Greenfield, Jonas Carl

views updated


GREENFIELD, JONAS CARL (1926–1995), U.S. Bible scholar, specializing in the languages and culture of the Ancient Near East. Born in New York, he received his early education from both public school and yeshivot. Greenfield showed early interest in Semitic Near Eastern Languages, learning both Arabic and Aramaic in his youth. He received his bachelor's degree from ccny in English literature in 1949. In that same year he was ordained rabbi at Metivta Torah Vadaath. He entered the graduate school at Yale to study English, where he was required to study an early Indo-European language. Choosing Hittite taught by Albrecht Goetze the great cuneiformist, Greenfield soon realized that his heart was in the study of the ancient Near East. He received his doctorate from Yale University (1956) for his thesis "The Lexical Status of Mishnaic Hebrew," in which he applied his newer skills in Semitics to the texts originally learned in yeshivah.

Starting his teaching career in 1954 as instructor in Semitics at Brandeis University, he became assistant and later associate professor of Semitics at the University of California at Los Angeles (1956–65) and then professor of Semitics at the University of California at Berkeley (1965–71).

In 1971 Greenfield moved to Jerusalem where he became professor of Ancient Semitic languages at the Hebrew University. He also taught during the 1970s and early 1980s at Bar-Ilan University.

His interests within the field of Ancient Semitic languages were diverse. He was a known authority on comparative Semitic philology, Aramaic dialectology and lexicography, Ugaritic language and literature, Northwest Semitic epigraphy, and Canaanite and Aramaic religion, and was also interested in the social history of the period, legal matters, and Iranian studies.

He was a member of the publication supervisory committee for the Dead Sea Scrolls and was engaged in the publication of the papyri from Naḥal Ḥever and Naḥal Ẓe'elim.

From 1967 Greenfield was editor of the Israel Exploration Journal and associate editor of the Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research. He was a member of the editorial committee of the Jewish Publication society of America and on the committee for the new jps translation of the Hagiographia.

His works include Jews of Elephantine and Arameans of Syene (with B. Porten, 1974) and The Bisitun Inscription (with B. Porten, 1982). Most of his numerous English articles can be found in the two volumes edited by Paul (bibliography), and a full bibliography and biographical sketch in the Festschrift edited by Zevit (bibliography).

add. bibliography:

Z. Zevit et al.(eds.), Solving Riddles and Untying Knots…Studies…Greenfield (1995); S. Paul et al. (eds.), Al Kanfei Yonah: Collected Studies…Greenfield…Semitic Philology (2001).

[Elaine Hoter]