Accordance’s Picture the NT: A PhotoCommentary of the New Testament

One of the draws of Accordance Bible Software is its graphics tools. Not only does it render existing graphic resources well (Sacred Bridge, for example), but it has its own growing suite of resources: its PhotoGuide, Bible Times PhotoMuseum, and now its newly released Picture the New Testament: A PhotoCommentary of the New Testament.

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:

 

Screenshot 2018-11-19 13.41.32

 

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.

 

Screenshot 2018-11-19 13.56.52

 

 

In addition to images, there are maps:

 

Screenshot 2018-11-19 13.44.05

 

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.

Screenshot 2018-11-19 13.39.43
Search fields

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.

 

Now Available in Accordance: Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes)

Discovering the LXX

 

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:

  1. Genesis (80 verses)
  2. Exodus (79 verses)
  3. Exodus 20:1–21 // Deuteronomy 5:6–21 (The 10 Commandments)
  4. Ruth (85 verses)
  5. Additions to Greek Esther (73 verses)
  6. Psalms (67 verses)
  7. Hosea (56 verses)
  8. Jonah (48 verses)
  9. Malachi (55 verses)
  10. 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:

 

(tap or click to enlarge image)

 

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…

 

jobes-on-jonah-lxx

 

… 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.

 

 

The Biblioblog Top 50 for June 2018

The Biblioblog Top 50 lives!

Nice to see Words on the Word nearly crack the top 20!

The Biblioblog Top 50

We are pleased to present the Biblioblog Top 50 for June 2018!

The Biblioblog Top 50 is the official ranking of biblical studies blogging. Although posting somewhat less regularly in recent years, the Biblioblog Top 50 is pleased to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year. Yet those whom we really want to celebrate are the many bibliobloggers who continue to inform and entertain us – with their views and opinions at the cutting edge of biblical studies.

Congratulations in particular to the Number One Biblioblogger for June 2018: Jim West.

And the moment you have all been waiting, and waiting for: here is the Biblioblog Top 50 for June 2018:

1 Jim West Zwinglius Redivivus
2 James McGrath Religion Prof
3 Bart Ehrman The Bart Ehrman Blog
4 Ben Witherington The Bible and Culture
5 Peter Enns The Bible for Normal People
6 Jim Davila PaleoJudaica
7 Michael F. Bird, et…

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The Sole (and Very Interesting) Occurrence of “Mediator” in the LXX

God’s covenant people have always needed a mediator. And God—with limitless grace—has always sent mediators to the people.

A mediator joins two parties together, stands in the gaps, bridges their conflict. A mediator is “a go-between,” a re-negotiator, an arbitrator. An effective mediator is a miracle worker.

Scripture narrates a familiar pattern: God makes covenants with his people; his people break them; God uses mediators to make peace.

The Greek word for mediator is μεσίτης (mesitēs). Careful readers of Scripture know that “the idea of mediation and therefore of persons acting in the capacity of mediator permeates the Bible” (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition). However, the word mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only six times in the Greek New Testament.

Three of those uses are in Hebrews (8:6, 9:15, and 12:24). Two are in Galatians 3:19-20. And one is in 1 Timothy 2:5, a theologically rich verse:

For
there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human….

The concept and practice of mediation (think: sacrifice, atonement) does indeed fill the pages of the Old Testament. Most of the New Testament uses of mediator, in fact, reference the old covenant. So I found it especially fascinating when I learned that mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only once in the Greek Septuagint.

It comes up in a striking passage in Job 9:33.

Job has already lost everything. But we remember as he utters these words in chapter 9 that the Bible describes him as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” It said he would “rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings,” just in case his children had sinned. He covered all his bases. He kept at least the semblance of a covenant with God.

And yet Job senses a breach. All manner of tragedy has befallen him, and everyone around him tells him to curse God. He won’t, but still he feels at odds with God. Job says to the Lord:

… you are not a mortal like me, with whom I would contend,
that we should agree to come to trial.

Would that there were a μεσίτης/mesitēs/mediator for us and an investigator
and one to hear the case between us two.

(This is from the NETS translation, which translates μεσίτης as arbiter.)

