A Short Review of Bill Mallonee’s “Winnowing”

This review of a Bill Mallonee record transcends the genre of music review. Beautiful, compelling, moving. A more than fitting piece for my first time pushing that little “Reblog” button that WordPress offers.

Quantum Est In Rebus Inane

…[T]he apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness, and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together… Jane Austen, Persuasion

I have been listening to Bill Mallonee for a long time. He is one of the most challenging and rewarding songwriters alive. He has crafted song after song, each representing some portion of his steady, integrated-and-integrating vision of things. That vision is complicated, prismatic; it has been salted with fire over years, burning away everything self-indulgent or unrealizable in it. What remains now is a vision that demands comparison with the visions of great religious and literary work: the Wisdom books of the Old Testament, and James of the New; the essays of Montaigne; Samuel Johnson’s “The Vanity of Human Wishes” and Rasselas; Eliot’s Four Quartets. Mallonee’s themes are best captured by phrases borrowed from Johnson: the hunger of the imagination…

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Fall 2014 New Releases from Zondervan Academic

Zondervan Academic

Zondervan Academic (I’ve reviewed a bunch of their stuff) has some interesting new releases coming this fall. I’m particularly interested in:

I’m especially looking to the Mark volume of the ZECNT series.

The Zondervan Academic Website is here. Their Fall 2014 catalog is here.

Septuagint Studies Soirée #1


As soon as I announced the first-ever Septuagint Studies Soirée (and here it is!), J.K. Gayle responded with “Breast God: women in the male literary imagination of Genesis 49.” Find his post here. In it he writes about how the Greek translators of Genesis 49 rendered God’s Hebrew title Shaddai… or, rather, didn’t:

Then I recall what the Septuagint translators did with Shaddai in Genesis 49. They were men, weren’t they? Yes, breasts are mentioned, and womb. These motherly wifely womanly female images are in the Hebraic Hellene. And absence, margin, lack is there.

James Dowden offered further lexical analysis (I loved the detail) with a response here. These two gents are fine thinkers. And they are, indeed, gents. Gayle makes a point to recognize this in his WOMBman’s Bible blog, with a post in which he asks whether the Septuagint itself might not be some sort of soirée. I always need to spend some time with Gayle to really plumb the depths of his insights, but it’s time well spent. A sampling:

In many fascinating ways, this act of translating into Hellene opens up the text. It opens the text up into the debates over how Greek males (such as Alexander’s teacher Aristotle) may control the Greek language for elite educated men of the Academy. The language control was to exclude not only women but also sophists, rhetoricians, ancient epic poets, more contemporary poets, colonists such as those in Soli who committed “solecisms” in writing, and BarBarians who spoke in foreign barbarisms.

Read more Gayle here.

Along similar lexical lines, Suzanne McCarthy (Gayle blogs with her at BLT) tackled “another pesky Hebrew gender question” via Hebrew, Latin, English, and, of course, Greek. McCarthy also wrote about Adam’s nose (rendered “face,” but should it be?) here.

LXX Leviticus. Source: The Schøyen Collection

Jim West complained about Septuagint-o-mania (has he read the New Testament? has he read BLT blog???) but then posted a bunch of LXX-related links not long after (phew–he has read his NT, at least).

In two of the more substantive Septuagint posts this month, Nijay Gupta (who has impeccable taste in seminaries) wrote about the importance of the Septuagint (with an eye to pastors, among others). Part 1 is here. His Part 2 looks more closely at the Apocrypha. (“There is ample evidence to show that Jesus, Paul, James, and others certainly were acquainted with the Apocrypha and probably positively influenced by texts like Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.”) His part 2 concludes with the promise of more to come.

Speaking of which, Jessica Parks was posting some great stuff on LXX Susanna earlier in the summer, so keep an eye out for anything LXX-related she may post in the future. She is now posting on Cataclysmic blog.

Brian LePort posted a good bit on the Septuagint in August (and before). He wrote about exegeting the Septuagint (with attention to its literary context) and even theologizing from it!

James McGrath looked to the Septuagint of Isaiah while reading Philippians 2.

This pre-dates August, but Blog of the Twelve posted a few LXX-related resources for consideration. And while we’re still dipping (but only briefly) back into July, Brian Davidson wrote about Matthew as a new Genesis.


