Author Interview: More Light on the Path

Logos recently made available an excellent resource entitled More Light on the Path—a devotional of daily readings in Greek and Hebrew (with a dash of Aramaic). The book is a great way to build proficiency in the biblical languages by using them regularly in a meaningful context. “Use it or lose it,” as language teachers like to say.

The authors of the book selected readings based on the church calendar and include translation helps: English glosses for less common words and parsing for difficult forms. They also provide a brief prayer or meditation in English. The concept for the work originated from Light on the Path, written in 1969 by banker and student of biblical languages Heinrich Bitzer.

I was recently in contact with David Baker, one of the authors of More Light on the Path, and asked him to do an email interview for the blog. He kindly accepted and invited his co-author, Elaine Heath, to participate as well.

The interview follows; further info about the book, Eugene Peterson’s Foreword (itself worth reading!), and a sample screenshot are available at Logos.com.

Interview with David Baker and Elaine Heath

Logos: Were either of you readers of Bitzer’s original Light on the Path? What was it like?
Elaine Heath: Yes, I used it when I took Greek and Hebrew as a seminary student. It was a helpful way to practice what I was learning in class.

David Baker: I used it some, but was unable to discern an overarching philosophy of text selection. I was intrigued by the concept (which also let me brush up on my German, since it included that in the translations, as that was Bitzer’s original language.

Logos: What prompted the decision to create a new version of the work?

DB: We wanted something which would be attractive and accessible to students I was teaching (Bitzer was a bit hard to find). It really came from student demand.

EH: David and I were talking about Bitzer’s book one day, imagining how good it would be to have a sequel with some additional features. For example we thought it would be more helpful to readers if we followed the liturgical calendar and if each week was treated thematically. These were features that weren’t present in Bitzer’s volume. David thought the addition of meditations and prayers written in English and keyed to the texts would be a way to increase the devotional possibilities for the book.

Logos: When you put together More Light on the Path how did you envision it being used?

DB: I saw it as a supplementary text for an intermediate level language course, and also something graduates could use to keep their language use fresh.

EH: We knew it would be helpful to seminary students, just as the original volume had been. However, we thought more pastors would use it to help keep their language skills sharp if it could be used devotionally.

Keying it to the liturgical calendar and selecting theological themes that would be helpful in sermon preparation or Bible study made it a more versatile resource for pastors.

Logos: What level of language proficiency does someone need to use the book?

DB: It can be used by those with a year of language study, but will in some cases push students with this level of competence. This is good, since there is always a bit more to learn.

Logos: How did you select the readings?

DB: Together we went through the liturgical year (Christian and Jewish), selecting relevant themes. For the rest of the year we came up with ideas and then chose relevant texts based on them. Where there were allusions or quotations of the OT in the NT, we thought that using both would show an important part of the hermeneutical process.

Logos: Were there any particular challenges you encountered when creating the book?

EH: My biggest challenge was my commitment to use Lectio Divina in order to write the meditations. This meant being centered, silent, and taking as much time as I needed in order to hear what emerged from the text as I prayed. This required patience, which at times was a challenge! Prayer can’t be hurried.

DB: Another one was determining which words/forms to explain. We had to hit and miss for a while before coming across a workable plan. It was also hard to remember to be devotional in our text selection, and not to be completely academic in selection, since the object of the books was partly devotional.

Logos: I’ve read that Logos Bible Software 2.0 was used in the process…what role did it play?

EH: It was very helpful for me in using the search tools to locate texts thematically.

DB: I used it to copy and paste the language text material, saving a lot of time.

Logos: Is there any reader feedback you’d like to share?

EH: Several of my colleagues have expressed gratitude for the book, finding it to be a helpful resource for language students. I have also heard positive comments from people who do not have facility in Greek or Hebrew, but who use the book devotionally anyway, reading the daily scripture passages in English.

DB: Most of it has been very positive. I was struck by at least one reviewer who negatively reacted to one of the English devotional readings. I wish we could have been in touch directly, since the devotional simply brought out the clear meaning of the text itself, which itself is hard to read, so the problem is less with us than with the clear call of the text.

Logos: How have you or your family used and benefited from More Light on the Path?

EH: I have used the book devotionally and also for sermon preparation.

DB: I have used it personally in preparation for class, and periodically think, ‘Ah, there’s another text we could have used.’ Maybe we need a volume II!

Logos: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our users?

EH: David and I hoped to model an interdisciplinary approach to the study of biblical languages that was rooted in prayer and worship, and that would invite readers to deeper theological reflection.

DB: I appreciated working with two women, Elaine and my wife Morven. They both are much more spiritually sensitive than I, and I hope it was useful from both sides to see how the analytical and the sensitive, female and male, theologian, counselor and biblical scholar could each enrich the project through providing different but complementary perspectives.

Read more about More Light on the Path and buy the electronic edition...