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

Selected Publications Available Online

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


The Hebrew Noun אִישׁ as a Marker of Consequential ParticipationPosits that in Ancient Hebrew, the noun אִישׁ often has a discourse function: it is used to signal to an audience that its referent is consequential for grasping the depicted situation. Presents three lines of evidence in support of this communication-oriented approach. The hypothesis accounts well for dozens of instances of אִישׁ that are otherwise pointless or puzzling. Paper is thoroughly documented via footnotes, references, excursuses, and tables.Presented to the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting 2020 (Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew seminar) and the National Association of Professors of Hebrew; 9 December 2020. [PDF]


Relational Meanings of the Noun אִישׁ (’îš) in Biblical HebrewThis interdisciplinary study revises the standard view of the most common human-denoting noun in each of three languages: Ancient Hebrew (אִישׁ ’îš and its feminine form), English (man/woman), and French (homme/femme). I hypothesized that such a noun prototypically labels its referent succinctly as “a participant in a situation,” which makes it highly efficient in communication. The study confirms that the Hebrew noun in question was indeed the preferred term for defining a situation or indicating participation that truly matters to the discourse. In addition, the hypothesis explains several otherwise-puzzling usage patterns in the Hebrew Bible, such as appositions, while resolving longstanding interpretive cruxes that feature this noun. The study closes with discussion of the role of gender, the life cycle of this special class of nouns, and implications for Modern Hebrew and other languages.PhD dissertation, Stellenbosch University, March 2020. [PDF]


When Did the Biblical Hebrew Noun ’îš Become Lexically Gendered?Under which conditions is gender a part of the lexical contribution of אִישׁ? Actually, “lexical gender” is not a binary “yes-or-no” matter. In the Bible, this noun is far from being fully lexically gendered. Postbiblically, however, a significant shift toward a more-gendered connotation of אִישׁ appears to have taken place.Presented to the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov 2019.


Angels by Another Name: How ‘Agency Metonymy’ Precludes God’s EmbodimentThis paper explains why in seventeen biblical passages that involve Yahweh’s agents (both divine and human), divine embodiment cannot be the text’s plain sense. It does so by first identifying an ancient linguistic convention for succinctly expressing endeavors involving two interrelated parties, namely, a principal and an agent in the stand-in arrangement known as agency. This convention refers to both parties at once while naming only the principal. The author dubs this device “agency metonymy” and shows how it is encoded by referential anomalies in the text.The paper then demonstrates that agency metonymy is applied throughout the Bible to human interactions—and that applying this convention likewise to those passages involving Yahweh’s agents regularly yields a text that is both coherent and informative.By Occam’s razor, and with consideration of how the human mind processes language, this paper concludes that biblical composers depicted Yahweh and Yahweh’s agents just like human principals and agents, in that their respective identities were merged only functionally—and not ontologically as many scholars have claimed.Presented to the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures section of the Society of Biblical Literature, Nov. 2017; revised in April 2021; to be published by SBL Press in 2021. [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 15 April 2021Santa Monica, California, USA