Bibles, Books, Hebrew, Old Testament, Reviews

Book Review: BHS – A Reader’s Edition

BHSBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition

Hendrickson | Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft | Amazon | CBD

Several years ago (like with the Greek New Testament) I bought Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (hereafter RHB) and have used it quite a bit. It’s a handy volume and I haven’t really looked to replace it; however, now that I’ve got a copy of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition (hereafter BHS-RE), I will likely default to it (the BHS) over the other (RHB). Let me first say that the Zondervan edition is not necessarily inferior—it’s quite a nice volume. My preference for the BHS-RE is based on a couple of elements, both of which I’ll discuss briefly in the review.

First, concerning the more superficial element, by which I mean the aesthetics, the BHS-RE is slightly larger and thus a bit bulkier than the RHB. BHS-RE clocks in at 1,765 pages, whereas the RHB comes in slightly lower—1,652. While some may think this difference amounts to significant size difference, it’s actually a negligible amount. Once you’re dealing with a book whose pages number into four-digit territory, 113 pages really isn’t that much. No matter which you choose, they’re both big and bulky. The RHB is duo tone and has held up well over the years. The BHS-RE is hardcover (though it’s also available in black flexisoft) and time will tell whether or not it is durable. My impression thus far is that it should be able to withstand ordinary use for many years. Other aesthetic elements of note in this volume are the font and the paper. The font, which looks a lot like (and may be) SBL Hebrew, is preferable to the RHB’s HebraicaII font. This is a matter of personal preference and every reader will have their own likes as far as the font is concerned. For me, this font looks better on the page. Speaking of the page, the paper used in the BHS-RE is not the typical paper used in bibles. It’s a more of a sepia tone and is thicker, thus it prevents ghosting more so than the RHB. The BHS-RE’s particular paper/font combo is much easier on my eye’s than that of the RHB and is one of the reason’s I prefer it over the RHB.

Now, on to the more important elements—the text and features. The text is the complete text of the BHS and has been checked against the Leningrad Codex (which will differ slightly from the text of the RHB). As for the vocabulary, which can make or break one’s ability to read any language, BHS-RE includes glosses for all words that occur fewer than seventy times and these glosses are defined contextually, thus obviating unnecessary potential meanings that would be out of place in a given section. For those who might need to look up a word that’s not included in the lexical notes, there is a glossary in the back that includes all words that occur seventy times or more, even proper nouns. So, all words used in the Hebrew Bible are glossed in this volume.

One element that will take some readers time to adjust to is the parsing scheme (you can get a “schematic” or operation manual for parsing here). BHS-RE has gone to great lengths to provide ample parsing information for the reader, but it will take a little practice to figure out the system. In the RHB, verbs are not fully parsed; rather, the lemma is provided and all other information for a given verb is not listed. For example, the first verb listed in the footnotes for Exod 25:2 is יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ. It appears in the footnotes as “נדב Qal: impel, stir; incite”. Looking at the same verb in the BHS-RE, we have “נדב. bG25. So the question becomes, “How do I know how that verb is parsed?” The system devised for this task goes like this (for this particular verb): G=German Grundstamm (or “base stem”), 25=3 masculine plural. The “G” can indicate both prefixes and suffixes. Other stems are noted as

  • N = Niphal (reflexive or middle)
  • H = Hiphil (causative)
  • D = Piel (factitive; “D” is for the doubled middle radical)
  • p = all passive stems (following the uppercase stem label)
  • Gp = Qal passive
  • Hp = Hophal
  • Dp = Pual or Polal
  • tD = Hithpolel
  • (there are others not listed here)

I’ll leave the indicators of person, gender, and number for you to read should you get a copy—it’s a little more tedious to reproduce here. To describe it briefly, it’s basically a numerical system, where different elements of the verb are represented by variations of tens and ones. Obad 1:4 begins with אִם־תַּגְבִּ֣יהַּ and is parsed in the footnotes as H22 גבהּ go high, soar. The H22 then indicates this verb is a Hiphil imperfect 2ms—H = Hiphil, 22=2ms. Another example is 1:7, where we find שִׁלְּח֗וּךָ, which is parsed as D15s2. Broken down, this indicates the verb is a Piel perfect 3 common plural with a 2ms suffix. It’s a bit complicated at first, but after a bit of practice it probably works as a more efficient way to read through sometimes-cumbersome verb details.

In sum, this is a very nice volume. The intent behind it, as made obvious from the subtitle, is to foster regular reading of the Hebrew Bible and that end is made quite possible thanks to the hard work put into this text. Once you can get a handle on the parsing system, you’ll be able to read the Hebrew Bible with new efficiency and joy.

