Reading with a Print Text & Digital Lexicon

Over the summer I did a series of posts about different ways of reading Greek and Hebrew. I said that my the summer time tools of the trade are a print text and a print lexicon. During the school year, however, I am rarely able to read in my home office. To continue reading with a print text and lexicon would mean that everyday I have to carry multiple heavy books around campus. My favorite way to read hasn’t changed, but during the school year I’m really happy to settle for a print text and digital lexicon.

Print text

NA28, Rahlfs’ Septuagint, a Loeb Crito, and Steadman’s Lysias 1 & Crito are in my bag on most days, but because Rahlf’s Septuagint is so thick, sometimes it gets left behind. I prefer a print text because I think holding a book and flipping pages is more enjoyable, unless the book is old and gross. I realize that sometimes an old book is great, but I am not a fan of mold and other people’s finger grime — for example, crusty library copies of Migne or seminary library copies of a GNT.

Digital lexicon

For New Testament, Septuagint, and classical Greek there are a couple really great, affordable iOS options: Logeion & Protagoras. Logeion is free and includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, big Lewis and Short, little Lewis, and several other Greek and Latin lexicons. Protagoras is only a couple dollars, and for Greek it includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, Slater, and Autenrieth. For Latin it has both the full Lewis and Short and the smaller version by Lewis.

Logeion is amazing because of the way it interacts with Attikos, and because the user interface allows for quick entry and easy movement back and forth between the last few words you’ve looked up. Logeion hasn’t yet been updated for the iPhone X, however.

Protagoras, on the other hand, looks great on the iPhone X, and the developer has formatted the text in a way that makes a big difference for longer entries. Every portion of each entry that was originally in italic type appears in Protagoras as bold-italic. This means that as you scan a long entry your eyes can easily jump from gloss to gloss. For quick reading, this is such a timesaver. The bold glosses and iPhone X support means that I’ve been using Protagoras as my digital lexicon more often than not. One additional feature of Protagoras: it has a bookmark feature. As you are looking up words, you can bookmark them, and after your reading session, or maybe at the end of the week, you can go back to review.

For any lexicon not found in Protagoras or Logeion, I turn to Accordance. It is much more expensive, but it is worth every penny. With Accordance you are looking at a price tag much closer to what you would expect to pay for a print text, and this is completely understandable for works that are still in copyright and/or works that they have labored in house to tag in various ways. BDAG and HALOT, for example, are lexicons that I would do whatever necessary to have digitally and in print.

One final note about the digital options: I appreciate the ability in Protagoras and Accordance to type the Greek word you are looking up in beta code. This just saves the step of having to change your keyboard.


When reading this way, I usually access a digital lexicon on an iPhone, sometimes on an iPad. The bigger screens on the iPhone X or one of the plus models turns thousands of pages with tiny print into a much more readable, handheld reading companion.

This …

becomes this:

I know that the thought of your phone lying directly on top of the book you are trying to read sounds repulsive to some. Random notifications are a real threat, but they’re something that can be muzzled. Waiting for the ideal reading conditions just means you will not read as much text, and the number one thing most people need coming out of their first year of Greek is time in the text reading quickly. For more in that line of thought, see this post on reader’s texts.


Whether you are fresh out of your elementary courses or you’ve been doing this for decades, reading with a print text and digital lexicon is comfortable on the go. Sometimes even at home you just want to sit on the couch and relax with a text and lexicon that makes a small footprint but still gives you all the info you need. This way of reading fits those situations well, too. The print text allows an immersive reading experience and provides all the memory benefits of the sensory experiences that go along with holding a physical book, and the digital lexicon gives you portable, quick access to the vocab you need to keep moving.

This is the primary way I’m reading these days. Read however you like.

Just read.

What is the Benefit of Greek & Hebrew?

