Seeing the Forest and the Trees

For those faint of heart who would prefer to avoid another of my long-winded blog posts, just order this. The rest of you, read on.
When it comes to the Greek New Testament, Logos Bible Software has a great host of tools to help you see the trees. Lexical tags in the various tagged editions of the GNT (including the various interlinears and reverse interlinears) link to lexicons and help you find the range of meanings possible for a given word. Morphological tags in the same texts provide some contextual clues to help determine the meaning and use of the word in the particular instance under study. Learning grammars help students recognize the most common morphological and lexical trees for themselves.
But, while one can learn a lot of useful things by examining the trees, some of the greatest riches of studying the New Testament in Greek come when you can step back and see the forest. That is, at some point the student needs to look at things above the word level. ‘Syntax’ is the term we use for describing how words form into phrases and clauses, and how those structures are used to form sentences. Logos Bible Software has tools for working at the syntax level as well. Reference grammars tend to contain a lot of word- (tree-) level detail on areas like morphology (how words are formed) and phonology (how a language sounds), but they will frequently contain some good information on larger structures like phrases and clauses as well. But few reference grammars approach the Greek New Testament above the level of the sentence. Last year, Logos Bible Software released an edition of the OpenText.org syntax database, which graphs out sentence, clause, and phrase relationships and provides a powerful searching interface for working at the syntactic level. Other syntax databases for the Greek New Testament are also in the works.
There are, however, a growing number of scholars who are looking at much larger units of text than the sentence. The branch of linguistics dedicated to looking at larger blocks of text and analyzing how language is used to convey meaning on a much broader scale is ‘discourse analysis’. (‘Text-linguistics’ is another term sometimes applied to this field.) Recent posts on this blog by Dr. Runge have been giving you a taste of some of the data we’ve been working on to show discourse level features. But I wanted to call your attention to a new collection of books just posted on the prepub page. The Studies in New Testament Greek Collection contains a number of insightful books and essays on the topic of discourse analysis. The books provide some of the theories for how to analyze texts, and then apply the theories so you can see the results. This collection introduces other fields related to discourse analysis, such as ‘rhetorical criticism’ (an examination of how authors use various language elements to persuade or make an argument) and essays on how the cultural context of the New Testament should inform our exegesis. (For example, there are many essays on the topic of how bilingualism in 1st century Palestine should effect how we read the New Testament.)
If you skim the authors and editors of the volumes in this set, you’ll notice several by Stanley Porter (Author of Idioms of the Greek New Testament) and Jeffrey T. Reed (with Stanley Porter, one of the OpenText.org fellows) as well as D.A. Carson (author of Exegetical Fallacies), just to name a few. In addition to discourse and rhetoric, there are many essays in this collection that treat on other intersections between linguistics and biblical studies. This collection serves as an excellent introduction to the value of linguistics for interpreters of scripture.
The preorder price is only $240 for 16 volumes – I paid more than $100 for each of those Greek books in print! I’m very excited about this offer, and hope it generates enough interest to go into production quickly. Order yours today!

Transform Your Site with RefTagger!

One of the benefits of reading books in Libronix is the ease with which you can “look up” Scripture references. Oftentimes in print books they get ignored. It’s simply too much work to flip manually to every passage. But what about Scripture references on the web? There are tens of thousands of Christian blogs and websites with millions—or perhaps even billions—of Scripture references. But we usually face the same problem with Scripture references on the web as we do with print books. They’re just too time consuming to look up. What if you could provide your readers with some of the same conveniences of Libronix on your website? With RefTagger now you can—and without all the time and hard work it takes to create the links manually!

If you have a website or blog, you will definitely want to check it out. It’s a very customizable, free tool that turns all of your Scripture references into hyperlinks to an online Bible. You can even have RefTagger add an icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix. This gives your readers the opportunity to easily look up the Bible passages that you discuss.

To add RefTagger to your site, all you need to do is paste a few lines of JavaScript code to your template file(s). RefTagger will instantly be applied to all of your site’s content, adding new life to your old blog posts and web pages. When you write a new blog post or upload your latest sermon, it will also instantly have all the added functionality.

If you are a blogger and use WordPress with your own domain name (i.e., not WordPress.com), you can download and install our WordPress plugin and add RefTagger without even having to edit any of your files!

