Sir, I can’t accept that donation; please put your money away!

This summer I travelled the country for a month or so in our 37-foot “Bible billboard” with Kendell from the Ministry Relations department. As you can imagine, it is hard to miss a massive blob of fluorescent green that’s 37 feet long and 12 feet high with “Bible Study” written all over it, so it is no surprise when people walk up and start a conversation.


One Sunday when we were attending services at John Piper’s church, a member of the congregation walked up to us with his checkbook in hand and offered to donate to our ministry. I spent five minutes trying to convince him that I could not take his money, and even if he sent us a check we wouldn’t have anything to do with it. We simply don’t take contributions.
In the last fifteen years or so, this conversation has been replayed many times over. We continue to get calls or letters from individuals that want to make a donation and we explain we don’t take donations, don’t want their money, and encourage them to give to a worthy ministry elsewhere.
As you can imagine, the flip side of the contribution question comes up regularly here as well. While there are many people that want to donate money to us, there are many more that want us to donate money or software to them. I have always wished there were a way to connect people on both sides of the equation and make everyone happy.
Logos creates powerful tools for ministry, however we are a corporation and not a ministry. Even if someone could make a donation to us it would not be tax exempt. If ministries that were already out there caught the vision to increase the study of God’s Word with Logos Bible Software, we would love to connect them with the people who contact us for the giving and receiving of our products.
What if we could take donations?
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to change our business model. We have no plans to start soliciting donations, or reorganize as a 501(c)(3). If we never heard from another interested donor we would be perfectly fine and content, but this whole idea got me thinking about what could be done if all the like-minded individuals got together and worked toward a common goal.
Taking the concept above one step further, today’s modern philanthropist thinking outside the box could see the benefits of a new form of partnership between a donor who understood the time and money saving benefits of using the latest technology, a commercial enterprise with a product and heart for God’s Word, and a ministry that shared the vision of all three.
This new form of partnership would address the concerns of many modern donors.

  • Tax deductibility
  • Responsible use of funds
  • Clear focus on God’s Word
  • Maximizing the benefit of the donation
  • Exploiting technology to exponentially grow their contribution
  • Highest percentage of their donation going to their “cause” and not administration and overhead

By forming a three way strategy for spreading God’s Word and better access to it, contributions could be tax deductible, funds could be assured the most responsibly maximized “best and highest use”, technology would be used to ensure not only the most time savings for the recipients, but to also reduce the costs of the content distributed—and since the tools are already produced, 100% of all donations could be used for the stated purpose.
With the three way strategy in place, a specific cause, mission agency, country, or group could be identified, and charitable contributions could go further than anyone ever imagined possible. What if instead of funding construction projects that can only be accessed by a few local individuals, money could be earmarked for equipping missionaries, pastors, teachers and preachers with better access to the Bible so that more of God’s Word could be shared with the world?
Leaving a legacy
Let’s say for a moment that someone catches this vision in a big way. Mr. & Mrs. Philanthropist have a heart for Africa and want to see God’s Word preached throughout the continent. For a few million dollars they could make sure that every missionary in Africa had their own copy of Logos Bible Software.
Which would leave a more lasting legacy? A nice new building in the States, or a massive army of proven, experienced missionaries all empowered with the most powerful tool on the planet for studying, preaching and teaching God’s Word—in the field where they are already planted?
Stretching your donation dollars
Let’s take this one step further and look at the multiplying effects of this one donation. Mr. & Mrs. Philanthropist get their favorite mission agency and Logos together and outline their plan to supply 2,000 missionaries with Logos Bible Software. The missionaries benefit, the people under their teaching benefit, Mr. & Mrs. Philanthropist get any applicable tax deductions, the mission agency outfits their missionaries, more of God’s Word is understood and preached, and Logos funds research & development, programming, and production of great new resources, texts and tools to help everyone study the Bible better.
There are not many guaranteed results from charitable contributions, but equipping missionaries, pastors and teachers with the Word of God and better access to it is about as close as it gets. If you are still reading you are probably reciting the scriptures I am thinking about in your head right now, you know as well as I do how God feels about the power and importance of His Word. I don’t have to convince you.
We are still not asking for donations
Please understand, this is dream world . . . thinking out loud . . . wondering “what if” . . . . We are not soliciting donations, we are not asking for money—we still don’t want it and can’t take it! We are just putting some ideas down in writing to paint a picture of how technology has not only impacted the study of God’s Word but has opened up the doors for creatively being better stewards and returning to an emphasis on Bible study, preaching and teaching around the world.
We know there are many faithful and generous individuals who already regularly purchase our packages just to bless others, and we know how powerful, time-saving and money-saving our tools are (not to mention cheaper than print books to ship to the mission field). We also know that there are people all over the world who would love to have our tools but can not afford them, and people who love God’s Word, love Logos Bible Software and want to be the best stewards possible while giving in this area of personal interest. We would just like to find a way to connect them all.
If you have ideas or dreams of your own about finding a way to leave a legacy and impact the world with something that you can be guaranteed will not fail, wither, return void, pass away . . . but will stand forever, give me a call.
-Dan

Making of the Lexham High Definition New Testament

[Today's guest post is from Dr. Steve Runge, a scholar-in-residence at Logos Bible Software, whose work focuses on the discourse grammar of Hebrew and Greek.]

This is a follow-up to a blog entry that I posted last Thursday entitled “Who Cares About Participles? I Do!” It described how the New Testament writers used Greek participles to push less-important action into the background in order to keep attention focused on the main action of a verse. At the end, I gave the warning that this principle about ‘backgrounding’ action did not apply to every participle. This prompted a great comment from a user. He said:

I wasn’t the best student at English grammar either so to figure out that what you have shown us in this blog would have been impossible for me as I don’t understand all the different parts of English speech and writing. So, my question is this: with my ineptitude with both Greek and English, how can I use this tool well and know even what to look for? Perhaps that is an impossible question to ask.