Some say reading in Greek and Hebrew versus reading in English is like the difference between watching a show in color versus black and white. Others might say something like 2D versus 3D. I don’t think these are the best way to describe the experience. Reading in Greek and Hebrew slows me down and helps me rummage around in the text and reflect. For me, that’s the core idea. It gives me something to do.

I’m asking and answering this question as someone who initially learned the languages to read and teach Scripture. I’m going to write more about other benefits and things that flow from this rummaging and slow down, but in this post I just want to lay the foundation. How many times have you sat down to prepare to teach or preach and you read your passage and think, “Ok, now what?” If you are reading in the original languages you have so many different resources and tools to explore, and I’m thinking primarily about lexicons and concordances. If you don’t regularly read and work with the original languages, all you can do is skim the surface of an entry in BDAG or HALOT. Exploring contemporary literature, figures of speech, the metaphors used in your passage, looking at a words full range of meaning and determining which meaning is relevant for your passage — these are things you can actually engage in yourself if you can read the language.

But in my opinion, those things are not the primary benefit of the original language slow down. The real benefit comes in your day-to-day reading. It’s about stripping away the familiarity of your natural language and lingering over the original words. Especially for the first few years of reading, you have to decipher every word and phrase, and the fog never really lifts. Sure, after a few years, you may be able to read one or two or four chapters in an hour, but it’s still not English. You’re moving slower, and when I do this, I find that I make connections with other portions of scripture that I wouldn’t make otherwise. With certain phrases come flashes of other stories or scenes, and my imagination takes off. This sort of reading isn’t about exegesis. It’s about rummaging. It’s about trying to step through the wardrobe into the real world of God’s presence.

Word for Mac & iOS

For writing anything more than a note, I use two apps: Ulysses and Word. I like one of them and tolerate the other. I’m just going to tell you about Word today, the one I tolerate.

If I weren’t a student and a teacher, I would never touch Word because Ulysses is absolutely sublime. If your document has footnotes, however, you should be using Zotero, and this means using Word on a Mac or Windows computer. So for the dissertation and any conference papers, I turn to Word. Word also gives you more control for precise, quick formatting, which I need for writing assessments.

For about the past year, Word for Mac has worked well with right-to-left scripts like Hebrew and Aramaic. For a couple decades, Word and Mac didn’t play well together. I you were doing anything with Hebrew you had to use something like LibreOffice or Mellel. Many people don’t realize that this era is over. The only remaining Hebrew/Aramaic hang up is the fact that the vowel points in SBL fonts do not align correctly. As I understand the situation, this is SBL’s problem and not Word’s. My school allows the use of Times New Roman font throughout the entire document, and I actually like the look of TNR for Hebrew, Greek, and English. It’s not my preferred font, but for technical writing it’s easy and everyone has it on their devices. The only situation where you will run into a problem with TNR is if you want to put diacritical marks above a Hebrew letter to mark the letter as “partially visible” or something like that. If you are working with DSS transcriptions, you will probably still have to use SBL Hebrew and Mellel at this point. Hopefully SBL will update their fonts soon.

The real draw towards using Word is that your documents are easily shareable. The chances are that whomever you want to share your work with uses Word. But there is another significant benefit: the iOS app works pretty well, especially if all you need to do is edit documents on the fly. During the past school year, I would take only my iPad to class, and when we found a typo in a quiz, I would fix it right away in the Word iOS app. Occasionally, I would print handouts from Word using Readdle’s Printer Pro, and maybe once or twice I actually wrote a quiz in Word for iOS. This became problematic for the vocab sections of the quiz because for some reason with a multi-column layout combined with Greek polytonic characters, Word began acting crazy. The cursor would jump around all over the place when I would start typing.

I don’t think you can create new character and paragraph styles in Word for iOS, but if you open a document that already has styles applied, you can use those styles with the same document. I think you can also save a blank document as a template with the style you want, and just start there.

