How To Buy A Commentary for Bible Study

I’ve been posting about using digital tools and we started talking about commentaries. Here’s the rub: there are a whole mess of Bible commentaries.

It’s not enough that we have the printing press and modern theologians writing a whole mess of them; we also have 2,000 years of church history filled with commentaries.

But not only that, we have the commentaries by unbelievers, agnostic believers, people who are closer to deists than anything, heretics, heterodox, and people who just have a pet agenda to push forward.

For the person who is studying their Bible, who has put in some sweat and tears on exegesis, I think it’s smart to invest good money on solid commentaries while simultaneously avoiding all the garbage that’s out there.

At this point, some folk might be quick to recommend a digital version of William MacDonald’s two volume commentary on the Bible. Yeah, it’s good for what it is—a quick hitting devotional through the Bible. But a main source for commentary it is not (sorry—neither is Matthew Henry’s.).

And frankly, no single volume commentary will be. Not even a single publisher of commentaries. If you want some real commentary tools for studying your Bible, you’re going to have to approach it like a stock portfolio: diversify.

So here are some links to resources that let you broaden your horizon on what commentaries to look for when shopping:

Free: Check out Best Commentaries for reviews on, well, commentaries. The site compiler picks up his information from some books that you should definitely buy but also touches on some writers that are on the web (like Keith Mathison over on Ligonier Ministries or Jeremy Pierce, a Chrisitan philosopher who blogs over at Parableman). For those strapped for cash, this is a great place to start but definitely think about investing in the Not-Free section.

Not Free but Must Own: pick up D.A Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey. He’s a solid evangelical and reformed professor, pastor , and exegetical expert and this book will save you loads of money. He reviews commentaries, rates them based on skill level, but unfortunately only stays within the realm of the New Testament. The Kindle edition is roughly seven bucks which you can spend just by skipping Starbucks tomorrow.  But don’t let your heart be troubled, Tremper Longman III has an Old Testament Commentary Survey which does essentially the same thing as Carson but for the OT. For 8 bucks Kindle version, you can’t go wrong with this two stepper. And lastly, you should consider also picking up John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference survey. It’s the most expensive of the two since it’s not only commentaries, but it helps the commentary purchasing endeavor.

Note: you might not want to purchase commentaries in only digital versions. Digital versions are great, in that you can take them anywhere in your computer (especially if you purchased the Perfect Electronic Bible) but you’ll more often never get the discount you might find on a print version. I’ve bought print versions that are marked up with highlighters for under three bucks; I could never buy a digital version for that low.

So consider if you need to buy a digital version of any commentary before buying one. In fact, you might even want to use inter-library loans to get your hands on commentaries without buying them—it’s a great way to try before you buy.

Next post, how to actually use a commentary.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner

UPDATE from Jeremy Pierce over on Facebook: I’m finding the guide by John F. Evans to be excellent. Carson, Longman, and Glynn are five years old already. Evans’ latest edition is only two. He has more detail on his most-recommended volumes, but his list is pretty comprehensive, and I find myself agreeing with him more often than not. He even cites a number of reviews in academic journals for many volumes, for those who want to pursue more depth in their evaluations before buying. It’s worth looking at, at the very least for stuff that came out between 2007 and 2010 (of which there’s plenty of good stuff).

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Why You Should Use A Commentary For Bible Study

I’ve been posting about using digital tools to aid in a Bible Study. I’ve repeatedly mentioned reading the Bible, and that’s no different at this point where I want to merely state (without substantiating it very much—really can’t do all that in under five hundred words) that you should be using commentaries.

First, why you should be careful with commentaries:

  1. Some of them take a non-Christian approach to studying the text.
  2. Some take an agnostic approach about God’s work in history.
  3. They can be perverted to give a sense of secret knowledge.
  4. They might take you afield from the text if you refuse to stick with the text.
  5. They can be expensive.

