Enhance Hebrew Bible study with the WordSearch method

Experience Hebrew Bible study using the easy-to-master WordSearch Bible study method, enabling the serious student to study, understand, and use the Old Testament in its original Hebrew.

On this page I will explain the process and introduce the lexical aids used in basic word studies in the Hebrew language. You may be surprised that I use exclusively "old-school" lexicons and concordances... old fashioned hard cover BOOKS! It is vitally important that you learn to use theses tools first, before you move on to using Hebrew Bible study software.

The basic WordSearch classes that I taught for many years in graduate school and seminary, I teach students to "drive stick-shift.” Only in the Advanced Hebrew Bible Study seminar do I teach students to use Original Languages software.

This ensures that students not only understand what the word study software is doing, but more importantly how and why it does it. Without this knowledge a student will more than likely arrive at superficial conclusions, make inaccurate and even inappropriate use of the data, and misinterpret the biblical text.

The Hebrew alphabet

For most of my students, Hebrew is the first language outside the Indo-European family of languages that they have studied.

Hebrew belongs to the northwest branch of the Semitic family of languages along with Aramaic and other Canaanite languages, such as Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite, and Edomite. It was the language of the ancient Israelites and of their sacred writings that make up the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and it is the basis for scholarly Hebrew Bible study.

Sopherim, Masoretes

By the end of the first century CE, the long process of the formation of the Tanakh was about at an end. At that time the Hebrew Bible existed in not one but many manuscripts with various histories. It became the task of the scribes called the Sopherim to begin the long process of working toward a standard text. The Sopherim developed the earliest Masorah, that is, tradition about the text.

Beginning as early as the fifth century CE, the scribes we call the Masoretes began their twofold work. First, the Masorah started by the Sopherim was systematized and fully developed. Second, systems of adding vowels to the hitherto consonantal text were devised, since Hebrew was no longer widely used (except in the synagogues) and there arose the need of preserving the traditional pronunciation of the text.

Below: Joshua 1:1 in the Aleppo Codex (10th cent. CE) showing the Masoretic vowel markings.

Aleppo Codex

The text of the Tanakh has a long and varied history. Yet through the ages it has constituted the foundation of faith of countless people. The WordSearch method of Hebrew Bible study enables students to delve directly into its riches.

Take a look at the Hebrew alphabet below. It is made up of consonants only. Remember that Hebrew is read from right to left.

Hebrew alphabet

Various ways of pronouncing Biblical Hebrew have evolved over the centuries. The "Ashkenazi" pronunciation stems from Eastern European Jewry and is still used in some Orthodox synagogues. The "Sefardi" pronunciation stems from Spanish Jewry and is used in many Conservative and Reform synagogues today. It is also the basis of modern Israeli pronunciation.

When I teach Hebrew Bible study I use a simplified form of the "Sefardi" pronunciation with the corresponding simplified transliterations of Hebrew grammatical terms.

Free printable Hebrew Bible study handouts

Right-click to download a printable handout of the Hebrew alphabet used by students practice writing the Hebrew characters.

Download this resource to learn the Sefardi pronunciation.

Right-click to download the Hebrew Transliteration Table to help you learn the vowel markings and pronunciations.

Download the Hebrew word study tools chart.

Right-click to download a printable handout of the Path to Follow in Hebrew Bible study.

The Path to Follow

Step 1: Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (HGKSB)

The HGKSB is the standard text and the starting point for Hebrew Bible study using the WordSearch method.

This Bible is available in the following versions: King James Version (KJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and New International Version (NIV). This Bible incorporates under one cover many of the tools that are necessary for word studies in the original biblical languages. Some of these important and unique word study tools are:

* Exegetical footnotes that explain difficult passages of both Old and New Testaments.

* A guide to transliteration of the Hebrew alphabet.

* A lexical aids section that contains the complete Strong's dictionaries of Hebrew/Chaldee and Greek (the NIV HGKSB contains the complete Goodrich-Kohlenberger Exhaustive Concordance).

These dictionaries give a succinct definition of all the words in the biblical texts, and a Lexicon to the Old and New Testaments that is numerically coded to Strong’s (the NIV HGKSB is numerically coded to Goodrich-Kohlenberger). This Lexicon gives the etymology, meanings in context, derivatives, synonyms, antonyms, and compounds to selected key Hebrew and Greek words.

