Tag: Logos

Online English to Greek Lexicon

Someone asked me today how to say “differently” in Ancient Greek. I pointed them to Woodhouse online and then remembered that I have never highlighted this resource on the blog.

The University of Chicago has put together a nice website that allows you to search for English keywords and go directly to the relevant page scan of Woodhouse. Searching for the word differently will take you to a link for page 223 where you can see the Ancient Greek options.

You can purchase Woodhouse in Logos, as well.

Accordance Lite & Logos Basic

I highly recommend Accordance Bible Software. The company prioritizes the development of original language resources and works hard to produce quality, reliable software the first time.

I no longer recommend Logos Bible Software. I loved it for years, was frustrated with it for years, and finally sold all of it I could. Logos has some wonderful people working for them — several of whom are friends — but the company’s focus and my interests parted ways. You can find my posts in their forums if you want details. I do, however, still use the software a few times a week because they have Croy’s Greek grammar, which is one of the grammars I teach from, and they also have Steve Runge’s and Rick Brannan’s and Ken Penner’s awesome work. If it weren’t for Accordance — and especially the way the program developed between versions 10 and 11 — I would probably still be using and recommending Logos.

Both Accordance and Logos have recently released free versions of their programs, and I think this is fantastic. Now, the top two Bible software companies have free versions that give the average person studying the Bible what they need most — a searchable text — and both platforms allow users to expand their electronic libraries to their hearts’ content.

When many people first consider Bible software, they just want a searchable English Bible. But they know there is this thing out there called Bible software that promises to help them in many more ways than by simply providing a searchable text. They know they will likely want more in the future, but for now they just want a free searchable text. Now, they can take that first step with either or both of the two best options. They can explore and see which one they like better, and if the time comes to expand, they will already have the two best options on their computer — or more likely their tablet and phone.

Check them out yourself:

Accordance Lite

Logos Basic

Discourse Commentaries by Steve Runge


You don’t own a New Testament commentary like this these. Even if you have every commentary mentioned in Carson’s popular NT Commentary survey, you’ll find Steve Runge’s High Definition Commentaries a helpful addition to your library. Runge’s High Definition Commentaries on Romans and Philippians are 15% off for the next 24 hours (use HighDefCom at checkout), so I thought I would write a brief explanation of why I think they are so useful for both academics and pastors that are less interested in scholarly debates.

For those outside academia

Those outside of academia tend to lose interest in commentaries that spend too much time surveying scholarly debates. There is a time and place for every sort of commentary, even those that focus more on secondary literature than the text. But Runge’s commentaries are different in ways that pastors and students will appreciate. They are clearly written, relevantly illustrated, and while they are informed by scholarly discussion, Runge only mentions contemporary debates when doing so will help the reader contextualize his comments on the flow of the text. For example, as Runge discusses the end of Romans 3, he writes,

There have been significant debates recently regarding what Paul means by “works of the law.” Does he intend to signify a works-based view of salvation, one that is earned rather than received by faith? Or does he refer to something else, to covenant fidelity within the Jewish community? Paul does not offer a clear definition; he assumes his audience knows the meaning of this phrase … In some contexts, in which the focus is clearly on final judgment for sin, keeping the law is seen as being related to the outcome of that judgment. But there are other contexts in which this is clearly not the case, where the focus is more on inclusion versus exclusion from the body of believers.

In 3:20–21 Paul brings these two notions together.

For academics

It is rare to find a modern critical commentary that deals systematically with the discourse features of the text. Some will help you track with flow of the text, but they don’t ground their explanations in discourse grammar. Discourse grammar is not the only way to think about a text; rather, it is an important, supplementary tool. Runge’s commentary builds on his highly acclaimed Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament and the graphic illustration of this approach that one finds in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. The three resources build on one another.

  1. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament — a systematic explanation of the discourse features used by NT authors to structure their writings
  2. Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament — a morphologically tagged edition of the SBL Greek New Testament that is marked up to show each of the discourse features
  3. High Definition Commentaries — concise, clear commentaries that analyze the flow of the text by focusing on the discourse features.

The High Definition Commentaries explain the relevance of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament in light of the systematic approach to grammar presented in the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Runge’s commentaries apply cutting-edge linguistic research to the New Testament.

When I’ve heard people explain discourse grammar, the most common question is “Can you give me examples of how this changes the way we should think of the text?” The best answer is found in Runge’s discourse commentaries.

An Example: Romans 3:21-26

Here is an example of the way Romans 3:21-26 is marked up in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament:


Note that δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας (“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe”) is marked with symbols that looks like the silhouette of a person. Hovering over the silhouette tells you that this is a “right-dislocation.” The pop-up defines this discourse feature as “appositional information that is added at the end of a clause that further describes some previously-mentioned entity in the clause, and agrees morphologically with the previous mention.” At the end of the definition the reader is provided a link to further explanation.

How is this relevant? In his commentary, Runge explains,

In 3:22, Paul restates the “righteousness of God” as if there is a need to add more detail about which righteousness he has in mind. He repeats this phrase to emphasize its importance and prompt his audience to read the verse as if it were a second pass at the same idea: God’s righteousness has not only been revealed and witnessed to, but it is a righteousness of God through faith rather than some other means, and it is available to all who believe, not just to the covenant community of Israel.

Futhermore, verses 22-24 are filled with explanatory statements and grounds clauses (e.g., γάρ … and διά + acc.), which are labeled in the left column of the Discourse Greek New Testament with “support,” “elaboration,” or “bullet.” Runge comments and includes a very helpful illustration:

In Greek, the way Paul structures verses 22–24 compares to how a dialogue might unfold. Each support clause plays the rhetorical role of addressing a possible question and redirecting the flow of the argument. By reframing things in light of the question being addressed, Paul makes it easier to track the development of his argument.