One other thing the Word iOS app does really well is work with cloud storage. You can log into your Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox accounts and open files within the Word iOS app. Word downloads the latest version and opens it pretty quickly. While you are working in the document, everything automatically saves, and when you leave the document, Word uploads your changes to your cloud service. Everything stays in sync.

I really prefer to write in Markdown, and that’s where Ulysses comes in. But good old rich text word processing is still necessary for the time being, and Word isn’t bad.

Ways of Reading

Here’s a collection of posts I’ve written on different ways of reading original language texts. I find myself frequently moving from one way of reading to another. Sometimes I read one way for a week or a month or a year, but it’s bound to change. That’s a theme that runs throughout the posts. There isn’t one right way to read. Read however you want. Just read.

Reading with Text & Lexicon

Reading with a print text and a print lexicon is as basic as it gets. This is the way I read today, but like all the other ways of reading, it has its benefits and haunting feelings of guilt.


There is freedom here. No notebooks on the table, no pens to refill with ink, no laptop or tablet needed. Just a text and lexicon. When reading this way, I prefer to use a concise lexicon. So on the table I would have BHS and The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, NA28 and Danker’sConcise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, or Rahlfs and Muraoka or LEH. Sure, Muraoka claims to be a “fully-fledged lexicon,” but it better fits my expectations of a concise or intermediate lexicon. For Biblical Aramaic, Vogt and Fitzmyer is great. When a more comprehensive lexicon is needed, I will generally open an electronic version of HALOT, BDAG, or LSJ. If I’m home, BrillDAG is always handy.


This is a reading workflow that minimizes distraction because only rarely will the concise lexicons be unable to answer whatever vocab related questions that arise. I’m able to forget about everything else and be more immersed in the text.

In addition to the lack digital distractions, there is also the fact that I don’t have to worry about taking notes. When you take notes on everything you look up, the reading experience can turn into more of a note taking experience. When you close the books, it doesn’t feel like you have just stepped out of the wardrobe, but out of the classroom, where the teachers are dead lexicographers.

Of course, reading this way also forces me to think through the morphology of forms and not rely on digital helps to parse words, but I do this no matter how I read. I have never made digital resources crutches. I don’t personally know anyone who has. I think many who recommend a completely analog way of reading do so for fear of “digital crutches.” While this is no doubt a legitimate concern in a seminary classroom filled with students juggling family and church and work and academic schedules, anyone reading this far into this post should probably shirk such feelings of guilt. You are sufficiently dedicated to reading texts in their original languages that any sort of guilty feeling concerning digital crutches is misplaced guilt.

Reading with print text and lexicon encourages me to linger a little longer over the lexicon entry. I want to remember the word’s semantic range next time I come across it, and I am not taking notes I can look back on. In a related line of thought, I’m also not dependent upon the gloss provided by a reader’s text. I can get the full semantic range every time I look up a word — or at least the full semantic range a word has in a given body of literature. If I’m working with a good concise lexicon, at a glance I will also see all the forms of the word or at least its principal parts.

Finally, this way of reading will work with any language or body of literature. You don’t have to wait on someone to make a reader’s this or that. As long as you have a text and lexicon, you are good to go.

Wrapping Up

This way of reading is a little slower than reading with a reader’s text and faster than reading with paper and pen, but is it a happy medium? Well, it is hard to shake the feeling that I should be taking notes on everything I look up, but I think it is. Using a print text and lexicon is a solid way of reading, and the benefits far out weigh the negatives. I think I was first encouraged to read this way by Charles Halton in a Hebrew exegesis class, but I haven’t spent as much time with this MO as others. I’m going to continue reading this way over the summer, but you read however you want.

Just read.

Comparing OT Texts in Accordance

After saving a workspace, you can launch it with just a couple clicks. This is one of my favorite features in Accordance. As I show below, it only takes a minute to set up, and a second or two to launch. I regularly use this feature to quickly see several ancient versions of the Old Testament in parallel.

Set up the texts

Open your Hebrew Bible, and use the Add Parallel button to add the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls and all the other ancient versions you have in your library.

