A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew.

Author:Fassberg, Steven E.
Position:Review
 
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A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew. By SANDRA LANDIS GOGEL. SBL Resources for Biblical Study, vol. 23. Atlanta: SCHOLARS PRESS, 1998. Pp. xx + 522. $44.95.

Epigraphic Hebrew has been attested since the first extrabiblical Hebrew inscription was found in Siloam in 1880. Since then many more inscriptions have turned up, most of which are extremely fragmentary. Notable exceptions, containing several comprehensible lines of Hebrew, are the Siloam tunnel inscription (discovered 1880), the Lachish ostraca (1935), the Yavneh Yam ostracon (1960), and the Arad ostraca (1962). The evidence for epigraphic Hebrew has grown steadily this century, most recently through the publication of the Ketef Hinnom silver plaques, containing the biblical priestly blessing (1986), and the Moussaieff ostraca (1997). Although the number of epigraphic Hebrew inscriptions is far greater at the end of the twentieth century than at its beginning, it is still exiguous, for example, in comparison with the inscriptional evidence for Phoenician and Punic. In addition to inscriptions in stone and on ostraca, our knowledge of extra-biblical Hebrew from the First Temple period comes from hundreds of seals and bullae, which supply information on proper names.

The similarity of epigraphic Hebrew to the Hebrew of the First Temple period has long been recognized, and since the publication of the larger corpora of inscriptions (Lachish and Arad), epigraphic Hebrew has begun to find its way into grammars and dictionaries, particularly in the two dictionary projects initiated this decade and the last: W. Gesenius, Hebraisches und aramaisches Handworterbuch uber das Alte Testament, 18th ed., ed. R. Meyer and H. Donner (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1987-) and D. J. A. Clines et al., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994-). However, no systematic presentation of the grammar of the inscriptions has until now been presented. Students of epigraphic Hebrew have had to go through all the various books and articles in which the inscriptions were published in order to check whether something is attested. Three reasons for the lack of a comprehensive treatment of the epigraphic material come to mind: 1) until now the corpus was not large enough to justify a full-scale grammar; 2) much of the material is extremely fragmentary; 3) many of the readings are disputed. To date the most comprehensive works dealing with epigraphic Hebrew have been the descriptions by G. B. Sarfatti,...

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