From the Publishers Who Brought Us The Sacred Bridge: In the Master’s Steps

In the Master's StepsFar and away, The Sacred Bridge is the best Bible atlas–and one of the most impressive books–I’ve ever used. Now Carta is beginning to publish bite-sized adaptations from that massive and beautiful work. In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land is Volume 1 of The Carta New Testament Atlas, to be released in four total volumes. In the Master’s Steps is “partially excerpted” from The Sacred Bridge (TSB). (EDIT/UPDATE: Volume 2 will not be an excerpt from TSB–it’s a new work.)

The hope of the book, author R. Steven Notley writes, “is that a better understanding of the physical setting and events that framed the life of Jesus can assist us to hear more clearly the message he proclaimed.” Or, as St. Jerome puts it (quoted in this book):

Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.

Those of us who have not yet had occasion to travel to Israel will have to settle for books such as Notley’s. However, as one makes her or his way through Notley’s careful writing, the vivid images, and the flawlessly rendered maps–one realizes there is no settling with this book. It’s the next best thing until such a day as one can make it to the Holy Land.

This book does not differ very much from its corresponding TSB sections, though this one is intended for a wider, more popular audience. Owners of TSB do not need to buy this volume, which does, however, carry with it the advantage of being portable, affordable, and concisely addressing the life of Jesus. If you don’t have TSB and are interested in geography and the New Testament, definitely pick up this work.

A few highlights in review:

Like all Carta books I’ve put my hands on, this one is of high quality. It’s paperback, but the thick, semi-glossy paper helps the full-color images really pop, and is perfect for making marginal notes in pencil.

As with The Sacred Bridge there is an index of place names, but not an index of Scripture references. Notley includes plenty of references, especially at the multiple points where he seeks to explain what could be, in fact, a harmony of apparently divergent gospel accounts when it comes to certain geographical details. Or if no harmonization is possible, Notley at least offers side-by-side comparisons.

The content of In the Master’s Steps is culled from chapter 22 of The Sacred Bridge, which, as it turns out, is the chapter I chose to profile most in-depth in my TSB review. Rather than repeat myself here, I simply refer you to my section 4 (“Case Study: The Sacred Bridge on The Holy Gospels”) here. Most, if not all, of what I say about the content there would apply to this book under review.

Here are the chapters of In the Master’s Steps:

  1. The Birth of Jesus and the Flight into Egypt
  2. The Ministry of John and the Baptism of Jesus
  3. The Travels of Jesus
  4. The Sea of Galilee: Development of an Early Christian Toponym
  5. The First-century Environs of the Sea of Galilee
  6. The Last Days of Jesus
  7. Jesus and the Myth of an Essene Quarter in Jerusalem
  8. The Arrest and Death of Jesus
  9. From the Empty Tomb to the Road to Emmaus

Okay, I will quote this one helpful paragraph that leads off chapter 5 of In The Master’s Steps:

Events recorded in the ministry of Jesus outside of Jerusalem are primarily located in the region around the Sea of Galilee, specifically in the north and northwest area of the lake. The Gospels are an important historical witness for Jewish settlement in this region. Scholarship seldom notes that for many of these settlements, their first mention in the literary witnesses is in the New Testament. After a confrontation in the synagogue in Nazareth, his boyhood home, Jesus relocated to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 4:13; Mk 1:21; Lk 4:31). This village would become the center of his ministry in the region. We now turn our attention to settlements around the Sea of Galilee that find mention in the New Testament.

Here is a sample of the graphics and maps to be enjoyed (click on each image to enlarge):


Last Days of Jesus
Carta Caption: The arrest, interrogation and execution of Jesus


Around the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee) (Carta's caption)
Around the Sea of Galilee (Carta’s caption)


To book’s hope, to revisit it again, “is that a better understanding of the physical setting and events that framed the life of Jesus can assist us to hear more clearly the message he proclaimed.” Reading through In the Master’s Steps will certainly offer such an understanding for the teacher, student, reader, or person of faith who picks up the book. The connections between geography and theological applications are not often made explicit here, but the reader will have more than enough historical background and imagery to begin to make those associations for herself or himself.



