Volume 11 ()

Jerome Alan Lund, The Book of the Laws of the Countries, A Dialogue on Free Will Versus Fate: A Key-Word-in-Context Concordance (Gorgias Press: Piscataway, NJ, 2007) Pp. xiii + 236. Hardback, $ 128.00.

Kristian S. Heal

[1] Students of Syriac literature are once again indebted to Jerome Lund for providing an extremely useful instrument de travail. Following on the heels of his concordance of the Old Syriac Gospels (2004, reviewed by David G. K. Taylor in Hugoye 9.2), this slim volume breaks new ground by being the first key-word-in-context (KWIC) concordance of a non-biblical Syriac text. Of course, we have the valuable word lists for the works published in the three Patrologia Syriaca volumes (a pattern that carried over into some of the early Patrologia Orientalis fascicles), as well as the indices that accompany the editions of the industrious Werner Strothmann, but up until now we have no actual concordances for Syriac literary texts.

[2] The primary value of a KWIC concordance is the convenient manner in which it allows one to explore and examine the language of a given text. Whether one wants to describe the linguistic complexion of a text, or to simply identify whether a certain word appears within that text, the first tool that one would chose is a concordance. At least this has been the case up until recently. Now, with the growth of the digital humanities, one often has the choice between a traditional concordance or an electronically searchable corpus. This is certainly the case for those working in biblical studies, or with the Dead Sea Scrolls, to name only two fields benefiting from both traditional concordances and searchable electronic corpora. It is also the case, moreover, for those scholars working with Bardaisan’s Book of the Laws of the Countries, since the concordance under review “finds its origin in the database of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon [CAL] directed by Dr. Stephen A. Kaufman” (vii).

[3] Though there is a genetic relationship between the CAL database and Lund’s concordance, the two resources are far from identical, or even equally useful. Lund has clearly done a lot of work with the data he obtained from CAL before presenting it for publication. He has imposed a rational order on his material, separating out personal (233-34) and geographic names (235-36), for example. Also, the creation of a concordance has obviously provided numerous opportunities to check and correct the data. Thus, many of the glosses in the concordance are improved over those provided on CAL’s KWIC Search, and a number of entries have been refined or corrected. Most importantly to this reviewer, however, are the substantial aesthetic advances made by the concordance. It is simply easier and more pleasant to find information in the concordance than through CAL’s database, at least as presently constituted. One can easily locate a lemma in the concordance, and quickly see the forms in which that lemma appears in the text, where it appears in the printed edition (by page and line number), and in what context.

[4] It seems to this reviewer that Lund’s concordance should find a welcome home in every good university library, and will be coveted by all scholars working with early Syriac literature.


Syriac Lexeme

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Publication Date: June 28, 2018
Kristian S. Heal, "Jerome Alan Lund, The Book of the Laws of the Countries, A Dialogue on Free Will Versus Fate: A Key-Word-in-Context Concordance (Gorgias Press: Piscataway, NJ, 2007) Pp. xiii + 236. Hardback, $ 128.00.." Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 11.1 :.
open access peer reviewed