All the details are at the RefTagger page. Head on over to get the code or the plugin and start using it on your site. Once you have it set up, please be sure to let us know by sending an email to reftagger@logos.com. We will put some of the coolest examples on display at the RefTagger page.

If you want to see RefTagger in action, it’s running right here on the Logos blog. Check out these sample posts:

Still Accessing Libronix Resources from Your CDs?

I stumbled across a comment on a forum site recently where a user mentioned that he was accessing his books from his CDs and was frustrated by the speed at which they loaded when scrolling through large portions of text.

I was happy to see that someone quickly let him know that he could copy all of his resources to his hard drive and put his CDs in his closet as a backup.

If you are still accessing your Libronix books from your CDs, read on. With the size of today’s hard drives, most of you will have plenty of room for all of your resource files and should not be using your CDs after the initial installation.

There are at least three benefits to copying your books to your hard drive.

  1. Your computer will be able to access your books much more quickly from your hard drive than you can from your optical drive.
  2. You won’t have to be continually swapping CDs.
  3. You’ll have access to all of your books at once instead of being limited to only the books on a given CD.

To copy your resources to your hard drive, follow these steps:

  1. Insert your CD/DVD into your drive.
  2. Open Libronix.
  3. Click on Tools > Library Management > Location Manager.
  4. Wait until it is done discovering all of the resources that need to be copied.
  5. Click the Copy Resources button.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you have copied all of your resource files to your hard drive.

For more help, check out our support article Loading Books and our training video Loading Your Books (2:10, 2.69MB).

Greek Syntax: Article Introducting Prepositional Phrase

Awhile back over on the Logos Newsgroup for Greek, someone asked a question:

Someone has commented that there are 484 occurrences of the definite article occurring without a noun introducing a prepositional phrase, such as, "τα επι τοις ουρανοις." I wonder if someone would teach me how to search my GNT (N/A27) to confirm this statement?

The example is (I believe) from Eph 1.10:

εἰς οἰκονομίαν τοῦ πληρώματος τῶν καιρῶν, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, τὰ ἐπὶ τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν αὐτῷ. (Eph 1:10, NA27)

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:10, ESV)

Note that the same structure is used in "things on earth" in the same verse.

Anyway, the best way to find stuff like this — where you’re really searching for a relationship between words and/or phrases even though it looks like proximity will get you close enough — is a syntax search. In this example, the relationship is between the article and the prepositional phrase. It is more than proximity (occurring close to each other or in sequence); it is functionally that the prepositional phrase in some way further modifies/qualifies/distinguishes the article (which, in cases like these, tends to function like a relative pronoun).

The OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament makes this relatively easy to find. Let’s look at this portion of Eph 1.10 first to see how it is analyzed:

Here the word group contains a head term; the head term contains a word (τα) and the structure that modifies it. Here the structure is a relator. A relator is basically a prepositional phrase that functions adjectivally, modifying a substantive (instead of functioning adverbially, modifying the primary verb of the clause). So all we need to do is find where a relator modifies a word that that is an article.

There are two basic cases to consider. The first is like Eph 1.10, where the word is the root word of the head term, and the relator modifies it. The second case is where the word is a modifier itself, like in Mt 5.16:

Here note that τον is a definer, and the relator (adjectival prepositional phrase) modifies the definer.

These are the two cases to consider. A syntax search that looks like the following should account for both of them:

You’ll notice I’ve used an unordered group to contain the word+modifier portion of the query. Why did I do this? Because I really want to find where a word and a modifier are siblings (occur at the same ‘level’ in the annotation) because this implies they are in relationship with each other. The containing structure(s) (here the head term or modifier at the root of the query) constrain the elements to already being in the same unit. The unordered group allows for this, letting you specify the elements you care about (here a word and a modifier), and it will run the permutations, including optional elements occurring between them, while it searches. It makes query specification a whole lot easier.

When the search is run, 298 occurrences are located. Here’s a snapshot of the results dialog:

The different colors in the results come in because of the "OR" in the query. In this way you can tell that some results come from one half of the "OR". Here the greenish color represents the top half of the "OR" (word is a direct child of head term); the brown represents the bottom half (word is a direct child of modifier).

So, to answer the question posed on the Greek newsgroup; I’d respond that according to the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament, there are 298 instances of the definite article occurring without a noun introducing a prepositional phrase.

A Strategy for Building Your Library

I regularly notice comments on blogs where people mention how they really want to buy Logos, but just don’t have enough money saved up. Here’s one possible way to buy Logos and end up with more money in your pocket than when you started.