Many thanks to the good folks at Carta for sending the book. They didn’t ask for a review, so I write this of my own volition! I think they are one of the finest publishers in the business today. Check out their site here, and go here to see their works via Hendrickson, their U.S. distributor.

The Best Bible Atlas Ever, Cheaper Than It’s Ever Been

Front Cover


The best Bible atlas ever, Carta’s Sacred Bridge, is now cheaper than it’s ever been, thanks to a new distribution partnership between Carta Jerusalem and Hendrickson Publishers.

You can find it, for under $90, here at Hendrickson’s site. The accompanying younger sibling volume, Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible, is $37.

HT: Brian Davidson.

New Hebrew Reader’s Bible: 50% Off at ETS, SBL/AAR

BHS Reader's Edition


Hendrickson has published a new Hebrew Reader’s Bible. (See more here.) They’ve also posted a sample pdf online, which features the book of Obadiah (good choice!).

You order now through CBD or Amazon… OR… if you want it at 50% off, you can go to Hendrickson’s booth at the upcoming ETS (booth 222) and SBL/AAR (booth 718) conferences, and find it in its two different bindings, priced at $29.97 (from $59.95 retail) and $39.97 (from $79.95).

New Hebrew Reader’s Bible This Fall

BHS Reader's EditionThis fall Hendrickson will publish a new Hebrew Reader’s Bible.

Hendrickson says it is:

A helpful language reference tool for students, pastors, and scholars. The BHS Reader’s Edition is for those who have a basic understanding of Biblical Hebrew and desire to read and study the Hebrew Bible. With this book alone (and a year’s study of Hebrew), students are able to read the Hebrew Bible in its entirety.

Zondervan already has such a Bible, which is the first Hebrew Bible from which I ever read (cue strings). But BHS Reader’s Edition has vocabulary helps for even more words, as well as verb parsings.

Here are the main features, in the words of the publisher:

  • Complete text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, checked against the Leningrad Codex
  • All words that occur fewer than 70 times are parsed and contextually defined in the apparatus
  • Glossary listing of all other words
  • Improved layout of poetic text
  • All weak verb forms are parsed
  • High quality paper does not bleed through

UPDATE: One of the authors (not Moses, though) notes that it includes full Hebrew paradigms, too. Looks like it will really be a one-stop shop for Hebrew Bible reading!

You can pre-order now through CBD or Amazon (affiliate link that helps support Words on the Word).

Once I get a look, I’ll report back!

Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) Update: “State of the Edition”

The Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) will supercede the current scholarly edition of the Hebrew Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS).

I reviewed the BHS module in Accordance Bible Software here, and posted at length about the BHQ here, if you want a primer. Short version: Emanuel Tov says it is “much richer in data, more mature, judicious and cautious than its predecessors. It heralds a very important step forward in the BH series,” though he notes that its notations are “more complex” and “less user-friendly for the non-expert.”

Here is BHQ on Amazon; here it is at Hendrickson Publishers’ site.

Hendrickson sent out an update today with the BHQ publishing schedule as it currently stands. Most volumes are “in preparation,” but the schedule (available here) notes that Ezekiel (ed. by Johan Lust) is coming in 2016 and Numbers (ed. by Martin Rösel) is coming in 2017.

The Bible You Would Have Brought to Your 3rd Century Church Service


Look at that! It’s an all-Greek Bible. Just like the one Jesus carried around! Okay, not quite, but it is very good to see the Greek Septuagint and the Greek New Testament together under one cover. Augustine would be pleased:

For Greek aficionados—a 2-in-1 resource that’s designed specifically for extensive research, textual criticism, and other academic endeavors. Featuring both the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) and the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, this user-friendly tool includes critical apparatus, cross-references, and more. 3216 pages, hardcover from German Bible Society.

What It Looks Like

It’s a mere three pounds (in weight, not price). Amazon lists its dimensions as 7.5 x 5.7 x 2.8 inches.