Job longs for a mediator, an arbiter between him and God. An “umpire,” the NRSV says, translating the Hebrew.

Again, Job calls for a mediator, even though we have no narrative evidence that he broke a covenant with God! He acknowledges that he can’t “contend” with God as in court, but still yearns for a “mediator” to bridge the gap between him and God.

And now, for the pastoral payoff:

If Job, who led a blameless life, thought he needed a mediator to get to God, how much more do we, God’s not-blameless people, need a mediator to be in the presence of a perfectly holy God?

Getting Absorbed in the Beauty of Scripture: First Impressions of the ESV Six-Volume Reader’s Bible

Crossway Image.jpg
Image via Crossway

 

We who would read the Bible experience hindrances in our quest. I am interested especially in the competing values that create internal conflict, keeping us from Scripture reading. We do well to think through what other values we have that potentially undermine our goal of spending time reading the Bible.

Readers of this blog know how much I value reflection on and study of Scripture, down to the verse, word, and even ἰῶτα. I love reading Scripture atomistically. But I hope that kind of reading is always an accompaniment to (not replacement for) reading Scripture as a narrative, paying attention to its grand sweep. Reading Scripture slowly and word-by-word goes well with reading Scripture in big chunks.

Until recently I have underestimated the impact of chapter and verse divisions on my ability to engage Scripture fully. I have nothing against versification per se, but even the most casual Bible readers are likely to have a sense that those ways of marking the text are later additions and not present in the first manuscripts themselves.

Not that we can get back to some sort of pure, unadulterated “early church” experience of reading Scripture, but can we at least try to simulate the experience of original hearers.

An article by Ruth Graham in Slate recently reminded me of the advent of reader’s Bibles, which present the Bible in single-column, verse-less, novel-like format for more fluid reading.

Crossway has been kind to send the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set for me to review. I’ll write more in the future, but for now I want to comment on my experience of reading Scripture with the ESV Reader’s Bible. I want to say just two things at the outset.

 

1. This Reader’s Bible is beautiful. The production and presentation of Scripture is unlike anything I’ve seen.

 

Behold:

 

 

 

 

The binding, layout, and font are all gorgeous. I don’t love the graphic surrounding “ESV” on the binding, but that’s a minor quibble.

 

2. This Bible more than any other has facilitated my being fully absorbed in the biblical text.

 

I’ve had inspiring and Spirit-filled reading experiences already (and I’m only up to Genesis 22). To be clear, the experience is due primarily to the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit who inhabits it. No binding or font choice can bring that about. But this reader’s Bible removes what I didn’t realize were distractions to prolonged reading: verses, chapters, headings, study notes, cross-references, etc. I don’t even know which chapter of Genesis I’m on sometimes, and I don’t want to stop reading. That’s a win on the part of Crossway, and (especially) a shout-out to the power of Scripture.

Here’s the link to the Reader’s Bible page at Crossway (here on Amazon). It’s not cheap, but it’s also reasonably priced considering its value (and the immense value of the Bible itself). This fall there is also a paperback version coming out, available now through CBD.

In future posts I’ll write more about the ESV translation itself, the font and layout specifics, and more, but for now I wanted to share how valuable and formative it’s been for me to use this edition for reading Scripture and getting caught up in its beauty.

Did Abraham Lie (Again) When He Called Sarah His Half-Sister?

In both Genesis 12 and Genesis 20 a sojourning, scared, and self-preserving Abraham urges his wife Sarah to lie and say she is his sister.

Confronted by Abimelech about his lie (the second one), Abraham says,

I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. (Gen. 20:11)

Amazingly, Abraham goes on to say:

Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

At this point Abraham has been caught a second time in his lie. The truth of his marriage to Sarah has been revealed, and he is not going to be killed. So he has no real motivation to lie about being half-sibling to Sarah.

Still, he’s proven himself not trustworthy on this front already, so why believe him?

Going back to Genesis 11:31:

Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

Abraham has just claimed that Sarah is Terah’s daughter by another mother. But when Genesis introduces Sarah (then Sarai) in relation to Terah, it says “his daughter-in-law Sarai.” If Abraham is telling the truth that Sarah is Terah’s daughter, might we not expect the text to have said so in Genesis 11:31? Instead, she is just “daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife.” Not “daughter.”

