Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew’

Rachel’s Hebrew Class 2011-12

September 14, 2011

Rachel Montagu has kindly sent some details of her Advanced Biblical Hebrew course for 2011-12.  This stands in place of the course she used to teach at Birkbeck.

Rachel’s courses work in the classic fashion: each student in turn reads a verse aloud and then translates it, with input from the teacher as necessary. She also provides some background and interpretation from traditional Jewish teaching.

The emphasis is certainly on understanding the text rather than grammar as such. There have been perhaps an average of seven or so students coming to lessons. The level things are taken at tends to depend on who the students are.

In principle, students should have covered the material in the First Hebrew Primer from Eks before starting this class. If you know the qal conjugation (perfect and imperfect) pretty well for verbs with three strong roots (the ‘regular’ ones if you like) and have some idea about hiphil and niphal and verbs with weak roots, that will probably do.

If you want to know more, you can email Rachel;  or feel free to email me if you’re feeling shy.  I’ve also shared just about everything I know about studying Biblical Hebrew with the world here.

Here is the outline for this year’s class. We will be meeting on Thursdays 6.30-8.30 at New Fetter Lane, subject to confirmation.

Hebrew Class Outline 2011-12

Autumn Term

Isaiah – Prophet of Grief and Hope

15th  September Isaiah 1:1-23

22nd September Isaiah 1:24-31, 2:1-17

[29th September no class – Rosh HaShanah]

6th October Isaiah 2:17-22, 3:1-17

[13th October no class – Succot]

[20th October no class – Simchat Torah]

[27th October – half term]

3rd November Isaiah 3:18-26, 4:1-6, 5:1-10

10th November Isaiah 5:11-30, 6:1-4

17th November Isaiah 6:5-13, 7:1-17

24rd November Isaiah 7:18-25, 8:1-15

1st December Isaiah 8:16-23, 9:1-6

Haggai – God’s House and God’s Servant

8th December Haggai 1:1-15, 2:1-7

15th December Haggai 2:8-23, Zechariah 4:1-10

Spring Term

David and Saul

12th January 1 Samuel 18:1-20

19th January 1 Samuel 18:21-30, 19:1-7

26th January 1 Samuel 19:8-24, 20:1-4

2nd  February 1 Samuel 20:24-34, 40-42, 22:6-8, 23:1-7

9th February 1 Samuel 14-28 24:1-9

[16th February half term]

23rd February 1 Samuel 24:10-23, 26:17-25, 27:1-4

1st March 1 Samuel 28:3, 7-19, 31:1-5, 2 Samuel 1:23-27

Gideon the Strong Hero

8th March Judges 6:7-32

15th March Judges 6:33-40, 7:1-14

22nd March Judges 7:15-24, 8:22-35

29th March Judges 9:1-15, 21:25

Summer Term

The Wise (?) Man  and his Wiser Donkey

19th April Numbers 22:2-23

26th April Numbers 22:24-40. 23:1-6

3rd May Numbers 23:7-29

10th May Numbers 24:1-25

Abraham and Lot: How to be an Alien

17th May Gen 14:1-21

24th May Gen 16:1-16, 21:9-21

31st May Gen.19:1-25,

[7st June half term]

14th June Gen:19:26-37, 23:1-12

21st June Gen 23:13-21, 25:1-11


28th June Psalm 113:1-8, 114:1-8, 115:1-18,

5th July Psalm 116:1-19, 117:1-2, 118:1-12,

12th July Psalm 118:12-29, 119:1-8, 73-80,

17th July Psalm 119:65-72, Psalm – class choice

88-й Псалом у Фридриха Горенштейна

July 6, 2011

Фридрих Горенштейн

В своем Псалме Горенштеин пишет:

…русская Библия в ряде мест переведена неумело.  Так, необходимый сейчас умирающему псалом No 87, стих 4-й переведен: <<Ибо душа моя насытилсь бедствиями, и жизнь моя приблизилась к преисподней>>.  В то время как в подлиннике : <<Ибо душа моя насытилсь обидами, и жизнь моя приблизилась к могиле>>.

(М. изд-во ЭКСМО-Пресс, 2001).

При этом возникают разные вопросы.  Конечно, нумерация не так проста, но тоже не так трудна–Псалме 87/4 по русской Библии соответствуют Пс 88/4 по Танаху и Пс 87/4 по Септуагинте.  Как и стоило ожидать.