First, decide on a base package. I’d highly recommend Gold. It’s an incredible value. You pay less than $2 per title if you buy it at the full retail price.

Next, look at the contents of Gold and compare it with your print library. Look for the duplicates, and set them aside. Most students who are serious about their biblical and theological training probably have at least a few dozen books that are included in Gold. Book lovers may have a hundred or two, or even more.

Decide on the ones that you could do without in print. Maybe that’s all of them. Or perhaps you prefer to keep some books in print and go digital only for the reference works and commentaries. You may also want to throw in other books that you could do without, even if they aren’t included in Gold. That may be another dozen or two.

Now do a little math. The average academic paperback in good quality is probably worth $15. (It pays to take good care of your books—literally.) For your more popular-level paperbacks, you’re probably looking at roughly $5-10. Nice quality hardbacks are going to have an average resale price in the $20-25 range.

Assuming you have a fairly even spread of paperbacks and hardbacks, let’s guess $15 as the average price that you could get for one of your books. If you sell 100 books, you’ve more than paid for Gold at the retail price—and you’ve just grown your library by more than 600 volumes!

I realize that not everyone is going to have 100 books to sell, but certainly many will. Maybe you have only 25 or 50. At least you’ve trimmed down the amount that you need to save.

When I bought my first Logos base package, Scholar’s Library: Silver (QB), I took a slightly different route. I already had enough money saved up to buy Silver, so I went ahead and bought it. Then I sold all the titles from my print library that were duplicates, as well as some other titles that I had accumulated over the years that I no longer wanted. I made enough money to buy Silver several times over. Not only did I increase my library by hundreds of volumes, but I also ended up with quite a bit more money in my pocket!

The next step for me was more of an ongoing process. I’d look to see what books Logos offered that I already had. I’d buy the Logos version and then sell my print copy. This method provided a nice steady flow of income to spend on Logos books, and it resulted in a much larger—and much more useful—library.

I’m interested to hear how many of you have done this or something similar. What creative suggestions would you give to someone saving up for Gold or looking for ways to fund additional Logos purchases?

Logos Field Sales Reps

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. J. B. Hixson, the Houston field sales representative for Logos.

For more than eight years, Logos Bible Software has been a significant part of my life. First as a pastor, and later as a Bible College and Seminary professor, I became dependent upon Logos as an indispensable tool for both my personal study of God’s Word, as well as my ministry responsibilities. So when I learned in January of 2007 that Logos was seeking individuals to help promote this valuable tool within the body of Christ, I jumped at the opportunity.

It is my privilege to serve as part of a team of Field Sales Representatives for Logos Bible Software. In this role, I have the joy of introducing churches, pastors, students, ministry leaders and lay people alike to the most amazing Bible study tool on the planet. It thrills my heart to watch audiences respond as I show them how to use Logos Bible Software to dig deeper into God’s Word than they ever imagined. Without fail, those in attendance are in awe of the simplicity and power of Logos. In most cases, they have never seen anything like it before and they cannot wait to take it home and begin using it in their personal Bible study.

As a Field Sales Representative, it is fulfilling to know that I am introducing folks to a tool that will help facilitate their personal spiritual growth and deepen their understanding of the God we all serve. Having been in the field for a year now, I could share countless experiences with you that no doubt would warm your heart as they did mine. But allow me to share just a few short anecdotes that stand out in my memory.

On one occasion I was leading a Bible Conference at a church in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. I devoted an entire evening to presenting Logos as the best tool for Bible study. Among the many folks who purchased Logos that night was a gentleman who looked to be about seventy years old. He told me he was so impressed with how easy it is to use Logos that even though he did not own a computer and had never used one, he was going to purchase a brand new computer the next day just so he could install Logos and study God’s Word!

I spoke at a men’s retreat last summer at a large church in the Houston area, where I used a portion of my time to introduce the men to Logos. I received a call from one of the staff members from the church about a week later who ordered six additional copies of the Logos Scholar’s package to give to six of the missionaries overseas that this church supports. Having seen firsthand the power of Logos software as a study tool, this church caught the vision and wanted to be sure their missionaries had the best tool available.

