Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pulpit Review: Beyond the Basics in Biblical Languages


Nordling, John G. Religion and Resistance in Early Judaism: Greek Readings in 1 Maccabees and Josephus. St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 364 Pages. Paper. $34.99. https://www.cph.org/p-18273-religion-and-resistance-in-early-judaism-greek-readings-in-1-maccabees-and-josephus.aspx (P)

Steinmann, Andrew E. Intermediate Biblical Hebrew: A Reference Grammar with Charts and Exercises. St. Louis: Concordia, 2009. 242 Pages. Paper. $49.99. https://www.cph.org/p-12937-intermediate-biblical-hebrew.aspx (P)

Wilch, John R. Concordia Hebrew Reader: Ruth. St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 178 Pages. Paper. $29.99. https://www.cph.org/p-17772-concordia-hebrew-reader-ruth.aspx (P)

Students and potential students of Biblical Greek and Hebrew have a wide variety of "101" Introductory resources. Not all are created equal. I am very thankful for those produced by Concordia Publishing House. 

The challenge for a true scholar of the languages is to make the transition from neophyte to competence. Here are three titles that would be helpful toward that end.


Religion and Resistance in Early Judaism prepares intermediate and advanced students of Greek to read and translate selections from 1 Maccabees and Josephus, with an emphasis on building knowledge of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. The book also describes the religious and cultural clash between the classical world and early Judaism. It includes:

  • Historical context from Alexander the Great to Josephus
  • Greek text of 1 Maccabees 1:1-4:61
  • Selections of Greek from Josephus's life, Jewish War, and Antiquities of the Jews
  • Notes on the grammar and syntax of each selection of Greek text, including numerous cross references to Greek and biblical literature
  • A comprehensive glossary of Greek terms and a select bibliography
  • Foreword written by Dr. Paul Maier

John G. Nordling, PhD, is an associate professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He has 16 years of experience teaching students Greek and Latin literature, classical civilization, and exegetical theology.

Click Here to see all Language Tools books.

(Publisher's website)

Professor Nordling is an ideal author/editor of a volume like this. We became acquainted because of our common love of the classics and classical Lutheran education. German-speaking Lutherans were much more familiar with Josephus and the Apocrypha than their modern English-speaking counterparts. 

Readers will note similarities to the approach of both Concordia Commentary and the recent CPH Lutheran edition of the Apocrypha, yet with the kind of detail and rigor not required by the typical lay reader of either of those resources. 

It is books like this one that make we think that I should have been a Classics Major (with a music minor) back at the University.

I enjoyed by introductory Hebrew class more than my introductory Greek class. Perhaps I was more used to the routine of seminary life by then. Maybe it was the heat of fall in St. Louis versus the more pleasant days of fall.


Intermediate Biblical Hebrew bridges the learner from the first year of Hebrew into thoughtful reading and deeper study of the biblical text.

Features Include:

  • Twenty-two diagrams that make challenging concepts clear
  • Practice exercises for each chapter
  • Glosses for Hebrew words appearing fewer than one hundred time in the Old Testament
  • Definitions of linguistic and grammatical terms
  • A select, annotated bibliography
  • Topical and scriptural indexes


Helpful Downloads
Answers to Exercises in Intermediate Biblical Hebrew

(Publisher's website)

One of the greatest contributions of Andrew Steinmann's Intermediate Biblical Hebrew is the time he takes to guide the student-in-transition to note and distinguish common words and words that are confusingly similar to the seminarian new to Hebrew. That would have been incredibly helpful and encouraging as part of my first-year Spring Biblical Readings Class!

No answers are provided in the text to the practice exercises of the text. Do note the downloadable answer key hidden (for the sake of honest struggle with the exercises) in plain sight on the CPH website! See the link to the page above.

Particularly indispensable are the book's Glossary and Annotated Bibliography. 

Last but not least, Ruth:


Concordia Hebrew Reader: Ruth


  • The Hebrew text from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia
  • A literal translation that indicates Hebrew line breaks
  • References to more than 20 advance reference tools 
  • Nearly 100 exegetical studies
  • A full works cited list

A challenge far greater than mastering the rudiments of Biblical Hebrew is developing and nurturing an understanding of how Hebrew works. The Concordia Hebrew Reader on Ruth explains how the Hebrew of the Book of Ruth works.

Dr. John R. Wilch is professor emeritus at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario, where he taught exegetical theology (1980-1999). He studied under Karl Heinrich Rengstorf in Munster, Germany.
(Publisher's website)

The author/editor of this book is also the author of the Concordia Commentary on Ruth. This is a similar, yet distinctly focused kind of exegetical help. The website description is a good summary of what to expect. Not a mere grammar for Ruth, expect history and theology as you prepare to preach and teach this remarkable Christological book.

Going forward, I could imagine an even more affordable way for CPH to develop and publish more volumes in a Concordia Hebrew Reader series: digital books via Logos 6 software. Scholars and students could pair their own digital BHS text on a tablet or computer with additional digital CHRs.

Pricing appears to be the only weakness toward greater use and appreciation of titles like these in the LCMS and greater church. There is nothing like having a book in your hands, paperback or cloth with dust cover. From an economic standpoint, it must be worth it for the purchaser and the publisher. A lower price-point for the customer would usually mean a loss to the publisher because some projects subsidize others. That is not uncommon, but must be carefully considered. I believe a digital version of future resources like these would keep production costs down enough to make it viable for CPH to produce more ebooks at more palatable prices for the pastor in the parish.

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

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