrew texts that have more recognizable vocabulary that occur more frequently. As the student persists in their readings, the texts become gradually more difficult in both vocabulary and grammar. Thus one may begin in narrative sections of Genesis and end up in the poetic books where less frequently used words and more obscure grammar occur. Such an approach is called a “graded approach” to the Hebrew Bible. This method for instance is employed in Pratico and Van Pelt’s “Graded Reader of the Hebrew Bible”, also produced by Zondervan. Pratico and Van Pelt’s “Graded Reader” takes the student through selected texts and has them parsing and identifying vocabulary. This particular book has aided this blogger greatly in becoming a better reader of the Hebrew Bible.
These introductory remarks serve to guide my thinking in what I am planning on working on through the course of this year and maybe the next. The aim of this blogger is to develop a year-long reading schedule of the Hebrew Bible that would take the Hebrew student through the Hebrew text by a “graded method” of texts beginning with Genesis and ending in the prophets. The ordering of the readings would follow moreso the canonical order of the English Bible than the Hebrew, due to familiarity and by what appears to be the ever increasing difficulty of the proposed texts. Perhaps others may not find this arrangement of the readings preferrable. Changes can be made to reflect the canonical order as we see the books in the TaNaK (Torah, Neviim or prophets and Ketuvim or writings). For now, remember, this is just a preliminary sketch of what hopefully will become a final proposal.
Although the aim would not be to read the entire 419,687 words of the Hebrew text, this proposed idea would expose the reader to a large enough sampling that by the end, proficiency would be gained enough to perhaps pursue such a feat as reading the Hebrew Bible from cover to cover. It would be suggested that the student purchase one of the above mentioned Hebrew Bibles so as to make better use of the below proposed graded reading schedule.
The following reading schedule is a rough draft, incorporating chunks of the Hebrew text that would be read in a given week. It is hope in a future post to present a more refined version that would get down to the verse level, day by day. Preliminary calculations suggest that if a student would commit to reading 15-16 verses in the Hebrew text, they could accomplish the graded readings with a 12 month period. So with the above thoughts outlined, here is a proposed graded reading schedule of the Hebrew Old Testament:
January: Week 1 = Genesis 12-15; Week 2 = Gen 16-19; Week 3 = Gen 20-23; Week 4 = Gen 24-27
February: Week 1 = Genesis 28-31; Week 2 = Genesis 32-34; Week 3 = Genesis 35-36; Week 4 = Ruth 1
March: Week 1 = Ruth 2; Week 2 = Ruth 3; Week 3 = Ruth 4; Week 4 = Exodus 1
April: Week 1 = Exodus 2-4; Week 2 = Exodus 5-8; Week 3 = Exodus 9-11; Week 4 = Exodus 12
May: Week 1 = Jonah 1-2; Week 2: Jonah 3-4; Week 3: Deut 1-3; Week 4: Deut 4-6
June: Week 1 = Deut 7-9; Week 2 = Deut 10-12; Week 3 = Lev 1-3; Week 4 = Lev 4-6
July: Week 1 = Lev 7-8; Week 2 = Lev 9-10; Week 3 = Josh 1-3; Week 4 = Josh 4-6
August: Week 1 = Josh 7-9; Week 2 = Josh 10-12; Week 3 = Psalm 1; Week 4 = Psalm 2
Sept: Week 1 = Ps 120-123; Week 2 = Ps 124-126; Week 3 = Ps 127-129; Week 4 = Ps 130-132
Oct: Week 1 = Ps 133-135; Week 2 = 2 Kg 1-2; Week 3 = 2 Kg 3-4; Week 4 = 2 Kg 5-6
Nov: Week 1 = 2 Kg 7-8; Week 2 = 2 Kg 9-10; Week 3 = Zech 1-3; Week 4 = Zech 4-6
Dec: Week 1 = Zech 7-8; Week 2 : Zech 9-10; Week 3=Zech 11-12; Week 4=Zech 13-14