Monday, April 26, 2021

John 15.1-8 Translations and Notes (RCL 5th Sunday of Easter Year B)

Grapes at Greek Orthodox Church, Capernaum, Israel
I continue sharing a comparison of English translations of the Gospel texts for the upcoming Sunday. This coming Sunday (2 May 2021, RCL 5th Sunday of Easter) the text is John 15.1-8. As is common with John, once again a 'spiraling' effect of repetition that does progress to new insights. Some things to keep in mind with this text:
  • What does Jesus mean exactly by "bearing (abundant) fruit"?
  • What is meant by the unfruitful branches being "pruned, trimmed, cleaned up"?
  • What does it mean to "abide in, remain, stay connected with" Jesus?
  • In what way can verse 7 actually be true?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Google Earth in 4D

I've posted before on Google Earth as a resource for biblical mapping and study. They just announced (2021.04) one of the first significant updates in 4 years. Google Earth has long had a 'history' option so that you could check out imagery taken at various times, but now it's been integrated into a smoother browser experience.
In the biggest update to Google Earth since 2017, you can now see our planet in an entirely new dimension — time. With Timelapse in Google Earth, 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years have been compiled into an interactive 4D experience. Now anyone can watch time unfold and witness nearly four decades of planetary change.

HERE for the full announcement.

The primary goal is to show the dramatic environmental changes that have occurred, but there are some interesting things to check from a biblical perspective. While the detail is not granular enough to focus on, e.g., the excavations at a site, it can make evident macro-level changes from ~1984-2020. Here are a couple I could notice.

  • Water level on the Sea/Lake of Galilee: This will bring you to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee. What you can notice is the varying water levels. In particular, you can see how the excavations at el-Araj, one of the proposed sites of Bethsaida, is affected by the water level. The 2020 image shows why the site was partially submerged in 2020.

  • Water levels on the Dead Sea near Ein Gedi: It's pretty easy to see the contraction of water levels on the Dead Sea. I'm not sure what the latest situation is at Ein Gedi, but there used to be a nice beach there that I think is now closed. Even the road was closed for a time due to large sinks caused by the lower water level.

The viewer works best in Chrome. There are lots of options for the visualizations, including details, map styles, creating projects, etc. Check it out!

Monday, April 19, 2021

John 10.11-18 Translations and notes (RCL Fourth Sunday of Easter)

Here are some translations, including my own, and notes on the text of John 10.11-18 which are the assigned Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter in the Revised Common Lectionary.

HERE is the PDF

While the monologues in the Gospel John often sound repetitious and circular, I describing them as 'spiraling.' It goes round and round, but progress to new insights is being made along the way. Check the color coding I've done at the bottom of the PDF to see what I mean.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Online and Free Bible Study Resources

Online and Free Bible Study Resources  

(updated 2021.04.14 from 2018)
The variety of online Bible study resources continues to change. This is my latest list I share with students. These are all worthwhile resources, and you need to check to see which works best for you and your desired platform. I've starred* ones that you should probably check first. Also remember that for deeper study, you probably want something like Accordance, Logos, or OliveTree, but these free ones will go a long way!

