Jouon-Muraoka A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (J-M)

Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar has been considered the standard reference grammar in biblical studies for close to 200 years. However, nowadays Joüon-Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew has come to rival Gesenius and in some ways even surpass it.

Just like Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Joüon-Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew is not a tool for beginners. If you are just starting to learn Biblical Hebrew, you should not use either of these texts. Instead, you should use an introductory grammar. Trying to use Gesenius or Joüon-Muraoka before you know the basics of Hebrew grammar will likely be a frustrating experience.

History of Joüon-Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (J-M)

A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew was written by Paul Joüon in 1923 (published in French under the title Grammaire de l’hébreu biblique). At the time it was a very good grammar, but it did not necessarily add much in the way of new material that went beyond Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. (However, Joüon’s treatment of Hebrew nouns is said to be more extensive than Gesenius).

Takamitsu Muraoka published revised and translated editions of Joüon’s grammar both in 1991 and again 2006. Muraoka’s improvements on Joüon’s grammar were substantial. Because of Muraoka’s important contributions to this grammar, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew is frequently referred to in short as “Joüon-Muraoka” or abbreviated as “J-M”.

Layout of Joüon-Muraoka (J-M)

Joüon-Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew has several similarities with GKC. It is similar in its organization in that it has three main sections: phonology, morphology, and syntax. For an explanation of these sections within Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, click here.

Joüon-Muraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew also has three similar indexes to GKC, including an “Index of Subjects,” “Index of Hebrew words and forms,” and “Index of Passages.”

Like Gesenius, Joüon-Muraoka is a reference grammar and should mostly be consulted for trying to solve a particular textual problem. Starting from the indexes can be highly useful for determining the exact section in J-M that addresses the textual problem you may have encountered. You can also use the table of contents to help as well.

Finally, J-M is cited similarly to GKC. If you want to cite Joüon-Muraoka in an academic essay or article, you should cite paragraph numbers and letters (i.e. J-M § 42a), rather than specific page numbers.

Advantages over GKC

Joüon-Muraoka has two main advantages over Gesenius:

  • Joüon-Muraoka is more up to date. Whereas GKC is over 100 years old, the latest version of J-M incorporates linguistic studies up to 2003 (cited in footnotes). As a result, Joüon-Muraoka provides many important findings of modern scholars regarding the development of Biblical Hebrew that cannot be found in Gesenius. This becomes particularly useful regarding understanding verbal tenses in Biblical Hebrew.
  • Joüon-Muraoka is easier to use than GKC. The language it uses to explain grammatical concepts is simply more accessible. However, it should be noted that because of all of the linguistic terms used, J-M is not exactly an easy text to digest – it’s just not as hard as GKC!

Disadvantages in comparison to GKC

Joüon-Muraoka has two main disadvantages when compared to Gesenius:

  • Joüon-Muraoka is perhaps not as comprehensive as GKC – it lacks some of Gesenius’ details. However, J-M still provides more than enough details to be of use. Indeed, the fact that it has just a few less details is likely what makes it more accessible.
  • Joüon-Muraoka is unfortunately more expensive than Gesenius.

Final Verdict

Ideally, a scholar having a grammatical issue should use GKC and J-M together (just like if you have difficulty understanding the meaning of a word you should use BDB and HALOT together). Also, if the grammatical issue happens to involve syntax, you should consult Waltke O’Connor as well.

Information about purchasing Joüon-Muraoka can be found by clicking on the image below. Or learn about other grammars for biblical hebrew.

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