Mountain Climbing: The Challenge of Learning Original Languages

In this blog post Dale Pritchett will extend the metaphor begun in his earlier blog entry and respond to some of the issues raised.

One summer my wife talked me into climbing a mountain. She explained in glowing terms all the benefits to body mind and spirit. She even extolled the value of the pain we could anticipate. The mountain had well marked trails and many had gone before. She didn’t tell me about the bodies.

Less than one hour into the hike we began to see a series of small monuments along the trail. These were dedicated to the memory of individuals who had died at that exact spot in a snow storm or a rock slide or suffered a heart attack, stroke, or whatever. I kept thinking, “I just want to see the view from the top. I don’t want to become a statistic.” The next time, I visited the mountain; I took a tram to the top. The view was the same. I observe that a lot more people want to enjoy the view than want to climb the mountain. I noticed also that enjoying the view killed a lot less people than climbing the mountain.

I understand that the person who climbs to the top has a different level of knowledge of the mountain, but it is also possible to climb the mountain the hard way and still miss the view. Each person has differing skills, abilities and gifts. The point is to capture as much perspective as you can and share the view with others, not the pain.

Original language study needs to be a reasonable amount of work for a skill you will use all your life.

I am not in any way attempting to minimize the value of traditional study in biblical languages. I am merely pointing out that the benefits accrue to only a few while the need exists for the many.

I am also not attempting to suggest that an ESV Reverse Interlinear in Logos Bible software is fully equivalent to the study of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. It is not. It is a major advancement over previous tools like Strong’s numbers.

I am pointing out the reality is precious few people master biblical languages in comparison to those who make the attempt or those who never make the attempt. I am expressing my opinion that the church is better served by people who make the effort to examine the original language text.

I am saying that exegetical fallacies are equally fallacious in any language. We need to be taught how to be responsible with whatever knowledge we hold. Software is not a substitute for instruction. For the English Bible student quality instruction in original language grammar and syntax was not possible with the limited resources in Strong’s numbers, the main link between English Bibles and original languages. Now with the expanded data available in a reverse interlinear, it is possible to expand the range of instruction significantly. It will take good instruction.

I am saying we need great instruction from great teachers which will develop the students to their potential regardless of whether it is based on a reverse interlinear or an biblical language text. I am saying that the reverse interlinear is a significant tool that can take an English Bible student further than ever possible before. And let’s face it; the reverse interlinear also serves a remedial function for those who have forgotten everything they ever learned in a traditional language course. The student is interacting with the text in a more intimate fashion sure to improve general exegesis. I am saying this is good!

My final analogy. Many people would love to be singers. Only a few become professionals. Do we forbid everybody else to sing? Do we cut out the tongues of those who don’t sing well to insure that we will not suffer from their impure tones? I am suggesting that it is very easy to fall into the trap of not developing the abilities we have, whatever they may be. We need to be reminded that we can teach students how to be responsible and stay within the boundaries of their range or ability.

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).

New video of Logos for the Mac

Logos Bible Software for the Mac is getting closer all the time! Yesterday we were able to record our first video showing the software in action.

Click on the image below to view the high-res version of that video. The video may take a few minutes to load. If you really can’t wait, you can view the low res version by clicking the link below the image.

Please note that the video has no sound.

High Resolution (33 MB)Low Resolution (18 MB)

The software is showing books, running searches, comparing versions, creating a Passage Guide, and more. (Today we even inserted a shipping DVD and discovered, copied, and viewed existing electronic books without modification.)

There are bugs to fix, help files to write, features to hook up, and some polishing we need to do on the user interface. It shouldn’t be too long before we’re able to release an Alpha for external testing.

Just a reminder: There is no beta list. When we’re ready for Alpha or Beta testing, we will announce it to this email list and at www.logos.com/mac. So please do email us your encouragement and feedback, but please don’t email us asking to be on the top-secret, VIP-only, private early beta list. Because there isn’t one. :-)

Logos in Guatemala

Guillermo Powell, Logos’ International Director for Spanish Products,recently returned from Guatemala, where he spent an entire week presenting Logos in several seminaries, including radio and TV interviews. Latin American countries are quickly catching up with technology, and as economies improve, even pastors and some students can afford our libraries. Logos’ Spanish Department has been working hard to spread the word about our ground-breaking new products – created specifically for the Spanish speaking Bible student.

In February of this year Logos introduced three brand new versions of the program. This releasemore than quadrupled the number of Spanish books available in Libronix format. The Biblioteca Pastoral represents a huge step for the Spanish world. The number of resources included in the collection has recently jumped from 40 to 143. This is pretty amazing when you consider that NO other Bible software company has more than a few Spanish books. Just take one look at the impressive resource list and you don’t have to speak Spanish to realize that this collection was just given a major overhaul.

Of the 110 new books in the Biblioteca Pastoral, the standout resource is undoubtedly the new Spanish-Greek and Spanish-Hebrew Reverse Interlinears. Spanish speakers can now do the same type of research into the original languages that English pastors have been able to do since the release of Logos Bible Software 3.

One of the other newly revised collections is the Biblioteca Académica Bilingüe, which was expanded from 70 to more than210 books. The exciting aspect of this library is that, for the first time, many Spanish pastors can afford a digital library that is larger than their current print library.

The third of these new Spanish collections is completely dedicated to missions. La Biblioteca Digital de la Misión has 40 titles that focus on missions (both foreign and local), church planting, and support for missionaries. All this is done from a uniquely Latin American perspective.

English speaking readers might be thinking, “This is all exciting stuff, but how doesit affect me?” Guillermoencourages, “American churches that support missionaries in Spanish speaking countries should consider giving their missionaries these unique libraries. Just the savings in shipping books, pays forthe Bilingual library!”

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!

The Lost Tomb of King David

What have archaeologists and biblical scholars recently learned about the location of King David’s tomb? What are some misconceptions about the tomb’s whereabouts? What implications would a discovery of such magnitude have on the Christian faith?

David Sielaff will be driving up to Bellingham from Portland, Oregon to address those questions in tonight’s lecture The Lost Tomb of King David. David Sielaff has been the Director of the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge since 2002. The mission of ASK is to strengthen the faith of Bible believers through education and improved understanding of biblical themes. Much like Logos, ASK places special emphasis on studying original documents and primary sources.

Tonight’s event will be the seventh lecture in Logos’ continuing Lecture Series. The lecture will begin at 7:00 PM at Mount Baker Theatre. As with each previous event, The Lost Tomb of King David is free to attend and open to the public.

For those who are not able to attend the lecture, an extended version of it can be found in MP3 format at the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge website. In addition to this lecture, the ASK website has dozens more audio presentations, articles and commentaries. This is one website that should definitely be bookmarked by every pastor and student of the Bible.

For those who live within driving distance of Bellingham, we hope to see you there!