But now, why you should use them:

  1. The best authors have studied history; you most likely haven’t.
  2. The best authors are expert in original languages; you mostly likely aren’t.
  3. The authors have interacted with other authors and have had their ideas scrutinized by experts in their field; you most likely haven’t.
  4. They’ll provoke you to think about the text outside of your normal ways of thinking.
  5. The Holy Spirit wasn’t only given to you: he was given to all Christians. Including the very smart ones who write commentaries.
  6. The Holy Spirit works in time so that means that very old commentaries might be just as helpful to you as modern ones.
  7. They provide a way to check your understanding of Scripture against the broader community.
  8. They predicate their work on a lifetime of studying a passage; you most likely haven’t
  9. Because  they give you hard work to provoke your brain for hard thinking.
  10. Because Spurgeon said so: “In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”

Next I’ll deal with how to buy a commentary.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner.

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How To Do A Word Study With Your Bible

I’ve been highlighting tools that can be used to do an effective Bible Study and so far we’ve underscored reading the text. Repeatedly. And taking notes while reading. But now I want to highlight how a person might want to examine the meanings of words.

One of your better tools is the English dictionary. If you’re using the KJV, this winds up being more difficult but the point here is that words mean something and sometimes our misreading can be predicated on what we think a word means.

  • Free: Dictionaries are readily available online at several sites (m-w,, the Free Dictionary).
  • Not-Free: More expensive programs have dictionaries but I find it easier just to hop over to Websters online.

Sometimes, folk want to see the meaning of the original language by examining a word, like the word love or church (for example).

I don’t think that this is the best way for most of us to study the Bible.

Too often we approach Word Studies as delving into secret knowledge accessed only by The Original Greek or The Original Hebrew.

Get this straight: if you really want to study the original words you’re going to have to learn the original languages. That means not only words; you have to get grammar.

If you don’t want to learn koine Greek or ancient Hebrew it’s really best to rely on the experts who work with original languages. And don’t think you can get away from it. Even your KJV was translated by a committee of translators.

So the best advice in this area is not really to pick up this or that program tagged with Strong’s numbers and a Strong Concordance link (you should); nor is it to pick up Vine’s book (you can); nor is it even to get a real lexicon like the BDAG (though you must). The best method is to run (not walk or mozy) to your local bookstore, or launch your not-free program and add the module, or immediately hop on over to Amazon and pick up DA Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies. This is a book you should definitely have before you start hardening yourself in some mistaken opinion. Maybe this is legalistic, but I don’t think you should be preaching if you don’t own and read this book.

  • Free options: The KJV with Strong’s numbers comes in about every single piece of free software you can find on the web (E-Sword, Mac-Sword, Olive Tree (check out Mike talking about it for the iPad), Xiphos). The way it’s used is by enabling the numbering system that are hyperlinked to an article that lists the Greek words. Unfortunately, the concordance doesn’t list the conjugation of the word, just the word and, very often, the roots that make up the word. This is problematic in that roots are not always indicative of the meanings of words.  A Fireman is not a man made of fire and a butterfly is neither a fly nor a saturated fat; in like manner an ekklesia isn’t Called Out Ones. Also, check out free robust tools like Perseus.
  • Not-Free Options: Logos has a really good tool for getting underneath the English text by using the most recent editions of the Greek Text. It also links to some tremendous lexicons with very long articles on specific words, cognates, and even key phrases. Bibleworks is apparently better for doing straight exegetical work with the original languages. Unfortunately, in both cases, if a person doesn’t know the original languages these tools wind up being very dry, likely confusing, and really doesn’t tell you why your translation chose this word over against that one. Gramcord avoids all the other stuff from the big applications and comes at a fraction of the cost but you’ll  have to know the original languages. Lexicons are integral to word studies so check BADG; Milligan and Moulton; Thayer; Cremer.

