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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (6 February 2006)

7th February 2006

This week’s Review of Biblical Literature is kind of sparse. Judging from the reviews I read, I’m not sure there will be much I will run out and buy! (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!). There are a couple more positive reviews of Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament and Fretheim’s work looks like it is worth a gander. My interest was piqued in Min’s The Levitical Authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah due to my work in Chronicles, though from reading Grabbe’s review a inter-library loan will suffice. I should also note that philo-blogger Torrey Seland’s book is reviewed.

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

  • Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Reviewed by Thomas Kraus and Mark Mcentire
  • Fretheim, Terrence E. God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation. Reviewed by Robin Gallaher
  • Min, Kyung-jin. The Levitical Authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah. Reviewed by Lester Grabbe
  • Wright, Jacob L. Rebuilding Identity: The Nehemiah Memoir and Its Earliest Readers. Reviewed by Tamara Eskenazi


  • Seland, Torrey. Strangers in the Light: Philonic Perspectives on Christian Identity in 1 Peter. Reviewed by Fika Van Rensburg
  • Court, John M., ed. Biblical Interpretation: The Meanings of Scripture — Past and Present. Reviewed by Stephen Moyise

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (30 January 2006)

31st January 2006

Like clockwork, the latest Review of Biblical Literature has appeared and there are a few reviews of books in the area of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and cognate disciplines — though pickings are a bit sparse this week. I would recommend the work on John Allegro — he was truly an interesting character in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the biography by his daughter is a facinating read. Magic mushrooms anyone?

Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

  • Carasik, Michael (ed. and trans.), The Commentators’ Bible: The JPS Miqra’OT Gedolot: Exodus. Reviewed by Adele Berlin
  • Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi, A Study of HÌ£Ä?tÌ£Ä?’ and HÌ£atÌ£tÌ£Ä?’t in Leviticus 4-5. Reviewed by Reinhard Achenbach
  • Matthews, Victor H. and James C. Moyer, The Old Testament: Text and Context. Reviewed by Phillip Camp

Second Temple Studies

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Second Annual Ralphies – First Annual Codex Edition (Best of 2005)

30th December 2005

Welcome to the Second Annual Ralphies — First Annual Codex Edition. Following the example of Ed Cook, a number of bloggers, including Rick Brannan, Joe Cathey, and Loren Rosson, and “Targuman” (a new blog I found through Ed’s), have been compiling their favorite books and films of 2005.

What follows is my own list. While I have tried to honour Ed’s template, I find it difficult to narrow lists like these down to one top pick, so I have includes some runner-ups.

Best NONFICTION BOOK of the year: This is a tough one since I have read quite a few non-fiction books! For books published in 2005, here are my selections. My top choice is Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture (Continuum, 2004; Buy from or This work is not in my primary field of research and that is one reason why it would be my top choice since many of the ideas within it were so new to me. I read it in preparation for my popular culture course and found it to be a compelling and convicting expose of the commodification of religion.

A very close runner up from within in one of my primary areas of research is Ulrich Dahmen, Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 49; Leiden: Brill, 2003; Buy from or This work is an impressive examination of the so-called Qumran Psalms scroll taking into consideration both literary and textual characteristics of the scroll. I highly recommend it!

Best FICTION BOOK of the year: I typically only read fiction when on holidays. Probably the best fiction work I read this year (but was published a while ago) is Susan Howatch, Scandalous Risks (Fawcett, 1991; Buy from or This is the fourth of Howatch’s Church of England series. I enjoy the intellegent theological discussions in Howatch’s books, among other things.

Runner-ups would include J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Scholastic, 2005; Buy from or I enjoy the Harry Potter books, though I am always left with a small sense of dissatisfaction after reading them — I’m not sure what it is, though I wonder if it is the fact that they are based on the school year and therefore like a TV show, you know they will be wrapping up loose ends as the school year nears its end. I also reread Chaim Potok, In the Beginning (Ballantine, 1997; Buy from or I love all of Potok’s books (The Chosen, The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev, Davita’s Harp, etc.), but this one I especially appreciate because it narrates the story of David Lurie, a brilliant young Jewish boy who stuns his family and friends by laying aside his Orthodox upbringing and becoming a secular biblical scholar. I love the final exchange between David and his Rebbe (p. 435):

  • Rebbe: “… Are you telling me you will not be an observer of the commandments?”
  • David: “I am not telling the Rebbe that.”
  • Rebbe: “What are you telling me?”
  • David: “I will go wherever the truth leads me. It is secular scholarship, Rebbe; it is not the scholarship of tradition. In secular scholarship there are no boundaries and no permanently fixed views.”
  • Rebbe: “Lurie, if the Torah cannont go out into your world of scholarship and return stronger, then we are all fools and charlatans. I have faith in the Torah. I am not afraid of truth.”


