Reading with a Reader’s Text and Full Lexicon

Lately, I’ve enjoyed the balance of using a reader’s text and a bigger lexicon. I say “balance” because this combination allows you to move quickly when you want to move quickly, and for me that is what I want most of the time. The reader’s text facilitates this wonderfully. When I want to step into the bigger picture and explore the broader meaning of a word, when I want more than a basic gloss or a meaning in this context, the big lexicons are what I want. Lexicons that are devoted to the particular corpus you are reading will often even satisfy the desire to check your understanding of a particular phrase in a particular verse because they provide translations of so many occurrences. So in addition to giving you a more complete picture on the use of a word across time or across the literature you are reading, the big lexicons frequently eliminate the need to consult your favorite translation, as well.

Details by Corpus

For the New Testament, I’ve really enjoyed the Tyndale House reader’s edition this year (leather/hardback). I’ll do full post on it this summer, but what I enjoy about it is everything from the font, to the paragraph layout, to the textual choices (cf. 2 Corithians 5:3, ἐνδυσάμενοι), and more. The lexicons of choice have been either BDAG, Montanari’s GE, or LSJ. Depending on the scenario, I’ll use print or digital versions of the lexicons.

For the Septuagint, the new reader’s edition is splendid (flexisoft). I’ve been in Leviticus and enjoying reference to LSJ, Montanari, and occassionally Muraoka or LEH.

For Anabasis, Steadman’s reader has been great. He only has books 1 and 4, but all I’ve needed this year is book 1. Eventually, I will have to turn to the Loeb, which is fine, but a reader is always preferable. It’s usually a digital LSJ that I turn to when I want more. Montanari would be great, but when I finally get around to Xenophon during the week I’m rarely in my office and I never have time to flip pages and read leisurely.

Hebrew has been on the back burner, but with a friend I’m making another pass through Genesis in the BHS reader’s edition (flexisoft). I normally turn to digital versions of HALOT or CDCH, but when I’m home I go to my print copy of Holladay (because of Michel Gilbert’s experience shared here and here).

Conclusion

Usually when you want to turn from a reader’s text and explore a bigger lexical work, it is more enjoyable to use a print lexicon if the situation allows. This weekend it’s been the reader’s GNT, BDAG in print, and Apple’s Arcade Fire Essentials playlist. Saturday mornings are made for this sort of reading experience.

There are so many ways to read in the original languages. Don’t latch onto one way and make that the only way you can feel satisfied in doing it. Just do it.

On 2 Corinthians

I am alway struck by how challenging it is to read 2 Corinthians in Greek. I’ve been taking my time going over and over chapters 4 and 5 this week, and as the week drew to a close it was a couple phrases at the beginning of chapter 5 that really spoke to me.

5:4

ἐφ᾿ ᾧ οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι ἀλλ᾿ ἐπενδύσασθαι

so we don’t want to take off [our physical bodies] but to put on over top [an immortal one]

This verse so affirmingly speaks to my fear of death. Oddly enough, when scripture says “Yeah, I get it. I hear you” that doesn’t say to me “Fearing is what you should do. Living in fear is OK.” Rather, the effect is calming and comforting. It says my experience is a part of the real world projected by scripture. It’s on God’s radar.

5:5

Ὁ δὲ κατεργασάμενος ἡμᾶς εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο θεός

The one who equipped us for this same thing is God

This thought has been echoing in my experience over the past couple months, as I’ve watched friends suffer unimaginably and God sustain them. God equips us for what we have to deal with when we have to deal with it — death, too.

Are these thoughts directly tied to the original context of the letter? I don’t know. I think I would recognize any red flags of wandering into crazy town, but honestly I’m just not thinking along those lines. The text projects a world and I’m trying to step in and see my world in light of it.

Lingering slowly in 2 Corinthians has been really beneficial this week.

Logos 8 – Notable Performance Improvements

For over ten years I used Logos as my primary tool for studying the Bible. A few years ago, however, it seemed clear to me that my primary interests and the focus of Faithlife (the company that makes Logos) were going in different directions. I wanted a product that prioritized original language research, and it seemed to me that Faithlife was focusing primarily on creating new ways for their average customer to discover new things in Scripture. Helping people discover new insights is great, but it wasn’t where my interests were. I was struggling in the forums to get typos fixed in what I considered to be key resources, and so I eventually made the move to Accordance. I love Accordance and still use it every day. So why am I reconsidering Logos?

