Archives for January 2008

Why Use the Targums?

Two weeks ago my esteemed colleague Dr. Heiser wrote an insightful post about the importance of the Septuagint (LXX) for New Testament (NT) students and scholars. He used an example from Deuteronomy 33:2, showing how in three different verses, New Testament authors alluded to angels being present at the giving of the Law. In the Masoretic Text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible that we have today, there is no use of the word mal’akhim, or angels, but the Septuagint does mention angeloi in Deuteronomy 33:2. Dr. Heiser’s conclusion is that the NT authors must have used the Septuagint. But is this the only possible conclusion?
The phrase in question in the Hebrew Bible is ‘merivvoth qodesh’. Dr. Heiser reads this as a place name, but allows that it could mean “Ten thousands of Kadesh” with Kadesh also being a place name. (This is how the LXX translates this phrase, transliterating qodesh as Kades as if it is a place name.) But the MT points the word qodesh, not qadesh. So it could also be better rendered “Ten thousands of holiness” or “Ten thousands of holy ones”. Now this still isn’t using the word ‘angels’ and so doesn’t completely explain the Septuagint translation. After all, ‘holy ones’ could refer to righteous men or priests (like it does in certain Ugaritic tablets – maybe we need a follow up post on “Why use Ugaritic?”) rather than angels. Indeed, in Dr. Tov’s alignment of the LXX and the MT, angeloi is aligned to a different phrase than merivvoth qodesh altogether – being tentatively aligned with a very difficult portion of the MT which is often translated as fire or lightening flashing down from Yahweh’s right hand, or the law being brought forth from fire. But this ought to show that it is possible for ‘merivvoth qodesh’ to be interpreted as a large assembly of angels from the MT alone.
But is there any evidence outside of the Septuagint that this interpretation of the passage was widely held? Turn with me in your Targums to Targum Onqelos (TO) on Deuteronomy 33:2. It reads:

And he (Moses) said, “The Lord was revealed from Sinai, and the brightness of His glory appeared to us from Seir. He was revealed in His power upon the mountain of Pharan, and with Him were ten thousand holy ones; He gave us, written with His own right hand, the law from the midst of the fire.”

The Targums were an oral tradition long before they were written down. The basic practice was to read the scriptures in Hebrew and then translate them into Aramaic for those who couldn’t understand Hebrew. The translations are sometimes quite literal, and sometimes expanded with interpretive comments. Over time, some Targums came to be written down and achieved some authority in the communities that used them. Targum Onqelos is a fairly literal rendering of the MT in this verse, and it is obvious that the interpretation in the synagogues that produced TO that ‘merivvoth qodesh’ is referring to a myriad of holy ones instead of a place name. But still no mention of the specific word mal’akhim, or angels.
Now turn to Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (TgPsJ) on Deuteronomy 33:2. It contains a much-expanded reading compared to MT, LXX and TO:

The Lord was revealed at Sinai to give the law unto His people of Beth Israel, and the splendor of the glory of His Shekinah arose from Gebal to give itself to the sons of Esau: but they received it not. It shined forth in majesty and glory from mount Pharan, to give itself to the sons of Ishmael; but they received it not. It returned and revealed itself in holiness unto His people of Beth Israel, and with Him ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels. He wrote with His own right hand, and gave them His law and His commandments, out of the flaming fire.

Now we see that qodesh has become an adjective describing mal’akhim (actually, mal’akhin in Aramaic, with n replacing m as the plural suffix – but the word is the same). We’ve gone from ten thousands of his holy ones to ten thousand ten thousands of his holy angels! And all without losing the difficult section of the MT that is here translated as giving the Law from the midst of the fire.
To finish our tour of the Targums on Deuteronomy 33:2, you can turn to either Targum Neofiti or the Palestinian Fragment Targums to the Pentateuch – they both read about the same thing here, and the verse seems to be expanded even a little further than TgPsJ:

And he said: The Lord was revealed from Sinai to give the law unto His people of Beth Israel. He arose in His glory upon the mountain of Seir to give the law to the sons of Esau; but after they found that it was written therein, Thou shalt do no murder, they would not receive it. He revealed Himself in His glory on the mountain of Gebala, to give the law to the sons of Ishmael; but when they found that it was written therein, Ye shall not be thieves, they would not receive it. Again did He reveal Himself upon Mount Sinai, and with Him ten thousands of holy angels; and the children of Israel said, All that the Word of the Lord hath spoken will we perform and obey. And He stretched forth His hand from the midst of the flaming fire, and gave the Law to His people.

So what?
None of this proves whether the NT authors used the LXX or not. TO clearly translates MT. The other Targums may translate the MT but reflect an interpretive tradition that is similar to the one which produced the LXX, or both the LXX and the other Targums might be translations of a Hebrew text that is somewhat different from MT. But it does go to show that the interpretation of Deuteronomy 33:2 that is found in the New Testament might have also been found in the local, Aramaic speaking synagogue without any reference to Greek translations. And figuring out which text the NT writers are quoting or alluding to isn’t as simple as just reading the LXX and the MT and picking between the two. How many other places have theologians turned to Greek sources like the LXX or Philo when a trip to the local synagogue would have hit closer to home? Let’s not forget the Targums!