Best MOVIE of the year: This is a tough one for me — especially since I taught a religion and popular culture class and consequently watched a few films over the course of the year! In terms of movies released in 2005, my vote for best movie of 2005 would be Hotel Rwanda (Terry George, 2004; IMDB; Buy from or While this film technically came out in 2004, I didn’t watch it until it was released on DVD in 2005. I found this to be a moving/disturbing film about the genocidal atrocities in Rwanda and how the colonial powers contributed to the problems. It is an excellent case study in situational ethics (what would you do if you were in that situation?). It should be seen in tandem with the Canadian documentary based on the autobiography of Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire (Peter Raymont, 2004; IMDB; Buy from or

Honorable mention goes to Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005; IMDB; Buy from or for a movie that ponders the notion of redemptive violence; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell, 2005; IMDB) for a good film adaptation; Crash (Paul Haggis, 2005; IMDB; Buy from or for a captivating movie about the ubiquitious nature of racism; Palindromes (Todd Solondz, 2004; IMDB; Buy from or for a provcative use of eight different actors (playing the same character) in a thought-provoking examination of the moral complexities of abortion.

Finally, I have to give special mention to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Andrew Adamson, 2005; IMDB). I liked the film, though in order to really appreciate it I will have to see it again since I went with my kids and ended up spending most of my time answering questions from my four-and-a-half year old son! (Q; What is that? A: That’s a faun. Q: Why? A: Uh, because it is. Q: Why? A: Because C.S. Lewis drew upon classical mythology in his writings. Q: Is the faun a bad guy? A: Well, not really, he does bad stuff but then turns good. Q: So he’s a good guy? A: Yes. etc. ad naseum!)

Best CD of the year: This is a no-brainer! U2′s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is the best CD of the year (Buy from or I think that with this CD, U2 has returned to their roots (not that I didn’t like all of their music in between!). Sad to say that was the only CD that I purchased in 2005. I actually had my CD collection stolen from my office early in the year and I have been replacing what I lost by downloading them as mp3s since I tend to listen to music only when at my computer (and I can always burn a CD if I want one).

Song of the year: “Yahweh” from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. This is a catchy and intriguing song. It’s a prayer for Yahweh to intervene, to transform the singer: “Take this shirt / Polyester white trash made in nowhere / take this shirt / and make it clean, clean. Take this soul / Stranded in some skin and bones / Take this soul / and make it sing…. Take this heart / And make it break.” But it’s also a lament, questioning why God is not acting: “Yahweh, tell me now / Why the dark before the dawn?” At any rate, I am impressed that U2 included a song called “Yahweh” on their CD.

A close runner up would be “Crumbs from your table.” When I first heard this song I loved it. But then I watched the DVD that came with the CD and listened to Larry Mullen note how he was so drunk when they wrote that song that he doesn’t even remember writing it! Talk about a downer! But then I read a great blog entry on this song from Spera In Deo where he relays an interview with Bono about the song that redeems the song in my eyes. Here is an excerpt:

About the Crumbs song, he [Bono] told the story of the Irish nun, Sister Ann, who’s story broke his heart. She lives and works near a sewer and brings in people who live in horrific conditions. When he visited her, he saw people who were sleeping “three to a bed.” I had previously thought the song was about Bush’s promised–then rescinded–offer of $15b in Africa aid. But it turns out it is really (also?) about this nun and how some people in the world await crumbs to fall from the feast table of American Christianity (You speak of signs and wonders / But I need something other / I would believe if I was able / But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table).

Once again, brilliant! Well, that’s all she wrote, so I’ll see you at next year’s Ralphies!