In all cases, the best two tools for doing a word study are (1) reading the text in its context and (2) picking up the book right now. As the author DA Carson’s dad would say “A Text without a Context is a pretext for a Prooftext”.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner.

And as an added perk, here’s how a word study looks like (pdf’s one and two).

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Quotables: Christ is God (Hilary)


Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored.

6. My reader must bear in mind that I am silent about the current objections through no forgetfulness, and no distrust of my cause. For that constantly cited text, The Father is greater than I, and its cognate passages are perfectly familiar to me, and I have my interpretation of them ready, which makes them witness to the true Divine nature of the Son. But it serves my purpose best to adhere in reply to the order of attack, that our pious effort may follow close upon the progress of their impious scheme, and when we see them diverge into godless heresy we may at once obliterate the track of error. To this end we postpone to the end of our work the testimony of the Evangelists and Apostles, and join battle with the blasphemers for the present on the ground of the Law and the Prophets, silencing their crooked argument, based on misinterpretation and deceit, by the very texts with which they strive to delude us. The sound method of demonstrating a truth is to expose the fallacy of the objections raised against it; and the disgrace of the deceiver is complete if his own lie be converted into an evidence for the truth. And, indeed, the universal experience of mankind has learned that falsehood and truth are incompatible, and cannot be reconciled or made coherent; that by their very nature they are among those opposites which are eternally repugnant, and can never combine or agree.

7. This being the case, I ask how a distinction can be made in the words, Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness, between a true God and a false. The words express a meaning, the meaning is the outcome of thought; the thought is set in motion by truth. Let us follow the words back to their meaning, and learn from the meaning the thought, and from the thought attain to the underlying truth. Thy enquiry is, whether He to Whom the words Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness were spoken, was not thought of as true by Him Who spoke; for they undoubtedly express the feeling and thought of the Speaker. In saying Let Us make, He clearly indicates One in no discord with Himself, no alien or powerless Being, but One endowed with power to do the thing of which He speaks. His own words assure us that this is the sense in which we must understand that they were spoken.

9. But now let us continue our reading of this Scripture, to shew how the consistency of truth is unaffected by these dishonest objections. The next words are, And God made man; after the image of God made He him. The image is in common; God made man after the image of God. I would ask him who denies that God’s Son is true God, in what God’s image he supposes that God made man? He must bear constantly in mind that all things are through the Son; heretical ingenuity must not, for its own purposes, twist this passage into action on the part of the Father. If, therefore, man is created through God the Son after the image of God the Father, he is created also after the image of the Son; for all admit that the words After Our image and likeness were spoken to the Son. Thus His true Godhead is as explicitly asserted by the Divine words as manifested in the Divine action; so that it is God Who moulds man into the image of God, Who reveals Himself as God, and, moreover, as true God. For His joint possession of the Divine image proves Him true God, while His creative action displays Him as God the Son.

10. What wild insanity of abandoned souls! What blind audacity of reckless blasphemy! You hear of God and God; you hear of Our image. Why suggest that One is, and One is not, true God? Why distinguish between God by nature and God in name? Why, under pretext of defending the faith, do you destroy the faith? Why struggle to pervert the revelation of One God, One true God, into a denial that God is One and true? Not yet will I stifle your insane efforts with the clear words of Evangelists and Prophets, in which Father and Son appear not as one Person, but as One in nature, and Each as true God. For the present the Law, unaided, annihilates you. Does the Law ever speak of One true God, and One not true? Does it ever speak of Either, except by the name of God, which is the true expression of Their nature? It speaks of God and God; it speaks also of God as One. Nay, it does more than so describe Them. It manifests Them as true God and true God, by the sure evidence of Their joint image. It begins by speaking of Them first by their strict name of God; then it attributes true Godhead to Both in common. For when man, Their creature, is ceated after the image of Both, sound reason forces the conclusion that Each of Them is true God.

