Author: Brian Davidson

Two Ways in Matt 5:13–16

If Matthew 5:13 says that disciples are salt and this means that because they have encountered Jesus and been fundamentally changed they are worthless to the world, what does Matthew 5:14–16 mean?

In Matthew 5:14–16, disciples are called light, and they are called to let that light shine so that people will glorify God. Verses 14–16 seem to imply that some people will in fact receive the disciples well and glorify God because of them.

You could then read Matthew 5:13–16 as a sort of two-ways text. The four verses would serve as an explanation and final consolation following on the heels of the beatitudes.

The beatitudes end with a difficult to receive promise of suffering for disciples. Verses 13–16, then, explain that it isn’t all bad. Jesus’ disciples will, quite naturally, be trampled by some people (ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, v.13). Disciples should, nevertheless, let their light shine before people (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, v. 16) because some will receive them well and glorify God. The verses are tied together by the fact that they both concern how people (ἄνθρωποι) receive Jesus’ disciples.

There are two ways: One leads to death (5:13). Many walk this path, and their footsteps echo the sounds of the martyrs crying out, “How long?!” The other way leads to life (5:14–16). Few walk this path, but if you get close enough to it you hear the songs of the saints singing the praises of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Saltiness as Worldliness – Matt 5:13 again

A few years ago, I wrote a post about reading Matthew 5:13 a little differently. Well, today I’m reading it the same way, and I just wanted to note that again.

Perhaps the whole preservation quality of salt has distracted us from the point of this verse. Perhaps Jesus employs a salt metaphor not because salt preserves, which of course it does, but because it provides a clear example of something that can lose its natural qualities (worldliness) and then serve a less honorable purpose (trampling).

So, perhaps Jesus is saying disciples are salt because they have lost their worldliness and are now objects of trampling only. To me, this makes the transition from 11–12 to 13 make more sense. In the next post, I want to try to explain how this flows into the next three verses.

Thanks, Accordance

I don’t know how I missed this. Today, I discovered that in the Accordance iOS app you can copy a link to a particular place in a resource, paste that link in your notes, and make your notes, in whatever app you use, hyperlinked to Accordance. I love it.

For those of you that might be interested in how this can be useful in note taking, I tweeted a screen recording.

During Christmas break, I had a chance to actually work with Accordance 13 on the Mac and the new(ish) iOS app. I really appreciate the aesthetic shine both apps have now. Dark mode is gorgeous on the Mac, but the appearance of both apps has significantly improved over the past year (not to mention the substantial functionality improvements with live click on the Mac and the keyboard shortcuts on iOS). It is stability, however, is what shifted my reading and reference workflows back to being Accordance-primary.

Because some key resources (GE/BrillDAG, Croy’s Greek grammar, Oxford Latin Dictionary, Whitaker’s Words, Collins Latin Dictionary) are in Logos and not Accordance, for the past few months I had been primarily — almost exclusively — using Logos. During holiday travels, however, I took only my iPad for reading. After a few days, the Logos iOS app proved to be too buggy for regular, sustained reading. The primary problem was that the text in resources would randomly jump up half a paragraph or more when I went to scroll. I pointed this out at the end of my Logos 8 review, and it hasn’t been fixed.

This and other stability issues led me to open the Accordance app. During the last few days of traveling, I spent several hours reading in the Accordance iOS app, and it was rock solid. I’m just discovering some of the delightful, newer polishes and improvements. The developers deserve some serious thanksgiving. I want to quote here something I said in a my iOS App Store review:

Accordance is a classy company that focuses on quality work and has done so for 25 years. I trust Accordance, and I prefer to invest my personal library budget in their books over print or other digital platforms.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there isn’t just one way of reading. I read with print books, with Logos, with Accordance, with open source online tools, and various other combinations of print and digital media. I’ll continue to use them all.

Today, however, I just wanted to say thanks to the Accordance folks. Y’all rock.

Accordance iOS app on an iPad in split view with Ulysses on the right for note taking

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!