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Resources for the Study of Histor(iograph)y and the Hebrew Bible, No. 1

29th October 2005

This post is the first of an on-going series of posts on resources for the study of ancient histor(iograph)y. Some of the posts will focus on one particular book, while others will survey a general topic relating to the study of ancient history writing. While most will focus on biblical histor(iograph)y, some will be broader.

In this initial post I am highlighting a collection that brings together a number of seminal essays on the topic of ancient Israelite histor(iograph)y.

  • V. Philips Long (ed.), Israel’s Past in Present Research: Essays on Ancient Israelite Historiography. (Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 7; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999). Pp. Xx + 612. Buy from | Buy from

This volume brings together a total of thirty-three essays dealing with different aspects of the study of ancient Israel’s past. All but the editor’s introduction and final reflection have been previously published (most within the last twenty-five years), although seven essays appear for the first time in English: five translated from German (Herrmann, Klement, Maier, Neef, and Soggin), and one each from French (Cazelles) and Spanish (Alonso Schökel).

The first section, “Israel’s Past in Present Research,” contains three essays that provide context for the contemporary debate: John H. Hayes, “The History of the Study of Israelite and Judaean History: From the Renaissance to the Present” (pp. 7-42); Mark Zvi Brettler, “The New Biblical Historiography” (pp. 43-50); and Rolf Rendtorff, “The Paradigm Is Changing: Hopes and Fears” (pp. 51-68). Part two, “The Historical Impulse among Israel’s Neighbors,” contains three essays that supply an ancient Near Eastern background: William W. Hallo, “Biblical History in Its Near Eastern Setting: The Contextual Approach” (pp. 77-97); H. Cazelles, “Biblical and Prebiblical Historiography” (pp. 98-128); and A. R. Millard, “Israelite and Aramean History in the Light of Inscriptions” (pp. 129-40).

The essays in the third section, “Israel’s History Writing: Its Multiplex Character,” are grouped according to whether their focus is on the antiquarian, aspectual, or artistic character of Israel’s historiography. Under the category antiquarian are five essays: John J. Collins, “The ‘Historical Character’ of the Old Testament in Recent Biblical Theology (pp. 150-69); John Van Seters, “Joshua’s Campaign of Canaan and Near Eastern Historiography” (pp. 170-80); R. N. Whybray, “What Do We Know about Ancient Israel?” (pp. 181-87); Philip R. Davies, “‘Ancient Israel’ and History: A Response to Norman Whybray” (pp. 188-91); and Gerhard Maier, “Truth and Reality in the Historical Understanding of the Old Testament” (pp. 192-206). There are two aspectual studies: J. Alberto Soggin, “History as Confession of Faith — History as Object of Scholarly Research: On One of the Basic Problems of the History of Israel” (pp. 207-19); and Claus Westermann, “The Old Testament’s Understanding of History in Relation to That of the Enlightenment” (pp. 220-31); and two artistic: V. Philips Long, “History and Fiction: What Is History?” (pp. 232-54); and L. Alonso Schökel, “Narrative Art in Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings” (pp. 255-78).

Part four, “Writing Israel’s History: The Methodological Challenge,” includes nine essays. The first five focus on method: Diana Edelman, “Doing History in Biblical Studies” (pp. 292-303); K. Lawson Younger, Jr., “The Underpinnings” (pp. 304-345); Siegfried Herrmann, “The Devaluation of the Old Testament as a Historical Source: Notes on a Problem in the History of Ideas” (pp. 346-55); J. Maxwell Miller, “Reading the Bible Historically: The Historian’s Approach” (pp. 356-72); and Ferdinand Deist, “Contingency, Continuity and Integrity in Historical Understanding: An Old Testament Perspective” (pp. 373-90). Then there are two that explore the impact of the social sciences on doing Israelite history: Niels Peter Lemche, “Is It Still Possible to Write a History of Ancient Israel?” (pp. 391-414); and Baruch Halpern, “Erasing History: The Minimalist Assault on Ancient Israel” (pp. 415-26). This section closes with two essays that explore the interplay between literary study and historical reconstruction: John Barton, “Historical Criticism and Literary Interpretation: Is There Any Common Ground?” (pp. 427-38); and Herbert H. Klement, “Modern Literary-Critical Methods and the Historicity of the Old Testament” (pp. 439-59).

