Daily Gleanings: New Books (26 August 2019)

Christobiography cover imageNijay Gupta interviews Craig Keener on his new book, Christobiography. Craig summarizes the book, in part, saying that

A number of scholars are more skeptical of the Gospels’ portraits of Jesus than the evidence warrants. If someone wrote a biography today about a figure who lived fifty years ago, we wouldn’t start with the assumption that events fifty years ago are shrouded in legend and therefore reject any claim that we could not prove.

For the balance of the interview, see Nijay’s original post. For insight into Craig’s research and writing process, see his contribution to the “Pro Tips” series.

Understanding the Spiritual Meaning of Jerusalem book coverNow available from Brill is Antti Laato’s Understanding the Spiritual Meaning of Jerusalem in Three Abrahamic Religions. According to the publisher, the volume

analyzes the historical, social and theological factors which have resulted in Jerusalem being considered a holy place in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It also surveys the transmission of the religious traditions related to Jerusalem. This volume centralizes both the biblical background of Jerusalem’s pivotal role as holy place and its later development in religious writings; the biblical imagery has been adapted, rewritten and modified in Second Temple Jewish writings, the New Testament, patristic and Jewish literature, and Islamic traditions. Thus, all three monotheistic religions have influenced the multifaceted, interpretive traditions which help to understand the current religious and political position of Jerusalem in the three main Abrahamic faiths.

HT: Jim Davila

Read the Original Languages in Logos—without Cheating

Robust biblical studies software can be a hugely helpful tool. With just a few clicks, you can use it to pull together information in seconds that would otherwise take hours to compile. Unfortunately, making things easier and faster doesn’t always make them better.

A case in point is reading the Bible in its original languages. Modern Bible software can instantly provide you glosses and parsings for anything you see in a biblical text. But if you rely on this ability, what you’re improving as you look over the biblical text is your ability to use the software, not your ability to read the Bible in its original languages.

If you want to immerse yourself more in those languages, you need to avoid cheating and letting tools do the work for you. You need to do the work of thinking through the text for yourself and working out how to interpret it.

One way to do this is of course to use … a printed Bible. (A novel concept, I know. 🙂 ) You can then use other print tools that don’t allow you to cheat (e.g., not using things like analytical lexicons).

I did this for a while but then gravitated toward reading electronically. A primary reason is what a good job Logos does at keeping track of notes. Recent updates have improved this feature still more and allowed me to rediscover notes I’d made in the past about things I’d seen in the text but had forgotten because I failed to migrate them to a new Bible version when it came out.

So, if you too would like to use Logos to read the Bible in its original languages without cheating, here are 5 steps to help you get up and running.

1. Disable information tool tips.

Whenever I install Logos on a different PC, one of the first things I do is turn off information tool tips. When enabled, these tips allow you to point your mouse to a word in the biblical text and have morphological information instantly appear on the screen.

Of course, this is pretty distracting if you’re wanting to read the Bible without cheating. So it’s best just to disable the feature altogether. Besides, there are other ways of getting this information from the software if you just have to have it at some point.

To disable information tool tips, go to “Tools” > “Utilities” > “Program Settings.” Then, under the first section (“General”), set “Information Tool Tips” to “No.”

Illustration of steps to disable information tool tips.

2. Create or start a reading plan.

If you wish, use Logos to create your own Bible reading plan. If you’re reading from both testaments, you may want to create one reading plan for the Old Testament and one for the New. That way, you can easily use a Hebrew Bible resource for the one and a Greek New Testament resource for the other.

Alternatively, if you’d like to join my students and me on the reading plan we’re working through, you’re certainly welcome to do that as well.

3. Create your Bible reading layout.

Next, you’ll want to create the layout you’ll use for your Bible reading. You can do this as it’s convenient for you and based on the resources you have in your library.

To give you a place to start, though, the essentials of what I have in my layout are shown below.

Logos Bible reading layout screenshot

In this layout,

  1. The left-hand pane is a notes window. I use this for both vocabulary notes (as shown) and notes on syntax or other observations.
  2. In the upper-right pane are two Bible resources, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland. If you used Logos to define your own reading plan in step 2 above, you’ll want to make sure that the Bible resources in your reading layout are the same as the resources you used to create the reading plan.
  3. In the bottom-right pane are three lexicons. These are the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH, for Hebrew text), the Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (CHALOT, for Aramaic text), and the third edition of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon (BDAG, for Greek text).

Once you have your layout defined, let Logos know you want to use this layout for your Bible reading. To do this, go to “Layouts” > “Home Page Layouts” > “Bible Reading Plan,” and click the drop-down arrow. Then choose the option to “Replace with current layout.”

Bible reading layout definition illustration

4. Start reading and making notes.

Once you get this basic setup done, it’s time to dive in and start reading. Make notes as you go along as seems helpful for you. I mention below what I do in case it may be a helpful point of reference for you.

4.a. Vocabulary

When I come to a word I need to look up, I highlight it, and click the “New note” button in the notes pane. (You can now also add a note from the new text selection menu.) Then, I look up the word in the appropriate electronic lexicon just as I would in a print lexicon.

Vocabulary entry illustrationI save these notes to a “Vocabulary” notebook. But you can simply leave them outside any particular notebook. They’ll still be accessible to you via search in either case.

