Tuesday, April 6, 2021

John 20.19-31 Translation and Commentary (RCL 2nd Sunday of Easter)

The Thomas story in John 20.19-31 occurs in each year of the Revised Common Lectionary since it specifically happens one week after Easter. Here are the kind of notes I have my students work through where they compare English translations as a way of figuring out which questions to ask of the Greek text. I've provided the texts with questions, but I've added my own answers. I've also provided my own translation which I think is one that is faithful to the Greek and reads well orally.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

John 12.20-33 Translation and Commentary (RCL Fifth Sunday in Lent Year B)

I'm continuing offering a commentary on the text and a translation for these Sundays in Lent. Here are the ones for the 5th Sunday in Lent Year B for John 12.20-33. I usually work these up for my students and have them figure out the questions, but I've included the version with my responses. I also have included my translation which I think is closer to be faithful to the Greek than to elegant English. I do highlight nuances of the Greek that are often obscured in English translations. You'll also see how I mark up my translation. In part, it serves to highlight aspects of a narrative critical reading and shows themes and repetition. In part, it serves as preparation for performance of the text. In my experience, trying to 'memorize' (better: to 'learn from the heart') is the best form of sermon preparation.

Monday, March 8, 2021

John 3.14-21 Translation and Commentary (RCL Fourth Sunday in Lent Year B)

As I did for the previous week's text (John 2.13-22), I composed a document for my students to work through the coming week's text, John 3.14-21. You'll see what I have done is pull together a range of English versions to compare, including my own translation. The commentary is really a set of questions about the text and translation, and I have provided my own responses to my questions. It's this kind of close inspection of the text that has often generated the ideas that help me find the approach to use in my sermon. Let me know if you find something you would like to discuss!

Here is the document with the translations and notes.

Here is my translation of John 3.1-21 to provide context.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

John 2.13-22 Translation and Commentary (RCL Third Sunday in Lent Year B)

For the Greek and Gospels classes I teach, I have developed a way of working with a biblical passage that I have found helpful and that I encourage my students to use. I've been doing this for years, but I decided I might as well share it. 

First, you will note that I work closely with the Greek text, but you don't need to know Greek. Instead, you'll see in the one handout that what I do is line up a variety of English translations from the 'literal' New American Standard Bible to a more 'dynamic, functional' one like the New Living Translation. I also usually include Peterson's The Message paraphrase since he really did work closely with the original Greek. I.e., by looking at the range of English translations, we have a better idea of what issues we should be looking at in the Greek text.

Second, when I use this in class, I usually have students work in groups addressing the questions that I pose to each verse. Some of the questions are Greek grammatical or lexical ones. Some of them draw attention to key words or concepts and encourage further word studies or research to understand what is going on. Some are translation matters which are highlighted by the comparison of English versions.

Third, I sometimes include my own translation in which I try to apply the results of my questions. You will see that my translations are not easily located on the literal > functional continuum. I tend to be closer to the literal end, but more importantly, I try to capture the emphases and distinctive elements of the Greek. The end result is something that ends up oriented to hearing in English what the Greek sounds like to me in terms of emphasis, word order, and syntax. This all reflects my conviction that these texts were originally heard by most people and not silently read to one's self. (This is especially true for the Gospel of Mark--which I regard to be closest to a transcription of an oral performance--and less true for Luke--which turns Mark into a literary work.) 

Included here are links to my guide for the assigned text in the Revised Common Lectionary for the Third Sunday in Lent Year B. (March 7 in 2021) which is John 2.13-22.

If you want to try to do the exegetical work for yourself, HERE is the translation exercise.

If you want to see how I've answered my own questions, HERE is the key to the exercise.

If you just want to see my translation, HERE it is. You'll see that I have visually presented my translation to highlight the sense units and sentence structure. If I were going to perform this text, I would next go through and use color highlighting and bolding to note the themes and words that hold the text together. It's a great aid in memorization.

In any case, the resources are all in DOCX format, so they are easily editable. You are welcome to use them as you wish. (I would ask that if you share them, do keep my name and provide attribution.)

If you find this helpful, let me know, and I'll try to find a way to share these on a regular basis.

Friday, February 19, 2021

English Bible Versions: Literal, Dynamic / Functional, Paraphrase

I have previously posted on the range of English versions of the Bible and noted the range of so-called "literal / word-for-word" translations through "dynamic / functional equivalent / thought-for-thought" translations and on to paraphrases. 
I have now (2021.02) updated the list. I had started with a helpful list I found online by Bruce Terry which provides an approximate rating of each version from literal (or using formal equivalence) to dynamic or paraphrase. I edited this list and added a few evaluations of my own. The scale used is where a "1" would be an interlinear Hebrew/Greek to English and a 10 would be a loose paraphrase. (The Cotton Patch Version gets a "10.") I have made some adjustments to his rankings in light of my experience and added some notes. Most of these translations are available online at BibleGateway, and further information is linked there.

