Reviews - What do customers think about A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew (Resources for Biblical Study)?
Basically Just a Primer Dec 29, 2000
I have mixed feelings about this book. It is very ambitious as there has never been a formal attempt to standardize epigraphic Hebrew as a language grammatically distinct from biblical Hebrew. It is doubly ambitious as the entire epigraphic Hebrew corpus consists of a paltry few hundred inscriptions, many of them no greater in length than the "In God we Trust" inscription in a US penny, for which we have no standard orthography and must settle for a complete absence of vowels. If any language is ever going to remain a complete mystery to us, it is the language of the old Hebrew inscriptions.
The book dares to organize itself like a common reference grammar for biblical Hebrew or Arabic into sections of phonology, morphology, and syntax. It does include a glossary and scores of inscriptions (but certainly not the complete collection), but a knowledge of biblical Hebrew is presumed and there are no excercises to work through. It is strictly a reference grammar. Perhaps because of technical constraints, Gogel uses only transliterated Hebrew. The paleo-Hebrew alphabet (or even the modern Quadrat script) is completely absent from this book. Also, it is quite disappointing that there are a very large number of typographical errors in the book, and a number of the inscriptions are incorrectly rendered. This is particularly damaging when an inscription consists of merely a few consonants. Finally, a number of Gogel's translations are highly suspect.
The book fails to convince me of any of the more pressing questions surrounding these inscriptions, particularly the question about whether the inscriptions can even be considered a separate language from biblical Hebrew at all. Because of its format, though, it is useful as a primer to the subject of epigraphic Hebrew. It points out all the various oddities of the inscriptions, has an essay on the history of the field and dating of the various inscriptions, and has a great collection of inscriptions to read. I particularly enjoy the field of epigraphy because the presence of doublets in epigraphic material utterly decimate the documentary hypothesis (also known as the JEPD hypothesis) which has been doing much harm to many people's faith in the reliability of the bible for the last couple of centuries. meSad Hashavyahu 1 (printed in this book) is just such an example.
In failing her task to grammatically describe epigraphic Hebrew, Gogels does give us quite a useful book. My low rating of 3 stars is primarily because of the typos and lack of Hebrew alphabet. This book does have quite a bit of valuable content, though.