This impressive edition is two previously published Greek texts put together in one cover. It’s obviously thicker than the Septuagint alone, and just a little bigger in length and width. Here are the two side by side: the Septuagint alone on the right, and its “upgrade” version (with GNT) on the left:

v. 1.0 and v. 2.0
v. 1.0 (at right) and v. 2.0 (at left)

Before receiving the volume, I was concerned that its 3,000+ pages would defeat Alfred Rahlfs’s initial intention to have a Handausgabe (i.e., a manual and portable edition). Indeed, Hanhart’s “Introductory Remarks to the Revised Edition” translate Handausgabe as “pocket-edition,” which this is decidedly not. (It would fit nicely in a purse or man-purse, though.) That said, the addition of the Greek New Testament really does not add a lot of bulk, as Rahlfs-Hanhart was already more than 2,000 pages. Biblia Graeca is still a (fairly) portable edition, though, if not literally pocket-sized. The sewn binding and hard cover appear that they will hold up under regular use. Here are v. 1.0 (LXX only) and v. 2.0 (LXX+GNT) stacked on top of each other:

The Two Stacked Up

You can barely make it out from the above photo, but the LXX/GNT combo comes (wisely) with two ribbon markers. Was it a coincidence that mine were both placed at the beginning of Odes? I think not.

The Greek Typesetting/Font

Rahlfs has not been re-typeset, so its Greek font is not as crisp or readable as that of the New Testament portion. Compare:

Genesis 1:1-5
Genesis 1:1-5, from publisher’s pdf sample

Here now is the Greek in the New Testament portion, which is clear and crisp:

Matt 1.1-6 GNT
Matthew 1:1-6, from publisher’s pdf sample

After reading enough Septuagint, one does get used to the Rahlfs font. It’s not too bad.

Always a concern with Bibles this big is that the requisite thin pages will mean bleed-through of text from the reverse side. This is noticeable to a degree here, but not in a way that negatively affects reading:

Mark 1
Mark 1

Rahlfs-Hanhart (Septuaginta)

The Rahlfs-Hanhart edition is not the go-to for extensive text-critical research that the Göttingen editions are, where they are present (on which, see my posts here and here on using Göttingen). Rahlfs is still useful, though, because it contains an entire Septuagint text, whereas Göttingen (published as individual volumes) does not.

It is probably the best starting place for readers of the Septuagint, even with its deliberately more limited apparatus. It is best thought of as a “semi-critical edition,” as noted here. Rahlfs “reconstructs” the text using, primarily, Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Sinaiticus (S or א), and Codex Alexandrinus (A), a methodology that the revisor, Robert Hanhart, honors. Here is the apparatus for the first page, covering Genesis 1:1-14. This is a funny case, because of how much of Genesis is missing in B, so Genesis 1-46:28 up through the Greek word ηρωων is just based on A here. The rest (from πολιν in 46:28 to the end, chapter 50) take into account B and A.

Rahlfs Apparatus Gen. 1.1-14

Preceding the actual text and apparatus are Hanhart’s 2005 “Introductory Remarks to the Revised Edition” in German, English, and Greek. Then in German, English, Latin, and Greek follow three more sections: (1) Rahlfs’s “Editor’s Preface,” (2) an illuminating 10-page essay, “History of the Septuagint Text”, and (3) Explanation of Symbols. Everything you need to get started reading the Septuagint (minus the Greek lessons) is here.

Nestle-Aland 28th Edition (Novum Testamentum Graece)

What about the updated NA28? In short:

The long-awaited 28th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece has now been published. Once again the editors thoroughly examined the critical apparatus and they introduced more than 30 textual changes in the Catholic Letters, reflecting recent comprehensive collations. With the intent to make this book more user-friendly, the editors also revised the introductions and provided more explanations in English. This concise edition of the Greek New Testament, which has now grown to 1,000 pages, will continue to play a leading role in academic teaching and scholarly exegesis.

