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Original Language Study: A Boutique Specialty

Today’s Guest Blogger is Dale Pritchett, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Logos. Also be sure to read Dale’s follow-up article Mountain Climbing: The Challenge of Learning Original Languages.


Greek and Hebrew professors are fast becoming an endangered species. Some contemporary people in “ministry” refer to Greek and Hebrew instructors as “traditionalists” when they are being kind, and “relics” when they are being critical. Language study has been labeled as elitist, impractical and unnecessary.

As VP of sales and marketing at Logos I enjoy a unique vantage point over churches, denominations and educational institutions. Because we deal with virtually every segment of Christendom, it is easy to spot common trends.

One of the easiest-to-spot trends over the past two decades has been the spiraling decline in original language requirements in seminaries and Bible schools. With two decades of momentum, this trend is now so well established it has migrated from the classroom to the pulpit. We now have pastors all over the world who lack the ability to consult or teach from original language texts common to prior generations. An unintended consequence of less rigorous study is the general lack of encouragement and emphasis on Bible study and Bible study methods courses for lay people. If a pastor does not demonstrate original language skills, there is little motivation for lay people to explore beyond the reach of their teacher.

As a result, it is now easier to find an original language Bible study methods course outside the church than inside the church.

Today we have prospective Bible college and seminary students who have grown up in churches totally devoid of original language informed teaching. These prospective students now evaluate the relevance of a seminary program on the basis of their own exposure to preaching and Bible teaching. It should come as no surprise that the most attractive seminary programs are marketed with compelling phrases like, “does not require study of the biblical languages for graduation.”

It is easy to fault the spirit of anti-intellectualism in the church today. It is easy to say there is little immediate payoff for all the hard work, and perhaps easiest of all to say, “Original language study is a lot of work for something I will never use.” Unfortunately, the preceding statement may be proven quite true in the reality of today’s church.

Original language study needs to be a reasonable amount of work for a skill you will use all your life. I believe this can be accomplished with automated tools.

I know seminaries would like to see more students take an interest in original languages but they are faced with a trend they don’t expect to see reversed any time soon. While they lament the state of Bible literacy, their first priority is student enrolment. Schools are competing for tuition dollars and they often find they must deliver the programs demanded by the market as opposed to programs designed by the institution. I believe this can be changed. This is where the cycle can be broken.

If a seminary really wants its students to work with original languages it needs to adopt methods which can make this happen. Original language study needs to become a pleasant and profitable experience for all students, not just the linguistically gifted or the doggedly determined. Let me make a couple of analogies. If you want to get a lot of people to a mountain top, you can hang a climbing rope, mark a trail, install a tram, build a road or install an elevator. Each successive technology will empower more people to get to the top. If we want everybody to get across the river we can offer swimming lessons, put a rope and pulley across the river, build a raft, operate a ferry or build a bridge. Each successive technology will empower more people to get to cross the river. If we want every student to learn to use original languages we need to build a bridge that gets everybody to the destination. This is the purpose of the Reverse Interlinear texts in Logos Bible Software.

I will say it again. Original language study needs to become a pleasant and profitable experience for all students. There needs to be a formal course of instruction to achieve this end. An English language Bible student can go a long way in Greek and Hebrew with the aid of our reverse interlinears but the benefits are best realized with first class, formal instruction in grammar and hermeneutics. If the very best Greek, Hebrew and Hermeneutics professors adopted the best computer based reverse interlinear technology, the following benefits would be realized.

  1. All students would be able to study original language concepts.

  2. Original language exegesis would take place earlier in the educational process.
  3. There would be a larger potential pool of students motivated to go on in original language studies.
  4. Language skill retention would improve dramatically because. . .
  5. Students would have a permanent and familiar tool for ongoing ministry.

The gifted students will still be gifted students. There will only be more of them because the original language student pool will be larger. The gifted students will move on to traditional courses and become future faculty. The average students will be functional but always dependent on the tools. But this is the key point! All students will use original languages the rest of their lives. The tide of biblical literacy will rise and the entire church will benefit.

And finally, Greek and Hebrew faculty would have secure, full, long term employment. They are the people who can generate the most value from the new tools. Powerful tools are best used by powerful teachers.