The fifth section, “The Historical Impulse in the Hebrew Canon: A Sampling,” includes eight essays that illustrate how books from the Torah, the (latter and former) Prophets, and the Writings have been variously utilized by scholars in understanding Israel’s history. The first three essays contain different assessments of the value of the Torah for understanding the Patriarchs: Roland de Vaux, “The Hebrew Patriarchs and History” (pp. 470-79); Thomas L. Thompson, “Historical and Christian Faith” (pp. 480-484); and John Goldingay, “The Patriarchs in Scripture and History” (pp. 485-91). Essays on the former and latter Prophets include Richard S. Hess, “Early Israel in Canaan: A Survey of Recent Evidence and Interpretations” (pp. 492-518); J. G. McConville, “Faces of Exile in Old Testament Historiography” (pp. 519-34); Hans Walter Wolff, “The Understanding of History in the Old Testament Prophets” (pp. 535-51); and Heinz-Dieter Neef, “The Early Traditions of Israel in the Prophecy of Hosea — A Review” (pp. 552-56). There is but one sample from the Writings: Gary N. Knoppers, “History and Historiography: The Royal Reforms” (pp. 557-78).

The book closes with an essay by the editor of the volume, V. Philips Long, entitled “The Future of Israel’s Past: Personal Reflections” (pp. 580-92), in which he presents his vision for future historical study of ancient Israel. First, Long hopes that there will be an increased openness among scholars about their own core beliefs (recognizing that presuppositions and basic beliefs affect everyone’s research), and that scholars will distinguish between the truth claims of the biblical text and their own evaluation of the truth value of said claims. Then, in connection with method, Long suggests that the canons of the historical-critical method (criticism, analogy, and correlation) be redefined so as not to preclude serious inquiry by scholars of faith; the claims of the social sciences be limited to their proper role of providing background information on societies and cultures; and the consequences of modern literary criticism on doing historiography be explored.

Needless to say, many scholars will not agree with Long’s evaluation of past historical work or his vision for future research on Israel’s past. The articles included in this volume do represent a wide spectrum of scholarly perspectives and methods — from more conservative scholars to so-called “minimalists,” as well as the majority who sit somewhere in between. Nevertheless, as Long himself acknowledges (e.g., pp. xii-xiv), the contents, structure, and the sectional introductions reflect his own more conservative approach. Also, while this is not the place to quibble over the selection or exclusion of specific essays, two burgeoning areas of research that are underrepresented are ideological and narratival studies of Israel’s history writing, and work on 1 and 2 Chronicles.

On the whole, Long has brought together an excellent collection of essays that is eminently suitable as a reader for courses on biblical historiography, as well as for students and scholars desiring a guide through the maze of present approaches to Israel’s past.

The book closes with an index of authorities and Scripture index.

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (26 September 2005)

26th September 2005

The latest Review of Biblical Literature is now out and has some interesting reviews relating to the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls. Especially noteworthy considering the recent interest in historiography among bibliobloggers is a favourable review of Kofoed’s Text and History: Historiography and the Study of the Biblical Text. The review itself is fair and highlights some of the weaknesses of Kofoed’s work. That being said, that Kofoed’s work “represents a substantial effort toward ending the impasse that has gripped the debate over the use of biblical texts in the study of the history of ancient Israel” is a bit ambitious. As evidenced in the recent discussion on the Biblical Studies discussion list, the impasse is still alive and well. Also worthy of mention are the reviews of Vermes’s recent work, which is a collection of his essays on the New Testament and Qumran.

  • Carol M. Kaminski,From Noah to Israel: Realization of the Primaeval Blessing After the Flood. Reviewed by Martin Leuenberger
  • Jens Bruun Kofoed,Text and History: Historiography and the Study of the Biblical Text. Reviewed by D. Matthew Stith
  • Jack R. Lundbom,Jeremiah 37-52. Reviewed by John Engle
  • Thomas Römer, Jean-Daniel Macchi, and Christophe Nihan, eds., Introduction a l’Ancien Testament. Reviewed by Andre Lemaire
  • Louis Stulman, Jeremiah. Reviewed by Carolyn Sharp
  • Nancy Calvert-Koyzis, Paul, Monotheism and the People of God: The Significance of Abraham Traditions for Early Judaism and Christianity. Reviewed by Chris Smith
  • David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling, eds., The Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellensitic Judaism: Volume XVI 2004. Reviewed by Michele Murray
  • James M. Scott, On Earth as in Heaven: The Restoration of Sacred Time and Sacred Space in the Book of Jubilees. Reviewed by Meir Bar-Ilan
  • Geza Vermes, Scrolls, Scriptures and Early Christianity. Reviewed by Tobias Nicklas and Thomas Kraus.
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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL (30 August 2005)