I highly recommend all of Steve Runge’s work, and again, the High Definition Commentaries on Romans and Philippians are 15% off for the next 24 hours.

You can watch Steve Runge explain more in this video.

From Baptist to Orthodox

Gabe Martini shares his journey from Southern Baptist Protestantism to the Orthodox faith

Gabe Martini is a Product Manager at Logos Bible Software and host of the blog On Behalf of All, a group blog seeking to promote the Orthodox Christian faith.

I recently discovered that at one time Gabe was a Southern Baptist, he lived in Louisville, and for a few semesters he attended Boyce College here at Southern Seminary. This, of course, piqued my curiosity about his journey, and Gabe graciously agreed to answer a few questions. If you have a comment or question for Gabe, please feel free to drop a note in the comments section.

This post is a bit long so here is a link to each question:

BWD: Gabe, thanks for agreeing to chat a bit about your transition from Baptist to Orthodox. First of all, how do you speak of your transition? Would you say you “converted” to Orthodoxy?

GM: The common parlance seems to be “converted.” Most Orthodox Christians I know who did not grow up in the Church refer to themselves as “converts.” In a true sense, however, being an Orthodox Christian is all about a continual conversion to Christ. Therefore, everyone is a convert, and we all continue to “convert” as God works on our hearts and as we seek to be sanctified and transformed into a true image and likeness of Christ.

BWD: Could you give us an overview of your story? How did you go from Baptist to Orthodox?

GM: I was raised in a faithful, Southern Baptist family, and my father — who was born and raised Roman Catholic — himself converted to the Baptist faith when I was too young to remember. As a typical Italian-American family, my father’s side is Catholic, and on my mother’s side it is mostly Baptists. If the doors were open, we were at church, and my parents continue to be dedicated members and contributors at the same church in Arkansas to this day.

From my teenage years, I was closely involved with music and other ministries at our church, and especially in our youth group. By the time college rolled around, I was an active leader in the local Baptist Collegiate Ministry group. This passion led to a feeling that I was “called to ministry,” and so at the encouragement of my pastor (himself a former student at SBTS), I looked into Boyce College. I had just finished a degree in Graphic Design, and I was already trying to figure out what to do next.

In the summer of 2004, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and began some summer courses at Boyce. My goal was to complete a Biblical and Theological Studies program, and then transition to the M. Div. program at Southern. Being already a Calvinist when I arrived, my studies in the Reformation and Church history soon led to an acceptance of things like infant baptism and an increased focus on areas like sacraments and ecclesiology. When I no longer felt at home at Boyce (I was already attending a Presbyterian church by this point), I decided to break away and finish my B. A. at Indiana University, with a major in Philosophy.

After college, I remained in Louisville and was active in our Presbyterian church. I soon met my wife-to-be and we were married and happy with our circumstances, our local church, our friends, and our faith.

For me, everything changed when I found out that I was going to be a father. As the time for the birth of our daughter drew near, I began to think about what her life would be like. What would her experience of the church be? Of religion in general? Would I be a good father? How could I better prepare for this awesome responsibility?

These “big picture” questions led to a fervent study of Scripture, Church history, and the early Church fathers (especially the apostolic fathers). Interestingly enough, we were already acquainted with a family that had converted to Orthodoxy. As providence would have it, that wife was to be the doula for my wife (and our daughter’s birth). And as a result — and in the weeks leading up to delivery day — we spent a lot of quality time with them. Discussions of theology and the Church between myself and the husband were inevitable. As they say, one thing led to another.

After being mercifully born with few complications, our daughter was baptized in our Presbyterian church. But soon after, we had an opportunity to visit our friends’ local Orthodox parish (our pastor was out of town, so we figured, “Why not?”). One visit was enough for me to know that our lives were about to radically change. It was one thing to read books and study about the history of the Church, and yet another to experience the Divine Liturgy and see where all of the ideas, stories, histories, and theories I had been contemplating for many months (and even years) intersect. I know for many other people, one visit is far from enough. But for me, it really was. I don’t know, it’s difficult to explain.

Ever since, we have worshiped at three different Orthodox parishes (as we moved from Louisville back to Arkansas, and now to the Pacific Northwest), and continue to grow in our love of the faith. It has definitely taken years of adjustment and acclimation, and that probably won’t change anytime soon. But we certainly feel like we made the right decision.

BWD: Having lived in both worlds, what are a couple things that Baptists — or more generally, Protestants — should know about the Orthodox faith?

GM: This is a tough question to answer, but I’ll give it a (brief) shot.

First, let me say that were it not for the faithfulness of my parents, I wouldn’t be a Christian today, much less an Orthodox Christian. Being in church several times a week for the entirety of my childhood and adolescence instilled within me a great deal of reverence not only for the Church, but also for the Christian faith as a whole. I was raised to believe that the Scriptures are reliable and beneficial to us, that God loves his Church, and that everyone is created according to his image. This “worldview,” if you will, is what led to my interest in studying theology, in serving in the local church, and in helping others learn more about Christ. That all began because of what my parents taught me from a very young age.

That being said, there is a significant “dissonance,” so to speak, between Protestant experience and that of Orthodoxy. Even when similar terms are used (“saved,” for example), the meaning in most cases could not be more different. There is a great history and depth behind so much of what takes place in Orthodox parishes on Sunday mornings, that every one of your questions (“Why do they do that?”) uncovers a dozen more. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with this sort of thing, and so the Church will “ease” a person into their inquiry of the Orthodox faith. Depending on the people, the circumstances, and the parish, a person (or family) might be transitioning as catechumens for a year (or several) before they are finally received into the Church — or before they decide that it isn’t really for them.

