Do You Break These Rules for Greek and Hebrew Study?

Greek and Hebrew Bible study rules

I am a member of OLSHA, the Original Languages Safely Handled Association. Our mission—well, okay, my mission (nobody else has yet joined the association)—is to help people who love Scripture but don’t know Greek and Hebrew to use the original languages safely in their Bible study.

You can use them unsafely, of course: check out D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies to see what I mean.

But the goal of OLSHA is not critique; it’s edification. So let’s focus on the positive and constructive. This very Sunday my pastor made a little point out of the Greek New Testament that I thought was simple, brilliant, and genuinely helpful. It’s also something that anyone with Logos Bible Software can replicate, whether they know Greek or not.

My church was focusing on the four assertions Paul makes about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV).

  1. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
  2. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.
  3. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
  4. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

My pastor raised the question, what does it mean that the human body is sown “in weakness” (v. 43)?

Stop and think about how to answer this question. There are various legitimate, complementary ways you could go about answering it, and multiple tools in Logos that could help. But I am always asking myself in OLSHA meetings (there’s no one else to ask): “What tools in Logos do I genuinely expect people to use as part of their normal Bible study workflow?” There are countless things you could put in that workflow—if you are a prison inmate with nothing else to do and no toddlers around. But I’m guessing most Logos users are not in that situation. Your time is limited. Which tools will you use all the time, and which ones will you reserve for special situations?

One of the tools you ought to consider using regularly and diligently is the Bible Word Study tool—and it will help you here in 1 Corinthians 15:43. Just right-click “weakness” in the English text, choose the Lemma option on the right, and click Bible Word Study.

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This is where the work comes in, because it’s your job to explore the results and determine which ones are significant for our question: “What does ‘weakness’ mean in 1 Cor. 15:43?” In particular, you’ll want to click the translation wheel and survey the passages that come up underneath it.

There is no perfect rule for which cross-references are relevant and which aren’t. They’re all “relevant” in a loose sense—because they all contain the word translated “weakness” (ἀσθένειᾳ, astheneia) in 1 Cor. 15:43. But OLSHA regulations prohibit Bible readers from reading every possible meaning of an original-language word into a single instance of it. Astheneia (ἀσθένειᾳ), for example, is used in the phrase “spirit of weakness” in Luke 13—in other words, a demon caused a woman to be infirm. But this doesn’t mean that demons produce all instances of astheneia in the New Testament in the New Testament. (That’s called “illegitimate totality transfer” in our bylaws—more on this in future posts if you care to check back).

However, I believe my pastor found one cross-reference that provides particular insight. It’s 2 Corinthians 12:10:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Even without knowing Greek, you can probably guess that the bolded words are translations of the same Greek word found in 1 Cor. 15:43—and the Bible Word Study tool confirms this by highlighting “weaknesses.” And here’s the insight: When Paul sort of recaps in the second sentence what he just described in the first sentence, he uses the word “weak” to summarize “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” In other words—those are the things in which his weakness consisted. Perhaps, then, Paul has these vulnerabilities in mind when he uses the phrase “sown in weakness” in 1 Cor. 15.

Paul was not a computer; he was a person. He didn’t mean precisely the same thing by “weakness” every time he used the word. (Neither do you: you say you “have a weakness for chocolate” and the next minute you say that you’re “suffering from a weakness in the knee joints”—which, in turn, is different from the metaphorical “weak in the knees”!) Paul may not have had insults and calamities in mind when he wrote of the body being “sown in weakness.” But I think the connection between 1 Cor. 15 and 2 Cor. 12 is a valid one; and I join my pastor and Gordon Fee, the top evangelical commentator on 1 Corinthians, in thinking so. Here’s Fee:

In this case the language has been determined by its present state of ‘weakness,’ a word that particularly recurs in 2 Cor. 10–13 to describe not only the body, but Paul’s whole present existence. (785)

If no commentator in my collection (I have almost 70 on 1 Corinthians) mentioned this textual connection, I would feel much less confident about it. I check these commentators because I respect their skill with the text. But when a commentator with the stature of Fee thinks the connection is valid, I fall safely within OLSHA guidelines.

Want to double the OLSHA ranks? Join me! The first step in OLSHA certification is training, and that’s what the Logos Pros are for. Check out the Logos Pro page for numerous training videos showing you how to use Logos tools to mine exegetical and theological gold without violating OLSHA standards.

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The Bible Word Study tool is included in all Logos base packages. And right now, all base packages are on sale! Find the base package that’s right for you.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this Mark. I appreciate the OLSHA concept and the KISS method of application for those of us who have no formal training in ancient languages, yet are responsible for teaching and preaching. Great work, I hope to hear more from you along these lines. Please email my certificate of membership.LOL

  2. Do you solemnly swear to exegete Scripture properly? Or at least to read Biblical Words and Their Meaning and/or Exegetical Fallacies? Then you’re in! Your certificate has been lost in the mail already, but you have it in spirit.

  3. I would be interested in hearing what is shared in your new OLSHA approach. Let me know how to participate. Thanks very much.