This is a great question. The reality is there is no possible way for him to have known or done what I did without knowing the grammatical principles I used. Even knowing the principle, he would still need enough grammatical background to do the analysis. In other words, he wants access to this information, but his grammatical skills are too rusty for him to do the analysis himself. On top of this, he was probably never taught this principle in his studies. If you read the participles blog post and are a few years out of school, you will probably empathize with his frustration. Maybe you never even had the chance to attend Bible school. Here are some questions.

  1. Were you able to understand the idea of ‘backgrounding’ the action in a sentence using participles?
  2. Did you understand the meaning that could be gleaned from the choice to use a participle, and not a finite verb?

If so, then the problem is not with your understanding of grammar, the problem is with your access to the analyzed data. Right now, there is no access without years of study, and in this user’s case, keeping his Greek skills fresh, right? My personal mission in life is to address the ACCESS issue.

I have spent the last 12 years studying the problem, proposing and testing solutions, and coming up with a plan. What if ALL of the backgrounded actions in the NT were identified? What if there were a visual-filter type label on them so that as you were reading the text you could distinguish main actions from backgrounded ones? Would that be helpful? What if I did the same with 15 other of the most useful devices I found in my research? What if you could see all of these devices identified right in the text? This way you would not be distracted from the biblical text by reading a separate commentary. What if the text was organized into a block outline, breaking down the complexity of the text to help you better understand how it flows and how it is organized hierarchically?

If these questions pique your interest, then you will be interested in a resource that is set to go on Pre-Publication in the next few weeks. It is called the Lexham High Definition New Testament, part of a new series of original language resources that we are working on. It catalogs and graphically identifies all occurrences of a specific set of devices, like backgrounding, that the biblical writers used, but which are largely invisible without knowledge of Greek.

Many of these devices are based on the work of Bible translators, and are not even taught in seminary classes. The only way to learn them at this point is to slog through the linguistics literature like I have done for the last decade. This required developing an extensive knowledge of cognitive linguistics, pragmatics and syntax. Having done that, and having annotated where all of the devices occur in the text, the problem of access to the data is only partly solved.

The next step is to explain the concepts based on our idiomatic usage in English. Every language has to accomplish the same basic set of tasks. Since the annotated devices accomplish a specific task, I can explain the Greek device by analogy to how the same task is accomplished in English, regardless of how it might be translated. In other words, it would not matter if a Greek participle is translated as a main verb in English as long as you understood that it is backgrounded, right? This is a new way of thinking about these issues, a great complement to working with your preferred translation.

There is another problem. My analysis of these devices is based on the Greek text, not an English version. This means that somehow the data needs to be exported and mapped to an English version so that non-Greek or ‘rusty-Greek’ folks can access it. Until two years ago, this would have been impossible. Logos has invested the time and money into creating reverse interlinears, where the original language words are aligned to the corresponding words of the English translations. This allows the data that I have annotated to the Greek to be exported and displayed in English translations. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Greek is not English! Not every Greek device maps well into English, so we combined and culled down from about 40 concepts in Greek to 17 in English.

What is displayed in English is actually Greek data. If you find concepts like backgrounding valuable, and the want to get access to things that you would likely not even have learned if you had done advanced Greek study, it will soon be accessible to you mapped onto an English translation.

Not every concept is easy enough to understand with a thumbnail sketch for an introduction. However, a good many of them ARE that simple, but access to the data has been the ongoing problem. We have taken the very best of these devices and mapped them into English in the Lexham High Definition New Testament. There will be another, more detailed and more technical version of the data that is mapped onto the Greek text that will also be released, called the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament.

I appreciate the frustration people have felt about helpful information being restricted to the few that had the aptitude and discipline to reach the advanced levels of original language study. There is a tremendous amount of information that will remain restricted to this domain, based on the nature of it. However, there is a lot of practical stuff that can be exported and applied by folks if only they had the access to it. This frustration has been my motivation for getting up at 4:30am several days a week since 1993 to do research. I worked construction for the last 15 years to provide for my family and fund my study. Logos hired me in October 2006 because they believed that the insight into Scripture that users would gain from this project was worth the investment to produce it.

There is not another resource like the Lexham High Definition New Testament, where a collection of the most useful discourse devices are pulled together and practically applied. I will be blogging about a different device from the Discourse NT series each week for the next few months. I do not want information that would be beneficial to people like you, people who are smart and motivated to study God’s Word, to remain restricted to the few. I have had several scholars rebuke me for taking on such a project, saying people might misuse it. People are already misusing English versions, so why not give them something that might curb some of the abuse and misunderstanding?

Update: Both products are now available for pre-order:

