Tag Archives: Hebrew language

S.T.E.P. (Scripture Tools for Every Person)

A fantastic new web resource from our friends at Tyndale House has gone live and it’s titled ‘STEP” – which stands for Scripture Tools for Every Person.  Here are some screenshots showing just a very few of the features.  Note, though, that hovering your mouse over any word in the English version and up pops (in either the Greek or Hebrew text) the underlying text (click the images to enlarge) :




This is one of my favorite features:  hover your mouse over a word and the occurrences in the displayed text are highlighted and the word’s definition pops up in a box at the top right (for Greek and Hebrew both) :


You can check out the folk who worked on the project here.  I think this is one of the best resources on the web for biblical research.  It is exceptionally user friendly and easy to navigate.  We all owe the folk at Tyndale House a hearty thank you.

Fun Facts From Church History: Zwingli’s Initial Thoughts on Hebrew

On March 25, 1522 Zwingli writes Rhenanus-

Pelicano, posteaquam salutaveris, refer, orsum nos esse Hebraicas literas. Dii boni, quam illepidum ac triste studium! nec tamen desistam, donec ad aliquam frugem penetrem.

“Tell Pellican that I have begun Hebrew. Ye gods, how distasteful and melancholy a study! But I shall persist until I get something out of it.”  

He did pursue it not only till he ‘got something’ out of it, but until he mastered it.  Aids to study were few and far between and pursuing Hebrew was, then, far more difficult than acquiring Greek (which was itself exceptionally poorly studied since few grammars were available).

The Session With Goodacre, Rollston and Tabor

It was a good session.  Mark and Chris did a good job and James also did, though for me not as persuasively.  Indeed, Mark and Chris undermined the evidence which James presented so thoroughly that, again for me, there’s no reason to hold his view.

Nevertheless, it was good to chat with James even just for a moment.  He’s a genuinely nice person.  Afterwards Chris and I went for coffee and that was exceedingly pleasant.

It was nice to chat with Mark for moment too.  That’s always the case though.  Here are some photos- including the VERY nice gift Chris brought- my name in Pale0-Hebrew carved in Cherry wood.  It’s beautiful.

Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Leiden…

Viv Rowett writes

A matter of concern has been sent by Mervyn Richardson with a petition to sign should you feel moved so to do: As you may have heard, Leiden has decided to scale back the status of Hebrew and Jewish studies which has caused great outcry in town and gown circles nationwide. Muraoka has sent this formal petition which has been instigated by the Dutch OT Society (Sec. Eibert Tigchelaar).

I have signed it.  I hope others will as well.

Heiser v. Decker: The Thrilla in Bellingham

Michael writes

Someone sent me this link today by Dr. Rod Decker of Clarks Summit: Can you skip 1st year Greek and start with 2d year?  Dr. Decker proceeds to bash the “Learn to Use Greek and Hebrew” product produced by Logos Bible Software, of which I had a part in producing (and we plan to produce a 2.0 version in 2013).  Once again, a critic has managed to misunderstand the marketing claims for the product.

It must be v. day today.  Sometimes days shape up to be thematic.  Today is brought to you by the letter V – versus.  It’s a good word to know, quite frankly, given the pale accommodationism of our day.

And then the real fun begins

Since Dr. Decker felt free to insult the product (and me, by extension, along with the company I work for), I’d like to enter a dialogue with him.

Question: What discipline in the world embraces a 90% failure rate and calls it a success and the right course to follow?

Year after year thousands of students take Greek and Hebrew to learn to be translators – to reproduce (crudely) what they could buy in any given bookstore, and get free from the Gideons). In schools that require only one year of Greek and Hebrew, the student never gets to exegesis. Many seminaries fall into that category. So what does the student take away?  However, a good number of schools do require a second year (albeit a smaller number than 20 years). So, of those students that get through the second year, how many graduate and use their Greek and Hebrew *regularly* (week to week) in sermons? If the number was high, I’d expect that we’d see congregations across the United States where people are being fed solid meat from the pulpit. Pardon my skepticism in that regard.

Sure, there are such places, but an abundance? What do we have to show for the thousands of students who take two years of Greek and Hebrew?  The reality is that of the students who survive two years of each language, most don’t use it. Why? reasons vary.

I’ll answer that one- laziness.  Pastors are – by and large – lazy.  Too lazy to work in the original languages and some even too lazy to do their own sermons, instead opting to buy books of sermon outlines.  Feeding, thereby, their congregations regurgitated filth.

