Two Septuagint Studies Classics from Wipf and Stock

Conybeare.Stock.Septuagint.53307Conybeare and Stock’s Selections from the Septuagint According to the Text of Swete is a classic–if somewhat dated–work in Septuagint studies. You may also know it as Grammar of Septuagint Greek.

The grammar section is short, and leaves one desiring a properly full grammar of Septuagint Greek. But it’s the best starting point there is, so the Septuagint student will still want to read it. It is chock-full of Scripture references (and quotations), which in the print edition will require a fair amount of looking things up. (The need for this is obviated if you buy the Accordance or Logos edition.)

The grammar section is dense–if selective in its treatment–but not overly obtuse. There is a 20+-page introduction on the Septuagint, its origin, the Letter of Aristeas, transmission, and so on. It offers succinct coverage of the “long process” of the “making of the Septuagint.”

After the introduction there are “Accidence” and “Syntax” sections, the former covering morphology and the latter addressing sentence structure. To get a feel for how much coverage a section has, here is part of a page on “number” in Septuagint Greek:


LXX Grammar Number
Click or open in new tab to enlarge


One oddity that appears to be a printing error is that the Table of Contents for the Grammar appears after the Grammar, on about page 100 or so.

The grammar, then, is a good enough starting point, but won’t really take one deeply into study of a particular grammatical or syntactical feature of the text. Would that T. Muraoka might give us a full Septuagint grammar! (Wait–the day after I drafted that sentence, I saw this. Awesome.)

However, Conybeare and Stock more than make up for any lack in the comprehensiveness of the grammar proper with their guided reading section. It is still the most thorough resource of its kind available for the Septuagint. (Though that looks set to change this fall.)

With the Septuagint texts there are reading helps at the bottom of each page. Especially for those who have only read New Testament Greek, this is a great next step. Here is what “The Story of Joseph” looks like (click to enlarge):


From the reading on Joseph
From the reading on Joseph


You’ll note the attention to grammatical detail, especially, in the notes. And the introductory mini-essays before each reading were a pleasant surprise. These selected readings have definitely helped me keep my Greek going, or ramp it back up after some delays in using it.

You can find Conybeare and Stock’s little gem at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.



6x9Cover Template


Another LXX print resource from Wipf and Stock is A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint: Giving Various Readings from Codices Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephraemi.

It’s what you’d expect: a compact, easy-to-carry-around concordance to words found in the Greek Old Testament. To boot: there is an appendix featuring words from Origen’s Hexapla that are “not found in the above manuscripts.”

Of course, a “handy” concordance cannot include every LXX word. Pronouns and prepositions and the like do not occur here. Those engaged in academic study of the Septuagint will probably cringe at this line:

All reference to the Apocrypha has been omitted; principally because it was judged that the Apocryphal books should never have a place with the Holy Scriptures.

There is the offer that if “the apocryphal parts are thought to be needed, any one so disposed can carry out that work.” (Bible software to the rescue!) But Codex Vaticanus, on which the concordance is primarily based, includes what Protestants consider “Apocrypha.” That those books should be omitted on theological grounds seems an unfortunate decision.

Otherwise the book is easy to carry and doesn’t require electricity or software updates, so Apocryphal omission aside, it could have its place in the LXX student’s library. Here’s what part of a page looks like:


LXX Concordance


You can find the LXX concordance at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.



Thanks to Wipf and Stock for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

The Story on Gender and the NIV (1984), TNIV, and NIV (2011)

I keep coming back to the NIV translation of the Bible. The (now discontinued) TNIV and the 2011 NIV (which supersedes the TNIV) are constant companions in my Bible reading and sermon preparation.

Bruce Waltke anticipates that the NIV will be “ever more precise and always in the language of the people” as it continues to evolve. 50 years ago the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) convened.


CBT (image via Zondervan)
CBT (image via Zondervan)


The first three speakers in the following video–Doug Moo, Karen Jobes, and Mark Strauss–are all ones whose works I’ve consulted (literally) in the last two days!



There is an utterly fascinating history of how the translation has changed over the years. I am particularly interested in the discussion about how gender works in translation. I’m with Bruce Waltke on this one:

If you use “man” and part of your constituency is hearing it as male, and it wasn’t intended to be male, that’s bad translation.