Hanging Out with Dr. Geisler

Today’s guest blogger is Scott Lindsey, Ministry Relations Director at Logos.
As part of the Ministry Relations team at Logos, I have one of the best jobs on the planet: introducing people to the power of Logos for Bible Study. Last weekend was a milestone in my 10+ years traveling the country teaching at various conferences. I had the privilege of hanging out with Dr. Norman Geisler. Dr. Geisler and I were both speakers a recent set of Code Blue conferences in Springfield, MO and Bentonville, AR.
The first conference was Friday night in Springfield, MO. So the next morning Dr. Geisler and I left for our 3 hour drive to Bentonville, AR, where the next conference was being hosted. And what a drive it was! The countryside was beautiful, the sun was shining, and the conversation was brilliant. Imagine, 3 hours with Dr. Geisler as your passenger! I witnessed the passion of a man who has dedicated his life to the cause of Christ and has been in ministry for half a century.
Dr. Geisler came to know the Lord because of the faithful outreach of a local church in his home town of Warren, MI. His parents weren’t believers yet. Dr. Geisler always felt a desire to know God. Starting at age 9, he rode the church bus over 400 times to Sunday service until, at age 17, he finally yielded to the tugging of God on his heart. The lesson Dr. Geisler learned was, “Don’t give up; it may take 400 sermons!” After conversion, Dr. Giesler jumped immediately into full-time Christian service. Every night there was some type of church activity: door-to-door evangelism, Bible studies, jail ministry, and more. He even met his bride of 51 years while serving in his church; they worked together in the church prison ministry. Dr. Geisler said the expectation back then was, “Get saved; start serving!”
One night while helping out with the local jail ministry, the scheduled preacher didn’t show up due to illness and someone asked Dr. Geisler if he would teach. Dr. Geisler had only known the Lord for 9 weeks yet sheepishly took the microphone, shared from John chapter 3 and gave his testimony. Several gave their lives to Jesus that night, and Dr. Geisler felt the call to ministry.
A few nights later Dr. Geisler was with his youth group doing ministry in an area in Detroit known as Skid Row—this is where the truly down-trodden of the city lived. While witnessing in the streets, Dr. Geisler was confronted by a drunk who grabbed Dr. Geisler’s Bible, opened it to Mark 8:30, and read, “Jesus warned them not to tell ANYONE about Him!” Dr. Geisler was stumped!!! How could he reconcile the Great Commission with this passage of Scripture? He had no answer for this challenge and realized he either needed to get educated about his new faith or stop evangelizing altogether.
Dr. Geisler heard through some friends that Emmaus Bible School had a Bible correspondence course for FOUR DOLLARS. Dr. Geisler tried as hard as he could to explain to me how much money that was back in 1950!!! I have a new perspective now when I purchase my $4 latte at Starbucks. The problem, though, was that Dr. Geisler didn’t have four dollars. Amazingly, the providence of God was revealed when his boss asked him to work a Saturday shift “bunching radishes”—the amount he earned: $4. The exact amount Dr. Geisler needed! Imagine the enthusiasm that day as Dr. Geisler worked on the farm.
This began Dr. Geisler’s amazing educational journey. The remarkable thing for me was discovering that Dr. Geisler didn’t even learn to read until his junior year in high school. His 11th grade teacher was suspect of Dr. Geisler’s reading abilities and asked him one day, “How did ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ end?” As witty as Dr. Geisler is today at 75 years old, the 16-year-old Norman replied, “With a period!” The day concluded with a familiar visit to the principal’s office.
The correspondence program from Emmaus eventually led him to Detroit Bible College (DBC) where he received his first degree. Upon graduation from DBC, Dr. Geisler took his first pastorate at Dayton Center Church in Silverwood, Michigan. Today, the congregation still invites Dr. Geisler to speak when his schedule permits. After pastoring for 3 years at Dayton Center Church, Dr. Geisler realized his “barrel was empty” and he needed more formal education. He enrolled at Wheaton and received his bachelors in philosophy and two years later earned his M.A. in Theology. He received his Th.B. from William Tyndale College in 1964, and his Ph.D. from Loyola in 1970.
I asked him what led the transition from preaching to teaching, and he said that during college and seminary, the students would always come up to him after class and have him explain what the professors were teaching. He simply had a knack for digesting the hefty theology being taught, and this led to his almost 50 years of Christian teaching.
Of all the things I learned about Dr. Geisler during our drive, I was most inspired by his love for his wife and family and continued devotion to the Lord. Every night after dinner, the Geisler family would gather in the living room for their nightly devotions and time of Bible study. From day one, Dr. Geisler and his wife poured a foundation of the Word into their children’s lives—all of whom are serving the Lord today.
We enjoyed a great plate of Fajitas for lunch, and Dr. Geisler refilled my “joke” quiver. I have enough opening jokes to last me 10+ years of conference speaking! He has authored/co-authored 67 books, and I now wonder when the Dr. Norman Geisler joke book will be released. His humor only adds to the uniqueness of this great man. Even after 50+ years of faithful service, he is still excited about life and the Lord.
As I watched Dr. Geisler teach Saturday night in Bentonville to a crowd of over 900, I had a new appreciation for his brilliance. I have taught with Dr. Geisler at many conferences over the years and have had the privilege of learning how to defend the faith because of his scholarship and teaching, but Saturday gave me a new perspective of Dr. Geisler. I realized that he not only knows the Word, but lives it with passion every day!
You may not be aware that we have several of Dr. Geisler’s books available for Libronix. Be sure to check them out!

Dr. Geisler is also a Logos user. Here’s what he has to say about Logos:

Wow! What a great way to get into the Bible. With a whole library at your fingertips and language tools in the palm of your hand, anyone can benefit from Logos Bible Software. Whether someone is a scholar, pastor, Sunday school teacher, or layperson Logos can help them accomplish their academic and spiritual needs. If you are in Seminary or Bible College then you should have this program. Logos is already the standard in Bible software and for good reason—it is simply the best.

Ancient Semitic Inscriptions—How Can They Assist English Bible Study?