Но откуда берется такой подлинник?  В Септуагинте написано:

ὅτι ἐπλήσθη κακῶν ἡ ψυχή μου, καὶ ἡ ζωή μου τῷ ᾅδῃ ἤγγισε·

(точно как в русской Библии), а в Танахе:

כִּֽי־שָֽׂבְעָ֣ה בְרָעֹ֣ות נַפְשִׁ֑י וְחַיַּ֗י לִשְׁאֹ֥ול הִגִּֽיעוּ׃


Ибо душа моя насытилсь бедствиями, и жизни мои дошли до  преисподней.

Разницы, в основном, нет.  А откуда у Горенштейна подлинник?

Ведь в Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia не указано других возможностей в данном месте.

Ответ надо отыскать…

This Year’s Biblical Hebrew Class

October 4, 2010

Note:  there is a page on studying Biblical Hebrew here that I update.  The posting below does not get updated.

Rachel Montagu writes:

Here is an outline plan for readings for this year’s Hebrew class.

Modifications are possible if people feel that there is another direction they would rather pursue, but this gives us a starting point.

We will be meeting 6.30-8.30 on Fetter Lane, London EC4.

As before, cost will depend on the final number enrolled in the class, but I hope it will be less than Birkbeck’s current rate. The cost will be more in the spring and summer term than this term because there will be 2 more sessions in those terms.

And here’s the programme (anyone interested is very welcome to email me):

Hebrew Outline 2010-11

Ruth – Tis Pity She’s A Moabitess

6th October Ruth 1

13th October Ruth 2

20th October Ruth 3

[27th October – half term]

3rd November Ruth 4

Noah – A Perfect Man in His Generation

10th November Genesis 6:5-22, 7:1-3

17th November Genesis 7:4-23

24rd November Genesis 8:1-22

1st December Genesis 9:1-28

Leviticus: Blessing and Holiness

7th December Leviticus 8:1-21

14th December Leviticus 8:22-36, 9:22-24, 10:1-11

12th January Leviticus 16:1-20

19th January Leviticus 16:21-34, 19:1-7

26th January Leviticus 19:8-28

2nd February Leviticus 19: 29-37, 20:1-12

9th February Leviticus 20:13-27, 21:1-17

Chronicles – David’s Story

16th February 1 Chronicles 10:8-14, 11:1-14

[23rd February half term]

2nd March 1 Chronicles 11:15-19

9th March 1 Chronicles 13:1-12, 15:1-11

16th March 1 Chronicles 16:1-21

23rd March 1 Chronicles 16:22-43

30th March 1 Chronicles 17:1-27

6th April 1 Chronicles 21:1-30

Ezekiel the Visionary

27th April Ezekiel 1:1-20

4th May Ezekiel 1:21-28, 2:1-9, 3:1-3

11th May Ezekiel 16:1-27

18th May Ezekiel 18:1-28

24th May Ezekiel 24:15-27, 37:1-14

[1st June – half term]

Ezra and Nehemiah: The Torah of Returning and Rebuilding

8th June Ezra 3:1-13, 10:1-12

15th June Ezra 10:13-18, Nehemiah 1:1-11, 2:1-7

22st June Nehemiah 8:1-18, 9:30-33, 10:1, 31-40


29th June Psalm 122, 123, 127

6th July Psalm 128, 131, 148

13th July Psalm 139, 61

20th July Psalm 40,

Psalm 22:17

July 31, 2010

Another interpretation...


The Septuagint, Tanakh and English Bible have the following for Ps 22:17 (Ps 21:17 in the Septuagint):


ὅτι ἐκύκλωσάν με κύνες πολλοί συναγωγὴ πονηρευομένων περιέσχον με ὤρυξαν χεῖράς μου καὶ πόδας

[ Lit: Because many dogs have encircled me a congregation of evil-doers have surrounded me they have dug my hands and feet.]


כִּ֥י סְבָב֗וּנִי כְּלָ֫בִ֥ים עֲדַ֣ת מְ֭רֵעִים הִקִּיפ֑וּנִי כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י יָדַ֥י וְרַגְלָֽי׃

[Lit: For dogs have encircled me a congregation of evil-doers have surrounded me/like a lion my hands and feet.]


For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet.