At a Bible Conference in Kansas, I noticed that the pastor’s study was overflowing with books. An avid reader, his shelves were filled with commentaries, encyclopedias, dictionaries, theologies, and other Bible study resources. The conference lasted Sunday through Wednesday. On Tuesday night, I conducted a Logos demo. The pastor was so amazed, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the Scholar’s collection (over 330 books!). As it turns out, however, he did not have to buy it himself. The leader of the men’s group approached me after the service and said that the men’s fellowship would like to purchase the Scholar’s package for their pastor! The pastor was overjoyed when he contemplated how many hours a week this tool would save him in personal study and sermon prep time.

Some of you reading this blog may be pastors who already own Logos. You recognize the benefit of this incredible software. Why keep this tool to yourself? Why not introduce your congregation to it by hosting a Logos Workshop? Not only will your church members be excited, but your church body will benefit from having more members engaged in serious personal Bible study and thus growing mature in their faith!

The Field Sales Representatives of Logos exist to introduce the Body of Christ to this great tool and to promote and facilitate deeper study of God’s Word. It would be our privilege to come to your church, ministry, school or community event to conduct a Logos Bible Study Workshop. There is no cost for these events and in fact, those in attendance will receive a significant discount on their purchase of a Logos base package. Our representatives are located in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle. If you live near any of our locations, give us a call today, and make arrangements with Pete Heiniger (360) 685-4443 or pete.heiniger@logos.com.

Check out the map below to see the various locations where we have reps. Click on a location to find out more.


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Hebrew, Canaanite, and Aramaic Inscriptions and the Power of Libronix

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Michael Heiser, Academic Editor at Logos.

In my last blog post about the new inscriptions databases, I noted that 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 accessible for users who do not read the ancient languages. A second challenge we have applies to scholars: showing them that the ancient language resources we produce are about more than searching and concording texts.

For many scholars, that is precisely what software is about. I know this because I was one of them when I came to Logos three years ago. At that time I would have been thrilled to have certain ancient texts in any electronic form so I could do the kinds of searching we now see as primitive, like searching through a web page or a PDF document. I had no conception of being able to simultaneously search ancient texts and other books, such as commentaries, dictionaries, and lexica—the sorts of things that Libronix users do routinely. As a scholar, I also had little appreciation for the value of having ancient texts in English transliteration. Once you’re able to read texts in original script, you sort of set aside transliteration as something remedial. In the digital world, that’s a mistake.

In place of a detailed written explanation of these points, I’ve prepared a brief Camtasia video that illustrates them. For those scholars who have never seen Libronix in action, whose electronic research has been limited to online resources, the video will demonstrate rather quickly how much more advanced the capabilities of Libronix are to web pages and PDF files. For experienced Libronix users who work in Hebrew, the use of transliteration in the video may introduce you to something you had not thought possible—being able to search for words across different text corpora (here, Hebrew inscriptions and Ugaritic) with one search.

Now on Your Phone!

If you like the Libronix startup sound, you’ll love the free Libronix ringtone. Now you can be reminded of your favorite Bible software every time your phone rings. You could even set it up as your alarm sound and wake up to it in the morning!

Imagine how cool it would be to meet another Libronix user in a crowd because one of you had the Libronix ringtone on your phone. Now when you’re at the grocery store, the mall, the airport, or a conference, you’ll have an instant connection with other users.

Here’s what others are saying:

“My Bible-Software-Geek status has just improved by leaps and bounds.” —Jacob Hantla

To get the free Libronix ringtone, text the number 349388 to 69937 (MYXER) or visit Myxer and follow the simple instructions. It will work on most phones, but there are a handful of phones whose carriers have disabled this service.

Enjoy!

Between the Rock and the Hard Place

The Logos Lecture Series returns tomorrow with another free event at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham. This month’s lecture will be presented by Dr. Steve Delamarter of George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Delamarter’s talk is titled “Between the Rock and the Hard Place – Fighting for Faith in Second Temple Judaism.”

Dr. Delamater offers this lecture description:

The history and literature of the people Israel in the second temple period (ca. 515 BCE-70 CE) is an amazing witness to the struggle between faith and culture. Beset by invading armies from without and racked by internal division within, the times called forth a host of responses from various members of the Jewish community. In this illustrated lecture we will explore a representative cross-section of the writings produced during this time. Some are known to us in the collection of the Apocrypha. Others are known to us in the collection of the so-called Pseudepigrapha. They include the names of such fascinating characters as Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, a one-time general in the Judean army. Still others have only recently been excavated from places like the caves of Qumran and the sands of Egypt. Taken together, these texts give profound testimony to the ways in which people of faith have always tried to make sense of their worlds, armed only with the authoritative traditions of the past and with the best ideas in their present. If we listen carefully to these texts from the past, we may gain some insights for our own struggles to wrestle meaning out of the chaos in our present.