15. But perhaps it will be argued that, when the Angel of God is called God, He receives the name as a favour, through adoption, and has in consequence a nominal, not a true, Godhead. If He gave us an inadequate revelation of His Divine nature at the time when He was styled the Angel of God, judge whether He has not fully manifested His true Godhead under the name of a nature lower than the angelic. For a Man spoke to Abraham, and Abraham worshipped Him as God. Pestilent heretic! Abraham confessed Him, you deny Him, to be God. What hope is there for you, in your blasphemy, of the blessings promised to Abraham? He is Father of the Gentiles, but not for you; you cannot go forth from your regeneration to join the household of his seed, through the blessings given to his faith. You are no son, raised up to Abraham from the stones; you are a generation of vipers, an adversary of his belief. You are not the Israel of God, the heir of Abraham, justified by faith; for you have disbelieved God, while Abraham was justified and appointed to be the Father of the Gentiles through that faith wherein he worshipped the God Whose word he trusted. God it was Whom that blessed and faithful Patriarch worshipped then; and mark how truly He was God, to Whom, in His own words, all things are possible. Is there any, but God alone, to Whom nothing is impossible? And He, to Whom all things are possible, does He fall short of true Divinity?

19. Be with me now in thy faithful spirit, holy and blessed Patriarch Jacob, to combat the poisonous hissings of the serpent of unbelief. Prevail once more in thy wrestling with the Man, and, being the stronger, once more entreat His blessing. Why pray for what thou mightest demand from thy weaker Opponent? Thy strong arm has vanquished Him Whose blessing thou prayest. Thy bodily victory is in broad contrast to thy soul’s humility, thy deeds to thy thoughts. It is a Man whom thou holdest powerless in thy strong grasp; but in thine eye this Man is true God, and God not in name only, but in nature. It is not the blessing of a God by adoption that thou dost claim, but the true God’s blessing. With Man thou strivest; but face to face thou seest God. What thou seest with the bodily eye is different far from what thou beholdest with the vision of faith. Thou hast felt Him to be weak Man; but thy soul has been saved because it saw God in Him. When thou wast wrestling thou wast Jacob; thou art Israel now, through faith in the blessing which thou didst claim. According to the flesh, the Man is thy inferior, for a type of His passion in the flesh; but thou canst recognise God in that weak flesh, for a sign of His blessing in the Spirit. The witness of the eye does not disturb thy faith; His feebleness does not mislead thee into neglect of His blessing. Though He is Man, His humanity is no bar to His being God, His Godhead no bar to His being true God; for, being God, He must indeed be true.

21. Human judgment must not pass its sentence upon God. Our nature is not such that it can lift itself by its own forces to the contemplation of heavenly things. We must learn from God what we are to think of God; we have no source of knowledge but Himself. You may be as carefully trained as you will in secular philosophy; you may have lived a life of righteousness. All this will contribute to your mental satisfaction, but it will not help you to know God. Moses was adopted as the son of the queen, and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; he had, moreover, out of loyalty to his race avenged the wrong of the Hebrew by slaying the Egyptian, and yet he knew not the God Who had blessed his fathers. For when he left Egypt through fear of the discovery of his deed, and was living as a shepherd in the land of Midian, he saw a fire in the bush, and the bush unconsumed. Then it was that he heard the voice of God, and asked His name, and learned His nature. Of all this he could have known nothing except through God Himself. And we, in like manner, must confine ourselves, in whatever we say of God, to the terms in which He has spoken to our understanding concerning Himself.

