Rabbi David E. S. Stein David @ DavidESStein.name

Selected Publications Available Online

III. Hebrew Bible: Text, Translation, and Liturgical Use > Articles


The Impact of Discourse Functions on Rendering the Biblical Hebrew Noun אִישׁ in a Gender-Sensitive English TranslationThis article examines a Hebrew-to-English Bible-translation project that prioritized contextual precision over word-for-word rendering. It reassesses how the general human noun אִישׁ [’îš], which is prominent in gender representation, was handled in _The Contemporary Torah: A Gender-Sensitive Adaptation of the JPS Translation_ (2006), whose scholarly abbreviation is CJPS. It views that translation in light of my dissertation, which took a communication-oriented and cognitive path to explain the usages both of אִישׁ and of English ‘man’. By taking into account the nature of discourse between speaker and audience, that work concluded that both nouns function as the default label for communicating about a participant in a situation. The present article shows how such a construal readily yields a coherent and informative construal of four sample biblical passages – Gen 4:1, 6:9, 24:65, and 30:43 – each of which represents a distinct discourse function of אִישׁ. Then, for each case, it evaluates the optimal rendering of אִישׁ into English, given the growing differential between what אִישׁ meant in ancient Hebrew and what ‘man’ nowadays conveys, with regard to their referent’s age and gender. It concludes by proposing a refinement of CJPS in each instance. Chapter in [Re]Gained in Translation: Bibles, Theologies, and the Politics of Empower­ment, edited by Sabine Dievenkorn and Shaul Levin (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2022). [Published open-access version, PDF]


The Noun ’îš in Ancient Hebrew: A Marker of Essential ParticipationTaking a functional, cognitive, and communication-oriented approach, this paper posits that in ancient Hebrew, the noun ’îš often played a distinctive role: to signal to an audience that its referent is essential for grasping the depicted situation. In such cases, this noun’s meaning resides mainly on the level of the discourse between the speaker and the audience, rather than on the semantic level. Three types of biblical evidence are presented in support of this idea. The tests compared certain cases where ’îš is present in a referring expression versus similar cases where it is absent. The study found that all of the studied cases with ’îš were sketching a new or modified situation, in which this noun’s referent was profiled as a key participant. In contrast, all cases without ’îš treated the referent of interest as a given element. The hypothesis accounts for 129 biblical instances of ’îš that scholars had deemed pointless or puzzling. Hence it yields a Hebrew Bible text that is more coherent and informative. Published in Journal for Semitics (Volume 30), Jan. 2022. [Open Access]


Cognitive Factors as a Key to Plain-Sense Biblical Interpretation: Resolving Cruxes in Gen 18:1–15 and 32:23–33Reassesses the accounts of Abraham’s three visitors (Gen 18:1–15) and of Jacob’s overnight wrestling partner (32:23–33), to show how the plain sense is that both Abraham and Jacob recognize right away that the newly introduced figures represent their deity. Accounts for the place of messengers in the mental life of ancient Israel. Emulates the processing of language that an audience’s mind automatically employs. Establishes a biblical narrative convention regarding messengers, which enables the fact of their recognition to go without saying. Resolves a third crux at the same time (32:2–3). Documents that Niphal ראה rā’â is a verb that marks the advent of communication. Confirms that the noun אִישׁ ’îš functions as the generic label for designating an “agent”—that is, someone who is representing the interests of another party. Published in Open Theology (Volume 4), Dec. 2018. [PDF]

A Rejoinder concerning Genesis 3:6 and the NJPS TranslationJournal of Biblical Literature Vol. 134 (2015): 51–52. [PDF]

Gender Representation in Biblical HebrewEncyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Geoffrey Khan, General Editor (E.J. Brill, 2013). [PDF]

Unavoidable Gender Ambiguities: A Primer for Readers of English Translations from Biblical HebrewSBL Forum (Summer 2009). [HTML]

The Grammar of Social Gender in Biblical HebrewHebrew Studies XLIX (2008): 7–26Question addressed: When does the Hebrew Bible’s masculine or “male” wording allow for women to be in view?Cites biblical examples in order to correct common misconceptions regarding referential semantic gender. [PDF]

On Beyond Gender: Representation of God in the Torah and in Three Recent Renditions into EnglishNashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 15 (Spring 2008): 108–37Exploration of biblical God-languageArgues that the Torah’s composer(s) had good reason to believe that its original, ancient audience would construe its deity as being beyond human gender categoriesCompares the URJ, CJPS, and TAWC translations. [PDF]

The Noun איש in Biblical Hebrew: A Term of AffiliationThe Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Vol. 8, Art. 1 (Feb. 2008)Establishes ’ish as a relational noun Explains the philology behind the most innovative aspect of the CJPS translation. [PDF]

God’s Name in a Gender-Sensitive Jewish TranslationSBL Forum (Summer 2006) [HTML]. Also reprinted in Technical Papers for the Bible Translator58/3 (July 2007) [PDF]


The Haftarot of Etz Hayim: Exploring the Historical Interplay of Customs, Humashim, and HalakhahConservative Judaism 54/3 (Spring 2002)Jewish ritual diversity meets publishing conventionsFocuses on the history of haftarah selections. [PDF]



Updated 30 August 2022Santa Monica, California, USA