Now Reading: Hannah Arendt

I am feeling compelled to finally read The Origins of Totalitarianism, the 1951 work of Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt. In it she explores Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. She wants to come to some kind of understanding—should it be possible—of horrific evil, and of how totalitarian regimes can come to be in the first place.

In the words of an acquaintance, my strong desire to read Arendt feels both “ominous and important.” Am I reading it in preparation for the 2024 presidential election and all that may follow? I hope not—but I will anyway. Or am I reading it to (still) try to wrap my head around how so many folks in the U.S. voted in 2016 for a man who praises Vladimir Putin and himself had (has) dictatorial aspirations? Or do I feel it necessary to read this because of the ways in which anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism persist, decades after Nazi Germany?

All of the above.

Here are just a few quotations from The Origins of Totalitarianism:

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.


Practically speaking, the totalitarian ruler proceeds like a man who persistently insults another man until everybody knows that the latter is his enemy, so that he can, with some plausibility, go and kill him in self-defense.”

(This is exactly what Putin is doing in Ukraine—claiming self-defense as he launches unprovoked attacks—and also descriptive of Trump’s unprovoked verbal abuse toward others, whom he then labels enemies/rivals.)

And this sobering line:

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read Arendt or anything else on totalitarianism.

Plug for Waltke’s Micah Commentary



Bruce Waltke’s Commentary on Micah is on sale for $12.90 in Accordance for a while longer. Even at its list price of $27.90, it’s a bargain.

It’s been a while since I used it in depth, but whenever I have plunged its depth, I’ve been astounded at Waltke’s attention to detail, analysis of the text, and careful treatment of the grammar (and so much more). He has other Micah volumes available, even: Tyndale and McComiskey. But this stand-alone volume is the one it seems he really wanted to write, the volume that was far too long for inclusion in any series. He says in the preface that he treated each pericope as if it were a doctoral dissertation.

When I wrote a lengthy exegesis paper on a Micah passage in seminary, this commentary was close at hand. I used the library copy extensively, then bought myself a hard copy afterwards to celebrate. (I do love the smell of Eerdmans books.) When it became available in Accordance, I quickly made it one of a handful of double purchases, where I get a book in print and Accordance, so that I could access it electronically, as well.

No kickback for me on this post… just one of the best commentaries I’ve ever used for in-depth, original language work (especially text criticism), so wanting to give it its due.

A Poem I Wrote in Spanish After Reading Paulo Freire

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Some 12 years ago I wrote the following poem-prayer after reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and some of his other writing on the church. I found it again the other day so am posting it here:

Hasta que haya la paz, no descansaré.
Hasta que las guerras cesen, no abandonaré la lucha.
Hasta que la justicia reine, seguiré leyendo, predicando, y gritando.
Hasta que haya una verdadera liberación humana, no dormiré.
Que vengas, Jesucristo. Que venga tu voluntad y tu reino,
como en el cielo, así también en la tierra.


Free Oscar Romero Book (The Violence of Love)

Violence of Love

“Beautiful is the moment,” Archbishop Oscar Romero said, “Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do….”

The book above–La Violencia del Amor, or, The Violence of Love–is available as a free download from the publisher, here (Spanish) and here (English).

Highly recommended reading.

Now Reading: Elie Wiesel’s Night

Elie Wiesel_Night

Amazingly, I made it through high school and college without reading Elie Wiesel’s Night. Having just found a copy in good condition at a local used bookstore, I plan now to read it. My recent reading of Bonhoeffer has revived my interest in Holocaust and genocide studies.

(Yes, I know it's a reality of "white/male privilege" to be able to choose when to think about oppression and to make "studies" out of genocide.)

I may or may not report back here again about Night, but I expect it to be a powerful read.

4 Biblical Studies eBooks on Sale for Less than $3

Right now there are four good-to-own biblical studies books on sale for less than $3 (and two of these are less than $2).

fee and stuart

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Fee and Stuart), $1.99 on Kindle (here). I’ve read this, though it’s been some time now. Solid book.

Evans DSS

Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls (Craig A. Evans), $2.99 on Kindle (here). I just got this–haven’t read it yet, but flipping through, it looks like a great introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Surprised By Hope

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (N.T. Wright), $1.99 on Kindle (here) and iBooks (here). I haven’t read this (I know! I need to get on it) but several folks have highly recommended it to me.

Kruse Romans

Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Pillar Commentary Series), Colin G. Kruse, $2.99 on Kindle (here). The couple times I’ve used this have led me to think this is a good resource.

(This blog participates in the Amazon Associates Program, so any purchase from Amazon that comes from a link on this site sends a small percentage of the purchase price to upkeep and maintenance for Words on the Word.)

When God Spoke Greek (Upcoming Book Blog Tour)

TML book

In July I’ll be joining a group of bloggers in reviewing Timothy Michael Law‘s forthcoming When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.

Brian LePort at Near Emmaus is hosting. Here is the schedule for the tour:

BRIAN LePORT (Friday, July 19th)
Introducing the blog tour

JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st,
1 Why this Book?
2 When the World Became Greek

ANDREW KING (Tuesday, July 23rd,
3 Was There a Bible before the Bible?
4 The First Bible Translators

KRISTA DALTON (Thursday, July 25th,
5 Gog and his Not-so-Merry Grasshoppers
6 Bird Droppings, Stoned Elephants, and Exploding Dragons

ABRAM K-J (Saturday, July 27th,
7 E Pluribus Unum
8 The Septuagint behind the New Testament

JESSICA PARKS (Monday, July 29th,
9 The Septuagint in the New Testament
10 The New Old Testament

AMANDA MacINNIS (Wednesday, July 31st,
11 God’s Word for the Church
12 The Man of Steel and the Man who Worshipped the Sun

JAMES McGRATH (Friday, August 2nd,
13 The Man with the Burning Hand vs. the Man with the Honeyed Sword
14 A Postscript

There still (shocking!) aren’t that many books about the Septuagint, so I’m sure this will be a welcome addition. Law writes on his blog, “I shall not rest until there is a Septuagint in the hand of every woman, man, girl and boy.”