Event details

  • Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2008
  • Time: 7:00 PM
  • Location: Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, Washington
  • Admission: Free!

Stay tuned to the Logos blog for updates about this lecture and information about future events.

Stylistic Variation or Intentional Shaping? A Look at Characterization in John 11

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.

Have you ever wondered about the changes in names, or the orders of names, that you see in the New Testament? A common answer to these kinds of questions has been that the changes represent “stylistic variation” by the writers, and are not very significant. Depending on your view of inspiration, you might not be satisfied with such an answer. I know that sometimes I vary the names I use to refer to my kids, and there is meaning to be associated with the changes. If they have been behaving badly while mom was out running errands, I might say to her, “Your children were . . . .” You can fill in the rest. If my wife heard these words, she would immediately know that I was not well-pleased with them. Calling my kids ‘your children’ in certain contexts has predictable, repeatable effects.

If I were to ask my wife, “How’s the most helpful and caring wife in the world doing this morning,” she will likely wonder if I am buttering her up for something. Using these kinds of expressions to refer to my kids and my wife is not the norm; they stand out in the context. They each serve to ‘characterize’ the people they refer to in a specific way.

About 11 years ago, this question of characterization got stuck in my craw, and it took a good bit of reading to figure out what was going on. I found examples of it all over the Bible, but was not satisfied with the typical answers I found. These kinds of questions ended up becoming the focus of my doctoral studies. John 11, the chapter where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, provides a great chance to look at some of the devices that the biblical writers used to carefully shape their words and message. The patterns they used are found not only in Greek, but in Hebrew and many other languages as well. Understanding these devices will help us better understand the point the writers are trying to make, and can really help you with your Bible study. So if you are interested in learning more about this, keep reading! These concepts are part of a new resource we are working on called the Lexham High Definition New Testament. Here is the ESV version of John 11:1-5.

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Three people are mentioned in v. 1: Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. This is the first mention of Lazarus in John’s gospel, so he needs to be introduced from scratch. His introduction in v. 1 could be translated something like, ‘There was this sick guy, Lazarus of Bethany . . . .’ Mary is the most well-known character, which John reminds us of in v. 2. Finally, Martha is introduced, and linked to Mary as ‘her sister’ so that we know how she fits into the story.

In v. 3, Mary and Martha are referred to collectively as ‘the sisters’. Lazarus is referred to as ‘he whom you love’. Why not just call him ‘Lazarus’? One reason for making a change like this is to make the reader think about Lazarus in a particular way, just like I did with my wife and kids above. In this case, the sisters are appealing to Jesus not just to heal Lazarus. They are appealing to Jesus’ love for Lazarus as an encouragement for him to come and heal their brother. Calling him ‘he whom you love’ also lets us know that Jesus has a close relationship with Lazarus, something that is important for understanding Jesus’ actions later in the story.

This strategy of switching from a proper name to a thematically-loaded expression is frequently used to characterize participants in a particular way. It forces us to think about them in a way that we would not otherwise have had in mind. Such changes are often motivated by wanting us to think about a particular person in a particular way, based on its importance to the big idea of the passage. In the context of John 11, this thematic characterization lets us know that when Jesus does not immediately heed the sisters’ request that he is not blowing them off because he doesn’t care about Lazarus. It also lets us know why he weeps in v. 35.

In verse 5, we learn that Jesus loves all of them, not just Lazarus. Take a look at how Lazarus, Mary and Martha are now referred to in this verse. Do you see the changes from v. 1?

3 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

There are several of them. The order of the characters has changed, with Lazarus last and the sisters first. There is also a change in Mary’s referring expression from a proper name ‘Mary’ to the less-specific ‘her sister’. Do these changes make any difference? Yes!