I would also submit that Orthodoxy is not “basically the same thing” as Roman Catholicism sans Pope, as one might possibly assume. So many of the “biases” a faithful Protestant has with regards to the Vatican may or may not apply to the Christian East. There is certainly a great deal in common, and we share a common heritage of over a millennium, but there are a number of nuances, distinctions, and outright disagreements. Further, these distinctions or disagreements are in areas that significantly affect a person’s day-to-day experience of the faith — and their understanding of God — and so they really do rise to a level of importance.

Another thing worth noting is that Orthodoxy is not merely an “ethnic” religion. While our parishes and local churches might be referred to as Greek, Russian, or Serbian, this is not about ethnicity but rather locality. All of our churches trace their origins or heritage back to a particular, local church (the five most-important churches of the first millennium were in Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem), and this has multiplied as the Church has spread throughout the world. We currently attend a Greek parish in Washington, and attended an Antiochian one before that. We are neither Greek nor Syrian, and in fact, most of the people attending these parishes aren’t either! This is the case even in the “old countries.” I think that’s an important clarification to make, as it is often misunderstood. Orthodoxy sees herself as a universal faith, and is both open and welcoming to people from all tribes, nations, and languages.

If someone from a Baptist background is interested in learning more about the Orthodox Church, my best suggestion would be to take it very, very slowly, spending as much time standing in the back of a parish and soaking things in as you do reading books or listening to podcasts. There’s a lot of good information out there, but there’s also a lot of noise (as anyone familiar with discourse on the Internet will readily submit). The best bet is to reach out to a local parish priest. They likely won’t be out to corner you with clever arguments, or force you to convert, so they can be a good sounding board or starting point for someone with lots of questions or even just a mild curiosity. They might even help you with your Greek homework.

BWD: Free Greek tutoring and good theological conversation! You can’t go wrong with that. A couple more questions, Gabe. For years you have hosted a blog “with the express purpose of promoting the Orthodox Christian faith.” What one or two thoughts would you hold out to Protestants who just cannot understand why someone would convert to Orthodoxy?

GM: I’ve actually written or reflected on this very subject a great deal over the years. But first, let me tell you something a little more light-hearted:

Whenever people find out that I’m Orthodox, there’s almost always a follow-up question: “What’s that? Are you Jewish?”

My standard answer has become: “It’s kind of like Roman Catholicism, but older and weird.”

This accomplishes one of two things: They are either done with their questions and respond with something like, “Oh, interesting,” or they start asking more … and more … and then even more questions. It’s a good way to find out if someone is making small talk, or might want to have a fruitful and often enjoyable conversation.

But why Orthodoxy? Why would anyone — especially a faithful, Bible-believing Protestant — want to convert to this old, “weird” faith?

I’d like to say I could give you two reasons, but I can really only give you one. The only reason a person should convert to Orthodoxy is because they believe it to be the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” (as confessed in the Creed). Because they believe it to be the fullness of God (Eph. 1:23), the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16). Because they believe that there, in a unique and complete way, they can encounter and learn to become like Jesus Christ.

Until or unless someone has that singular conviction, all other reasons — beautiful worship, a good grasp on Church history, the Church fathers, the chanting and hymnography, even (with a nod to Seinfeld and George Costanza) “the hats” — are merely icing on the cake. In fact, I have seen a lot of unfortunate and even spiritually tragic stories unfold, in which a person or family converts to Orthodoxy for all the wrong reasons.

BWD: Ha! I love the Seinfeld reference, and I appreciate the warning to readers about converting for the wrong reasons. OK, now you know I have to ask this one: why the LXX rather than the Hebrew Bible? Was the move to the Greek Old Testament, with the inclusion of the deuterocanonicals/apocrypha, a big deal for you and your family?

GM: It’s interesting, you know? When I was at Boyce, I had a professor of Old Testament who frequently praised both the Septuagint and its expanded canon. He would sometimes go off on tangents about how there were no good reasons for the Reformers to strike these books from the canon. So it was actually a Baptist professor who first introduced me to the Septuagint. Since then, I never really had any major issue accepting these “other books” of the broader, Septuagint canon as Scripture. They are clearly not as central to the faith as the Gospels or Psalms, for example, but they are nonetheless a part of our tradition.

But let me back up just a bit: For Orthodox Christians, it isn’t really about the LXX instead of the Hebrew; it’s rather a matter of received tradition and a belief that the usage of this text by Christ, the apostles, and the overwhelming majority of the Church fathers is not really something secondary or tangential to the life of the Church. This was a decision we believe to be inspired, and so their usage of that text — and all its implications, especially in our hymnography, feast days, and finer points of theology — has a real and divine purpose.

Textual criticism, so to speak, wasn’t being done in the same way it’s done today, and this is even the case with Origen (cf. Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 12). Rather than looking for a single, original text, the Church was receiving and making use of an inspired, scriptural tradition — one of multiple texts. The early Church fathers are practically unanimous through the fifth century that the LXX was an inspired translation, and I share that conviction. And really, considering some of the ways the Old Testament is used in the New, it’s an interesting prospect to say there wasn’t something divine about the way those third century Jewish scribes translated a phrase that either substantiates or completely overturns Christological prooftexts in the letter to the Hebrews (for example).

In the modern context, I might argue in various places that the LXX represents an older or “less-edited” version of the Hebrew text, and a lot of scholars are actually starting to acknowledge as much (e.g. in light of comparisons with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan texts, etc.). And in that sense, it’s not so much about Greek over and against Hebrew, but rather which Hebrew? Judaism was not monolithic in the first century (or in the centuries thereafter), and so debates about everything from manuscript to canon persisted for centuries. What seems fairly clear, however, is that the earliest Christians (even in the West, down through Jerome) looked first to the “Old Greek,” and then to the other editions of Scripture (Syriac, Coptic, Hebrew, etc.). That is essentially the same approach in the Orthodox Church today: not an exclusive reliance on the Septuagint, but a prioritized one. The fathers always ask first: “What do ‘the seventy’ say?” And so should we, as Orthodox Christians. And in contemporary Orthodox scholarship, there is a great deal of interest in and respect for the other manuscripts of the Old Testament, and especially recent discoveries like those at Qumran.

