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May 14, 2021

My friends William A. Ross and W. Edward Glenny have edited a wonderful new book, The T&T Clark Handbook of Septuagint Research (2021). I asked them to guest write a post on key questions and trends in Septuagint Research. Read their thoughts below and definitely check out the book.


What’s Going On In Septuagint Studies?

William A. Ross and W. Edward Glenny, editors

What is the Septuagint?

Most of us involved in biblical studies would agree that the so-called Septuagint (LXX) is a valuable resource for our work. It is obviously important for OT textual criticism and interpretation, and for understanding the Greek of the NT and the quotations from the OT in the NT. And there are many more ways the LXX can and should contribute to our exegesis. However, few of us have had the luxury of taking a course on the Septuagint or spending extended time working in it, and it is a challenge to keep up on the growing number of resources available, their different perspectives, and how to approach the main research issues and methods within the discipline. Well, there is no need to despair over this situation any longer! The T&T Clark Handbook of Septuagint Research (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2021) is designed to provide that information and to help specialists and non-specialists find their way through the growing mass of secondary literature and issues involved in this discipline. This Handbook consolidates this information, illustrates different approaches to research in the LXX, and provides direction for study in areas related to the LXX. In the paragraphs below I have summarized the discussion of a few issues in the Handbook to give you a “taste” of the kind of information in it.

Let’s start with what we mean when we talk about “the Septuagint.” Co-editor William Ross addresses this in his introduction to the Handbook. Will clarifies that “in a very real sense there is no Septuagint” (4). We commonly use the word in a general sense to refer to the ancient translations of the canonical Hebrew Bible into Greek along with some apocryphal and deuterocanonical works, such as one finds in the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition of the LXX. But this collection of books is diverse. The translation of books from Hebrew (or Aramaic) took place in different places over three or four centuries by different translators; and not long after the original translation of some parts, they were copied and revised and the making of recensions began. And not all the books in this collection were translated from Semitic languages. In view of this diverse and extended history, it is not surprising that it was only after centuries had passed that the term “the Septuagint” came to be applied to this body of literature. By the way, scholars tend to use the term “Old Greek” (OG) when referring to the original translation of a LXX book, insofar as scholars have reconstructed it.

Septuagint as a “Translation”

Another issue that Marieke Dhont explains in her chapter on “Translation Technique and Jewish Exegesis” is the gradual transition in the discipline away from speaking of “literal” and “free” translations. Modern scholars of translation realize that translation is a complex “sociocultural activity,” and a translator’s decisions are governed by “a multidimensional interplay of various factors that are determined by the translator’s context” (24). The complexity of the translation process requires careful consideration in exegesis of the LXX, and Dhont gives her readers help in analyzing the potential theological and interpretive elements in LXX renderings.

Determining Word Meaning in the Septuagint

Patrick Pouchelle’s chapter on “Septuagint Lexicography” updates readers on approaches to Septuagint lexicography, more specifically, “Should the meaning of a given Septuagintal word be deduced from the Hebrew word to which it corresponds, or should it be deduced from its place within the Koine Greek of its time?” (70) Pouchelle outlines developments in this important area and explains the difference, strengths, and weaknesses of source and target language orientation in word study in the LXX. He also helpfully introduces and explains Hebrew or Aramaic interference in the translation and Septuagint interference in portions of the LXX originally written in Greek.

Engaging Qumran Texts

Gideon Kotzé’s chapter in the Handbook (“The Septuagint and Qumran”) introduces readers to the importance of the Qumran manuscripts for understanding the text of the LXX (and the Hebrew Bible). He summarizes that when the LXX text differs from the MT, it is necessary to determine whether the difference was based on the wording of the source text of the translation (which differed from the proto-MT), created by the translator, or introduced in later transmission (158). Agreements between Qumran manuscripts and LXX readings that differ from the MT strengthen the possibility that those readings reflect a LXX source text that differed from the MT. Kotzé guides the reader through such issues and explains the importance of the Qumran scrolls for textual criticism of the LXX.

Septuagint and Canon Status

A significant question is the importance for the Biblical Canon of the LXX, which contains more books than the Hebrew Bible. John Meade concludes that early Christians “would probably have differentiated between ‘canonical’ scripture as their authority and ‘useful’ scripture as books having diminished authority in cases of ecclesiastical doctrine” (223). He notes that there is no Greek commentary on a deuterocanonical book before the fourteenth century. This chapter is a must read!