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Michael Heiser, Academic Editor at Logos.
Note: Some characters in this post require a Unicode font like Gentium or Charis SIL. You can download both Gentium and Charis SIL from the SIL site.
One of the challenges we face at Logos when we create research tools for studying ancient texts in their original script is how such data can be made useful in the Libronix platform for users who do not read the ancient languages. Our aim is not merely to produce tools for scholars, but tools that can help everyone inform their Bible study. The new databases for Aramaic inscriptions and the Hebrew and Canaanite inscriptions are a good case in point.
In this blog post, I’d like to focus on how these inscriptions can assist your Bible study even if you can’t read the ancient languages. Veteran Libronix users will recognize immediately that since these inscriptions come with fresh English translations and can be displayed as an interlinear, they are accessible to the English reader. But what may not be apparent is why the English reader might want to include them in searches or Bible study. It’s easy to see how commentaries or reference books that deal with Bible backgrounds would be helpful, but users often balk at the thought of utilizing ancient non-biblical texts for enlightening biblical content. I think the three examples that follow illustrate the value of including these kinds of texts in Bible study.
Balaam, son of Beor, and the Deir ʿAlla Inscription
We’re all familiar with the Old Testament story of Balaam, where Balak, king of Moab, summoned Balaam to curse the children of Israel (Numbers 22-23). Not nearly as well known is the fact that Balaam, son of Beor, is featured prominently in an ancient inscription, discovered in 1967 at a place called Deir ʿAlla. That inscription is included in the set of Aramaic inscriptions recently developed by Logos. It reads in part:

1 . . . the report of Balaʿam, son of Beʿor, who was a seer of the gods. Now the gods came to see him by night, and he saw a vision
2 as the utterance of El. They said to Balaʿam, son of Beʿor, “Thus he will do . . . afterwards a man . . . ”
3 Balaʿam arose the following day . . . but he was not able to . . . and he wept
4 bitterly. Then his people came to him and said to Balaʿam, son of Beʿor, “Why are you fasting and weeping?”
5 He responded to them, “Sit down, I will tell you what the Shaddayyin have done. Come, see the work of the gods! The Shaddayyin gathered together
6 and established the assembly. Then, they said to Š[ ], ʿSew up [and] block out the heavens with your cloud putting darkness [over it]; do not any
7 light [shine] . . .

There are a number of gaps and difficult reconstructions in this inscription (hence the brackets that appear), but there are a number of clear points. First, a seer named Balaam the son of Beor had a vision in the night in which the gods speak to him. Save for the fact that the Old Testament has one deity speak to Balaam, this is precisely the same situation recorded in the Old Testament in Numbers 22:8-9, 14-20. Second, Balaam is presented in the inscription as a seer or clairvoyant, one who had contact with the gods through divination (cf. Josh. 13:22). This is the biblical picture as well. The Hebrew terminology associated with Balaam indicates that he did not practice sorcery, as some have charged, but used some sort of divination method. While some forms of divination are expressly condemned in the Old Testament, even on pain of death (Deut 18:9-12), other forms are not (e.g., casting lots, Joseph’s divination cup, Daniel’s training in Chaldean “sciences”). The issue with “proper” and “improper” methods of divination for the Israelite was whether Yahweh was the source of the divine information and, in most cases, whether the contact was initiated by Yahweh. This helps resolve the notion that Yahweh would speak his word through a foreign seer by his Spirit (Num. 24:2). Third, Balaam is cast in a positive light in the inscription. While the Bible has some pretty unflattering things to say about Balaam, it also has some positive assessment. For example, the prophet Micah says, “O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him.” Balaam unapologetically proclaimed himself Yahweh’s servant and denied saying anything other than what Yahweh has told him to say.
What are we to make of this inscription and its connection to the Old Testament? Simply put, the Deir ʿAlla inscription is an extrabiblical confirmation of the Balaam story. The Deir ʿAlla inscription dates to the 8th century B.C., well after the time of the Balaam incident in biblical chronology. Balaam is not introduced in the inscription, so it appears that the writer presumed his readers knew about Balaam already, and so the story of Balaam had been around for some time. The prophet Micah’s statement dates from the same era, since the prophet lived at the time of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Micah 1:1). This is confirmation that the Balaam story wasn’t invented during the 8th century but precedes it.
Does the Old Testament Speak of a Blissful Afterlife?
This question may surprise many readers, but it’s actually a hot topic in scholarly discussions about the Old Testament. Behind this issue is the fact that the Old Testament never actually speaks of a godly person “going” to heaven. Rather, they go to Sheol, the realm of the dead, or the “Underworld” (see, e.g., Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 17:16; Psa. 6:5; 49:14; 88:3; 116:3; Ezek. 31:17). Sheol also refers to a hole in the ground or some space under the ground (see Num. 16:33; Job 11:8). As such, many scholars argue that the Old Testament had no concept of a hallowed, pleasant afterlife—the dead only went to the grave—or that the dead remained in the grave until a future resurrection. Some scholars seek to strike a parallel with the depressing view of the afterlife held in Mesopotamia, where the deceased “lived on” while in a state of decay.
Other biblical scholars have argued, with some justification, that discerning the Old Testament’s view of the afterlife on the basis of one word (Sheol) is myopic. Archaeologically speaking, we know that, like our custom of leaving flowers or other items at grave sites, Israelites also regularly deposited gifts at tombs, such as food and wine—items that we believe are appreciated by the dead. This doesn’t fit with a view that only saw the grave as final, or a despondent life in the Underworld. Such an approach fails to incorporate passages like Psalm 73:23-26:

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Two Hebrew inscriptions found in a small burial cave at a site just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem known as Ketef Hinnom shed some light on Israelite beliefs about the fate of the dead. The site dates to the late seventh or early sixth century B.C., clearly in the first Temple period. These inscriptions were etched onto two small silver plaques. The text is not entirely legible and complete, but much is quite readable:

Ketef Hinnom 1
1 [ ] 2 YHW [
2 [ ]
3 [ ]
4 l]oves the covena[nt
5 and lo]vingkindness to those who lo[ve
6 [and] with respect to those who keep [
7 ]BK[
8 ]HHʿL rest[ing place
9 [ ]BH[ ]H from all[
10 [ ] and from the evil
11 for in him is redemption (?)
12 for Yahweh
13 will [re]store us
14-16 ]KWR may Yahweh bless [and] may [he] keep you
17 May Yahweh [sh]ine
18 [his f]ace (upon you).