33. But it may be argued that the Apostle was not inspired by the Spirit of prophecy when he borrowed these prophetic words; that he was only interpreting at random the words of another man, and though, no doubt, everything the Apostle says of himself comes to him by revelation from Christ, yet his knowledge of the words of Isaiah is only derived from the book. I answer that in the beginning of that utterance in which it is said that the servants of the true God shall bless Him and swear by Him, we read this adoration by the prophet:—From everlasting we have not heard, nor have our eyes seen God, except Thee, and Thy works which Thou will do for them that await Thy mercy. Isaiah says that he has seen no God but Him. For he did actually see the glory of God, the mystery of Whose taking flesh from the Virgin he foretold. And if you, in your heresy, do not know that it was God the Only-begotten Whom the prophet saw in that glory, listen to the Evangelist:—These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him3. The Apostle, the Evangelist, the Prophet combine to silence your objections. Isaiah did see God; even though it is written, No one hath seen God at any time, save the Only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father; He hath declared Him, it was God Whom the prophet saw. He gazed upon the Divine glory, and men were filled with envy at such honour vouchsafed to his prophetic greatness. For this was the reason why the Jews passed sentence of death upon him.

34. Thus the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, has told us of God, Whom no man has seen. Either disprove the fact that the Son has thus informed us, or else believe Him Who has been seen, Who appeared to them who knew Him not, and became the God of the Gentiles who called not upon Him and spread out His hands before a gainsaying people. And believe this also concerning Him, that they who serve Him are called by a new name, and that on earth men bless Him and swear by Him as true God. Prophecy tells, the Gospel confirms, the Apostle explains, the Church confesses, that He Who was seen is true God; but none venture to say that God the Father was seen. And yet the madness of heresy has run to such lengths that, while they profess to recognise this truth, they really deny it. They deny it by means of the new-fangled and godless device of evading the truth, while making a studied pretence of adhesion to it. For when they confess one God, alone true and alone righteous, alone wise, alone unchangeable, alone immortal, alone mighty, they attach to Him a Son different in substance, not born from God to be God, but adopted through creation to be a Son, having the name of God not by nature, but as a title received by adoption; and thus they inevitably deprive the Son of all those attributes which they accumulate upon the Father in His lonely majesty.

Hilary of Poitiers. (1899). On the Trinity

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How To Come Up With Your Own Bible Headings

We’ve been looking at this idea of studying the Bible using digital tools and we left off with tips on note taking. At this point I want to combine all the things we have thus far (reading the text of alternate versions across translation methodologies finally settling on a parallel work screen with note-taking tools on hand) and start examining the text.

If a person is proficient in original languages I’d probably suggest starting there since they can see the breaks in the passage (that is, if you’re reading any Greek text post-minuscule) but the average student probably doesn’t need to go there.

Many versions have a ton of scholarship backing the translation; the ones I’ve recommended (except the MSG) will probably give you the best footing. But, if you’re committed to the go-to-Greek-text: Nestle-Aland27/UBS4.

First, identify sentences. This is usually easy since, with the verse numbers turned off, you’ll probably just identify them with punctuation.

Next, identify paragraphs. A paragraph is a collection of sentences based on a common idea. This is usually pretty easy too since a lot of modern versions already come with paragraph breaks.

You might notice in your parallel reading that versions break them down differently. This is why you’ll want to also identify when the author changes what he’s talking about.

This sounds similar to a paragraph in that it’s dealing with an idea. But an idea might go through several paragraphs and still be about that one subject. What’s nice about identifying the Big Idea first, you can more easily identify the movement within the block.

For example John 9. The entire chapter has one idea/story: the man who was born blind is healed. Within that section there are several paragraphs comprise the entire unit: the discussion, the healing, the man alone, the man meeting Jesus again. But in all cases, it’s one unit of thought. This is called a pericope.

Usually modern versions divide periscopes by headings but we’ve turned them off. Sometimes you’ll read the text and realize that the pericope seems to continue. In other cases you’ll find that maybe there should be more pericopes than the translation suggests. By studying the text without the headers, we get to try to discover the unit of thought for ourselves, or at the very least come up with a heading which is more understandable for our personal notes.

  • Online: Sentence diagramming tools might be helpful. The good thing is that you can do a variation of this with just about any word processor or email program.