BWD: I appreciate your emphasis on tradition throughout this conversation. How has coming to a better understanding of early church tradition affected your and your family’s spiritual formation?

GM: I think what comes through most for me when studying (and seeking to embody) Orthodox tradition is just how vast and unsearchable it really is.

A great comfort that I soon discovered was that, in the Orthodox Church, it is not the duty or even goal of each individual person to figure out a “patristic consensus” for every doctrine, or what the “Orthodox interpretation” of a particular passage of Scripture might be. Instead, we are largely called to a life of repentance, a life of asceticism and spiritual growth, and a life of prayer and worship. We are called to a life of conversion.

Worship is so central in Orthodoxy that many Orthodox Christians won’t even speak or think about anything else in the context of their “Christian walk.” The entire year is filled with festivals and fasts, anticipation and culmination, shadow and fulfillment. The life of Christ and the apostles is laid out before us annually, and we are invited to — in a very real and transformative way — take part.

This life of worship is what most readily identifies us as Orthodox Christians, and it soon overtakes most other aspects of our day-to-day life. Adjusting to this new way of living is largely what it means to “convert” to Orthodoxy — rather than amassing enough information, or figuring out all the right passages to defend one’s new-found convictions. It’s a call to both a Sabbath rest and a spiritual battle. It’s a call to suffer as co-heirs of Christ and to carry our cross to the Last Day.

BWD: Gabe, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak at length with someone of the Orthodox faith. It is so helpful and interesting to hear your perspective. There is much to chew on here. Best wishes, friend.

From Framing Houses to Framing Discourse

An Ιnterview with Steve Runge

discourse grammar

Last month, Steve Runge taught a class at SBTS on his Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. While he was in town, he shared with us a bit of his story — a story I thought you would enjoy, too.

BWDSteve, thank you so much for making the trek to Louisville and sharing your research with us. We have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss with you your Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. You also shared with us a bit of your own personal story, and that is what I would like to ask you a few questions about here.

Before you began your journey into the world of academic biblical studies, you owned your own construction company. Is this correct?

Steve Runge (SR): Yes, I ran Academic Construction as a front to fund my two grad degrees. I worked roughly 8-9 months of the year, spending the balance of my time writing and researching. I mainly subcontracted the framing of single-family houses, occasionally venturing into siding and decks when things got slow. My BA in Speech Communication never resulted in gainful employment, so I spent 18 years doing full time what I had intended would just be my part-time summer gig for HS and college.

BWD: How does one go from framing houses to studying cognitive linguistics and writing Greek grammars? What drew you to pursue a PhD?

SR: In my view it was the only logical career switch, though some have had trouble accepting this. The skills needed for each have a fair amount of overlap. After coming to faith my freshman year in college, I decided that I would try to get some Bible training if opportunity allowed. I was very involved in middle school ministry at my church when I graduated, so I decided to try seminary part-time a few years later. I doubted that I was smart enough to survive, so I decided to stay local and commute to Trinity Western Seminary about 35 minutes away in British Columbia. Based on my academic track record, I decided it would be better to fail quietly, locally, rather than to move somewhere and potentially fail more spectacularly. I wasn’t going to win any scholarships, I really had no idea what I was after other than wanting to be a skilled lay-teacher in our church. I took a job driving deliveries for a local lumber yard, working 3-10 hour days and every other Saturday. That gave me two days for classes, and at 6-9 semester credits, I could pay for it as I went. I moved back to building after completing my coursework.

After a few semesters of study, the demise of Biblical languages really began to weigh on me — what Hybels calls a “holy discontent.” I saw guys who wanted to be teaching pastors have to drop out of the MDiv because they couldn’t memorize. I saw others take the MRE (Masters in Religious Education) because they saw no practical ministry value in learning Greek or Hebrew. This was affirmed by the youth pastor who mentored me. He suggested I take something really useful like counseling. My wife and I spent 2 months in rural Ethiopia the summer of 1993, which only sharpened my discontent. I saw speakers of Amharic, a Semitic language, floundering learning Hebrew because it was taught via translation-English. They were using hand-me-down textbooks and learning our Western theological baggage, which had little to no relevance to their context. What was needed, in my view, was learning original languages so they could develop exegetically-relevant materials directly from Greek and Hebrew, without passing through English or the West. However, those teaching the languages specialized in Missiology or Church Planting, not Greek or Hebrew.

I came back from that summer determined to find some way of reinvigorating interest in the languages. Whatever the solution was, it had to demonstrate the practical payoff for ministry or no one would bother with it. Schools would just continue to cut back the credits required, pastors would continue telling new students it was just a hazing ritual, and national pastors would keep learning English to learn Greek or Hebrew.

Eventually, I found a topic and a doctoral advising team that would provide the theoretical framework needed to develop practical solutions, or at least baby steps in that direction.

BWD: When and how did Logos Bible Software enter the story?

SR: I have lived in Bellingham since moving there for undergrad in 1985. Logos moved there from nearby Oak Harbor in 2002. We had some initial discussions early on, but all I had to offer was some arm-waving about some ideas, nothing concrete and no terminal degree.  By September of 2006, I had nearly completed my dissertation, nearly died of a heart attack, and pretty well prototyped a database approach which marked up discourse features in the Hebrew text. They offered me a two-year gig to turn my idea into a product, which resulted in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament, which shipped in June, 2008. Next, after much begging and negotiation, came the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, written between Memorial and Labor Days of 2008.  It was first published by Logos in 2009, then in print by Hendrickson in 2010. Both of these projects were proof-of-concept for a larger suite of materials I envisioned while framing houses.