The realities of ministry simply don’t allow most pastors to review their languages to maintain the memorization levels needed to be translators. Another is that a second year course is often inadequate (who does Dr. Decker trust more in handling the text — his two year students or his doctoral students?). Second year Greek often is just category memorization, not exegesis.  Second year usually constitutes a short review of forms and vocab, then on to memorizing syntactical categories for exams and perhaps producing an exegetical paper.

If someone is lucky, the professor actually situates all that memorization into an exegetical method. But that is rare. Personally, I took Greek syntax three times at three different schools (I got an A each time; it was just a quirk of my educational path that required me to keep taking it). I never learned an exegetical method. I also never had to produce an exegetical paper. I had to wait until I got to graduate school in Hebrew studies to get anything that looked like that.

That’s kind of sad.  At the college I attended Religion majors were required to do exegetical papers based on the original languages.   I’m sure that’s changed now, but back in the 80’s we at least had to do it.

A little Greek (or Hebrew) is a dangerous thing, my Prof used to say constantly.  How right he was.  No Greek (or Hebrew) is even more dangerous because its foundation is laziness couched in the mantle of ‘pastoral busy-ness’.

Michael has more- all good stuff.

More on Logos 5: Reading Plans

Earlier versions of Logos also allowed users to construct their own ‘reading plans’ but it’s a feature certainly worth highlighting once again.  Simply put, the ‘reading plan’ utility is one of my absolute favorite.  I’ve already constructed one to use to read the Hebrew Bible through in 2013 and one for the Greek New Testament as well.  But, given my absolute adoration of organization, I’ve also made one for TLOT and one for Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (because it’s been my custom to read a Greek or Hebrew Grammar every few years just to keep things ‘in mind’ since grad school).

Anyway, constructing a plan is easy as pie, and so is correcting one, as will shortly be demonstrated.

First, one need simply go to the ‘reading plan’ section of the software (and all of the screenshots below should be clicked on to be enlarged) :

Second, pick the book from your library you want to read through:

Next, select your reading schedule:

Then just click ‘Generate’ and voila, there it is!

You’ll now see your plan in the left panel of your software:

But, oops.. I made a mistake, setting the plan for Gesenius to run for a year and I want, instead, to read it through in 12 weeks.  But that’s easy enough to correct, just open your reading plan and click edit and change whatever you like-

And now, having corrected my blunder, if I close the window and return to the main page, here’s what I’ve got-

Users can create as many different reading plans as they wish with as many different schedules as one can imagine.  Plans can be exported and printed as can any other segment of text one wishes and by means of the same method.  The possibilities are almost limitless and – again – this aspect of the software is just simply spectacular.

Mainz Colloquium

11. Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (11. MICAH) Mainz November 1st – 3rd, 2013

Invitation and Call for Papers

The 11th Mainz International Colloquium on Ancient Hebrew (11. MICAH) will take place at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, from Friday, 1st to Sunday 3rd November 2013.

Topics of the meeting cover grammar and linguistics of Ancient and Classical Hebrew (Epigraphic and Biblical Hebrew, Qumran and related Hebrew, and Ben Sira), as well as studies of adjacent Semitic languages and epigraphy, as for instance Ugaritic, Phoenician-Punic, Old and Imperial Aramaic, Syriac, Moabite and Edomite. Topics on general epigraphy, paleography, adjacent non-Semitic (e.g. Philistine), and general linguistics in connection with these languages are also welcome.

We encourage scholars in the field to give lectures of preferably 20-30 minutes on a topic of their choice.

Depending on papers submitted, topics will be arranged into special sessions within the following areas:

Biblical Hebrew
Postbiblical Hebrew
Lexicography & Semantics
Epigraphy & Palaeography
General topics of Northwest Semitic paleography, and other.

Conference languages are German, English, and French. As we wish to avoid parallel sessions, the call will be deemed closed when the optimal number of proposed papers for each is accepted. For this reason, if you are considering participation, the earlier you send your proposal the better.

Postgraduates, or PhD. doctorate students are explicitly invited to present their projects where they might benefit from collegial discussions and a friendly, non-conceited atmosphere. Any one applying in this category, please indicate your institution and supervisor.

For participation, we request a fee of 30 Euro, which is due on site. For those who present a paper, participation is free. Active students may request the suspension of fees, which might be granted depending on the availability of funds.

Please send paper proposals to the undersigned (lehmann@uni-mainz.de) or to MICAH@uni-mainz.deand indicate the topic (preliminary or working title) and the estimated length of presentation.