Using Exegetical Guide When Reading Greek NT or Hebrew Bible

I was hanging out with some Logos users at Camp Logos II, held here in Bellingham on August 27-28, when my friend and colleague Johnny asked me about ways to emulate a “Reader’s Greek New Testament” inside of Logos. Johnny is always working on his Greek (and Hebrew) skills as he’s pursuing a Masters degree up at Regent College. He wanted to read the Greek NT but only have glosses available for words (lemmas) that occur less than, say, 20 times in the Greek NT.
There is a way to do this, but you might not think of it. It involves paring down your Exegetical Guide preferences and also using the chain link to link your Exegetical Guide with the Greek New Testament.
Don’t worry, I recorded a video to explain how you can do this too. Check it out.

Introducing the Englishman’s Concordance

Today’s Guest Blogger is Logos’ Director of Marketing, Dan Pritchett
One of my favorite features in Logos Bible Software is “Englishman’s Concordance”. Since I really don’t know Greek or Hebrew, it is one of the best ways for me to get the full flavor for any particular word I am trying to understand better in English. The “Englishman’s Concordance” feature shows me every time the underlying Greek or Hebrew word was used in the original languages and which word it was translated to in English.
So today, I stumbled upon an article written by John Piper called “Did Moses Marry a Black Woman?” where Piper states the following:

We learn in Numbers that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman” (Num. 12:1). A Cushite is from Cush, a region south of Ethiopia, where the people are known for their black skin. We know this because of Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian [the same Hebrew word translated "Cushite" in Numbers 12:1] change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Attention is drawn to the difference of the skin of the Cushite people.

As I read that paragraph I wondered how many times the actual word in Hebrew that Piper is referencing was translated “Cushite” and how many times it was translated “Ethiopian” and how many times it was translated something else. So I fired up my Logos Bible Software and went straight to Numbers 12:1 and took a look at it in the ESV English-Hebrew Reverse Interlinear Old Testament, right-clicked on “Cushite” and executed “Englishman’s Concordance”.

As you can see in the screenshot כושׁי appears 25 times in the Old Testament and is translated “Cushite” or “Cushites” 13 times, “Ethiopian” or “Ethiopians” 12 times.
I went on to study the subject in many more ways thanks to the Topic Study, Word Study, and more, but it just reminded me how useful the “Englishman’s Concordance” can be for quickly seeing how the exact same word in the original text can be translated into different words in English. It is a blessing to be able to read multiple translations of God’s Word in my native tongue, but a reminder to me that there is no substitute for the original language of the text.

Syntax Search Example: Modifiers in 1Ti 6.10

I was working my way through the first portion of 1Ti 6.10 the other day. This is the well-known clause, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1Ti 6.10a, ESV).

I was specifically looking at “… of all kinds of evils”, and had some ideas on how to use syntax searching to help me examine that portion of the verse. It was too much to write down; at almost 15 minutes it was nearly too long for a video (I ramble a bit at the end, though).

Using Syntax in Exegesis and Preaching

For the past two summers, the church that I attend has had a series called “Summer of Psalms” as the basis of its evening services during the summer. They have someone (not the pastors) do a teaching from a psalm. It’s pretty fun, and we end up learning a lot from the different ways in which the lessons are presented.
This year, I taught during one of those services. My text was Psalm 20. And I couldn’t help myself; the teaching is heavily influenced by the underlying structure implied by the syntax of the Hebrew—even though I don’t really know Hebrew.
If you’ve read the blog for awhile, you know that I have some level of understanding of the Greek of the New Testament and its grammar and syntax. However, I’ve not been lucky enough to study Hebrew. I know the alphabet and can vocalize the letters, but I have no understanding of it.
I used the lesson as an opportunity to look at the structure of Psalm 20 using the Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis (aka Hebrew Syntax Graphs). I’d always heard that Hebrew poetry was a beautiful thing, but using the syntax graphs I was finally able to see it for the first time. It gave me a newfound appreciation for Hebrew poetry.
I couldn’t help myself; the lesson I put together focused on the structure of the Hebrew of Psalm 20. I didn’t do a single syntax search; I just examined how Andersen & Forbes broke the text down (that is, I looked at the arrows) to get an understanding of the poetic structure of Psalm 20. Using the View | Interlinear feature, I throttled the Hebrew Syntax Graphs down to only display “Clause-Immediate Constituent” and “English Literal Translation”, so I could track clause constituents without worrying about the other levels (supra-clausal structures and phrase levels). So Psalm 20.7 (in the Hebrew it’s v. 8) looks like this:

Psalm 20.7 (v. 8 in Hebrew), click for larger image

I didn’t know what to expect from the teaching, but folks said they liked the lesson. That’s encouraging. So if you’ve ever wondered how in the world “syntax” could be directly useful to exegesis and preaching, well, this could be an example. I thought I’d upload the sermon so y’all could look at it and perhaps see how simply looking at the structure implied by the syntax graphs (and not actually searching for stuff) could be used in the context of exegesis and teaching — particularly by someone who has a basic understanding of language and syntax but no formal training in Biblical Hebrew.

Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers (English) Updated

Awhile back, we released the Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English (3 editions, with morphology).
In this collection, J.B. Lightfoot’s classic English translation was only versified to chapter boundaries. That’s the way it is in the print, so that’s how the Logos edition was done.
Or, I should say, that’s how it was originally done. We’ve updated the resource and added versification down to the verse level. So it should now synch-scroll properly. If the Lightfoot English translation is one’s preferred Apostolic Fathers edition, then it will keylink more accurately.
You can download the resource (APFTHLFTENG.lbxlls) from our FTP site: ftp://ftp.logos.com/lbxbooks/APFTHLFTENG.lbxlls. First, shut down your Logos Bible Software if it is running. Next, save the above referenced file to wherever you keep your resources on your hard drive (typically c:\Program Files\Libronix DLS\Resources). Then start up your Logos, and you’re ready to go.
Enjoy!

Greek Syntax: Unordered Group, Part II

In last week Friday’s post, I blogged about something that J.H. Moulton calls the “Pindaric Construction”. In a comment to that post, David Pereira noted:

The other cases I would question are those in which the “singular things” are joined by “or” or “nor” rather than by the word “and” such as in Matt 12:25. Though these might technically fit the description you gave earlier (i.e. where “a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate”), I don’t think they represent any diversion from standard grammar. Take this for example: “Neither a CAT nor a DOG IS allowed inside.” Though there are multiple subjects, the conjunction serves to relate each singular noun to the singular verb individually. So, I don’t think this is anything more than standard grammar for subject/predicate agreement.

Following up with David, I wrote:

On the search generally — I was surely thinking but apparently didn’t write that syntax searching like this is a way to evaluate assertions made in grammars like Moulton’s. Yes, the hits “techincally” match the description; they must be further evaluated to see if they all really do function as proposed. I think, in this sort of application, syntax searching is a way to narrow initial hits (the same search using only morphology and proximity would be complex if at all possible), not always acheive 100% grammatical accuracy (particularly when context can play a role in analysis).

I don’t know how special the structure is. There are instances like Mk 4.41 (joined by και) where the two singular things are combined with a singular verb, and it might be interesting to note them. But there are also the sorts of things you mention. Perhaps the better search would be to skip the ‘anything’ on the second word group, add και as connector, and see how the hit list changes. I smell a follow-up post …

This is that follow-up post. Here’s the modified query I mention above:

There are a few changes to note in this modified form of the previous query.

  1. I removed the anything operator between the two word groups in the Subject component.
  2. I added a Connector to the second word group, the word και in an effort to search for conjunctive relationships between the groups (or, an ‘and’ style relationship) instead of disjunctive relationships (‘or’ relationships) or negative relationships (‘nor’/’not’ relationship).
  3. I added the requirement that the first word group in the query also be the first word group in the Subject. This means that even if there are more than two word groups, the query will only find the structure once — instead of one hit for each combination of two word groups in the structure (as happened in Col 3.11 with the previous query).
  4. I changed some highlighting so the whole subject would be highlighted instead of individual word groups within the subject.

The result? Well, the hit list shrinks, from 275 hits to 81 hits. Many of the sorts of hits that David mentions in his comment are weeded out. Additionally, we only have one hit for verses like Col 3.11 (instead of the many hits of the previous query). That’s all good.
But some other hits are weeded out too. Re 9.12, one of Moulton’s original five examples, is no longer present. Further evaluation leads me to think that Moulton really meant Re 9.2 (which is located by this query) instead of 9.12, which just doesn’t make sense.
What does it all mean? I really don’t know. Chances are this just once again proves that the nice-and-tidy syntactic structures mentioned in passing in grammars (along with examples) aren’t necessarily as nice-and-tidy as they’re made out to be. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Language is messy.
But what is possible now with these syntactic annotations is to begin to evaluate these sorts of statements about grammatical structures. We can now, with the assistance of syntactic annotations, build searches that take these larger-level clause and phrase structures into account, along with morphology, and then examine the supposed structure in greater detail to see if there really is something there.
And that was what I was angling toward in the first blog post (along with showing the new Unordered Group object), though I didn’t really say it: Here’s a structure mentioned in a grammar, what do we find if we actually search the whole corpus for something like it? Well, that is just one of the things we can do now. In the long run, this sort of work will end up making grammars sharper in their discussion and presentation of data.