Key words are underlined and numerically coded to the Strong's numbering system (NIV to the Goodrich-Kohlenberger numbering system) for further study in the Lexical Aids section.

Use the WordSearch Bible study worksheets for your Greek word study.

Click here for Greek and Hebrew Bible study worksheets.

Step 2: Word Study Old Testament (WSOT)

The Complete Word Study Old Testament is the ultimate tool for Hebrew Bible study in the original languages. It's wealth of lexical information was compiled by Biblical language scholar Dr. Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009).

The OSNT identifies each Hebrew word in the Old Testament by grammatical tags as well as numerical codes that are printed above the KJV text. The number corresponds to the Strong's Dictionary. The grammar codes give you information about the usage of the Hebrew word in context. WSNT makes every Hebrew word of the Old Testament open to the English reader.

Note: OSNT is only available in the KJV edition and is only keyed to Strong's numerical codes. If you used the NIV edition of the HGKSB, the Goodrich-Kohlenberger Concordance gives the equivalent Strong's number for each word. This will enable you to utilize the OSNT and other Hebrew word study tools, which are keyed to the Strong's numbers.

Step 3: Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

Biblical scholar W. E. Vine (1873-1949) is most famous for Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

This dictionary is expository in nature, setting key Hebrew and Greek words in their historical, technical, and etymological context. Where an English word translates several Greek words the latter are given in English form. Where there are no such variations, each word is dealt with according to its occurrences and usage in the Old Testament.

The Dictionary provides an exhaustive presentation of synonyms. Where a word in the original has a variety of English renderings, a list is given of these at the close of the article on each word. This assures a comprehensive word study of any given word.

Step 4: The New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance and Lexicon

In this volume, edited by George V. Wigram and J. P. Green, every Hebrew word in the Old Testament is arranged in Strong's alphabetical order and keyed to the Strong's numbering system. Each entry gives the part of speech (noun, verb, tense, etc.), the basic meaning of the word, the lemma (root) if applicable, and refers the student to closely related Hebrew words for comparison.

Listed below the entry is every occurrence of the Hebrew word in context with the English translation of the word in italics. Words are set in Hebrew type, transliterated and very readable.

Wigram is an important step in the Hebrew Bible study pathway, because each entry keys the student to Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon.

Step 5: Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon (B-D-B)

Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs work is the standard lexicon for Hebrew Bible study. This classic reference work offers you accurate definitions of any Hebrew/Aramaic word found in the Old Testament.

To aid the student in locating the correct entry each word is coded to the Strong's numbering system and appears in an index in the back of the Lexicon. Each word entry gives a basic translation followed by various nuances of meaning. The authors offer insights and commentary throughout each entry text. These insights give you a valuable perspective on the original writer's intent for that word in each passage.

Step 6: Use more advanced lexical aids

More advanced lexical resources that I use regularly in Hebrew Bible study include:

The two-volume Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Archer, and Waltke. This provides extensive scholarly discussion on every Hebrew/Aramaic word of theological significance in the Old Testament. Each entry focuses on theological meanings and not basic definitions.

The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (15 volumes), edited by Botterweck, Ringgren, and Fabry is the gold standard for Hebrew Bible study. This set provides comprehensive studies of each theologically significant word in the Old Testament. The dictionary provided detailed articles on each word including: etymology, secular use, Scriptural use, and theological considerations.

Would you like to host a WordSearch seminar at your church, Bible school, or Bible study group?

The basic Hebrew Bible study WordSearch class requires ten hours of class time. This is ideal for a weekend seminar. Typically I will teach 6-10 PM on Friday; 9 AM-noon and 1-4 PM on Saturday.

I am able to conduct a WordSearch seminar at your church, school, or study group throughout the United States and Canada. I am also available to teach WordSearch in other countries on a more limited basis.

Please contact me for more information.

Return to the WordSearch home page.

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Original Language resources and lexical aids for Hebrew WordSearch college classes and church seminars... as well as personal original language Bible study.

I have listed the primary Hebrew word study resources that I use. These are published by AMG and edited by the late Spiros Zodhiates. Other basic resources I use include Vine's Expository Dictionary, Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon and Wigram and Green's New Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance and Lexicon. For advanced Greek word study I recommend the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by Harris, Archer, and Waltke.

For biblical Hebrew students in college or university I recommend Pratico and Van Pelt's Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar.

I also listed several outstanding software packages, all of which I have used in my own Hebrew word study. These vary in purpose, complexity and price.

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