אשׁר and שׁ in Jonah — a new article in Vetus Testamentum

As part of my long-term research on the relative clause in Hebrew (see my book in the sidebar), I mulled over the variation of אשׁר and שׁ in the book many, many times. I felt like I had most of the pieces, but there was a critical perspective missing (communication accommodation theory — thanks, Alex!). This is perhaps the most wonderful benefit of teaching—learning from a sharp student. My co-author studied with me at U of T for only a year, but in that time he not only provided me with the key to sorting out the Jonah problem, he wrote an excellent paper on Ezekiel, which is also in press as a joint article with another excellent young scholar, Peter Bekins.

Anyway, Alex’s and my article on Jonah just came out in VT and here it is.

Update on our projects

It has been over a year since we’ve posted on this blog. That does not mean, though, that we’ve been idle.

First, we both went through promotion reviews this last year and can now drop any qualifiers to our professorial status. For John, I had no doubt of the positive outcome.  For my part, I considered it a trial run and was more than pleasantly surprised by the success.

Second, we (with Phillip Samuel Marshall at Houston Baptist) have finished our Ecclesiastes commentary for Baylor (in the BHHB series). This follows the Ruth and Esther volumes for me (see left sidebar) and the precedes the Biblical Aramaic volume that John is finishing.

Third, we’ve seen some articles come out in print and others finished an submitted. More importantly (because ultimately, our research serves our teaching), we have drafted most of our Intermediate Biblical Hebrew textbook, to follow our Beginning Biblical Hebrew (again, see the sidebar), a large part of our Advanced Biblical Hebrew textbook, and we have both begun drafting respective primers on BH syntax and the BH verbal system. Finally, a reflection of our stance on the use of linguistics to study BH, we have also initiated a volume we’re calling Linguistics for Hebraists, which will include introductions to various linguistic theories (including case studies) aimed at the student of ancient Hebrew.

As some of these projects are completed, we hope to return to a few more blog posts in the next year (at least, more than the zero of last year!). For my part, I’ll be throwing out a few ideas very soon in posts following this one.

New Article in the Journal of Semitic Studies

The latest issue of the Journal of Semitic Studies (2014; 59/1) is out and has an article that I wrote with my doctoral student, Andrew Jones.

Robert D. Holmstedt and Andrew R. Jones. 2014. “The Pronoun in Tripartite Verbless Clauses in Biblical Hebrew: Resumption for Left-Dislocation or Pronominal Copula?” Journal of Semitic Studies. 59(1): 53-89.

This article is related to this earlier post, as well as this JBL article that came out last Fall.

For the full article, see here and scroll down.

A Linguistic Profile of the Book of Esther (SBL 2013)

A doctoral student in my department, John Screnock, and I are co-presenting a paper in the SBL Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section in Baltimore on Sunday. The paper is a much shortened version of a large section of our introductory chapter in the Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible volume on Esther that we are writing (the volume is now 99% drafted).

Since we have finished the paper much sooner than I typically do, I have posted the paper and handout below. (It’s a relief to anticipate a flight without finishing my paper—what an odd feeling.)

See you in Baltimore!



My Entries in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics

Brill sent out the offprints from the EHLL to authors last week. They expressly asked in the email that authors not post their offprints to Academia.edu. That’s too bad, since it is a very useful way to share articles. I will acquiesce, though, and refrain from posting my offprints there. Instead, I will post them here (which they fully allow).

Holmstedt, Robert D., and B. Elan Dresher.
2013. Clitics: Pre-Modern Hebrew. Pp. 458-63 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 1: A‒F, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

Holmstedt, Robert D.
2013. Hypotaxis. Pp. 220-22 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 2: G‒O, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

2013. Pro-drop. Pp. 265-67 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 3: P‒Z, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

2013. Relative Clause: Biblical Hebrew. Pp. 350-57 in the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, Volume 3: P‒Z, ed. Geoffrey Khan. Boston/Leiden: Brill. (PDF)

Genesis 1:1, again, and my “Un-Christian” analysis

I stumbled across an amazing blog post today. In it, I and my teachers and the institutions at which I studied are subjected to ad hominem attack. I’ve put the link at the bottom.

In all my posts here on Gen 1:1 (here, here, and here), I have never taken a stand on the evolution vs. creation-science debate, largely because I think the whole thing is a waste of time. If a person’s view of the authority [add: of the Bible, and so God] rests on reading Genesis scientifically and so his or her faith crashes against the wall of science, the teachers and preachers that taught that poor person in the first place will answer to God for misleading others. But that’s their problem and God’s concern; mine is Hebrew grammar and the ancient setting of biblical literature.

So far the readers that have come by this blog and read my posts have understood (I think) that my concern is to explain the legitimate and likely analyses of the various Hebrew grammatical issues that I discuss. This seminary student had the chutzpah (!) to accept the cogency of my arguments on Gen 1:1, and that’s what put me on the radar of the laughably titled group, Answers in Genesis (I don’t see many real answers on that site). I say, if my answers for Genesis get in the way of your theology, you have two choices for response: ignore my argument (and stick your head in the sand) or find a way to nuance your theology. Guess which option the Answers in Genesis folks take?

“How arrogant!”, you say? Oh, so be it. I’ve stared at a lot of Hebrew grammatical problems and my faith hasn’t been shaken. I figure if the text and ideas God’s people left us is shown to be better read as ancient myth than anachronistic science lessons (that fly in the face of modern science, which implies that God is now duping even many Christians who are scientists), then we owe it to them and God to face up to it. We have to remember that even theology (of every kind) is a human creation. In the end, when the curtain is pulled aside, I’m betting that even the best theology will be a bit off. I will say, though, that removing the absurd creation-science vs. evolution debate from my theological horizon was a relieving by-product of my family’s move into the Catholic Church last year. Wow — a context that treats science with the appropriate respect and yet maintains perspective (and the long view) on loci of authority.

In any case, I will proceed with my liberal (ha!) Christian (Wheaton) and secular (UW-Madison) educations (where this Mortenson fellow got “Jewish” in my educational background, I’m not sure — I guess it was the year I spent at Hebrew U in Jerusalem) and my secular job (Univ of Toronto) and risk being called “arrogant” and “un-orthodox” and not getting the Answers in Genesis types to “bow a knee” to me. I’m not losing sleep over any of that.

I note with some humor but no surprise that this Terry Mortenson from Answers in Genesis did not (and almost certainly can not!) engage my grammatical arguments. Instead, my arguments are just un-orthodox, un-historical, and probably un-Christian stuff to ignore. (And no, I have absolutely no interest in reading young-earth creationist literature-carefully or not!)

Go here to find the source of my day’s laugh, the Answers in Genesis blog post by Georgia Purdom.

Recycling . . . its not just about the environment!

Perhaps it is the combined effect of information explosion beginning the end of last century combined with the unending pressure to publish or perish, but too often scholars find themselves covering the same old ground that has already been well-covered by past scholars. It is not simply that we are engaged in the same sorts of debates (Indeed, my work on the verb admittedly focuses on one of the most longstanding debates in Hebrew grammar!), it is that we too quickly forget the ideas that earlier scholars have advanced—usually unsuccessfully, which explains their forgotten state. Unfortunately, the rapid digitization of these old resources makes such absent-minded recycling even more egregious.

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Posted in Hebrew Semantics, Hebrew Syntax, Historical linguistics, Linguistics (theory or typology), Verbal System, Word Order. Comments Off on Recycling . . . its not just about the environment!