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Archive for November, 2005

Introducing Bob Derrenbacker…

29th November 2005

My good friend Bob Derrenbacker — or is should that be Rev. Dr. Robert Derrenbacker, Jr.? — has entered the blogosphere with his new eponymous blog, “Bob’s Blog” (Gee, I think that was the first time I used “eponymous” outside biblical studies!).

I first got to know Bob during my Toronto days. He is an avid U2 fan, a Macintosh enthusiast, an amateur film critic (Hey Bob, remember the day my wife informed your wife that we went to a film that afternoon? If they only knew… that was only one of many!), and a very good friend!

While Bob has a somewhat distinguished picture of himself on his first blog entry, I dug out a picture taken of Bob some ten years ago. Here he is holding my oldest daughter (who was only eight months old at the time).

Oh yeah… Bob is also a great scholar. He is Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., Canada. His University of St. Michael’s College doctoral dissertation, completed under Dr. John Kloppenborg, was entitled “Ancient Compositional Practices and the Synoptic Problem.”” It is soon to be published in the series Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium (It was supposed to be available at SBL). Bob is also the author of a number of essays and articles in periodicals including Journal of Biblical Literature and Toronto Journal of Theology, and is currently working on a book for Paulist Press, What Are They Saying About Q? His academic interests include the composition of the Gospels, Pauline literature and theology, the Historical Jesus, the social, economic and political backgrounds of the New Testament, ancient literacy and book production, and the portrayal of Jesus in modern film.

In his new blog — which you should add to your blog aggregator and blogroll — Bob promises to give us his musings on biblical studies, politics, faith and culture. I look forward to being a regular reader!

Once again, welcome!

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The Edmonton Eskimos – 2005 Grey Cup Champions

27th November 2005

Go Esks Go! This afternoon the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 to win the 93rd Grey Cup. The game was a nail biter with Edmonton winning in overtime by a field goal. Even though Ricky Ray — Edmonton’s hit and miss quarterback — pulled out the win in the end (and even won the MVP award), when there was about six minutes left I sure was thinking that he should have been pulled and Jason Maas put in. Doesn’t matter anymore! The Esks won!

For my international readers, the Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League‘s championship game. And, IMHO, the Canadian football game is more exciting than American football (three downs which makes more of a passing game), though the calibre of American football players is superior).

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U2 and Psalm 40

25th November 2005

The Wichita Eagle has an interesting — albeit brief — article by Phil Kloer on how U2 balances music and faith.

Here are some excerpts:

The song has been sung at almost every concert U2 has played on this American tour. It comes near the end of each show, sometimes at the very end, when band and audience are both a bit worn out:

“I waited patiently for the Lord,” lead singer Bono cries out. “He inclined and heard my cry.”

It’s a 3,000-year-old song that never made the pop charts, just the Old Testament. As in Psalm 40.

U2′s version is simply called “40″ and was played last week during the band’s sold-out show here.

It was also played Sunday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church’s special service — a U2 Eucharist.

The events are mirror images of the same body of work: a rock concert in an arena that sometimes felt like a worship service, and a worship service in a church that felt like a rock concert.

The mega-selling Irish band — sometimes called the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world today — is not marketed as Christian music but as rock music, despite a body of work that constantly references the Bible, deals in apocalyptic imagery and addresses Jesus directly.

“The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or running away from God,” Bono said in a recent Rolling Stone interview. “Both recognize the pivot, that God is the center of the jaunt.”

I recommend taking a gander at the article.

On a similar note, I lectured this week on the “Gospel according to U2.” Among other things, I talked about how U2′s gospel (like Jesus’!) included a social conscience. To illustrate my point I showed “Love and Peace or Else” from the new Vertigo concert DVD. The performance of this song is awesome and it is a great lead-in to “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I was playing the DVD so loud that one of my colleagues who was teaching down the hall had to come and ask us to turn the music down a bit. It was a blast and (ahem) a great learning experience for my students of how popular culture and religion are intertwined.

I’m not sure when I will have time to bring together my notes into a coherent blog post, but if I do, this is where I’ll post it!

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Biblioblogger Seal of Approval

25th November 2005

In the light of the recent discussion by Jim West, Mark Goodacre, Jim Davila, Rick Brannan, Stephen C. Carlson, Tim Bulkeley, Paul Nikkel, and the mysterious female “Pligrim” (sorry if I missed anyone, you obviously weren’t on my “a-list” of approved biblioblogs!), I figured the biblioblog hegemony was in dire jeopardy.

