Article Reviews

“Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany"

"Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church”

Posted Tuesday, December 09, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Old TestamentOld Testament Theology   Comments: None
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Levinson, Bernhard. “Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church.” Interpretation 62 (2008): 238-255.

This fascinating article looks at von Rad in his social context of Nazi Germany and how he read the OT in that context. He taught at the University of Jena, the school where DeWette had given his famous dissertation on Deuteronomy many years earlier. The school was run by an ardent SS officer/medical scientist until 1945. Von Rad thought of Deuteronomy not as law but a collection of sermons from traveling Levites. But he does not back this up with exegetical support. Levinson thinks that this lack of support comes from his social context and passion to keep the importance of the OT. Von Rad was probably chosen for his position because of a supposed sympathy for the Nazi movement. Jena was the first school to remove the requirement to study Hebrew, a move which von Rad strongly resisted. New Nazi-flavored classes were begun, while von Rad taught his own OT classes in response. But he had very few students throughout the war. In 1936, there were 155 in the Faculty of Theology, but von Rad's three classes had totals of 4, 2, and 2 students. By 1944 the total number of students in the Faculty had shrunk to ten, and von Rad still had between 2 and 4 students in each of his classes. 45 dissertations were submitted during this time, none of which were supervised by von Rad. The Confessing Church sents students to von Rad every year just so the school would stay open. Levinson thinks that von Rad's move to call Deuteronomy sermons was arbitrary. Von Rad often spoke out publicly that the OT is important as Christian Scripture. He did not want the OT to be regarded as law (and hence Jewish), so he argued that it was filled with grace, which led him to sermon. While the conclusion of the article is tendentious against the idea of Deuteronomy as a sermon, the history presented is worth reading. I had often wondered what von Rad did during the time of the Nazis.

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“The Grammar of Social Gender in Biblical Hebrew.”

Posted Wednesday, December 10, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Hebrew   Comments: None
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Stein, David E. S. “The Grammar of Social Gender in Biblical Hebrew.” Hebrew Studies 69 (2008): 7-26.


Stein studies whether constructs which look to be purely masculine can also refer to females. Second person singulars do refer to females, as shown by Deuteronomy 28:3, which leads eventually into masculine and feminine plurals in verse 68. His rule: when speaking to a class of people in the second person singular, the audience cannot be determined to be exclusively male. While this is probably the case, his evidence is slim. The third person masculine singular is seen to be the same, drawing on a similar pattern in Exodus 35:5 and 22. Finally, he thinks that even male nouns (father, brother, son, man) can sometimes even include females. This is shown by the freeing of both male and female slaves in Jeremiah 34:8-16, which is then summarized using only the male word "brother". That is, it emphasizes the kinship part of the word while downplaying the gender part. These words can be gender inclusive, but never purely feminine, since there is a specific word for sister, etc. Another example comes from Jephthah, who makes his vow with a masculine participle. His conclusion is that these words are more "male" in English than in Hebrew.

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“The Paradigm Root in Hebrew”

Posted Friday, December 12, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
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Rubin, Aaron D. “The Paradigm Root in Hebrew.” Journal of Semitic Studies 53 (2008): 29-42.

The basic idea of this article: you just can't win! The choice of a paradigm root does not have a perfect solution: each root has its pros and cons. שמע has the guttural, but it has many  attested forms. Some have used שמר, but it appears in only a few binyanim and has an odd hitpael form. פעל gave names to the binyanim, but is rarely used as a paradigm. פקד is a popular choice because it appears in all 7 binyanim, although it has an odd hitpael form (Judges 21:9). Some used למד. A popular one recently has been קטל, but it is very rare in the Bible, does not use dagesh lene, and it has an unpleasant meaning. Modern Hebrew inscruction uses כתב, but it is uncommon in Biblical Hebrew teaching. The article is interesting for the view of the history of the study of Hebrew grammar.

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