Get Your Bible Study Tips Published!

biblestudymagazine

Do you have some great Bible study tips that have helped you in your study of Genesis? We want to hear about them!

The theme of Bible Study Magazine’s November/December 2010 issue will be Genesis: Tower of Babel to Joseph. We want you to submit your best Bible study tips on Bible Study Magazine’s Facebook page. The best tips will be published in our two-year anniversary issue, Nov/Dec ’10!

If you haven’t “Liked” the Bible Study Magazine page yet, make sure you do so. We are looking at interesting ways we can integrate content from the Facebook community into the magazine, and we are dreaming up some fun contests and giveaways as well! So, make sure you head over to the Bible Study Magazine’s Facebook page and “Like” it.

While you’re at it, check out the new Bible Study Magazine 2008–2009 collection on Pre-Pub. This complete collection of all the 2009 issues of Bible Study Magazine, plus the inaugural issue features over 350 pages of interviews, Bible study tips, info-graphics, archaeological and historical insights, and word studies. Just think, you can subscribe at nearly 50% off the cover price and never miss another issue and get the back issues from 2008 and 2009 you have missed in one bound volume!

And that’s right: Beth Moore is on the next cover! Tell your friends.

Taking Greek Syntax Beyond the New Testament

Cascadia

Today’s guest post is from Michael Aubrey, on the marketing team.

Here at Logos, we’re always working hard to stay on the cutting edge of biblical research. We first introduced syntax databases in 2006 with the release of Libronix 3.0 and they were rightly recognized as the “new frontier” in Bible software. Mike Heiser demonstrated the vast superiority of syntax searches over morphological proximity searches with some awesome videos. And then again, three years later in November, 2009, with the introduction of Logos Bible Software 4, we did it again.

We revamped the syntax search dialog, completely changing the layout and introducing some awesome functions like dragging and dropping and introduced a brand new database: Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament.

Personally, this was the database that, as a user, I had been awaiting for many reasons.

For one, Cascadia consistently uses accessible terminology: Noun Phrase (NP), Verb Phrase (VP), and Prepositional Phrase (PP). These are labels based transparently and helpfully on Greek parts of speech: nouns, verbs, and prepositions. There’s nothing novel; nothing obscure or obtuse. This is plain vanilla, what-you-see-is-what-you-get syntax.

But more importantly, as soon as I saw the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament and read the preface, I knew there was massive potential here—far beyond the boundaries of the New Testament. The editors, Randall Tan and Andi Wu, write:

The Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament is derived from a new dynamic Treebank project developed by the Asia Bible Society. The Greek Syntactic Treebank Project is built on the basis of a computer-readable Greek grammar, with the syntactic trees (graphs) directly generated by a parser. Manual checking and corrections are stored as data in a knowledge base to guide the parser. The syntax trees (graphs) are dynamically generated form the latest version of the grammar and knowledge base, which enables continual organic improvement and growth as the grammar and knowledge base are maintained and updated.

We humbly present this preliminary version of the syntax graphs to users of Logos Bible Software and look forward to improving and expanding it in the future.

Randall Tan
Andi Wu
November 2009

Did you catch that? The Cascadia Syntax Graphs are derived from “a computer-readable Greek grammar” (my emphasis). If what that means and why it’s significant is lost on you, let me explain.

Unlike our other syntax databases, such as Opentext.org or the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, the Cascadia database isn’t annotated and created by hand, one verse at a time. Instead, the trees are all created by the computer from grammatical rules based on the structure of Koine Greek. These generated trees are then corrected by hand. Every verse, every clause, every phrase and every word is reviewed as part of this process. While this is still quite a bit of work, it leverages text already analyzed (the Greek New Testament) to assist with the process of analyzing a new corpus (the Septuagint, and also the Apostolic Fathers). The key is that because these grammar rules are continually built upon and reviewed, they may potentially to be applied to any Koine Greek text.

That’s right: any Koine Greek text.

With that realization, we said to ourselves here at Logos, “Why not? Let’s give it a try!”