While no formal pre-registration form is needed, for planning purposes, it is nevertheless important that we receive soon an email declaration of intent, at the above address.

We are not organizing travel or housing arrangements, but will gladly inform you on available lodging near the University.

For all questions and concern please contact the undersigned:
Dr. Reinhard G. Lehmann
Academic Director / Ancient Hebrew and NWS Languages
Research Unit on Ancient Hebrew and Epigraphy
Faculty of Protestant Theology
Tel. +49-6131-39-23284 (office)

Another Request for Logos Help

I hope this is something that has a simple solution.  Let’s say that I’m reading Exodus and I want the Hebrew text to be synchronized as I scroll through it with the Latin text and the LXX.  Is that possible?  Or must I, as I now do, manually scroll through each window?

Further- I presume that if I can do this for the Old Testament I can also do it with the new, aligning the GNT with the Vulgate and some or other English version or German or whatever.  Right?

Six Fiscal Bullae

Robert Deutsch has an essay in a new volume published by SBL in which he examines 6 bullae. He writes

All six bullae are inscribed in Hebrew script and in the Hebrew language. Four bullae are dated and described as belonging to the king who is unnamed, and two are undated. The bullae presented in this paper belong to Group I. The formula used on the fiscal bullae of this group is constant: 1) The date, marked in hieratic numerals; 2) the name of a town; and 3) the king’s ownership. The use of Egyptian hieratic numerals is due to the fact that an individual Hebrew numeric system had not yet developed in Judah in the First Temple period; they are also used on Hebrew ostraca and weights. Two bullae feature Egyptian iconography, a four-winged serpent uraeus wearing the horned sun disk crown of Hathor. Egyptian iconography is often used in the glyptic art of the Iron Age and is also found on seals and seal impressions.

Here, for example, is figure 6-

The essay is nicely done and nicely analytical and I’m sure the remainder of the volume is also useful.

Logos Users- An Announcement

I’ve been informed that the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Bundle is on sale this week for only $109.95?  The sale is good through Thursday the 11th, with couponcode WEEKLYNTDISCOURSE.  You can see the collection here.  http://www.logos.com/product/3888/lexham-discourse-greek-new-testament-bundle.  I mention it (gladly) because I previously have reviewed the Lexham Hebrew Discourse Bible and I suspect that the New Testament side of things is equally useful.

Fun Facts from Church History: Luther and Hebrew

According to Helen Kraus, Martin Luther’s knowledge of Hebrew was minimal and, in his own words he was ‘… no Hebrew grammarian, nor do I wish to be’.  Luther also expressed ‘a deep-seated distaste for Hebrew grammar’. She continues, ‘Luther depended heavily upon such distinguished Hebraists as Bernard Ziegler, Mattheus Aurogallus, Andreas Osiander, and Caspar Cruciger’ for the German translation of the Old Testament.’*

[This in contrast to Zwingli’s mastery of Hebrew (and Greek).]

I was unable to track down Luther’s comments concerning his Hebrew skills so I inquired of Prof. Kraus and not having received any reply I turned to the learned Christian Moser who provided the following citations:

WA TR 3, no. 3271b: “Ego nullus sum Hebraeus grammatice et regulariter, quia nullis patior me vinculis constringi, sed libere versor. Etiamsi quis linguarum dona habeat, attamen non statim potest in aliam linguam transferre. Das ist ein sonderliche Gottes gabe, interpretari.”

or similarly WA TR 1, no. 1040: “Jch bin kein Ebräer nach der Grammatica und Regeln, denn ich lasse mich nirgendan binden, sondern ich gehe frei hindurch. Wenn einer gleich die Gabe der Sprachen hat, und verstehet sie, doch kann er darum nicht eine in die ander so bald bringen und wol verdolmetschen. Dolmetschen ist eine sonderliche Gnade und Gabe Gottes.”

However, concerning Kraus’s conclusion that Luther had a ‘distaste’ for Hebrew- Moser observes

No idea where she got the “the deep seated distaste” from, the quotation doesn’t allow this conclusion at all.

I have no idea where Kraus got the idea either. At any rate, it’s one of the benefits of modern life that citations that are unattributed or imprecise can be examined and uncovered fairly quickly.  And those which have no basis in the sources can also be brought to light as such.

* Helen Kraus, Gender Issues in Ancient and Reformation Translations of Genesis 1-4 (OUP,2011, p. 119).

How Good is the Hebrew of the Book of Ruth?

It’s a question addressed by Timothy Lim in a paper he’s uploaded for your reading pleasure at Academia.edu.