So get this:

For the coming [1990s] edition, the CBT decided that where the Greek or Hebrew clearly referred to all people—male and female—the translation would have to find accurate contemporary English language to make this clear.

But before the CBT could release the update, a Christian magazine learned what the CBT was planning and published an article condemning the shift in language, initiating a firestorm of controversy.

Some Christians were unhappy about what the CBT was planning. They accused the CBT of a “feminist” agenda when, in reality, the only agenda CBT had was to accurately reflect the meaning of Scripture in modern English. But the heat of the controversy made it hard for people to understand what was really going on.

The issue became so heated that the International Bible Society (now Biblica) decided that it was not in the best interest of the translation to continue and chose not to publish the revisions. In the United States, Zondervan would keep printing the 1984 edition of the NIV.

Finally, in 2005, the TNIV was born. But the publisher wanted to unify the now two separate editions, paving the way for the 2011 NIV.

Read the whole history here–it’s not a quick read, but it’s quite interesting. And it’s also sad how parts of the Christian community pushed against what would be not just a gender-inclusive, but a more gender-accurate translation.

There are tons of NIV Bibles available, many of which are detailed here. I’ve had a chance to compare a number of the Bibles, so feel free to ask in the comments if you want to hear more… or share your own thoughts on the NIV translation.



It seems I’m blogging fairly regularly about Zondervan and its products. They have been gracious to provide copies of various products for my review purposes.

T Muraoka’s Biblical Aramaic Reader (2015)

Muraoka Aramaic


Any time you see a T. Muraoka volume that retails at under $30, it’s worth paying attention to.

Peeters has released the short but sure-to-be excellent volume, A Biblical Aramaic Reader: With an Outline Grammar.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

This reader is for anyone very eager to read the story of Daniel in the lions’ den and many other fascinating stories in their original language, Aramaic.

A brief outline of Biblical Aramaic grammar is followed by a verse-by-verse grammatical commentary on the Aramaic chapters in the books of Daniel and Ezra. Both the outline grammar and the grammatical commentary presuppose basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew. Constant references are made in the commentary to relevant sections of the outline grammar. The commentary is written in a user-friendly, not overtly technical language. Some grammatical exercises with keys and paradigms conclude the Reader. Also suitable for self-study.

At just under 100 pages, it looks great. Find it on Amazon here.

You Asked and Asked, Now It’s Coming: A Septuagint Reader

LXX decalOn the one hand, the burgeoning field of Septuagint studies still has few enough publications that any new work is potentially significant. On the other hand, there still seems to be an acute need for works that bridge the gap between New Testament Greek readers and LXX specialists.

Resources like †Rod Decker’s Koine Greek Reader (which pays decent attention to the Septuagint) or even the old Conybeare and Stock (which has some LXX portions with explanatory footnotes) are few and far between.

I’ve been asking Kregel for probably three years now whether they’d consider publishing a dedicated Septuagint reader. Little did I know one was already in the works.

It releases this fall. Karen Jobes is its author. Here’s some copy from Kregel that describes the book:

Interest in the Septuagint today is strong and continues to grow. But a guidebook to the text, similar to readers and handbooks that exist for students of the Greek New Testament, has been lacking. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader fills that need. Created by an expert on the Septuagint, this groundbreaking resource draws on the editor’s experience as an educator to help upper-level college, seminary, and graduate students cultivate skill in reading the Greek Old Testament.

This reader presents, in canonical order, ten Greek texts from the Göttingen Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum and the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta critical edition. It explains the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary of more than 700 verses from select Old Testament texts representing a variety of genres, including the Psalms, the Prophets, and more.

The texts included in this volume were chosen to fit into a 15-week semester, reading about 50 verses a week. The texts selected 1) Are examples of distinctive Septuagint syntax or word usage and/or 2) Exemplify the amplification of certain theological themes or motifs by the Septuagint translators within their Jewish Hellenistic culture and/or 3) Are used significantly by New Testament writers.