The Septuagint and the New Testament

How should one evaluate “cross-contamination” in the transmission of the Old Greek and the New Testament? This is a tricky question that Steve Moyise tackles in his chapter on “The Septuagint in the New Testament” (248–50). In his discussion of this issue, which focuses on LXX Isaiah, he helpfully points out Rahlfs’s preference (with some exceptions) for selecting LXX readings based on their difference from their NT parallels, a methodology that is now considered obsolete.

Final Thoughts

Other chapters especially pertinent to biblical scholars are William Ross’s discussion of “The Septuagint and Modern Language Translations,” and Jennifer Jones’ up-to-date summary of LXX literature (“The Septuagint and Contemporary Study”). And since biblical scholars depend upon and write commentaries, not to be missed is the presentation of different approaches to LXX commentary writing in the chapters by Robert Hiebert (Joint-Editor-In-Chief of the SBL Commentary on the Septuagint, SBLCS) and Stanley Porter (General Editor of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series, SEPT). Hiebert explains the principles undergirding the forthcoming SBLCS, which emphasizes reading the “text as produced,” and Porter describes the approach followed by the authors in the SEPT series, which is “a Greek-text oriented approach.”

This Handbook is written for those who are serious about using the LXX in their biblical studies. We have tried to give a “taste” of the kind of helpful information offered in the 25 chapters in it, and we sincerely hope this volume can sharpen and advance biblical scholarship in the years to come.

 

April 22, 2016

LXX

In seminary (Gordon-Conwell) I cut my teeth on LXX-studies with the first edition of Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker, 2000, by K. Jobes and M. Silva). The same book again was used at Durham in a postgrad seminar on LXX Tobit (taught by Stuart Weeks and Loren Stuckenbruck) – clearly Jobes/Silva’s work gained notoriety and at the time it was the only “textbook” of its kind – even today hardly anything can be found so comprehensive, yet user-friendly.

A second edition – with the same structure and basic content – offers an update in light of the massive growth of LXX-studies in biblical scholarship and textual criticism (Baker, 2016). I have skimmed through the new edition and the inclusion of up-to-date scholarship since 2000 is well-integrated, both into end-of-chapter reading recommendations and also footnotes. One should note the added discussion of the “interlinear” paradigm in association with the NETS (86-90), trends in modern translation theory (303-304), and certain people added to the biographic profiles in ch. 11 (including Ziegler, Soisalon-Soininen, Barthelemy, and Wevers). Also, the appendix on LXX organizations and research projects has been updated including information on, e.g., the Brill Septuagint series and the SBL Septuagint series (quite a lot of activity and opportunities in LXX studies – it is an exciting time!).

I would say Septuagint nerds will want this update for their collection, even if they have the old edition. Folks in NT studies (like myself) ought to have one edition of Jobes/Silva, and if you never got a copy of the old edition, now is the time for the new one!

 

March 11, 2014

I wish to bring two items to your attention today, both in relation to J. Ross Wagner (Duke) and Septuagint hermeneutics. The first item is that Creig Marlowe and I, as co-chairs of the program unit on the Relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, have invited Dr. Wagner to be the main speaker for our meeting from 4-6PM Friday evening (Nov 21, 2014). This is under the auspices of the Institute for Biblical Research which is an affiliate of the Society of Biblical Literature.

We are very excited to have Dr. Wagner talk about the nature of the Septuagint and how NT writers used and thought about the Septuagint (specifically as Scripture for them). Wagner will have two skilled respondents: Dr. Telford Work and Dr. Robert Wall.  More info to come, but this will be a session you won’t want to miss!

WagnerSecondly, I want to draw your attention to a book recently released by Baylor University Press called Reading the Sealed Book: Old Greek Septuagint and the Problem of Septuagint Hermeneutics (2013). Dr. Wagner is well-versed in the study of the Septuagint (and esp the Greek text of Isaiah), so this is bound to be a worthwhile monograph. My impression, just from poking around in it today, is that Dr. Wagner intends to zoom in on Isaiah, but in the end to draw out some important implications regarding how to approach the Septuagint from a theological and hermeneutical perspective.