Ketef Hinnom 2

1 ]HB[
2 to Yahwe[h]
3 [ ]
4 ]Gʿ[
5-7 May Yahweh bless and may [he] keep you
8-9 May Yah[weh] shine his face
10 [up]on you and
11 may [he] give you
12 pea[ce].
13 [ ]
14 [ ]
15 ]M[
16 [ ]
17 [ ]

Both of these inscriptions, deposited as they were with the dead body of the loved one, ask Yahweh to “bless and keep” the dead and “shine upon” the deceased. This is certainly positive, and is very much in the spirit of Psalm 73. The writer also expresses his belief that Yahweh shows lovingkindness to those who love Him. If the writer believed that the fate of the dead was only the grave, or that the deceased was rewarded only with a cadaverous existence, these sentiments make little sense.
The Witness in the Clouds
One of the Phoenician inscriptions in the new Libronix database of Hebrew and Canaanite inscriptions comes from a location known as Arslan Tash. The inscription is found on an amulet and reads in part:

Arslan Tash 1
9-10 Asshur has made with us and eternal covenant. He made (it)
11 with us, and (with) all the sons of the gods,
12 and the chiefs of the council of all the holy ones
13 with a covenant of heaven and earth
14 forever, by an oath of Baal,
15 [l]ord of earth, by a covenant
16 of Ḥawron, whose mouth is pure,
17 and his seven concubines, and
18 the eight wives of Baal-Qudsh.

In this inscription, the high god Asshur is said to have made a covenant with the people among whom the author lived. Asshur makes this covenant, and then the covenant is said to be ratified or “guaranteed” by other gods: Baal, Ḥawron, and Ḥawron’s seven concubines and eight wives, who were all (presumably) considered divine beings.
This kind of inscription content is easy to cross-reference in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It might be instructive, for example, to compare covenant language between the Bible and sources outside the Bible for parallels and significant differences. This kind of thing is referenced many times in study Bible notes. In this instance, it might strike us as odd that a god would make a covenant with his people and then have that covenant promise backed up by other gods, since in the Bible God swear oaths by himself since, according to Hebrews 6:13-20, there is none greater. But are there exceptions?
If you were attempting a thorough Bible study of all the covenants in the Bible between God and people, you’d come across a surprising covenant circumstance in Psalm 89, where the idea of God swearing only by himself in a covenant relationship is in fact not the case. Psalm 89, which is a reiteration of the Davidic covenant given in 2 Samuel 7, has God making the covenant with David and his dynasty and then appealing to a witness in the clouds as a guarantee of that covenant. Believe it or not, the covenant of the Arslan Tash inscription helps us to know what’s going on here.
Psalm 89:35-37 [Hebrew text, 89:36-38] reads:

35 “Once I have sworn by my Holy One;
I will not lie to David.
36 “His descendants shall be forever
And his throne as the sun before me.
37 “It shall be established forever like the moon,
And the witness in the clouds will be faithful.”

The keys to understanding this small section of Psalm 89 are the two underlined portions. English translations disagree on this passage for very technical reasons I’ll skip here (readers can click here for more detail). This is my own literal rendering, though the NASB comes closest to what I have. Notice how the passage has certain parallel elements, which I’ve marked by letters:

A I have sworn by my Holy One;
B I will not lie to David.
C “His descendants shall be forever
C his throne (shall be) as the sun before me.
C “It [his throne] shall be established forever like the moon,
A And a witness in the clouds will be faithful.”

Translations disagree most often on the underlined portions. Many have “by my holiness” for the first underline, but that makes little sense in light of the literary parallelism. It seems that Yahweh has sworn by a person (a witness) in the second underlining, which calls for a person being “sworn by” in the first underlining. All that is needed to arrive at “my Holy One” is to change the vowel marks in the Hebrew at this point to conform it to “Holy One” found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Most translations also have “an enduring witness” or “a faithful witness” for the second underlined portion, but there are grammatical problems with that translation.
What we have here is Yahweh swearing a covenantal oath to David and guaranteeing that oath by some witness in the clouds. This is actually similar to what we read in Arslan Tash. The head of the Phoenician pantheon at Arslan Tash, Asshur, makes a covenant in the presence of his heavenly council (the “council of the holy ones”), and then calls on other gods to confirm that the covenant will be carried out. Israel’s faith was monotheistic, but these elements are all present in Psalm 89. Yahweh swears an oath to David, and Yahweh’s own heavenly host (“divine council of the holy ones”; Psalm 89:5-8) witnesses the oath. But there’s a problem—Israel’s faith has no place for other gods to hold Yahweh accountable to his oath. Nevertheless, the language is there.
How can Yahweh swear by another and yet not be held accountable to a separate god other than himself? The passage seems to require an equal to Yahweh who will uphold the covenant, but how does that work? The idea of one god binding another god’s oath was familiar in the ancient Near East-Arslan Tash is but one example. But how can this work in Israel? Who is this witness in the heavens who will be faithful to make sure the covenant of David’s eternal dynasty comes to pass and never fails?
The New Testament answers these questions by filling the witness slot with Jesus. Revelation 1:4-5 is telling:

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

Jesus, of course, as the son of David, fulfilled the Davidic covenant of Psalm 89. And since the New Testament presents Jesus as true deity incarnate and equal in nature with the God of the Old Testament, Jesus fulfills the role of witness-guarantor eternally. We know this if we’ve read the New Testament, but sometimes more ancient material—canonical and even outside the canon—can contextualize a point more clearly.
If you haven’t already placed your pre-order, be sure to check out the Semitic Inscriptions: Analyzed Texts and English Translations (CD-ROM) as it will be shipping soon!

BibleTech:2008 a Huge Success

BibleTech:2008 was an awesome event and a huge success. A big thanks to all of the speakers and attendees! It was fun putting faces with names and chatting over meals with so many people who share a passion for the Bible and technology.

We realize that many of you wanted to attend, but were unable to. Well, we have some great news for you.