More specifically:

  • Each study includes:
    • Introduction—briefly discussing the particular Greek text and its key features.
    • English translation—using the New English Translation of the Septuagint.
    • Text notes—providing verse/phrase–level explanations of the Greek syntax and grammar.
    • Use in the New Testament.
    • Select bibliography.
  • Parses more difficult verbal forms, gives alternate ways of reading the text, and discusses significant critical issues of the text.
  • Calls attention to vocabulary and syntax unique to the Septuagint.
  • References standard Septuagint grammars, lexicons, and other resources.

No cover art yet, but the book is a-coming. You’ll hear more here later.

Hot Off the LXX Presses: The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research (New Edition)



Emanuel Tov’s Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research is a key text in Septuagint studies. But it’s been out of print… until now. Eisenbrauns has just published a “Completely Revised and Expanded” third edition of the book.

Here’s the publisher’s write-up:

This handbook on the Septuagint (LXX) provides a practical guide for the student and scholar alike in the perusal of that translation in the text-critical analysis of the Hebrew Bible. It does not serve as another theoretical introduction to the LXX, but it provides all the practical background information needed for the integration of the LXX in biblical studies. The LXX remains the most significant source of information for the study of ancient Scripture together with the Masoretic Text and several Qumran scrolls, but this translation is written in Greek and many technical details need to be taken into consideration when using this tool. The author presents this handbook after half a century of study of the Septuagint, four decades of specialized teaching experience in that area, and involvement in several research projects focusing on the relation between the Hebrew and Greek Bibles.

The first two editions of this handbook, published by Simor of Jerusalem (Jerusalem Biblical Studies 3 [1981] and 8 [1997]), received much praise but have been out of print for a considerable period. This, the third, edition presents a completely revised version of the previous editions based on the many developments that took place in the analysis of the Septuagint, the Hebrew Bible and the Qumran Scrolls.

I’d link to the book on Amazon, but you really should just buy directly through Eisenbrauns. They are good folk, make great resources, and have put this book on sale now. Get it here. You can also find a PDF info sheet (with Table of Contents) here.

Is 2 Samuel 7 About Jesus?

I know–taken from the vantage point of Christian interpretation, it might seem a dumb question. So bear with me. Here is 2 Samuel 7:11b-16:

“Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.

This could all so easily be about Jesus, until you get to: “When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.”

Even if you want to say God somehow punished Jesus on the cross (uhh…), Christians don’t (generally) believe Jesus committed any iniquity.

So that part, at least, has to be about David’s literal next-of-kin descendant, Solomon.

Verses 15 and 16 go on:

But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

There are at least Messianic undertones to this whole passage, though. Surely God had more than just Solomon in mind when he spoke these words. He is, after all, promising a throne to David forever. Two other things:

1. The lectionary reading stops after v. 14a (!), so you don’t get the stuff about punishment. Is this to intentionally make it read more like it’s about Jesus?

2. The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 17 also omits the iniquity part… does this mean the Chronicler was taking it to be a Messianic promise (only), too?

What say you, O readers? I’m still mulling this one over.

How Can the Ark of the LORD Ever Come to Me?


I. “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”


David, now King over all Israel in 2 Samuel 6, asks a poignant question, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” (6:9) “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”

The ark of the covenant was the adorned chest in the tabernacle that symbolized the presence of God. It went with and settled among God’s people wherever they wandered. It contained the two tablets with the 10 commandments, a jar of manna—representing God’s provision in the wilderness, and Aaron’s rod—a sign of the authority and sovereignty of God to make for himself a people of his own.

There’s a weightiness in David’s question: “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” There’s a sincerity to it, a desire in David’s heart to truly commune with God. But there’s also fear and frustration. The verse before says, “Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah…” (6:8).


II. A God of David’s Own Choosing?


We’re still in the part of 2 Samuel that narrates David’s rise to power, and his initial establishment of his kingdom. Most outlines of 2 Samuel have this chapter in the “successes” part of the David story. His moral failings and infidelity–to God and others–really start with the Bathsheba account.

There’s some truth to that. But already here, while David is still setting up shop as King, the complexity of his spiritual life begins to emerge. Sometimes he is inspiringly faithful, sometimes he’s not-so-faithful. No wonder so many have so deeply resonated with this historical character.


