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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

The Recovery of the Ancient Hebrew Language: The Lexographical Writings of D. Winton Thomas
Day, John

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2013 pp. xx + 503. $130.00

Series Information
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 20

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David Winton Thomas (1901–1970) was Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Cambridge (1938–1968) and one of the most distinguished British lexicographers of the Hebrew language. His special contribution was the identification of words in Biblical Hebrew that had lain undetected since ancient times, sometimes because they were homonyms of other, better-known words. He called his project ‘The Recovery of the Ancient Hebrew Language’, the title of his inaugural lecture at Cambridge in 1939, as well as of the present book. In this volume John Day has gathered together all Winton Thomas’s lexicographical articles (nearly 400 pages altogether) in a convenient format; hitherto these have been scattered around many different journals and books. In addition, he has prefaced them with a very substantial introduction of some 150 pages, in which he offers the first thorough and systematic evaluation of Winton Thomas’s work. Day concludes that there are definitely occasions where Thomas has made a positive and enduring contribution to Hebrew lexicography, and it is important that modern scholars do not overlook these conclusions. On the other hand, it becomes clear that Thomas was sometimes too prone to appeal to cognate Semitic languages (especially Arabic) in the search for new meanings of Hebrew words when this was unnecessary. In seeking to make a thorough appraisal of Thomas’s proposals this volume offers a valuable contribution to the study of Biblical Hebrew lexicography.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Literature, Methods, Linguistics, Historical Approaches

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Review by Hélène Dallaire
Published 3/15/2016
Citation: Hélène Dallaire, review of John Day, The Recovery of the Ancient Hebrew Language: The Lexographical Writings of D. Winton Thomas, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2016).

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