First, the audio for most of the sessions is now available at the BibleTech website. Go to the Sessions page and look for the MP3 Audio links. We also added a directory of participants, which includes both speakers and attendees who wanted their names to be listed. If you went to the conference and didn’t get the contact info for someone you wanted to get in touch with, check the directory. If you went and want to have your name added to the list, please send an email to bibletech@logos.com and let us know.

Also, based on the great feedback that we got, we are already making preparations for BibleTech:2009. So start making your plans to be with us next year. We’ll provide you with more details when we have them. If you’d like to be added to the BibleTech email list to receive updates and information about the next BibleTech, send us an email.

If you want to read more about BibleTech, search for bibletech and bibletech08 at Technorati and Google Blog Search. Many of the speakers have posted PowerPoints and PDFs of their presentations. If you’re a World Magazine subscriber, you’ll want to check out their article about BibleTech.

We look forward to seeing you at BibleTech:2009!

Blogging the Code

Want to get technical? Want a really early preview of upcoming versions of Logos Bible Software? The software developers here at Logos have started a new code blog at code.logos.com. You’ll find code snippets, technical discussions, and even some developer introductions.
We get a lot from other technical blogs, and our team wants to join the discussion and contribute what we have learned. With our move to new technologies like .NET 3.5, WPF, and WCF, there’s a lot of ground to cover!
To get a taste of what’s coming, check out our recent applications: NoteScraps, Shibboleth, and Logos Global Bible Reader. All three are .NET WPF applications that we built to explore new technologies — and to do cool things!

Who Cares About Participles? I Do!

[Today's Guest Post is by Dr. Steve Runge, who is a scholar-in-residence here at Logos Bible Software. Steve is working on projects to annotate discourse function in the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible. More importantly, he's a really smart guy with a passion for explaining the exegetical significance and importance of discourse functions in language that non-academics can understand — so that sermons and lessons can take such things into account, resulting in better preaching and teaching. Look for more posts from Steve in the future. — RB]

My name is Steve, and I wanted to give you some ideas about how you can use some technology you probably already have to enhance your Bible study. One of the great features of the Biblical Languages Addin is the Morphological Filter (click View | Visual Filters) that lets you markup Greek and Hebrew Bibles based on their morphological coding (Click for video demo; here’s a blog post with similar information). And you are probably saying, “Steve, I don’t know Greek. Why would I want such a tool?” I am glad you asked!

One of the basic tenets of Bible study is to identify the main idea of each verse, which in turn allows you to build toward understanding the big idea of a passage, and so on. Believe it or not, the New Testament writers wanted the same thing. Not every action is of equal importance, and so the writers made choices about which actions to make the main idea of a sentence. One of the ways they did this was by using different kinds of verbs for different kinds of actions in order to prioritize them.

If you were to picture a line of soldiers, there are two ways I could make some of them stand out. The first way is to have the important ones take a step forward. This is essentially what emphasis does, it brings something out front. The other way to make something stand out is to have the less-important ones take a step back. By pushing the less-important things into the background (‘backgrounding’ them), I can focus your attention on the ones that are left in their original position. This is exactly what the writers did through the use of participles. Wait, it’s okay, don’t be afraid! Grammar can be a great friend and ally! Let me show you how.

Every sentence in the New Testament required the writer to make decisions. We make them all the time without even thinking about it, whether writing or speaking. We choose wording that fits best with what we want to communicate. The same is true of the NT writers. If they wanted something to be viewed as a main action, they used a main verb form (technically ‘finite’ verbs like the indicative, subjunctive or imperative moods for fellow grammar geeks). If they wanted to describe some action to set that stage for the main action, the writers would use participles before the main action to push the less important action into the background. Here is a quick example from English.

  1. I was writing a blog post this morning. I spilled my coffee on my keyboard.
  2. While writing a blog post this morning, I spilled my coffee on my keyboard.

In the first line, both actions are described as though they were equally important, both use main verbs. The second line backgrounds the first action using a participle in order to set the stage for the main action that follows—spilling my coffee (Don’t worry, Bob. I didn’t really spill, just needed an example).

This same kind of backgrounding happens all the time in the New Testament. And even if you don’t know Greek, you can use the tools available in Logos to find these backgrounded actions. Here’s how.

If you have an ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear of the New Testament and the Morphological Filter from the Biblical Languages Addin, you have all that you need to start your study. Open up the ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear in Logos Bible Software, and then click View | Visual Filters. This opens up the Visual Filter dialogue. Then click on Morphological Filter in the left pane, then click Add.

Click image for larger version(works for all images in this post)

Then click Details. This opens up another dialog box that lets you choose the grammatical characteristics that you want to visualize. We want to check Verbs, and then Participles under Verb types. Then click Add on the lower left, and finally pick a how you want to represent it in the text using the Palettes (I chose the Gray highlighter pen). This will identify all of the participles.

Now you need to identify the main verbs. All we have to do is repeat the steps. Click Verbs, and then under the ‘Tense, Voice, Mood’ menu click Finite under ‘Verb types’, then click Add.

Now pick a visualization from the Palettes (I chose green highlighter pen), and finally click Okay. You are ready to look for backgrounded actions!

In your ESV reverse interlinear, go to Matthew 28:19, we can take a look at how Matthew uses a participle to prioritize the actions of the Great Commission. English does not use participles like Greek does, so a lot of them get translated into English as though they were main verbs. This is not incorrect translation, it is just a consequence of Greek not being English. But you can pick out the backgrounded actions from the original Greek using this Visual Filter in the Reverse Interlinear.

In English, there are two main actions of the Great Commission: Go and Make disciples. But if you look at ‘Go’, you’ll see that it is a participle. Does this mean it doesn’t matter at all? No, it does matter. Matthew used a participle to make sure that we got the main idea of the verse: MAKING DISCIPLES. Both actions need to happen, but they are not of equal importance. Using a participle backgrounds the less-important action.