Then it came to me! I thought, “what better way to identify approved biblioblogs than a flashy seal of approval that can be proudly displayed on certified biblioblogs?” By having an official seal of approval we true bibliobloggers can be sure of the quality — and more importantly — the official status of all blogs, since we will control who can enter the official biblioblogging club!

So with my trusty Photoshop I made the following “Biblioblog Seal of Approval.”

(Any and all likeness to real bibliobloggers is coincidental — really!)

Posted in Emergent | 1 Comment »

Biblical Scholars and Genesis One

23rd November 2005

Some of my students are quite intrigued to learn that the reasons I question young earth creationism are not scientific, but are actually biblical.

Along a similar vein Mark Zvi Brettler has a well-written op/ed piece dealing with understanding Genesis one: “Don’t Create Science from Bible Stories.” This article has been picked up by some other papers and is well worth a read, even if you disagree with his conclusions. Brettler’s main point is that when approaching the biblical creation stories (or any other part of the Bible for that matter), one has to take into consideration genre.

Here are some excerpts:

You might imagine that as a biblical scholar, I would support creationism and intelligent design, two notions in which my Bible trumps scientific theories. In fact, the opposite is true — I do not believe the Bible bolsters either of these theories.

We must ask of every biblical passage: What is this, and what is its purpose? Genre determines how we understand any literary work. For example, newspapers contain news stories, advertisements and comics. Each has a different purpose: We expect news to contain unbiased information, ads to be highly biased and comics to entertain. The genre and purpose of these texts are not explicitly marked; most advertisements are not introduced with the word “ad” and a disclaimer: “This is meant to persuade and maybe (slightly) exaggerate.”

The Bible does not contain genre labels either. The first chapters of Genesis, for example, do not begin: “This is a scientific account of the creation of the world, telling you literally how the world was created.” Thus, we must ask what genre a biblical text is and what it is trying to tell us.

We should not characterize the beginning of Genesis as natural history or science. Just as we look at clues to distinguish news stories from ads, we must find pointers to understand what biblical accounts are trying to convey.

….

I believe the ancients would have seen the contradictions and taken these stories as something other than science or natural history. Unfortunately, ancient Israelites did not affix genre labels (“science,” “enlightening tale,” “legend”) to their works, so we can’t be sure how they should be read. Still, nothing about the way these stories present themselves suggests “science” and “history” are the best labels to use. This does not make the Bible less important than science; it makes it different.

I am not trying not to diminish the Bible’s authority. Just the opposite: I am trying to read it correctly, to understand it as it was understood in the ancient period and interpret it within its proper genres. Just as it is wrong to read comics as news, it is wrong to read creation stories in Genesis as science. Doing so creates confusion in our religious institutions, our schools and society.

Christopher Heard has also recently posted an excellent discussion of the interpretation of Genesis one titled “Why I am Not a Creationist.” It is also well worth a gander (and it even has pictures!) You may also want to read Duane Smith’s comments on Christopher’s post here.

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Petition/Advertisement regarding the Treatment of Prof. Hanan Eshel

22nd November 2005

As many of my readers would be aware, I have tried to cover the events surrounding Prof. Hanan Eshel’s recovery of some ancient scroll fragments of the book of Leviticus (for more on the Leviticus fragments see my coverage here).

Eshel’s actions (purchasing the fragments from the bedouin, among other things) led to an investigation by the Israel Antiquities Authority, inlcuding the detention of Hanan Eshel (see my post on the investigation here). After the investigation he was released with all charges dropped.

From the very beginning of this issue — and especially after my interview with Hanan Eshel — I have supported his actions in this matter. Obviously the ideal situation would be to discover ancient artefacts in controlled archaeological digs, this doesn’t always happen. What is most important is that through his actions Hanan was able to preserve the scroll fragments.

As a protest to the way Hanan was treated, a number of scholars placed an advertisement in the Hebrew news paper Haaretz on Friday 18 November 2005. A scan of the Hebrew ad is available here. Below is an English translation of the ad, courtesy of Robert Deutsch via the ANE email list.