    • The OLSHA approach is not new, I’m afraid—it’s rooted deeply, I hope, in a tradition that it is now this generation’s job to cultivate. But if you look back to Calvin’s commentaries from 500 years ago (available in Logos, of course) you’ll see basically the same approach. Lexicography and linguistics have developed formally a good deal since then, but Calvin still surpasses many contemporary exegetes (including myself!) in probity and judiciousness.

  4. me also

  5. I'll add to OLSHA numbers. Read Biblical Words and their Meaning, and Exegetical Fallacies over twenty years ago. I soaked them up. They've been fundamental to my understanding ever since.

    Have a look at Ps 19. In v. 13, most English versions translate 'zedim' something like 'wilful sins'. However, the word is of uncertain origin, and all other occurrences in the Hebrew Bible [6 in total] refer to people who oppose God. Therefore 'evildoers' is a better translation. Bible translators in earlier times couldn't as easily look up all occurrences of a word and compare them. But with Logos it's done in 10 minutes.

    • Great! Valuable books written by people who loved the Bible. I’ll never forget Carson’s admonition, too, that “Sustained negativity is highly calorific nourishment for pride.” I wrote that from memory…

      Re: Psalm 19:13—I’ll have to take a closer look. My initial bias is to trust the translators, to assume that they have some reason (even if it’s only translator tradition—but that does weigh something) for their choice. But I’ll take a look.

  6. Jean Reyes de Gonzalez says:

    I appreciate your concise help. I am sometimes overwhelmed when looking at all the content available and the limited time I have to spend on research.

    • Join the club. Most OLSHA members, now that our ranks are growing, would agree, I think. This is why education is so helpful, if the Lord gives you the opportunity to have it: it gives you time and freedom to shape your methodology before you’re forced to employ it with little time for readjustment. No one on this planet, not even the most well-read scholar in the highest ivory tower, has time to read everything that is relevant and helpful on all the topics that interest him or her. You must focus on those tools and those resources which are best suited toward your ends.

      Good comment. May God in his grace help us all.

  7. Good stuff Mark. You can talk to yourself at your meetings anytime so long as you post the conversations here. I hope you practise empathetic listening to your monologues so that you feel encouraged to keep on talking!

  8. I'm interested in learning

  9. This connection between “weakness” in 1 and 2 Corinthians could have easily been made with a free online download Bible study program. What can Logos do for me that other programs can not?

    • A fair question, and Logos is not here to put down any other Bible study apps. We’ve got an embarrassment of riches out there, and I have used pretty much all the major platforms. I have even trained other users in some of them.

      I work for Logos, however, because I genuinely believe it is the best software for most students of Scripture. The first reason I’m going to give may sound superficial, but I’m convinced it isn’t: good looks. The designers here (I was a graphic design major back in the olden days before my doctoral work in NT) have done a fantastic job on our user interface, and one of the best examples is the Bible Word Study tool I show off in the animated gif in this post. I genuinely believe that people will get more and better use out of a beautifully designed UI than they will out of one that, let’s say, doesn’t unite truth, goodness, and beauty. The Bible Word Study tool presents standard usage information in such a way as to make it more manageable and useful. I really, really like this for scholars and for laypeople.

      I myself have put a significant chunk of change into Logos because I wanted to have all my biblical studies books in one place. I do have quite a number of books in the Amazon Kindle ecosystem, but those don’t tend to be reference books but instead the kinds of books you read straight through. Reference books like commentaries, dictionaries, and grammars belong together in a unified system in which scriptural references can easily call them up.

      Logos’ price tag (a topic about which I have a post in the works…) pays for enhancements and new tools that we are always developing. Some are more useful than others for me, but some tools I’ve only recently begun to use are the Multiview Resources tool (available for now in Logos Now), the Corresponding Words tool (also in Logos Now), and the various Factbook searches (I just did a post on this to show you what I mean). I was weaned away from another platform by tools like these.

      Does that help?

  10. Hi Mark
    I’ll join the ranks of OLSHA too!
    Like Jean Reyes de Gonzalez, I have a good number of resources but a limited amount of time, so any help on exegesis etc would be much appreciated.
    Have a good weekend.
    Barry

    • You may want to sign up for the Logos Pro email list, then, so you get all these posts. Make sure you’re signed into your Logos.com account, then click here. I also write the Greek and Bible Study list posts, and will soon be contributing to the Hebrew list. There will be plenty of OLSHA-approved content coming out.

  11. Elmer Cummings says:

    Well done, Mark! Good info given in a clever fashion. I appreciate that combo!

    • Thank you. I just read this morning, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” That’s my goal.

  12. Excelent article and excellent principles.

  13. This could be very helpful. Thanks for doing this.

  14. Thanks…..This could be helpful.

  15. Dave walthart says:

    Mark-
    How many other comms came up with the same connection as Fee? (Just curious)

  16. I was engaged in a discussion a few days ago where the unlearned person based most of his theology on the tree in Genesis 3! Any place he found tree, he assumed it referred to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Oh, if we could only impart proper exegesis into people (including us!). Thank you for this insighftul and useful article.

  17. Hi there; do you have a Souithern California Chapter? I would LOVE to join. Of course, being a Lutheran, we WILL have coffee and donuts after the meeting! :)

  18. David Potete says:

    I’m glad you have at least two members now. Because, you know, where two or three are gathered together…

  19. Great post – thank you for the insights and encouragement to keep on mining the text for truth.