This idea of backgrounding only applies to participles when they precede the main action, not when they follow it. The participles that follow the main action tend to spell out more specifically what the main action looks like. Here, ‘making disciples’ is spelled out as ‘baptizing’ and ‘teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded’.

Another good example is found in Acts 9:1-2, where Saul is seeking to arrest the believers in order to keep ‘The Way’ from spreading.

In v. 1 there are two actions described: ‘breathing’ and ‘went’. But we can tell from the Morphological Filter that both of these actions are backgrounded. That means that these actions are setting the stage for the main action, and are not the main action themselves. The main action doesn’t come until v. 2; it is Saul ASKING for the letters. ‘Going’ to the high priest was just something that had to happen before he could ‘ask’ them for the letters. Luke’s choice to use a participle reflects how he chose to prioritize the action. Understanding how he prioritized the action will help us better understand the main point of the passage. The other participles in v. 2 function as ‘verbal adjectives’, describing whom Saul is seeking (the ones ‘belonging to the Way’) and how he will bring them (‘having been bound’). The principle of backgrounding only applies to the action participles that precede the main action.

The biggest, hairiest chain of backgrounded actions that I have yet found is in Mark 5:25-27, where SEVEN backgrounded actions before we finally get to the main action. Nearly all of these are translated in the ESV as though they are main verbs. Remember, this is not bad translation, it just reflects that Greek is not English. Take a look!

Look at all of the actions that are backgrounded! The one main action that is left standing is ‘touched’, all of the rest are simply setting the stage for this action. Mark clearly indicates this by using participles instead of main verbs. He could have just as easily chosen to make ALL of the actions main ones, but then ‘touched’ would not have stood out. They would have all been equal. By backgrounding the less-important actions before the main action, the writer lets us know which action we need to focus on. There is good reason to focus on ‘touch’ in this context, because it is the key action that sets off a whole series of events that follows. Touching Jesus is what heals this woman (v. 27). Look at how Jesus’ response is described in v. 30.

Three participles are used to describe the actions that lead to Jesus’ response (‘said’), and what he says is the most important part of the verse: ‘Who touched me?’ Mark has carefully framed his message to make sure that we do not miss the main point of the story!

The gospels and Acts by far make the most use of backgrounding through the use of participles before the main action. Here are a few more examples from Matthew. In Matt 13:46 in the parable about the pearl of great price, look at which actions have been backgrounded.

There are only two main actions in this verse: ‘selling all that he had’ and ‘buying’. The ‘finding’ and ‘going’ set the stage for the main actions. Do you see how the backgrounding fits with the main idea of the passage?

Another example is found in the description of Jesus preparing to feed the 5000 in Matt 14:19.

There are three backgrounded actions leading up to one main action in the first sentence. ‘Ordering the crowds’, ‘taking’ the loaves and fish, and ‘looking up to heaven’ are all backgrounded, keeping attention on the main action: he said a blessing. In the next sentence, ‘breaking’ is backgrounded, keeping attention focused on ‘giving’ it to the disciples who in turn give it to the crowds.

By the way, you do not need to use the visual filter to find out if an action is a participle in Greek or not. If you hover over ‘ordered’ in v. 19 of the reverse interlinear and look at the display in the lower left corner of the main window, you will see some information displayed.

The G2753 is the Strong’s number; the rest is the grammatical information for the Greek word. You can get the same information as what we have visualized using the Visual Filter, but it is does not let you see the big picture, and it is not nearly as cool!

As you may have noticed, not every participle backgrounds an action. Some participles don’t even describe action, but instead function as verbal adjectives to describe a person, place or thing. The participles that follow the main action usually spell out more specifically what the main action looks like (a topic I will take up in a future post). But there is hope!

I have been working for the last year in a super-secret department (next to Rick!) on a project that identifies all of the New Testament occurrences of cool devices like backgrounded actions. There are 15 other devices that are all explained and marked up using something like the visual filter right in the text to help you better understand what the writers were trying to draw your attention to. Stay tuned for more details.

Update: Both products are now available for pre-order:

Update to Libronix DLS 3.0e

The latest version of the Libronix Digital Library System, 3.0e, is available for download. If you haven’t already updated, you should do so as soon as possible so that you have all the latest bug fixes and improved functionality.
Here are some of the new features that you will get:
Shell

  • Improved speed of opening the Search menu for the first time.

Bible Tools

  • Added missing homograph numbers to GRAMCORD™ lemma list.
  • Remote Library Search
  • Changed format of citations exported from Remote Library Search (for better interoperability with other programs).
  • Export Citations dialog in Remote Library Search remembers the last citation style that was used.

Resources

  • Added 2 Corinthians and Galatians to Lexham SGNT.
  • Added Louw-Nida numbers to Lexham SGNT.
  • Updated version of Lexham Syntactic Greek NT including Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Revelation.

Sermon File

  • Topics in Sermons and Illustrations resources are found by the Topic Study on the home page.
  • “Topics” and “Illustrations” sections in the Passage Guide list topics from the Sermons and Illustrations resources (respectively).

Syntax Tools

  • Added arrows to indicate immediate child vs. any descendant in Syntax Search results.
  • Syntax Search results highlights different terms with different colors.
  • Added “Group” and “Unordered Group” constructs to Syntax Search dialog.

Windows Vista

  • Added high-resolution application icon (for Windows Vista).

For a list of bug fixes visit http://www.logos.com/support/article/1240.
Keep in mind that all new books require 3.0e and that you’ll need 3.0e to use the updated version of many old books as well.
If you have a slow connection, you may want to order the new 3.0e media, which is available on DVD-ROM or CD-ROM.