The subject:
The proceedings of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) (i.e. Shuka Dorfman) regarding Prof. Eshel’s Affair

We, archaeologists, historians and researchers in other fields of Humanities, wish to express our protest regarding the actions taken by the IAA against Prof. Eshel. Hanan Eshel and his student, Roy Porat, purchased a scroll fragment from a Bedouin and handed it over to IAA. About this fact there is no dispute. Therefore, blaming the teacher and his student of (illegal) trade with antiquities, is absurd. The police months lasting investigation, search in Eshel’s house, confiscating his passport, delivering misleading statements to the press, and sending TV crews in order to record him leaving the police headquarter – is intolerant. We are convinced that Eshel rescued the scroll fragment, which could otherwise be lost. His treatment as an average criminal is a vengeful act, not wise, unfair, and an unparalleled public institution attitude toward a scientist.

Joseph Aviram – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Edna Ulman-Margalit – The Center for Rationalism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Shmuel Ahituv – Bible, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Prof. David Ussishkin, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Eliezer Oren – Archaeology, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba (Emeritus)
Dr. Eithan Ayalon, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv
Prof. Miriam Rosen-Ayalon, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Ephal – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Albert Baumgarten – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Adrian Boaz – Archaeology’ University of Haifa
Prof. Anna Balfour-Cohen – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Jehoshua Ben-Arie – Geography, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Dr. Dafna Ben-Tor, – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Dan Barag, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Na’ama Brosh – Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Magen Broshi – The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Menahem Brinker – Philosophy, Hebrew literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Bezalel Bar-Kokhba – History of the Jewish People, Tel aviv University
Prof. Moshe Bernstein – Bible, Yeshiva University, New York
Hillel Geva – Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem
Prof. Ram Gophna, Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Haim Gitler, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Johanan Gluker, Classic Studies, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Trude Dothan, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Emeritus)
Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Shimon Dar – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Dr. Ruth Ha-Cohen-Pinchover, Musicology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Beth Halperin – Theology, Vassar College, USA (Emeritus)
Malka Hershcowitz – Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem
Uzza Zevulun – Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv (Pensioner)
Dr. Ester Hazon – Orion Center, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Yael Israeli – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Pensioner)
Prof. Moshe Kochavi – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Israel Levin, – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Aren Maeir – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
David Mevorach – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Judy Magness – Archaeology, North Carolina University, USA
Prof. Amihai Mazar – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Pinchas Mendel – Hebrew literature, University of Haifa
Dr. Zeev Meshel – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University (Emeritus)
Prof. Nadav Naaman – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Michael Stone – Theology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Sivan – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Zeev Safrai – History of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan
Prof. Israel Finkelstein – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Dr. Irit Ziffer – Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Elisha Kimron – Hebrew Language, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheba
Prof. Frank More Cross- Semitic Languages, Harward University, USA (Emeritus)
Dr. Silvia Rosenberg – Archaeology, Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Prof. Abraham Ronen – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Alexander Rofe – Bible, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Ronny Reich – Archaeology, University of Haifa
Prof. Elhanan Reiner – History of the Jewish People, Tel Aviv University
Guy Stibel – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Daniel Scwartz – History of the Jewish People, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Prof. Laurence Shifman – Hebrew and Judaism, University of New York
Dr. Ilan Sharon – Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

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SBL Round-Up

21st November 2005

OK, so I wasn’t at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings in Philadelphia the last few days — but due to the excellent posts by my fellow bibliobloggers, I feel like I was there! (Truth be told, I REALLY regret not going to SBL this year. It sounds as if it was a good meeting and it especially would have been great to meet other bibliobloggers.)

A number of bibliobloggers have posted their musings on the SBL. See, for example, Christopher Heard’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday updates, Mark Goodacre’s daily posts (Saturday am/pm, Sunday am/pm, Monday am/pm), as well as Jim West’s numerous posts.

Sessions I Would Have Liked to Attend

CARG Biblioblogging Session. From the papers that were posted earlier (see Jim Davila’s paper here; R.W. Brannan’s paper is here), this session had the potential to be quite interesting — and it sounds like it was. I’m not sure if much was accomplished in regards to setting the future of biblioblogging, but it provided a venue for everyone to meet face to face. For impression of how the session went, see Christopher Heard’s thoughts here, Joe Cathey has posted his impression on meeting various individuals as well as some reflections on the session. Torrey Seland also has posted his reflections here; he also had an excellent pre-SBL post about biblioblogs here. There are also some reflections by AKM Adam and Jim West. I personally find the whole “biblioblog” phenomenon great. I have really enjoyed blogging — I have learned a lot by writing my own posts and reading others. I also think the variety among biblioblogs is great and should be encouraged.