A. Faithful David


Let’s trace a portion of this narrative account to look at both David’s faithfulness to God, as well as ways in which he was already “prone to wander, prone to leave the God [he loved]”… just like we are. Let’s look first at the faithfulness of David.

1. David Practiced God’s Presence (5:10)

First, we saw last week that the key to David’s ability to lead, even before he was King, was his practice of the presence of God. 2 Samuel 5:10 says, “And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” David was rooted and grounded in the presence of God. Out of the assurance that God was with him, David led faithfully.

2. David Attributed His Success to God (5:12, 20)

Second, David attributed his success to God. 2 Samuel 5:12 says, “And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.” David knew that “every good and perfect gift comes from above,” as the New Testament says. And in verse 20, David says it is the LORD who has defeated his enemies.

He did not take credit for his own military success, or leadership effectiveness. He knew that it was God’s doing.

3. David “Inquired of the LORD” (5:19, 23)

A third way we see David’s faithfulness so far is in 2 Sam 5:19, 23. Both of these verses, before David makes a major decision, have the phrase, “[S]o David inquired of the LORD.” “[S]o David inquired of the LORD.”

Having sought the presence of God, having affirmed that his success was from God, he continued to regularly inquire of the LORD. And it doesn’t stretch the imagination too much to assume there are even other decisions and situations not described here where David inquired of the LORD some more.

4. David Got Rid of Philistine Idols (5:21)

Here is another sign of David’s obedience to God: chapter 5, verse 21 says, “The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.” We have trouble with some of the militarism of the Old Testament, but perhaps it helps, at least a little, to realize that this was as much as anything, a sort of war of gods… a contest as to which god is really able to save a people.

Some of God’s people get in trouble in other passages for defeating an enemy, but then failing to destroy their idols. David does right here, and carries them off… completely removes them from the scene to physically show—there is no God but Yahweh. God is the best god out of all the gods, or, so-called gods. David removed the idols that others set up against the LORD God Almighty.

5. David Did What God Commanded (5:25)

And then, check out verse 25 of chapter 5: “So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.” Again—we struggle with this “struck down” language, especially when we consider the value of every human life. But the Philistines are cast here as an oppressive people who want nothing more than to destroy a chosen people, worshiping gods who cannot save and who bring not life but death. David “did as the LORD commanded him” and went up against even Israel’s terrifying oppressors.

6. Praises Wholeheartedly; Leads Others in Same (6:5)

Finally, coming to our reading today, chapter 6, we see a portrait of a David as Spirit-filled worship leader. 2 Samuel 6:5 reads, ”David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums [a kind of hand-held shaker] and cymbals.”

Israel celebrates the defeat of their oppressors, and especially rejoices in the presence of God, moving alongside them, symbolized by the ark of the covenant. They went all out in praising God.


B. Not-So-Faithful David


But a picture of a not-so-faithful David also starts to come into view in chapters 5 and 6.

1. David “Took” More Women (5:13)

2 Samuel 5:13 says, “After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.”

Deuteronomy had already said rulers were not to multiply wives for themselves. And we know that David would eventually kill a man to cover up his adultery with the man’s wife, later on. This would lead to severe consequences for him and his family, and would prove a major breach of his relationship with God. One of David’s moral flaws is already visible.

2. David Did Not (Always) “Inquire of the LORD” (6:1)

Second, and you can see this in your outline, too: David did not always inquire of the LORD. You remember that in 2 Samuel 5:19 and 23, it said, “so David inquired of the LORD.”

As this new chapter, chapter 6 begins, the attentive listener or reader may notice that that little formula (“so David inquired of the LORD”) is not here. Like in those two instances, here David was gathering people for a major task—this time the moving of the ark. This time, however, he does not inquire of the LORD, at least as far as we can tell.

3. David Put the Ark on A New Cart (6:3-4)

A third instance of David’s being not-so-faithful comes in chapter 6, verses 3 and 4. Look at those verses:

They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.

What could be better than a sweet new ride for the sacred ark of the covenant? Well… a better question is: did the ark of God, the ark of the covenant need a new cart? No. It didn’t.