30th August 2005

There are a number of reviews in this week’s Review of Biblical Literature that will interest Hebrew Bible specialists. Note the two positive reviews of Campbell’s FOTL commentary on 2 Samuel (one in French), while Romer gives the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible a mixed review. I should also note that Auld’s work on Amos is a reprint of his 1986 Guide. For those interested in translation issues, there is also a review of Poythress and Grudem’s theologically conservative opposition to the TNIV.

Special note should be made of Jodi Magness’ massive (and decisive) 15 page review of Hirschfeld’s Qumran in Context. She concludes: “Hirschfeld’s interpretation and other alternative interpretations of Qumran are contradicted by the physical connection between the scroll caves and the settlement and by the presence of numerous features that are unparalleled at other sites. These features… “—are physical expressions of this community’s halakah, which involved maintaining the highest possible level of ritual purity. This accounts for the absence of these features at other sites. Rarely does archaeology so clearly reflect a system of religious beliefs and practices.” I encourage you to read her full review.

  • Rainer Albertz, Geschichte und Theologie: Studien zur Exegese des Alten Testaments und zur Religionsgeschichte Israels. Review by Manfred Oeming
  • A. Graeme Auld, Amos (T and T Clark Study Guides; previously Sheffield Guides). Review by Nahum Roesel
  • Antony Campbell, 2 Samuel(Forms of the Old Testament Literature, 8). Reviews by A Graeme Auld and Jacques Vermeylen (in French)

There is also some relevant Second Temple and Rabbinic works reviewed, as well as some broader works related to biblical studies.

  • Yizhar Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context: Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence. Review by Jodi Magness
  • Johannes Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve in Greek: A Critical Edition. Review by Devorah Dimant
  • Amram Tropper, Wisdom, Politics, and Historiography: Tractate Avot in the Context of the Graeco-Roman Near East. Review by Daryl Jefferies
  • Philip Davies, ed., Yours Faithfully: Virtual Letters from the Bible. Review by Alice Bach
  • James D. G. Dunn and John Rogerson, eds., Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Review by Thomas Romer
  • Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. Review by Joseph Matos

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL

22nd August 2005

The latest Review of Biblical Literature is out. Noteworthy are the reviews by bibliobloggers Joe Cathay and Jim West (two reviews!). Otherwise this issue is a bit sparce, to say the least!

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Tendenz and Translation: The Importance of Knowing the Character of a Manuscript for Textual Criticism

20th August 2005

One of the toughest jobs for textual critics is knowing the tendenz or proclivities of the manuscripts or versions they are using for textual reconstruction. This step requires an enormous amount of work that entails an intensive study of a manuscript. Often, I fear, this work is not done and variants are studies in isolation without a sufficient knowledge of the manuscripts themselves. One of the reasons it is not done is that it is a daunting task that few can accomplish. So when someone does this work, it is a great service to the scholarly community (We should thank God for the Kittels, Wevers, Alands, Metzgers of the world!).

This sort of painstaking text critical work has now been done on the Qumran Psalms Scroll (11QPsa). As I mentioned in a previous post, I am working through Ulrich Dahmen’s Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Brill, 2003; Buy from or

In this third chapter, Dahmen works through all of the variants between 11QPsa and the Masoretic Book of Psalms. From this analysis he draws a number of conclusions. First, he concludes that 11QPsa is clearly dependent on and secondary to the proto-Masoretic Psalter (Something which I have been arguing for many years). That is, almost all of the places where 11QPsa has an alternative reading compared to the MT Psalter, the reading in 11QPsa is later. What is more, Dahmen argues that when all of the variants are considered together (and this is the crucial step of gaining the big picture) some patterns begin to appear. While I will not bore you with the details (and Dahmen notes many details), the most important characteristic are the number of features which connect the scroll with the other texts and themes common to the Qumran community. This is one of the things that is meant when taking about a manuscript’s tendenz.