Tel Zayit Abecedary Session. From the number of posts, this session seems to have been one of the more interesting to attend. Even prior to the SBL, Paul Nikkel posted a summary of the presentation on the Tel Zayit inscription at the ASOR meetings (as well as the Tell es-Safi inscription here). Make sure to check out Michael Homan’s interesting firsthand account of the discovery here. Christopher Heard has a number of excellent posts on the abecedary (here and in response to Joe Cathey here), as does Joe Cathey (here and in response to Chris here) and, of course, Jim West’s post may be found here. Joe sees the cup half full and perhaps assumes too much, while Jim sees the glass half empty and questions whether the inscription can bear the conclusions drawn from it. Chris brings his characteristic level head to the discussion and cautions about seeing too much significance vis-a-vis maximalist-minimalist historical questions, though its paleographical significance is immense. Jim Davila also has a superb four-part discussion of the inscription (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4; for a more general SBL report from Jim see here). His final conclusion concerning the inscription is so good I just have to quote it in full:

So what does it all mean? I’m tempted to picture the final exam for scribes: the candidates walk in and sit down. At each desk there is a forty pound stone. The instructor says, “Now incise the alphabet on this stone with your metal tool. You have 50 minutes.” Unfortunately, our scribe made several mistakes and flunked out. His final exam was posted on the wall as a warning to other students. Don’t let this happen to you.

New Historicism and the Hebrew Bible. This entire session looked interesting, but in particular Jim West notes a paper by Sean Burt (Duke University) who offered a critique of Long, Longman, and Provan’s A Biblical History of Israel. Jim argues that Burt rightly pointed out that “those who privilege the Hebrew Bible as a source should also explain why Jubilees and The Samaritan Chronicles are not.” He further notes that “the ‘maximalists’ owe it to us all to explain why and how they justify their exclusive use of the Hebrew Bible as their only source. Why not use Josephus or Philo instead?” Of course, the simple answer to Jim’s question is that Long, Longman, and Provan limited their sources to the Hebrew Bible because they were writing a “Biblical” History of Israel (note the title of their book!). But, that answer would be too simple. In my humble opinion I would agree with Jim insofar as I think that all potential sources should be evaluated and used when appropriate. In regards to Josephus, they do in fact use him a bit in their work, but I’m not sure why one would use Josephus instead of the Hebrew Bible — especially since Josephus is clearly later and derivative of the Hebrew Bible. That being said, Josephus may preserve some valuable historiographic information. From the online abstract Burt’s paper looked quite interesting in that it explore the ideological nature of historiography.

All in all it looked as if SBL was quite interesting. Of course, what I find most valuable about SBL is not the papers; I find that getting together with old friends and meeting new ones the most enjoyable thing about SBL (and, of course, the book displays!).

Next year in Washington, D.C.

Posted in Abecedary, Inscriptions, SBL | Comments Off

Tell es-Safi Ostracon Again: New Tracing and Comments (UPDATED)

21st November 2005

I have updated my previous tracing of the Tell es-Safi Ostracon based on the higher resolution images available at Dr. Stefan Jakob Wimmer’s excellent website (Wimmer is one of the team of archaeologists involved in the dig).

N.B.: I have received some crucial information about the inscription from Danny Frese who heard Dr. Maeir speak on the inscription at University of California, San Diego, last week (for more, see the interpretation section below).

Here are the (now updated) images with some tracings:

This image seems to support a slightly different reading for the first word, which becomes a bit easier to see with some magnification:

Here is an image with the contrast and brightness adjusted in order to see the inscription a bit better:

And here is a tracing:

Interpretation

Deciphering the first couple letters of the ostracon provide the most trouble. If you compare the three available hi-resolution images, it becomes clear that the first two (or three?) letters are somewhat problematic:

This new image originally raised some questions about my (and others) original reading: ×?לות )LVT and ולת VLT. From right to left you still find a somewhat odd aleph with the horizontal cross stroke transversing the V-strokes (kind of like the aleph at Gezer or from the plaque at Shechem). But then in this image the second letter sure appears to be a tav, as Duane Smith had pointed out. This reading raises it own problems in regards to spacing, as Chris Heard noted in the comments to my original post.

