I’ve been enjoying teaching through the Gospel of Mark in an ongoing Webinar series called “Translation Notes.” We focus especially on the words and grammar of the Greek text, trying to answer questions that arise when translating to English.
A few weeks ago I taught a session on Mark 4:35-41, where Jesus exercises authority over the elements by calming a storm that had the disciples fearing for their lives—and already starting to drown.
Paying attention to Mark’s Greek helped me see two important parts of the narrative that could be easy to miss.
First, in Mark 4:37, when the “furious squall” (NIV) comes up, the waves are breaking into the boat where Jesus and his disciples are. Mark says, “the boat was already (ἤδη) filling up.”
This is an important detail, especially with ἤδη = already. The point at which the disciples call out to Jesus is not when they see storm clouds, or when they’re worried a storm might come, or even when they’re sure it is coming. The storm is already there, the waves are already breaking, and the boat is already getting swamped (so NRSV). Not just wet—drenched.
This means the disciples must have felt like they were seconds away from drowning. This isn’t a cute story or an object lesson for them: “Teacher, doesn’t it matter to you that we’re dying?”
Translations that give “we are about to die” or “don’t you care if we drown?” or “we’re going to drown” seem to soften the force of the present indicative verb Mark uses: we are dying. And don’t you care, Jesus?
I think this makes the story all the more relatable. We can cry out to Jesus not just in moments of feeling like we’re about to die, but in moments of actual dying.
A second important point in the narrative: before the disciples can utter this desperate prayer to Jesus, they find him sleeping. Mark narrates it like this:
Major translations tend to change the Greek word order in translation, so that it reads, “But he was in the stern, sleeping on a pillow.”
But I think the word order as Mark has it is worth preserving in English, because Mark is heightening the drama:
And he… (okay, phew, Jesus is at least around!)
…was in the stern… (wait, what’s he doing in the back of the boat?)
…on a pillow… (at a time like this? He’d better not be sleeping!)
I struggled to find any English translation that translated it this way, but Eugene Peterson’s Message (supposedly a paraphrase—certainly more thought-for-thought than word-for-word) gives us, “Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping!”
It’s a short sentence, but I think Mark’s word order is deliberate—it’s like a slow-motion nightmare where the already-dying disciples find the worst possible outcome: the one who can save them is asleep.
Those two moments in the story—of actually beginning to die and of terror at Jesus’s being asleep—are worth inhabiting as readers today. Or maybe a better way to say it is that we already feel like we inhabit those moments, and we need to acknowledge it. Mark reminds us that we’re in good company: the company of the dying and terrified. And he invites us to cry out to Jesus, even in our dying, even when it looks like Jesus is fast asleep.
A new integrated trio of Koine Greek resources just came out in Accordance. I review them in the was-going-to-be-short-but-ended-up-longer video below. Product page links follow.
Curious to hear, especially from Greek-teaching types, if you’ve used this still newish resource from Dr. Harris, and just generally what you find helpful in teaching Greek in classroom settings.
An Introduction to Biblical Greek Grammar: Elementary Syntax and Linguistics (LINK)
An Introduction to Biblical Greek Workbook: Elementary Syntax and Linguistics (LINK)
An Introduction to Biblical Greek Video Lectures: Elementary Syntax and Linguistics (LINK)
I’ve just had this resource for a week, so I feel like I’ve barely plumbed its depths. I am planning to offer a short, four (or so)-week Greek course through Accordance soon, and I expect to be drawing lots of inspiration from Dr. Harris’s resources.
Update: for an even better review, see Brian W. Davidson’s post here.
Disclosure: Accordance set me up with volumes to review. And I lead Webinars for Accordance. That did not influence the objectivity of this post.
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.
Accordance Bible has put its Göttingen Septuagint on sale, at its lowest price ever. There are 19 volumes, which span 34 Septuagint books. As Brian Davidson notes, Logos has five LXX volumes not in Accordance (Judith; Tobit; 3 Maccabees; Wisdom of Solomon; and Susanna, Daniel, and Bel et Draco), while only Accordance has the 2014 2 Chronicles. Neither has yet digitized the recently released Ecclesiastes volume.
$499 for the in-progress critical edition is not cheap, but serious students of the Septuagint will receive at least that much value from the modules. The Genesis print volume alone retails for about $250. The Accordance versions are morphologically tagged, so you never have to guess at a parsing or translation equivalent. As with all Accordance texts, Göttingen integrates seamlessly with lexicons, parallel texts, and other resources.
Here’s what the recently released 2 Chronicles volume looks like, with its apparatus open at bottom and two English translations of the Septuagint also open:
I’ve noted elsewhere that the critical apparatus in the Göttingen Septuagint is a text criticism workout. I’ve posted here and here about how to understand and use its apparatuses. Accordance hyperlinks all the abbreviations (everything in blue and underlined in the screenshot above is a hyperlink). The expanded abbreviations don’t mitigate the need for Latin and German in understanding the apparatus!