Knowing the tendenz of 11QPsa provides some critical purchase when making text-criticical decisions. What Dahmen’s research means in practical terms is that 11QPsa is of limited use for textual criticism of the MT book of Psalms. That doesn’t mean it is of no value. Dahmen highlights a couple places where 11QPsa preserves a better reading than the MT. The best example is with the missing nun verse in the acrostic Psalm 145 (an acrostic is a poem that is organized according to the alphabet). In the MT tradition the psalm is clearly missing a verse because its acrostic skips from mem to samech (between vv. 13-14). Well, before 11QPsa was discovered scholars knew something was up and often used the LXX to reconstruct the missing verse. When the Psalms Scroll was discovered, lo and behold, the nun verse was recovered. As it turns out, the two texts (LXX and 11QPsa) preserved similar readings:
πιστὸς κύριος ἐν τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ καὶ ὅσιος ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔργοις αὐτοῦ
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and devout in all his deeds

× ×?מן ×?לוהי×? בדבריו וחסיד בכול מעשיו
God is faithful in his words, and gracious in all his deeds

You’ll notice a slight difference between the LXX use of “Lord” while 11QPsa employs “God.” A number of factors suggest that the LXX preserves the better reading. First, when looking at the rest of Psalm, it almost exclusively employs Yahweh. Second, one of the things that Dahmen uncovered in his analysis is that 11QPsa tends to substitute other terms for Yahweh. What evidently happened is that some time in the transmission of the Masoretic text of the book of Psalms, this verse dropped out. The LXX and 11QPsa both preserved the original line, though the LXX preserved the better text in regards to the name used for God.

The moral of this story is that before you can evaluate a textual variant, you need to know the tendenz of the text. Otherwise you’ll miss the forest for the trees.

Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalms, Reviews & Notices, Septuagint, Text Criticism, Translation Theory | Comments Off

Graphical Searches: Logos and Accordance Compared

8th August 2005

Rick Brennan — of Ricoblog fame — has posted an excellent tutorial on using the Graphical Query Editor in Logos Bible Software (“Nouns and Adjectives and Graphical Queries, Oh My!” 4 August 2005) on the brand new Logos Bible Software Blog.

Since I hadn’t used this feature of Logos much, I decided to work through it myself. As I was working through the tutorial I was thinking, “how does this compare with Graphical Searches in Accordance Bible Software?” So I decided to offer this comparison of the two products.

[Technical Note: I am running Logos Bible Software 2.1c on a Dell Inspiron 8500 laptop powered by a 2.00 GHz Mobile Intel Pentium 4-M CPU with 512 MB RAM; Accordance Bible Software 6.7 is running on my PowerMac G4 powered by dual 500 MHz G4 processors with 512 MB RAM.]

The Question

From his study of “good servant” (καλὸς… διάκονος) in 1 Timothy 4:6, Rick was wondering “what other things are called ‘good’ in the Pastoral Epistles.” This led to his investigation of the adjective καλος “good” using the Graphical Query Editor in Logos.