BWD: How often do you teach classes like the one you just finished here at SBTS? Is this something you would like to continue to do?

SR: I get a couple weeks a year to do something that fills my tank and gives me ideas for new projects. Teaching is the best route I’ve found for this. Part of the reason I’m at Logos is that it’s the best fit to tackle the issues raised by the decline of biblical languages. Another reason is that no school ever expressed interest in me, save one interview. So teaching intensive courses has really been my only choice, but this requires an invitation. Sam Lamerson gave me my big break in 2009 at Knox Seminary, then Dallas Seminary in 2012. I’ve also had the pleasure of leading workshops in the UK in conjunction with ISBL meetings in 2011 and 2013. I hope to continue doing this as there is opportunity like Southern offered this year. Mainly, I am interested in partnering with schools interested in adopting discourse grammar into their coursework.

BWD: You make a distinction between discourse grammar and discourse analysis. What is the difference?

There is an interesting difference we see in the application of linguistics to Greek versus Hebrew. In NT studies most of what we have seen has been focused on analyzing books, i.e. discourse analysis. That’s the sexy area everyone wants to get in on.  Not so in Hebrew bible; there, folks have mainly focused on describing features of discourse, ostensibly based on the idea that we need to understand the basic building blocks before we move on to do higher level syntheses of these features at the book level. Longacre’s Joseph is the main exception. I’m a carpenter, and there is a process to building a house. If you learn how to build a wall or frame a floor then you can work on adapting those basic skills to create what the architect has drawn. The better you get at the fundamental building blocks, the better able you’ll be to handle the complexity of real life applications.

The same holds true for language. I’d say it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve felt like I had a decent enough grasp of the fundamentals of discourse grammar to be ready to move on to analysis of books. I have published a commentary on Philippians for lay folks which is essentially my conclusions drawn from a discourse analysis of the Greek text. A handbook tracing my exegesis will be out by summer. A similar commentary on Romans is in press with a handbook following later this year.

I have always been interested in doing discourse analysis, but my inner carpenter has cautioned me to be patient. I have learned it is easier to build things correctly than to rush ahead only to tear it apart later. I got the nickname “rip-n-tear Runge” because of how good I got at disassembling things. Initially it was my own mistakes I tore apart, later it was the work of others who hadn’t invested enough time in their apprenticeship mastering the fundamentals. This is why I constantly stress the importance of a sound theoretical framework and a mastery of basic discourse features. I want to understand how and why things work the way they do.

BWD: Rip-n-tear Runge! That is fantastic. One more question for you, Steve. What is the master plan? Is there any hope that we will see a discourse grammar of the Hebrew Bible?


SR: I have a vision and some hopes, but not really a complete plan. The only plan I have is to equip folks who are smarter and younger than me with what I have learned, cast a vision for the potential payoff, and get out of their way. When I’ve done this I feel like I end up benefiting more than the other person. These folks provide the challenge and support to keep growing and learning from what they are doing. One of those folks is Josh Westbury, my colleague at Logos. He is nearing completion of his PhD in biblical languages with my mentor Christo Van der Merwe. He will head up the Hebrew side of Logos discourse projects going forward, including a Hebrew discourse grammar along the lines of the Greek volume. We have finished marking the discourse features for Genesis-Jeremiah; Ezekiel and the Twelve should ship by Easter. The initial version of the database should be completed this summer. The plan is for Josh to work on the discourse handbooks for the Hebrew bible. If interest in these projects continues to grow, I’d like to see analyses of the DSS, LXX and AF along with at least some handbooks before I die.

There is much to do, and we are working on creative ways to get more folks involved, like the discourse internships we are offering this summer at Logos. Presently there aren’t many options for pursuing a cognitive-functional approach to Greek within NT studies, but hopefully that will change. I’ve also had the privilege of informally advising some folks in their doctoral studies, helping them learn the fundamentals. I have tried to help them in the same way others have helped me, through directing their reading and discussing it on Skype or at conferences. Had it not been for folks like Christo, Stephen Levinsohn and Randall Buth investing in me, none of what I am doing would have been possible.

BWD: Glad to hear that you guys are almost finished with the Discourse Hebrew Bible, and I’m very excited to hear that you hope to do something similar with the DSS!

Steve, it has been such a pleasure to have you spend some time with us in Louisville. I really hope you will be able to return and teach this class again. The campus has been a buzz with conversation and excitement over it. Thank you for taking the time to share a bit more of your story with us.

Steve and Josh have bio pages at Logos where you can find more information about the projects they are working on. Steve blogs at New Testament Discourse, where you can learn more about the internships in Greek discourse grammar Logos is offering this summer.

Interview with Two Editors of the Lexham English Septuagint

Rick Brannan and Ken Penner were kind enough to sit down and talk with me about a recently published English translation of the LXX, the Lexham English Septuagint (LES). I shared an early draft of these questions with a few friends who are involved in Septuagint studies, and couple of them had questions of their own. I have included these below. This interview has four sections:

  • Introducing the Project
  • The Greek Source Text
  • The English Translation
  • Concluding Questions

Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about the LES. Let’s get right to it.

Introducing the Project

BWD: What were your individual responsibilities as editors of the LES?

Rick Brannan (RB): I managed the process internally at Logos, found and managed contributing editors, and edited a decent share of the material myself. The Lexham English Septuagint has a close relationship with the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint, and it was my idea internally at Logos to try and take the material from the interlinear and use it as the initial basis for a translation. I wrote a program to reassemble, as much as possible, the interlinear lines into readable English. That reassembled material then was supplied to editors to edit, in consultation with the Greek text, into the LES. From there, I worked with the copyediting team at Logos to copyedit the material and then get it built into a resource for Logos Bible Software.