The Word <-subject

——-|In the Beginning <–time marker

—————-|was with God  <–modifies subject

—————-|was God <–modifies subject

  • Downloadables: BibleArc is a tool that’s available for a suggested yearly donation of $10 but they’ll work with you if you can’t afford that. Basically they have a method for you to breakdown sentences (or even collections of sentences) visually portray connecting thoughts. You can also check Sendraw, an opensource program by UCF’s Department of English that lets you diagram sentences. If you don’t know (or don’t remember) how to do that, check this easy walkthrough.
  • Paid: I personally haven’t seen anything like BibleArc in the expensive paid for suites though they do have many other interesting tools. For example, logos has a compare pericope tool which lets you compare what each version has decided was a unit of thought. It also has a very handy Word tree, which lets diagrams a word in relation to other thoughts within specific passages. Also for the iPad, you might want to check out some mind mapping apps.

When you’re done with this, you’ll be able to apply your own headings to the sections.

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How To Take E-Notes

We’ve been highlighting features for digitally studying Bibles and in this post I wanted to touch on note-taking. Admittedly, everyone has their own method of taking notes. I personally love outlines. Others need to record jottings of whatever stood out to them. Yet others need to record entire messages as mp3’s and use those as their go-to-guide. I’ve been highlighting tools that can be used for bible study and I wanted to list a few for taking notes during the entire process.

Basically all you’re doing is storing the information you’re discovering in a format that is easy to come back to at a later date. You’ll want that information to be accessible wherever you need it and that means preferably using some form of cloud storage. And yet, you want to be able to take robust notes without sacrificing quality just so that you can save online.

  • Online: A rough and dirty tool is your email program. If you’re using something like Gmail you can just open up an email and send it to yourself. But if you’re already using Gmail, just launch Google Docs which is pretty fantastic. It has the ability to do word processing, spreadsheets, and even presentations all for free. I don’t like how it is super easy to get disorganized so you have to make sure you’re using the folders feature, but even then, it’s just a laundry list of folders. I guess it doesn’t matter since it’s all backed with the power of Google’s search engine to find your file. Microsoft also has their SkyDrive, which is also free. Microsoft has freely downloadable tools that you can put on your computer for saving to the SkyDrive; with Google you’ll have to change a setting that lets you access Docs offline.
  • Freeish: There’s actually some great outright free tools that you can use for note taking and cloud storage so that you can access the things all the time. OpenOffice is a fantastic suite of office applications that can be used on multiple platforms AND it can read Microsoft files. Did I mention it’s free? You can also download something like or Dropbox so that you can back up your notes to the web for accessing wherever you may be at a later point.
  • Not-Free: Apple has their iLife suite which is pretty nice and Windows 7 usually ships with the Windows Live software which integrates with that Live Documents thing I mentioned above but both of these are outshined by the sheer power that is Microsoft Office. It is frankly unsurprising that this is the go-to tool for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. If you’re going to pay for any type of word processor, this should be it.

Cross-posted at Digital Sojourner

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How To Do A Parallel Bible Reading

We’re talking about using some digital tools for Bible study with emphasis on highlighting general pros and cons to each tool. If you recall, our text is John 1 but we left off still in the reading stage. This post is also going to be about reading but instead on a focus on parallel reading. (Note, to ward off any Evil Eyes: I intentionally changed the order of the Greek to visually correspond with the English so (1) I don’t want to hear the complaint and (2) it doesn’t matter because the subject is still essentially grammatically underscored. There, bases covered.)

Parallel reading in Bible Study has a somewhat different meaning, even if connected idea, with schooling.

In schooling, it’s when you have a student and a teacher (or a reader and a more proficient reader, or a parent and a child) read the same text, makes notes on it, and talk about it. We get to see how one reader interpreted a specific text versus another reader. As an example, get kids to read Animal Farm and then get them to read it in High School with their teacher.

Dual-language speakers know that all translation is interpretation. In other words, to get the words in the original language to mean something to the person reading in their own (and different) language, you have to do interpreting: be it words, idioms, or ideas.