HERE is a link to the updated downloadable document that organizes 50 of the most common English versions. It provides:
  • An alphabetical list of the versions
  • A ranking of the versions from literal to paraphrase
  • My suggestions on the best versions to consult across a range of translation approach.
My point in organizing English translations this way is to help readers get a sense of the difficulties and choices that must be made when translating. Viewing a range of translations gives a sense of the possibilities, but translation will always be both an objective, scholarly task as well as a subjective process that attends to audience and intent.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Using Accordance and Logos to Search the LXX and the Greek NT Simultaneously


I composed a guide for my students on how to use Accordance Bible software to search across both the LXX and the Greek NT simultaneously. It's part of an exercise on searching for the phrase καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν... to show how this translation of a Hebrew idiom is used to make a NT text sound more 'biblisch.' 

The PDF provides some commentary on the LXX texts in Accordance and then a step by step guide to setting things up in Accordance, conducting the search, and analyzing the results.

HERE is the guide.


The procedure is somewhat simpler in Logos, and to replicate what I did with Accordance, the graphic above shows what to do using a Bible search and a combined Greek LXX & NT LogosMorph text. I could have added more parallels (includes the NETS), and Logos' "Analysis" provides some powerful ways to look more deeply into the results. In particular, it offers a "Next Context" which is helpful for studying the idiom further. Where Accordance is able to graph the hits across both the LXX and GNT on a single chart, I have not been able to find a way to do so in Logos. (Let me know if there is a way!)

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Pergamon Digital Map

Produced by the German Archaeological Institute, this digital map of Pergamon / Pergamum is really fantastic. HERE is the website and the introduction:

The publication of the new archaeological map of Pergamon is an important milestone in the study of the ancient metropolis. For the first time since 1973 a new cartographic basis for the ancient city of Pergamon is available. The new map represents all known archaeological remains.

Viewer has options for details, labels (English, German, Turkish), and backgrounds, all in outstanding detail. Further, clicking on sites provides links out to further resources such as iDAI.gazetteer and the iDAI.objects arachne site which has more information and photos. You can spend a lot of time poking around all that there is to see here.

HT: Mark Wilson on FB

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Unfolding the Earth

Fun with maps! Unfolding the Earth.

I came across this on Twitter by Nico Belmonte who does all sorts of interesting stuff with Data Visualization, Computer Graphics, Computational Design, Mathematical Art and Digital Fabrication.

Lots of options to 'unfold' the earth and see it in various perspectives. Have fun!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Chronologies, Genealogies, Maps: Online Resources from Ian Mladjov

I just discovered this outstanding collection of chronologies, genealogies, and maps by Ian Mladjov. His resources cover most of the ancient world from Europe to Mesopotamia, so many of them are directly related to biblical history. For example:

The resources are of very high quality, and the maps are particularly detailed. You will note that the names on the resources follow standard transliteration practice rather than privileging Latinized and Anglicized versions. It's still easy enough to figure out persons and places.

Here is what Mladjov says about the maps.

The historical maps in this page are for the most part versions of some of the maps I have prepared for teaching purposes in my various courses. The level of detail and accuracy in any one map depends on the author's perceived necessities and priorities, source materials, and personal level of expertise in each particular case. Inevitably, as all too common with historical maps, many of these maps are (or started out) based on pre-existing versions from a variety of sources; I have attempted to investigate and verify points of doubt or discord wherever possible. Occasionally existing maps are revised to reflect additions or corrections, and new maps are added to this page. Given proper attribution, these maps may be used freely for non-commercial educational purposes. 

Note that they are freely available for non-commercial educational use!  

Thanks to Mladjov for sharing these fine resources. (BTW, I'm unable to find out much about the author except that graduate work was/is being done at University of Michigan, and there were teaching positions held at Bowling Green and Drexel.)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

State of the Bible Software Market

Nice report by Lauren Hunter on Church Tech Today. She notes the recent report of HarperCollins splitting off OliveTree (which is somewhat of a matter of returning to its roots). 

I can confirm that in my situation (United Lutheran Seminary), we have gone from encouraging Bible software to requiring it. We are using the Accordance Greek & Hebrew Discover which we can get at an institutional discount, though I still use BibleWorks (!) and Logos for certain tasks. It's always a trick getting everyone up to speed using the software, but I have managed to do so, even in a fully online setting during this pandemic times. 