It had been in the house of Abinadab, after it had zapped some other irreverent Philistines who didn’t take it seriously. David didn’t inquire of the LORD before bringing the ark to Jerusalem, but moving the ark to Jerusalem itself seems to be okay. He’s bringing it to the city from which he will rule, as if to show that it is really God who is king.

However…the ark had rings and places for horizontal-running poles that were to be used to carry it. David, for whatever reason, is ignoring that instruction.

Had it been carried by its poles and not balanced on a cart, Uzzah probably wouldn’t have needed to reach for it, because it would have been more stable and likely wouldn’t have fallen in the first place.        (HT: this commentary)

Not only that, but Uzzah does not appear to have been a Levite. He was not from the clan that God had commanded to be the ones to oversee the ark. So he was the wrong guy, carrying the ark the wrong way, and then he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maybe his intentions were good, but so holy is this ark, says God, which symbolizes my presence, that you are not supposed to even touch it. Uzzah’s demise all begins with David’s carelessness in overseeing the transportation of the ark in the first place. David and company were not taking God totally seriously.

As king, as spiritual leader of Israel, David is in an ultimate sense responsible for this whole debacle.

4. Wants the Ark (Presence) Only for its Blessing? (6:10-11)

This event leads to the fourth and probably the biggest way in which we see David as a deeply flawed hero. Look at verses 10 and 11:

He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.

David now does not want anything to do with the ark, because he is afraid, but also because he is angry at God. He’s angry that Uzzah is struck down, but I wonder, too, if he’s angry that he got called out for trying to control God. One commentator says, “The ark would become central to Israel’s worship, but David needed to learn that it was not his to control.” He’s learned this lesson, but he’s learned it the hard way, so he sends the ark away.

Once it blesses the house to which it was banished, David wants it back after all!


III. A Fundamental Choice: 
Welcoming God’s Presence on God’s Own Terms


David, I think, realizes the folly of his ways. Now he dances in a priest’s robe, worshiping God with all his might. And verse 13 tells us that just six steps in to their Take 2 of moving the ark, they offer sacrifices to God. Now David seems to realize the utter care with which he must transport the sacred ark of the covenant, that symbol of God’s history and presence with Israel… a sign of God’s love and provision, but also his holiness that no human could ever attain to.

As I sit with this text and work with it and try to let it work on me, I keep hearing David’s haunting question in chapter 6, verse 9: “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”

And I ask, “How can the presence of the LORD ever come to me?”

The answer, or at least the answer that this passage gives, is: on its own terms.  God comes to us as God comes to us, not how we wish God would come to us. God comes to us when God comes to us, now when we wish God would come to us. God comes to us, fully under his own control, not in manifestations that we can control or completely delineate, or fully understand. God will not be confined by the parameters we seek to impose.

Like David, we have a fundamental choice to make—it’s a choice which arrives many times a day, actually: will we welcome God’s presence on God’s own terms? Can the ark of the LORD, the presence of God, ever come to us? Will we welcome God’s presence when it appears as a challenge, as a rebuke, as a perplexing state of affairs over which God is somehow supposed to be superintending? Or, will we receive God when he shows mercy to the ones we wish would suffer the fate of Uzzah?

Tim Keller, a Gordon-Conwell grad and pastor in New York, says, “If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.”

It is precisely David’s initial comfort with accepting God on David’s terms that will lead to even more trouble. And who of us cannot point to a time when we had God wrong, or realized that—either intentionally or not—we were worshiping an idealized version of ourselves? Or following just a God of our own understanding or, worse, a God of our own choosing?

Yet even after David fouls this up, chapter 7, which we’ll read next week—is one of the most beautiful and important scenes in all of Scripture. God reiterates his covenant with David and promises him a throne that will last forever–being fulfilled at last in the Kingship of Jesus.

While it is gravely important that we seek through the power of the Holy Spirit to be faithful to God—while that is a most serious undertaking, we do not, we have not, we cannot, and we will not consistently get it right. We connect so well with David not because of his military exploits or womanizing or deceitful and murderous impulse (did I miss anything?), but we connect with him because we see in him a heart like ours… a heart which at its core may be very much trained on God, but is so “prone to wander,” prone to walk off, “prone to leave the God [we] love” that we sometimes wonder if we will ever be able to find our way back to him.