The Steps

  1. Select Resource to Build your Search Upon. The first step is to open your tagged Greek New Testament Text that you will build your search upon. This is comparable in both programs. In Logos you would open “NA27″ from your Library listing, while in Accordance you need to select “GNT” in the search text pop-up window (In both programs you can define a “workspace” for NT study that would have this text as well as others already set up).
  2. Open Graphical Query Document/Greek Construct Window. This step begins the same in both programs. In Logos you just need to select “Graphical Query” in the “new document” icon in the toolbar, in Accordance you select “Greek” from “New Construct” under the “File” menu (In Accordance you could also just use the keyboard shortcut).
  3. Specify First Search Term.The search term that needs to be specified is the word καλος “good.” In Logos you have to drag the “TERM” box and drop it onto the canvas. This will open a dialog box where you specify information about the term. Since you are searching for a Greek term, you have to manually change the language to Greek (once you do this there is a slight pause as Logos builds a Greek word list), change your keyboard to Greek, and then type in “καλο.” At this point a list of words will be generated in which you select καλος (which is found twice with different inflections) and click OK. In Accordance this step is less complex. You first drag “LEX” (short for lexeme) from the construct palette to the first element column. At this point a dialog box automatically appears (with no pause) in which you can begin typing “καλο” (as you are using the Greek Construct Window, there is no need to specify language or change your keyboard). Like Logos, a list of words will be generated in which you can select καλος and click OK. (A nice feature of Logos is that once you select the word from the list, you get an extended dictionary entry on the word; Accordance only provides an English gloss).The next part of this step is to specify that the word you are searching for (καλος) is an adjective. In Logos you need to drag the “REF” (short for reference) box onto the canvas , at which point a reference properties dialog box opens. In it you have to specify the data type (Greek Morphology (GRAMCORD)), click the Adjective checkbox, and click OK. Then, in order to specify that these two things refer to the same term, you have to drag an arrow between the items and double-click it, and then specify that the items are the “same.” Once again, Accordance is a bit easier because it already provides the tagging items on the construct palette. All you have to do is drag the “Adj.” (short for adjective) box into the same column below where you specified καλος and a dialog box opens after which you only need to click OK. (When you drag the “Adj.” box into the same column, Accordance ascribes the characteristic to everything in the same column). More significantly, you do not even need to do this step in Accordance! The program will automatically recognize you are searching for the adjective καλος as soon as you specify its agreement with a noun (see below).
  4. Specify the Second Search Term. Now its time to specify the noun object you want to search for in connection with καλος. In Logos this step is similar to the previous; you drag “REF” to the canvas, specify noun as the part of speech, and click OK. In Accordance all you have to do is drag the “Noun” box to the column adjacent to your other search items, and click OK on the dialog box that automatically opens.
  5. Specify Agreement between Search Terms. In Logos, drag the “AGREE” object to the canvas and connect it to the two search terms by dragging arrows between the objects. Then double-click on the agreement object and a dialog box will appear in which you can select “case” and “number” as the characteristics you want the terms to agree in, and click OK. In Accordance you need to drag the “Agree” object from the construct palette over the two columns; at this point it will automatically connect the two columns with an arc (no need to manually link them) and bring up a dialog box in which you can select “case” and “number,” and then click OK.
  6. Specify the Proximity between Search Terms. In Logos, you draw another arrow between the adjective and noun objects and in the dialog box specify “3″ in the “intervening” box; you should also make sure to check “Ignore order of terms” (more on this later). Click OK. In Accordance drag “WITHIN” over top of the two columns and again a dialog box appears in which you can specify the number of words separating the two objects. Enter 3 and click OK.
  7. Perform the Search. Now its time to perform the search. In Logos, once you click “Search” an “Advanced Search” dialog box opens in which you have to specify the resource you want to search (select NA27 or click “open resources” if you only have NA27 already opened), the unit you want to search (select “sentence” after selecting “special”), and the range which you want searched (click on “Bible Text” and type “1Ti-Titus”). Then you click “search.” In Accordance things are once again a bit easier. Once you click OK, then it automatically performs the search on the search text you already specified in Step 1. The only thing that you may need to specify further is the search field (select “sentence” from the drop down menu) and range (select “Pastoral Epistles” from the range drop down menu; you may have to define the range if you haven’t done so before). Then click OK once again.
The Graphical Query Editory in Logos (click for a larger image)
Accordance’s Greek Construct Window (click for a larger image)
  1. Analyze the Results. In Logos, the search results are displayed in a dialog box that lists the verse references; the results were 47 occurrences in 19 articles (articles = sentences). To see the actual results in context you can either click on them individually and that will find the verse in NA27 with the search words highlighted. Alternatively you can export the results to a verse list, though the search terms would not be highlighted and — more problematic — it doesn’t display all of the hits (for example, it doesn’t display 1Tim 6:19 since it appears to only represent the verse containing the first hit in the sentence).In Accordance, the results are displayed with the complete verse and reference, as well as with the hits highlighted. Significantly, the results with Accordance are different: 16 hits in 29 verses. This highlights a significant difference between the two programs: in Logos you can tell the program to ignore the order of terms being searched, while in Accordance the order of the elements in the Construct Window is taken into consideration when searching (there is no option to ignore the order of the terms in Accordance). Thus, the Accordance search only found the occurrences where καλος was followed by a noun, not vice versa. This limitation is not insurmountable; all you have to do is duplicate the Construct Window (File:Duplicate) and switch the order of the elements by dragging them to the other side, and link the two Construct windows within the search entry box (Search:Enter Command:Link) and perform your search.
The Search Results Window in Logos (click for a larger image)
The Search Results Displayed in Accordance (click for a larger image)