Inside the note, I then include the lemma, copy the glosses given, add a parenthetical reference to the lexicon section where I found the glosses, and include a link to that section.

Sometimes, I come across a word I think I’ve made a note about before but can’t recall the word’s meaning. In that case, I’ll search my notes by typing the word out in the search bar in Unicode. I’ll then highlight the word in the biblical text and use the “Add anchor” feature to attach my existing note to that word also.

4.b. Syntax and content

If I need to clarify something about the syntax of a text, I’ll follow much the same process described above for vocabulary, but I’ll save this in a “Commentary” notebook. I’ll do the same with any other miscellaneous thoughts I have about a text as I’m working through it.

5. Hide your notes.

Why would you take notes only to hide them? Well, if you’re rereading a text where you’ve already made notes, you might not want to see where those notes are only a click away.

For cases like this, Logos allows you to hide particular notes based on the notebook they’re in. (This is one of the reasons I started segmenting vocabulary notes into their own notebook.)

To hide any notebook’s notes, click the visual filter button on any biblical text resource. Then scroll down to find “Notes and Highlights,” and uncheck the boxes for the notebooks whose notes you don’t want to see.

Notebook visual filter modification


In the end, technology can make it easier to get information out of the biblical text. But in terms of you getting into the text and its languages, there’s no substitute for learning through the discipline of encountering the text and looking things up for yourself.

What do you do to keep improving your languages?

Header image provided by Joshua Mann

Daily Gleanings: Insights (23 August 2019)

Michael Kruger reflects on the value of learning biblical languages in helpful ways that both overlap with and differ from some of my related thoughts.

Brett McKay interviews John Kounios, author of The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. As Kounios colorfully observes,

Insights are like cats. They don’t come when they are called.

But as Kounios outlines in the podcast, there are still some steps we can take to “prime the pump” to help us be more open to having more and better insights.

Daily Gleanings: Knowledge Work (22 August 2019)

Doist has a broad-brush discussion of some common problems culturally inherent in American knowledge work. The essay may be worth reading particularly if you’re employed in knowledge work either as faculty or in another field while you’re working on your degree.

Among the essay’s comments, the observation particularly struck me that those who cope more successfully with knowledge work

reach a measure of well-being not through fleeting achievements like inbox zero or mastering their to-do lists but by recognizing their limits and setting boundaries that allow them to better enjoy work—and the rest of living.

This observation deeply resonates with the importance of essentialism to healthy knowledge work and, indeed, healthy further study in the midst of a life where other things also matter a great deal (and perhaps still more). For further discussion, see, e.g., the interview below.

Jumping off from the productivity advice of Mark Forster, Jackie Ashton discusses how to get everything done while not letting work occupy all of life. The essay summarizes, Forster

points out[] it’s not time that we should focus on, he says—there are 24 hours in every single day, no matter how we slice and dice them. Instead, we need to learn to manage our attention.

This technique not only covers how to get the work done, but also gave me a systematic approach to decide what should be on my to-do list in the first place.

It’s a system that forced me to (finally) grapple with the time and energy constraints I’m working with and ensures that I’m giving each important area of my life the attention it needs.

The broad outlines here substantially resonate with my own experience and track closely also with Michael Hyatt’s advice in Free to Focus.

For the balance of the essay, see Jackie’s original post.

Daily Gleanings: New Publications (21 August 2019)

Book cover for Vanhoozer, Newly out from Lexham Press is Kevin Vanhoozer’s Hearers and Doers: A Pastor’s Guide to Making Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine. According to the publisher,

The value of sound doctrine is often misunderstood by the modern church. While it can be dry and dull, when it flows from the story of Scripture, it can be full of life and love. This kind of doctrine, steeped in Scripture, is critical for disciple-making. And it’s often overlooked by modern pastors.

In Hearers and Doers, Kevin Vanhoozer makes the case that pastors, as pastor-theologians, ought to interpret Scripture theologically to articulate doctrine and help cultivate disciples. scriptural doctrine is vital to the life of the church, and local pastor-theologians should be the ones delivering it to their communities.

The volume is now available at Amazon and other retailers. It is also available via Hoopla for if you have access to that service via your local public library.

In the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, Jason Ripley discusses “Glorious Death, Imperial Rome and the Gospel of John.” He summarizes,

This paper attends to the multifaceted way in which John both embraces and subverts Roman imperial values in its presentation of Jesus’ glorious death, and it situates the Fourth Gospel within the ideological complexity of
the early imperial period as a means of more precisely discerning how the Gospel of John relates to Roman imperialism. (34)

For the full essay, see the JGRChJ website.

Daily Gleanings: Textual Criticism (20 August 2019)

William Ross interviews Peter Gentry about his new volume on Ecclesiastes in the Göttingen series. A couple interesting points from the interview are that

The Greek Translation [of Ecclesiastes] has only a dozen places where it differs from MT, and most of these are not serious issues. The differences between MT and LXX were exaggerated by the editor of the BHQ volume on Ecclesiastes.

My edition differs from Rahlfs’ Text in about 70 places, but these are not major. This is also the first Göttingen edition to collate and incorporate the Old Georgian Version.

For the full interview, see William’s original post.

Peter Gurry continues his earlier discussion of Erasmus, the Johannine comma, and Codex Montfortianus.