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Ginsberg, Harold Louis


GINSBERG, HAROLD LOUIS (1903–1990) U.S. Bible scholar and Semitist. Born in Montreal (Canada), Ginsberg, at the urging of his parents, spent two years in medical school. With their premature deaths, he decided to move to mandatory Palestine in the early 1920s, where he taught Hebrew and English. In Palestine Ginsberg became interested in Semitic languages. Because the Hebrew University had not yet opened, Ginsberg, aided financially by his uncles, was able to study at Jews College and the University of London. He returned to Palestine, where he completed the writing of his London doctoral thesis on the Hebrew verb. By this time the Hebrew University had opened and Ginsberg was able to study talmudic philology with J.N. *Epstein. In addition he was able to work with W.F. *Albright of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. In 1936 Ginsberg was invited to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where, from 1941, he was professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York. While the bulk of his publications in the biblical field are philological – word studies, text restorations, and exegesis – he also elucidated problems of biblical history and religion. Ginsberg made significant contributions to Aramaic linguistics and was a pioneer in the interpretation of Ugaritic texts and their application to the Bible. His Semitistic and exegetical skills are combined luminously throughout his work.

Ginsberg was an editor of the new Bible translation of the American Jewish Publication Society (editor in chief of the translation of the Prophets from 1962). He edited the Bible division of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.

Ginsberg was a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research (vice president, 1969–70) and was the honorary president of the American Society of Biblical Literature (1969). He was a member of the Israel Academy for the Hebrew Language.

His works include Kitvei Ugarit (1938);The Legend of King Keret (1946);Studies in Daniel (1948);Studies in Koheleth (1950); a new Hebrew commentary on Ecclesiastes (1961); and translations from Aramaic and Ugaritic in J.B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (1950; 19552; 19693). He also edited The Five Megilloth and the Book of Jonah (jps, 1969).

In Ginsberg's days at the Jewish Theological Seminary there was no Ph.D. program but Ginsberg's classes influenced several generations of rabbis to become biblicists and academicians.

add. bibliography:

B. Levine, in: paajr, 5 (1991), 57.

[Moshe Greenberg /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

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