What especially sets Accordance apart from Logos is Accordance’s use of search fields in the apparatus, so that you can select a search field and run a more targeted search. I’ve found this most useful for when I’m trying to get a handle on how a particular manuscript might have treated the text. You can also search the apparatus by Greek content, so could see, for example, all of the Greek words that get treatment in the apparatus.
When I read through LXX Isaiah (mostly using Accordance) a few years ago, I made heavy use of Accordance’s “Compare” and “List Text Differences” features. This way you can see at a glance where Göttingen and Rahlfs or Swete differ on the book you’re looking at.
Do you want to really geek out on using the Septuagint in Accordance? Here‘s a post I wrote for their blog the other day, on using Accordance to generate a list of Greek vocabulary that New Testament readers might want to consider when coming to the Septuagint.
Disclosure: Accordance set me up with the 2 Chronicles volume to review. And I lead Webinars for them. That did not influence the objectivity of this post.
While you can search Accordance’s existing photo resources by Scripture reference already, this is their first graphics tool that is designed to specifically open parallel to your Bible, verse by verse. It’s organized, in other words, by canonical reference.
I’ve already found this helpful for lectionary-based preaching. Simply open a Bible, click on “Add Parallel,” and open Picture the NT next to your Bible of choice (and any other parallel panes). Like so:
Images are high resolution. My understanding is that most of these images are original to this resource and don’t merely reproduce images available elsewhere.
In addition to images, there are maps:
Not every single verse of the NT is covered. John 1:1-3, for example, has no images, but it’s hard to imagine any images that would go with those verses anyway.
Even though Picture the NT functions as a verse-by-verse commentary, opening the tool in its own zone allows you to search the module through other search fields, so that you could hone in on a particular topic, for example, no matter its canonical location.
Accordance has cleverly designed the module with internal cross-references, so that if a verse would have re-used a photo elsewhere, it just hyperlinks to that other location and takes you right there.
Picture the NT currently contains the Gospels, Acts, and 1-2 Peter, with more NT pictures projected to be “added with free future updates.” It’s currently on sale; you can find it here.
Thanks to Accordance for the review copy, given to me for the purposes of this review but with no expectation as to its content.
The last two years have seen the appearance of two significant resources for Septuagint reading: the recently released reader’s Septuagint and Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Kregel, 2016). I reviewed Jobes’s volume here when it came out. Today Accordance Bible Software has released its edition.
A couple of quick notes: (1) Accordance set me up with a review copy so I could write about it and (2) much of the below draws on or quotes my review of the print edition, albeit with an eye toward the use of the Guided Reader in Accordance specifically.
Short, one-sentence version: Accordance takes an already good (and long-awaited) resource and significantly enhances its usability for readers of the Septuagint.
Below is a longer review of the resource, in Q & A format.
What books of the LXX are covered?
There are ten readings, meant to “give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament” (9). Discovering the Septuagint treats nearly 700 verses from:
Genesis (80 verses)
Exodus (79 verses)
Exodus 20:1–21 // Deuteronomy 5:6–21 (The 10 Commandments)
Ruth (85 verses)
Additions to Greek Esther (73 verses)
Psalms (67 verses)
Hosea (56 verses)
Jonah (48 verses)
Malachi (55 verses)
Isaiah (81 verses)
For whom is this book?
Jobes says it “contains everything needed for any reader with three semesters of koine Greek to succeed in expanding their horizons to the Septuagint” (8). This felt right as I worked through the resource. I found the book easy to understand (though I’ve had more than three semesters of Greek).
How is the book structured?
Each LXX book has a short introduction followed by a selected bibliography. Here, for example, is the intro to Jonah, shown on the Mac version of Accordance:
Next there is the passage itself, verse by verse, with the Greek text re-printed in full. Under each verse are word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase comments on the vocabulary, usage, syntax, translation from Hebrew (the book is strong here), and so on. Following each passage is the NETS (English translation) and mention of any NT use (if applicable) of the LXX passage.
The end of the book has a three-page, 33-term glossary and a two-page “Index of New Testament LXX Citations” for the books included in the reader.
What does a sample entry look like?
Here’s Jonah 4:6 in print…
… and in Accordance, which I got to in under a second by setting the search field to “Reference” and typing in “=Jon 4:6”:
What’s commendable about Discovering the Septuagint?
The very existence of this resource is a boon to Greek readers. There long has existed Conybeare and Stock, as well as some passages in Decker’s Koine Greek Reader, but readers of the Septuagint have far fewer resources than readers of the Greek New Testament.
