Dr. Black’s Advice to New Seminarians

Dr. Black posted a list of seven pieces of advice for new seminarians here (8-26-14 at 7:28PM). Item number five naturally caught my attention. He writes:

Take the languages first. Yes, I recognize that Greek and Hebrew are not usually prerequisites for theology courses or even for NT and OT Introduction. But if your professor is anything like me, you will be hearing lots of Greek and Hebrew in even the most basic general ed classes, and the more of the discussion you can follow, the better.

I couldn’t agree more. Writing a hermeneutics paper, theology paper, or sermon becomes cumbersome without an intimate familiarity with the biblical languages. Most of the best resources available interact with—at least to some degree—the biblical languages.

The only caveat I might add—and this is true of every course you take—ask around the campus to find out which biblical language professor inspires a profound love of that language in their students. Few things are worse than learning a foreign language from someone who isn’t excited about the material he is teaching and isn’t dedicated to instilling that excitement and passion in his or her students.

If the professor you want isn’t available for Greek, take Hebrew first. If the professor  you want for Hebrew isn’t available, take Greek first. In any case, take the biblical languages early, learn them, and keep them. They will forever shape you in your future studies and ministries.

Posted in Greek, Hebrew | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Translation Tuesday: Catenae Graecorum

I thought I might reinstitute Translation Tuesday. The posts will be excepts from the Catenae Graecorum on 1 Thessalonians. The Catenae was compiled by John Anthony Cramer and, for the book of 1 Thessalonians, primarily consists of comments from Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom. The quotations include focus primarily on interpretive issues within the text of 1 Thessalonians, excising the more homiletical elements in Chrysostom’s homilies.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope that the diglot text allows you to work through the text yourself:

των εις την προς Θεσσαλονικεις Α. επιστολην

Παυλου του αποστολου εξηγητικων

Ταυτην ἐπιστέλλει ἀπὸ Ἀθηνῶν, ἑωρακὼς πρότερον αὐτοὺς, καὶ διατρίψας παρ᾽αὐτοῖς. ἡ δὲ πρόφασις τῆς ἐπιστολῆς αὕτη. ὁ Ἀπόστολος πολλὰς θλίψεις παθὼν ἐν Βεροίᾳ καὶ ἐν Φιλίπποις τῆς Μακεδονίας, καὶ ἐν Κορίνθῳ, γινώσκων τε ὅσα πέπονθε καὶ ἐν Θεσσαλονίκῃ, φοβούμενος μὴ ἀκούσαντες Θεσσαλονικεῖς ἃ πέπονθεν ἐν ταῖς προειρημέναις πόλεσι, πειρασθῶσιν ὑπὸ τοῦ πειράζοντος καὶ σκανδαλισθῶσι, μαθὼν δὲ ὅτι καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀποθνήσκουσι κατώδυνοι ἐγίνοντο, ἀποστέλλει Τιμόθεον πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετὰ τῆς Ἐπιστολῆς ταύτης. Καὶ πρῶτον μὲν ἐπιστηρίζει αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ πίστει, ὥστε μὴ σαλεύεσθαι διὰ τὰς θλίψεις, καὶ μηδὲν ξένον αὐτοὺς πεπονθέναι ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, τῶν καὶ τὸν Κύριον ἀποκτεινάντων. Χριστιανῶν γὰρ ἴδιον τὸ θλίβεσθαι ἐν τῷ βίῳ τούτῳ ἔλεγε. Πολλὰ δὲ παραινέσας αὐτοῖς, οὕτως ὡς παρέλαβον ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἀναστρέφεσθαι, γράφει καὶ περὶ τῶν τελευτώντων, παραµυθούµενος αὐτοὺς καὶ διδάσκων µὴ βαρέως φέρειν. Οὐ γὰρ εἶναι τὸν θάνατον ἀπώλειαν, ἀλλ’ ὁδὸν ἀναστάσεως. Ἔπειτα καὶ περὶ τῶν χρόνων αὐτοὺς διδάσκει, ἵνα ἄδηλον τὴν ἡµέραν γινώσκοντες, ἀεὶ ἕτοιµοι γίνωνται, καὶ µηδενὶ προσέχωσιν ἐπαγγελλοµένῳ περὶ αὐτῆς. Ἔσεσθαι γάρ φησι τὴν παρουσίαν οὕτως, ὥστε τοὺς περιλειποµένους, καὶ εὑρισκοµένους ἐν τῇ ἡµέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ µὴ φθάνειν τοὺς ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγειροµένους. Ἅµα γὰρ γίνεσθαι τὴν πάντων ἀλλαγὴν. Διδάσκει πρὸς τούτοις, προτρέπων αὐτοὺς βελτιοῦσθαι ἐν τοῖς ἤθεσι, καὶ χαίρειν τῇ ἐλπίδι, καὶ προσεύχεσθαι, καὶ εὐχαριστεῖν ἀεὶ τῷ Κυρίῳ, ἐνορκίζων αὐτοὺς ἀναγνῶναι τὴν Ἐπιστολὴν ταύτην πᾶσι τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς, καὶ οὕτως τελειοῖ τὴν Ἐπιστολήν.