I'm on the board of 1517 Media (Fortress Press, AugsburgFortress, Broadleaf), and I'm not divulging any secrets by reporting that hardcopy book sales have been remarkably strong for 1517 and similar publishers. (Congregational resources have taken a hit with so many churches no longer meeting physically, however.) Do people getting tired of looking at screens and Zooming all the time and want the comfort of holding a book in their hands? Whatever the case, I know my students will not give up their Bible software once they see how useful it is. And when it's available across many platforms including their phones, it does become not just useful but essential.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Patristic Text Archive now online


The Patristic Text Archive is now online! It's still just in a beta version and available authors is limited (only ten now), but still, this looks to be a great resource to bookmark. Also note that there are limited texts for the authors that are available, e.g., two for Origen and three for Eusebius, but they are not the works that are easily available otherwise. Text are provided in the original Greek (or Latin or Syriac), and some are also available in translation (mainly German). In any case, check it out.

HT: Roger Pearse

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Faithlife / Logos acquires Wordsearch Bible software

This is kind of a big deal... Faithlife / Logos announced that they are acquiring the Wordsearch Bible software. Wordsearch has been around a long time. I did have an account with them and a number of titles that I didn't have in any of my other programs. For users like me who had both programs, Logos is automatically transferring all Wordsearch titles over to Logos for free. (Check the FAQ for details.) Excellent! I'm glad that Wordsearch chose to go this route which both preserves my resources and means I have one less interface to remember how to navigate. LifeWay, Wordsearch's parent company, is still active, and I'm guessing this was a prudent business decision to keep from investing in a product that was competing with the likes of Logos and Accordance. (And it sounds like Accordance plans to reach out in some way to Wordsearch users.)

Update: Check out Darryl Burling's video summary HERE

Update 2: Accordance has now announced a crossover package for Wordsearch users.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Oxford Archaeology Image Database online

It's always nice to have access to vetted photos which can be used for free in educational work. The Oxford Archaeology Image Database does just that for sites and artifacts related to Mesopotamia. Use of the photographs is encouraged with proper attribution. A bit about the site:

The OAID was established in June 2015 by Tim Clayden (Wolfson College, Oxford) with support from the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics. Its initial aim was to preserve and make available to as wide an audience and user group as possible images of archaeological sites recorded on slide film. The concern being that as the slide films age and decay the quality of the images deteriorates. In many cases these images are a unique record of the sites at a particular time and once the slide is lost, so too is the image and the information it contains. More recent events in Iraq and Syria have urged a more pressing need to record and preserve the record of some archaeological sites. For that reason the project has expanded to include images in whatever format they are available.

There is a site list, but you can also search for site for features or artifacts from museums. (E.g., Ishtar or ziggurat or jar)

Now you know.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Unicode Cuneiform Fonts!

Ok, over the years on this blog I've highlighted the evolution of proprietary to TrueType to Unicode fonts related to biblical studies. For the sake of completeness, here you go for those who need Unicode Cuneiform fonts!
HERE is the link to the info and download page.

HT: Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid on Twitter who also notes:
If your computer or keyboard make downloading a font impossible, and your cuneiform is too rusty for Cuneify, you can copy and paste signs from free online sources. For example, HERE is a basic and searchable list of Neo-Assyrian cuneiform signs.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Blog to check: J. David Stark | Hone Your Craft, Enrich Your Life - Gospel or gospel?

I've been meaning to promote J. David Stark's blog for some time. Stark is a research professor in the biblical studies field at Faulkner University. Here's how he describes his "Hone Your Craft" blog:
For biblical scholars, “craft honing” includes things like
  • Productivity habits and practices to help you do biblical studies as a skilled “knowledge worker,”
  • Tools and resources to make your life and work in biblical studies easier, more focused, and more fruitful,
  • How to use technology to get what you need done rather than spending hours frustrated over minutiae when you could have invested that time and effort elsewhere, and
  • Strategies for ensuring your life is full both in your work and beyond.
He regularly posts items on resources, writing, and technical skills. For example, his latest one is on a topic that addresses an issue I regularly have to ponder: A Simple Guide to When You Need to Capitalize “Gospel(s)”

Check it out and poke around his blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Western Mediterranean: New Volume in Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands Series

BiblePlaces has released a new volume (#20!) on the Western Mediterranean in their Pictorial Library of the Bible Lands series. This one includes sites in Gaul (France) and Hispania (France).
All images are high-resolution jpg files (2400 x 1600). Ideal for projecting in a classroom, viewing on a monitor or printing. Also included on each DVD are pre-made PowerPoint presentations for each region (with photograph annotations), maps for site identification, and an image index.
These have been excellent and well-organized resources with outstanding photography. As for this volume, be sure to read Todd Bolen's description in the June 2020 newsletter HERE. Whether or not Paul ever made it to Spain, the main takeaway is that their are Roman structures built in the same time period as the New Testament that are much better preserved in Gaul and Hispania. You can get a much better idea of what things actually looked like. At the newsletter link, you can find a link to download a PowerPoint with an East/West comparison of similar structures that is very helpful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Synagogues of Israel Interactive Map