August 3, 2013

A single hour lovingly directed to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary. (Adolf Deissmann; The Philology of the Greek Bible, 12)

August 2, 2013

In the last post, I talked a bit about the importance and legacy of the LXX. Here I would like to talk about the Apocrypha, which is included within the LXX.

Disclaimer: it is a bit misleading to talk about “the Septuagint.” Someone once wrote that to refer to the Septuagint is like referring to the English Bible. Just as with the English Bible, the Septuagint (as a term) represents a variety of text traditions with a long and winding history. The same goes with the Apocrypha. Which texts make up the Apocrypha? Again, while there are variant collections, there is a central set of texts (Tobit, 1-2 Maccabees, Epistle of Jeremiah, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, etc…) and peripheral texts that appear in fewer collections (4 Maccabees, Odes, etc…). Still, I think we can refer to the Apocrypha generally for convenience.

The books of the Apocrypha are post-exilic compositions. The Septuagint (as a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the Pentateuch) was written to meet the needs of Hellenistic Jews who desired the sacred texts in the common language of the time. But why was the Apocrypha included in the LXX?

To be quite frank, we don’t know. Perhaps it was added, not because Jews considered it on par with the Pentateuch, but because it was instructive. It nurtured Jewish identity and piety. However, there was no official notation of this in the Septuagint. Nevertheless, we do not see Jews of the second temple period appealing to the Apocryphal texts explicitly (as Scripture), though they sometimes show knowledge of it.  Also, Josephus (Ant. 8.159) makes reference to “books of our own country” as a source of reference for his historical material. Perhaps he refers to the Apocrypha (perhaps other Jewish writings).

The situation regarding the status of the Apocrypha is similarly unclear for the earliest Christians. The NT writers do not quote the Apocrypha explicitly, despite the fact that they did treat the Septuagint as Scripture. Did the NT writers allude to or draw from the Apocrypha? There is ample evidence to show that Jesus, Paul, James, and others certainly were acquainted with the Apocrypha and probably positively influenced by texts like Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.

Interestingly, the Patristic theologians seemed to have a high respect for the Apocrypha. 1 Clement quotes Wisdom of Solomon, and so does the Epistle of Barnabas. Tobit was cited by Polycarp, and Hippolytus included discussion of the Apocryphal  “Additions to Daniel” in his commentary on Daniel. According to Martin Goodman, “These citations generally treated the text of the Apocrypha as inspired like the rest of Scripture.” Goodman mentions that the Muratorian Canon includes Wisdom of Solomon (though with a caveat). [see OUP’s The Apocrypha; Goodman wrote the very insightful introduction, pp. 1-12].

So, we know that the Apocrypha commanded great respect in the Church for many centuries. Even Jerome, though he challenged the preeminence of the Septuagint, included these works in the Vulgate. But Daniel Harrington sums up well Jerome’s attitude: “Even though he quoted from them and praised their content, he did not regard them as part of the canon and argued they should not be used in establishing doctrine” (Invitation to the Septuagint, 5). But Jerome’s delineation and demotion of the Apocrypha was not indicative of the attitude of the wider Church. Until the Protestant Reformation.

This is where Sola Scriptura comes in. When Luther and the later Reformers pondered the nature and limits of Scripture, the authority of the Apocrypha was reconsidered. Luther himself did include the Apocrypha in an appendix in his German translation of the Bible. He encouraged its use in worship, but felt that it should not be a basis for the development of doctrine.

In response, the 1546 Council of Trent reaffirmed the Apocrypha. Protestant Reformers fell across the spectrum on their treatment of the Apocrypha. Not long after Trent, the Anglican Book of Common Prayer included readings from the Apocrypha. The Puritans, though, rejected these texts completely. For many Protestant Christians today, especially evangelicals, the Apocrypha are treated as uninspired and uninspiring “rejected” texts. When I tell my students that they are going to learn about the Apocrypha, some express fear (as if it will transfer cooties to them), others excitement (as if I were promising to bring the Iron Curtain down), but most appreciate the opportunity to address their ignorance on the subject.

There is one scholar today who has taken it upon himself to promote interest in the Apocrypha amongst Christians: David deSilva (Ashland Theological Seminary). deSilva does not simply want Christians to read the Apocrypha to learn more about Jewish history and genres (though he mentions these benefits). He encourages interest in the Apocrypha as tools for spiritual growth.

