Book Reviews

How Biblical Languages Work

A Student’s Guide to Learning Hebrew and Greek

Peter James Silzer, Thomas John Finley Grand Rapids 2004-01-01

Silzer and Finley have written a useful survey of linguistic issues in the study of foreign languages generally, but with specific reference to Greek and Hebrew. The first chapter discusses the characteristics and functions of language. The second addresses writing systems and the phonetics of the languages. The third chapter deals with the formation of words, and the fourth chapter considers the construction of phrases and clauses. The authors discuss discourse and semantics in the fifth and sixth chapters, and linguistic change and development in chapter seven. Methods of studying language are the subject of chapter eight. An excellent glossary and bibliography conclude the book. Each chapter includes a section of exercises and suggestions for further study, many with suggested Internet resources.

Perhaps the book delves into each subject with too much detail for the average beginning student. However, instructors will find it useful to review the material in the book before teaching each semester. A judicious selection of readings in the book might be assigned with profit to a beginning class in Hebrew or Greek. Some minor problems exist in the text, such as a misspelling of the Greek for “fear” on page 128 and inconsistent transliteration (as the use of ph and f for Greek f, or y~u&s on page 99 compared with the proposed transliteration on page 65). A few such inconsistencies appear in the text. On the whole, however, the book should assist both instructors in the biblical languages and language students.

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