So there are two three main questions here:

i)  What does the Hebrew text mean?

ii)  How can it be reconciled with the Greek text?

iii)  Can ‘dug’ really be the same as ‘pierced’?

What does the Hebrew text mean?

The simplest way of ‘saving’ the Hebrew text is to take the verb  הִקִּיפ֑וּנִי apo koinou with both both halves of the line, so we get:

*For dogs have encircled me a congregation of evil-doers have surrounded me/like a lion [they have surrounded]my hands and feet.

This procedure is perfectly unexceptionable in the Hebrew Bible, especially the poetic passages.  The idea of a single lion ‘having surrounded’ something may be a little alarming, but the Hebrew past tense often has the force of a present in English, so if we say the lion ‘surrounds => prowls around’ that’s not an insurmountable problem.

The other possibility is to say that כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י  ‘like a lion’ will originally have been some suitable verb.  The Septuagint translators appear to have decided it was or should be כַּרוּ , from the verb כָּרָה ‘dig’.  That may be possible–there’s some discussion here and here.

Greek and English texts

If the LXX translators saw (or thought they saw) כָּרָה, then the obvious translation would have been ’ορύσσω,  aor 3 pl ὤρυξαν, as we see above.  Unfortunately, neither ’ορύσσω nor כָּרָה can really mean ‘pierce’.  One can argue that, as with the apo koinou construction, words can be–are–used in ‘unusual” senses in the Psalms; but in that case we have to assume that the Septuagint translators saw and failed to realise it didn’t really mean what it said, while modern Bible translators know better.


The most conservative answer is to take the verb in the Hebrew text apo koinou, and there seems no very strong reason to reject it.  It’s very difficult to see how the Septuagintists would have written ὤρυξαν if they meant ‘pierced’, when otherwise they seem to have used perfectly normal words for ‘pierce’, such as τετραίνω (2 Ki 18:21) and τρυπάω (Ex 21:6).

Biblical Hebrew (and Introduction to Judaism) in Ealing

July 30, 2010

Ealing Abbey

Here, with corrected dates, is some information I have received from Ann-Marie Ryan at the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre.

I have sorted dates and times with Rabbi Rachel Montagu for the following two courses ‘Introduction to Judaism’ and ‘Introduction to Biblical Hebrew’, to be run at the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre, Autumn Term 2010.  Dates and times as follows:

1. Introduction to Judaism (10 weeks)
Thursdays: 10.30am-12.30pm 7 October to 16 December (not 28 Oct.)
Course Fee: £100

2. Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (10 weeks)
Thursdays: 01.30pm-03.30pm 7 October to 16 December (not 28 Oct.)
Course Fee: £100

The BSAC website appears to be in a state of flux at the moment, but it is possible to email Ann-Marie.

Eyes Wide Open (Odeon Panton Street, 11 July)

June 12, 2010


Men in hats!

My eyes had great difficulty in staying open, and frequently strayed to my watch, hoping that this film would soon be over.  It was only an interest in seeing how much Modern Hebrew I would recognise on the basis of my imperfect knowledge of Biblical Hebrew that kept me in the cinema to the end.  The two gay lads who made up the rest of the audience may have had a different area of interest…

Anyway, the story is that Aaron Fleischmann is a butcher in an Orthodox part of Jerusalem; his father has recently died, leaving him to run the business himself (Fleischmann means ‘butcher’ in German).  He has a wife and five or so children.  A young man appears.  He has been kicked out of more than one yeshiva and is presently homeless.  He is called Ezri (meaning ‘my help’ in Hebrew).  Aaron takes him on to help in the shop and installs him in a storeroom above the shop.

After Ezri stares intently at Aaron for the purpose of sketching him, and they have gone bathing together, they become lovers.  In the room above the shop, and rather frequently.  Rivka, Aaron’s wife, tells him that she has had her mikvah [and is so ritually pure for intercourse] but it doesn’t have the same effect.  Rabbi Weissbein warns Aaron to get rid of Ezri.  He doesn’t, but he does join in a party to warn Israel Fischer off from relations with Sara Katz, since she needs to be married off to somebody else.