[T]he Apocrypha are rich in devotional insights, ethical admonition, and spiritually formative guidance–to such an extent that the majority of the world’s Christians include them among their inspired Scriptures. The apocryphal books teach about repentance and humility before God; they give insights into the spiritual and practical disciplines required to achieve breakthroughs in personal transformation; they teach about the importance of keeping our focus on the life of eternity with God for the preservation of a life of ethical integrity. Because many of these texts were born from the struggle to discover and nurture the way of faithfulness in the midst of significant challenges, they remain devotional literature of the highest order–devotional literature that has stood the test of time and has been repeatedly affirmed by the reading practices of Catholic and Orthodox communions. Even if Protestants do not turn to these texts as sources for theological reflection, the Apocrypha can be valued as worthy and serious conversation partners in the quest for theological truth, wrestling quite openly as they do with questions of perpetual interest. (The Apocrypha, Abingdon, 2013, xiii).

I am probably not as passionate about this as deSilva, though I too try to cure evangelicals of the fear they have of the Apocrypha. Not only are they not dangerous, they are good for you!

In a wonderful article entitled “Never Without A Witness: The Apocrypha and Spiritual Formation” (Ashland Theological Journal 2006), deSilva argues that, even if we treat the Apocrypha as flawed or imperfect, we should at least afford to them  the same value that we do modern books related to Christian devotion and discipleship. So deSilva cogently and elegantly writes:

There is no doubt that the works of Max Lucado or Rick Warren represent the finest devotional fruit that blossoms on the tree that is the church, and many are nourished and delighted by this fruit. But the authors of the Apocrypha are located deeper down among the roots of that tree. The apostles themselves drew their nourishment from these roots as the tree began to sprout when it was but a young sapling. In the most formative centuries of our faith, Christian teachers mined these books as rich treasure troves on the life lived with God, and the life of responding to God. The whole tree has continued to be nourished by them, even though some of its branches do not seem to know it. (p. 77).

But, and here is the million-dollar question – are they “inspired?” Did God imbue these texts with his own unique authority? That is an extremely onerous question, but I like to share with my students a helpful (though complex) quote from Ross Wagner:

[John] Webster’s appeal to God’s gracious and sovereign superintendence of Holy Scripture ‘from pre-textual tradition to interpretation’ bears close affinities, of course, to the theological justifications offered by Origen and Augustine for the role of the Septuagint as a norm for Christian practice and belief. It is because of the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the translation, canonization, and reception of the Christian Bible that we are enabled to hear in the Septuagint, too, ‘the terrifying mercy of God’s address.’ (“The Septuagint and the ‘Search for the Christian Bible'” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible, pg. 28)
There is a lot of back-history of discussion packed into this quote from Wagner, but the bottom line is this: would God breathe his Spirit into only the original Hebrew Old Testament, and not to the Septuagint which was widely used and learned from by Jews of the Hellenistic period and beyond? Does God’s Spirit not also work and prompt and “inspire” past the text itself and into the actual interpretation of Scripture (which, undoubtedly includes the Septuagint)? The questions come easy; the answers do not.
The last post in the series will offer some suggestions for further reading on the Septuagint and the Apocrypha.
August 1, 2013

I love the Septuagint! Well, I love Greek. I find the Septuagint, as a translation and interpretation of the Hebrew Jewish Scriptures fascinating. I love digging into the LXX for help with NT word studies in particular.

However, I am disappointed that it is not emphasized very much as a resource for pastoral ministry (esp Biblical interpretation), and that many pastors are simply unaware of its legacy, and the influence it has had on the NT writers. Perhaps Ferdinand Hitzig took it a bit too far when he told his students, “Sell all you have and buy a Septuagint!” But he knew something a lot of pastors don’t – there wouldn’t be a New Testament without a Septuagint.

I have spent some time reading articles and essays on the LXX ranging from recent ones to some dating several decades back. Over and over again, scholars have tried to emphasize the importance of the Septuagint for history of Christianity.

