An Introduction to Biblical Aramaic

My review of Andreas Schuele’s Introduction to Biblical Aramaic was published in the latest issue of the Bulletin for Biblical Research (23.2, 2013, pp. 249-251). Here is a snippet:

It is not easy to find an inviting grammar, one that is easily accessible for students approaching the language for the first time. This is especially true for biblical Aramaic. Andreas Schuele’s Introduction to Biblical Aramaic breaks the mold; Schuele writes in a conversational style and includes just the right amount of information for students approaching the study of Aramaic for the first time. Schuele’s Introduction stands out from other similar introductions in three significant ways: (1) The book is written for students as a complement to Franz Rosenthal’s Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (7th edition, 2006), which Schuele calls the “big brother” of his Introduction; (2) Throughout the grammar Schuele comments on the historical development of Aramaic in a way that is helpful and not distracting; (3) Schuele’s pedagogical approach positions the student to read not only biblical Aramaic, but also extra-biblical literature.

Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible as a Reference Work

Sometimes a different description, new terminology, is all it takes for understanding to click. This is one reason I find it helpful to turn to the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible (LDHB) as a reference tool. As I read Genesis 41:39 recently, I was puzzled by the use of אחרי. After looking over the entries in BDB and HALOT, it still wasn’t clear how the phrase introduced by this word was functioning in the sentence. Here is Genesis 41:39 in BHS and in the LDHB:

וַיֹּאמֶר פַּרְעֹה אֶל־יוֹסֵף אַחֲרֵי הוֹדִיעַ אֱלֹהִים אוֹתְךָ אֶת־כָּל־זֹאת אֵין־נָבוֹן וְחָכָם כָּמוֹךָ

This is the way a typical verse looks in the LDHB. Runge and Westbury have marked the discourse features of the text with symbols, as described in the introductory volume.  Note that the entire second line is surrounded with the symbols [TM … TM]. This marks אחרי הודיע אלהים אותך את־כל־זאת as a “temporal frame.” Hovering your mouse over one of the TM symbols displays the name and a concise definition of this discourse feature:

[TMTemporal framesTM]: the fronting of time-related information to establish a specific time frame for the clause that follows.

This description helps me understand why אחרי is commonly translated “since.” The term “temporal frame” clicks. The prepositional phrase introduced by אחרי (usually rendered as a dependent clause in English) describes the circumstances that led Pharaoh to draw his conclusion concerning Joseph: “there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” The flow of thought could be paraphrased like this: “After God made known to you all this, surely we must conclude that there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” The statement in the last half of the verse is inferred from what has just taken place.

This is one example of how you might integrate the LDHB into your workflow. After reading the Introduction included in the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible Bundle, you will be able to use the LDHB as a complement to your other secondary sources–grammars, commentaries, etc. Many thanks to Logos for sending me a gratis copy for review.

Related Post: Redundant Quotative Frames in Jonah

Redundant Quotative Frames in Jonah

Steve Runge and Josh Westbury recently released the electronic Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible (6 vols). One of the 6 volumes is an introduction to their function-based approach to Hebrew grammar. For Hebrew grammar this is the best complement to Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, available electronically or in print. The introduction included in the Discourse Hebrew Bible bundle is very clearly written. If you have no prior experience with “discourse grammar” this is a great place to start. The following is one attempt to put this type of analysis into practice.

Redundant Quotative Frame (RQF)

In the Introduction, Runge and Westbury define “redundant quotative frame” (RQF) as follows:

The use of extra speaking verbs to frame or introduce a speech, drawing attention to a surprising or important element of the speech that follows.

For example, they note that “the most commonly used redundant quotative frame is וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר, where וַיֹּאמֶר is unneeded” (sec. 1.5).

RQF’s in Jonah

It seems to me there are two RQF’s in the book of Jonah, one in 3:4 (וַיִּקְרָא וַיֹּאמַר) and one in 3:7 (וַיַּזְעֵק וַיּאֹמֶר). There are plenty other speeches in Jonah, but these two are marked by the way they are introduced with RQF’s. The question is why?

I propose that, taken together, these two speeches highlight the primary conflict in the narrative. Finally, after fleeing and being supernaturally put back on track, Jonah arrives at Nineveh and proclaims (וַיִּקְרָא וַיֹּאמַר 3:4) that in forty days the city will be overthrown. Then comes the real bummer for Jonah: Nineveh repents (3:5). Nineveh’s surprising response is not just stated by the narrator, the king of Nineveh himself  issues a decree (וַיַּזְעֵק וַיּאֹמֶר 3:7) that the whole city repent and cry for mercy. Jonah did what Yahweh told him and the response was exactly opposite of was expected.

Highlighting these two speeches sets up chapter 4, where the narrative tension will reach its climax. There’s no resolution. The book ends with the tension high. It is commonly thought that the key to the book of Jonah is chapter 4. Does this application of Runge and Westbury’s approach provide linguistic support for reading the story this way? How do you understand the function of the RQF’s in Jonah? What do they do? This question is for anyone, but I especially wonder what CJ Fresch, the Parks, and the HBU crew think of this analysis.

Related Post: Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible as a Reference Work