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The Verbal System of Biblical Hebrew (Joosten, 2012)

by areopage on avril 22nd, 2015


Après son Septuagint Vocabulary, Jan Joosten met de nouveau en ligne, et très généreusement, son ouvrage phare, The Verbal System of Biblical Hebrew – A New Synthesis Elaborated on the Basis of Classical Prose (Simor Ltd 2012), issu de ses travaux de doctorat. Comme chacun sait, il n’est pas sûr que le système verbal hébreu soit décrit correctement dans les grammaires traditionnelles. Régulièrement des études paraissent pour tenter de résoudre l’énigme. Je me réjouis de pouvoir découvrir les travaux de Joosten sur ce point. Je profite de l’occasion pour signaler les travaux de R. Furuli, A New Understanding of the Verbal System of Classical Hebrew – An Attempt to Distinguish Between Semantic and Pragmatic Factors (Awatu Publishers, 2006) – qui proposent une solution un peu trop complexe à mon goût, mais qui ne manque pas d’intérêt -, ceux de Goldfajn, Word Order and Time in Biblical Hebrew (Clarendon Press, 1998), ceux de Niccacci, The Syntax of the Verb in Biblical Hebrew Prose (2009), ceux de Boulanger, Le pseudo « waw conversif » – une clef intéressante pour la syntaxe de l’hébreu biblique (2000), sans oublier les excellents articles de l’Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (EHLL) qui sont disponibles en ligne.

« The verbal system of Biblical Hebrew has been a daunting challenge for Hebraists, Bible scholars, and comparative Semitists. Already in ancient versions we see translators struggling with it. Good understanding of the verbal system is of vital importance not only for grammarians, but also for exegetes. In the past one and half a century or so some significant advances have been made, thanks to the discovery of new texts in Hebrew and cognate Semitic languages and developments in general linguistics, even the discovery of totally new languages such as Ugaritic and Eblaite. Not a few scholars have made use of these new data and applied new linguistic perspectives in order to elucidate the Hebrew verbal system as a whole and various aspects of the system. Joosten is one such. With his profound expertise in Biblical Hebrew, the Jewish Bible, Classical Syriac and the Septuagint he presents here an impressive synthesis of the modern studies of the Hebrew verbal system. It goes far beyond a mere critical survey of the past and present studies, but Joosten has conducted his own research on the subject over the past two decades or so. This book is focused on the classical prose of Genesis up to Kings, though more than cursory attention has been paid to later texts and poetic texts. The analysis and presentation of data is commendably lucid, backed up with plentiful examples. The author’s use of technical terms, some not part of the common parlance of Bible scholars, is user-friendly and not off-putting. Joosten is modestly aware himself that he has not said the last word, but has broadened our horizon. We have here an essential reading not only for Hebraists and Semitists, but also for anyone seriously interested in the Jewish Bible. »—Prof. Takamitsu Muraoka

« Prof. Joosten’s book, The Verbal System of Biblical Hebrew, is an excellent contribution to the study of Biblical Hebrew grammar. The mastery of the verbal system and its rules constitutes an essential basis for the proper grasp of Biblical Hebrew morphology, syntax, as well as semantics. Moreover, a clear description of the Biblical Hebrew verbal system leads to a more precise understanding of verbal systems from later periods of the language, which, although different from the biblical system, are based upon it to a considerable extent. I can think of no other biblical scholar of Prof. Joosten’s stature who is as capable of investigating the subject. In this book Joosten presents students and scholars of Biblical Hebrew with a reference work whose absence has long been felt. I have no doubt that this is one of the most important books on the Biblical Hebrew that has appeared in recent years. »—Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher

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