Sunday, June 13, 2021

Mark 4.35-41 Translations and Notes (RCL 4th Sunday after Pentecost Year B)

Sea of Galilee from Mt. of Beatitudes, 2014, mgvh

The designated passage for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, of the RCL (20 June 2021) is Mark 4.35-41. It's the story of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As I've been doing in previous posts, I provide a collection of English translations along with my own translation and commentary on translation matters. It's part of the project I'm working on, Let the Hearer Understand: A Translation and Performance Guide for Hearing the Gospel of Mark

My point is that the standard English versions turn Mark's oral storytelling into literary English. They seek to smooth out the Greek, but in doing so they lose both the oral character and the narrative cues in the text. For Mark 4.35-41, there are three "greats / μεγα- forms" in the story: a great windstorm, a great calm, and a great fear. They provide narrative structure to the story, but they rarely are evident in English versions which tend to use synonyms that are more dramatic or sound better or work more closely with the object described. (E.g., the NIV has: "a furious squall... completely calm...terrified.") In particular, note that the fear happens after the calm, not during the storm.

Attention to performance of the text also highlights choices of attitude that the performer must make. In v38 are the disciples desperate or angry at Jesus for sleeping? In v40, was Jesus angry? Disappointed? Frustrated? Exasperated? Resigned to the fact of the disciples’ incomprehension? The choices one makes affect translation, performance, and reception.

Here are my notes both in DOCX and PDF.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Mark 4.26-34 Translations and Notes (RCL 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)
Mark 4.26-34 includes two fascinating parables of Jesus: The Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed. The Growing Seed is somewhat obscure, but it affirms the certainty of the harvest = the full realization of the Dominion of God. Personally, I think Matthew found it confusing, and the result is his version of it known as the Weeds and the Wheat (Matthew 13.24-30) For the Growing Seed, I've suggested it be used as a kind of Lectio Divina. See what you think with this video I created that can be as long or short as you want.

For the Mustard Seed parable, it most certainly is not about "From small beginnings come great endings." It's much more about the scandal of depicting God's dominion to what is basically a weed and contrasting it to the more typical image of a mighty cedar tree. (The image at the top of this post by Masaccio is one I like to use as an example of a scandalous tree which is also a tree of life.)

Here are is my handout of Mark 4.26-34 with a variety of translations and my translation notes. 

I include my own translation, and it should be noted that my translation is actually very close to the oral character of Mark’s Greek. My rendering is not good literary English which most English versions turn it into. It does work, however, as casual, spoken English. Try reading it out loud, and experiment with pacing and pauses in the text. E.g., in 4.30-31, you can almost hear Jesus thinking and engaging with a crowd when he asks two questions of them about what God's dominion is like. He pauses, and then in v31 he comes up with his answer: A mustard seed! The Greek is grammatically awkward, but it sounds perfectly fine when read out loud.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Mark 3.20-35 Translations and Notes (RCL 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Year B)


"Peter's House" in Capernaum - Apparent location of Mark 3.20-35

Below is a PDF and DOCX of Mark 3.20-35, the appointed text in the Revised Common Lectionary for the 2nd Sunday after Easter in Year B. As I've been doing with previous texts, you'll find a number of translations laid out in parallel, organized from most 'literal' to most 'dynamic.' I've also included my own translation which is part of a project I'm working on which is intended for the performance of the Gospel text. You'll see my full translation at the end of the document. 

A couple things to note in Mark 3.20-35.

  • Verses 20-21 indicate Jesus' family's concern for him, but they don't arrive until v31. I.e., it forms a frame, with the issue of Jesus' state of mind in v21, for the controversy about Jesus' authority in vv22-30.
  • The logic of vv23-27 can be a bit confusing. I think my notes help sort it out. Do also note that there are three different conditional types in vv24-26. Attention to those helps clarify what's going on.

Here you go:

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

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.