Benjamin J. Noonan. Advances in the Study of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic: New Insights for Reading the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020. 336 Pages. $38.99 (paperback)
In Advances in the Study of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, Benjamin Noonan, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Columbia International University, helpfully chronicles the current state of Hebrew and Aramaic studies, especially as it pertains to the Bible. While some believe that little remains to be researched pertaining to these languages, Noonan proves that there is more work to be done. Advances functions in two primary ways: as an introduction and as a reference. First, the book introduces the reader to some of the most up-to-date research in the linguistic study of the Old Testament. Second, it summarizes many leading scholars and their views in a concise, yet helpful manner. Thus readers will find themselves frequently returning to this book for reference.
Linguistics constitutes the central focus of Advances. From verbal aspect to style shifting, from discourse analysis to dating biblical Hebrew, not to mention advances related to teaching Hebrew, the book addresses several topics of current scholarly concern. Beginning with a historical survey of Hebrew and Aramaic language studies, Noonan powerfully connects some of the first medieval Hebraists to the current state of linguistic scholarship, and he often weaves back and forth between general linguistics and its application to Hebrew and Aramaic. That said, one cannot help but notice the common refrain: “We look forward to more work in this vein” (179). The book leaves one with a heightened fervor to advance the study of biblical Hebrew and Aramaic. While centuries of scholarship have contributed to this particular field, much work remains undone. The sheer volume of research that is collated and presented here renders this book a must-buy for anyone serious about the study of the Old Testament.
A minor area of critique concerns the book’s narrow scope. The book limits its treatment of this particular area of study to the linguistic aspect of “reading the Old Testament” (to quote the subtitle). However, no reason is given why, for example, archeological discoveries are reduced to a mere linguistic contribution to biblical studies. A brief chapter on this related field would not have significantly added to the length of the book yet may have benefitted the reader’s understanding of the progression of Hebrew and Aramaic studies related to the Bible.
Nevertheless, Advances is an extremely sharp tool that will likely remain helpful for a long time. Noonan is a well-researched scholar who has written a helpful introduction and reference work on biblical Hebrew and Aramaic. We look forward to further studies in this vein by Noonan and others.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Lucas Whitson, a Ph.D. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.