Bible Reading Plans for 2008

It’s officially a new year—at least for most countries—and that means a new opportunity to start fresh in your Bible reading. No matter what your goals are for this year, Logos Bible Software can help you read your Bible more faithfully—and give you quick and convenient access to tools that will help you understand it better and apply it more consistently.
There are at least three ways that Logos can help you plan for your Bible reading this year.
1. Use Logos to Create a Bible Reading Plan
Logos Bible Software has a built-in tool that allows you to create customized Bible reading plans. To create a new Bible reading plan, click File > New > Bible Reading Plan. Give it a name like Bible Reading Plan 2008 or My Bible Reading Plan and click OK.
Select Your Range
The first step is to choose what portion of the Bible you’d like to read. The predefined options are:

  • Bible
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Old and New Testament Each Session
  • Old and New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs Each Session
  • Old and New Testament, Psalms and Daily Proverb Each Session

We also allow you to customize your own range. Choose Special from the Presets drop down menu, and enter a range like Genesis-Deuteronomy, Matthew-Acts, or Romans-Philemon (for multiple readings each day, separate the ranges with | [e.g., Genesis-Deuteronomy | Matthew-Acts]). If you struggled last year because you felt like you were reading more than you could keep up with or digest, you might want to set a smaller goal this year. It’s better to read less with comprehension and meditation than more if it means you’ll (1) give up because you can’t keep up or (2) perhaps worse—read mindlessly just so you can check off your list.
Select Your Version
The next step is to choose a version to read. All of your unlocked versions are listed in the drop down menu. Choose the one that you’d like to read this year. It might be best to choose a version that you have never read before. I remember the first time I read through the Bible in a new version; things stood out to me that I had previously read right over because of familiarity.
Select Your Schedule
Next, decide what days you’d like to read. You can schedule your readings for every day, only weekdays, once a week, or a special frequency of your choosing. Then decide when you’d like your plan to start and end. It can be specific dates, a certain number of weeks, a certain number of sessions, or a certain number of verses per session.
Select Boundary Breaks
You can select whether the reading plan should end at the end of chapters or at the end of pericopes (i.e., paragraphs or sections). Choosing pericopes will result in more consistent reading lengths and often more logical breaking points.
Create as many reading plans as you’d like: one for each member of your family or one for your English Bible reading, another for your Greek reading, and another for Hebrew. Reading a couple verses a day or a week in the Hebrew OT and Greek NT is a great way to keep develop your language skills or keep them sharp.
All of your new reading plans will appear on your home page. If you don’t use the home page, you can view your reading plan by going to File > Open > Bible Reading Plans and selecting the appropriate plan.
For more information, watch our video on how to set up a Bible reading plan.
2. Use Addins and Resources for Bible Reading and Devotions
Lectionary
Built into all of our base collections (except Original Languages Library) is a Lectionary Viewer. You can access it from Tools > Bible Data > Lectionary Viewer. You can also choose to have the lectionary appear on your Logos home page. Open the Logos home page (Go > Home > Logos Bible Software), click Customize View, scroll down to Lectionary, and check the appropriate boxes. We include The Revised Common Lectionary and The United Methodist Revised Common Lectionary. If you are in a tradition that follows the lectionary, this will allow you to keep up with the current week’s readings.
We also have a few lectionary resources you may want to consider adding to your library:

If you know XML, you can even create your own lectionary.
For more information, watch our Lectionary Viewer video.
The M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan
In For the Love of God, Volumes One and Two, Dr. D. A. Carson gives the M’Cheyne chart of daily Bible readings, which covers the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Bible once. There are four readings per day: two for family reading and two for personal reading. Each day’s reading features reflective comments from Dr. Carson. Both volumes cover the same reading schedule, but the comments are different allowing you to following this program and read Dr. Carson’s reflections for two consecutive years.
Devotionals
There are more than 50 devotional books in Logos that have daily readings to help you meditate on God’s Word. To find them, open the Logos home page (Go > Home > Logos Bible Software), click Customize View, and scroll down to Devotions. This will display all of the devotional books that you currently own. Check the box next to any book that you’d like to appear on your home page each day.
3. Try the Global Bible Reader Beta 1
We just launched beta testing for a brand new tool that allows you to read the Bible along with Christians all over the world. It has a very nice look and feel, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy using it. Currently, you have the choice of two versions: the KJV and the ESV. We are looking into adding others. You can also click an icon that will open the passage up for you in Libronix allowing you to dig further into the meaning of the passage.
At present there are three reading plans available:

  • Bible in a Year
  • Gospel of John in a Month
  • New Testament in Six Months

You can participate in any or all of them. We’re considering creating others or even allowing you to create your own to use with family and friends. You can interact on the current day’s passage by leaving comments and reading the comments of others.
Remember, this is a beta product, which means it is likely to have some bugs. We do not recommend trying this unless you are comfortable testing beta software.


To find out more and download the Global Bible Reader visit https://www.logos.com/beta/gbr.
Update: Bruce asked if we had a chronological Bible reading plan. We do. You can download it here. Put the file in \My Documents\Libronix DLS\BibleReadingPlans.