Monday, June 25, 2018

Review of Crossway ESV Archaeology Study Bible

Crossway ESV Archaeology Study Bible (2018)
Hardcover ($49.99); TruTone ($79.99); Black Leather ($99.99)
2048 pages; 6.5 inches x 9.25 inches

Drawing upon the popularity of Crossway’s own English Standard Version (ESV), an “essentially literal” translation, they have recently published the ESV Archaeology Study Bible. In their description, Crossway says:

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible roots the biblical text in its historical and cultural context, offering readers a framework for better understanding the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture. With editorial oversight from Dr. John Currid (PhD, University of Chicago) and Dr. David Chapman (PhD, University of Cambridge), as well as contributions from a team of field-trained archaeologists, the Archaeology Study Bible assembles a range of modern scholarship—pairing the biblical text with over 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photographs, 200 maps and diagrams, 200 sidebars, 15 articles, and 4 timelines. These features bring life to the ancient texts, helping readers situate them in their historical context while recognizing the truth that the eternal God became flesh entered human history at a specific time and in a specific place.
I was eager to look at this Bible because I had determined that Crossway’s ESV Bible Atlas was the best atlas available for a class I teach on biblical geography. (Cf. my review and follow the links from HERE.) John Currid was responsible for most of the text in the atlas, and he was the editor for the OT notes and articles of this Bible as well. It turns out that some of the articles (e.g., Currid’s own “What is Archaeology” or the lengthy sidebar on the date of the Exodus) are based on the Atlas. The maps, created by David P. Barrett for the Atlas, are also the ones used in the Bible as are some of the illustrations, though most are on a smaller scale as befits the format. This is all to the good.

While the Atlas provides a chronological progression through biblical history, the advantage of this Archaeology Bible is that it provides all the benefits of a good study Bible (extensive study notes, maps, concordance, glossary) while also supplementing it with photos, descriptions of sites, illustrations (especially the ones of Jerusalem and the Temple at different periods by Leen Ritmeyer), informative sidebars, and inset maps, all of which make it much easier to understand what is going on in the text more fully. These additional resources are particularly helpful with the texts in Acts, Paul, and Revelation for which there are more archaeological remains and artifacts that can be shown. The photos of sites (especially by Todd Bolen, A. D. Riddle, and Mark Wilson) add to the experience of imagining what it was like to be at a site during biblical times.

More generally, the book looks and feels like a well-bound, substantial study Bible. Text is presented in double columns and below it are cross references, the study notes, and frequent sidebars, maps, or illustrations. The paper is thin (which is helpful in reducing size and weight of the book), and there is not objectionable bleed-through. The font is small, especially the cross references, but it is sharp and clear. The supporting articles are particularly helpful, and there are other helpful timelines, charts, and tables.

Theologically, the notes are generally ‘conservative’ but also in conversation with more ‘critical’ claims. E.g., Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is affirmed but with the explanation that Moses could have used earlier materials passed down to him. Whether the creation described in Genesis 1 is to be understood as seven, 24-hour days is not addressed, naturally so since it is not subject to archaeological verification and no specific dating is supplied. (The OT timeline begins with Abraham and Sarah.) The notes do not explicitly discuss whether the Garden of Eden is an actual location or not, but they rightly show on a map where the biblical description is apparently picturing it to be. Regarding the difficult issue of the date of the Exodus, a balanced description of the pros and cons of both an early and late date are given. Was Jonah literally and physically swallowed by a great fish? That question is not addressed, but there are excellent notes about Tarshish, Nineveh, casting of lots, and other ancient parallel accounts. In the New Testament, for example, it is claimed that Matthew wrote in the late 50s or early 60s AD after Mark’s gospel was written. This is much earlier dating than most critical scholarship would grant, but it does not make much difference in terms of the study notes describing the related archaeology and artifacts and customs. I also note that BC and AD are used throughout rather than the academic preference for BCE and CE, though this is also reflecting the book’s anticipated audience.

The closest comparison to the Crossway ESV Archaeology Study Bible of which I am aware is Zondervan's NIV Archaeological Study Bible, but I have not had the opportunity to look at it. There is also the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary series of which I have a few volumes. While there is much more information in those volumes, they lack the convenience of an integrated study Bible. In some cursory checking, it is also clear that Crossway has made some strategic decisions regarding the material used that is sometimes more relevant.

I would look forward to a digital edition of the ESV Archaeology Study Bible, since there are so many times when reference is made to an article or sidebar located elsewhere in the text. E.g., the anointing of Jesus is recounted in Matthew 26.6-13; Mark 14.3-9; Luke 7.36-49; and John 12.1-8. There is a sidebar with a photo of an alabaster jar attached to the Luke text on “Ointments and Unguentaria” to which the other texts refer. Having a clickable link to jump to that sidebar would be more convenient. Hopefully Accordance, Logos, Olive Tree, Wordsearch or the like will look into a digital adaptation.

Bottom line: Whether or not one prefers the ESV or some of the underlying theological perspectives, this is an excellent study Bible that provides the kind of archaeological and historical information I believe are critical for understanding the biblical story.