Greek Syntax: The New “Group” Objects

I don’t know offhand how many have installed the latest beta (3.0e RC 2 as of the writing of this post) of the LDLS; and I have even less of an idea of how many of those users have explored the Syntax Search dialog. But we added two new “objects” to the query model, and they’re pretty nifty.
These objects are available for all syntax databases, though my example below is from the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

  • Group:Used to group things together. Order and structure matter in the group operator. This is best used when you want to use OR on groups of objects. Think of it like parentheses in other search/grouping syntax—it allows multiple things to be treated as one, as a “group”.
  • Unordered Group:One hindrance of the Syntax Search dialog in the past was the necessity to specify all possible options when component order was not important. Let’s say I wanted to search for a clause with a particular noun as subject, and a particular verb as the predicator but I didn’t care about the order in which the subject and predicator occurred. It could be S-P or P-S. In the past, I would’ve had to specify both orders and use the OR operator, as well as anything operators between components. Now the components (and their content) can be specified as an Unordered Group, and the software permutes the possible combinations.

Perhaps an example would help explain the Unordered Group object.
Just the other day I was reading J.H. Moulton’s Prolegomena volume in the Moulton-Howard-Turner Grammar (which is on pre-pub, BTW … make sure to get your copy while it is relatively cheap!) and on page 58 he mentions something called the σχημα Πινδαρικον, or the “Pindaric Construction”. This is when a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate.
That’s not exactly easy to understand; an example would help. A good example is Mark 4.41, ” … that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The subject consists of two singular nouns, but the verb is singular too. A more literal translation might be “the wind and the sea it obeys him”. So the subject here acts as a single unit instead of as two things, and the verb is singular instead of plural (“it obeys” vs. “they obey”). Kinda weird. [NB: see the comments to this post for some important clarifications — RB]
Moulton gives five examples: Mt 5.18; 6.19; Mk 4.41; 1Co 15.50; Re 9.12. But I was curious to know how many more might exist in the NT. Moulton says “It is really only a special case of anacoluthon, no more peculiar to Pindar than to Shakspere (sic).” (Moulton, 58). Looking at Mark 4.41, we can see the structure in question:

Note the two word groups in the subject, each with a head term that is singular in morphological number. And also note the predicator, which contains a head term that is singular in morphological number. That’s the structure, essentially. So what does it take to find further instances? Here’s a screen shot of the query:

A few things to notice in the query.
First, note the use of the Unordered Group object. The contents are two clause components, one a Subject, the other a Predicator. These objects are what are permuted, so you’re searching for the equivalent of ([subject]-anything-[predicator]) OR ([predicator]-anything-[subject]) though you didn’t have to specify it.
Second, a general note. This query shows how syntax searching takes advantage higher-level phrase-and-clause annotation (clauses, subjects, verbs, groups, etc.) but also relies upon word-level morphological information. Morphology, lemmas, and other word-level information is important and foundational; but syntax searching takes the next step in building additional annotation upon that foundation and allowing interaction between all available levels.
Below is an example of some of the results. All told, there are 275 instances of this query located in the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

Once results are available, they can be graphed. Below is an example of a graph charting hit density in chapters. (Or, you could export the hit data from here to Excel, and do your own charting/math/analysis/whatever). Interesting in the chart is Colossians 3, which is densest area listed. Here’s the chart:

The hit density in Col 3 is a result of Col 3.11, which has a number of word groups in the Subject. You know, “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free”:

Anyway, queries that search for groups of things (most syntax queries do this to account for varying structures) should be easier now. And once you have that data, you can still do nifty things with it—reviewing highlighted hits, graphing the hits to check different measures of distribution, and the like.