Built from the very same computer-readable grammar as the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament, these two new resources will make it possible to go beyond the New Testament in your study of the Old Testament, New Testament, Early Church, and Koine Greek. Every syntax search you create for the New Testament will also work in these databases and vice versa. For the first time, you will be able to examine syntactic structures across more than half a million words of Greek text.

Are you curious about the influence of Hebrew on the Greek of the Septuagint? Not a problem. Just pull up the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Septuagint alongside the Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis!

What’s All the Fuss about Baal in the Old Testament?

Ugaritic
Today’s guest post is from David Witte, Information Engineer on the Design and Editorial team.

When I read passages in the Old Testament I always come across the god Baal. This is usually a bad thing for the people of Israel. It seems that they could not help chasing after this deity with gusto. Many rich stories concerning the rulers and prophets of Israel include this nemesis, such as Elijah’s showdown on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 17-18) or Gideon’s nighttime vandalism (Judges 6:25-32).

So to understand Israel’s difficulty with Baal and how God worked within their lives, we need to understand how Baal was viewed at that time. The best place to gain that understanding is by looking at ancient Ugaritic literature. Ugarit was an ancient kingdom located just north of Israel where modern Syria exists today. There is extensive information in Ugaritic literature about Baal, who was known as the “king of the gods” or “the Rider on the Clouds.” Take a look at Dr. Mike Heiser’s excellent write-up “What’s Ugaritic Got to Do with Anything?”.

Understanding the theological environment of ancient Israel gives greater meaning to the stories of Israel’s great trials with, and triumphs against, false idols. God was with them through it all, but it was painful at times. That helps us address modern issues such as: Where do our true loyalties lie? What separates a true Christian from a mostly Christian? How do idols creep into our belief system unnoticed?

I love teaching the story of Elijah and the showdown at Mount Carmel. Whether re-enacting it with kids or walking through the story with adults, it never loses its magic. Understanding how big and important the adversary was, and how little and powerless Elijah was, shows us how almighty and loving our God is. I found Peter Craigie’s book Ugarit and the Old Testament to be a good introduction to the Ugarit people and beliefs. This can be found in the Introduction to the Old Testament Collection. For a more in-depth look at the Ugaritic language and texts look at to the Ugaritic Library.

Exporting Your Logos 4 Library to Zotero

About a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a blog post that showed you how to export your Libronix library to the popular bibliography and citation manager Zotero. Since Logos 4 has launched, I’ve received multiple emails asking me if I’d explain how the process works with Logos 4.

Here are the five simple steps you’ll need to take.

Step 1: Change your citation style to BibTeX.

Go to Tools > Program Settings, look for Citation Style under the General settings, and select BibTeX Style from the dropdown. Or just type Set Citation Style to BibTeX in the Command Bar. (You can also use either the RIS or Refer/BibIX style.)

Step 2: Create a collection of all your resources.

Go to Tools > Collections and click New. Give it a name like All, and then enter rating:>=0 into the “Start with resources matching” box. This will find all resources with a rating of 0 or higher, which is equivalent to all resources. If you don’t want to export all of your resources, create a collection of just the ones you want.

Step 3: Export your collection to a text file.

With that collection opened, click on the panel menu and choose “Export to bibliography.” Give your file a name like Zotero, and save it to your desktop as a .txt file.

Step 4: Change your citation style back to your preferred style.

Once you’ve successfully exported your library or collection, you can change your citation style back to what it was before. You can do it through the Settings panel or via the Command Bar.

Step 5: Import your file into Zotero.

In Zotero, click on the Actions button and choose Import. Select your Zotero.txt file and click Open. Depending on how many resources you’re importing, it may take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Once importing is complete, you’re ready to go. You can now use Logos 4 for your researching and allow Zotero to manage your citations and bibliographies.

A New Kind of Biblical Scholar

Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick TheologyLast week we put a new book on Pre-Pub entitled Let Go and Let God? by Andy Naselli. From one perspective, it’s just another quality Christian book that we’re offering at a discount to everyone who pre-orders it. You, the community, get to vote on whether or not you want us to publish it, just like you do with most Pre-Pubs. (In this case, you’ve clearly voted yes.)