The NA28 has its own snazzy site here. (What a day we live in, when a Greek Bible gets its own Website! Its writers would be amazed.) Recent text-critical work on the New Testament has led to revisions in the Catholic Letters, but not elsewhere. So the Gospels and Pauline epistles, for example, retain the same text as the NA27. However, there are changes that affect the whole edition, as the publisher points out:

  • Newly discovered Papyri listed
  • Distinction between consistently cited witnesses of the first and second order abandoned
  • Apparatus notes systematically checked
  • Imprecise notes abandoned
  • Previously concatenated notes now cited separately
  • Inserted Latin texts reduced and translated
  • References thoroughly revised

As for the textual differences themselves, those are explained and listed here. There are more details to be digested about the new NA28 edition. I can do no better than to refer you to the writings/reviews of Larry Hurtado, Rick BrannanDaniel Wallace, and Peter Williams.

All the quick-reference inserts you need to make sense of symbols and abbreviations are included:

The 3 inserts

Concluding Thoughts: Sell All You Have?

The product page for the beautiful Biblia Graeca is here for CBD, here at the German Bible Society, here at Hendrickson, and here for Amazon. And, best yet, you can look at a sample of the book here. If it’s just the text (and not the apparatuses) that you’re interested in, you can read the NA28 online here and the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuagint here.

Rahlfs wrote in his preface that he sought to “provide ministers and students with a reliable edition of the Septuagint at a moderate price.” If you click the links above, you will see that this is not “a moderate price.” It’s significantly cheaper to buy the same critical editions of each Testament under separate cover.

But there are at least two major advantages to putting them together. First, when the New Testament writers quoted Scripture, they predominantly did so in a form that is closer to what we have now in a Septuagint text. Comparing a quotation (in Greek) with its source (in Greek) is facilitated by this edition. Second, that this edition exists is an important symbolic statement. Lovers of the Septuagint are fond of affirming that it was the Bible of the early Church. If that is so, why can we not have one, too? Now we can, printed and bound in a way that would shock the pre-printing press world that first heard all these Scriptures together when gathered for worship.

Professor Ferdinand Hitzig has often been quoted saying, “Gentlemen!” (and today, he would say, “Ladies!” too) “Have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint.”

In true biblical storytelling fashion, he is using hyperbole to communicate his point. But for those who are so inclined and able, if selling a few things to get a Septuagint is a good idea, how much more might someone like Hitzig encourage them to sell a few things for the Biblia Graeca?

Christians believe that the Septuagint has come to full fruition through the New Testament.

So it only makes sense to be binding the two together.

Many thanks to Hendrickson for the privilege of reviewing this fine work. A copy came my way for review, but with no expectation as to the nature of my review, except that it be honest.

Review of The Greek of the Septuagint: Supplemental Lexicon

This, then, is the single dominant characteristic of the LXX vocabulary: it is normal, idiomatic Greek. I base my construal of it on this hypothesis whenever I can.

–Gary Alan Chamberlain in The Greek of the Septuagint: A Supplemental Lexicon

Not long ago I noted that “the challenging nature of Septuagint vocabulary is … one reason why even students of New Testament Greek stay away from the Septuagint. How can one make her or his way through the Septuagint in Greek in a way that is not entirely frustrating?” To begin, you could read about why you need the Septuagint here, and some helpful resources here to get started. Also, I recently reviewed Bernard A. Taylor’s Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint: Expanded Edition, a one-stop reference work to guide readers through the LXX.

I have now had the occasion (and privilege) to spend some time with The Greek of the Septuagint: A Supplemental Lexicon, by Gary Alan Chamberlain. (Thanks to Hendrickson for the review copy, provided in exchange for an unbiased review.)

Chamberlain intends his lexicon to be a supplemental one, an addition to any Greek New Testament lexicon. (He has BDAG specifically in view.) The vocabulary of the Septuagint is more expansive and potentially different enough from New Testament vocabulary that a lexicon like this is warranted. Many Greek students, especially Biblical studies ones, come to the LXX after first studying the New Testament. So if they already own BDAG or some other New Testament lexicon, the potential need for something like this to “fill in the gaps” could make sense.

