Putnam, A New Grammar of Biblical Hebrew

Grammar of Biblical Hebrew
Frederic Putnam

Fred Putnam’s New Grammar of Biblical Hebrew is now out, and the grammar should be available from the Westminster Bookstore sometime next month. According to the publisher,

This is a Hebrew grammar with a difference, being the first truly discourse-based grammar. Its goal is for students to understand Biblical Hebrew as a language, seeing its forms and conjugations as a coherent linguistic system, appreciating why and how the text means what it says—rather than learning Hebrew as a set of random rules and apparently arbitrary meanings.

Thirty-one lessons equip learners for reading the biblical text in Hebrew. They include sections on biblical narrative, poetry, and the Masora—as well as of the text of the Hebrew Bible, lexica, and concordances. The examples and exercises are all taken directly from the biblical text, so that students can check their work against any relatively literal version of the Bible. The vocabulary lists include all of the words that occur fifty times or more in the Hebrew Bible.

Special also to this Grammar are the ‘enrichments’: brief sections at the end of each chapter encouraging students to apply their grammatical knowledge to specific questions, issues, or passages in the biblical text. Appendices include a Vocabulary of all Hebrew words and proper names that occur fifty times or more, and a Glossary and index of technical terms—as well as complete nominal, pronominal, and verbal paradigms, and an annotated bibliography.

The learner-friendly design of this Grammar has been endorsed by faculty and by students who have used pre-publication versions to teach themselves Biblical Hebrew, both individually, in classes, and in informal groups.

Even just from the (all too) limited degree to which I know Fred, he is an excellent fellow and a highly energetic and enthusiastic teacher. So, his Grammar and its pedagogy are sure to merit careful consideration, and I am certainly looking forward to an opportunity to work through them at some point.

“Blessed Be the Ties that Bind”

Cynthia Westfall has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind: Semantic Domains and Cohesive Chains in Hebrews 1.1–2.4 and 12.5–8.” Based on her investigation, Westfall concludes,

[A]n analysis of semantic domains provides a vital lens through which we can view every text. At times, it seems that the [Louw-Nida] lexicon does not do enough, and it is easy to find what appear to be shortcomings in the failure to place some words in certain semantic domains. For instance, the truncated classification of προφήτης under ‘Religious Activities’ does not remotely begin to describe the features that ‘prophet’ shares with other lexical items. In this case, the authors did not follow one of their guiding principles that a derivative (e.g. προφήτης) should be placed as close as possible to its semantic basis (e.g. προφητεύω). However, when the theory is understood, the reader realizes that the entries and glosses are suggestive, and the referential (meaning) range of any lexical unit can only be determined by a careful and, above all, a coherent reading of the surrounding context (216).