While the text edition has plenty wide margins for students to jot down their own parsings, translations, and notes, the margins of the Accordance edition give you a plus icon that will allow you to do the same in Accordance.
Notes on the verses are often answers to questions I’ve had as I’ve read the Greek text. In this sense the reader is a great guide. For example, here is a comment from Genesis 1:4:
ἀνὰ μέσον…ἀνὰ μέσον | Idiomatic prep phrase, “between.” This is a Hebraism, so there is no need to translate the second of the pair as NETS does.
And another helpful nugget from Genesis 1:11:
κατὰ γένος | Prep + neut sg acc (3rd dec) noun, γένος, kind. Remember the nom and acc forms are identical in this paradigm. Agrees with and modifies σπέρμα.
Accordance adds hyperlinks to abbreviations, so that you only have to hover over them to see what they stand for.
What is lacking? (And how does the Accordance edition make up for it?)
The glued binding didn’t do justice to a book like this, but that’s obviously not an issue here. Plus, portability is high, and you can read your Septuagint passages at night in dark mode on iOS!
As I noted in my review of the print edition, there is a peppering of vague statements like this one on “the image of God” in Genesis 1:26: “See a commentary or study Bible” (31). And the book introductions could have done more to talk about specific Greek issues in that given book. Accordance, however, makes it super-easy to get from this resource to another, whether a study Bible or any other. Just selecting a word, for example, gives you options to search it in another resource. Like this on iOS:
All in all, Discovering the Septuagint is worth owning, and the Accordance edition significantly increases its value. There is a lot of Greek help to be had here.
Discovering the Septuagint is available in print from Kregel and here from Accordance, where it is currently on sale.
This week Accordance Bible Software has released a massive 68-volume bundle from Westminster John Knox Press: the Old Testament Library and New Testament Library.
The whole bundle, which is also available in component parts, includes a full set of 31 Old Testament commentaries, a series of 15 New Testament commentaries, and topical monographs for both Testaments. Here’s an article from Accordance on the release. In this post I interact with the bundle, as well as provide a short video demonstration of how to smartly search the modules via different search fields.
Sample Passage: Mark 12:13-17 (Among Others)
Nothing against commentaries that draw on an established translation, but I appreciate commentaries (like this one) where the author offers an original translation with explanatory footnotes.
Here’s Mark 12:13-17 in Eugene M. Boring’s original translation:
12:13 And they are sending some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him, to set a verbal trap for him. 14 And they come and say to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and answer without regard to what people may think, for you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it right to pay the poll tax to the emperor, or not? Should we pay it, or should we not?” 15 But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and show it to me.” 16 And they brought one. And he says to them, “Whose image is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give back to the emperor the things that belong to the emperor, and to God the things that belong to God.” And they were utterly astounded at him.
This section reads well enough. Note that Boring translates the beginning of the verse
And they are sending some of the Pharisees and Herodians to him….
The “and” is translated (better, I think) in other versions as “then” (NRSV) and “later” (NIV). And I don’t find compelling reason in an English translation to preserve Greek’s “historical present” (ἀποστέλλουσιν) as “they are sending,” when the passage is describing a past narrative event. Formal English narrative prose wouldn’t be expected to use historical present. So, too, with verse 14’s, “And they come and say to him….” But that doesn’t overshadow Boring’s exegetical prowess!
For the second part of verse 13, ἵνα αὐτὸν ἀγρεύσωσιν λόγῳ, Boring provides a nice explanatory footnote:
The dative / instrumental logō, without preposition or pronoun, can refer either to what the inquirers say, “with a question,” or what they try to get Jesus to say, “in what he said.”
The translations throughout the OT and NT Library are strong in this regard—the authors highlight other options and why they chose what they did, focusing on lexical and grammatical challenges as they arise.
OTL and NTL are full of historical background:
While in the Markan story line the whole scene is part of the effort to find grounds on which Jesus may be arrested, the question itself, and Jesus’ response to it, is also inherently important for Mark. It was a live issue in his own time, in which the relation of Christians to the demands of the Roman government was not an abstract problem.
The denarius was a Roman coin, bearing the image of the emperor and an inscription declaring him to be divine and pontifex maximus (high priest). Not only the image, but the inscription, would be offensive to Jewish sensibilities.