TML bookT. Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible went on tour. A multi-stop tour. Find all the posts gathered here at Near Emmaus. Oxford University Press, First Things, and Near Emmaus interviewed him.

Larry Hurtado mentioned that a book he co-edited with Paul L. Owen is now in (affordable) paperback. It’s called “Who Is This Son of Man?” The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, found here.


The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies held its International Congress in Munich in early August. Here are all the paper abstracts (pdf); here is the program (pdf).


These are not blogs proper, and not terribly active of late, but still worth checking out are this B-Greek forum (link malfunctioning at time of posting) and this Yahoo! group for LXX. The IOSCS (mentioned above) has a great page with some news and announcements here.

Feel free to leave more August 2013 LXX links of interest in the comments.

Accordance 10.2 is live


Accordance Bible Software, which I have reviewed at length here, has just come out with a new dot release, Accordance 10.2. There are quite a few nifty additions, which users of Accordance 10 will likely appreciate. (The improvements will also make for a better experience for new users.)

The details of all the new features are here. As a frequenter of the Accordance forums, I appreciate that at least a few of the improvements correspond to user requests.

If you’re a Mac user, you can demo Accordance free here. It’s free here for iPhone and iPad (with a few free texts, too). And it’s in beta for Windows right now, soon to be released.

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.

Thinking about Email Bankruptcy? Try this First

Mac Outlook

A few years ago I heard about “email bankruptcy,” where an executive simply deleted all his piled-up email and then found a way to let all his previous emailers know what he was doing. If they wanted a reply on something, they’d have to write a new email or re-send the old one.

It might have bugged some folks, but it got him to “inbox zero” pretty quickly. Only an exec could pull this off; I doubt a middle manager quite has the workplace capital to be able to do it without some repercussions.

For the rest of us, what to do when the inbox creeps past 50, 100, 200 emails?

Here’s a simple trick. It’s totally psychological, but I’ve used it twice in the last six months, and it works wonders. Here’s what my Inbox often looks like, full of messages. (Senders and subjects deleted here for the sake of privacy.) Yours might look like this, too:

Inbox with messages in it
Inbox with messages in it

Even with a mere 40 messages here, I’m still a ways away from inbox zero. So I’ve created a folder called “0 akj inbox” that shows up underneath my actual Inbox. The “0” is so it alphabetizes at the top. I leave all my sub-folders expanded so I can always see “0 akj inbox.” Then I make this move:

Moving Inbox messages to sub-folder
Moving Inbox messages to sub-folder

And… voilà! Empty Inbox:

Ever-elusive "Inbox Zero"
Ever-elusive “Inbox Zero”

Sure, this didn’t do the work of actually responding to those 40 messages. They’re still in “0 akj inbox,” awaiting my attention. But the couple times I’ve zeroed out in this way recently (rather than declaring actual email bankruptcy) has really cleared my head and allowed me to focus on the work I have to do. If 10 messages come in in the next hour, I can quickly work through them and keep my Inbox at 0. And even chip away at the new sub-folder I’ve created.

Just a mind trick? Perhaps. But so much of staying on top of email is, I’m convinced, psychological. The more email I have, the harder it seems to work through any of it. The less I have, the better I do staying zeroed out on a daily or weekly basis. Seeing my Inbox at 0, as above, makes me much more efficient on email, even if all I did was a simple drag-and-drop.

And now, on to that sub-folder….

Review of IVP’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (final part 3)

IVP OT Dictionary Pentateuch

I’ve been spending some time the last few weeks with InterVarsity Press’s Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch in Logos Bible Software. You can read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here; those help provide context for this third and final part to the review.

In this post I summarize and briefly interact with three more articles: “Warfare,” “Book of Genesis,” and “Haran.” Then I offer my concluding thoughts.


A.C. Emery’s article explores “the conduct of warfare found in the Pentateuch, as well as instructions provided for the waging of warfare in Israel” (877). He notes, “Conflict is a common event recorded within the OT” (877), even if the student of ancient warfare tactics may not find much in the Pentateuch. To wit: “With rare exception the battle is described more for the divine intervention than for its technical conduct, which is the particular interest of this article” (878-9). God himself is described “as a warrior” (877) in the Pentateuch.

