Resources for Biblical, Theological, and Religious Studies maintained by Tyler F. Williams

Advanced Hebrew Grammars

There are a number of different Hebrew reference grammars available. Some of them are more daunting than others -- not only because they treat advanced grammar and syntax.

Intermediate students will find these three grammars more accessible than others:Williams' Syntax

Arnold and Choi's A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax is a readable guide to the complexities of Hebrew syntax (the way words, clauses, and sentences relate to one other) that remains readable. It follows in the tradition of Waltke and O'Connor and is keyed to most major advancedBHSreference grammars. Beckman's major revision and expansion of Williams' Hebrew Syntax makes it far more useful for students and scholars alike. Students will like the interlinear translations and everyone will benefit from the expanded definitions, improved organization, the cross references to other major grammars, and the new layout. While the previous two grammars limit themselves to matters of syntax, van der Merwe et al brings together information on the morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of Classical Hebrew. As such it is the most comprehensive intermediate Hebrew reference grammar available in English.

When we turn to more advanced Hebrew reference grammars, three stand out:

  • W. Gesenius, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (GKC) (ed. A. E. Cowley and E. Kautzsch; 2d Eng. ed. 1995, based on the 28th Ger. ed.; Clarendon, 1910). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (revised English edition; Subsidia Biblica 27; Pontifical Institute, 2006). This is a translation and revision of Joüon's Grammaire de l'Hébreu biblique originally published in 1923. Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
  • Bruce K. Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Eisenbrauns, 1990). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com

BHSGKC's attention to detail, comprehensiveness, and many indexes make it an indispensable reference work, even though it is somewhat out of date. Joüon-Muraoka is another highly recommended reference grammar that is more accessible than GKC. The thorough revision by Muraoka makes it one of the only up-to-date advanced reference grammars available in English that covers phonology, morphology, and syntax. It should be on every Hebraist's bookshelf. Waltke and O'Connor is a major intermediate-to-advanced level treatment of Hebrew syntax that attempts to balance modern and traditional treatments of Hebrew grammar while also interacting with modern linguistics. Its discussion of the verbal system is especially noteworthy (though not convincing on all points).

Two other Hebrew grammars worthy of mention are:

The recent revision of Davidson's Hebrew Syntax by Gibson is a helpful, yet brief survey of Hebrew syntax. Lambdin deserves notice because of its scope and detail (and popularity). In contrast to Kittel, this work takes a deductive approach and emphasizes morphology. The latter fact, as well as its extensive use of transliteration, makes it difficult to use. Nevertheless, it is still a helpful resource.

A very useful work that brings together the Scripture indexes from most of the major Hebrew reference grammars, such as Waltke and O'Connor, Gibson, Davidson, Joüon, Williams, as well as major works in German (Bauer-Leander, Beer and Meyer), is:

In addition, while not strictly a grammar, the following work by Long deserves mention as a useful introduction to grammatical concepts:

  • Gary A. Long, Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Hebrew: Learning Biblical Hebrew Grammatical Concepts through English Grammar (Hendrickson, 2002). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com

Here is an excerpt from my review of Long's Grammatical Concepts 101 from the Toronto Journal of Theology:

BHSIn sum, I found Long’s work to be an insightful and well-presented introduction to basic (and advanced) grammatical concepts. Whether or not instructors will want to recommend or require introductory students to purchase this work is another matter.  Some parts would be excellent for introductory courses, while others may be more useful for intermediate classes.  In addition, if you use a teaching grammar that employs terminology and concepts similar to Long’s approach, then parts of this work could be quite helpful – especially if well-integrated into your course. If, however, you employ a textbook that varies considerably from Long’s presentation, then it could cause undo confusion for beginning students. In such cases, it would be better used as a resource for instructors, who could then adapt its presentation to their own context. Finally, I would recommend this work for students who have completed introductory Classical Hebrew and desire more background in topics such as tense and aspect, semantics, and discourse analysis, before delving into the world of Hebrew reference grammars

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Last Updated on Monday, 11 May 2009 16:44