The Greek of the Septuagint contains lexicon entries for 5,000 LXX words not in the NT, as well as 1,000 words with LXX-specific uses that a NT lexicon would not carry. For the latter, Chamberlain simply adds to the BDAG numbering system, so that the entry for καθίστημί, for example, begins, “3.b. seek to establish, declare.” Words that the lexicon does fully treat have morphological information (e.g., principal parts for verbs) and citations of word usage in the LXX and beyond.

There is “no treatment of the most common words” in the LXX, so not just a cursory knowledge but a solid grasp of Greek vocabulary would be needed to use this lexicon on its own. I.e., a first- or second-year Greek student really would have to use this as the “supplemental” lexicon it intends to be. “Throughout this work,” Chamberlain notes, “I have assumed that the user has sufficient command of ancient Greek to cope with articular infinitives, genitive absolutes, and the varied means of expressing volition and command. The thousand or so most common LXX words should convey relatively few difficulties.” This work won’t serve the Greek initiate, in other words, but Chamberlain does not intend for his work to be “elementary.”

One might ask, Why not just purchase a full-on Septuagint lexicon? Here is where Chamberlain makes the “distinctive contribution…to LXX studies” that he aims to make.

The dense 19-page introduction explains several classifications of LXX words, and is complemented by an exceedingly useful set of word lists in the appendices. (Hendrickson has the intro in pdf here.) Chamberlain includes word lists and discussion of:

  1. Precise parallels between the LXX and extrabiblical texts. This is where he asserts that LXX vocab is “normal, idiomatic Greek.” He accounts for what others have claimed are examples to the contrary (e.g., “Semitisms”) with the following categories.
  2. Transliterations of the Hebrew into Greek.
  3. Hapax Legomena–Greek words that occur once in the LXX and nowhere else in ancient Greek literature, as well as words that occur multiple times in the LXX but nowhere else (he notes all this and all these categories throughout the lexicon in the appropriate entries, a sample pdf of which is here).
  4. Greek words that occur first in the LXX.
  5. Words with no parallel in other ancient Greek sources.
  6. Stereotypical translations (“calques,” where “translators faced severe challenges in rendering a few common Hebrew terms for which no equivalent was possible within the framework of Greek language”).
  7. Mistranslations (where “LXX translators misconstrued the meaning of their sources’ words, through a confusion of roots or a misunderstanding of meaning of the source”).
  8. Textual variants (more than 200 instances, including his suggested emendations, helpfully organized in canonical order).
  9. More complicated words “involving multiple factors” (“We are simply trying to explain how a Greek word was placed in a context that does not make good sense if we read it as a Greek sentence”).

Having read the descriptions of each of these categories and looked through the corresponding word lists, this reader is convinced that The Greek of the Septuagint offers something that neither BDAG nor any other LXX lexicon on the market (of which I’m aware) currently does. Even without the actual lexicon entries, the word lists and explanations are an invaluable contribution to LXX studies. (The lexical entries themselves are appropriately concise yet substantive.)

His Appendix II is the place to start when looking up a word. It shows (through the use of bold, italics, and regular font) if a word is in this lexicon but not BDAG; if it is in BDAG and supplemented here; or if the word is sufficiently covered in BDAG and therefore not in Chamberlain’s lexicon. Appendix III has a neat listing of LXX book titles in English and Greek, as well as a table that shows the differing versification between the two.

The Greek and English fonts are clear and easy to read (the Hebrew font is a bit small).

I found The Greek of the Septuagint to be a lexicon one has to work at. In other words, it’s not like Taylor’s lexicon, which one could easily pick up and use right away off the shelf. Carefully reading the 4-page preface and 19-page introduction is pretty much required to be able to make use of Chamberlain’s work. But that’s true of BDAG, too, and sort of the point of a preface and introduction in the first place. So that’s not at all a strike against this lexicon. In fact, the user who is willing to put in the work will find great reward in a deepened understanding of the LXX and its vocabulary.

