Thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
As many of my fellow language lovers will attest, whenever a new text comes out, we get giddy with excitement (most of the time anyway!). When Hendrickson announced they’d be releasing their complete Hebrew-Greek bible, I was quite excited. I know such a production is hardly novel, but it gives us another tool in the belt for studying the text of the bible.
First, the Hebrew text. This volume is a fully revised edition of the Leningrad codex, though the editor notes there are instances in which he deviates from it (xiv–xv). The editor has included a rather detailed foreword that addresses various matters concerning methodology and textual elements, but that you’ll have to read on your own (xi–xxvi). However, whatever quibbles one might have with this textual base, this remains a fine volume that can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking to read the Hebrew Bible.
So, what makes this volume unique? It’s not a reader’s bible, so there are no running glossaries in the footer nor is there a lexicon at the end. There are several appendixes that cover matters such as textual variants (Appendix A), Petuhot and Setumot in the Torah and Esther (Appendix B), song shapes (Appendix C), a rather technical excursus on the deviation in gemination in the Tiberian vocalization (Appendix D), and a very practical collection of Scripture readings that accompany various Jewish cultural practices, which is perhaps the most unique aspect of this volume. Additionally, this volume is pretty much a bare-bones approach to the text, meaning that there is no text-critical apparatus for readers. While this may be a letdown for some (get your BHS!), for those who want to simply read the text, this is a gem. In addition to the lack of text-critical clutter, the Hebrew text is wonderfully typeset and printed on paper that is adequate for what is certain to be regular usage. The paper is not the oft-used tissue paper many bible publishers employ. It feels sturdier and its tone is soft and yellowish, which I appreciate more and more the older I get.
The NT side of the volume follows suit in that the text is not based on that corpus’s text-critical powerhouse, in this case the Nestle-Aland; rather, the Westcott-Hort Greek text was chosen. I’ll spare everyone any rambling discussion on the merits of one text over another—plenty of others are better at it than I—and will simply say that readers will likely not notice much of a difference in the text anyway. Unlike the Hebrew text, the W-H Greek text does provide more in the way of textual variants, perhaps enough to scratch any text-critical itch. If it’s not sufficient, I’m sure most readers will have a copy of an NA27/28 handy. Other pretty standard features are present, such as pericopes labeled in English and parallel texts in the Gospels noted beneath the pericope title. This edition also includes OT quotes in bold type with the reference beneath the apparatus. It adds a bit to the page, but doesn’t amount to clutter. Also, because the NT text is obviously a fraction of the Hebrew Bible’s length, there is noticeably more space in the margins. So, if you’re a total savage and like writing in your books, you have ample room for it. Also, unlike the Hebrew text, there are no appendixes of any sort at the end.
In sum, textually and aesthetically speaking, this is a great volume. Though it’s bulky enough to keep a door from closing, its usefulness outweighs (see what I did there?) whatever negatives derive from its mass. Mine is bound with the flexisoft cover and while it’s nowhere nearly as fake-soft-leather-feeling as my UBS5, it’s not too bad. Also, you simply can’t beat the price. This flexisoft cover, which is apparently more desirable and luxurious than the hardcover, retails for $59.99. The BHL costs more than that by itself, and add the W-H GNT to your cart and you’re spending more than necessary (unless you’re like me and like to have these separate and together). The point is this volume is a premium work for an affordable price, so go get one, bring it to church or the synagogue, and impress your friends. Or, maybe you’ll win a Who-Has-The-Biggest-Bible contest.