I received a free copy of the hardcover edition in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Accordance adding features to attract BibleWorks users

Accordance has been aggressive in adding features to their program to attract BibleWorks users and make the transition easier. As I noted in an earlier post, they have both a basic and advanced crossover option. They also have a crossgrade policy that allows someone to obtain some resources at a discounted price if they have already purchased them in another program.

Accordance has indeed made it possible to import BibleWorks notes, and I can say that it works quite well. They have also added a "Live Click" feature that reproduces some of the natural functions of BibleWorks in displaying a verse in all versions (or a customized list of versions), displaying all entries for a word in all applicable lexicons, and generating word usage information. Check out this short video for a demonstration of how these look and work in Accordance.

UPDATE: Accordance has now provided a page dedicated to BibleWorks users HERE. They also updated the resources provided, and the basic crossover now does include NA28.

Monday, June 11, 2018

YouVersion now offers NRSV

I've previously reviewed YouVersion as one of the best Bible apps, but they recently announced that they have added the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) to their long list of available English Bible translations. You can read it for free, and it's even downloadable for offline access. Get the app available in a variety of formats (iOS, Android, Voice [!], and online) HERE.

BibleWorks closing down... What should you do?

With the recent announcement that BibleWorks will cease operation on June 15, 2018, a number of my students for whom BibleWorks was our required Bible software program for many years have asked me what to do. There has also been considerable speculation on both the Accordance and Logos forums about options and transition possibilities.

I'll first say that I am counting on BibleWorks running for quite a few more years. Even with upgrades to Windows down the line, there has usually been a legacy program option. (I still can run Win95 programs on Win10!) BW had gotten to a stable release running in VM in Mac, but I'm less confident about its future in the Mac world.

If you are thinking about making a transition, both Accordance and Logos will be happy to help, and both are working on ways to import any notes you've written in BibleWorks into their own programs. What should you do?

As for Accordance, compared to BW, it’s easier to use, less hassle to install on a Mac, and cheaper (for the program/arrangement I got) compared to Logos. BW still has so many more resources in it, and it’s still my preferred way for doing many searches I typically do and conducting a number of other tasks. (For example, neither Accordance nor Logos can generate a listing of passages that I can use in exercises like this one that is just a couple clicks in BW.) 

That said, except for a few odd omissions, Logos is the more advanced program. The difference is cost. What I can get in Accordance for $200 for my students would cost closer to $600 in Logos. (If I tried to match all the resources one got in the standard library with BibleWorks, it would cost many hundreds of dollars more in either Accordance or Logos.) Logos has some really excellent features that make great use of their reverse interlinears, and they have a number of other tools and (interactive) guides that are extremely handy. I.e., you do get what you pay for with either, so it's more a matter of deciding what you really need and can afford. I've ended up going with the Accordance Greek and Hebrew Discoverer as a good entry point. It's a reasonable price for our students with a purchase agreement discount.

But what should current BibleWorks owners do? As I mentioned above, your first option is to stay with BibleWorks. As BW announced,

If you have a valid license for BibleWorks 10 you can continue to use the program as usual. We will, Lord willing, continue to provide compatibility fixes for BibleWorks 10 well into the future. This will ensure that you can continue to use the program for the long term. Compatibility updates will be provided through the normal updater mechanism within the program.

If you want to start transitioning, Accordance offers some crossover options
UPDATE 2022.02: I've updated prices. Also note that this offer ends 28 February 2022. I can also add that features have been added to Accordance that pick up BibleWorks features such as Live Click and Text Browser. Accordance is also able to import all your BibleWorks notes.
If you have BW versions 6-7, it's $149 to get pretty much all the same in Accordance. 
Then, if you can add an advanced crossover for $199 for BW 8-9 or for $249 for BW 10.
The advanced packages get you pretty much the full set of resources you had in BW. (There were more resources in BW10 which is why it is more expensive.)

So what should a BibleWorks user do? I'm thinking the basic crossover will be fine for most users, especially if you don’t need Philo, Josephus, Syriac, or Targums. You may need to add whatever other English versions you want, but NRSV, NET, CEB and more are included. Hebrew texts and resources are good, and all the most-used parallels and features are included as well.
Here is what you might miss with just the basic crossover:
  • LXX Rahlfs: Swete's LXX is included which is fine and actually has some benefits, but it's tagging is a bit different and Rahlf's is usually the standard for basic LXX work.
  •  Greek lexicons: Louw & Nida are included as is Intermediate Liddell & Scott, but you may want to get something more like the NT Word Study Dictionary (which is not in Advanced either).
(BTW, if you do decide to go with Accordance, please list me--Mark Hoffman--as a referral. I get a little store credit. Thanks!)

Logos asks you to call to obtain a crossgrade or upgrade for BibleWorks. You can see what resources they offer, but the price is not posted and might vary based on their dynamic pricing policy. They have also posted a helpful video, "How to Use Logos Like a BibleWorks Pro."

I suspect that with BibleWorks closing, it provides better long-term prospects for Accordance and Logos. One always runs a risk with any digital technology, but even books can be lost, burned, or flooded. Only the Word of God endures forever!