Save the workspace

Order the columns however you like, and then go to File > Open Workspace > Add Workspace and name it something like OT Texts.

Next time

Now, the next time you are in an OT text and want to check the readings of other ancient witnesses, simply two-finger click (or right-click) on the verse reference and go to My Workspaces > OT Texts. This will open a new workspace in a separate window with all the ancient versions in parallel. When you are finished, close that window and your back to your text.

Video Example

Reading with a Reader’s Text

I’ve spent a lot of time with reader’s texts, and I even helped publish one. I wanted to share the journey and what I think about this way of reading.

In the Beginning

My journey began in 2008, when the first edition of the UBS Greek New Testament Reader’s Edition was hot off the the press. I loved it because it’s typographically easy on the eyes — so much better than the Zondervan edition available at the time — and it also includes parsing information for more difficult forms. The parsing information allowed me to stay in the text; it eliminated the need to open a computer program to check the parsing of irregular forms. I was one year into Greek and could not wait to start reading.

Reading through the UBS GNT laid a solid foundation of vocabulary knowledge that made reading the text more enjoyable and beneficial. I’ve never done this for the Hebrew Bible, and sometimes I wonder if this might be why I am drawn to reading Greek so much more than Hebrew.


Zondervan released individually bound reader’s texts, as well. In fact, they got the ball rolling. The first edtion of their Reader’s Greek New Testament was incredibly thin and portable. I didn’t begin using it until it was released in a second corrected edition; it’s now in a third.

I bought Zondervan’s Reader’s Hebrew Bible shortly after it was released in 2008 and used it some, but I never really liked it. The font is too large, the word spacing seems weird, and there is no parsing help.

After the UBS Greek New Testament, the next edition I spent significant time with was Zondervan’s Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible. For several months this was my go-to text. Unfortunately, the GNT has typography issues, too, and when you bind both of these together the issues are even more pronounced. The Greek is too small and light, while the Hebrew is too big and very bold. It is so convenient, though, to have a reader’s GNT and Hebrew Bible bound together that I was willing to overlook the poor formatting. This is the Bible I would take to church, and no matter what the sermon was on, I had a text ready to roll.

I gave away both individually bound Zondervan volumes — the Reader’s Greek New Testament and the Reader’s Hebrew Bible — but I still occasionally use the Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible.

I also ocassionally use the third edition of the Reader’s Greek New Testament for a few reasons. The third edition is as slim as ever, and the font has been updated to the Zondervan Greek font you find in their most recent publications. In our Greek 3 NT Readings class at HLS, we use the Zondervan’s third edition and this 2011 edition of the UBS Greek New Testament Reader’s Edition, which we bought really cheap shortly after the UBS5 reader’s text was released.

Better Days

In 2014 and 2015 Hendrickson and the Bible Society released Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia A Reader’s Edition and the UBS5 Greek New Testament Reader’s Edition. Both are beautiful. The black Flexisoft versions look and feel very similar.

The GNT is updated in at least four ways:

  1. The text is updated from UBS4 to UBS5, changing in 33 places.
  2. The dictionary in the back has been updated to reflect the 2010 version of Barclay Newman’s Concise Dictionary of the New Testament.
  3. The cover has a soft back leather-like feel.
  4. The font is a bit more clearly rendered.

The BHS Reader’s Edition is a first edtion, and it is remarkably better than the Zondervan version in several ways:

  1. The font is SBL Hebrew.
  2. The text is laid out in a more natural way.
  3. The footnotes include a concise parsing code.
  4. All Hebrew verb paradigms, strong and weak, are listed in the back just before the dictionary of more common forms.
  5. The pages are thick, like the UBS5 GNT, which means there is hardly any bleed through. The pages are a pleasure to flip through.

The parsing code comes with a learning curve, but it didn’t take but a day or two to get the hang of it.