Good thing being at peace with God does not depend on our choosing God always, but on God’s having chosen us. Our salvation, the letter to Titus proclaims, is “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of [God our Savior’s] mercy.”

So even when we spend more time on the not-so-faithful side of the spectrum, it is not our actions or consistency in faithfulness that actually redeems us. It is God who chooses, God who saves, and God who has mercy. On that basis we are called his own dearly-loved children, just as God would promise to be like a father to David and his family for all time.

“How can the presence [of God] ever come to us?” Only on God’s own terms, terms which include holiness and a call to lifelong obedience… and terms which also include great mercy and never-ending love, and a relentless drive to continue to pursue us. God will yet make his home among us as sovereign LORD and King.

May God give us strength, courage, faithfulness, and the openness we need to welcome God’s own presence exactly as it comes to us.



The above is adapted from the sermon I preached today at church.

Leningrad Codex in BibleWorks 10

"Leningrad Codex Carpet page e" by Shmuel ben Ya'akov - [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Leningrad Codex Carpet page e” by Shmuel ben Ya’akov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
The Leningrad Codex is the basis for the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS), the critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. Leningrad is the earliest complete Masoretic manuscript still available to us, dating from the 11th century. BHS is what’s called a diplomatic edition–it uses Leningrad as the best available text with a critical apparatus at bottom.

Images of Codex Leningradensis, as it is also known, are available freely online. (See here, for example.) But users of Bible software still have hoped for something more integrated and easier to use than a .pdf.

BibleWorks 10 offers Leningrad images, fully integrated with the rest of the software’s texts. There are even verse markers so you know where you are in the manuscript. You can toggle verse markers off if you want to read through with no help.

Here’s what it looks like:


Click image or open in new tab to enlarge
Click image or open in new tab to enlarge


You can see in the image above that I can view the Leningrad Codex (with verse markers) in tandem with BibleWorks’s Search Window (far left), Browse Window (second from left and showing multiple versions of my choosing), and Analysis Window (second from right, here featuring lexical data that automatically appears as I hover over words in the Browse window).

It’s possible to zoom in and out of the image at far right to get a closer look at the manuscript detail if you desire. Or you can open it in its own window, like so:


Leningrad Images
Click image or open in new tab to enlarge


Now you can navigate the Leningrad Codex using the sidebar at left.

One other really cool feature–by hovering over the verse reference in the codex, you bring up a pop-up window showing you multiple versions:


Click image or open in new tab to enlarge
Click image or open in new tab to enlarge


Very impressive. Note, too, the nifty blue and yellow color scheme in the image above.

My only critique of this new, flagship feature (which is executed really well) is that there’s not a keyboard shortcut to zoom in and out of the codex images. You have to right-click, then navigate through the contextual menu for the zoom percentage you want, then select it. Somewhat making up for this, however, is the ability to simply click-hold and drag your way through the images.

Check out a short video of the codex in BW10 here:



BibleWorks 9 took a huge leap forward in offerings of Greek manuscripts:


Alexandrinus longer ending


Now BibleWorks 10 starts to bring the program’s Hebrew offerings to parity with the Greek. There is still much more by way of Greek MSS in BW10 (might we hope for the Aleppo Codex in BW11?). But BibleWorks is the first software to offer the images of Leningrad to its users. A big step forward to readers and students of Hebrew.

See more of what’s new in BibleWorks 10 here.



I received a free upgrade to BibleWorks 10 for the purposes of offering an unbiased review. See my other BibleWorks posts here. You can order the full program here or upgrade here. It’s on Amazon, too.

Va-yikra’: A JPS Companion for Reading Leviticus

I think I am actually on pace to finish my Bible-in-a-Year reading plan in two years–but, as I’ve said before, as much as I value getting a good overview of all of Scripture in a short time, it’s so deep and rich (and sometimes surprising and/or befuddling) that I keep wanting to go slow. This is not, of course, a bad thing. The reading plan can wait.

