A Conversation about Essentials

Some time ago, Michele Cushatt, Michael Hyatt, and Greg McKeown sat down to discuss “essentialism,” or “the disciplined pursuit of less but better.”

Unfortunately, the discussion recording has now been taken down.

More thoughts from Greg along these lines are available in his book Essentialism. But there were two points in particular that stood out to me from the discussion that aren’t brought out as clearly in the book.

1. The End Game Isn’t Saying “No”

Undertaking a “disciplined pursuit of less but better” requires saying “no” to certain things, sometimes things that are quite good in themselves. The point of doing so, however, isn’t saying “no.” The point isn’t withdrawal, isolation, or a reticence to be helpful.

Rather, it’s a matter of reckoning with the very real fact that the nature of human existence requires tradeoffs. The reality is that we can’t do everything. Whenever we say yes to something, we automatically say no to something else.

We are going to end up saying “no” to things personally, professionally, or both. The question is, “Have we made the space to reflect and ensure we’re saying yes to the right things, the most important things?”

If not, we’re in greater danger of failing to be present for others as well as we might otherwise do, whether that’s in a community organization, at a church, or in a family. We’re in greater danger of failing to contribute to the other people in our lives in the best way we can. We’re in danger of not saying “yes” to the most important things because we’ve allowed “yes” to be said for us in relation to any number of other less important things.

2. Try Having a Quarterly Review

Very practically, it’s good to schedule time once per quarter to think carefully about how we’re doing with the things in life that matter most.

Exactly what this “scheduled time” should entail will be different with different folks in different contexts. Think about what will help you best reflect on what has happened in the past quarter and assess that quarter against what is truly important. Then, you can strategize for the upcoming quarter depending on what went well or what didn’t.

If you haven’t had a quarterly review cycle yet and would like some tracks to run on, you can see Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever for his advice (pp. 219–22). You can then go from there in sorting out a quarterly review routine that works for you.

Of course, there’s nothing sacrosanct about a quarterly cycle. But, you probably want something long enough to take in multiple months and short enough to give you a place to pause and reorient when needed. If your life is already structured around a traditional three-semester academic calendar (fall, spring, summer), you might try scheduling a review for yourself at the transition points between each of those blocks.


Some things in life are much more important than others. But, the important things aren’t always the ones that bang on the door and demand the attention they should receive, as non-essentials often do. In such an environment, it’s up to us to ensure we prioritize what’s truly essential, rather than leaving that to the mercy of circumstances to conspire together or choose well for us.

What stands out to you in this conversation? What ideas does this video spark to help you ensure you attend to the essentials as you do life in biblical studies?

Codex Marchalianus

The Vatican Library has made available a digital facsimile of Codex Marchalianus (7th–8th c.). The codex contains some prefatory material and the text of the prophets, including Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah. Each page has two scans with alternate lighting. Below is a sample of the marginalia from Isa 25:8 (leaf 231) that notes the alternate readings for the passage in Theodotion (top) and Aquila (bottom).

Codex Marchalianus marginalia at Isa 25:8

It is (proto-)Theodotion’s reading that Paul reflects in 1 Cor 15:54. On this passage, see also the recent survey by John Meade.

Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Twelve Prophets

Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) probably wrote his Commentary on the Twelve Prophets sometime before 428 (ODCC, s.v. “Cyril, St”; Robert C. Hill, trans., Cyril of Alexandria: Commentary on the Twelve, 1:4). The commentary is available in J.-P. Migne’s Patrologia Graeca via Documenta Catholica Omnia:

The two-volume critical edition of Philip Pusey (Clarendon, 1868) is also available via Google Books:

Header image provided by José Luiz

Field’s Edition of Origen’s Hexapla

Since 1875, Frederick Field’s edition of Origen’s Hexapla has been the standard reference for the work. A new edition is in preparation under the auspices of the Hexapla Project. But, for the present, Field’s work remains an invaluable resource. His two-volume edition is available via Internet Archive.

N.B.: The Internet Archive link in the Hexapla Project’s “Editions of the Hexaplaric Fragments” goes only to a page that provides only Field’s first volume, containing Genesis–Esther.1 The second volume, containing Job–Malachi, is available on a separate page.

  1. The above link to the Hexapla Project has been correct. Unfortunately, the website seems not to have been answering requests for pages for some time. 

Gesenius-Kautzsch’s 28th edition

The second English edition of Wilhelm Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar (ed., E. Kautzsch, trans. A. Cowley) is based on the 28th edition of the German text. I recently came across a curiosity in the English text that made me want to have a look at the German behind it. Thankfully, Internet Archive has several versions of Gesenius-Kautzsch, and at least one of these is of the grammar’s 28th edition.