Saturday, November 7, 2009

Another Must-Have Book: Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew

I admit that I'm not really a fan of the full 8 volume Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, but this new abridgement looks genuinely useful. The full DCH is less useful because 1) their theoretical foundation in modern linguistics was not so modern, 2) their entries are overloaded with useless syntactic data, especially now that we have computers to search for that sort of thing, and 3) it's taking FOREVER for them to complete it (largely due to #2 and the choice to include DSS and Sirach, I'm guessing). Of course, I haven't looked at the latest volume. Maybe they've changed some things. I found the book reviews from when vol. 1 came out to be very entertaining (Muraoka's and Andersen's were the best, as I recall).

Despite all of that, the need was there for a Hebrew dictionary that included the Dead Sea Scrolls and other extra-biblical ancient Hebrew texts. The DCH project fills that need, and this Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew is exactly the sort of handbook that I'm more likely to use than an 8 volume dictionary. It's easier on the budget, too, since the full version sells for $200-300 per volume. Dove lists the paperback of CDCH at $39.99 at the moment. They expect the book to be released 11/10/09, just in time for SBL and the other related academic conferences in New Orleans this month. Here's the new book announcement that I received last week from Dove.
This is an abridgment of the 8-volume Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (of which Volumes 7 and 8 will soon be published). Like it (and unlike all previous Hebrew dictionaries) all the literature of classical Hebrew is covered, including not only the Hebrew Bible but also the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ben Sira and the ancient Hebrew inscriptions.

The CDCH thus contains not only the c. 8400 Hebrew words found in the standard dictionaries, but also a further 3340+ words (540 from the Dead Sea Scrolls, 680 from other ancient Hebrew literature, and 2120+ proposed words for the Hebrew Bible not previously recognized by dictionaries). All the words in the full Dictionary of Classical Hebrew are to be found in the CDCH.

The CDCH has been designed to be as user-friendly as possible. The Hebrew words are arranged strictly in alphabetical order, so it is not necessary to know the root of a word to look it up in the Dictionary. All the Hebrew words and phrases quoted are accompanied by an English translation. At the end of each entry on verbs is a list of the nouns derived from that verb; and at the end of each entry on nouns a reference to the verb from which it is derived (when known). For every word the numbers of its occurrences in the four main kinds of classical Hebrew (the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ben Sira, and the ancient inscriptions) are noted. All the proper names in classical Hebrew texts are included, with their correct spellings in English.

Previous dictionaries have generally been revisions and adaptations of earlier dictionaries; DCH and CDCH result from a completely fresh re-examination of the texts and an independent analysis of the meanings of Hebrew words. Rich in examples and citations, this edition will be of immense value to students at all levels, as well as to working scholars who will not always be in a position to refer to the complete DCH.


  1. their theoretical foundation in modern linguistics was not so modern

    any discussion of this you could point me to?

  2. Mike,

    Start with the reviews of vol 1 by Muraoka and Andersen.

    I based my opinion on Clines' description of their method in the preface to vol. 1. I know some things changed along the way as they responded to critiques, but his description for vol. 1 was very much in line with classical Saussurean linguistics (ca. 1910 - not very modern). Linguistics as a discipline has come a long way from Saussure. It would be like saying that my biblical research is in line with modern methods and then describing my approach as if nothing has happened in the field since Wellhausen or Gunkel.

    I'm open to correction on this point if someone more familiar with their approach can point me to where they've revised it to be more linguistically relevant.

    Current linguistic theory on semantics and lexicography is based more on cognitive linguistics and prototype semantics. The most cutting edge research that I know of for Biblical Hebrew is the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew project sponsored by UBS.