Stefan Schorch and Ernst-Joachim Waschke, eds.

, Biblische Exegese Und Hebräische Lexikographie (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter), 2013.

A conference honoring the memory and work of Wilhelm Gesenius was held at the University of Halle March 14-18, 2010. The papers included in this collection were presented at that meeting. They are divided into seven sections as follows: I- In the Tracks of Wilhelm Gesenius: Hebrew Lexicography in the 21st Century. II- Gesenius and the Study of the Hebrew Language. III- Gesenius’ Oeuvre and Semitic Studies. IV- Gesenius’ Approach to the Biblical Text. V- Gesenius as Biblical Exegete. VI- Ancient Israel’s Umwelt in the Handwörterbuch. VII- Context and Reception of Gesenius’ Oeuvre. The entire table of contents is available online here The list of contributors is a who’s who of linguists and biblical specialists. It includes Takamitsu Muraoka, Abraham Tal, Moshe Bar-Asher, Jan Joosten, Stefan Schorch, Reinhard G. Lehmann, Emanuel Tov, Reinhard G. Kratz, Ernst-Joachm Waschke, Bernd U. Schipper, Graham Davies, and Giuseppe Veltri among many others. There are essays in German and English and the collection concludes with indices of people, sources, and Hebrew and Aramaic words. It also includes, in a number of places, photographs of parts of Gesenius’ publications. And, quite importantly, each essay has an extensive, and some have very extensive, bibliographies. It is a finely produced, from a technical viewpoint, volume. The print is beautifully clear and the binding is superior.

In terms of contents, the essays are well written and many are packed to the brim with information available nowhere else (in my experience). In terms of usefulness, the book in hand raises the bar for collections of this sort. To state that a bit differently, we have all taken in hand a book of conference papers which contained one or two that looked interesting. This volume contains not a single essay I would, or could, term ‘boring’. Most interesting indeed, to the present reviewer, are the items included in Part V- Gesenius as Biblical Exegete. Here we learn about such things as Gesenius’ commentary on Isaiah, lower and higher criticism in Hebrew lexicography, Gesenius’ exposition of Deuteronomy, and the romantic spirit which informed Gesenius’ work on the Psalms. Gesenius, in sum, was no simple linguist. Worth pointing out are various highlights from the collection. To this end, allow me to draw your attention to the essay by Dorothea Erbele-Küster and titled ‘Gender in Gesenius Revisited’ (pp. 41ff). She observes Language, rather than simply portraying reality, in fact creates it. … Within language gender plays a crucial role. Androcentric and therefore exclusive language, which equates being a human with being a male, conveys a worldview which excludes women’s perspectives (p. 41). Then ensues a fascinating examination of how gender language works in Gesenius’ writings- in his Dictionaries, and how therein we can ‘uncover perceptions of body and gender’ (p. 51). This particular essay is – to use a very old cliché – ‘eye-opening’. The second ‘highlight’ of this volume of highlights is the essay by Abraham Tal titled ‘The First Samaritanologist: Wilhelm Gesenius’ (pp. 139ff). Herein Tal asserts As far as scholarly discernment, depth of comprehension, and width of erudition are concerned, no previous scholar ever made a similar contribution to Samaritan studies (p. 149). Presently, interest in Samaritan Studies is experiencing something of a revival. Those interested in that area will want to read Tal’s detailed work. Gesenius also made important contributions to the field of Aramaic studies (as is well known, surely). Steven Fassberg’s ‘Gesenius’ Dictionary and the Development of Aramaic Studies’ (pp. 169ff) let’s readers in on a few of those contributions and, more remarkably, their continuing value: Two hundred years after the publication of the first volume of his dictionary, it is striking how many of the definitions the Gesenius gave to Biblical Aramaic words are still valid and have withstood the test of time. Unfortunately, the same is not always true for his etymologies, particularly

those which have been shown to be borrowings from Akkadian. Gesenius, however, can hardly be faulted in those cases, since the Akkadian lexicon was unknown during his lifetime (p. 181). Gesenius was such an extraordinary linguist that he made contributions as well to Phonecian philology, as Reinhard G. Lehmann makes clear in his essay (beginning on page 209). Here is an example of the illustrative plates which occur in various of the essays- this one in Lehmann’s:

Many other such snapshots of first editions of Gesenius’ books are also included in later essays. The best of them all, though, is found in the front-matter of the collection. It is an artistic rendering of Gesenius which is both attractive and colorful:

There is, at the end of the day, nothing to dislike here. The essays are, as I’ve said, really educational. The book is excellently produced. The illustrations are magnificently done. And the subject matter is so very interesting. Wilhelm Gesenius was an epoch maker and this volume is a fitting tribute to the multiformity of his contributions to the fields of linguistics and exegesis.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

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