Chamberlain concludes his introduction in this inspiring way:

For many years I have been reflecting upon and experimenting with the question of what the faithful reading of Scripture is in relation to life lived very much “in the world.” Both the method and the goal of preparing this lexicon have been the reading of the LXX text itself (alongside the Hebrew Bible, the Greek NT, and not infrequently the Vulgate) with the prayerful attention the Benedictines call lectio divina. I have made constant and grateful use of the astonishing resources of biblical and classical scholarship, with an embarrassed and hopeless inability to be in any sense in command of those resources. I want simply to apprehend the text, and beyond that to engage the living reality of which the text intends to speak.

Chamberlain’s lexicon is available here.

All you need is your Septuagint and this (LXX+ALS=Septuagint Success)

I wrote a few days ago about why you need the Septuagint. I noted:

For students of Greek, the LXX is a good way to challenge oneself in Greek beyond the New Testament. There is a fuller and deeper vocabulary in the Septuagint that helps Greek students grow in their knowledge of the language.

While this is true, the challenging nature of Septuagint vocabulary is also one reason why even students of New Testament Greek stay away from the Septuagint. How can one make her or his way through the Septuagint in Greek in a way that is not entirely frustrating?

I’ve listed some helpful Septuagint resources here, including vocabulary helps. But what if someone just wants to read through the Septuagint in Greek, unencumbered by multiple resources at hand? One thing I value is not having to use four or five additional reference works to understand the first reference work.

Enter Bernard A. Taylor’s Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint: Expanded Edition (Hendrickson, 2009).

Taylor lists every single word found in Rahlfs Septuagint, the standard LXX text, as it appears (inflected) in the text. Each word then has full parsing information and the basic word meaning taken from Lust, Eynikel, and Hauspie’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint [GELS].

This means that the user of this expanded edition (ALS, hereafter) does not need an additional lexicon at hand to get basic word meanings. To be sure, Taylor notes:

The abridged GELS entries in this volume include only the basic word definitions, not the contextual meanings found in the subsequent paragraphs of many of that work’s entries. The word definitions included are glosses, or translation equivalents, rather than [full] descriptions of each word’s meaning.

If you’re looking to read the Septuagint and do word studies, you’ll need an additional resource. But if you need only the basic meaning (what most people want who are reading straight through), Taylor’s lexicon covers all your needs. (And he certainly doesn’t claim that the glosses in his ALS are anything more than that, glosses.) You get full parsing information, which then refers you to the lexical form of the word, which then has the basic word meaning from GELS. Especially helpful is the inclusion of proper nouns, so that there is really no word in the LXX that is left untouched by this lexicon.

ALS is intuitive, well-laid out, and easy to use. The Greek font is clear and big enough to read easily. The lexical forms of words (i.e., where the basic word definitions are) are in bold for easy reference. The book is not very heavy (two pounds), so it travels well. More than 20 pages of introductory material clearly and concisely explain the features of the lexicon, abbreviations, suggestions for use, and overview notes on various parts of speech, transliterations, and so on. The introductory materials are instructive and easy to read, yet ALS presents its information so well that its user can easily put it to work right away.

It’s tempting to debate the merits of a work like this in print, when all that Taylor offers (and more) can be had in electronic Bible programs like BibleWorks. However, to do that would not be to review this lexicon in its own right. Of course an electronic database (that can parse and provide lexical meanings of words) is faster to use, but a print copy is easier on the eyes, you don’t have to wait for it to boot up, etc. That’s all beside the point, though. The important thing about Taylor’s expanded edition is that it has morphological and lexical analysis, so it functions as an all-in-one supplement to guide the reader through the Greek of the Septuagint.

Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint: Expanded Edition is now on my bookshelf right next to my Rahlfs Septuagint. It’s hard to imagine a more useful Septuagint resource than Taylor’s.

I thank Hendrickson Publishers for the review copy of this book, which was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review. Taylor’s lexicon is available here.