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67

A NEW GATTUNG

IN O.T.

LITERATURE?

HEBREW TEACHERS DREAM

presentation
(ed.
J.H.

of

Readings

in Biblical Hebrew

Eaton), Birmingham, 1976.

J.H.

Eaton, Department of Theology,

The

University, Birmingham

B15 2TT,

England.

Yes, dream - not nightmare, for the Gattung which swam before his nocturnal ken was not an addition to those already discovered by Gunkel and more recent sleuths, but a new type of commentary.
Gesenius Kidman, senior lecturer, was glad of his unusual forename, which reflected the fact that his parents commenced their courtship while studying for a B.A. in Biblical Studies and having occasion to share a copy of Gesenius Grammar; it had probably helped him to rise to his present position with responsibility for teaching elementary Hebrew and Hebrew texts.
GK (as he was known in the Department) had bemused after a departmental dinner to mark pleasantly the retirement of one of their professors which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Hardly had GK laid his head on his pillow, He when he fell asleep and began to dream with unusual vividness. dreamt that he was seated under a spreading oak on a sunny afternoon; birds sang, bees hummed, and around him his second-year With Hebraists were spread out on the grass reading Hebrew bibles. pleasant surprise he could see that one was enjoying 1 Sam. 5, another Deut. 8, another Ps. 110, another Job 19, another Eccles. 12; further away he could see bibles open at Hosea, Isaiah and Ezekiel. Most surprising of all, Christine Thoroughgood, probably his favourite pupil, seemed to be whispering through her dark tresses words of Ugaritic. The happy ease with which these studies were progressing contrasted with his recollection of his earlier efforts with this class, begun with the long trek through the On

the

night

in

question

gone to bed

68

Joseph saga, when


Egypt.

to the next who was

it had been difficult to remember from one lesson currently going down into or coming up from

Pondering the cause of this transformation, GK noticed that beside each pupil nestled amid the buttercups and daisies a neat red Christine seemed to divine the question in his heart and volume. extended her copy to nim with a smile. Turning the pages eagerly, he found commentary on a ricn anthology from the Hebrew bible, including the passages iie had observed the students reading and
many
more.

The greatest novelty was that all was written directly for the needs of the second-year student - not mostly for the general public with a few scraps of technicality thrown in, nor for Nor was it a advanced scholars with the basics taken as read. Remarks on content and language were bleak list of parsings. blended into a commentary that would enable the student to enter readily into a rounded experience of the texts verbal and spiritual quality. The selection showed the varied resources of the Hebrew bible, and books could be sampled which would be too Towards the end some inscriptions and a formidable as a whole. of piece Ugaritic poetry were reproduced and simply explained, bringing home how biblical scholarship must lie open at its
frontiers. So dear Christine had been all! His admiration grew.

murmuring Ugaritic after

But now GK realized that the birdsong was the dawn chorus rousing For an hour or so he lay awake reflecting on him from a dream. Was he the happy scene under the oak and on the marvellous book. being called to produce such a book? The realities of day-time bore upon him. Publishers would demur; some would suggest aiming at a wider readership; some would mention the needs of the American market; it might eventually be published on the Continent by the No. The dream had ancient house of Grill and sold at E30 a copy. faded, and at 9 a.m. they would be back to the next verse of the Joseph saga, scooping together the various scraps of information from ponderous volumes, wondering whither had fled the thrill of GK sighed and rose slowly. story and language.
* * * * * *
*

our hero - perhaps we shall follow his another occasion. The fact is that the book of his dreams is not beyond realization, thanks to the development now us

But

let

leave
on

promising

career

69

of our own printing resources in universities and colleges (of I would like now to which this new journal is happy evidence). describe a first attempt at such a book, falling short of the It was produced at Birmingham dream no doubt, but a beginning. Like a first-year in the Universitys Offset Litho Section. course which preceded it, it was not intended for wide sale, but for use in our own Department and in several others which had links with us; so only a few hundred copies were produced and these I could be sold to students in 1976 at El.50 (pp. 146, A4 size). was fortunate to have the initial outlay covered by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation, so that receipts will finance future production; the Foundations interest in the project of course was a tremendous stimulation. The sample pages reproduced below show the contents, contributors and general character. However, a few observations may here be helpful.
It seemed good to make it a work of co-operation between several teachers and centres. Quite a few Hebrew teachers follow a lonely trail, with most of their departmental or faculty colleagues In the present case the coconcerned with other subjects. operation brought the work into existence in a matter of months, and contributors usually dealt with an area where they had special interest or experience. They allowed me freedom to redact their work into a general unity as I produced the camera-ready pages As soon as I with a portable electric typewriter and a pen. started to write my own contribution, I realized the difference between improvising remarks on a text to a class on the basis of a few notes and having to fix ones comments precisely and durably A salutary discipline on paper. I

question arose as to how much knowledge of Hebrew could be assumed and how many forms needed explanation. Strict gradation through the book might not be the answer, as it would require the In user to take all the passages in order and not selectively. the end it seemed natural to treat some passages as suitable for an early stage, and so to be generously furnished with vocabulary and clues to parsing, while other material (e.g. Ecclesiastes, inscriptions) could be treated as likely to be tackled by students growing in familiarity with the basics. But there was no rigid demarcation, and if in doubt I tended to give the essential help, mindful of the large proportion of students who are not gifted linguists or blessed with ample time for the subject. All the same, I tried to avoid getting lost in a forest of parsing notes; here, and in all other respects, conciseness seemed essential.
The

70

References to valuable

authorities, such

as

BDB and
at

Gesenius,

are

given fairly frequently, so that some students to know what they have to offer. Occasionally given rather for the teachers convenience, as

of R. Meyer and 3rd edn. of Koehlers lexicon. reference is made to the survey of grammar in our book.
After the

least will get a reference may be to the German grammar With the sign @

first-year

course

commentary on each passage I have put a few questions to encourage the student to think and research on the basis of the data just observed in the text. Thus, though we have lightened his work in one direction, we have made ample provision, in optional form, for the development of the students initiative and judgement in more fruitful directions. And for all students it will be to come to a class well prepared and with accurate notes, possible and free to enter into discussion and reflection. Above all, by reducing the difficulties to reasonable proportions and bringing conveniently together the essentials of language and exegesis, we hope to have opened the way for the student actually to enjoy what the text has to offer.
then does one proceed in class? Having established the selection and sequence of texts to be studied in that particular year, I encourage the students to prepare the relevant portion If the class consists of more than two or before each lesson. three members, I do not ask each to translate a portion, but read, translate and comment on the passage myself, aiming to provoke For responses and contributions from the class where appropriate. many details reference can be made to the Readings which all have to hand, and time is left for discussion of weighty matters. At the conclusion of each extract students can undertake to write on one of the appended questions, choosing in accordance with their own strength or interest. If such work cannot be brought directly into the assessment of the course, at least the examination questions can take account of it.
How

this account, I hope it may suggest possibilities to who have not yet considered them; but also I hope to learn of the endeavours of others with similar aims. Meanwhile a further group of contributors is beavering away for our next volume, Readings in Biblical Hebrew II. GK, help is coming!
In

publishing

some

(The following pages reduced format.)

are

reproduced

in

an