New Product Guide: Church History

With about 7,000 titles for Libronix Digital Library System, one of the challenges we have is getting the word out about what is available. One of our recent experiments has been to write topical product guides to assemble in one place all the titles for a given subject. The latest product guide is a survey of Church History titles. Past guides include Historical and Cultural Background of the Bible, Greek Tools, and Hebrew Tools. Click here to see all the available product guides.

Ellicott’s Commentaries on Pauline Epistles

The astute (including those who subscribe to our Community Pricing RSS Feed) have recently noticed that we’ve popped up a bevy of commentaries on Pauline Epistles by Charles Ellicott in our community pricing system. They are:

Why would we do such a thing? Ellicott’s commentaries were highly respected in their day for their grammatical insight and general approach. Here are excerpts from some reviews of his work back in Ellicott’s day:

To Bishop Ellicott must be assigned the first rank, if not the first place in the first rank of English biblical scholarship. The series of commentaries on the Pauline Epistles are in the highest style of critical exegesis; so high, indeed, that rightly or wrongly he has felt constrained by friendly criticisms to compromise with the humble capacity of his audience, and make a more sparing use of those expressive old technicals, which enabled him to place his results in the most compact shape. Mr. Ellicott’s genius is endowed with the most opposite qualities. His imagination and feeling are intense, yet his patience of analysis is unbounded. His exegesis is at once dry and glowing. It is microscopic; not because the critic is cold and mechanical, but because of his ardent soul the ultimate particle of sacred thought revealable by only the most perfect lens is infinitely more precious than gold. To appreciate and enjoy Cicero was with Quintillian a test of true intellectual taste; to study, enjoy, and fully appropriate Ellicott in these commentaries is the prerogative of a true biblical scholar. And yet to the popular preacher, who wishes to preach, as far as possible, from the text exactly as the apostle wrote, and from the inspired mind exactly as the apostle thought, these exegeses are a rare aid and insurance.
From: Methodist Review, April 1865, p. 310 (via Google Books)

Bishop Ellicott’s works on the shorter Pauline Epistles are so well known to students of the New Testament text that his characteristics as a commentator need not be enumerated. This volume closely resembles his earlier ones in plan and execution. It is above all things a philological commentary; that is, it aims to expound the sense by the close application of grammatical tests and principles. This fact will repel those who have too little time or patience to carefully follow the critical processes which have been necessary to the author’s purpose. But we agree with him in saying: “If the student will patiently wade through these details of grammar, he will be rewarded by a real knowledge of the mind of the original, which, so far as I know, cannot certainly be acquired any other way” (Preface, p. 7).
From: New Englander and Yale Review, 1889, page 389 (via Google Books)

But why else? The only volume of Ellicott’s that I have any experience with is his volume on the Pastorals. And I consult it not only because of his grammatical insights, but because — at least in the volume on the Pastorals — he interacts with classic and patristic Greek literature and also looks for exegetical insight from the early versions (Latin, Syriac and even Gothic!).
Here’s what Ellicott has to say in his preface to his volume on the Pastorals:

Possibly a more interesting addition will be found in the citations of authorities. I have at last been enabled to carry out, though to a very limited extent, the long cherished wish of using some of the best versions of antiquity for exegetical purposes. … …
In thus breaking ground in the Ancient Versions, I would here very earnestly invite fellow-labourers into the same field. It is not easy to imagine a greater service than might be rendered to Scriptural exegesis if scholars would devote themselves tot he hearty study of one or more of these Versions. I dwell upon the term scholars, for it would be perhaps almost worse than useless to accept illustrations from a Version, unless they were also associated with a sound and accurate knowledge of the original Greek. (Ellicott, Pastorals, pp. ix-x)

On sources and influences for his work on the Pastorals, Ellicott writes at the end of his preface:

These, [some previous commentators, particularly Coray's Συνέκδημος Ιερατικός] with the Patristic commentators, the able Romanist expositors, Justiniani, Cornelius a Lapide, and Estius, and a few other writers noticed in the preface to the Epistle to the Galatians, are the principal authorities which I have used in the present commentary.

It’s because of the sources and depth of commentary that I enjoy Ellicott on the Pastorals. I’ll be excited to see if these volumes make their way from community pricing, into pre-pub, and finally into Logos Bible Software.


NB: We’re still doing research into Charles J. Ellicott’s published writings. Do you know of other commentaries by Ellicott that we should pursue? Once we isolate all of them, we may take the next step of making a collection. So help us out and comment on this post if you have more information about Ellicott’s commentaries. Thanks!