  • ONLINE BIBLE SITES which provide extra helps for English readers to study the underlying Greek and Hebrew
    • *NET Bible: This is a highly recommended choice. It gives you access to the NET Bible notes which I recommend consulting. Use the Hebrew or Greek tab in the right column, and you will see how it highlights the matching English and Greek words. Double-click on a Greek/Hebrew word to get a rudimentary lexicon entry. Click on  an English word in the NET to do an original language word search or open the Parallel tab on the left to see NET, NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT, MSG, NRSV, and KJV together.
    • *STEP Bible from Tyndale (replaces Tyndale Tool Bar): Another outstanding site with both original language and many English version texts (NET, NIV, ESV, KJV…). Like the NET Bible Study Environment, it can highlight matching Greek/Hebrew//English words, and has links to many lexical resources.
    • Excellent site that is very nice for comparing original and translated versions with access to lexical resources. Many English versions including NRSV, NASB, ESV, KJV, NAB, NIV, NLT…
    • Bible Web App: Less full featured, but it’s fast and includes the NET with all notes. Parallel highlighting of Greek/Hebrew//English with Strong’s lexical popups.
  • OTHER ONLINE SITES primarily for English language study
    • *YouVersion: The primary attraction of this site is the abundance of Bibles it offers, both English (e.g., CEB, CEV, CJB, ESV, GNB, HCSB, KJV, LEB, Message, NAB, NASB, NCV, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV) and nearly countless non-English ones. For Greek, it includes SBL GNT and Textus Receptus, and the Westminster Leningrad for the Hebrew. Two texts can be set in parallel. There are also free apps for Android, iOS, and voice (Amazon Echo and Google Home).
    • *BibleGateway: There are too many English (and it does include the NRSV), non-English, Greek, and Hebrew versions to list. If you want to compare English versions, you can see a verse in every version they offer with a single click. There are quite a few linked resources, but many need you to subscribe for $4 USD/month. If your main interest is in comparing English versions, this is your best option.
    • FaithLife: This is the online site. Many original and modern language versions are available, but the best part is the connection with the FaithLife Study Bible.
    • Bible Hub: A nice collection of resources. The Atlas alone is quite helpful.

  • FREE DOWNLOADABLE PROGRAMS and APPS if you don't already have Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos
    • *Logos Academic Basic: If you are a student, staff, or faculty person at an educational institution, this should be your first option. A Logos 9 Basic is also available for those outside educational institutions. Logos is also available as an app for Android or iPhone.
    • *The Word: The Word is one of the first I recommend to people wanting a free program, since it is rather full featured program. It includes Greek / Hebrew. You can always buy some modules, e.g., NRSV, to expand its versatility. Among many non-English versions, free English versions include: Douay-Rheims, ERV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, Tanakh 1917, NET (but with limited notes), LEB. For Greek: LXX, SBL GNT, and other Greek text. For Hebrew: a tagged Hebrew Bible.  Only runs on Windows or under Mac emulation.
    • Olive Tree: This free Bible app is available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and Android. Once you get the app, check out the free resources. It includes SBL GNT and Hebrew Westminster Leningrad. For English, it includes many of the usual versions (KJV, NKJV, ESV, limited versions of HCSB and NET, Douay-Rheims, Tanakh 1917), but it does also offer the NIV. A number of useful study tools can also be added.
    • BibleGateway: Similar to the online version described above, the app is available for iPad iPhone, Android, and Kindle.There is also a voice app.
    • e-Sword: The basic installation includes the KJV with Strong’s and its related lexicon along with a few other resources. Once installed, there are many other free Bibles and resources that can be added. Windows and Mac.
    • LaParola: Does a nice job of creating concordance lists and working with text variants (Windows and Linux)
    • FaithLife Study Bible: It's free and available for just about all platforms. It's a Logos product and uses their rather literally translated Lexham Bible. It comes from a conservative perspective, so you need some discernment, but many of its study features, especially the FaithLife Study Bible itself, can be helpful. (E.g., go to Phil 1.1 for The Life of Paul graphic.) 
    • *YouVersion: This app, available for just about every platform, includes over 1000 Bible versions. It is similar to its online version described above.
    • Accordance Lite: This free version has limited resources, but it can give you an idea of the look and feel of the program.
    • Since I have Accordance and Logos, I use their included apps most often on my phone. (I tend to use the Logos app most often on my Android phone.) I’ve noted a number of the programs above which have mobile editions, but for more information on mobile Bible apps, look HERE.
My Recommendations:
If you simply want to study and read the most English versions, then YouVersion is handiest. Also check BibleGateway. If you want more study tools and resources, I recommend that you look first at The Word, e-Sword, and Logos 9 Basic. If you are connected with an educational institution, then your best bet is to get Logos 9 Academic Basic. Some of these programs are expandable for a cost or have full-featured upgrades.

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