At some point, Logos ironed out the typographical problems in their Dead Sea Scrolls resources. That was the primary issue that turned me away from the product. Recently, they also significantly upgraded their mobile app — changes that affect the every day reading experience. Tabbed browsing makes it easier to have multiple resources open and easily move between them. What I care about is how quickly and fluidly I can move throughout the program, open resources, look up words, and run searches without seeing the spinning beach ball of sluggishness. The reading experience is the key.

Finally, when Logos 8 released I heard there were significant performance improvements, and this is what made me want to give it another shot. Logos is notorious for severely taxing older computers with an intense, frequent indexing process, and in my opinion, the program has not been snappy since the Libronix/Logos 3 days. The way the promotional material spoke about performance improvements tipped the scales. I had to give it another shot. I’ve been using Logos 8 for a couple months now, and here are a few thoughts on my experience with both the Mac and iOS apps.

Mac app

I have been using Logos 8 on two laptops:

  1. a mid-2014 MacBook Pro with a 2.2GHz i7, 256GB SSD, and 16GB of RAM
  2. an early-2014 MacBook Air with a 1.4GHz i5, 128GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM

Here’s the scoop: Logos 8 runs well on both machines.

On the MacBook Pro, I thought the performance was solid from start to finish. The startup time was very reasonable, it was easy to open and move around multiple resources, searches were very fast, and much to my surprise even the indexing process seemed more efficient. I am really happy with how quickly I can open multiple resources, move them around, and run searches. At no point did I hit a wall where I thought the program was having to catch up. That’s a big deal, but that is also on a MacBook Pro. Granted, it’s a four year old MacBook Pro, but it has 16GB of RAM.

The real story here is that Logos 8 runs well on my MacBook Air with a measly 4GB of RAM! I did not expect this. I want to illustrate what I mean by “well,” so the video below demonstrates basic performance functions like opening the program, opening resources, moving them around, looking up words, and running a simple morphological search — text, lexicon, & concordance work.

Even in a resource as typographically complex as the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts, I can scroll through the resource with relative ease. If I scroll down or up as fast as I can in any of the resources I opened, eventually scrolling becomes jumpy, but that is not a big deal. You don’t navigate from Matthew to James by scrolling. You use the navigation box. If you just want to scroll a few paragraphs or chapters or even to the next book of the Bible, that’s no problem.

I don’t have any detailed metrics to report — just a video and my testimony based on every day, normal use. I am happy with the performance of the Logos 8 Mac app.

iOS app

The iOS app serves well as an on-the-go reading companion. You can download books for offline access, including morphologically tagged resources. So if you want to download your GNT and be able to double-click for morphological information and quick word lookups, you can do this even when offline. When your text is downloaded and the lexicons you want to access are downloaded to your mobile device, looking up words is fast — down right snappy.

The mobile app features tabbed browsing and the ability to save workspaces. This means that I can create a workspace for reading Anabasis with the text, lexicon, reading notes, and companion grammar, easily swipe between the resources, and then save that workspace when I’m done and navigate to another reading setup for the GNT or Hebrew Bible.

Aesthetically, both the Mac and iOS apps look great. I love the Greek and Latin fonts. The iOS app is particularly noteworthy because it fills the screen of the latest iOS devices, from edge to edge, and has a true black reading mode that is gorgeous on OLED displays. Here is a video that illustrates opening a saved workspace, looking up words, navigating to another workspace, and using tabbed browsing. I’m recording this on a 2018 12.9 iPad Pro:

As a reading companion, the app does its job, but there are a few annoying glitches that affect the reading experience. For example, if you need to look up multiple words in a sentence and want to do this by double-clicking each word, you find that double-clicking frequently just highlights the next word without showing the quick information pop-up. The other issue is that sometimes the app seems to cause the resource you are viewing to jump several lines up. This happens most frequently when flicking between tabbed resources in the same workspace.

These issues are much easier to illustrate with a video. In what follows note that every other word shows the information pop-up. The second issue is harder to reproduce, but it does happen a couple times toward the end. As I move around in the text and flip back and forth between resources, notice that the text jumps from Matthew 5:24 to Matthew 5:9. This happens around second 40. The same thing happens again around second 50.

Conclusion

I’m really happy to say that Logos 8 seems like a mature product. There are new, experimental features, but the performance improvements make Logos 8 seem to me like the most stable, efficiently running version since the era before the major rewrite that took place between Logos 3 and 4. I have tried to show here that for everyday reading, lexicon work, and research, Logos 8 should run well enough on older, entry-level laptops, as well as more robust machines. I’m sure there are portions of the program that would still push an old MacBook Air to the limit, but those are not features that I have encountered as I use the software for teaching, reading, and reference. At this point, the mobile app still seems primarily intended to be a reading companion to the Mac app, but if you primarily use the software to read and reference lexicons, the mobile app can serve as your primary driver. I use it far more than the desktop version, and overall I’m happy with it. I hope the glitches noted above will be fixed soon, and I would love to see more robust, full-featured morphological and lemma search functionality come to the mobile app.

