Zondervan has just released updated editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, as well as related aids for students working through those textbooks. Behold:
Zondervan Academic has sent these for review. It feels like a long time ago (though it was only 10 years) that I began learning biblical languages. I spent hours and hours combing through the previous editions of these Greek and Hebrew textbooks, filling out almost every page of the workbooks, and learning the vocabulary with the cards. So I’m excited to work through these resources and report back.
In the meantime, you can click the links below to learn more. When I post I’ll point out differences in the new editions, but please also leave comments or questions if you’re wondering about a specific aspect of these new resources, and I’ll do my best to address them in the reviews.
This approach begins by observing that within Biblical Hebrew texts a number of types or “discourses” can be identified. Each type has a particular function that is readily evident. Narrative discourse relates the events of a story (Gen 8). Predictive discourse speaks of an event in advance of its occurrence (I Sam 10:2s7). Hortatory discourse is meant to exhort someone to act in a particular manner (Job 2:9). Procedural discourse tells someone either how to do something or how something was done (Gen 27:1-4). And expository/descriptive discourse is meant to explain something or make a statement (2 Sam 12:7). (3)
The Jonah handbook is short and compact. The formatting is easy to follow. First there is an English translation, passage-by-passage. Then the Hebrew text is reprinted verse-by-verse (making this an all-in-one-place reading aid). After that is “an analysis of that clause as a whole, with comments related to the function of the clause, its discourse type, and related syntactic matters” (9). Finally, there are word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase comments.
Overall, I appreciated the handbook: I read it cover to cover. The grammatical comments are helpful at multiple turns. For example, here is the text of Jonah 3:8
When a preposition governs more than one object, the preposition will typically be repeated before each object. The waw copulative + מִן signals the continuation of the prepositional phrase.
Here’s a representative comment using discourse analysis, coming at Jonah 3:10:
A qatal in a dependent clause provides background information in the relative past (i.e., past in comparison to the mainline). This is often expressed in translation through the use of a pluperfect (Longacre, 82).
These two paragraphs from Jonah 1:5 give a good sense of the depth and utility of the comments:
The target audience is the student who is “making the move from introductory grammar to biblical text” (1). Given that, a surprising number of terms (irrealis, factitive, prosopopeia, diegetic, and more) go unlisted in the 28-term Glossary. And the discourse analysis is too much at times, as in this difficult paragraph:
Typically in narrative discourse, the negation of any verb is understood as irrealis scene setting and appears at the lowest level on the discourse profile scheme. The negation of a verb stops the forward progress of the narrative by indicating what is not the case. Longacre, however, has suggested that in certain contexts a negation may be termed a “momentous negation” because it is critical in advancing the narrative line forward (82). In these rare occurrences, the verb form is understood as a second-rank construction (similar to the X + qatal), in effect actually serving to move the narrative along. The events and dialog in chapter 4 are predicated, in part, on the momentous negation that occurs at the end of 3:10. The object of the verb is absent due to ellipsis.
Typos in the book are surprisingly frequent, especially occurring in the English translations. The book sets out to provide lexical forms for every verb in Jonah but omits them in a number of instances, leaving the reader without needed help at times. And the Malachi handbook has a “word chart” which I have hoped to see in other volumes, but haven’t. (Baylor published the Malachi volume after Jonah.)
On the plus side, Tucker commented more than I expected on the style of the author of Jonah—this helped me better understand the Hebrew in context. And there are more comments with exegetical and even preaching payoff than one might expect from a series that the editors intend to serve as a sort of prequel to a commentary.
If you’re reading through Jonah in Hebrew, will you want this handbook? Despite what I see as some shortcomings, yes. The best commentary on Jonah is probably this one, which covers Hebrew well, but in its transliterated form. So if you’re going to go deep with the Hebrew of Jonah, Tucker’s handbook is a nice companion—and much of his discourse analysis is clear, even if the reader needs to reference his introductory comments (and external sources) a few times along the way.
The handbook is available through Amazon (here) and the publisher (here).
Thanks to Baylor University Press for the review copy—sent to me with no expectation as to my reivew’s content.
I’ve been practicing reading Greek fairly regularly all year. Hebrew had fallen a bit by the wayside until recently. As of the last two weeks, however, I think I’ve got a good rhythm now for keeping both fresh.
I know I’m not the only pastor who finds it a challenge to not lose the heard-earned results of semesters and years of Greek and Hebrew in the classroom.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
1. Reading through the Greek New Testament, roughly a chapter a day.
To become more fluent in reading, there’s no substitute for… you know… reading. I just got through 2 Corinthians, which I think might be the most difficult book in the New Testament—in both Greek and English!
These are books to read cover to cover, especially when you want to move from “rapid reading” to more detailed analysis of the text. I just finished Jonah and have started in on †Rod Decker’s Mark. You can see more about the series in my reviews of Luke and Malachi (here and here).
3. Reading my preaching passage in the original language, maybe even making my own translation.
I just preached through Ephesians. I translated much of it as I studied the text—either typing it out or doing it in my head. Especially with Paul’s longer sentences and more involved lines of thought in the first three chapters, this was challenging, but also essential in my grasping the text.
Now with the Old Testament lectionary readings in view (hello, prophets!), I’ll have a chance to reactivate my Hebrew reading.
If you (a) preach somewhat regularly and (b) want to make use of your Greek and Hebrew, why not combine the two endeavors? Both your preaching and your languages will be the better for it.
(NB: I teach a Webinar on this very topic, with more dates TBA. Here’s the handout.)
I’m really fortunate to have a reading partner for #1 above, reading through the GNT. This is an immense help and likely deserves its own post. Just remember that skill-building often happens best in community.