Whatever.   Things get worse.  Aaron eventually sees sense gives in to social pressure and Ezri leaves.  At the end, we see him bathing alone in the loveinducing pool and then disappearing beneath its unquiet waters…

So why was I so bored?  Well, it wasn’t very interesting to look at:  there was a lot of static staring at not-very-interesting things from the same camera angles.  The background of ‘normal’ life in this community was never really established, since the film starts with Aaron’s agonised response to his father’s death and as a useful interview here says it wasn’t concerned with realism anyway.  So external events are at best a background to Aaron’s inner struggles, which I must say I didn’t sympathise with that much:  if he had been shagging Sara Katz (surely less unacceptable from a social viewpoint) then the answer would have been Have some sense (not to mention compassion for your wife and children) man…So why is this supposed not to apply with Ezri?

Job 20:23

May 13, 2010
Our Hebrew class wondered why the Authorised Version deviated from the Hebrew text at the end of this verse, and whether it was down to Septuagint.
In the Hebrew text we have:

 יְהִ֤י׀ לְמַלֵּ֬א בִטְנֹ֗ו יְֽשַׁלַּח־בֹּ֖ו חֲרֹ֣ון אַפֹּ֑ו וְיַמְטֵ֥ר עָ֝לֵ֗ימֹו בִּלְחוּמֹֽו׃
(that may look very odd, depending on what fonts you have installed!)

The AV has:

23 When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.
(when the Hebrew would suggest….and will cause it to rain (it) upon him in his flesh.)

Septuagint has:

23. εἴ πως πληρώσαι γαστέρα αὐτοῦ ἐπαποστείλαι ἐπ’ αὐτὸν θυμὸν ὀργῆς νίψαι ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ὀδύνας

(If in some way he will fill his belly, [God] will send upon him a rage of anger to wash pains upon him–OR:…anger, [God] will wash pains upon him.)

The Vulgate has:

[23] utinam impleatur venter eius ut emittat in eum iram furoris sui et pluat super illum bellum suum
which I think is the same kind of thing, but with ‘rain’ for ‘wash’.
So the most reasonable explanation is that someone left out the waw in בִּלְחוּמֹֽו and decided to make it ‘at his food’ => while he was eating.

Typing Ancient (Polytonic) Greek

March 2, 2010

What you get in the base state or pressing Shift

Below is a recipe (for Windows XP!) that does not involve downloading any new fonds, keyboard drives and so on.  I acquired this on a Greek course in Edinburgh and it works for me (using OpenOffice, though it is MS Word that is explicitly mentioned here).

In fact, the state of the art at present is probably the free kit from Tyndale House that also covers Biblical Hebrew (that is, with vowel pointing), but which does involve some downloading and installing.

Polytonic Unicode

1)  Installation of multilanguage support and keyboard layout for Greek

a) In the Windows XP standard Start menu, click Start, and then click Control Panel.

b) In the Windows XP classic Start menu, click Start, click Settings, and then click Control Panel.

c) Double-click Regional and Language Options.

d) Click the Languages tab, and then click Details under “Text Services and Input Languages”.

e) Click Add under “Installed Services”, and then click Greek Polytonic to add the keyboard layout for the language.

f) To configure the settings for the Language bar, click Language Bar under “Preferences”.

2) Typing Unicode Greek (Palatino Linotype in Word!)

Typing in Unicode Greek is complicated at first and you will need to consult the keyboard maps above and below for reference. Your speed will get quicker after a time. The advantage of Unicode is that you can enter in any combination required. NB: Ghost keys. When you first type in the accent combination you require nothing will appear on screen. This is because it is waiting for the vowel before it displays.

Also there are four kinds of input (that is, base state, with Shift depressed, with AltGr depressed, with Shift + AltGr depressed).

What you get with AltGr and with AltGr + Shift

ἴσθι and ἴσθι

February 26, 2010
We have been asked about the imperatives of ‘know’ and ‘be’ being the same in Greek, and whether this had any connection with ‘Be still and know that I am God’.

It is true that a grammar book will give you ἴσθι (sing) and ἴστε (pl)  as imperatives from οἶδα  (I know) and  ἴσθι (sg), ἔστε (pl) from εἰμί (I am).

Unfortunately things then begin to get a bit complicated!  The verb οἶδα is interpreted as the perfect of some hypothetical verb *εἴδω (I see) with the idea ‘I have seen’ => ‘I know’, at least if we are working purely in terms of `Greek (reasoning with the corresponding Indo-European forms is probably better).  Normally there isn’t a perfect imperative in Greek any more than there is in English–ἴσθι and ἴστε look like root aorist imperatives formed from ἰδ- to me, but whatever.