You can learn more about Logos 8 here. Note especially the free basic academic package and the academic discount program. They have other academic packages, as well. These are streamline packages intended to better meet the needs of students and those interested primarily in original languages.

Obligatory disclosure statement: Logos provided me a free upgrade to version 8 for review.

Reading the LXX as It Was Intended

When the new Reader’s Septuagint arrived, I picked up right where I left off in Rahlfs, somewhere in the middle of Exodus. This morning I read Leviticus 1. After slowly reading through the chapter out loud, jotting down some thoughts along the way, and having closed the book, I sat and thought to myself just how thankful I am.

I’ve been wanting a reader’s Septuagint for over a decade, since the time I first started enjoying a reader’s GNT. Having spent several hours in the reader’s version of Exodus, Psalms, Leviticus, and 1 Maccabees, my initial impression is delight and overwhelming gratitude for Ross and Lanier’s hard word. You guys killed it.

I think this is the way the LXX was intended to be read. You are supposed to read it like a book, as Greek, not a distorted reflection of the Hebrew. It is hard for biblical studies people to read it that way because we have that built in reflex to wonder about the underlying Hebrew. The reader’s text makes it so much easier to stay in the text and simply read and reflect on the Greek text.

The Greek Bible is a joy, and the reader’s text makes it easier to truly read. Thank you!

Accordance Edition of Discovering the LXX

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There is nothing exactly like Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (DLXX). This resources is aptly titled because it isn’t just a “reader’s edition.” It is a guide to reading the Septuagint. Reader’s editions of the Bible typically provide only vocabulary and parsing helps. Working through DLXX is like sitting down and reading with someone that has experience. As you read together, a whole host of topics are covered. The majority of the conversation focuses on what you need most, vocab and parsing helps, but there are also comments that speak to the underlying Hebrew, comments about the similar uses of words or phrases in other LXX passages, comments related to syntax, suggestions for translation, and more. Despite the fact that Hendrickson published a full, two-volume Septuagint Reader’s Edition this month, the variety of comments offered in DLXX makes it a unique, helpful resource for students who have only a little experience reading Greek.

What’s Included

Every portion of the print book is included in the Accordance edition of DLXX. As the picture above shows, the table of contents pane, which can be shown or hidden, allows you to easily navigate to all the front and end matter and each passage in between.

DLXX includes readings from Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Additions to LXX Esther, Psalms, Jonah, Malachi, and Isaiah. When someone picks up a Septuagint — whether Rahlfs’ edition or the massive two-volume reader’s edition — it’s common to ask, “Where should I start?” DLXX is helpful at this point. Karen Jobes explains,

The texts were selected to give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament. It is intended to aid students who have had at least three semesters of koine Greek begin to read the Greek Jewish Scriptures as found in the Rahlfs-Hanhart critical edition of the Septuagint.

The Septuagint is huge and its contents are so varied and vast. I appreciate that DLXX allows readers to experience some of this variety.

Regarding the Notes

I’ve only had a little time to spend with DLXX so far, but I can say that I do indeed think the notes will help students move from the New Testament to the Septuagint. I learned to navigate the Septuagint during years of PhD seminars, but I was not so fortunate with classical Greek. For classical, the work of Geoffrey Steadman has served as my “guided reader.” Up to this point there has been nothing like Steadman for biblical studies. I think DLXX takes a step towards meeting this need.

Each section starts with an introduction to the book and a bibliography for further reading. At the end of each passage, the NETS translation is included for reference.

In the section on Exodus 20:1–21, Carmen Imes has formatted the text so that the reader can easily see how the ten commandments passage in Exodus differs from the Deuteronomy account.

The textual notes below are based on the Exodus version, but differences in Deuteronomy are included in brackets. If the text in brackets replaces text appearing in Exodus, the replaced text is underlined. If a word or words from Exodus are lacking in Deuteronomy, the brackets enclose a dash [-] and the missing text is underlined. Other material in brackets is unique to Deuteronomy. The verses that precede and follow the Deuteronomy Decalogue have not been included here. The simultaneous presentation of both versions of the Ten Words should allow easier comparison.

