Monday, June 6, 2011

Pulpit Review: Hebrew and Hebrews

Wonneberger, Reinhard. Understanding BHS: A Manual for the Users of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Subsidia Biblica 8, Third, Revised Edition). Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Bilico, 2001. 104 Pages. Paper. (P)

Vanhoye, Albert. Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Subsidia Biblica 12). Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Bilico, 1989. 120 Pages. Paper. (P)

My first exposure to both Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew was at Seminary. For one reason or another, my comfort with Hebrew was greater than my skill with Greek. In contrast, the critical apparatus of BHS was and remained more of a mystery to me than that of USB4/NA27. Both of these volumes from Subsidia Biblica were a blessing to me and hopefully will serve you well, too.

Understanding BHS grew out of "the rather simple idea that grouping text-critical symbols according to their functions would bake it easier for students to understand the principles of the apparatus" (v). This makes perfect sense. Its other goals?
  1. to enable beginners to gain access to the language of the text apparatus of BHS and to the Masoretic apparatus as well; [QBR: Did you know there were two?]
  2. to document the apparatus language of BHS in its entirety and to provide references to the Old Testament text wherever possible; [QBR: That completeness makes this a singularly unique resource, as well as mindful of the nature of the text we are studying.]
  3. to propose a new concept of dealing with the apparatus of BHS and thus to advance the science of publishing critical editions of a text. [QBR: This goal gives the ideas Wonneberger presents and Daniels translates more impact in publishing and academia.]
(back cover)
I particularly appreciated Chapter 4, Critique, for pointing out "the abilities and limitations of BHS" with a mind to "pave the way for the further development of Biblia Hebraica" (58). Similarly, Appendix A (69ff) helped me mentally connect main sources and better comprehend the hierarchy of text-critical functions. The table of corrigenda (74ff) is indispensable. (One may note a minor typo, "untoucheed," in the middle of vii.)

I recommend Understanding BHS: A Manual for the Users of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia to seminarians as well as pastors in the parish.

You may have been wondering, "How can volume 8 be dated 2001 and volume 12 come from 1989?" That's relatively easy to answer. Wonneberger's work is now in its third edition. The original German edition was published in 1984.

Vanhoye is a great guide to the Epistle to the Hebrews. Rather, I should call it the Sermon to the Hebrews. As the Headmaster of a Classical Lutheran school, I look forward to expanding use of Structure and Message of the Epistle to the Hebrews as a high school text for Rhetoric classes. I also look forward to sharing Vanhoye's structure, insights, and translation with our Sunday Bible Class this fall.

I greatly appreciated his identification of inclusion (20, et al), concentric symmetry (33ff, et al), his overall outline of the structure of Hebrews (40a-b), the visual Gospel of the cross (+) as the transformation of former barriers (-) as he does on 70-71ff. 

The publisher is to be commended for reprinting the "General Outline of the Epistle to the Hebrews" on cardstock for use as a bookmark while studying Vanhoye's translation in detail. One will note immediately the unique indentation format that could easily be expanded and applied to the original Koine Greek text.

Both of these resources are worth your study time and book budget. God bless you in your search for them and in your study of them.

While we encourage our readers to purchase directly from the publisher when possible (see above), supply and affordability are important considerations. Brother pastors encouraged me to share with you the Vanhoye book's availability and budget friendly price at Loyola,, rather than

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.