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

Selected Publications Available Online

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


Social Gender and the Hebrew Personal Nouns אשה ʾiššâ and איש ʾîšScholars tend to think of the nouns ʾīššâ and ʾîš as denoting social gender by classifying their referents as “women” or “men,” respectively. However, their actual usage reveals meanings that are usually much richer and more interesting. To illustrate, I examine exemplars of two types of the grammatical construction known as apposition. The first one apposes ʾīššâ with a substantive, such as ʾīššā zônâ (Josh 2:1; usually rendered “harlot”). The second construction apposes the definite form ʾîš with a proper noun, such as ʾîš Mōšeh (Exod 11:3; referencing Moses). For both types of expression, conventional wisdom holds that our nouns contribute little to their verse’s meaning. However, I posit respective meanings that call attention to the referent’s role as a representative: “head of household” (who acts on the household’s behalf), and “agent” (who acts on another party’s behalf), respectively. I explain how these relational meanings are evoked by the context. And I show how such a construal not only is consistent with how apposition is supposed to work, but also yields a more informative and coherent text.Presented to the Philology in Hebrew Studies section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 2018. [PDF]


Angels by Another Name: How ‘Agency Metonymy’ Precludes God’s EmbodimentIdentifies an ancient narrative convention to succinctly express endeavors that involve two related parties, namely, a principal and an agent in the representational arrange­ment known as agency. (This convention, which I call “agency metonymy,” refers to both parties while naming only the principal. It is encoded via referential anomalies in the text.) Demonstrates that agency meton­ymy is applied throughout the Bible to human interactions. Shows how, when, and why the biblical text’s ancient audience would have applied this convention by default, in order to construe the narrative as coherent and infor­mative. Applies Occam’s razor, with consideration of how the human mind processes language, to conclude that Yahweh and Yahweh’s agents were under­stood to behave like human principals and agents, in that their respective identi­ties were merged only functionally—and not ontologically as many scholars have claimed. Hence in the twenty passages examined that involve Yahweh’s agents (both divine and human), neither divine embodiment nor theoph­any can be the text’s plain sense.Presented to the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 2017; revised in Oct. 2018; to be published by SBL Press in 2019. [PDF]


Agency: Making Sense of Anomalous Usages of the Hebrew Noun אישEmploys the cognitive-linguistic concept of “basic-level term” to explain the prevalence of איש in the Bible. Shows that איש meets the standard criteria for a basic-level term specifically within the cognitive domain of agency—that is, where one party represents the interests of another party. (As such, the noun איש would have been the first choice of label for use in agency contexts.) Shows how, after these linguistic concepts are invoked, many “odd” usages of איש become more meaningful.Narrated slide showPresented to the Biblical Lexicography section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 2015 [QuickTime Movie]


The Iceberg Effect: The Previously Unrecognized Role of Conventional Figures of Speech and Other Commonplaces in Biblical Depictions of God’s Operation via Agents, and Their English TranslationApplies cognitive linguistics to show that the ancient audience would not have construed biblical depictions of angels as literally as modern scholarly interpretations have assumed.Documented extensively with footnotes and 14 appendixesPresented to the “Metaphor Theory and the Hebrew Bible” section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 2015. [PDF with attached handout]


Meaningful Manipulations of Grammatical Gender: Explaining a Set of Exceptions to So-Called Masculine Precedence in Biblical HebrewExplores and explains the pragmatic (expressive) potential of the anomalous use of feminine syntactic gender, as employed in 19 biblical verses to designate characters.Narrated slide show (with accompanying handouts here and here)Presented to the Bible section of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew, Jun. 201223 minutes. [QuickTime Movie]

Improving an English Dictionary’s Characterization of the Gender Representation of Personal Nouns in Biblical HebrewIn order to convey referential gender accurately, a dictionary must categorize its treatment of “male” personal nouns according to the specificity of their referenceNarrated slide showPresented to the Biblical Lexicography section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 201119 minutes. [QuickTime Movie]

The (In)adequacy of ‘Man’ as an English Equivalent of the Biblical Hebrew Noun ’ishNarrated slide showPresented to the Bible Translation section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 200828 minutes. [QuickTime Movie]





This page updated 20 January 2019Culver City, California, USA