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

Selected Publications Available Online

III. Hebrew Bible: Text, Translation, and Liturgical Use > Memoranda for Scholars


Tabulations of the Meanings of the Masculine Noun אִישׁ in the Pentateuch (Torah) [2020]

This report analyzes the meanings, on two levels, of the 570 masculine singular and plural forms of אִישׁ in the Five Books of Moses. An introduction (8 pp.) provides category definitions, notes, and summary results; this is followed by five tables (83 pp.) that employ differential sorting, so as to highlight certain aspects. These tables help to validate the hypothesis that Ancient Hebrew speakers used אִישׁ preferen­tially as the most efficient way to support their audience’s tracking of the participants in a depicted discourse. They also validate the assumption that discourse-related usage of אִישׁ is a feature of the Ancient Hebrew language as a whole. (8.5" x 11" PDF)


On אִישׁ as denoting a “householder” (paterfamilias) [2009]

[Posted for historical interest.] Certain semantic fields will evoke our noun’s contextual semantic domain of representation: “one who acts on behalf of others.” When the group in question is a corporate household (Israelite society’s basic unit of organization), its אִישׁ is its authoritative representative: the “householder” or paterfamilias.

Our word occurs conspicuously in this sense in dozens of instances distributed widely across the Hebrew Bible. Thus it seems safe to assume that when the Bible was being composed, this meaning was already recognized as a distinct denotation.

Here is a roster of examples. (8.5" x 11" PDF)


What Does It Mean to Be a “Man”?

The Noun ’ish in Biblical Hebrew: A Reconsideration [2006–2007]

[Posted mainly for historical interest. More recent articles and papers encapsulate much of this memo; they, in turn, have been superseded by my doctoral dissertation.]

My 44,800-word memorandum for Bible scholars on how and why ’ish (אִישׁ) was handled in the CJPS translation, going beyond the book’s basic discussion.

THESIS: The Bible treats אִישׁ primarily as a term of affiliation, conveying social gender only in certain constructions; this understanding is superior to the conventional view that its primary sense is “adult male.” Hence rendering אִישׁ in English as “man” distorts the biblical text more than is usually recognized. (8.5" x 11" PDFs)

Part I: The Initial Case for Reconsideration [7 pp.; rev. 9 Aug ’06]

Part II: Evidence for Selected Senses [12 pp.; rev. 10 Sep ’06]

Part III: Cultural and Semantic Logic [7 pp.; rev. 15 Oct ’06]

Part IV: Disambiguation in Context [2 pp; 15 Oct. ’06]

Part V: Social Gender [10 pp.; rev. 6 Jan. ’07]

Part VI: Contrasts in Noun Usage [11 pp.; 19 Jan. ’07]

Part VII: Rendering as “Man” [16 pp.; rev. 6 Jan. ’07]

Part VIII: Exegetical Implications [17 pp.; 10 Apr. ’07]



Updated 2 July 2020Santa Monica, California, USA