5. Learning to enjoy reading Greek and Hebrew.
Lack of proficiency for me is a great way to not enjoy a task; conversely, the more I read, the more comfortable I am with the text (Galatians was almost easy after 2 Corinthians!). Reading the Bible in its first languages also forces me to slow down and carefully consider what I’m reading. Greek and Hebrew reading fit well into devotional practices. (Great book on this, by the way, here: Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek: Reading the New Testament with Fluency and Devotion).
How about you? If you’ve been keeping your Greek and Hebrew active, what’s been helpful? What pitfalls are you facing? What other resources should I and others like me be using?
I mean, just take a look at the Table of Contents! Thank you, T. Muraoka, for writing it.
It is undoubtedly worth every penny, though it does cost many pennies, as you might expect.
Here’s what the publisher says about it:
This is the first ever comprehensive analysis of the morphosyntax and syntax of Septuagint Greek. The work is based on the most up-to-date editions of the Septuagint. The so-called Antiochene version of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as well as Judges has been studied. Though this is a synchronic grammar, and though not systematic, comparison with Classical Greek, the Greek of contemporary literature of the Hellenistic-Roman period, papyri and epigraphical data, and New Testament Greek has often been undertaken. Even when analysing translated documents of the Septuagint, the perspective is basically that of its readers. However, attempts were made to determine in what ways and to what extent the structure of the Semitic source languages may have influenced the selection of this or that particular construction by translators. At many places it is demonstrated and illustrated how an analysis of the morphosyntax and syntax can illuminate our general interpretation of the Septuagint text.
Here it is at Peeters Publishers. Here‘s the Amazon page.
Conybeare and Stock’s Selections from the Septuagint According to the Text of Swete is a classic–if somewhat dated–work in Septuagint studies. You may also know it as Grammar of Septuagint Greek.
The grammar section is short, and leaves one desiring a properly full grammar of Septuagint Greek. But it’s the best starting point there is, so the Septuagint student will still want to read it. It is chock-full of Scripture references (and quotations), which in the print edition will require a fair amount of looking things up. (The need for this is obviated if you buy the Accordance or Logos edition.)
The grammar section is dense–if selective in its treatment–but not overly obtuse. There is a 20+-page introduction on the Septuagint, its origin, the Letter of Aristeas, transmission, and so on. It offers succinct coverage of the “long process” of the “making of the Septuagint.”
After the introduction there are “Accidence” and “Syntax” sections, the former covering morphology and the latter addressing sentence structure. To get a feel for how much coverage a section has, here is part of a page on “number” in Septuagint Greek:
One oddity that appears to be a printing error is that the Table of Contents for the Grammar appears after the Grammar, on about page 100 or so.
The grammar, then, is a good enough starting point, but won’t really take one deeply into study of a particular grammatical or syntactical feature of the text. Would that T. Muraoka might give us a full Septuagint grammar! (Wait–the day after I drafted that sentence, I saw this. Awesome.)
However, Conybeare and Stock more than make up for any lack in the comprehensiveness of the grammar proper with their guided reading section. It is still the most thorough resource of its kind available for the Septuagint. (Though that looks set to change this fall.)
With the Septuagint texts there are reading helps at the bottom of each page. Especially for those who have only read New Testament Greek, this is a great next step. Here is what “The Story of Joseph” looks like (click to enlarge):
You’ll note the attention to grammatical detail, especially, in the notes. And the introductory mini-essays before each reading were a pleasant surprise. These selected readings have definitely helped me keep my Greek going, or ramp it back up after some delays in using it.
You can find Conybeare and Stock’s little gem at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.
Another LXX print resource from Wipf and Stock is A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint: Giving Various Readings from Codices Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephraemi.
It’s what you’d expect: a compact, easy-to-carry-around concordance to words found in the Greek Old Testament. To boot: there is an appendix featuring words from Origen’s Hexapla that are “not found in the above manuscripts.”
Of course, a “handy” concordance cannot include every LXX word. Pronouns and prepositions and the like do not occur here. Those engaged in academic study of the Septuagint will probably cringe at this line:
All reference to the Apocrypha has been omitted; principally because it was judged that the Apocryphal books should never have a place with the Holy Scriptures.
There is the offer that if “the apocryphal parts are thought to be needed, any one so disposed can carry out that work.” (Bible software to the rescue!) But Codex Vaticanus, on which the concordance is primarily based, includes what Protestants consider “Apocrypha.” That those books should be omitted on theological grounds seems an unfortunate decision.
Otherwise the book is easy to carry and doesn’t require electricity or software updates, so Apocryphal omission aside, it could have its place in the LXX student’s library. Here’s what part of a page looks like:
You can find the LXX concordance at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.
Thanks to Wipf and Stock for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.
This reader is for anyone very eager to read the story of Daniel in the lions’ den and many other fascinating stories in their original language, Aramaic.
A brief outline of Biblical Aramaic grammar is followed by a verse-by-verse grammatical commentary on the Aramaic chapters in the books of Daniel and Ezra. Both the outline grammar and the grammatical commentary presuppose basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew. Constant references are made in the commentary to relevant sections of the outline grammar. The commentary is written in a user-friendly, not overtly technical language. Some grammatical exercises with keys and paradigms conclude the Reader. Also suitable for self-study.
At just under 100 pages, it looks great. Find it on Amazon here.
Two observations that didn’t fit into that review, with one that did:
Campbell’s writing is good. Compelling, clear, cogent, coherent, etc.
He has a further reading section after each chapter, and his footnotes point to even more related literature that I already want to check out.
I didn’t expect there to be as many practical, exegetical examples as there were, but this made me more engaged with the book, and helped me see more explicitly how its contents could better inform my sermon preparation.