Blake's Review of "Hebrew Grammar: A New Approach," by A. Sperber

By Edelheit, Amos | Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Blake's Review of "Hebrew Grammar: A New Approach," by A. Sperber


Edelheit, Amos, Journal of Biblical Literature


JBL 63 (i944): 438-39

Blake's Review of "Hebrew Grammar: A New Approach," by A. Sperber

In a recent issue of JBL (63 [1944] 195-9), Professor Frank R. Blake wrote a scathing review of Dr. Alexander Sperber's New Approach to Hebrew Grammar, which also appeared in this JOURNAL (62 [1943] 137-262). Of Blake's criticisms, the following result from a deep dislike of Dr. Sperber's approach.

1. A lengthy list of exceptions to a rule of Hebrew grammar is not sufficient (in Blake's opinion) to overthrow that rule or principle.

2. According to Blake, Dr. Sperber does not take into account the possibility of mistakes, mispointing, varying traditions, etc.

3. Blake maintains that in formulating or rejecting grammatical generalizations one must consider the weight of evidence from cognate languages, "linguistic science and comparative grammar."

4. Blake questions Sperber's selection of Jacob ben Hayyim's Masoretic Bible of 1524-25 as the basis for his grammar, on the ground that this also is admittedly an eclectic text.

5. "The results claimed are almost entirely negative." Sperber strives principally to "overthrow well-established grammatical facts and principles...."

6. Professor Blake ridicules Dr. Sperber's belief that the daghesh was originally a random dot with no grammatical significance, but does not attempt to argue against this view.

The inadequacy of these criticisms is manifest.

1. Exceptions to a grammatical rule must somehow be accounted for. This is especially true of the current editions of the Hebrew Bible, which are "doctored" in accordance with "established grammatical law." Furthermore, a scribe (or printer!) is less likely to change the text in deviation from grammatical law than vice versa. Thus, the exceptions listed by Sperber are, by and large, original readings, representing spoken Hebrew in Biblical times.

2. For these same reasons, the so-called "mistakes" must also be explained. Besides, it is to be remembered that when a series of "mistakes" follows a pattern or rule of its own, it becomes even more difficult to regard such abnormal forms as genuine errors. …

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