From another perspective, there is something worth highlighting. There’s a neat story that illustrates a changing tide.

Naselli relied heavily on Logos as he worked on his MA in Bible, PhD in Theology, and PhD in New Testament Exegesis and Theology. He’s so convinced of the benefits of having a digital library in Logos that he’s been aggressively building it and avidly promoting Logos to his professors, colleagues, and students through his reviews, research, blog posts, and word of mouth. He still purchases, owns, and uses print books, but in most cases it’s just because they aren’t yet available for Logos. So Andy’s first book is in large part the fruit of his research with Logos Bible Software.

But what’s special about Let Go and Let God? is not just that it was written by someone who does the vast majority of his research using Logos, but that its author decided that instead of publishing his first solo book in print, he’d rather publish it digitally with Logos Bible Software. He’s convinced of the value of Logos Bible Software, not just for his own research, but as a platform for helping others do research. He wanted his book’s readers to experience the same benefits he experienced while he was writing it.

[Read more...]

Introducing the High Definition Commentary

In a previous post about which commentary is best, I introduced an important point: studying and faithfully communicating a passage is about more than knowing the details. Though details are important, they must be synthesized into a whole, and then clearly communicated to an audience (be it a congregation or a small group). A commentary needs to be faithful to the text, but understandable and applicable. This can be a challenging balance to strike.

After that post, Bob Pritchett, president and CEO of Logos, challenged me to find new ways to make cutting-edge exegetical tools more accessible. He proposed a new kind of commentary, one that organically married sound exegesis with great artwork to communicate it. Working from the English-based Lexham High Definition New Testament (HDNT) (a companion to the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament), I began the High Definition Commentary series.

The High Definition Commentary synthesizes exegetical insights from the Greek text into an expository commentary. But it’s a lot more than a commentary. I was teamed up with Shiloh Hubbard, one of our visual designers, to create teaching slides for each passage. So not only will you get cutting-edge insights from discourse analysis, there will be cool, fully-exportable graphics to sharpen your communication and save you time scrambling around for artwork.

Each section of the High Definition Commentary traces the linguistic and literary clues that identify the big ideas of the passage. Jargon-free exposition walks you through its flow and development. It is informed by the Greek, but written for those without any original language training. Personal illustrations and stories help you understand what the concept looks like in practice. The custom artwork brings it all together, enhancing your clarity and simplifying your preparation.

This resource is perfect for pastors and teachers who have a passion for really understanding how a passage hangs together. Lots of commentaries talk about the pieces of the passage, but few focus on synthesis, putting it all together.

Logos is committed to making the very best Bible study resources accessible, and the High Definition Commentary exemplifies this. If there is sufficient interest in this project, we’ll turn it into a series and begin releasing other NT volumes.

You Are Smarter Than a Lexicon

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Michael S. Heiser, Academic Editor at Logos Bible Software.

Lexicons are commonly used for studying biblical languages. It may shock you, then, that I’m an advocate for discouraging their use by beginning Hebrew and Greek students. I’m not kidding. I’d be happy if beginning students never used them.

I don’t diminish lexicons because they are so frequently abused. It also isn’t because I want people to spend hundreds of hours memorizing Hebrew and Greek vocabulary. For those newly initiated to Hebrew and Greek, lexicons just don’t give you any useful information—and yet professors seem bent on convincing their students that they are indispensable for biblical interpretation.

What’s a Lexicon Anyway?

To be fair, there was a time when lexicons approached that level of importance. Think about what a lexicon is: a book that lists each word in a given body of literature of a foreign language, while assigning an English equivalent to each foreign word. The better lexicons went beyond that service to listing several English equivalents and cataloguing specific instances in the foreign literature where that word occurred. This informed the user that the given foreign word could be used on many contexts and provided examples. All of that collecting and collating had to be done by hand, and very few people were so expertly trained that they could manage the task. But if we’re honest, all of that work only enabled translation and reading—not interpretation.