The Things Narrated in the First Letter to the Thessalonians

From the Apostle Paul

Paul wrote this epistle from Athens, having seen the Thessalonians first, and having stayed with them. And this is the motive of the epistle: The apostle, having suffered many afflictions in Berea and in Philippi of Macedonia, and in Corinth, knowing how much he also suffered in Thessalonica, fearing that the Thessalonians might have been tempted by the tempter and might have been caused to sin because they had not heard that he had suffered in the aforesaid cities, and having learned that they were also distraught on account of those who had died, he sent Timothy to them with this epistle. And first, he causes them to rest in faith, so that they might not be shaken by their afflictions and not think it a strange thing to suffer by the Jews, who also killed the Lord. For he was saying that each Christian would suffer affliction in this life. And recommending many things to them to conduct themselves in that manner, as they received from him, he also writes concerning those who have died, comforting them and teaching them not to grieve. For death is not destruction, but it is the way to resurrection. Then he also teaches them about the times, so they might understand that though they may not know the day, it is necessary to always be prepared, and they might not pay any attention to those making promises concerning it. For the coming will be, he says, thus, so that those who remain and are found in that day will not come before those who are raised from the dead.” For the transformation of all believers will happen simultaneously. He teaches these things, urging them forward to improve in their moral character, and to rejoice in hope, and to pray, and to give thanks always to the Lord, enjoining them to read this letter to all the brothers and sisters, and thus he ends the letter.


Posted in Greek, Greek Resources, New Testament Studies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Jonah 1:13a: Some LXX Alterations

Jonah 1:13a

וַיַּחְתְּר֣וּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֗ים לְהָשִׁ֛יב אֶל־ הַיַּבָּשָׁ֖ה
καὶ παρεβιάζοντο οἱ ἄνδρες τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι πρὸς τὴν γῆν
And the men dug in order to return to dry land
And the men were pressing on in order to return to the land

The first word of 1:13a in the LXX—παρεβιάζοντο (they were pressing)—represents two significant divergences from the MT. First, the translator diverges from the normal rendering of חתר (to dig) with διορύσσω (to dig)[1] in favor of παραβιάζω (to press). A number of potential interpretive connections are lost in this rendering. Youngblood comments on these connections writing:

In Amos 9:2 [חתר] even refers to digging one’s way to Sheol. It is this last occurrence of the term that bears significantly on the author’s choice of this verb in Jonah 1:13a. The verb “to dig” suggests a double entendre. Though the mariners are attempting to “row” their way back to dry ground, in reality they are only digging a hole to Sheol into which they will eventually have to cast Jonah.[2]

Though Sasson points readers to the connection with Amos 9:2, he stops short of claiming the author’s intentionality to foreshadow Jonah’s descend into Sheol.[3] While it is possible that the author intends to make such a connection, it is a claim that stands on shaky ground. The word חתר (to dig) is not, in and of itself, semantically connected to Sheol. It would only seem a happy coincidence that Amos 9:2 and Jonah possess similar language. Nevertheless, Youngblood’s observation that the author intends to connect the sailors’ desperate attempts to return to dry land by “digging”—a term semantically tied to digging or burrowing (in the ground or the wall of a house)[4] and most likely used here metaphorically[5]—reminds the reader that the sailors and Jonah are locked in a cosmic conflict with the God of the sea and the dry land. Their efforts to resist God’s will are futile. The translator, however, does not follow author’s metaphorical use of חתר, but instead highlights the desperate efforts of the sailors: παρεβιάζοντο (they were pressing).

