Advanced Biblical Hebrew I
Dr. John C. Reeves
Office hours: TR 2:30-3:30; or by appointment
Course description: A critical reading and translation of biblical, non-biblical, and postbiblical Hebrew prose and poetic texts. For the fall semester, we will concentrate on narrative and oracular passages culled from that portion of Tanakh known as the Nevi’im or Prophets, with occasional attention given (where relevant) to alternative intrabiblical (or even extrabiblical) renditions of the assigned readings (e.g., from Chronicles), pertinent material in the early versions (primarily Targum, but also Septuagint, Vulgate, and Peshitta), Qumran and medieval manuscripts, rabbinic midrash, and the medieval commentaries (Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Radaq, et al.).
Kurt Elliger, et al., eds., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1977), or later reprints of this edition. Alternatively, one may use the relevant portions of the Miqra’ot gedolot or just about any other Hebrew edition (e.g., Koren; Kittel; Letteris) provided there is no western translation adjacent or in near proximity to the Masoretic Text.
Ernst Würthwein and Alexander Achilles Fischer, The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica (trans. Erroll F. Rhodes; 3d ed.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2014).
Moreover, you will also find on the bookstore shelves one recommended title for optional purchase:
W[ilhelm]. Gesenius, E[mil]. Kautzsch, and A. E. Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (2d ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1910). Numerous reprints. This is the standard English-language reference grammar for biblical Hebrew. If you intend to excell in the study of biblical Hebrew philology, you will need to own and frequently consult this book.
Supplementary readings and/or exercises will be assigned or distributed by the instructor as needed.
a. Diligent attendance and preparation. Almost perfect attendance is an essential requirement for this course. Each class session builds upon the knowledge gained and skills acquired during previous meetings. Moreover, oral recitation and group study comprises practically the entirety of every class session. The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, class preparation, oral recitation, and verbal contribution to class discussions constitutes 100% of the final course grade for undergraduates; 80% of that grade for post-baccalaureates and graduates.
b. Seminar papers (Graduates and post-baccalaureates only!). Almost every week during a portion of the class period, students will orally expound and collectively discuss the content of at least one secondary article or essay that has been previously assigned by the instructor. Individual students may be asked to initiate and guide our discussions. The readings will come from Würthwein, the bibliography of articles provided below, and the instructor. For each assigned reading, graduate and post-baccalaureate students will prepare and submit a written seminar paper that concisely summarizes and (if necessary) critiques the major points of each assigned article or essay. Maximum length of the seminar paper will be two (2) pages. The instructor’s assessment of the seminar papers accounts for the final 20% of the course grade for graduate and post-baccalaureate students.
c. Each student is responsible for all lectures, class discussions, assignments, and announcements, whether or not he/she is present when they occur.
a. The grading scale used in this course is as follows:
91-95+ A = demonstrable mastery of material; can creatively synthesize
81-90 B = some proficiency in control of material & analysis
71-80 C = satisfactory performance of assignments; little or no analysis
61-70 D = inadequate and/or faulty understanding of material
0-60 F = unacceptable work
Moreover, a 0-70 evaluation for graduate students = U.
b. One of the requirements of this course is to complete the work of the course on time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for late work—an illness or other emergency. ‘Emergency,’ however, does not include your social involvements, travel plans, job schedule, disk and/or printer failures, the state of your love life, your obligations to other courses, or general malaise over the state of the world. The world has been in a mess as long as anyone can remember, and most of the world’s work is done by people whose lives are a mass of futility and discontent. If you haven’t learned yet, you had better learn now to work under the conditions of the world as it is. Therefore:
1) All assignments are due at their announced dates and times. In other words (and please note well!), there will be NO MAKEUP OPPORTUNITIES scheduled. All missed assignments will be averaged as a 0 in the computation of the course grade. No exceptions will be considered or granted.
2) For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; A-=92; B=85; C+=78; C=75; D=65; F,U=30. Seminar papers are assessed according to the following formulae: √+ = A; √ = B; √- = U. An untyped seminar paper automatically receives the grade U, as do those typed submissions which violate the required parameters or which the instructor deems physically unacceptable and/or grammatically incomprehensible.
3) Since your diligent physical participation is critical for the health of this course and its constituents, attendance at class meetings will be monitored by the instructor. One or two absences are unexceptional, three (3) is the limit of tolerability. Each successive absence lowers your course assessment by one letter grade; seven (7) or more results in an automatic F. Please note that the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
4) Policy regarding Audits: the instructor expects auditors (whether formally enrolled as such or not) to meet the same attendance, preparation, and oral participation standards as those students who are taking the course for credit. The instructor does not expect auditors to prepare and submit any written assignments.
c. Assistance and solicitation of criticism is your right as a member of the class. It is not a privilege to be granted or withheld. Do not hesitate to request it nor wait too late in the course for it to be of help.
HEBREW LANGUAGE AND LORE BIBLIOGRAPHY
David H. Aaron, “Judaism’s Holy Language,” in Jacob Neusner, ed., Approaches to Ancient Judaism, New Series: Volume Sixteen (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 49-107.
David Goodblatt, “Constructing Jewish Nationalism: The Hebrew Language,” in idem, Elements of Ancient Jewish Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 49-70.
J. A. Emerton, “The Problem of Vernacular Hebrew in the First Century A.D. and the Language of Jesus,” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 24 (1973): 1-23.
Jehoshua M. Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple,” Journal of Biblical Literature (= JBL) 79 (1960): 32-47.
Avi Hurvitz, “The Historical Quest for Ancient Israel and the Linguistic Evidence of the Hebrew Bible: Some Methodological Observations,” Vetus Testamentum 47 (1997): 301-15.
Paul Kahle, “The Masoretic Text of the Bible and the Pronunciation of Hebrew,” Journal of Jewish Studies (= JJS) 7 (1956): 133-53.
Chaim Rabin, “The Historical Background of Qumran Hebrew,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 4 (1958): 144-61.
Milka Rubin, “The Language of Creation or the Primordial Language: A Case of Cultural Polemics in Antiquity,” JJS 49 (1998): 306-33.
William M. Schniedewind, “Qumran Hebrew as an Antilanguage,” JBL 118 (1999): 235-52.
Seth Schwartz, “Language, Power and Identity in Ancient Palestine,” Past and Present 148 (1995): 3-47.
David Stern, “The First Jewish Books and the Early History of Jewish Reading,” Jewish Quarterly Review 98 (2008): 163-202.
Emanuel Tov, “Hebrew Biblical Manuscripts from the Judaean Desert: Their Contribution to Textual Criticism,” JJS 39 (1988): 5-37.
Edward Ullendorff, “Is Biblical Hebrew a Language?” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 34 (1971): 241-55.
Steve Weitzman, “Why did the Qumran Community Write in Hebrew?” Journal of the American Oriental Society 119 (1999): 35-45.