Teachers and the Personal Book Builder

We have a really cool guest post for you below, but first a very exciting announcement regarding the Personal Book Builder.
We at Logos are passionate about God’s Word. One of our main objectives is to facilitate deeper Bible study. In an effort to better accomplish this, we are dropping the Personal Book Builder annual license renewal fee for all who use the PBB in conjunction with their teaching! This includes those who are teachers by vocation, as well as those who lead Bible studies or teach their children at home. We hope this enables you to be more effective teachers of God’s Word in whatever capacity He allows you to use your gifts.
Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Benjamin B. Phillips, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at the Houston campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In the 2007 fall semester, I began using the Logos Personal Book Builder (PBB) software (Standard Edition) for my systematic theology classes at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Each of my students writes a “Practical Theology Paper” where they summarize a Christian doctrine and then reflect on the practical implications of that doctrine for living the Christian life and doing Christian ministry. Each student writes on a different doctrine and I give the final versions of the files to the whole class. The result has been that each member of the class gets the equivalent of a 150-page book that they and their classmates have written.
Prior to using the PBB software, I simply collected the Microsoft Word files on CD-ROM’s and gave copies of the disk to the class at the end of the semester. Unfortunately, this meant that students wishing to use them in future research or sermon preparation would have to open and search each document one at a time. It seems unlikely that many (if any!) would undertake such a laborious process, and as a result, much of the value of the assignment was lost.
The Logos PBB software has enabled me to realize my goal of students doing theological writing to serve each other in their future ministries. By combining all the papers into one Logos electronic book, students no longer have to search through multiple files. Even more significant, however, is the fact that the Logos Libronix software allows students to incorporate their book into the Libronix Digital Library System. By making their book one of the texts that Libronix automatically searches when one studies a Bible passage or a topic, students don’t even need to remember to go look at the papers. If there is something relevant to their study, Libronix automatically includes a link to the relevant part of the book in its search results! If a student prepares a sermon or study on Numbers 23:13-30, Libronix would inform them that a verse in this text is referenced at two different places in their book of practical theology papers. Clicking on a link (here the Doctrinal Summary link) would open a window showing the relevant portion of the book. Similarly, if a student were to search their Libronix library for information on “patience” the results would include 4 occurrences of the word in 3 articles within their book of papers.
Students don’t even need to chase down the scripture passages mentioned in the papers. The PBB software automatically converts scripture references from text to hyperlinks. The result is that within the Logos book, one simply needs to scroll the cursor over the link, and the appropriate passage pops up in the student’s preferred Bible translation. Professors and instructions should note that the PBB software can accommodate a wide range of ways to cite scripture (note in the screen shot that the student used a short citation form and a long form). The functionality of the Logos book will not be lost if a student deviates in some minor way from a specific citation format.
The Logos PBB software is not difficult to use. I use Microsoft Word to combine papers into four or five files by broad topic. From there it is a simple matter of standardizing the formatting of the documents and marking the headings for the table of contents. I then save each file in HTML version. The last step involves running the PBB creator and setting the order of the files for the table of contents. The only inconvenient part has been standardizing the formatting of the papers . . . but in the future, I will have the students do that part for their own papers! With that change, the bottom line will be that I can take 20 papers and create a Logos book in under one hour.
I am incredibly grateful to Logos for their PBB software, but more importantly, so are my students! I hear often from my students about how they really like having a Logos book version of their work and how that has enhanced their appreciation for the class. From my perspective, I am impressed with the improvement in student effort on these assignments that has resulted from creating Logos books. My students know their classmates will be reading and using their papers, and so they have become far more serious and energetic about their work. I strongly encourage professors and instructors to use the PBB software to provide added value to their students.
Dr. Phillips has graciously allowed us to make the two PBB books available to you:

Put the files in C:\Program Files\Libronix DLS\Resources. To use them you must have a Libronix PBB Reading Key, which is included in all of the base packages.
Enjoy! And be sure to let us know what creative ways you come up with to use the Personal Book Builder.

“Love” in John and the ESV Reverse Interlinear NT

A user sent me a question last week, and I thought some of our blog readers might benefit from this little exercise.
Here’s what he wanted to do:

I was wondering if it would be possible to do the following: search for the occurrences of an English word and have it report the original language transliterated word for each occurrence. For example, say I’m teaching on the Gospel of John. I want to find all the occurrences of “love” and identify the part of speech and original language word. . . . Is there an easy way to do this?

There are several ways to accomplish this, but the easiest, especially for someone with minimal Greek knowledge, is to use the ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament.
Here are the steps I took:
1. In Libronix, click Search > Greek Morphological Bible Search.
2. For Bibles, select the ESV NT Rev. Int. | The ESV Greek-English Reverse Interlinear New Testament.
3. For the Range, type John.
4. Type lov* into the Search box. (The * enables you to find love, loves, loved, and loving. To exclude any potential false hits like lovely, you could type love OR loves OR loved OR loving in place of lov*. In this case, they yield identical results.)

5. Click Search. You should get 57 occurrences in 39 verses.

6. Click on the blue box next to any of the references in the search results to see that occurrence in the ESV Reverse Interlinear. You will be able to see the transliteration and part of speech for all of the words.

Make sure to turn on the appropriate interlinear levels. Click View > Interlinear and check the ones that you want to display.

Now, you could also accomplish this by searching any Greek text with morphological tagging, but for those most comfortable with the English, seeing the search results in the ESV might be the best.
Instead of searching for lov* (or love OR loves OR loved OR loving), you could also search for [φιλέω=] OR [ἀγαπάω=] OR [ἀγάπη=]. With this example, you get identical results either way.
How would you do this search?
Update: Searching for lov* is unnecessary because Logos searches on the stem of love by default. So searching for love will yield the same results as lov* or, in this case, love OR loves OR loved OR loving.