Having already been forced to buy the second edition of Williams’ Hebrew Syntax in my undergraduate studies I was of course reticent to fork out the money for the third edition. My professor, thankfully, was insistent that this version was well worth owning. So, despite my wallet’s protestations I purchased this third edition expanded by John C. Beckman.
In my opinion, Beckman has taken, what was already an excellent resource and made it into an invaluable resource. I have always found Williams’ presentation of Hebrew Syntax to be succinct ant helpful in its categorizations, especially for such a brief treatment. Beckman, however, has taken this resource to the next level of usefulness. I will briefly lay out how this third edition has improved on the first then make some final comments on the work as a whole.
The first noticable change in this third edition is the expanded explanations of categorization. With this expansion comes, not only added sentences to clarify meaning, but lists of alternative identifications for various categories. For example, for the verb pattern that follows the yiqtolform, Williams classifies this as the imperfect conjugation. Beckman, however, has added that this form is variously known as the yiqtol, the yqtl, the prefix conjugation, the prefixed conjugation, the imperfective conjugation, the non-perfective conjugation or the future (see p. 69); all bolded for ease of reading. This is especially helpful for those of us who learned the stems as Qal, Piel, Niphal, etc., when we see nicely laid out by Beckman that “The Piel stem is also called the D stem, in reference to the doubling (with the Dagesh Forte) of the second consonant of the root” (58).
As helpful as the above clarifications are the most important update to this edition is the cross referencing. This version of the book is highly footnoted where similar categories appear in all of the 5 major [English] syntax grammars (Gesenius-Kautzsch, Juon & Muraoka, Waltke & O’Connor, Arnold & Choi, and van der Merwe, Naude & Kroeze) as well as a host of other books and journal articles. It is this feature that makes this edition truly worth purchasing.
Finally, as good as this short syntax is, it is nowhere near perfect. The cross-referencing system is entirely english works. I guess we are all waiting for Beckman to learn German (mayhaps by the time I learn, a new edition will be out 😉 ). Also, some sections of the grammar are more complete than others. One searches in vain for classifications of the adverbs עוד, לכן, or עתה, since Williams only categorizes אף, אך, גם, and רק.
The above weaknesses do not, however, detract from the great accomplishment that Beckman has acheived in updating and expanding an already great resource into a really powerful tool.