Second, the translator breaks from his stereotypical rendering of the wayyiqtol verb form of the MT with a καί + aorist construction. Instead of using the aorist, the translator chooses to use the imperfect tense. Though the shift may seem harmless enough, the effect on the discourse is significant. Imperfect verb forms within narrative often function to background the information contained within the verb with respect to the foregrounded events within the narrative.[6] Ben Johnson, in his paper “Narrative Sensitivity and the Variation of Verb Tense in 1 Reigns 17:34–37,” argues that often the translator, fully aware of the contours of the story he translates, will use the imperfect form of the verb to translate the wayyiqtol in order to background the information, thus foreshadowing some subsequent event.[7] Johnson’s assessment of LXX translational tendencies in 1 Reigns 17:34–37 also explains nicely the translator’s shift to the imperfect in 1:13a. Whereas the MT places the sailors attempt to return to shore in the foreground, the LXX translator places it, along with the rest of their actions in verse 13 in the background. It is not until the beginning of verse 14 where they cry out, speak to God, plead for mercy for what they are about to do that the foregrounded καί + aorist construction reappears. Backgrounding this action hints at the translator’s knowledge of his text and reflects his anticipation of the climax.

[1] Cf., Job 24:16; Ezek 12:5, 7, 12.

[2] Kevin J. Youngblood, Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy, 82.

[3] Jack Sasson, Jonah, 130.

[4] Brown, Driver, Briggs, A Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 369.

[5] Uriel Simon, Jonah, 14; Jack Sasson, Jonah, 130; Kevin J. Youngblood, Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy, 82.

[6] Stephen Levinsohn, Discourse Features of the Greek New Testament, 169–180.

[7] Ben Johnson, “Narrative Sensitivity and the Variation of Verb Tense in 1 Reigns 17:34–37” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the SBL, Baltimore, MD., 11/23/2013).

Posted in Discourse Analysis, Greek, Hebrew, Jonah, Jonah 1:13, LXX, Old Testament Studies | Leave a comment

Feeling a Bit Malnourished

In a conversation I had with a pastor in the Bellingham area this past week, I had a bit of an unsettling realization. We were talking about books that we are reading and have read recently. I couldn’t come up with anything.

I have never been the type of person doesn’t have an active book they are reading—or three. But that’s where I’m at right now.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly reading. I have stacks of articles on linguistics and discourse analysis. I read my GNT everyday. I am engrossed in dozens of commentaries and monographs.

But all that reading applies to one thing: my thesis. I don’t think that I haven’t read something that isn’t biblical language related in at least a year. No systematic theology, no historical theology—except for translating passages from various individuals like Chrysostom—no pastoral theology, no fiction, no biographies … nothing really.

The sad fact, though, is that I can do nothing to remedy the situation. I have not the time or the energy to invest in anything but thesis writing … and of course procrastinating (i.e., blogging).

Once December comes, though, and I’ve finished learning German and finished researching PhD programs, and finished applying for said programs, I’ll sit down and read some fiction, or a biography, or really anything else.

Posted in Life | 4 Comments

Is It Really Worth It? Biblical Languages and the Local Church

Have you ever wondered if it is really worth it to teach the biblical languages in the local church? I’ve taught both Greek and Hebrew in my home church, and at the beginning of every new class, I ask myself that very question and worry that it not worth my effort and the discipline required of my students. But at the end of each class, the resounding answer is always, “Yes!”

While I could give you all of the benefits of teaching Greek in your local church (e.g., deeper knowledge of scripture, learning the language better yourself, instilling discipline in yourself and your students, serve the church and Christ), I will give you two concrete examples.

  • The first time I taught Greek, I started with 15 students and only one continued with me through Greek Grammar II. That student also took Hebrew with me—though I functioned more like a tutor than a teacher as he taught himself the language. After he decided to go to seminary, he was able to test out of both Greek and Hebrew Grammar 1 & 2.
  • The second time I taught Greek, I started with about 15 students and ended with about 5 through Greek Grammar I and II. I just got word today that one of my students was able to pass out of Greek 201 and 202, and will be looking to take Greek 303 in the future.

This doesn’t even include all the rest of my students who still use their Greek and Hebrew in their personal study of scripture.