Lois Farag wrote this in 2006: “The status of the Septuagint as an inspired text was firmly fixed in the minds of early Christians” (“The Septuagint in the Life of the Early Church,” W&W 2006, p. 393). Another article author, Steven Briel, affirms the same: “Quite simply, the Septuagint was the Bible for the ancient church” (“The Pastor and the Septuagint,” Concordia Theological Journal 51.4 [1987]: 261-274). Briel points back to an article from 1970, where George Howard stated “Paul is…writing the Greek of a man who has the LXX in his blood” (“The Septuagint: A Review of Recent Studes,” RestQ 13 [1970] 154).

Perhaps, with a bit more detail, Melvin Peters’ statement is most persuasive: “It was not a secondary translation to Hebrew but was Scripture. It is quoted, expanded, exegeted, and allegorized in Hellenistic Greek religious literature and thus was the Scripture known to early Christians” (“Why Study the Septuagint?,” BAR 49 [1986] 178).

As history tells us, the Septuagint (referred to as LXX, for short) had this status (“inspired”) until the end of the fourth century. What happened then? Put simply, Jerome happened. Basically, Jerome felt that the Latin Biblical translations at his disposal (along with translations in other languages) were convoluted and too often divergent. He desperately wanted to write a new Latin translation. In order to do this properly, he felt compelled to work from the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament (as the earliest sources), and not solely or even primarily from the Greek Septuagint. Two points, though, should be made at this point. First, he had respect for the LXX and considered it inspired (or at least “special”). Secondly, he was not necessarily the voice of an anxious consensus. In many ways, he was alone. In particular, St. Augustine disagreed – quite passionately.

We have the benefit of extant letters from Augustine that express his protest against Jerome’s intentions. Augustine felt very strongly about the Septuagint, even stronger than Jerome. In his work, De Civitate Dei, Augustine wrote, “The Spirit which was in the prophets when they spoke, this very Spirit was in the seventy men when they translated” (18, 43). Interestingly, Augustine apparently believed that the LXX was ordained for the Christian Church because, as a Greek text, it was most suitable for outreach to the Gentile world (see Doctr. Chr. 2.22).

There is an excellent essay by A. Kotze (Stellenbosch) called “Augustine, Jerome, and the Septuagint,” where the conflict between these two theologians is analyzed in detail (see Septuagint and Reception, Brill, 2009). Kotze explains, “In letter 28 of 394 or 395 C.E., Augustine pleads with Jerome not to make a new translation of the OT from the Hebrew and in letter 71 of 403 C.E. he again expresses the wish that Jerome should rather make a new translation of the Septuagint” (245). She adds that there may have been a regional bias at work. The “Western Church Fathers” treated the Septuagint as “normative,” while in the East there was a tendency to prefer the Hebrew text (p. 246).

So, with Jerome’s Vulgate, the Septuagint began to fade. However, the “acceptance” of the Vulgate did not happen overnight. It took a couple of centuries for it to gain traction (the Venerable Bede used the Vulgate in his commentaries). However, after Jerome, it appears that the Septuagint started to lose its prize place as the primarily “inspired” translation of the Christian Church.

What about the Apocrypha? Did it fall out of use after Jerome? Good question. That will be the subject of the next post in this series.

February 11, 2021


This is part 6 of an ongoing series 0n Accordance. This time we will be talking about which packages to buy.

part 1: Translation Comparison

part 2: Greek Lexicons

part 3: Deeper Word Studies

part 4: Digital Library

part 5: Accordance Mobile App


Which Packages to Buy?

Ok, so you are interested in Accordance. You’ve heard from folks it is handy for Bible study, you’ve collected some nickels and dimes, and you are ready to dive in. But what packages to get? Accordance offers many collections that are geared towards different sorts of usage. For my part, I am primarily interested in original language study of the Old and New Testaments. If you want a set up like mine, here are my recommendations, scaled from “budget” to “luxury” so you can start cheaper and then build as you bank some birthday and Christmas money.

Where to Start: The Budget Option ($399)

This is my suggestion: start with the Greek and Hebrew Discoverer collection. This includes essential Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible (MT, GNT, LXX; also Apostolic Fathers). In terms of lexicons, you get cheaper ones like Thayer’s,  Louw-Nida, and BDB. As far as English translations are concerned, this collection provides ESV, NET, NRSV, and NETS (Septuagint) and more.