This admittedly could be an argument from silence—arguing for a claim just because a text doesn’t say something. That’s generally to be avoided, but at the same time it seems remarkable that in Sarai’s relationship to Terah, her being his daughter is not mentioned.

I see three potential ways to make sense of this:

  1. Abraham is lying about Sarah being his half-sister.
  2. The biblical text contradicts itself.
  3. Abraham is telling the truth and the biblical text is not contradictory, but selective (if oddly so) in what it mentions.

On theological, evidential, and many other grounds, I do not believe that Scripture contradicts itself. (There’s a post for another time!)

Is it possible that the genealogy in Genesis 11 mentions Sarai as daughter-in-law and just misses the chance to identify her also as daughter to Terah? Yes, but that seems unexpected, given how detailed other Genesis genealogies are with family relations.

I conclude, then, if tentatively, that Abraham is lying again in claiming Sarah as half-sister. He has little motivation to (save face?), but his untrustworthiness in claiming her as full sister (to save his own life!) means his credibility on this point is shot.

Interestingly, having wondered about this in my own reading already, it took about 10 commentaries before I finally found one that is open to the possibility that Abraham continues to lie. (I was amazed at how many commentators just take Abraham’s “half-sister” claim in Genesis 20:12 at face value.) Here is Victor P. Hamilton on the question:

Abraham now proceeds to share with Abimelech a bit of family biography. He reminds the king that Sarah is indeed his half-sister, for she and Abraham have the same father, but not the same mother. But Gen. 11:27ff., where one would expect to find the details of this kinship, gives no genealogy for Sarah. She is never mentioned there as the daughter of Terah. One wonders why Abraham did not volunteer this information earlier, when he first came to Gerar. Had he been honest about their situation, he would have saved Sarah and himself a lot of shame, and Abimelech a lot of guilt. Then again, the writer may have intended it as a total fabrication on Abraham’s part.

Hamilton and I could both be wrong in our wonderings, but I see no compelling reason to trust Abraham’s follow-up claim that Sarah was his half-sister.

Please feel free to weigh in via the comments section below.

Jesus and Malachi? Septuagint or Hebrew Bible? (All I Really Want)

Matthew 10:21 reads:

NRSV   Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death

NA28   Παραδώσει δὲ ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς.

which made me think of Malachi 4:6 (versification from English Bible):

NRSV   He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.

It’s as if two possible realities (choose wisely!) are being prophesied in each place… surely Jesus had Malachi in mind?

Maybe! The Septuagint does not have the parents-children-children-parents rhythm, but gives instead:

NETS   who will restore the heart of the father to the son and the heart of a person to his neighbor so that I will not come and utterly strike the land. 

LXX     ὃς ἀποκαταστήσει καρδίαν πατρὸς πρὸς υἱὸν καὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἔλθω καὶ πατάξω τὴν γῆν ἄρδην.

If Jesus did have the Malachi text in mind to allude to here (of course he knew it), he sure does seem to favor the Hebrew text over its Greek translation.

This itself is not shocking, as Jesus would have known the Hebrew Scriptures (in Hebrew) well, have heard them read at synagogue, etc. But as much as the NT writers seem to employ the LXX over the Hebrew (where they diverge), this was surprising to me.

But in the post linked in the sentence above, I also found this from R.T. France (may he rest in the good Lord’s great peace!) that seems to suggest perhaps I should not be surprised (IF Jesus has Malachi in mind in the first place).

Summarizing the results so far, we may now say that of the sixty-four Old Testament quotations in the sayings of Jesus which may be regarded as certain or virtually so, twenty are to some degree independent of the LXX, and of these twenty, twelve are closer to the MT at this point. The addition of a further ten cases of likely or possible allusions to the MT against the LXX further strengthens the impression that it is wrong to speak of the Old Testament quotations in the sayings of Jesus as basically LXX form.

The textual comparisons are fun, but at the end of the day, all I really want is to be a father whose heart is turned to his children, and whose children turn their hearts to me!