Ken Penner (KP): I was one of the editors Rick invited to turn the machine-generated text into readable English. My allotment included Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Epistle of Jeremiah, Baruch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Psalms of Solomon. The degree to which I am responsible for the LES translation of each of these books is a factor of the quality of the raw material I had to work with. This quality varied, depending on how the level of care taken by the editor of that book in the Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint. For those books of the Interlinear that were tagged well, I was able to retain much of the wording of the Interlinear, which was the goal of the project. But other books required an almost entirely new translation.

BWD: What is “Lexham”?

RB: “Lexham Press” is the imprint that Logos uses to publish new Biblical Studies material and reference material. We are publishing not only the Lexham English Bible and the Lexham English Septuagint, but also several Bible Guides, the Lexham Bible Dictionary, the Faithlife Study Bible, and lots of other stuff. “Lexham” itself was a portmanteau of “Lexical” or “Lexeme” (so, having to do with words) and the “ham” in Bellingham. Then we found a town in England named Lexham, though our use of the term has nothing in common with the town.

BWD: Rick, you have edited several electronic editions for Logos Bible Software and Lexham Press. What unexpected challenges did this project pose?

RB: Basically, the Septuagint is big. Really big. And the interlinear contributions, while suitable as an interlinear, varied widely in the style and manner in which they translated the Greek text. The largest challenge was getting the disparate interlinear data into something that could be used as basis for a translation and also in finding skilled and qualified contributors who could do the work in the tight time frame we had — because we wanted to release the LES with Logos 5. The other major hurdle was proper names (more detail on this below).

BWD: In light of the 2007 release of the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS), why did Logos decide to publish a new English translation of Septuagint?

RB: There are all sorts of reasons. The primary reason has to do with rights, of course. Since the LES is completely owned by Logos, we can create derivative projects of any sort based on the translation without needing to pursue permission or additional licensing agreements from anyone.

Also, one of my larger issues with NETS — which is stellar work, by the way — is its method of rendering names of people and places largely by transliteration. I understand why they did this, but it just makes participant tracking difficult for the average reader.

The target LES reader is one who wants to read the Septuagint but doesn’t know much about Greek or Hebrew. I think the target NETS reader is more academically trained with knowledge of Greek and likely even Hebrew. The method of representing names in NETS is pretty confusing if one’s primary familiarity with the Old Testament material is through English translations of the Hebrew Bible. Some can be tracked with a little work (e.g. Jeremiah = Ieremias) but others don’t correlate much at all. The LES offered an opportunity to take a stab at solving this problem using data we had to hand (textual alignments of the LXX with Hebrew Bible, and of Hebrew Bible with English Bibles) as a starting point which was then further reviewed and corrected by editors. I think we did a fairly good job at providing readable, trackable names — where the same entity was being referred to — in the Septuagint translation. We also included (in popup footnotes) the transliterated Greek of the name in case the reader desires to know that form as well.

KP: In the planning stages of this project, Rick and I discussed how to handle proper names, and I admit that at first I resisted using the forms of the names familiar from English Bibles. The rationale NETS used to justify their policy on names made sense to me. But I relented when Rick assured me the transliterated names would be available in footnotes.

The Greek Source Text

BWD: Which edition of the Greek Old Testament does the LES translate? Why did you choose this edition?

RB: This is discussed in more detail in the Introduction to the LES. But the LES translates H.B. Swete’s edition of the Septuagint, which was the basis of the (incomplete and now defunct) Cambridge Larger Septuagint. Swete’s edition is a diplomatic edition of the text, transcribing (and correcting orthography where appropriate) the best manuscripts available to him for large portions of the text. It is not an eclectic text, like Rahlfs and Göttingen.

One of the main reasons, honestly, had to do with availability and flexibility. The Swete edition of the Septuagint is in the public domain and available. Its apparatus, which is very useful, is also in the public domain. Logos has greater freedom in preparing derivative works with the Swete text. So that’s what we used.

BWD: Ken, how does Swete’s edition compare to other editions of Septuagint, such as Rahlfs’ and the Göttingen editions?

KP: On this point, too, during the planning stages I resisted using Swete. My work on Greek Isaiah had shown that Codex Vaticanus (B) had a text with the least claim to originality of any of the three major uncials. And B was what Swete used for most of his edition, including Isaiah. Now, for most books, B is generally of better quality than other manuscripts, so for a diplomatic text, Swete chose his manuscripts well. Rahlfs’ Septuaginta and the Göttingen editions, on the other hand, are eclectic texts. But they are not in the public domain, at least not in the USA. (Rahlfs is in the public domain in Canada, according to the death+50 years rule.) In eclectic editions, the editor makes a decision regarding the original text for each word. In both diplomatic (Swete) and eclectic (Rahlfs and Göttingen), there is a textual apparatus at the bottom of the page listing the variant readings from other manuscripts. Like Swete, Rahlfs produced a compact edition of the text (in two volumes originally; later combined into a single volume). The Göttingen editions have a separate volume for each book (for the most part). Rahlfs used a handful of manuscripts when producing his edition. The Göttingen editions aim to be comprehensive, listing all the variants in all the manuscripts.

The English Translation

BWD: How would you describe the translation style of the LES?

KP: Because the LES is intended to correspond to the Interlinear, the translation style of the LES is largely controlled by that resource. For this reason, it is characterized by formal equivalence. As for vocabulary, although I can’t speak for the other editors, I made some attempt to be consistent across books regarding translation equivalents, but I won’t pretend I was entirely successful.

BWD: Ken, a question sent in from Chris Fresch: one complaint leveled against the NETS is that it seems to occasionally cast an eye to the Hebrew for ideas in translating the Greek.  Has the LES attempted to translate the Greek in its own right or do you sometimes allow the Hebrew to influence your translation?  