Why Not Just Use an English Thesaurus?

In other words, the only thing lexicons really did for the user was put data in front of them and suggest a one-to-one correspondence of each word with an English word. If you think about it, that’s basically what an English thesaurus does for English. You start with one word and then are given a list of other words that you might want to swap in for the word you started with. To be blunt, we use a thesaurus the way beginning students use lexicons. If I wanted to know what the word “beginning” might really mean in that last sentence, I could go to a thesaurus and discover that “beginning” might “mean” the following: birth, commencement, onset, opening, inception, source, emergence, rising, dawning, simplest, initiatory, or introductory. You could argue for a couple of those as to what Dr. Heiser intended, and then you’d pick one. Never mind that each of those synonyms has its own range of nuances. Never mind that this method makes the user the point of origin for “meaning”—as opposed to context. The latter requires time spent reading through the spectrum of a word’s usages and then—most importantly—thinking carefully about how the context allows or rules out certain meanings. In the latter you’re tracing the thought of the text and its author in an effort to describe what his point is in as many words as it takes. In the former you’re looking for one word substitutes. That’s what standard lexicons do for you—provide lists of English substitutes. That isn’t word study.

Reading is not Exegesis

Why do we think that the enterprise of looking up a Greek or Hebrew word to get an English equivalent is a useful thing to do? Professors would answer: “So you can do translation.” We now have hundreds of English translations, so why would we need to do our own? The truth is that knowing thousands of English word equivalents for Hebrew and Greek never made anyone a more careful interpreter. Being able to sight read Greek or Hebrew doesn’t guarantee exegetical accuracy any more than being able to read your English Bible does. Reading and exegesis are two very different things. My eight-year-old daughter can read me any passage in the Bible, but I’m not using her in place of a commentary. Reading is not exegesis.

Illustrating the Problem

You might think I’m exaggerating a bit. Let me demonstrate. Below is the entry from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament for the Hebrew word baraʾ, the word translated “create” in Genesis 1:1.

Bara Strongs

So what did we learn? That the Hebrew word baraʾ means “create” in many instances, and that God is its subject. We’d already know the former if we were using an interlinear. The fact that God is the only subject of that verb is interesting, but it tells us nothing about what baraʾ means. Are you more able to interpret the passage? Did your congregation learn anything when you told them that behind the English word “create” was a Hebrew word that meant “create”? What kind of creating are we talking about? Does the word ever refer to creation using materials? Does it always mean creation from nothing? Does it have synonyms that describe the use of materials? How do I find them? What are the verb’s objects, the things created? Why would an author use this verb and not another one? Does an author ever use this verb along with another one in parallel? The lexicon doesn’t tell us. More importantly, the lexicon never suggests that we should even ask those questions. It just gives us an English equivalent and becomes mute.

Maybe the problem is that I used The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament. Perhaps if I used a scholarly lexicon the floodgates of insight would open. Nope. The entry below is from the leading scholarly lexicon for biblical Hebrew, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT):

Bara Halot

What did we learn this time? That baraʾ means “create”—just like our English translation tells us. We learned that some other Semitic languages have a verb for “create” as well (really, does any language not have such a word?). The rest of the HALOT entry divides the occurrences of the Hebrew verb baraʾ into something in Hebrew grammar known as stems. Depending on the verb, that can be very important, since translation of a word can depend on the stem. But beginners aren’t going to know about stems, and in the case of baraʾ, even if they did it wouldn’t be useful. The Hebrew verb baraʾ occurs in two stems. In the “Qal” stem the verb means “to create”; in the “Niphal” stem, which is passive, the verb means “be created.” Wow. That’ll preach.

An Antidote

So how can you do better in word study if you’re not a specialist in Hebrew or Greek? There are three truly indispensable things you need for developing skill in handling the Word of God.