JPS Torah LeviticusThe JPS Torah Commentary has been my go-to companion for reading through the first five books of the Bible. I’m three volumes in, and each one has been excellent. See what I say about the Genesis volume here, and the Exodus volume here and here. Now I’ve found myself similarly aided by Baruch A. Levine’s JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus as I’ve made my way through that dense book of the Bible.

Levine’s commentary is more difficult to sit down and read through than Nahum Sarna’s Genesis or Exodus volumes, but this is less because of Levine and more because Leviticus does not have the same narrative flow of Genesis and Exodus. Its descriptions of laws and rituals are difficult for the uninitiated (um… and for the initiated) to wade through. It’s dense.

But Levine matches the density of the text with detail of his own, drawing also on rabbinical traditions to help the reader understand the world of the text. Levine addresses historical background and theology, as well as exegetical detail at the word level. But even his detailed exegesis highlights the larger literary context, so you can see the interrelations of Scripture as you read this commentary.

Allow me to share a specific example.

Here is the Hebrew text (nicely included in this commentary) of the admittedly harsh-sounding Leviticus 26:21:


Hebrew text of Leviticus


Here’s the verse in the Jewish Publication Society’s New JPS translation–also included in this edition:

And if you remain hostile toward Me and refuse to obey Me, I will go on smiting you sevenfold for your sins.

Levine’s comment for the verse focuses on the phrase, “And if you remain hostile toward Me.” Note how he balances lexical analysis with both extrabiblical and biblical references (the Hebrew in the commentary is transliterated throughout):


Here, again, is a transition, where the conditions for God’s forgiveness are stated.

Hebrew keri, “hostility,” and the idiom halakh ʿim. . . be-keri, “to walk with. . . in hostility,” are unique to this chapter. Targum Onkelos translates be-kashyu, “with hardness, obstinacy,” deriving keri from the root k-r-r, “to be cold.” Compare the noun form karah, “cold wave,” in Nahum 3:17, and mekerah, “cool chamber,” in Judges 3:24. The reverse of “walking in hostility” is “agreeing to obey” (ʾavah li-shmoʿa) suggesting that keri is synonymous with meri, “rebelliousness.” Note the contrast in Isaiah 1:19–20: “If, then, you agree and give heed, / You will eat the good things of the earth; / But if you refuse and disobey (u-meritem), / You will be devoured by the sword.” The notion of meri as “rebelliousness” is a major theme in the prophecies of Ezekiel, but the term keri occurs nowhere else in the Bible; hence its meaning remains uncertain.


There is one other portion I need to quote at length, since it comes in Levine’s opening explanation of the sacrificial system in Leviticus 1. Maybe I’m obtuse or just not familiar enough with Leviticus, but I had somehow missed until now that one could not sacrifice to expiate for intentional sins:

It should be emphasized here, as the workings of the sacrificial system are introduced to the reader, that the laws of the Torah did not permit Israelites to expiate intentional or premeditated offenses by means of sacrifice. There was no vicarious, ritual remedy—substitution of one’s property or wealth—for such violations, whether they were perpetrated against other individuals or against God Himself. In those cases, the law dealt directly with the offender, imposing real punishments and acting to prevent recurrences. The entire expiatory system ordained in the Torah must be understood in this light. Ritual expiation was restricted to situations where a reasonable doubt existed as to the willfulness of the offense. Even then, restitution was always required where loss or injury to another person had occurred. The mistaken notion that ritual worship could atone for criminality or intentional religious desecration was persistently attacked by the prophets of Israel, who considered it a major threat to the entire covenantal relationship between Israel and God.

Is this why David in Psalm 51 says,” For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased”?

Levine comes back to this theme as Leviticus introduces the various offering types. He also explains the difference between sin and impurity, in a way that is really helpful for more fully engaging Leviticus.

The Introduction is some 30 pages, addressing both “The Leviticus Text” (which summarizes the book, highlights its structure, discusses its formation, and compares early versions) and “The Context” (Levine spells out how this commentary supports “the realism of Leviticus”). The 11 Excursuses (spanning some 40 pages) are utterly fascinating, covering topics like dietary laws, the scapegoat ritual, the festivals, and more.

