THE HEBREW AND ARAMAIC LEXICON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. STUDY EDITIONWritten by Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, et al. Reviewed By Richard S. Hess
For many years, Hebrew students who read English had only one choice for a lexicon to guide them in reading the OT, the classic lexicon of Brown, Driver, and Briggs (= BDB). Although abridgements and ‘gloss guides’ have appeared more recently, it has only been with the completion of the English translation of the (German) third edition of Koehler Baumgartner’s lexicon of the Old Testament (= KB) that an up-to-date (by nearly a century) comprehensive lexicon for the entire vocabulary of the OT has appeared. Initially this appeared in the five volumes and required a sizeable monetary investment to purchase. However, the publishers have now made a printed edition available in two volumes and reduced the price. An examination of this new edition reveals that all of the original material is present. M.E.J. Richardson’s marvellous translation remains a reliable guide for the German original. The size of print has been reduced to accommodate the format of two volumes. However, most will find it readable without the need for an additional lens.
Is this the lexicon that the serious student of Hebrew should now acquire? There are several considerations. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew is currently being produced. However, it has a different editorial philosophy that will complement, rather than compete with, KB. KB examines each word in light of its full range of Semitic cognates. It therefore serves particularly well the student who wishes to examine low frequency words (which is why most of us consult a lexicon in the first place). Also, only half of the other lexicon has appeared to date. Neither it nor the proposed Princeton lexicon are likely to appear in complete form for many years.
Another consideration for the prospective purchaser is whether the publisher will continue to produce cheaper editions of their lexicon. While a less expensive abridgement may not be out of the question, it is highly unlikely that the full text will appear in a cheaper form. Nor is the newly announced price for the CD-Rom edition less expensive than these two volumes. Finally, one may wish to ponder whether BDB, at a fraction of the cost of the KB edition, provides a better buy. It may, but there are two points to consider. First, the serious student of Hebrew Bible studies will want to have access to the up-to-date research reflected in the full edition of KB, and there is no better printed edition than the two volumes. Second, BDB erects obstacles for even the most seasoned user of Semitic lexicons. As is well known, it lists all nouns and adjectives, as well as verbs, by tri-literal roots. This is true even where it is not certain that the word has a tri-literal root. Thus artificial roots are created and the user is constantly challenged to find the word in this work. For this reason, helps and guides have been produced over the past quarter of a century; there is no need for these with KB. It lists all nouns and adjectives separately from the verbal roots, and according to their natural alphabetical order. Therefore, words may be located more quickly and easily. Thus KB remains the lexicon of choice and this less expensive edition is a welcome feature.
Richard S. Hess
Denver Seminary, Denver