 

So, you want to upgrade? (Premium –> English Bible Add on +$269)

If you got the Discoverer collection and you want to build on that, especially for pastors, I would recommend the English Bible add-on which adds: NASB, NIV, RSV, NLT, CEB, the Message and more.

 

Still want more? (Add BDAG for +$159)

If you are doing research on the Greek text of the New Testament, it is practically a must to buy BDAG. It’s expensive, and that is unfortunate. But we are all in the same boat, just gotta buy it.

 

Want to go luxury level? (Add Greek Jewish Writings +$199 and Dead Sea Scrolls +$299)

When I do advanced word studies and parallel text analysis, I like to have those Greek and Hebrew texts in Accordance; these add ons will set you up.

 

Bottom Line

PASTORS: A good exegesis set-up will cost you about $668 (Discoverer + English Bible)

ACADEMICS: I recommend getting the whole shebang which will cost you $1126. Definitely a hefty number, BUT (1) the cost for the print versions would be way higher and (2) it is a one-time cost and most of these resources will serve you for your whole career.

 

But wait, I have Bibleworks!

Good news! Accordance has a “Crossover” package discount so you don’t have to buy everything all over again. You will need to prove you have Bibleworks.

You can learn about what is included in the crossover package HERE 

 

 

February 7, 2021

Eve-Marie Becker (University of Muenster) has published an excellent book on the concept of humility in Paul and early Christianity (German edition published in 2015; ET 2020). This is a wide-ranging study that looks at the ancient meaning of tapeinophrosynē (“humility”), Paul’s usage in Philippians and other letters, other uses in the New Testament, and also in the Apostolic Fathers and Patristic writers. Marie-Becker is also interested in what the ethical concept of humility contributes to modern European societies today (see pg. 14).

Here a few parts of the book that I found especially interesting:

  • Outside of Paul’s use of tapeinophrosynē, this term only appears in Epictetus and Josephus in the first and early second centuries CE. Paul seems to have invested theological and rhetorically in tapeinophrosynē especially in Philippians, giving rise to a kind of “humility” movement in early Christianity.

 

  • Inspired by the Septuagint and Jewish tradition, Paul may have coined tapeinophrosynē himself in Philippians: “He bulds on Israel’s religious conception of lowliness and advances—in contact with the so-called pagan outside world—the program of a productive and consistent ‘reversal of all values'” (58).

 

  • What is humility according to Paul? Becker repeatedly emphasizes that (1) it is communally-oriented and (2) it imitates the example of Christ. But I found a succinct statement on humility on page 111: “humility realizes itself concretely as individual…renunciation of one’s own status possibilities in the service of the community…The guiding framework is the ecclesia.”

 

  • Becker notes that Christians after the first century appear to have used the term “humble” or “lowly” as a title, as in the 3rd century graffito from Dura Europos: “Sisaeus, the humble” (Siseon ton tapinon) (see pg. 2). This underscores the theological importance of humility in Christianity and also the impact of Paul’s formation of how believers think about life together in the community.

Becker has packed lots of information and insight into a relatively short book (150pp.). If you want to do a deep dive into the concept of humility in Paul and early Christianity, this is a must-read book.

February 4, 2021


This is part 3 of an ongoing series 0n Accordance. This time we will be talking about doing deeper word studies.

part 1: Translation Comparison

part 2: Greek Lexicons


Going Deeper with Word Studies

One of the main uses of Accordance in my own research involves the ability to search for a Greek word (from the New Testament) in parallel and related texts like the Septuagint, Josephus, Philo, Epictetus, the OT Pseudepigrapha, the Greek texts of Qumran, and also reception-related material like the Apostolic Fathers, Apocryphal Gospels, and Greek Patristic writers.

Why not just use the lexicons? I don’t trust them! I find that sometimes I disagree with the lexicons, sometimes they miss things. But also because I might spot some kind of connection between texts that is not obvious in a short lexical entry. Also, I often get the “feel” for a word by actually seeing it in use in texts. This is helpful when you have a word appear in the NT just once or twice, but is more common in other texts. Take, for example, the word mueō (“I am initiated into a secret”), which only appears in Phil 4:12 in the New Testament. One gets a better grasp of what this word means by looking at its usage in Philo, Epictetus, and the Pseudepigrapha. Accordance offers both the Greek and English translation of most of these parallel texts. You can pull them up with a quick click of a button (see video).