In addition to focus on grammatical-historical detail, the series is refreshingly theological in a way that keeps the wider biblical witness in view for a given passage. Here’s more of Boring on this passage in Mark:
There is no paralleling of Caesar and God. God is God and Caesar is not God, in direct opposition to the image and title on the coin. The world is not divided into two parallel kingdoms. There is no encouragement in this text for dividing the world into “secular” and “sacred,” with Caesar ruling the one and God the other, nor is there any “balancing” of civic obligation to the state and religious obligation to God. Obligation to God overbalances all else (cf. 12:44, which concludes this section). Caesar is relative and God is absolute, so the two statements are not on the same plane; the second relativizes the first. Even the conjunction kai that joins them is not coordinating but adversative (as, e.g., Rom 1:13). Caesar does have a kingdom, and Jesus’ followers live in it, but God is the creator of all, and God’s kingdom embraces all, including that of Caesar. Thus while the saying itself calls on Jesus’ hearers to give both Caesar and God their due, it is not directed to those situations in which one must choose between God and Caesar as Lord. When those situations arise, devotion to God must clearly take precedence over Caesar; God demands all (12:29–30; cf. Acts 5:29). But the saying does not tell the hearer in advance how to discern what those situations are.
(His honesty and humility are refreshing!)
Again, the attention given to the passage in its wider literary-biblical context is a hallmark of the series. Here is Stephen E. Fowl on Ephesians 4:1 (“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”):
Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians is that they walk in a manner worthy of their calling. The use of the term “to walk” to characterize a way of life already appeared in 2:2, to refer to the Ephesians’ moribund way of life outside of Christ. In 2:10 it is used to speak of the manner of life that God has prepared for believers, further connecting chapters 1–3 and 4–6. Here in chapter 4 the initial admonition to the Ephesians is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The standard to which the Ephesians’ common life should conform is the “calling with which they have been called.” This calling is first mentioned in 1:18, but it is really in 2:1–10 and 11–22 where the shape of this calling is developed. Recall that in chapter 2 the Ephesians learn of their deathly state in God’s purview and outside of Christ, yet also of how God has graciously delivered them from death into life in Christ so that they may walk in the good works that God has prepared for them. Hence, Paul is not setting some new standard for them. Rather, he is reminding them of what God has already done on their behalf.
When it comes to critical issues like authorship, the volumes I’ve interacted with take a balanced approach. Here’s Fowl, again, on Ephesians:
The overwhelming majority of people read Ephesians for broadly theological reasons. That is, they read Ephesians because it is indisputably a part of Christian Scripture, and Christians by virtue of their identity are called to a lifelong engagement with Scripture as part of their ongoing struggle to live and worship faithfully before the triune God. Christians read Scripture in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts to deepen their love of God and love of neighbor. Given the ends for which Christians engage Scripture theologically, the issue of authorship is not particularly relevant. Ephesians plays the role it does in the life and worship of Christians because it is part of the canon, not because it is written by Paul or not written by Paul. The text is canonical, Paul is not.
There are some real standouts in the series: Gerhard von Rad on Genesis, Brevard S. Childs on Exodus and Isaiah, Leslie C. Allen on Jeremiah, Adele Berlin on Lamentations, Luke Timothy Johnson on Hebrews, and more. I wish I’d had this Berlin volume as I preached through Lamentations last Lent! (I did access some pages via Google Books preview.)
VIDEO: Using Search Fields in Accordance
How about the OT/NT Library in Accordance specifically? In April I made a 12-minute screencast (just for fun… and for free!) that explains how to read a book in Accordance. I highlight four features that you won’t find on Kindle or that aren’t possible in print. (Here’s the link.) All that I highlight in that video is true of just about any tool in Accordance.
In the below video, I take a shorter time (if you don’t have 12 minutes) to highlight just one feature that sets Accordance apart from other software: search fields.
Where to Get It
For a few more days, the OT/NT Library is on sale through Accordance.
The OT/NT Library is also available as individual commentaries, if you want to pick up just the volume covering whatever book you’re studying or preaching on now.
You can read more about the new release here, which includes hyperlinks to the full bundle, the smaller bundles, and individual volumes. And be sure to check out Wes Allen’s review here!
Thanks to the PTB at Accordance for providing me with free access to the OT/NT Library in exchange for a review. This provision did not influence my assessment of the series! See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here. I recorded the video using the app Capto.
One of the most promising new commentary projects continues to add new volumes: the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, covering both Old and New Testament books.
Accordance Bible Software has a huge sale on the OT and NT volumes, both as collections and individual volumes. Check out the details here.
Want to read more about individual volumes in the series?
I reviewed Daniel I. Block’s Obadiah volume here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume might just be the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (A remarkable feat, as there is no dearth of Jonah commentaries!) I have not yet reviewed Block’s Ruth volume, but noted it here.
Tomorrow I am leading a brand new Accordance Bible Software webinar: Studying the Septuagint with Accordance.
The session will cover as many of these topics as we’ll have time for in an hour:
• Septuagint resources in Accordance
• Setting up an LXX and Greek NT Workspace
• The New Testament’s use of the Old Testament
• LXX Reading for vocabulary acquisition
• Reading the Septuagint with Göttingen editions
• Advanced: Hebrew-Greek translation equivalents and the MERGE search (as time permits)
I’m looking forward to this one. Sign up info is here.