Ancient Hebrew Periodization and the Language of the Book of Jeremiah: The Case for a Sixth-Century Date of Composition.

Author:Rendsburg, Gary A.
Position::Book review

Ancient Hebrew Periodization and the Language of the Book of Jeremiah: The Case for a Sixth-Century Date of Composition. By AARON D. HORNKOHL. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, vol. 74. Leiden: BRILL, 2014. Pp. viii + 517. $210.

The book under review constitutes much more than its title promises. For while the focus of the research remains on Jeremiah throughout, in essence the author provides the first sustained monograph against the revisionist view of Hebrew diachronic study which has emerged in recent years. For the uninitiated, though, first some back-story:

For much of the twentieth century, commencing with the work of S. R. Driver and culminating with the work of Avi Hurvitz (whose studies have continued into the twenty-first century and indeed to the present day), Hebraists were in general agreement that the Biblical Hebrew (BH) language changed diachronically over the course of the millennium of attested texts. The changes were not as drastic as the changes from Old Egyptian to Middle Egyptian to Late Egyptian (extending over two millennia) or the changes from Old English to Middle English to Modern English (stretching over one millennium), but the changes were detectable nonetheless. Hence, as outlined by E. Y. Kutscher and as detailed by Hurvitz (the former was the main teacher of the latter), Hebraists understood that biblical texts could be placed on the continuum of Archaic BH (ABH), Standard BH (SBH), and Late BH (LBH).

This picture was challenged in a major work by Ian Young, Robert Rezetko, and Martin Ehrensvard, Linguistic Dating of Biblical Texts (London: Equinox, 2008). The authors contend that the differences in BH are not due to diachronic development, but rather serve as testimony to two coeval literary styles, one more conservative, one more liberal (for lack of better terms). Books written in the latter, with a heavy influence of Aramaic, presence of Persian loanwords, and so on (akin to LBH in the customary view) are clearly dated to the Persian period; but books composed in the former, which lacks a concentration of said developments (akin to SBH), also may be or should be dated to the Persian period--only the scribes who produced these texts adhered to a more conservative writing style.

Into this fray steps Aaron Hornkohl with the present masterful study, devoted to the book of Jeremiah, but with far-reaching implications beyond the linguistic profile of this single biblical composition. This...

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