Here's a great use of Google Maps to create an interactive map of synagogues in Israel. Note that filters include Early Roman; Late Roman and/or Byzantine; Un/Excavated; Jewish or Samaritan. It includes all the interesting ones I could think of: Capernaum, Chorazin, Gamla, Migdal, Arbel, Khirbet Kana (Qana), Huqoq... Clicking on the marker will give quick info reflecting the filter categories. You can then use the menu to get a list of the Ancient Synagogues to get further info, bibliography, and pictures. Definitely worth checking out.
HT: Philip Murray on FB, Nerdy Bible Backgrounds and Bible Geography Majors group.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Word & World Issue on Jerusalem

Word & World is published in print and shared freely online by Luther Seminary. It is described as:
A journal of theology whose readers are concerned with Christian ministry in and for the world. A glance at our articles and our issue themes will show how we propose to bring Christian thinking to the questions posed by life in our world today.
The latest Spring 2020 issue focuses on "Jerusalem" from a variety of perspectives. An article I wrote--Jesus and Jerusalem and the "Things That Make for Peace"--is one of the articles. It's a review of all of Jesus' activity in Jerusalem reported by each of the Gospels, especially his final week there. There are certainly uncertainties about some of the details, but I believe it's a helpful overview. It's a free PDF to read, so I hope you check it out. I'm happy to address questions and comments here.

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Ancient Theater Archive

A while ago I shared a nice mapping resource for Ancient Theaters, Amphitheaters, Stadiums, and Odeons in Turkey and provided links for other Greek and Roman theaters.

I stumbled upon another fantastic site, The Ancient Theater Archive, and it has excellent information about Greek and Roman theaters throughout the Roman Empire. The map is clickable to zoom in to areas, and then the sites each have their own page with a considerable amount of detail and history. Here, for example, is the famous Ephesus theater:
There is a link to a architectural plan view, and clicking on More... will give you a thorough description of the theater's history.
Also check out the timeline of theater constructions provided:
And then be sure to look at the Greek and Roman Theatre Specifications table.
Here's the site info so e can be grateful to: © 2003–2019 Thomas G. Hines, Whitman College Department of Theatre (retired).

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Palestine Open Maps - Excellent new mapping resource

Split screen option: Tabgha on left; Capernaum visible on right
Just announced today (2020.04.23) on Twitter is the Palestine Open Maps project. (Do check the Twitter link for a number of videos demonstrating the site's features.)

From the site's description:
Palestine Open Maps is a platform that seeks to combine emerging technologies for mapping and immersive storytelling to:
Open-source and make searchable, for the first time, a uniquely detailed set of historic maps from the period of the British Mandate of Palestine;
Curate layered visual stories that bring to life absent and hidden geographies, in collaboration with data journalists, academic researchers, and civil society groups....

The idea for this platform was inspired by a large collection of 1940s survey maps from the British Mandate of Palestine recently digitized by the Israeli national library. These maps—all now in the public domain—cover the territory at scales of up to 1:20,000, offering a vivid snapshot of a human and natural geography almost unrecognizable on the ground today, with an unparalleled level of physical detail, including population centers, roads, topographic features and property boundaries.

Although the maps were already in the public domain, their usefulness was limited since they comprise hundreds of separate sheets with no easy means to search, navigate or otherwise comprehend. By combining these sheets into seamless layers that can be navigated online, and combining them with other available data sources, such as the 1945 Village Statistics, historic photography, oral histories and present day digital maps and data, this platform seeks to offer an invaluable resource for mapping the transformation in the human geography of historic Palestine over the past 70+ years.
Some things to note:
  • All the maps are public domain. Click on a map location, and you can choose any available maps for that location to download. They go back to the 1876 Palestine Exploration Fund one.
  • The sliding split view is handy to get locations.
  • The satellite imagery used is 2019, apparently from Mapbox. It also includes a street map overlay from 2018.
  • The search feature includes many biblical sites you might want to check, but it's not exhaustive by any means.
  • It's not intended primarily as a biblical resource, but the easy access to historical maps is very helpful.
  • The site is intended as a historical preservation of Arab locations and names before the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel. Another overlay on the site shows Arab locations that were depopulated during that time.
It's definitely worth checking and bookmarking.