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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 61, 2013

FRANCIS DALRYMPLE-HAMILTON, An Inductive Grammar of Biblical Aramaic with Particular Reference to Daniel 24b-–728 (The Edina Press, Edinburgh, 2012). Pp. 228. Hardback.

An Inductive Grammar of Biblical Aramaic with Particular Reference to Daniel 24b–728 consists of a Foreword; a short Introduction; the main body of the work entitled Biblical Aramaic—Analysis of the Text of Dan 24b–728, and finally tables of Verbal Paradigms plus an Appendix on Pronouns. The work is dedicated to the students of Hebrew and Aramaic whom the author taught at Sheffield and St Andrews Universities in the UK. Like any good teacher, the author recognises the interactive nature of the learning process and applauds his students from whom, he says, he learnt so much.

The Foreword, which runs to two and a half pages, provides a brief overview of some of the historical-critical, linguistic and theological problems in Daniel with suggestions from the author about aspects that need to be considered when making a judgement about them. Such matters, though, are not the primary concern of the work, which aims to provide the student with an understanding of Aramaic through engaging with the text of the relevant chapters of Daniel. The Introduction draws attention to the pertinent features of the main body of the work, i.e. the analysis of the Aramaic chapters of Daniel. It asserts that a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew grammar is assumed and that the reader will learn the elements of Aramaic inductively from working through the text of Daniel with the aid of the present work. Further, it points out that references are made to earlier works which have fuller discussions of particular grammatical issues and says that the problem of the Kethib-Qere and other text-critical issues which have implications for exegesis are addressed. The main body of An Inductive Grammar of Biblical Aramaic is student friendly. It draws attention to the elements of Franz Rosenthal’s A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (sixth revised edition, 1995) of which the reader should be aware prior to working through the Aramaic chapters of Daniel with the aid of the present work. In so doing, it points out the aspects of Aramaic which are very different to Biblical Hebrew-such as the direct article—while minimising the need to master all elements of Aramaic prior to turning to the text of Daniel. When the text is approached there is a word by word analysis of all the vocabulary and grammar that appear in Dan 24b–728. In a manner reminiscent of the 1950s Epworth publications, Notes on the Hebrew Text of individual biblical books, the student is informed at every step of the grammatical classification of each Aramaic word that appears in Daniel and, where one exists, of the Hebrew word that is similar to the Aramaic one. In addition, the reader is referred to Rosenthal’s Grammar for further clarification. At times, other works also are cited as having relevant information. One such is J. A. Montgomery’s commentary, Daniel (ICC; Edinburgh, 1927), where the author draws attention to the use of Aramaic grammar in ancient sources other than the Bible. Dalrymple-Hamilton also displays his own knowledge in this regard and on occasion cites differences between eastern and western dialects of Aramaic, thus providing the student with a sense of the place of Biblical Aramaic within wider Aramaic usage as his comments on in Dan 4:22 exemplify. Occasionally, differences between the MT and the LXX and/or Theodotion of particular verses in Daniel are cited, but this is not carried out consistently—likewise with references to the Dead Sea Scroll fragments of Daniel. To debate the implications of all the differences particularly between the MT and the LXX (Old Greek) would, of course, have resulted in a work where the inductive teaching of Aramaic would have been swamped! Nevertheless it is perhaps misleading if students are given the impression that there are far fewer discrepancies than there are. In a similar way, interpretative (exegetical) comments are made about certain words but not about others, even where there is debate about the accuracy of the MT. Accordingly, there is room for a teacher using An Inductive Grammar with a class to expand upon lacunae of that nature as well as to refer to more recent exegetical thought.

Overall, I would recommend An Inductive Grammar of Biblical Aramaic which fills a gap in the market and provides an easy path for the Biblical scholar who knows Hebrew to become acquainted with Aramaic either on his/her own or with the guidance of a teacher. The work is well presented and printed on good quality paper as well as being easy to read in both senses of the term.

Review by
Adjunct Senior Research Fellow
Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation
Monash University