So parallel reading in a Bible study is when you have two (or more) versions up against each other. Here’s our key text in a couple of different versions.

  • Online: All the online sites let you do parallel reading. Some (like Bible Study Tools) put the verse on one line which makes comparative reading simple. Few (like Bible Gateway) allow a comparison of more than two texts in the same window.  Others (like NET) just have the parallel in a tab listing the other versions—feels kind of clunky to me. Most of them do a horrendously poor job comparing with original languages either relegating the feature to the Interlinear Bible or not helping out the reader see where the words coincide. Even a reader of Greek might want to quickly see the textual comparison without hunting and gathering what the English translating committee finally settled on. The NET does the best job by highlighting the corresponding translated word as well as where the word is used in the same chapter. Also, the NET’s translation notes returns dividends for anyone who invests time with them. Anyone doing parallel reading online might have to use multiple tools.
  • Freeish: The Freeish downloaded tools usually have the ability to compare about 4 versions simultaneously. Of course you’re still limited to the versions you have a license for which means that it might not be as free as you first thought. The one to one comparison of the English and Greek text is usually not the greatest so you might find yourself falling back on the Online tools like the NET’s comparison tool.
  • Not-Free: Not all paid-for tools are created equal so you’ll find that some do a better job with the parallel reading feature than others. Logos gives you a ton of material to work with and uses a lot of tabs and windows (which can be daunting) but also has a handy translation river tool that visually shows you the variation from a particular version. Bibleworks does a fantastic job of comparing original language to a given translation and it’s really intuitive. I haven’t checked out Accordance in years so I can’t really comment on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is just as good as the other paid-for products.

What we’re doing here, if we don’t know the original languages, is understand what the original language is saying and consulting different versions, and the scholarship behind them, helps that. We’re not trying to pick which translation sounds the best.
Crossposted at The Bible Archive.

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How To Read A Bible Outside Your Comfort Zone

We started this bit on studying the Bible using different tools to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. In this post I want to shed some light on reading in different versions.

Reading in your known version should take under five minutes, possibly even a minute. Your mind is putting the sentences together quicker than your eyes see them.

What you want to do while studying is read the entire book again, but this time we’ll jump outside of the comfort zone of our translation’s methodological sphere. Confused? Let me explain.

Each version has a methodology to how they translate the original language.

Some translations try to convey the words and structure of the original language in the receptor (that is, the translated to) language. Those translations are trying to employ a methodology called formal equivalence.

Other translations try to convey what the original language is trying to get across the original readers. The words are doing something and these methodologies want to translate what those words are doing into the receptor language. The translations are using functional equivalence.

The thing is, all versions are essentially on a line that approaches the original language. The only way you can have a one-to-one form and function correspondence is if you have the original language. (Read a great book by Gordon Fee on this subject or a great article about different versions by Wallace.)

So what I’m really saying is that one should read outside of the sphere of what we’re used to so that we can really read the text. My personal preference picks from three points on the line, bolding what I think are absolutely the best options: [NASBESV]-[NIVHCSBNET]-[NLTMSG]. The MSG is by far the least preferable on this list since it doesn’t have group scholarship behind it, but it’s still good just for letting us see what the text says.

  • Online: On Bible Gateway, pick a different version on the pull down and read. This is available on almost every online site so don’t feel restricted to Bible Gateway.
  • Freeish: Pick a different available version from the tabs.
  • Not-Free: You should have a library or catalog within the program that should let you pick a different version. Some might already have five versions pre-picked on different tabs in the background.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner.

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How To Read An E-Bible For Studying

I want to highlight features of different tools—be they online only, downloadable, or something you just have to pay for. Of course, we won’t be able to do this all in one post, so you’ll have to tune in.

Our pretend-to-study text will be John 1:1. This will help us to have a constant reference point throughout the series and perhaps will allow us to see comparisons and differences in the medium.

