Jacob Cerone and Matthew Fisher, Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin

Cerone, Jacob N. and Matthew C. Fisher. Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021. 382 pp. Hb; $34.99.   Link to Eerdmans  

Students who take two years of Greek and a year of Hebrew in seminary often lose touch with those languages because they are not able to read in the original languages every day. The daily grind of language classes is usually replaced by the daily grind of ministry. This collection of biblical readings provides a way for people to keep their language skills sharp through brief daily readings.

Cerone and Fisher, Daily ScriptureIn the introduction to the book the editors explain their goal for the volume is to help students “keep up your languages” but also to “keep you fed in the Word and hopefully spark a desire to explore more deeply how the New Testament at its core relies upon the Old Testament Scriptures.”

For each calendar day, there are two sets of readings. The first is a passage from the Hebrew Bible with the corresponding verse in the Septuagint. The second is a passage from the Greek New Testament with the corresponding verse in the Latin Vulgate. Texts are drawn from Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Rahlfs-Hanhart, Septuaginta, Nestle-Aland 28, and Weber-Grayson, Biblia Sacra: Vulgata. All verses following the original language rather than the English Bible, but readers can use the Scripture index to find the verse in a modern translation.

Words are marked with superscript numerals are glossed in outer margin of the page. Words appearing less than one hundred times in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Old Testament are glossed, words appearing less than thirty times in the Greek New Testament or Vulgate are glossed. For the rare Aramaic passages, all the words are glossed (the introduction says two passages from Daniel, but the index only has Daniel 7:13 listed). Irregular verbs are usually parsed. The editors also provide brief notes to help with Context (labeled CH) and Translation (TH), some textual critical notes (TC) and pairing aids (PA). A pairing aid is a short explanation of why the two passages are related. For example, In Matthew 4:9 Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, although the quotation is in Matthew 4:10. The editors do not repeat texts in direct quotations. Some readings are marked with chain link indicating the whole context is related, such as 1 Samuel 2:1 and Luke 1:46 (Hannah’s song and the Magnificat). The editors only include one verse from the larger context and encourage the student to read the larger context.

There are thirty-three mostly chronological categories covering both Testaments. The editors kindly shifted readings on the Advent to December. In addition, there is a section on the Holy Spirit after the Resurrection and before the Apostolic Age. Each pair of readings are related, usually allusions rather than quotations. Sometimes the paired texts are thematically related rather than an allusion. Using several cross-reference systems and lists of “Old Testament in the New Testament,” the editors gathered a list and then ordered them in a “salvation-historical arrangement.”

Most books are represented, although there are no readings from Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, Lamentations Zephaniah, Haggai, Titus, Philemon, 2 and 3 John. The main reason for omitting these books is there is no corresponding New Testament passage. There are no apocryphal texts since there are no Hebrew manuscripts for most of those books.

With respect to the physical look and feel of the book, this is not a workbook like Mounce’s Graded Reader, but it is not designed to look like a Bible either. Eerdmans did include a sewn-in ribbon bookmark. Daily readings do not take up a whole page so there is plenty of white space for taking notes and making comments. Rarely does the list of glosses take up the whole outer column.

Conclusion. This volume differs from other similar collections on the market by focusing on biblical Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Jonathan Kline has several volumes of Keep up your Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek in Two Minutes A Day (published by Hendrickson; read my review of his A Proverb a Day in Biblical Hebrew).  Unlike Bill Mounce, A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 1996) or Van Pelt and Practico, A Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew (Zondervan 2006), these readings do not start with easier texts and work up to more difficult passage. This is a result of arranging selections in chronological categories.

Cerone and Fisher’s Daily Scripture is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to refresh their language skills. Since this volume includes both Hebrew and Greek, it is an excellent book for post-seminary biblical language retention, whether one has just finished their language courses, or they are a distant memory. Including the Septuagint and Vulgate add depth to a daily regimen of Bible reading.


NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: J. David Pleins, Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories

Pleins, J. David  and Jonathan Homrighausen. Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories: A Student’s Guide to Nouns in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2017. 176 pp.; Pb.; $17.99.   Link to Zondervan

The goal of this new book by J. David Pleins is to assist students to acquire a more fluid and intuitive grasp of Hebrew vocabulary. Word frequency lists are common, but after memorizing the most common words it is perhaps not as profitable to memorize words which appear rarely in the Hebrew Bible. Reading the Hebrew Bible becomes “tedious page-flipping exercises through lexicons” (16). By collecting Hebrew vocabulary into logical categories, Pleins hopes to provide a user-friendly method for becoming familiar with words via conceptual categories. The authors hope this book will “open the promised land of a more satisfying experience of reading the Hebrew Bible” (21).

There are over 175 word grouping categories in the book, divided into four broad categories, each divided into sub-categories: The Created Order (Heavens and Earth; Metals, Stones; Colors; Time; Animals; Flora); Human Order (Human; Human Anatomy; Disease and Morality; Food and Spices; Clothing), Social Order (Family, Worship; Law and Covenant; Professions, Military; Maritime; Music; Education); Constructed Order (Buildings; Containers and Implements; Tools; Measurement).

Under each category heading, Pleins lists a groupings. Under Food and Spices, there is a list of general vocabulary, then a list of about thirty words for various kinds of grains, seven for threshing, etc. Some groups have even more narrow groupings. For example, under “Vine, Wine Grapes (including strong drink) Pleins has lists for plant parts, wine/strong drink (spiced wine, mixed win, new wine, but also honeycomb), cluster/grape (raisins, etc.), vineyard, and winepress.

Each entry includes a brief gloss, an abbreviation for the lexical work Pleins used for the gloss and a single example verse from the Hebrew Bible. There are five pages of bibliography at the beginning of the book to guide the reader to more detailed works. Many of these are articles in obscure journals or hard to find monographs. Although word frequency is not noted in the entry, words used less that ten times are marked with an R, words used only a single time (hapax legomena) are marked with an H.

I will take one example from the section on Fruits. The noun אֲבִיּוֹנָה only appears in Ecclesiastes 12:5 so it is marked H. Pliens glosses the word as “caper plant, caper bush, caper berry” citing DCH, David Clines, Dictionary of Classical Hebrew and “Koops.” Consulting the bibliography, this refers to David Koops and Donald Slager, Each According to Its Kinds: Plants and Trees in the Bible (United Bible Societies, 2012).

The book concludes with two appendices. First, “A Guide for Further Reading” listing helpful resources for studying the larger macro categories. For each of the categories listed in the book Pleins highlights one or two of the best monographs from the bibliography with a bit of commentary. The second appendix lists “cluster verses” where several words in the book’s categories appear together. This will guide students to specific passage where this method of vocabulary development works best.

This is a fascinating resource for anyone who has already acquired the basic vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible, perhaps after two semesters of biblical Hebrew. Two things might have improved this book. First, the preface explains how to use the book, but there is not enough justification for the use of “conceptual categories.” For example, how does this differ from “semantic domains”? Although based on the New Testament, are “conceptual categories” different than the method employed by Louw and Nida in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996)? A second minor improvement would be to include word frequency in each entry rather than the use of R for rare and H for hapax.

One obvious potential problem for this book is the focus on nouns. There are some nouns which are so related to a verbal form that it would make some sense to see them together, perhaps helping a student solidify the concept. For example, the noun לֶקַח is glossed as “learning, teaching” and is listed as rare. But the verb לקח appears much more frequently and has a wide range of meanings involving taking or grasping something. HALOT indicates the two words are related, so by placing this particular verb and noun together might help the student to “grasp” the concept. But since this was not the goal of the book, it cannot be seen as a fault. I imagine a companion volume of verbs at some point in the future.

These are minor quibbles and do not distract from the usefulness of the Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary by Conceptual Categories. The book is both a unique and useful reference for students of the Hebrew Bible.