Of the 23,145 verses that make up the Hebrew Bible, 269 verses are not written in Hebrew, but in Aramaic. For this reason alone, the Biblical Aramaic: A Reader and Handbook by Donald R. Vance, George Athas, Yael Avrahami, and Jonathan G. Kline is easily situated as a vital addition to any Old Testament or biblical language enthusiasts’ library.
Biblical Aramaic: A Reader and Handbook begins with a brief introduction to the language and its history and relationship to biblical Hebrew. The first section offers the complete grammatical analysis of all Aramaic portions of the Bible—Genesis 31:47, Jeremiah 10:11, Daniel 24-7:28, and Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26. The Aramaic text is founded on Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (BHL), and where BHL differs from Codex Leningradensis (L) and the standard critical edition of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) textual notes are offered. The “Reader” information is clearly presented and includes contextual glosses and parsing for words that occur fewer than 25 times, as well as parsing of all verb forms. Like the BHS Reader that came before it, the goal of the first section is to cultivate a seamless reading experience and proficiency with the language.
The second section offers an extensive collection vocabulary and morphology lists. Jonathan G. Kline did an exceptional job curating these lists to the benefit of the reader. The reader will find general frequency lists, parts of speech lists, verbs lists by stem, root type, and frequency, lists of pronominal suffixes, easily confused words, various loanwords, and more. This allows readers to no longer require a separate lexicon, and thus, provides the reader freedom to focus on learning the language with minimal distraction. In this sense, for readers with familiarity or training in the language, Biblical Aramaic: A Reader and Handbook will be a unique single stop resource with loads of benefit. One thing that it lacks, however, and something that could have been immensely useful packaged together with the content here, is an abbreviated introductory grammar for reference.
Biblical Aramaic: A Reader and Handbook by Donald R. Vance, George Athas, Yael Avrahami, and Jonathan G. Kline delivers exactly what it promises to deliver. It would have been wonderful to see some form of reference grammar included, but there are no reasons this resource should be passed up by serious students of the Bible. If you’re an Old Testament or biblical language enthusiasts and you don’t already have it, please do yourself a favor and cough up the measly $30 (MSRP) and put it on a shelf nearby. It will be used often!