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Read a sample chapter here.

Bibles, Books, Greek, Reviews

Bible Review: The Greek New Testament–A Reader’s Edition


The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition
Hendrickson | Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft | CBD

Many thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy!

As I noted in my review of the UBS5, I have always preferred the UBS over the Nestle-Aland, and it usually comes down to one aspect—aesthetics. The UBS text is simply more readable and looks better on the page. The font choice and the less detailed critical apparatus yield a less cluttered page, which leads to a better overall reading experience. However, despite my preference of one over the other, these volumes aren’t exactly ideal for just reading, though it certainly can be done and certainly less a chore than reading volumes in Loeb Classical Library. They’re a tad small and for those who are dependent on ocular assistance, it’s more of a effort to read beyond a passage or two.

Enter the heaven-sent concept of a reader’s edition! The idea behind such works is, of course, to facilitate regular reading of the GNT. The reader’s edition assists readers to this end by providing the text and a running dictionary below to aid the process of reading. Rather than stopping and having to consult a lexicon, most of the unfamiliar words are listed below. For this volume (as is probably standard), all words occurring fewer than thirty times are listed at the bottom of the page. Each entry consists simply of the lexical form of the word, its parsing (for verbs), and a gloss. Readers should know, if they don’t already, that the provided glosses are editorial choices and do not necessarily preclude other connotations. One example (of many that would likely be arguable to any given reader) of a gloss that is less helpful than could be is found in Acts 2:22. Jesus was ἀποδεδειγμένον, which is glossed as “commend” in the dictionary. While this is certainly a possible meaning and not necessarily wrong here, it is an editorial choice that perhaps would have been better rendered “display” or “set forth.” Again, “commend” isn’t wrong, but better choices (I think) are available.

Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of the first edition of the UBS Reader’s Edition against which to compare this current edition. However, I can unequivocally say that this is a splendid volume and will certainly become my go-to edition for reading the Greek text of NT. I have been using Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament for several years now and have enjoyed it, but it is safe to say it will spend considerably more time on the shelf now that I have the UBS reader. Why? There are two primary reasons. First, the GNT-RE’s running dictionary is formatted in two columns, unlike Zondervan’s edition, which runs left to right in an ordinary linear fashion. The UBS layout is much better for dropping down to find the word in question. Second, the GNT-RE’s paper is only slightly thicker, but enough that it more effectively prevents ghosting so as not to be distracting, noticeably more so than the Zondervan edition. One thing I do when reading bibles to mitigate some of the ghosting effect is to place a dark colored piece of paper behind the page I’m reading, which effectively eliminates the effect altogether. This is especially true with the GNT-RE.

There are a few more notable features to mention. For one, idiomatic word combinations are defined. For example, in Acts 1:12, the disciples are returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and Luke tells us that the distance from the mountain to Jerusalem is σαββάτου ἔχον ὁδόν. The UBS-RE translates this idiom in the dictionary “a Sabbath day’s journey = about half a mile or 900 m”. These small measures help achieve the desired goal of facilitating a good reading experience. Though this is not a critical text, there is a small apparatus for the more significant variants for those who may be interested in a brief brainstorm concerning a particular word choice. That being said, there are many pages on which there are no variants listed, so the t-c element is decidedly minimal. Other minor features include OT references in the margins (always helpful!), an appendix that defines words used more than thirty times, and a few nicely colored maps. This volume is also noticeably larger than the UBS/NA texts. Those volumes are approximately 7.5 x 5.5, whereas the GNT-RE is approximately 9.7 x 6.4, which is closer to the average size of a regular book. All this is bound in black flexisoft, which is softer to the touch than the standard binding and also looks quite nice.

In sum, this is a splendid and well-designed volume. I’d be interested in knowing how this edition has changed from the first, other than including the updated UBS5 text, so perhaps I’ll find a used copy somewhere, if only to have a means of comparison. Whatever the other changes from the first edition to the second, this is a wonderful volume that every reader of the GNT should have.

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Bibles, Biblical Studies, Greek, Hebrew

A Handy Guide to Scholarly Editions of the Bible

I received in the mail today, as I’m sure some of you have, a handy guide to the scholarly editions published by the German Bible Society. It’s a guide geared for first-year students, “who might benefit from a basic introduction like this.” There are short write-ups on the BHK, BHS, and BHQ, as well as a short history on the Greek New Testament.

If you’re interested in perusing this handy little guide, you can download the pdf. And, be sure to check out the website, Academic Bible, where you can view the text of these scholarly editions of the bible.

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