University of Sydney Handbooks - 2016 Archive

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Hebrew (Classical)

The Hebrew (Classical) Program is taught by the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies within the School of Languages and Cultures (SLC).

About the major

In the Classical Hebrew major, you will learn how to translate and understand texts in Classical Hebrew. The Classical Hebrew texts are primarily from the Bible, but over the course of your major you will have the opportunity to study all the varieties of pre-Modern Hebrew, from the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls to that of ancient inscriptions, the Mishnah, and medieval commentators on the Bible. In addition to the study of texts in Hebrew, you have the option to add other units of study, especially from the Biblical Studies program. By the end of your major you will have mastered the ability to translate a wide variety of Classical Hebrew texts and will be aware of the academic resources available to support high-level study of these texts. In addition you will have acquired specific skills for understanding the meaning and style of each of the varieties of texts. These are the essential skills you will need for advanced research on the biblical texts such as in postgraduate study.

Pathway through the major

A major in Classical Hebrew requires at least 36 senior credit points including six credit points from either HBRW2623 or HBRW2625, and 6 credit points from either HBRW3601 or HBRW3602.

The units of study for the major can be found in the Table A unit of study table for Classical Hebrew. The table shows units of study on offer in the current handbook year. You may find information regarding a full list of units of study available to the major on the departmental website.

Junior units of study (1000 level)

In your first year you complete two junior units: HBRW1111 Hebrew Classical B1 and HBRW1112 Hebrew Classical B2. These are the foundation for senior units of study by teaching the skills necessary to translate Classical Hebrew texts. They are beginners’ level units which lay the groundwork of grammar and translation skills by working with Biblical texts of a relatively easy level, generally narrative.

If you have more advanced skills you will need to consult the department to be placed in the appropriate senior unit.

Senior units of study (2000 and 3000 level)

In second and third year you take senior units of study which build on the basic skills taught in junior units. HBRW2623, HBRW2625, HBRW3601 and HBRW3602 continue the study of Biblical texts by looking at different genres, not only for their linguistic and stylistic features but also with an eye to understanding how each genre communicates its meaning, covering prophetic (HBRW2623), Psalmic (HBRW3601), legal (HBRW2625) and non-Psalms poetic (HBRW3602) texts. In addition to the study of biblical texts these units work through each of the attested varieties of pre-Modern Hebrew, focusing on the distinctive linguistic features of each group of texts compared to Biblical Hebrew, as well as the current scholarly debates in the study of each: Mishnaic Hebrew (HBRW2623), Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) Hebrew (HBRW3601), ancient inscriptions (HBRW2625), and Medieval Hebrew (HBRW 3602). These units of study are offered in a two-year rotation. Whichever sequence you follow, you will experience a progressive increase of knowledge not only about each individual type of Hebrew literature, but also in the depth of your understanding of the methodological issues in studying literature in Classical Hebrew as a whole. The 36 senior credit points for a major also may include further Hebrew (HBRW2631 and HBRW2632) or Syriac (HBRW2651 and HBRW2652) units, as well as Biblical Studies units (BBCL2603, BBCL2607, BBCL3601, BBCL3602).

Example pathway:

First year:
HBRW 1111 and HBRW 1112 (Hebrew Classical B1 and B2)

Second year:
HBRW 2623 (Hebrew Classical 3) and HBRW 3601 (Hebrew Classical Advanced 4) [or: HBRW 2625 (Hebrew Classical 5) and HBRW 3602 (Hebrew Classical Advanced 6); these courses are offered in alternative years and can be taken in either order]. Plus two units from Biblical Studies (BBCL 2603, 3601, 2607, 3602) or HBRW 2631 and HBRW 2632 Hebrew Accelerated C1 and C2

Third year:
HBRW 2625 (Hebrew Classical 5) and HBRW 3602 (Hebrew Classical Advanced 6) [or: HBRW 2623 (Hebrew Classical 3) and HBRW 3601 (Hebrew Classical Advanced 4); these courses are offered in alternative years and can be taken in either order]


A high proportion of students who major in Classical Hebrew continue to an honours year. To qualify for honours you need to have completed 48 credit points from senior units of study with an average of 70 percent or above. This includes the 36 senior credit points required for a major plus another 12 senior credit points. An example of a common combination of units for honours would consist of six Classical Hebrew senior units of study (eg HBRW2623, HBRW2625, HBRW2651, HBRW2652, HBRW3601, and HBRW3602) plus two Biblical Studies units of study (eg BBCL2603, BBCL3601). The honours program allows an even broader integration of the overall Classical Hebrew program with the Biblical Studies program in which you will study biblical compositions and themes which involve a high level of Hebrew knowledge, and write a research thesis on a topic of your choice.

Contacts/further information

Program website:

Course coordinator: Associate Professor Ian Young, Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
Room 621, Brennan MacCallum Building, A18
Phone +61 2 9351 6671

or contact the SLC office at