As it turns out, my original tracing was in fact correct. After his lecture, Danny Frese asked Dr. Maeir about the markings between the aleph and the lamed. In response, Maeir acknowledged that part of the inscription gave them some troubles, until they finally figured out that the vertical stroke inbetween the aleph and lamed is not a stroke at all; it’s an accumulated mineral deposit on the surface of the sherd, it just happens to be in a line and looks like a stroke. The horizontal stroke, on the other hand, is part of the aleph, it’s just a long arm. Danny also noted that this is discernable in the enhanced photos I have posted (which were better quality than the images Maeir had at his talk). A close examination (see the enlarged picture below) reveals that there is no shadow in the vertical stroke between the aleph and lamed, as there would be if it were incised. There are, however, clear shadows in the vertical portions of the aleph and the lamed. Moreover, Frese notes, there looks like a slight shadow on the bottom right hand side of the vertical stroke, whereas the shadows on the lamed and aleph are on the left side. That is to say, this part of the vertical stroke looks to me like a lump of minerals, and not an incision.

Here is an enlarged image. If you look closely you can see the shadows on the lefthand side of the inscribed aleph and lamed, but there are no shadows to the left of the verticle stroke. But, as Danny notes, there is a slight shadow to the right of the verticle stroke. Absolutely facinating!

The rest of the inscription is the same as previously noted. After the aleph you find a lamed, which instead of the almost vertical stroke with a hook to the right at the end, you find it more like a coil. This is similar to the lamed on the potsherds from Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish; dated around 1250 BCE). Following the lamed you have a vav followed by another tav. Then after the vertical stroke (on which see below), you have another vav followed by what is a very poorly inscribed lamed followed by a partial tav.

In the comments on my previous post, Ed Cook suggested the possibility that this could be some sort of invoice or the like (interpreting the vertical stroke between the two names/words as an amount of some kind with the vertical stroke being a universal symbol for the number “1″. According to Ed, “This would place the ostracon in the very large category of receipts.”

No matter how one interprets the first word, it is the second word (ולת VLT) that is argued to be connected with the Hebrew name Goliath (גלית GLYT), the questions surrounding the first word are not as significant. The connection with the first word VLT and the Hebrew GLYT “Goliath” is based on an assumed Indo-European G/V shift, the validity of which I will have to let the linguists work out.

As a side note, while I agree that referring to this ostracon as the “Goliath inscription” or the like is misleading, calling it the “‘LWT/WLT inscription” is also problematic considering the difficulty of ascertaining what letters are actually represented. I still think that the safest bet is to refer to it by where it was found, thus the “Tell es-Safi ostracon” it is!

Posted in Archaeology, Goliath, Inscriptions, Tell es-Safi | Comments Off

Bono Interview on 60 Minutes Tonight

20th November 2005

The U2 frontman Bono is being interviewed tonight on 60 Minutes. The title of the segment is “Bono and the Christian Right.” According to the CBS website, the activist rocker tells 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley that getting conservative Christians on his side was the best way to push the Bush administration to send more aid to Africa. Bradley profiles the Irish super group tonight (Sunday 20 November 7 p.m. ET/PT).

I will definitely be watching 60 Minutes tonight! I will post a follow-up entry about the interview. I will also be posting my review of the just-released Vertigo Tour DVD and be offering some comments on Bono’s work on the HIV/AIDs crisis in Africa.

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Biblical Software for the Macintosh News & Notes

16th November 2005

Accordance Updates and New Releases

As already mentioned by Ken Ristau, Rubén Gómez, and Danny Zacharias, OakTree Software has released version 6.9 of Accordance, as well as three noteworthy packages:

  • Die Mac Studienbibel CD-Rom. While not as complete as the Logos Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible, this release includes the full critical apparatus of BHS and NA27, an untagged LXX-R, the Vulgate, BDB, LEH2, as well as a number of German lexicons and a German version of Accordance.
  • Eerdmans Reference CD-Rom. This includes a number of Eerdmans reference works, including Pillar New Testament Commentaries and the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary.
  • Scholar’s Collection 6.9. This upgrades most modules and offers some new tagged Greek texts of broad interest to scholars, including Codex Bezae, Apocryphal Gospels, Pseudepigrapha (English), a tagged Josephus and Philo, among others.

Adjusted Release Date for Logos for Macintosh

The release date for Logos Bible Software for the Mac has been adjusted to Spring 2006 (hopefully shipping by June 21). A press release noted,

Logos Bible Software is a large, sophisticated piece of software, which explains why we underestimated the time required to bring it to a new platform. But never fear…work is progressing steadily with no major obstacles, and the application looks great in the current build. Our artist-in-residence (who is a Mac devotee himself) turned out some very nice visuals for the interface so that Logos Bible Software would feel right at home on the Mac.

Some screenshots may be viewed here.

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