So even though it exists one would feel a bit uncomfortable at using the imperative of οἶδα and would prefer to use some other verb for ‘know’ if possible.  Similarly, (on the one hand) it’s more idiomatic to have one verb to express the idea ‘be still’ and (on the other) if there wasn’t one and you needed two words you’d prefer keep + still, become + still, or something similar.

It’s really just a coincidence that the two singular imperatives coincide–the first root is ἰδ-, but *ἰδθι isn’t allowed in Greek, so you get ἴσθι.  The roots for ‘to be’ include ἰς-/ἐς-, so ἴσθι and ἔστε are comprehensible enough.

I think the phrase quoted comes from Ps 46:

הַרְפּ֣וּ וּ֭דְעוּ כִּי־אָנֹכִ֣י אֱלֹהִ֑ים אָר֥וּם בַּ֝גֹּויִ֗ם אָר֥וּם בָּאָֽרֶץ׃

LXX gives this as:

σχολάσατε καὶ γνῶτε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑψωθήσομαι ἐν τῇ γῇ.

So as we’d expect ‘be still’ is represented by one word and word other than οἶδα is used for ‘to know’.  And it all turns out to be plural anyway!

Buying books on classics

January 23, 2010

This posting is about my experience of buying books on classics-type subjects (Ancient Greek language and literature; Indo-European; the Hebrew Bible–Latinists had better look away now), in the hope that they will prove useful to other people.

As ever, there are two ways of buying these books:  on the Internet and in person.


This is really pretty easy, since a great deal can be found through BookFinder.  This covers all kinds of things:  Internet retailers of new books, Internet second-hand dealers, the Internet arms of conventional booksellers–and many different countries besides.

It’s worth noting that it may be cheaper to order books from the American or German versions of Amazon than from the English one.

As to sources that are not on BookFinder, the Hellenic Bookservice have their own catalogue (they do Latin as well, but their online catalogue only covers 35% of their stock).  And Oxbow Books only seem to have data from the American website listed on BookFinder, so it’s as well to visit their own site as well.  In the past, I’ve also bought some of the Bryn Mawr commentary series directly from Hackett Publishing in the US.

Apart from those mentioned above, sources I’ve found useful include Marijana Dworski (languages) and Pendleburys (theology).

Anyway, a reasonable strategy is:

1.  look on BookFinder;

2.  if that doesn’t work, see if the publishers have a website that  you can order the book from;

3.  if that doesn’t work, put the ISBN or title/author into Google together with some word such as price (prix, Preis…) to avoid being submerged in library catalogues;

4.  if you can’t find it anywhere, you can always leave a want on sites like abebooks and they’ll email you when it turns up.

Y0u also get some interesting classical books appearing in Italian from time to time–see here for an example.

In person (starting from London, England)

In London, Waterstone’s Gower Street have a reasonable selection, as do Foyle’s. The Blackwells in Charing Cross Road doesn’t have much, but their shops in Oxford and Cambridge do. You can generally use the website to find out which branch of Blackwells has a particular book in stock. As well as Blackwell’s, there’s also the Classics Bookshop to be found in Oxford–well, somewhere in the Oxfordshire countryside nowadays, to be precise.

Otherwise in London, Waterstones in Piccadilly has a wall of Loebs and not much else. Moving into the second-hand/remainder area, the Gower Street Waterstone’s has a reasonable amount of highly-priced used stock, while Skoob have a (often quite substantial) selection of Loebs and some other stuff, and the same goes for Judd Books.  We may also add Unsworth’s in their new home in St Martin’s Court.  Then again,   Henry Pordes Books quite often have something interesting (but very few cheap Loebs).

And there’s always the Hellenic Bookservice!

A word about Bibles

The definitive editions of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Septuagint (Greek translation of the Tanakh), Vulgate (Latin version of the Bible) and Greek New Testament are those published by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.  It’s worth having a look on their website, since these editions may be more available or cheaper there than on Amazon/via the normal channels.  You’ll need to use the Latin versions of the titles: Biblia Hebraica, Septuaginta, Vulgata, Novum Testamentum Graece.

That reminds me of the large amount of time I spent in Moscow bookshops unsuccessfully searching for a Church Slavonic bible, and also of some amusing stories about Kurt Aland…

Note:  as from December 2010, any updates will be here.