All of this is to say, you have people in your churches that want to know God’s word better and some who might be interested in studying the OT and NT formally. Offering Greek and Hebrew provides those interested in formal study exposure to what that might look like in the academic setting and might possibly enable them to open up extra electives in degree programs that offer few opportunities to study something interesting or something in more depth.

Though I’ve used this post as an opportunity to encourage others to teach the languages in the local church, what I really want to say is …


I’m proud of you, S., for passing your Greek competency exam. Keep studying Greek. You have a real talent for it.

Posted in Greek, Teaching | 6 Comments

Researching and Writing

I’m sure many of you have struggled with the choice between digital and physical books. I know I have. Most of my library is in the old fashion paper form. There is nothing like being able to hold a book in your hands, know where something is that you read irrespective of page numbers, and lend to whomever whenever you see fit.

And yet, physical books have their downside. They don’t travel too well. For instance, I have a 10’x10′ storage unit in NC almost half-filled with my books. I was only able to bring those essential resources for thesis writing with me to WA.

Also, try quickly shifting between commentaries when writing papers. You need to have your biblical text open, a stack of books next to your desk with bookmarks for the specific reference you are working in, and then, when you find a quote you want, you need to type it up, flip to the front of the book, type out the reference material, and then move on to the next resource.

To help streamline this process, I once considered purchasing or making a very complex book stand. I have found, though, that this is altogether unnecessary. As I’ve added more books to my library so I can complete my thesis, I have purchased the commentaries in Logos.

For some time, I refrained from purchasing any reference material in my Bible Software—Accordance and Logos alike. I was under the impression that it would be a constant struggle dealing with issues such as accurate page numbers and citation of the program instead of the book, etc. This, however is not the case.

All the books I have purchased have real page numbers that correspond to real editions of real books that real people can reference in any real (i.e., non-digital) library. Furthermore, I can simply copy and paste and it footnotes for me. (Yes, yes, I am coming a bit late to this party. But I have never had a need for a digital library as I have always been rather stationary.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 9.30.37 AMBut the best part, at least for me, is one feature in Logos: Link Set. When you click on the book you have open, a list of options appears. From there, you are able to link the books to one another. I have all mine linked together and tied to the biblical text I am currently using.

This means that every time I scroll in the biblical text, the commentaries match the reference. I’m then able to check what the JPS, Continental Commentary Series, UBS Handbook, and whatever other commentary I have has to say about that specific verse. It has streamlined my research and prevents me from needing to roll around one of those briefcases to a coffee shop with all my books in it. (Yes, I used to do this, and Mary Beth hated it.)

For all of you who know that I was once a staunch Accordance user, have no fear. I still am. I could not do research without the biblical language modules provided by Accordance as well as their search capabilities. I will continue adding to both libraries as good deals on modules I need/want appear.

Also, I have not abandoned the print medium. The ability to lend books (and sell), especially when serving within the local church is something most digital formats refuse or are unable to accommodate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

On Removing the Comma From My Brother’s Eye

I have two active tasks on my agenda: (1) Translate through the NT in my personal time, and (2) write my thesis.

Found at The Jesus Question; Copyright Bible GatewayThe two of these tasks collided yesterday as I ran through the edits my good friend Thomas Hudgins offered me for my first chapter of the thesis. There were inconsistencies upon inconsistencies in the way I abbreviated, cited, and generally wrote that chapter.

This may come as no surprise to most paper/thesis/dissertation writers as there will inevitably be typos, misspellings, and incorrect citations. But it was a bit of a blow to my ego.

A good portion of my time as a Research Assistant was proofing papers, preparing manuscripts, and editing dissertations. I could spot an incorrect citation a mile away and identify inconsistent capitalization even when the inconsistencies were separated by a hundred pages.

And yet, my own paper was riddled with hyphens when en-dashes were supposed to be used, en-dashes when em-dashes were required, and inconsistencies in the way I used em-dashes. There was a mix of smart quotations marks and dumb ones, inconsistent citations, failure to label tables, and blatant disregard for abbreviations I established at the beginning of the paper.

The glaring hypocrisy of my ways led me to apply Jesus’ words “first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:42). It’s time for me to start cleaning up my own act instead of becoming incredulous at the minor inconsistencies in other’s papers.

My own frustrations in editing inconsistent papers has been turned against me. Apparently, I have been the most egregious offenders of the SBL Handbook of Style.

Posted in Jonah, New Testament Studies, Old Testament Studies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment