posted April 15, 2008

Book Examines Genesis Linguistically

 A new book by Dr. Barry Bandstra of the Hope College religion faculty provides a detailed linguistic analysis of the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

Titled "Genesis 1-11: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text," the book is geared toward intermediate and advanced students of biblical Hebrew. It is the second volume in "The Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible" series published by Baylor University Press of Waco, Texas.

The 629-page book's emphasis is on enhancing students' understanding of the Hebrew language and the biblical text. It uses an approach to linguistic understanding called "functional grammar," which explores why clauses are worded and used together as they are.

The analysis of each group of verses begins with a translation that reflects the structure and features of the Hebrew text, which often differs from the way that the text is rendered to flow smoothly in English. The first five verses of Genesis 1, for example, read as "Initially deity created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was an emptiness and a void. And darkness is on the surface of deep-water, and a wind of deity hovers on the surface of the waters. And deity said, 'Let light be.' And light was. And deity saw the light that good it is. And deity made separation between the light and between the darkness. And deity named the light day, and the darkness he named night. And evening was. And morning was. Day one!"

Bandstra is the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor of Religion and director of academic computing at Hope. His primary scholarly interests are the Old Testament, biblical Hebrew linguistics and the use of computing technology as an instructional tool.

Since 2002, he has been the program chair of the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section of the Society of Biblical Literature.

A member of the Hope faculty since 1983, he has taught 16 different courses at the college, ranging from the beginning-level "Introduction to Biblical Literature" course, to "Archaeology and the World of the Bible," to a seminar for religion majors on the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the interdisciplinary "Encounter with Cultures" course. During the 1980s and 1990s, he led multiple Hope May Term courses in the Middle East. His analytical approach in his new book is based on his approach to teaching about biblical Hebrew at both Hope and Western Theological Seminary.

Bandstra has spent more than two decades designing materials for both the personal computer and the Web. In 1989, he received one of only 12 Apple Computer Courseware Development Grants awarded to the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges; in 2000, britannica.com gave his multimedia textbook "Reading the Old Testament" a four-star "Superior" rating; in 2002, he received a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion to develop "Reading Hebrew: A Biblical Hebrew Internet Course," which he has made available for free.

His other publications include the textbook "Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible," now in its third edition; a chapter on "A Maccabean Jewish State" in "Biblica: The Bible Atlas"; three articles in the "Encyclopedia of the Ancient World"; and several articles in edited books and scholarly journals. He has also presented numerous papers and invited addresses.