First, you need a means to get at all the data of the text. Logos Bible Software is the premier tool for that. Through reverse interlinears, you can begin with English and mine the Bible for all occurrences of a Greek or Hebrew word. Logos 4 then takes that data and renders it in a variety of visual displays and reports so you can begin to look at the material and think about it from different angles—such as the Bible Word Study report, where you see how your word relates grammatically to other words in the sentence. Second, you need someone who is experienced in interpretation to guide you in how to process the data in front of you. You need training in what questions to ask and why you’d ask them. There is simply no substitute in word study for thinking about the occurrences of a word on your own. Lexicons will give you lists of English choices, but cherry-picking a list isn’t the same thing as asking critical, reflective, interpretive questions about the word in its context. Third, you need practice, practice, and more practice.

Logos Bible Software has been helping you do the first of these steps for years. Moving your Bible study beyond perusing a list of English words is precisely why Logos has made a commitment to the second item—by producing nearly twenty hours of guided advice in our Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew video tools. These video tools are our first step toward helping you understand how to think about words and grammatical concepts so you can begin to discern the interpretive nuances Greek and Hebrew can provide. It’s time to learn how to handle the biblical text, not just read English words in a lexicon. You’re smarter than that.

What About the Early Church?

Church Origins Collection (10 Vols.)
One of the areas of study that I’m most interested in, personally, is how the early church developed. That is, from the time of the apostles through around 300 AD, what happened? Who did what? And how did it affect the growth and development of the church? How did the Gospel disseminate?
There are a lot of books that fit into this space—it’s a popular place to be. But a useful collection you might not be aware of is the Church Origins Collection (10 Vols.) This is a set of 10 books that fit into the area of “Church Origins”. These books include:

  • Alexander J.M. Wedderburn, A History of the First Christians
  • Alan Kreider, ed., The Origins of Christendom in the West
  • Judith Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek? Constructing Early Christianity
  • Judith Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century
  • Gerd Lüdemann, Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals
  • Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition
  • Michael Brown, The Lord’s Prayer through North African Eyes: A Window into Early Christianity
  • Alastair Campbell, The Elders: Seniority within Earliest Christianity
  • Todd Penner, In Praise of Christian Origins: Stephen and the Hellenists in Lukan Apologetic Historiography
  • Thomas G. Weinandy and Daniel A. Keating, eds., The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation

I am deeply familiar with one of the books in this collection, Alastair Campbell’s The Elders: Seniority within Earliest Christianity. I picked this one up at the national SBL meeting one year and devoured it quickly. It is an excellent study of the concept of “Elder” as a title of honor, which morphed into an office in the early church. It surveys the Hebrew Bible, the LXX, the New Testament, and the letters of Ignatius to trace history and development of “Elders”. You might not agree with Campbell (I certainly don’t in all places) but it is an excellent look at this topic, across history. While you can purchase this book individually, it is spendy at $90, which is fully half of the collection price.
The other books I’ve not read in depth, but I am familiar with many of the authors. For example, Judith Lieu is responsible for two of the books in the Church Origins Collection: Neither Jew nor Greek?: Constructing Early Christianity and Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century. Lieu is well-known and well-regarded in the realm of study of earliest Christianity, particularly the not-so-clear area between Christianity and Judaism. Her work in this area is, from all I’ve understood, top-notch.
There are other familiar names, some you may know (Todd Penner, Alexander Wedderburn, Alan Kreider), some you may not (Michael Brown, Robert Murray) and some you may be predipsosed against (e.g. Gerd Lüdemann). Whatever your predisposition (now you know mine), each of these books provides a stimulating examination of their topic, and one’s understanding of the origin and development of the early church will likely be sharper for having read them.
If any of these sound interesting, chances are you’ll like most of the books in the collection. Check it out!

The Gnomon of the New Testament on Pre-Pub . . . Again!?

John Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament is a great example of a Pre-Pub featured on Logos.com that has already had a pre-pub run in its lifetime!

While we were preparing Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament, we discovered documents that laid out a pre-publication proposal for the Gnomon from 1855.(screenshot a,screenshot b).

