Hebrew FAQ

Can I really learn Hebrew?

Yes! Of course you can. You will work hard in our program, but if you trust the teachers, the process, the grammar and you're not afraid of hard work, you will read Hebrew. One of the strengths of this program is that it is designed to help you understand how Hebrew works so that your memory work is greatly reduced. Another strength is that we strongly emphasize learning in community so that the process is actually fun (despite the hard work). The faculty and tutors are committed to helping you succeed. If you want to learn Hebrew and will work with us as we lead you in the process, you will succeed.

What if I really struggle learning languages?

Then you are exactly the kind of student that makes us love our jobs — because we know you can learn Hebrew! Probably the greatest difficulty for students to overcome is their fear of languages in general. We could explain to you how we introduce an oral component from the first day, encourage the community learning environment, teach students how the language works rather than just force mass memorization, or put you right into the text so that the joy of reading the Word affects you immediately, but the truth is — you just have to trust us. You are not the only person who believes they struggle with languages, but we have never had one who hasn’t learned to read. In fact, some of those who absolutely fall in love with Hebrew would tell you that they are not language people at all. We promise all our students that, if they will trust us and will work hard, they will be able to read Hebrew.

If I am serious about languages, why would I love this program?

Multnomah offers one of the finest Hebrew programs in the United States. Its strength is measured by the number of its students who continue to use their Hebrew after graduation, by the performance of its students who go on to advanced degrees at prestigious institutions in the U.S. and abroad, and by the commitment of its instructors to the refinement of Hebrew education in the classroom. Modeled after the graduate programs in which its instructors were trained, the MU Hebrew program is committed to the academic rigor required for those pursuing a future in higher education while still making Hebrew accessible and relevant for those who struggle with languages. Students who excel and have a heart for teaching are invited to become part of our tutoring program, and we incorporate tutors, TA’s, interns and practicum students into the teaching process wherever possible. 

How much work does it take to learn Hebrew? 

A lot. But we also want you to love it, so we keep the work-load in check. Yes, we know you take other classes, and that this may not be your primary focus. It will be our task (one that we relish) to make your time worthwhile and to help you not only read the text, but to fall in love with it. We are aware that language acquisition is a process and that it happens at different paces for different people. Thus we set realistic time limits to protect you. You may not complete every assignment, but if you spend the allotted time, you will be granted full credit. We want you to be prepared for class, but also want to give you confidence to read even when you feel unprepared. We are serious about not over-working you (2-3 hours for every class hour), but, yes, you will work hard. 

What can I do with one year of Hebrew?

Read the Bible! Cool, huh? By the end of first year, you will have translated a slightly modified version of the entire Joseph story (adapted to your progressing skill level), the Hebrew text of Ruth and Jonah, and portions of Esther (and don't forget a few choice Hebrew fairy tales). We get you into the text as soon as possible (week 3). After all, that is why you are taking the class in the first place. But you won't just learn to translate it. You will begin to have a feel for how the language communicates. Our goal is that you do not "decode" Hebrew into English, but read it with understanding. (Obviously, you will learn this better by taking second year too. But you already know that.)

Do I need Hebrew to understand the Bible?

No. One of the neatest things about the Bible is that we can understand and faithfully apply its truths even in translation. That said, knowing Hebrew makes the Scriptures come alive in a whole new way. Reading in the original language sharpens your sensitivity to meaning and makes the experience of reading fresh. Hebrew is a very expressive and passionate language that is just plain fun to read. Furthermore, knowing Hebrew enables you to see what the commentators must otherwise explain to you and gives you the ability to evaluate the legitimacy of their observations.

Why should I learn Hebrew if I know Greek?

Students often get the impression that Greek is all you need for doing biblical studies. But this can stem from an unconscious assumption that the Old Testament is obsolete and irrelevant and that theology is primarily a New Testament discipline. Some even suggest that the study of Hebrew is unnecessary because the early church used the Greek OT, the Septuagint (LXX). However, the New Testament cannot be adequately understood apart from the Old. Our theology demands an awareness of the revelation of God throughout all Scripture. Furthermore, while the Septuagint is a valuable resource, it offers an interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, not a definitive translation. 

What do the professors value most?

The professors at Multnomah desire above all to have your Hebrew learning ignite a passion for God through his Word. Hebrew is an avenue to ask the difficult questions of theology and life within a transparent and honest search for answers. We are also committed to making this your experience far beyond the confines of Multnomah. Most of the people who quit using their Hebrew skills later in life do so because of three things: 1) They don’t have a broad enough vocabulary base to keep translation from becoming a chore, 2) They haven’t translated enough biblical text to have acquired confidence in interpretation and translation, and 3) They have no realistic plan for maintaining their skills.  We want our students to stay in the text after they graduate, and we will give you the tools to do so.

What are your graduates doing?

Everything under the sun. Regardless of what you hope to do in life, every one of our students takes Hebrew first and foremost to know God's Word for themselves. Hebrew is about learning to see God through his Word. We could wow you with what some of our students have done coming out of our program — studying and teaching in top universities throughout the world. But we are just as proud of those who go on to pursue their calling in other fields — e.g., Bible translation work, church planting, counseling, pastoring, restaurant management, service occupations (police officers, etc.), secondary education, teaching English as a second language (TESOL), teaching in Third World countries, parenting, and more.