This sounds like a lot of work to study one word, right? Yes, but this is exactly what Accordance is for, to let the student dive deep into the details. If you want to do quick study, use a commentary.

Is this going to cost me $$$? The short answer—yes, if you want my set up. But later in this series I will give pointers on what to buy, and I will scale my recommendations, budget Accordance, complete Bible study Accordance, advanced Accordance.

What if I don’t know Greek? For doing this kind of deeper word study, it would be challenging and perhaps even dangerous to try to glean insights from parallel texts without knowing Greek. It takes some training and know-how. But later in this series I will talk about how Accordance can serve students who don’t know Greek and want to use some basic tools.

Watch a Short Tutorial Below

WORD USAGE FEATURE

January 29, 2021

This blog series has a tragic beginning, but a happy ending. Over the past year or two, my Macbook updated the OS to the point I could no longer run Bibleworks, which I had faithfully used for more than fifteen years. Tragic indeed. I felt…alone. But after a period of grief, I knew I had to get out there and meet new research programs. Now, I am happily connected to Accordance Bible Software. 

I get lots of questions from students and pastors about Bible software. I use different apps and tools (like Logos), but Accordance gets the most use, because of its efficiency, resources, speed, and simplicity. It runs really clean on a Mac and I have enjoyed connecting with the good folks at Accordance.

So, I will be breaking my reflections on Accordance into several little parts to highlight various features. Much like buying a laptop or a car, you know it is a big investment, so you want to be sure it will get used well and serve your needs for years to come. I get it! 

In this series, I will use a mixture of written text and very short videos. Some folks will want a quick read, others more of a visual walkthrough. If there are things you want to know, leave a comment and I will see what I can do. Thanks!


Accordance Bible Software is designed to elevate productivity and bring efficiency and convenience to rigorous Bible study (and study of other ancient texts).

Do you need to know Greek and Hebrew?

The short answer is YES. Accordance supports students of the Bible in advanced study of the original text. Sure, you could look up “interlinear” features and get basic word meanings if you don’t know Greek, but you would not be really utilizing the main reasons for the software. Better to use something like StepBible (*Free*) to do some basic word study research.

 

I have (1) year of Greek grammar, is that enough?

That should be enough if you learned well the basics of Greek (or Hebrew) grammar and syntax. Accordance has features that will “help” you parse words and clue you in to word meanings.

 

What would I actually USE Accordance for?

If I had to boil my use of Accordance down to a handful of key features, it would be this:

(1) Reading—I pull up the Greek Bible and an English translation (or 2 or 3 or 10) and read on Accordance. They have mobile device apps too for reading on the go.

(2) Lexicons—I can quickly pull up word meanings from several Greek lexicons and dictionaries.

(3) Quick ET Comparison—with a quick “toggle” I can pull up 10+ English translations on a particular verse and see how they compare. I do this a lot for sermon prep and academic research.

(4) Deeper Word Studies—If there is a particular Greek or Hebrew word I want to study, I can tell Accordance to search for that same word in other ancient texts, like Philo, Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, OT Pseudepigrapha, the Septuagint/Apocrypha, or the Apostolic Fathers and Patristic writings, or Non-Jewish Hellenistic texts like Epictetus. For students and scholars, this is a massive benefit. Doing this kind of comparative study has sparked several academic articles I have written.

(5) Library All-in-One—Accordance has a large library of secondary sources you can purchase like commentaries, dictionaries, textbooks, etc. I know some folks that swear by this, I don’t buy much from Accordance in this category. But if you wanted to, they have tons of stuff available.

(6) Sales and Discounts—Accordance runs lots of weekly or monthly sales on resources, so you can get a great discount on resources and digital books. Sometimes their sales allow you to buy a key resource for several hundred dollars less than the print versions.

How much, *gulp*, is Accordance going to set me back?

There are lots of packages to choose from, in fact it can be overwhelming. Later in this series, I will make some recommendations, but I would suspect a seminary-trained pastor would need to spend $500-1000 to get up and running with a set-up that I will be talking about. It’s not cheap, but the print versions of the resources you get would add up to much more and overwhelm your desk!

In the video below (6 minutes), I do a quick walkthrough of some Accordance features, with a special focus on the “Text Browser” window.

 




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