KP: I made every effort to render the Greek in its own right, with no eye to the Hebrew at all. I attempted to make the translation as rough or as smooth as the Greek would have seemed to a Greek reader around the turn of the era who knew no Hebrew. Sometimes in Ecclesiastes this meant translating some rather unconventional uses of συν (to put it nicely) into awkward English.

BWD: Whose understanding of the Greek Old Testament is the LES attempting to translate? The first reader/hearers of the Septuagint? The readers of Vaticanus centuries later? That is, the meaning of words in Greek, just as in every language, develops over time. Did you constrain the semantic range of Septuagint vocabulary to a specific time period?

KP: Some of these decisions had already been made by the editors of the Interlinear. And thankfully, there were not a lot of cases in which the semantic range of a word had changed so much between the second century BCE and the fourth century CE that this would even be a question. But in those cases in which the meaning had evolved (mainly due to the influence of the New Testament), the meaning at the time of translation would take precedence.

BWD: While commending the NETS, some have lamented the fact that it is not a “common English” translation suitable for the average person. Does the LES meet this need?

KP: The fact that the names are spelled in their familiar English forms makes a difference. It seems to me that the LES would read just fine for the average person. Its readability is remarkable, considering the origin of the LES in the Interlinear and the resulting formal equivalence. Part of the credit here goes to the idiomatic translation phrases provided by the editors of the Interlinear.

Concluding Questions

BWD: Rick, a question from Abram K-J: what would you say to someone who is interested in LES but is not a user of Logos Bible Software?

RB: Yes, the LES is only available in Logos at present. If only the LES is desired it can be purchased seperately. We also have a six-volume Septuagint Bundle that provides the LES, Swete’s edition with morphology and apparatus, and an analytical lexicon of the Septuagint. One of the goals of Lexham Press (the publisher of LES) is to actually publish things in print editions, so if enough demand swells for a print LES, then they will probably evaluate it. Here’s the contact form, if you’re so inclined.

BWD: What else would you like people to know about the LES?

RB: I think the primary distinction is LES’s treatment of names. If you’re reading NETS and can’t tell who is doing what, or where they’re going, then you may want to consider reading the LES. Also, the contributors are stellar.

KP: I’m impressed by the work of the team: your work, Rick, and that of Mike Aubrey, Israel Loken, and Isaiah Hoogendyk.

BWD: Are you guys currently working on any other Septuagint related projects?

RB: One of my current projects is Septuagint related. I can’t say much about it, but if you’re free this summer and want to join me in Bellingham for 12 weeks or so, I’m looking for some interns to contribute. I have more info on my personal blog, but if someone is interested, then please email me your questions and a résumé: rick at logos dot com.

KP: I’m writing the commentary on Greek Isaiah for Brill’s Septuagint Commentary Series. Besides a few book reviews, I have an article for the Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint and one on contemporizing Interpretation in Greek Isaiah; I’m a contributor to Scholar’s Pub’s Dictionary of the Septuagint and Early Greek Jewish Scriptures. I’m moderator for the Septuagint and Pseudepigrapha section of the Biblical Greek forum, and I participate in the Facebook reading group, Greek Isaiah in a Year. I’m working with Bruce Robertson of LACE (along with Jonathan Robie and Gregory Crane) to scan and apply OCR to Rahlfs’ Septuaginta and Hatch and Redpath’s concordance, with the goal of making them freely available online.

BWD: Thank you both for working hard to make the Septuagint more easily accessible to those outside academia and for the ways in which you are moving the field forward. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions. 

RB: Thanks for the opportunity, Brian!

KP: A pleasure!

A final word to readers

Please don’t overlook the summer internship Rick mentioned. What a fantastic treat it would be to spend 12-weeks in beautiful Bellingham helping Rick with this (mysterious) LXX project. Be sure to check out the links Rick and Ken have provided, and by all means, fill out the contact form and let Logos know that you would like to see LES in print. Also, check out Abram’s and Chris’ blogs for more LXX and biblical studies related posts. If you would like to read Greek Isaiah with Ken and a couple hundred others, feel free to join the Greek Isaiah in a year Facebook reading group.

Thanks to all of you who read earlier drafts of these questions and made helpful suggestions.

Hermeneia 2007-09 in Logos

If you do not have the complete Hermeneia series in Logos, this is the package with which to start. Logos sells newer Hermeneia volumes in three different upgrade bundles. I posted about the newest release here, but in this post I want to highlight the 2007-09 bundle, which includes the following:

  • Mark, by Adela Yarbro Collins (2007)
  • Matthew 1-7, by Ulrich Luz (2007)
  • Acts, by Richard Pervo (2008)

The Content

In the introduction to her Mark commentary, Adela Yarbro Collins offers a wonderful, succinct description of “gospel” (εὐαγγέλιον) as it is used in the NT. According to both Paul and Mark, “the good news is that the divine plan, which had been foretold, is about to be put into effect” (16). But note this important distinction:

Mark departs from Paul, however, in expanding the referent of the term “gospel” to include more than the death and resurrection of Jesus. To the extent that Mark is a passion narrative with an extended introduction, his use of the term “gospel” may be seen to be similar to Paul’s. But once we recognize the profound difference between the primarily discursive language of Paul’s letters and the narrative character of Mark, we begin to appreciate the magnitude of Mark’s innovation. Mark has taken a term coined as a summary of oral preaching and used it to describe (the content of) an extended narrative. (17)

How should we understand the genre of Mark in light of other contemporary literature, and why is this relevant to the average reader?

