Professor Is Developing Free
Web-Based Course on Biblical
Posted August 7, 2002
HOLLAND -- Dr. Barry Bandstra of the Hope College
religion faculty wants to give away what he knows, to anyone
Bandstra is developing "Reading Hebrew," a Web-
based course that he intends to make available for free. He
hopes to make it easier for others to learn biblical Hebrew
by providing a resource for colleagues at other institutions
and even individual students.
"One of my goals is to provide a tool that would
encourage and facilitate teaching biblical Hebrew at the
college level, especially at liberal arts colleges where
staffing and resources in Old Testament may be low," said
Bandstra, a professor of religion and chair of the
department at Hope. "I also hope that the learning package
will be useful for individuals students of biblical
literature who may not have access to college or seminary
instruction, such as pastors who desire to learn, review or
further develop their biblical Hebrew reading skills."
Bandstra is developing a package of materials that
can be used in a two-semester course sequence. In support
of his work, he has received a grant from the Wabash Center
for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, which is
based at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. The $14,256
grant from the center will fund materials, stipend support
for Bandstra and a student researcher, and other expenses
through the summer of 2003.
The package will include the entire Hebrew Bible,
sound files, and a full set of grammar lessons, and self-
graded exercises and tests. Bandstra also hopes that it
will be inviting. "The basic premise of my work developing
Internet resources for biblical study is that instructors
must find them extremely easy to use," he said.
The Web-based resource is just the sort of
material that Bandstra, an Old Testament scholar who has
been at Hope since 1983, would like to have in his own
teaching. In fact, he has already been using a preliminary
version in his biblical Hebrew course at Hope, and intends
to use the completed edition as well.
The project combines two of his scholarly
interests: biblical Hebrew linguistics, and the use of
computing technology as an instructional tool.
The content will feature a grammar of biblical
Hebrew that Bandstra has developed using a "functional"
approach to learning language--meaning with a primary
emphasis on learning the language as a means of
communication, with secondary emphasis on memorizing forms
and rules. "By writing my own functional grammar in the
form of a teaching grammar, and making it available as a Web
course, I am able to introduce this new approach to
understanding language, and at the same time do it using
computing resources that will aid in the learning and
understanding process," he said.
The technical development will draw on the two
decades he has spent designing materials for both the
personal computer and, more recently, the Web. In 1989, he
received one of only 12 Apple Computer Courseware
Development Grants awarded to the Consortium of Liberal Arts
Colleges; in 2000, britannica.com gave his multi-media
textbook "Reading the Old Testament" a four-star "Superior"
He hopes that the combination will produce
increased emphasis on a field of study that, for him, is a
"My basic motivation in developing this project is
that I love teaching biblical Hebrew to college students,"
Bandstra said. "If biblical Hebrew comes to be taught at
institutions where before it had not been, I'll consider it