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One could say that this sort of formatting clutters the text and is distracting, but that would be to judge the work as though it were intended to be a pure reader’s edition. DLXX is not a pure reader’s edition, and so I think this feature is really nice.

I also appreciate how the editors comment on how certain LXX passages are used in the New Testament. Here is a screenshot of a chart that appears at the end of the Psalm 21 passage. I long-held on one of the hyperlinked NT passages to have the NT passage popup.

Regarding the Electronic Version

Because the notes for each verse are listed directly underneath the individual verses, the Accordance electronic edition is most easily read on a bigger screen. Here are screen shots of the same passage on a 15” laptop, a 10.5” tablet, and a 6.5” phone:

Ps 21:1 in DLXX on a 15” laptop
Ps 21:1 in DLXX on a 10.5” tablet
Ps 21:1 in DLXX on a 6.5” phone

As you can see, some scrolling up and down would be required to see all the notes for Psalm 21:1, but I think this is a better option than having users click on a little footnote reference to see each note.

One fantastic feature of the electronic edition is being able to click on the verse reference and pull up the passage in the new text browser.

This allows you to quickly see the verse you are studying in whatever editions and translation you have in your library.

Accordance always does a great job with their electronic editions. Quality is always the first priority. You don’t have to worry about buying DLXX in Accordance and finding that it is a quick scan, typo-ridden, sub-par version of the print copy.

I do, however, wish the individual verses were morphologically tagged. Since the Septuagint text is from Rahlfs and Accordance has a fantastic tagged Rahlfs text, I hope morphological tagging will be added to each verse in a future update. Having the text tagged, even if Accordance had to charge a little extra, would greatly increase the value and usefulness of the electronic edition.

Conclusion

The editors state in the introduction that this book is intended for those who have had three semesters of New Testament Greek. After three semesters of fast-paced seminary Greek, most students are still struggling with the basics of Koine grammar. They still need help with parsing and recognizing the principal parts of common words; they have no experience with the oddities of the Septuagint. For this audience, DLXX is a fantastic personal guide. It’s also ideal for anyone who has started down that path and turned back because of the strange sights and sounds found in Rahlfs’ big blue abyss.

Encountering Exodus 32 in the LXX

I experienced a passage in Exodus this morning as I never have before. I was reading Exodus 32, and verses 17–18 seemed to jump off the page. I have read this passage before in the Septuagint, but perhaps I was moving a little too fast. I was reading for comprehensive exams the first time, and that sort of reading is rarely reflective. Here’s the passage:

καὶ ἀκούσας Ἰησοῦς τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ λαοῦ κραζόντων λέγει πρὸς Μωυσῆν Φωνὴ πολέμου ἐν τῇ παρεμβολῇ. 18 καὶ λέγει Οὐκ ἔστιν φωνὴ ἐξαρχόντων κατ᾿ ἰσχὺν οὐδὲ φωνὴ ἐξαρχόντων τροπῆς, ἀλλὰ φωνὴν ἐξαρχόντων οἴνου ἐγὼ ἀκούω.

And when Joshua heard the sound of the people crying out, he said to Moses, “That’s the sound of war in the camp! [Moses responded] and said, “It’s not the sound of those marching ahead with force or of those turning to run. But the sound of those marching headlong into wine is what I hear.”

Now, that’s my idiomatic translation, and it captures the way I experienced the text. Rendering ἐνάρχομαι in verse 18 is difficult to do in an idiomatic way. It translates three instances of IV.ענה, to sing. Here’s the Hebrew of verse 18:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת גְּבוּרָה וְאֵין קוֹל עֲנוֹת חֲלוּשָׁה קוֹל עַנּוֹת אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ

It’s not the sound of conquering or the sound of defeat; it’s the sound of singing I hear.”

Whatever you do with ἐνάρχομαι, it seems pretty clear to me that the Septuagint is a little more explicit about what is happening. I hear more contrast and perhaps frustration with the addition of ἀλλά and especially the addition of οἶνος, wine — a word that makes explicit the real reason the people were in such an uproar.

So, I’m drawing no major text-critical conclusions here; it’s just striking. This verse made me stop and reflect and visualize the scene as I never had before. I had to check the Hebrew to see if the Septuagint text was different in any way, and as it turns out, it is just different enough from the Hebrew to at least partially explain why the passage seemed so fresh and new.

Incidentally, I was reading in the new Septuagint Reader’s Edition, which you can still get for a fantastic price at CBD. More on that edition in the coming weeks.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 7

I listened to a twenty-two year old speak for over an hour this morning (Sunday morning). Every word, apart from names, was in ancient Greek. You are probably like me and find that hard to believe. I too would have been skeptical eight days ago, but the σύνοδος has happened. I saw it, heard it, experienced it. I can’t undo this week.