When we read Mark, we rely, even if unconsciously, on some understanding of what kind of text it is and thus what its purpose is. The basic options with regard to the kind of text Mark is include “gospel,” “history,” and “life” or “biography.” The decision about the genre of Mark is not merely a matter of finding the right pigeonhole for the work or of academic debate in an ivory tower. Assumptions about the literary form of Mark affect the way this work is allowed to function in the lives of readers, in the life of the church, and in society. (17)

Collins surveys several options but argues that it is best understood as an “eschatological historical monograph” (18). She notes,

Whether one defines Mark as a historical biography or a historical monograph depends on one’s perception of where the emphasis in Mark lies: on the activity and fate of Jesus or on God’s plan for the fulfillment of history in which he played a decisive role. (33)

The entire introduction is masterfully written by an expert of experts. You can read more about Adela Yarbro Collins in this recent interview on The Marginalia Review of Books.

Mark 1:13, for example

One of my favorite passages in the Gospels is Mark’s description of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). It is Mark’s unique use of θήριον (“wild beasts”) that I find so interesting. I included this passage in the reading list for my 9th grade NT Greek class, and when we discussed it, two questions were on the table: Why would Mark choose to mention that Jesus was with the wild beasts? What sort of image does this bring to mind? I have thought about this story for years and looked through several commentaries on the subject, and I’ve fond Collins discussion the most insightful.

Collins notes that in Isaiah 13 a connection is made between wild animals (θηρία) and demons. Similar language pops up in a trinket from the Roman period used in the performance of an exorcism. In rabbinic literature the psalm itself is spoken of as a charm to ward off evil spirits. Collins also notes that evidence from Qumran suggests Psalm 91 was used in the performance of exorcisms during the Second Temple period. The most relevant portion of Psalm 91 is verses 11-13 (NRSV):

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

Collins writes:

Six fragmentary columns of a scroll containing psalms were discovered in Cave 11 near Qumran. Several apocryphal psalms clearly intended for use in exorcism are followed by a recension of the canonical Psalm 91. Column 2 mentions Solomon and may have contained a list of types of demons, such as “spirits of the angels of destruction,” “spirits of the bastards” (i.e., the spirits of the Giants, the dead offspring of the Watchers), “demons,” “Lilith,” “howlers,” and “yelpers.” The language of exorcism found here and in other parts of the scroll is reinforced by the mention of Solomon, who was renowned for his exorcistic expertise around the turn of the era. The inclusion of Psalm 91 in this collection (col. 5:3–14) suggests that this psalm was already used for exorcistic purposes in the Herodian period or even earlier. (152)

Perhaps Mark’s inclusion of “wild beasts” is intended to add an additional layer of horror to the reader’s understand of Jesus’ trial in the wilderness. Collins concludes,

The text does not reveal exactly how and why Jesus was tested. His ability to withstand Satan and the wild beasts attests to his trust in God and to the favor bestowed by God on him. But the contest also implies that, although John has prepared the way for Jesus and made straight his paths (v. 3*), and even though God has designated him as the messiah (v. 11*), Jesus will encounter opposition in his mission. (153)

Adela Yarbro Collins on Mark goes in the must-read category for me. At this point, the only other commentary on Mark I would put in this category is R.T. France in the NIGTC series.

Ulrich Luz’s commentary on Matthew 1-7 is marked by careful grammatical historical exegesis, like the rest of the Hermeneia series, but he goes far beyond the “original context” in a way that is unique. He gives consistent attention to the ways in which the text has been received through the centuries (Wirkungsgeschichte). I was first introduced to Luz work on Matthew by Jonathan Pennington, who mentioned Luz’s Studies in Matthew on a class syllabus. On more than one occasion I have heard Dr. Pennington say something like, “I don’t always agree with Luz—in fact, I often do not—but every time I turn to his commentary I come away with new insights and fresh thoughts.”

Richard Pervo’s 800 page Acts commentary works from a unique perspective summarized well in the author’s preface:

Commentators cannot answer every question about their subjects, but those writing a Hermeneia commentary must seek to address most of them. Commentaries on ancient books must deal with the question of the best recoverable text. Biblical commentaries require attention to theology. Analyses of a narrative have to attend to the story and how it is presented. These matters I have attempted to address. This commentary is the first in recent times to be based on the hypotheses that Acts was written c. 110–120 ce and that the author made use of Pauline epistles and the writings of Josephus. In addition, it constantly examines Acts as a “popular” book that seeks to engage its readers’ interest while purveying its various messages. (xv)

The Format

In a previous post I highlighted how the Logos version of Hermeneia allows you to do three things very easily: link together biblical text and commentary so that they scroll together, add an English translation to scroll along with your commentary and original language text, and automatically lookup all footnotes and hyperlinks using Logos’ “Power Lookup” tool.

I want to highlight two more features here:

  1. In the Logos version of Hermeneia, every scripture reference has two hyperlinks, one linking to the text in the original language, the other linking to an English translation.
  2. Logos’ customizable guides allow you to quickly access the massive Hermeneia series along with all the other commentaries in your library.

In the picture above, the first arrow points out a hyperlinked verse reference with an asterisk. If you hover over the reference itself you will see the passage in the original language; hovering over the asterisk will show you the passage in the NRSV.

The second arrow points to Collins’ Mark commentary in a guide I have created and titled “Reference.” I created this guide to show me only grammars and commentaries. By typing “Mark 1:13” in the guide command line I have produced a hyperlinked list of all the Mark commentaries in my library. Clicking on a commentary title takes me directly to Mark 1:13 in that commentary.

You can produce a list of the commentaries in your library by using one of the default guides: click on the “Guides” tab, click “Passage Guide,” type “Mark 1:13” in the command line, and hit “Enter” on your keyboard.


All three volumes are top-notch, the price is right, and the Logos format is far better than print. If you were to buy all three commentaries in print on Amazon, you would have to spend over $200. The Logos price is twenty-five percent cheaper than the discounted Amazon price, and if you qualify for an academic discount, you can do even better.

Logos provided me with a copy of these resources for review.