Before you study anything, you have to read. It applies to the Bible. It applies to Shakespeare. I strongly suggest picking up Adler’s How To Read A Book, but that’s just to underscore this one point. You. Must. Read.

Read the full thing. By “full thing” I don’t mean reading the verse that you want to study; I mean reading the entire book, preferably in one sitting. This is, of course, more difficult (impossible?) with bigger books.

  • Online: Hop over to the Bible Gateway and pick our favorite translation for a one sitting reading. You type out where you want to read and then go to the Page Options button and turn off headings, cross references, verse numbers—all that stuff. Mind you, there are some really good online Bibles for serious study so don’t think we’re going to stay here.
  • Downloadable: Open the program of choice (MacSword/E-Sword/Xiphos) and pick your favorite translation that’s available for free—unfortunately that’s not a lot. You’ll quickly discover that due to licensing issues, you have to pay extra for Bible modules. Turning off the extras is usually located under either the Options or View menu but since you have the restrictions on the versions, you might just want to use the free online option.
  • Not-Free: If you spent over a hundred bucks on the program, it most likely has your favorite version but turning off the extra information varies from program to program.

Turning off the extras allow you to read the text without the influence of someone else’s headings and without the visual stop-points of verses.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner.

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Christian Carnival 423 (Maybe)

If my ducks are all properly lined up, this would be the 423rd Edition of the Christian Carnival. You can check out other Carnivals (if the links are still live) AND instructions for getting into the Carnival here at the repository or at the submission form. I didn’t come up with a cool theme for this Carnival (like I’ve done in the past: 1, 2, 3) but that should be okay. Enjoy the carnival, and make sure to take a look at the posts I spotlighted.


Thinking Christian’s Tom shares how some rally organizers have said no to a debate. And I quote: Make no mistake — you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things — we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can stand with the Westborough [sic] Baptists and shout yourselves hoarse. The full correspondence can be read here with some after correspondence here by Ichtus77′s Marryann Spikes.


Rebecca LuElla Millerm, from A Christian Worldview of Fiction,wonders about the Woman’s Role being anathema saying “”Feminism has affected all parts of society … or has it? What about the Church? One author, at least, believes women are leaving the Church and some even leaving God because the Church is marginalizing women. Isn’t that attitude similar to that of the rich young ruler who wanted to come to God on his own terms?”


Chris of Homeward Bound gives us a brief look at what Easter means.

I, Rey Reynoso, your host for this week’s Christian Carnival at the Bible Archive, submitted this post on quotations from the Early Church Fathers on the deity of Christ. It’s part of a larger argument where I’m establishing that the deity of Christ was something taught by the Apostles.I know that’s old hat, but I wanted to have an online record of it in my own site: so there.


Michael of Prayers for Special Help says “One of the best things about praying is the strength we often receive in return. There are many times throughout one’s life when God is able to provide us with the strength needed to get through a difficult situation. This post provides some beautiful prayers to help in asking the Lord for strength.”

Pam Williams of What Christians Want To Know says that we all pray out to God for help at times and offers this list of powerful prayers for help.

InFaith’s Mission Blog shares Rob Sisson’s thoughts where he reflects on the usefulness of a bag of old ivory and the Scriptural hope for the future that he brings to people in nursing homes.

Ridge Burns says that there’s a washing, a birth of new life that takes place when we actively and intentionally confess our sins about his new post Confession of Sin.

Jennifer Vaughn says that there really are few guarantees in life while she reflects on Ruth at à la mode de les Muses.


Michelle talks about her upcoming journey to the mission field at Adventures of a Girl Who Loves Jesus.


Rob of One Money Design says that the largest discussion of Christian giving in the entire New Testament is found in 2 Cor. 8 & 9 and that his post tackles this passage in an extensive way.

Highways and Bi-Ways

These are posts that I went out of the way, found, and included in the carnival.

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