I think he’s kidding (but not sure about this), but TML loves his LXX. I’m looking forward to being part of the review. More to follow here.

Books for Sale: Hermeneia 38 vol. CD-ROM (Logos), $149, OBO


I’m looking to sell the Hermeneia CD-ROM set (38 vols., 2006). It’s compatible with Logos/Libronix. $149 (and willing to consider offers). See here and here for details on the set.

If you want to contact me about a possible purchase, feel free to use this form, and we’ll talk. I generally do things through PayPal.

2014 UPDATE: I’ve still got the 38-volume set available to sell (unopened), if you’re interested.

UPDATE 2: It’s now sold.

NA28 Greek New Testament text in Accordance


The NA28 Greek New Testament is now available for purchase in Accordance Bible Software. The text itself is free here. The Accordance version includes the apparatus, marginalia, and other nice enhancements. Here’s a screencast that shows how you can use the NA28 in Accordance:

More about the Nestle-Aland edition is here. Its Accordance product page is here, with an Accordance blog post about it here.

Not as Literal as You Think? A Review of One Bible, Many Versions

One Bible Many Versions

“Are literal versions really literal?” So asks Dave Brunn in One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? Brunn is a missionary and educator with extensive Bible translation experience. Noting that the Bible is “virtually silent” on “the issue of translation theory,” he seeks in his book to answer questions like:

  • “How literal should a Bible translation be?”
  • “What makes a translation of the Scriptures faithful and accurate?”
  • “What is the significance of the original form and the original meaning?”

He examines versions as diverse as the Message, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, the English Standard Version, and quite a few others. He lists examples on both the word level and the sentence level to show that “every ‘literal’ version frequently sets aside its own standards of literalness and word-for-word translation,” when slavish literalism would compromise meaning in the target language. For example, the New American Standard Bible–hailed as one of the most literal English translations–takes Genesis 4:1 (Hebrew: [Adam] knew [Eve]) and translates knew as had relations with. This accurately captures the meaning of Gen. 4:1, but it is not word-for-word.

So, too, with the ESV: Mark 9:3’s “no cloth refiner on earth” becomes “no one on earth” (among many, many examples Brunn gives).

At issue here is the relationship between form and meaning. He writes:

The form includes the letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and so on. The meaning consists of the concepts or thoughts associated with each of the forms. Both elements are essential in all communication. …[I]t could be hard to argue that one is more important than the other.

To translate, Brunn points out, is to necessarily change the form. The only way to keep the form of Hebrew or Greek is to leave the text in Hebrew or Greek. There is no such thing as “consistent formal equivalence” between “any two languages on earth.” Brunn (rightly, in my view) suggests that it is okay (even necessary) “to set aside form in order to preserve meaning,” but that one should not sacrifice meaning for the sake of preserving form. Besides, he points out, no translation (not even the most “literal” one) sacrifices meaning every time for the sake of formal, word-for-word equivalence.

Brunn drives his point home especially well by making reference to other languages. Perhaps folks argue about literalness in English translations because of English’s linguistic/familial relationship to Greek. But what about non-Indo-European languages, Brunn asks? “As long as the debate about Bible translation stays within the realm of English translation, the tendency will be to oversimplify some of the issues,” he writes. “I believe that many well-meaning Christians have unwittingly made English the ultimate standard.” His examples of translation challenges going from English to Lamogai (the language into which he worked with others to translate the New Testament) reinforce his idea that word-for-word equivalence is simply not possible across languages. (Lamogai, for example, uses gender-neutral terms to refer to siblings, whereas Greek and English do not.)

The translations that people fight over have more in common than we may first realize. Brunn calls for unity among Christians when it comes to what translations we use. “If we set any two English Bible versions side by side,” he says, “We could easily find hundreds of instances where each version has the potential of strengthening and enhancing the other.” (Indeed, there are even times when less “literal” versions like the NIV or NLT seem to stay closer to the original languages at the word level than versions like the ESV or NASB.)

Knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is not needed to profitably use One Bible, Many Versions, though Brunn does have footnotes for “readers who are already knowledgeable in translation issues.” His numerous charts clearly show the difference between form and meaning in multiple translations.

Brunn gives good guidelines for Bible readers and translators alike, as they seek to discern what translations to use and how to think about translation theoretically. Especially in the second half, the book felt a little repetitive–I didn’t think Brunn needed as many examples to make his point that literal translations don’t consistently adhere to their own standards. Though perhaps those who need more convincing will appreciate the extensive charts.

What I was most impressed by was Brunn’s obvious high regard for Scripture, together with a pastoral sense of how to navigate the so-called Bible translation debates. In addition to these, the care with which he analyzed translations and compared them to each other made it easy to follow (and agree with) him. Whether you’re interested in Bible translation or exploring the differences between various versions, One Bible, Many Versions is an engaging and informative guide.

Brunn has a Website here; the book’s site is here.

Thanks to IVP for the review copy. You can find the book on Amazon here, and its IVP product page here.