The five-volume, 1855 translation of Bengel’s work—originally published in 1742—could not begin production until 1500 subscribers had pledged 28 shillings a piece, making up about half the total production costs. For the publication costs to be fully covered, it would require twice that amount! This is pretty incredible when one considers that one shilling in 1850 had the purchasing power of over £3 ($4 USD) today.

One interesting portion of the proposal suggested that “wealthy laity” might consider pre-purchasing numerous copies to give out to friends in ministry or to students of theology.

Once again, Logos is proud to offer this important collection on Pre-Pub. The Gnomon is a result of twenty years’ work and it was Bengel’s desire that the content of his books would reawaken a desire to study the Word of God. Messrs Clark’s publication proposal called the Gnomon invaluable to all students of the New Testament, and that is just as true in the 21st century as it was in the 17th century.

“It is a work which manifests the most intimate and profoundest knowledge of Scripture, and which, if we examine it with care, will often be found to condense more matter into a line than can be extracted from many pages of other writers.” —Archdeacon Hare

Don’t miss out on getting the Gnomon of the New Testament at its low Pre-Pub price!

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

Oxford Dictionary of the Christian ChurchOne of the great benefits of the Logos 4 libraries is serendipity. Here specifically I’m thinking of finding books in your library that you didn’t really know you had, but once you find them you’re so glad you’ve got ‘em you don’t know how you studied without them.
For me, one of these wow-I’m-glad-I-found-it books is the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (ODCC). It comes in the Scholar’s LE, Silver LE, Gold LE, Platinum LE and Portfolio LE libraries for Logos Bible Software.
And the ODCC is a gem. Clearly written. Top-notch scholarship. Recent. Relevant. Almost 2000 pages of excellent reference material that covers a wide array of topics and ideas. The ODCC is simply stunning.
One of my newfound roles here at Logos is that of columnist, where I’m responsible for the Thoughts from the Church Fathers column for Bible Study Magazine. As I work on each new column, the patristic entries in ODCC have been very helpful. They provide a great introductory sketch both of familiar figures (e.g. Augustine) and figures you might never have heard of (e.g. Cyril of Jerusalem). They lay out the contour and timeline while highlighting major issues, typically with links to entries describing these issues or debates. It’s like a one-stop shopping trip, and it is awesome.
But the patristic entries (while my favorite) are only one aspect of the ODCC. There is all sorts of stuff in it: Theology, Patristic scholarship, Churches and denominations, Church calendar and organization, Biographical entries, and more.
If you’ve got ODCC (just fire up Logos 4 and type ‘ODCC’ in the command box or in the Library to see if you have it already), then you owe it to yourself to check it out and look at some articles the next time you’re working on something (especially if you see any reference to particular church fathers).
If you don’t have ODCC, then you should check it out and, if the time is right, add it to your library. Or compare the cost of buying ODCC outright ($150 retail) with the cost to upgrade to at least Scholar’s LE. If your upgrade cost is close to (or under) $150, and you don’t have ODCC, then you could really end up getting a great deal on the upgrade — ODCC plus whatever else is in Scholar’s LE that you don’t already have.
Update: In the comments, it is noted that the 3rd edition of ODCC (from 1997) has been republished in paperback by another publisher. The edition in Logos Bible Software is the 2005 revision of the 3rd edition, which has some significant differences from the third edition. Below is an excerpt from the Note on the Revision of the Third Edition in the front matter of the 2005 edition:

The revision of the third edition was planned as a modest exercise, designed to incorporate changes which would not fit into successive reprintings and to include some updating wanted for a projected online version. The original pagination was to be preserved, and a limited number of short new articles were to come at the end. Until after production had been put in hand, I expected the pagination to be generally retained and I worked within this constraint. Nevertheless, the scope of the revision widened and I made a large number of small changes to reflect events and shifts in scholarly opinion over the last eight years or so, juggling with the text to fit in the new material. In some cases I commissioned completely new articles, impressing on their authors that they must be of the same length as the material they replaced. Inevitably, however, the main changes are in the bibliographies.

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.; Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), ix.