I’m leaving the σύνοδος feeling like I have seen my future. I simply did not know this was possible. I could continue reading and teaching as I always have, but what I learned this week is that if I go that route, I and my students will read only a small fraction of the Greek that would be possible by learning to speak Greek fluently.

One of the objections that I had before this week, and one I frequently hear from others, is that this is a waste of time because you are just learning a bunch of words that refer to modern things you will never encounter in texts. This is one of the most unbelievable parts of it all — almost every single word I heard and spoke this week is in LSJ! It really is ancient Greek. Sure, there were no cars in the first century, but there were contraptions in which you sit and ride. A car is just a ἅμαξα (LSJ gloss: wagon). Christophe uses ancient Greek words, but he simply applies them to new contexts. Yet another aspect of the week I couldn’t have believed until I saw it.

Today (Monday), I started working through the Polis Greek book. The one other post I want to write is a post that lists everything I plan to do in the coming year to prepare for next year’s σύνοδος.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 4

Today seemed to be a turning point. When we had discussions about texts and pictures, everyone was eager to talk and ask questions. The whole week has been marked by generosity, humility, and sincerity on be part of both the students and teachers. It’s really been remarkable. Until today, however, you could see and feel a sense of apprehension when Stephen or Christophe would stop speaking and ask if anyone has questions. Not only did people feel free to ask questions today, but we all had plenty to say.

The highlight of the morning was when Stephen had us discuss a story about a goddess that essentially took the life of her sons because their work was so difficult. By taking their life, she ushered them into a glory-filled, grief-free existence. I think every student in the class shared an opinion concerning whether it was right for the mother to do this or not. The thoughts shared were not just short little random bursts. Rather, when someone shared a thought, another would follow up with a question or an affirmation or another perspective. In short, we actually had a dialogue in which everyone participated. Stephen has done such a fantastic job leading us in these discussions this week.

The remainder of the morning we learned another host of everyday words. We moved from how to speak about getting dressed, to words that take us to the bus stop and then to work, which for most of us is a school of some sort. After lunch, Stephen directed our discussion of a few comedic pictures, and we worked in small groups of two or three to discuss them. Each time he cut us loose, I got lost in conversation with the person sitting next to me.

The biggest portion of the afternoon was spent with Christophe reading to us Hansel and Gretel. An illustrated version of the story in Greek was projected on the board, and Christophe read it to us slowly and in such a charmingly animated way. It was a long telling of the story, and almost all the vocabulary were common, Hellenistic words. The combination of the familiar vocabulary and Christophe’s ability to read in such a vivid way made the whole evening enchanting. We were not allowed to touch our lexica. Christophe was the lexicon. He would go to great lengths to explain the words by acting out the meaning or running to the kitchen to grab an example of the word. No English glosses were given, of course. Rather, he portrayed the meaning by acting out boisterous illustrations marked by a myriad of ancient Greek words. Greek flows out of Christophe like bourbon flows out of Kentucky. We spent about two and a half hours listening to this story and asking him whatever questions came to mind.

I left the σύνοδος today with a full heart and a worn out mind. Our teachers are such kind souls, full of so much life and joy. The students are here to learn and I cannot think of one situation I’ve been in that was marked by pretense. I have yet to find a good way to say the word “fun” in Greek, but Stephen did help me find a way to say something pretty close: ἀπολαύω τούτου, I’m enjoying this.

It’s time to relax a little before working on tomorrow’s readings.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 3

Today was so much better. I drove home to see the family this evening so just a few thoughts tonight.

First thing this morning we all drove to the university arboretum, and after Christophe talked about the basic parts of a tree, we split off into our beginner and advanced groups. Walking together made a huge impact on how readily students were willing to talk with one another. I had a couple long conversations, and because these were with fellow students who share the same low-level conversational skills I was able to converse for about half an hour with understanding. This felt fantastic.

In the afternoon we discussed several pictures and texts, and Christophe continued to teach us everyday vocabulary. We talked about how to set a table for dinner and how to speak about getting up in the morning and getting dressed.

Yesterday felt like a disaster, but today felt like a success. The long conversations at the arboretum with fellow students is a highlight of the week. Yesterday, conversing in ancient Greek felt impossible, but today I was able to have a continuous half hour conversation. I also felt like I was able to more easily hear with understanding.

Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ (καὶ τοῖς διδασκάλοις ἡμῶν περὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας αὐτῶν).