While both programs ended up with the same results (they should since they are searching the same tagged text!), it took significantly less steps in Accordance to do the same search — even with the limitation Accordance has in regard to the order of the search elements. While the ability to ignore the order of the constituents is a very nice feature of Logos, it doesn’t make up for the unnecessary complexity of its searches compared to Accordance. Small things like having the program spell out “Noun” or “Adjective,” rather than the obtuse “J????” for an adjective with no other tagging or “N???” for a noun (and this only gets worse when you start searching with more complex tags). Or not having to select a Greek keyboard after you have already specified you are performing a Greek search (there are many more examples of unnecessary repetition in Logos). I also find that working with search results is more straightforward in Accordance; there is no need to export the results to a verse list. Finally, while this will vary depending on your computer, I found Logos to be a bit slower.

Since most serious Bible software packages have similar search capabilities and available tagged texts, what separates them is their ease of use and intuitive design. In this regard, it is hard not to recognize the superiority of Accordance. The fact that Accordance only runs native on a Macintosh certainly limits its desirability for Windows users. However, knowing that it does run on a Windows machine at a half decent speed with emulation software should give one pause when deciding what to purchase. While Logos leads the pack in the sheer number of resources and electronic texts it has available, I hope they focus some of their resources on developing a more intuitive and snappy interface — especially for their Macintosh version due out later this year.

For more information on the different biblical software packages available, please see my Software for Biblical Studies pages.

NOTE: After completing my comparison I was informed that one of the software developers at Accordance posted a similar — albeit less detailed — comparison on the Accordance Bible Software Forum.

UPDATE: Rubén Gómez has also posted a comparative review at Bible Software Review Weblog (Gee, Great minds think alike!). His review is worth a look because it also includes the Advanced Search Engine in BibleWorks in the comparison.

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Hebrew Bible Related Reviews from RBL

1st August 2005

As has become my custom of late, below are the Hebrew Bible (full, unedited, and even with a few bonus reviews from the “other” section!) entries from the latest Review of Biblical Literature, as well as some sundry comments by yours truly.

I was curious to see what Kraus said about The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception, as I am reviewing it for another journal (Kraus evidently enjoyed the volume since he notes no shortcomings). If the recent recovery of the Leviticus scroll fragments has whet your appetite, then judging from Nitzan’s review, Secrets of the Cave of Letters sounds like an interesting read. There is also a very positive (albeit not very techincal) review of Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Library Silver Edition (for more on biblical studies software, go here). Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t draw your attention to the review of Mowinckel’s He That Cometh by Jim West of the Biblical Theology Weblog. (Note the other review of Mowinckel’s classic is by Heinz-Josef Fabry, not Fabry Heinz-Josef as in the email and on the webpage).

  • Stephen L. Cook, The Social Roots of Biblical Yahwism. Reviewed by Kenton Sparks
  • John Eaton, Meditating on the Psalms. Reviewed by Philippus J. Botha and Brian Russell
  • Rodney J. Hutton, Fortress Introduction to the Prophets. Reviewed by Innocent Himbaza
  • Patrick D. Miller and Peter W. Flint, eds., The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception. Reviewed by Thomas Kraus
  • Sigmund Mowinckel, He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism (Translated by G. W. Anderson). Reviewed by Heinz-Josef Fabry [N.B. Review in German] and James West
  • Jonathan A Draper, ed., Orality, Literacy, and Colonialism in Antiquity. Reviewed by James Loader [N.B. The review is in German]
  • Richard A. Freund, Secrets of the Cave of Letters: Rediscovering a Dead Sea Mystery. Reviewed by Bilha Nitzan
  • Scholar’s Library Silver Edition (Logos Bible Software) Reviewed by Jan Van Der Watt
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