All that is already more than enough to help the reader or teacher in her/his quest to better enter the world of Leviticus. But then the icing on the cake is the section called, “Leviticus in the Ongoing Jewish Tradition.” Here Levine hopes that “the reader of the Commentary may catch a glimpse of continuity and change and focus attention on the lasting relevance of Leviticus.”

And here’s some icing to go on that other icing: the binding is sewn and the book is beautifully bound. I’m quite sure I’ll be returning to this commentary again, but first–I’ve got more of the Torah to read through.


Tolle, lege.



Many thanks to the folks at University of Nebraska Press/Jewish Publication Society for sending me a copy of the commentary for review. The book’s JPS product page is here; you can order it through Nebraska Press here. Find it on Amazon here.

Prefer an electronic edition? Accordance has the JPS Torah Commentary here.

Hearing the Message of Scripture: A Fantastic (the Best?) Commentary on Jonah

HMS Jonah


When I preached through Jonah last Advent, I knew the JPS Commentary on Jonah would be helpful. What I wasn’t expecting was how often I would eagerly turn to Kevin J. Youngblood’s new Jonah volume in the recently begun Hearing the Message of Scripture commentary series. It might be the best commentary (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) written on Jonah.


Format of the Commentary


Each passage of Jonah includes the following sections:

  1. Main Idea of the Passage–a short, couple-sentence overview, where Youngblood helps you get oriented to the text.
  2. Literary Context–The author shows how the passage under consideration ties in with the rest of the book.
  3. Translation and Outline–the author’s original translation and visual layout of the biblical text.
  4. Structure and Literary Form–this looks at literary features and the rhetorical aims of Jonah. This section is especially strong.
  5. Explanation of the Text–the primary section of each passage, comprising the verse-by-verse commentary proper.
  6. Canonical and Practical Significance–though Youngblood is plenty practical throughout, this section is especially helpful for preachers, teachers, or any Bible reader wanting to know how to apply the message of the text.

For example, here is Youngblood on the main idea of Jonah 4:1-4:


HMS Jonah 4 Main Idea


He then situates the passage in its larger context:


HMS Jonah 4


From there he relates Jonah 4:1-4 to the patterns of the rest of the book (“Every encounter with Gentiles brings Jonah to a crisis point”), surmises why Jonah wants to die (“Jonah cannot see how YHWH could simultaneously maintain his covenant faithfulness to Israel and grant clemency to Nineveh”), explains the text in detail, and then relates it to Moses and the other prophets and their interactions with “the nations.”


Youngblood’s Insights Make the Text Come Even More Alive


Youngblood makes the literary features of the text come alive. Regarding Jonah’s short stint in the belly of a fish, Youngblood writes:

The fish, however, functions as a means of deliverance and transportation from the murky depths back to the orderly realm of dry land. In this respect, the fish is the antithesis of the ship, which carried Jonah from the orderly realm of dry land out to the chaotic deadly sea.

Correspondingly, Jonah’s disposition and activity in the fish is the antithesis of his disposition and activity on the ship. Whereas Jonah pays out of his own pocket for passage on the ship, the journey in the fish back to land and life is free, courtesy of YHWH.

He continues to unpack the “important contrast” between ship and fish to help the readers with “the peak episode of the book’s first main section.”

This sort of analysis and clear explanation is emblematic of what the reader will find in every section of the book.


Final Evaluation: Easily a Top 3 Jonah Commentary


And what’s not to love about the first paragraph of the Introduction mentioning a Bruce Springsteen song? Here it is, by the way:



To write a nearly 200-page commentary with a 20-page introduction on a 4-chapter book of the Bible is no small feat; and none of what’s here is fluff. Youngblood notes in his introduction: “An understanding of three overlapping contexts–canonical, historical, and literary–is critical to the book’s interpretation.” He helps the reader attain ample understanding of those contexts and more.

Youngblood says only that this volume “strives to advance the discussion regarding Jonah’s message.” I think it does far more. This is easily a top 3 Jonah commentary–maybe even the best one I’ve used.

You can read a .pdf sample of the commentary here. See also my review of Obadiah in the same series.



I am grateful to Zondervan for the gratis review copy of this commentary, which was offered for an unbiased review. You can find the book on Amazon here. The Zondervan product page is here.