Undergraduate Studies in Hebrew

Undergraduate studies in Biblical Hebrew take place within the context of ancient Israel and the oral and manuscript traditions of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). The study of Biblical Hebrew begins with learning a new alphabet and mastering the nouns, verbs, syntax and vocabulary of the language. Translation begins with prose (narrative) texts in the first year and proceeds to prophetic texts, both narrative and poetic, in the second year. In the third year, attention is given to biblical poetry as a genre and to placing the study of Biblical Hebrew within the broader context of the related languages of the ancient Near East – Ugaritic, Aramaic and Syriac. Third year modules also introduce the student to various translations of the Hebrew Bible, both ancient and modern.

The study of Biblical Hebrew is especially important for students in Theology, Classics, History and Philosophy. Students of Hebrew become pastors, theologians, Bible translators and scholars.

HEBR1514: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew

An introduction to Biblical Hebrew through learning the alphabet and the basic aspects of the nouns, verbs, syntax and vocabulary. The student begins to translate various aspects of Biblical Hebrew in the light of the grammatical differences between the structures of Biblical Hebrew and their home language. The electronic resources available for the study of Biblical Hebrew are introduced.

HEBR1504: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (first-semester Hebrew extended over a year)

Identical in content to HEBR1514, but extended over a year. Serves as the pre-requisite to HEBR1624 or HEBR1604.

HEBR1624: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Prose

In this module, the knowledge of Biblical Hebrew grammar (phonology, morphology, syntax, discourse structure) is expanded with specific reference to biblical narrative in its cultural context. How is biblical narrative organised? What are some of the specific linguistic features of Biblical Hebrew that serve to structure biblical narrative? How does a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew enhance our understanding of the narratives of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)? What are some of the conventions of biblical narrative that differ from (or are the same as) stories in the students’ home languages?

HEBR1604: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Prose (second-semester Hebrew extended over a year)

Identical in content to HEBR1624, but extended over a year. Serves as the pre-requisite to HEBR2614.

HEBR2614: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Prophetic Texts

Selected prophetic passages – both narrative passages in which a prophet plays a central role and prophetic oracles shaped as poetry – are read to expand our knowledge of the features of Biblical Hebrew. Biblical Performance Criticism is introduced and used as a means to further understanding of Hebrew prophetic texts.

HEBR2724: Biblical Hebrew in its Ancient Context

Biblical Hebrew is examined in its ancient context—as a language, as a writing system, as a part of culture, and as a religious text—in order to understand and interpret the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in the fullest possible way. A representative selection of texts from ancient Israel, both biblical and extra-biblical, are read as well as texts from post-biblical Hebrew, specifically the Dead Sea Scrolls. The development of the Hebrew writing system and the formation of the Old Testament text, working backwards from printed Hebrew Bibles (Biblia Hebraica Quinta/Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) to the Masoretic text and the Leningrad Codex to the earliest biblical manuscripts in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

HEBR3714: Biblical Hebrew Poetry

What was poetry like in ancient Israel? How is it different from poetry in the modern world? Poetry was used for songs of victory and lament, liturgy, prophetic discourse, proverbs, philosophical discussions, and love songs in ancient Israel and the ancient Near East. The poetry of the Hebrew Bible is explored in its original language and context. In order to understand the context in which Biblical Hebrew poetry was composed and used, selections of comparable ancient Near Eastern poetry in translation will be read.

HEBR3724: Grammar of Biblical Aramaic

Aramaic has been continuously spoken for about 3000 years till today. In the Second Temple Period, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Persian Empire. More importantly, it was used for writing some selections of the Old Testament, along with Hebrew, and it had an influence on the New Testament. The grammar of Biblical Aramaic, a language closely related to Hebrew, will be learned and selected Aramaic texts from the books of Daniel and Ezra will be read.

HEBR3734: Grammar of Ugaritic

Ugaritic was the language of the ancient Kingdom of Ugarit, which existed during the Late Bronze Age in what is now north-western Syria. Since 1928, when Ugaritic first came to the attention of modern scholars, Ugaritic has provided a window into the world of the ancient Levant prior to the time of Israel and the Hebrew language. In many respects, the people of Ugarit were cultural forbearers to the later Canaanites and Israelites, and the Ugaritic language is a linguistic ancestor to ancient Hebrew. By studying Ugaritic, insight is gained into the worldview and religion of the ancient Near East in general, and of the Levant in particular. Among the Ugaritic tablets are myths about several Canaanite deities referenced in the Bible, including Baal, Asherah, and Mot. By studying Ugaritic grammar and culture, knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and the world of the Bible is also expanded.

HEBR3744: Grammar of Syriac

Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic that arose shortly before the Common Era. It is important, first, the Syriac Bible (called the Peshitta) is one of the major ancient translations of the Old and New Testaments, and this makes it important for biblical studies. In particular, the Peshitta is important for textual criticism and for studies of early biblical interpretation. Second, Syriac is important for church history because of the biblical commentaries, hymns, religious poems, biographies and martyrologies, and historical texts that were written in Syriac. These texts provide an important window into an early and distinctly eastern form of Christianity. The vocabulary, morphology and syntax of Syriac are surveyed with the goal of acquiring the necessary skills to read select Syriac passages from the Bible and Early Church literature with the help of a dictionary and grammar.

HEBR3754: Ancient Translations of the Hebrew Bible

Study of the translation of religious texts from the period of the formation of the Hebrew Bible through the Second Temple period. Students will learn the basic principles of translation theory, the characteristics of the ancient biblical translations (one or more of the following: the Septuagint, the Targumim, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate), and will apply translation principles to an analysis of selected religious texts from the Hebrew Bible.

HEBR3764: Modern Translations of the Hebrew Bible

Study of the translation of religious texts in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Students will apply translation principles to an analysis of selected texts from the Hebrew Bible as translated into a variety of modern translations of the Bible. Special attention will be given to questions of theology, ideology and metatexts in Bible translation.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

Humanities photo next to contact block

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful, to better understand how they are used and to tailor advertising. You can read more and make your cookie choices here. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.