In this paper, I will examine one feature of this theme of estrangement by discussing the quality of Ruth’s Hebrew. I will suggest that while Ruth’s Hebrew is very good, it is uneven. The author of the book intentionally made her stumble over her words in one instance as he reminds the reader that she was “Ruth the Moabitess.”

Give it a look.

Reviewed: The Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible

Thanks to the good folk at Logos, this collection arrived for review in the recent past:

The Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible represents the culmination of years of study on the discourse features and devices speakers and writers of all languages use to convey meaning. The text of the Old Testament is annotated with visual representations for numerous communicative devices. These devices we use every day, but determining what they are, what they signify, and how to identify them in the Bible is something the vast majority of people are not equipped to do. The Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible identifies these discourse markers and performs complex discourse analysis of the entire Old Testament quickly, easily, and accurately, making it one of the most advanced tools for studying the Hebrew text.

My review is here.

Hebrew Webinar

Join a webinar on the Hebrew Bible as a language tutor!

The webinar will present a new free and open tool for persuasive Hebrew language learning. We are still prototyping the new tool and testing it in teaching, but it will be ready for dissemination for classes in the Autumn of 2013. We will share results from the classroom on how the Hebrew Bible can tutor your students and how you can facilitate their learning.

Time:The poll favors TUESDAY September 18 at 5-6 p.m. CET!

Organizers: Presenter: The presentation in the webinar will be given by Associate Professor Nicolai Winther-Nielsen, Aalborg University & Fjellhaug International University College Denmark who is the workpackage leader and learning designer for PLOTLearner. Co-participant: The programmer of PLOTLearner, IT Consultant Claus Tøndering, will answer technical questions. How to participate: If you register on Doodle, you will get information on how to participate.

We hope you will help us improve the learner experience by sharing your own ideas on language learning, online teaching and digital exams in our webinar. Also, as we produce open educational resources for lifelong learning in the European Union, we are very interested in input on how our learning technology might be adapted by Hebrew teachers and learners in Europe. At the same time, however, the technology is tested and adapted to theological education in Madagascar, so another important issue is how our technology can be best distributed to the Majority World where free and open, high-quality resources should be in high demand.

Please help us spread this information to Hebrew teachers and humanities scholars working with e-Learning and learning design as well as computational and applied linguistics!

See the webinar flier here for more information and how to take part.

For further information contact Nicolai Winther-Nielsen – nwn@dbi.edu.

The Best of the Psalms

Or perhaps, my favorite of the Psalms:

Ps 130:1 I cry out to you from the depths, LORD — 2 my Lord, listen to my voice! Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy! 3 If you kept track of sins, LORD — my Lord, who would stand a chance? 4 But forgiveness is with you— that’s why you are honored. 5 I hope, LORD. My whole beingr hopes, and I wait for God’s promise. 6 My whole being waits for my Lord— more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning! (CEB)

In the Vulgate it’s Psalm 129-

De profundis clamavi ad te Domine 2 Domine exaudi vocem meam fiant aures tuae intendentes in vocem deprecationis meae 3 si iniquitates observabis Domine Domine quis sustinebit 4 quia apud te propitiatio est propter legem tuam sustinui te Domine sustinuit anima mea in verbum eius 5 speravit anima mea in Domino 6 a custodia matutina usque ad noctem speret Israhel in Domino 7 quia apud Dominum misericordia et copiosa apud eum redemptio.

The bit in bold is the best part of the entire thing. The LXX doesn’t do the Hebrew the same justice that the Vulgate does-

ᾠδὴ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν ἐκ βαθέων ἐκέκραξά σε κύριε.

And the underlying Hebrew upon which all of them are based:

מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ יְהוָֽה׃

Isn’t it intriguing that what the Hebrew manages in just three words takes Greek eight. Latin takes 6 (which is twice as many words as Hebrew) and English, 9! That’s three times as many words to express the same thought.

A grossly wooden rendering in English of the simple profundity of the Hebrew might be ‘from-the-depths I-cry-for-you Yahweh’. If you allow the hyphenated bits to stand for single words, that manages it in 3.

Hebrew- it’s the best of languages because it’s compact. Say what you mean and mean what you say without mutilating it with unnecessary asides. Thank you, Hebrew.

Answering Your Letters

Dear Jim,

I saw a blogpost by another blogger which recommended a version of the bible.  But I happen to know that this blogger doesn’t read Hebrew or Greek.  Do you think I should take his advice?


