A little while back I mentioned the arrival of a new software package called Babel Flashcards, a nice little suite of vocabulary building tools for students of the Bible. Since then, there’s been a bit of a bibliobloggers discussion about the necessity of pastors and others learning the biblical languages. Providentially (?), I’ve been using the flashcard software since it arrived and now am in a position to offer some observations which, I hope, will dovetail nicely with the question of the acquisition of biblical language proficiency.
When I received word that the producers of the software wondered if I would review it, I gladly agreed. I made my way to the website and chose the package which included the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek cards –
This bundle includes three high-quality modules at a significant discount: Biblical Greek (Mounce), Biblical Hebrew (CBHAG), and Biblical Aramaic (CBHAG).
It seemed to me that it wouldn’t be prudent to describe just one deck of flashcards when readers may be interested in all three biblical languages. Individual language decks are available. So I made that selection and went through the download process.
1- I received an email confirmation along with a download link and product key.
2- I downloaded the package (it comes in a zip format, but it need not be unzipped).
3- I have to confess that once having downloaded the package I was a bit confused when it came to the actual installation. Usually one unzips zipped files but since the directions suggested that such wasn’t necessary, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. Then I noticed that a desktop icon for the program had also been added to my, well, desktop, so I clicked on it and the program opened.
4- At that point a java update initiated. Apparently this is part of the regular loading routine. Fair enough, but it does slow down the actual utilization of the program.
5- Once the Babel program opened it was necessary to ‘add’ the ‘decks’ which I had received. Using the product key that came in the download email I copied and pasted it into the appropriate box. Nothing happened. After trying several times I finally realized that when I copied the key I had copied a blank space at the end. This blank space caused the key to be inaccurate, so I deleted the blank and the installation proceeded without hindrance.
6- Once the products were installed, it was quite easy to navigate the decks.
And that brings me to the utter usefulness of this product and the fact that Pastors and students will certainly benefit tremendously from using it. There’s just no substitute for vocabulary memorization when it comes to learning the biblical languages. And there’s just no substitute for keeping one’s vocabulary skills fresh by consulting flashcards of the sort offered by this software.
The package is well worth the price. The importance of utilizing such tools cannot be overstated. And the ease with which this package can be utilized makes it extremely useful.
The installation instructions need to be simplified (because there are people, like me, who are lucky to know how to turn a computer on, much less install zipped software). But that quibble aside, I commend this material to those who wish to acquire a working knowledge of the biblical languages. By using such user friendly tools, pastors, no matter how busy they are, can keep their language skills fresh. And students can benefit as well by achieving a deeper familiarity with the words found in the Bible- so long as they remember that basic meanings and dictionary entries of biblical words are just the beginning point of understanding and that context isn’t just the only thing, it’s everything when it comes to exegesis.