Breaking Down Scripture Complexity with Lexham Discourse Datasets

Image of a man on a computer for a post exploring the question what is systematic theology

Although the Scriptures’ overall message is simple enough for even children to understand, there are spots in both testaments where the original-language grammar gets pretty complex. Complex enough that English translations often simplify it for readability. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it does make it harder to get back to the detail of the original. This is where the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament datasets can fill a void, especially if you’ve never studied Greek or Hebrew.

Here’s what I’m talking about. In Deuteronomy 12:29–30, there are two commands, with a whole bunch of context given before them. Because of the complexity, most versions break up the one complex statement into a series of shorter ones. This is an appropriate translation strategy, but it can have the unintended consequence of obscuring the main points. The main points are the commands not to become ensnared with and not to inquire about the foreign gods in the land God is giving to Israel. But there’s some preamble to set the stage for these commands. Here’s what it looks like in the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Bible:

The blue “complex” statement on the right of verse 29 indicates that the main clause will, because of all the extra detail that precedes it, be indented one level. Verse 29 establishes the context in which the “big idea” commands apply (i.e., when they enter the land and dispossess the nations), but this is not the big idea. Verse 30 is indented one level, indicating this is where the main clause is found.

But wait, there’s more! The command “take care” in v. 30 is also not the big idea, creating another “complex” situation. This command is what’s called a metacomment, an attention-getting device that draws attention to something surprising or important that follows. In this case, the main points are actually in the commands beginning with “that”: not being ensnared to follow foreign gods and not inquiring about them. All that precedes is setting the stage for these important comments. Here is what the same passage looks like in the Lexham Discourse Hebrew Old Testament:

This kind of detail is very hard to find in translation, but it can be easily found using the Lexham Discourse resources propositional outline.

We find the same kind of thing in the New Testament in Ephesians 2:1–5. Just as in Deuteronomy 12:29–30, we find a complex construction that leads into yet another complex construction. You wouldn’t be able to find this kind of detail in most translations, due to their simplifying the complex sentence into several simpler ones. So what’s the big idea? That we have been made alive together with Christ. All the rest is (very important) scene-setting detail.

There are two parts to the scene-setting: the believer’s situation and God’s situation. Paul reminds us of the specific context in which God acted on our behalf, making us alive in Christ.

The Lexham Discourse resources offer you unparalleled access to detail like this, which you won’t find in most commentaries. They annotate all instances of 20-plus important exegetical devices, all displayed on a propositional outline. The Leham Discourse Hebrew Old Testament and the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament bundles come with glossaries and introductions to help you learn how to get the most out of the resources. If you are interested in more of the original language detail, these are the resources you want.

For more information about these resources, check out the Lexham Discourse Bible (8 vols.).

Free Bible Software. Priceless Insights. clickable image

Share
Written by
Steve Runge

Steve Runge has served as a Scholar-in-Residence at Faithlife since completing his Doctor of Literature degree in biblical languages at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2006. He specializes in developing original language resources for pastors and students to help them more confidently study and teach the Bible.

View all articles
Written by Steve Runge