I use these reader’s editions from time to time and love them. Just this evening, I was letting my kiddos run in the back yard before bedtime. I couldn’t go into a full blown text-lexicon-notebook type reading mode. That would have required more focus than I could give. Had to keep an eye on my little trampoline-bouncing acrobats. I was, however, able to comfortably read through a chapter of Genesis with just the BHS Reader’s Edition, even while refereeing various disputes and tragedies such as the time when Peppa Pig was trapped under the car. I could sit with one book in my lap, be immersed in the text, and glance down to the bottom of the page for whatever vocab or parsing I wanted to check.

Benefit at Your Own Risk

Reader’s texts aren’t for every situation. You can catch some serious judgment if you’re caught with one of these things in certain academic environments. Some think that everyone toting a reader’s text is a cheater, a lazy person who doesn’t have what it takes to really learn the languages.

I emphatically disagree. I know how much it helped me to read through the GNT for the first time with a reader’s text, and I know that I don’t lean on these things as crutches. I have notebook upon notebook, physical and digital, full of voab and grammar notes that testify to my willingness to “do it the hard way.” But as I described above, there are times when a reader’s text is just helpful given your circumstances. Sometime you just want to sit down and read. The name of this type of Bible is quite fitting — reader’s.

This judgment issue is part of the reason I’m writing these posts on different ways of reading. I’m stuck at a bit of a crossroads concerning how to move forward so I’m writing about it. I’ll continue to read in all the ways I describe. Maybe I’ll settle in to one way for a year, but experience tells me that it won’t last forever.

Read however the mood strikes you. Just read.

Bible Odyssey: What is the Oldest Bible?

I wrote an article for Bible Odyssey answering this question.

Bible Odyssey is an online initiative of SBL intended to communicate the results of scholarship to a popular audience.

The article is a response to several user questions related to the issue of “oldest Bible.” I tried to explain that the answer depends on what one means by “oldest” (materially? textually?) and by “Bible” (a bound book? Protestant? Catholic?).

On the bottom right of the page there is also a related links section where I provide links to a few of the manuscripts and editions mentioned in the article.

Check it out.

Andrew Perrin on the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls


Ancient Jew Review has posted an interview I did recently with Andrew Perrin on his new book The Dynamics of Dream-Vision Revelation in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls (V&R, 2015).
Here’s a portion of the interview where Andrew is explaining the topic of the book and its intersection with modern scholarship:

Highlighting the centrality of dream-visions to the thought world of the Aramaic texts was simply a departure point that lead to a host of new questions and implications. What interested me most was not just the arresting concentration of “new” revelation in the Aramaic texts, but how dream-visions were composed and what purposes they served. What we see happening in the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls is that dream-visions are structured and presented using what appears to be a common stock of literary features and linguistic idioms. That is, there are close similarities in form across the collection.

In tandem with this, the writers of the Aramaic texts utilized the dream-vision as a vehicle to advance or address a rather limited set of concerns: exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures, endorsing priestly practices or theology, and as a historiographical tool for claiming that history is predetermined and directed by the God of Israel. That is, there are analogies in function across the collection. In view of these parallel findings, I conclude that the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls do hang together as a group, making the term “corpus” an adequate descriptor for these materials.

Throughout the interview, Andrew does a great job discussing the relevance of his work even for those outside DSS studies. You can read more in the AJR interview.

HB in the DSS using Accordance 11

Here is a video showing how you can use the INFER-search to find direct or indirect references to the Hebrew Bible in the DSS. The steps are the same as those listed yesterday for the NT in the Didache post. There is audio in this one. Steps:

  1. Open a tagged Hebrew Bible, limit your search as you would like, type an asterisk and press ENTER to find all the words in the range you prefer.
  2. Open your non-biblical DSS and run an INFER-search. You can also right-click and use the search back feature, as I showed yesterday, but that isn’t relevant for this video since I limited it to one verse in the Hebrew Bible.