Emery looks at common Hebrew words that the Pentateuch uses to describe warfare and battles, with qārab (“draw near”) being the most common. He explores Pentateuchal “battle accounts” (879), from Abraham in Genesis 14 to Amalek in Exodus 17 and the “Canaanite king of Arad” and Og, king of Bashan, in Numbers 21-25 (879-80). There are “various instructions with regard to activities related to warfare” (880), including “the need to be… emotionally and religiously prepared for the dangers of combat” and the mechanics of negotiations and siege warfare (880). Emery’s final section examines the ethical difficulty that warfare poses.

Surprisingly, Emery does not in his ethics section mention the difficult Deuteronomy 7:2 with its “show them no mercy” command. He also has an article in the dictionary (“ḤĒREM”) that covers that passage, but his treatment of warfare ethics in “Warfare” was briefer than I would have liked. But, as with the rest of the dictionary, the few-page article still offers a decent jumping-off point for further research, even if it’s not a one-stop shop.

Book of Genesis

The entry on the book of Genesis examines the book with special reference to structure, plot, and theology (350). L.A. Turner’s key assumption is: “Genesis is a narrative book, and its theology is conveyed through features such as its structure, plot and characterization, rather than through set pieces of divine promulgation, as in legal or prophetic texts” (356).

Regarding structure, though there are varying theories, most agree that “Genesis is composed of two distinct blocks of unequal size” (350). The first runs roughly through Genesis 11 or the first few verses of Genesis 12 and is about humanity generally. Genesis 12 onward picks up the story of Abraham. The “main sections” in Genesis, according to Turner, are “the Abraham story (Gen 11:27–25:18), the Jacob story (Gen 25:19–37:1) and the story of Jacob’s family (Gen 37:2–50:26)” (350). The Hebrew word tôlĕdôt (genealogy) is a structural marker throughout Genesis.

The plot of Genesis has “progressive complexity” (352), moving from early human history to complex characters and families by the end of the book. “Divine promises and blessings” constitute “the book’s central core” (353) for Turner, and set the stage for the rest of the Bible (358). Regarding theology, he notes the tension “between divine sovereignty (as exemplified in the genealogies) and human free will (as demonstrated in the narratives)” (357).

I wanted to be sure to review a longer article in the dictionary. I was unexpectedly riveted as Turner walked through Genesis (10 pages in print). I found his contention that the book’s structure has theological import to be particularly compelling.


“Haran” in English could refer either to a place or to a person, though the spelling is different between each word in Hebrew (379). Both the place and the person are in Genesis 11:27-32, so M.W. Chavalas treats them together (379).

Haran the place is where Abraham lived after leaving Ur and before departing for Canaan (379). He also sought a wife for Isaac there, and Jacob found Rachel and Leah there, too. Similar to Ur, Haran centered on lunar worship. Haran is located in what today is southeastern Turkey. There is “only a small amount of archaeological evidence…for the city, and even less for patriarchal times” (379). It seems to have been inhabited already well before Abraham’s time, perhaps by some 20,000 people (379). Chavalas notes its likely founding “as a merchant outpost by the Sumerian city of Ur in the late third millennium B.C.” (379).

Haran the person has “very little biblical or extrabiblical information” recorded about him. He was Terah’s son, Lot’s father, and Abram’s brother. It was Haran’s death at Ur that led Lot to go to Haran with Abram. Haran also had two daughters, Iscah and Milcah.

The more I research Abraham and the Pentateuch, the more I realize how important Lot was to him. His desire to bear a family perhaps through Lot seems to be what led to his rescue of Lot in Genesis 14.  Several dictionary articles point this out nicely. Chavalas covers Haran fairly thoroughly in a short amount of space (just two or three print pages).


I hope Logos will update the dictionary so that the sidebar Table of Contents can expand to include all the article sub-points. Another thing that would make the product better is an easier way to find out about contributors from within an article. Having their names hyperlinked with their biographical information would be nice. As it is, one has to move between the article and the separate “Contributors” section to find out more about each author. [EDIT: Author names have hyperlinks in the Accordance production of this module.]

The Logos edition of the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is overall a good module. Being able to have it open to both Hebrew and English biblical texts saves considerable time compared to using the print edition. The Dictionary is a solid first place to go on issues, themes, and people in the Pentateuch.

The Dictionary is on Amazon here (in print) and at Logos here. My thanks to Logos for the review copy.  Read part 1 of my review here and part 2 here.