There are three basic reasons for switching from a proper name like this. One reason was already mentioned above, (re)characterization. The change makes you think about the character in a particular way that is important to the context. The second reason for changing from a proper name is to background one character with respect to another. Most main characters are given a proper name, while less-important ones are assigned less-specific expressions like ‘his servant’ or ‘one of the Pharisees’. If both sisters had been referred to using proper names, it would have placed Mary and Martha (and Lazarus too, for that matter) on an equal level of importance, perhaps with the more important one occurring first in the list. In v. 5 we have both Lazarus and Martha assigned proper names. Changing from ‘Mary’ to ‘her sister’ has the effect of pushing her into the background, figuratively speaking. This raises a question. Which of the two named characters is more important, Martha or Lazarus? This is where the third function of these name changes comes into play.

Use of ‘her sister’, either as a substitute for a proper name or as a supplement to a proper name (like ‘Mary, her sister’), can indicate who the current ‘center of attention’ is. It is something like the writer putting a spotlight on the character he wants us to focus on. Notice that Mary is linked to Martha as ‘her sister’. She also could have been called “Lazarus’ sister”, but this would have made us think that Lazarus is the center of attention, not Martha.

Why is she more important than Lazarus? After all, it is Lazarus who is raised from the dead, not Martha. Martha is the center of attention because of the importance of her conversation with Jesus in vv. 20-30. This dialogue is with Martha, not Mary, not Lazarus. John is foreshadowing this through the changes that he makes, and he uses these kinds of devices consistently throughout his gospel. If he had called Mary by her proper name, there would be no explicit signal about who the center of attention is. Calling her, ‘Mary, her sister’ in v. 28 accomplishes the same thing, reinforcing that attention is still focused on Martha.

When the chapter opened, Mary was the one that the village and Martha were connected to, since she was the best-known character of the three. John needed to tell us how to connect these new characters to the story, and he did it by connecting them to someone we already knew: Mary. However, once everyone is introduced, John shifts gears in v. 5 to put Martha in the spotlight because of the importance of her dialogue with Jesus.

John has a point that he wants to make sure we understand, and he uses every means available to make sure we get it. These kinds of changes are one of the many tools the biblical writers used, and they are comparable to tools found in many other languages. The Lexham High Definition New Testament identifies the most practical of these tools every place they occur in the New Testament. We have looked at how John used ‘characterization’ in John 11, but he is not the only writer to use this convention. Look at how Paul refers to the Father in Eph 1:3: “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”. He is not trying to tell us which ‘God and Father’ he is referring to with “who has blessed us…” He is characterizing God in a particular way based on its importance to what follows. He wants us to recall these qualities and characteristics of God because of their importance to what he is about to tell us in the letter that follows.

Now, the Greek New Testament is not the only place you find (re)characterization used to shift the center of attention back and forth between the actors in a narrative. Most every language does this: The devices may differ from language to language, but the basic task and its effects are the same. For some great examples of shifting the center of attention onto different characters, take a look at Genesis 27. There are SEVEN re-characterizations in ONE chapter. They all coincide with switches in the initiator of the action within the story. Below is a chart with excerpts from the ESV text in one column and a description of what is going on in the other.

If you read the story, take a close look at v. 21. At the point that Isaac is not sure whether to believe Jacob or not, there is no explicit indication of the center of attention. Once he decides to go along with Jacob’s plan, Isaac is referred to as “Isaac his father” in v. 22.

The same device is used in Gen 2-3 to indicate shifts in the center of attention. Take a look at how ‘Eve’ is referred to. She starts as ‘Adam’s wife’ in 2:25, then shifts to ‘the woman’ as she interacts with the serpent in 3:2-6. Then she gives the fruit to ‘her husband’ who eats it, which is consistent with Eve being the center of attention (Adam was last referred to as ‘the man in 2:25). Eve is the initiator and the center of attention for the first part of Genesis 3, which is a shift from Genesis 2. The writer unambiguously communicates this shift through the changes in referring expressions. When the two of them hide from the LORD God in 3:8, ‘they’ hear Him coming and ‘the man and his wife‘ hide themselves. Another switch! There is no need for saying ‘the man and his wife’ since saying ‘they’ would have been just as clear. But making this switch from ‘the woman’ to ‘his wife’ explicitly signals the shift in center of attention from Eve to Adam just before the LORD God addresses Adam as the one responsible for the Fall.

This are just of few examples of ‘characterization’, one of fifteen devices that is included in the soon-to-be-prepubbed Lexham High Definition New Testament. If you found this post helpful, take a look at the post on backgrounding of action or the making of the Lexham High Definition New Testament. Tune in next week to learn about another practical device from this new resource that can help make a difference in your Bible study!

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