Hello Manny (if I may),

That question doesn’t really require a lengthy answer.  No.  Persons may well tell you what version they enjoy or they might suggest that they are helped by this or that translation but without being familiar with the biblical languages such recommendations are utterly meaningless.  Such is akin to a person recommending a plate at a restaurant that they’ve never tasted.  ‘Oh yes, have the Veal’  ‘Have you had the Veal yourself?’  ‘No, but I hear it’s great!’…

When someone bereft of first hand knowledge of biblical texts recommends a version, take said advice with a HUGE grain of salt because they really don’t know if the translation they are commending to you is accurate or not (unless they’ve been told so by persons who do actually know).

I hope this helps (and doesn’t sound too mean.  Sometimes I’m wrongly accused of being mean and my directness is taken for rudeness but I’m as warm and fuzzy as a kitty).

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Jews and the KJV

A new opinion piece in Bible and Interpretation for your reading pleasure.

The 400th birthday of the King James Version (KJV) has prompted widespread celebration in academic and popular venues. While Jews have usually read the Bible from a scroll in Hebrew for liturgical purposes, the history of Jewish Bible translation is a long one and includes many languages, including Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, and Yiddish. Modernity sparked a renewed interest in the Bible among Jews and a new wave of translations, particularly into German and English. Surveying the relationship of Jews and the KJV, I cannot help but employ that overused word in the scholarly lexicon: ambivalence.

And he’s off and running.

What Languages Must One Know in order to be Competent in the Field of Biblical Studies?

I’d like to do something different than what Chris has (see his post for the background- and by the by, I’ve never heard of the people he’s responding to except the Duane guy – so this isn’t really part of that meme.  I’m just using it as a launching pad).

So, what languages must people know?  I’m going to answer in parts-

Part One- Pastors

Pastors need to know the Biblical languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  At a minimum.  No pastor worth his salt will ‘kiss the beloved through a sheet’ and come away satisfied and none can expound the biblical text without being able to read it.

Part Two- Old Testament Scholars

These folk need to know Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Eblaitic, and Greek.

Part Three- New Testament Scholars

Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic, and Latin

Part Four- Text Critics

These need to know the relevant ancient languages of the text they are examining.  If an OT text, than all those which the OT scholar masters plus those of the NT scholar plus at least German and French.  If a NT text critic then, frankly, many more (since the NT is attested in numerous languages from up to the 5th century CE).

All of the languages listed by section above are the bare minimum for each.  It really is necessary to read one or more modern language as well so that one can keep up with developments in one’s field and not be shackled to the narrow parochialism so common of pastors and academics in North America.

Without mastery of the requisite languages, pastors will be deficient, and academics will be as well, incapable of understanding that which they profess to be explaining to others.

Scholarship and Jewishness

At B&I

It is easy to find Bible scholarship by Jews that evidences nothing particularly Jewish. It is also easy to find non-Jewish Bible scholars who display mastery of scholarship produced in modern Hebrew, knowledge of rabbinic traditions, and theological independence from Christian biases regarding the relationship of “Old” and “New” Testament, language which many colleges and universities have abandoned. As in any profession, how a scholar has been trained has an enormous impact. When it comes to the Bible, purely disciplinary considerations prove to be controlling factors, more important than the Jewish dimension.


The Story of the Cairo Genizah

With thanks to Chris Rollston for pointing this out on FB.

Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole are not university professors; but they are scholars deeply learned in the past; intellectual activists passionately engaged with the present; and at the same time writers who live by their pen. They are, to coin a phrase, “public scholars,” which is also to say that they are among the last specimens of a species virtually extinguished by a modern world. The book they have just given us, Sacred Trash, is equally rare: a precious meditation on the ways in which the discovery of long-hidden hoards of history can transform our worlds, and a literary jewel whose pages turn like those of a well-paced thriller, but with all the chiseled elegance and flashes of linguistic surprise that we associate with poetry.

Buried treasure is what the book is about, albeit treasure of a peculiar kind. Hoffman and Cole tell the story of a closet, one that was 18 feet deep, 8 feet long and 6½ feet wide. The existence of this thousand-year-old closet in the Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo was always in some way known by the synagogue’s congregants. But it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that Europeans stumbled upon its contents—hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper, parchment and papyrus written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Greek, Persian, Latin, Ladino, Yiddish, Syriac, Arabic, Coptic and even Chinese. (Still more textual material was found buried in the community’s courtyard and cemetery, with competing European agents acting like rival guilds of grave robbers.) The discovery necessitated a remapping of history that continues to this day.

If you’re so inclined, read the rest.