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 | 7 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.

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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

Alliteration in Luke 8:5

In my translation for this morning I noticed some alliteration:

Ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ (Lk 8:5)

As I translated the text, I noticed that the alliteration is naturally retained in an English translation, “A sower went out to sow his seeds.”

For reference, Matthew and Mark’s versions of the parable omit the final phrase τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ. Luke’s inclusion of the unnecessary clarification—intentionally or unintentionally—seems to strengthen the alliteration. Compare the other versions below:

  • ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν (Matt 13:3)
  • ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων σπεῖραι (Mk 4:3)

Though the times are few, I always love it when literary/rhetorical devices can be transferred into the target language with little effort.

Posted in Greek, NT Greek | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Logos Reading Plan

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite features in Logos. At the beginning of this month, I discovered the SBLGNT reading plan. The reading plan breaks down all the passages in the NT into manageable chunks to provide you with a no fuss approach to reading through your Greek New Testament in a year.

When I load up the program at the bottom left of my screen is the reading plan with the reading for the day:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.32.51 AM

When I click on the passage, it pulls up the passage, and I can get to reading immediately:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.34.14 AM

As you see, there is a “Start Reading” and a “Stop Reading” bar that appears in the text. After you get to the end of the reading, you simply check the “Mark Read” box, and the program updates to your current position. The great thing is that it updates across all your devices.

There are a number of other really nice features. If you want a daily update to remind you to read for the day, just click on the “Export to iCal” option, and a list of options appears:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.32.28 AM

Also, you can get an overview of the plan for the year or even edit it as you see fit:

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 9.31.58 AM

Finally, and this is the best part, it is all free. You can just go over to Logos, download the program, download the SBLGNT for free, and get to brushing up on your Greek. I’ve already cut into Luke 6!

[Edit: To create this reading plan if you cannot find it in the program, follow these simple steps:

1) Go to Documents:
2) Select Reading Plan
3) Chose “The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition
4) Select “All Passages”
5) Select “Starting Today”
6) Select “Finishing in one year”


Posted in Greek, Greek Resources, Logos | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Camping around Mt. Baker

This weekend, Mary Beth, Elijah, Tölpel, Jazz, and I went camping with friends from Logos to celebrate a birthday. It was quite the adventure.

When we arrived at the national park, all cell phone service went out. Since all the camp sites in Washington State were booked up, we drove to the mountain hoping that we might be one of the lucky ones to get a walk-up spot (WA campsites must keep 30% of each site available for walk-ups). As we circled through one site after another, we finally reached the last one. There was no room.

So, we keep driving up the road until it ended. Other campers were there. There as an outhouse, and a river nearby, and wide open spaces.


(End of the road: Parking Area)


(Elijah Coming out of the tent to play)



(The river)


(The crew)

IMG_1847(Elijah sleeping while I checked out a cave)


(Stream coming down the mountain)


(Four dogs and the rest of the crew)


(Elijah’s checking things out)


(View from the tent)

IMG957210(Elijah had so much fun playing with the dogs, dirt, and rocks. Couldn’t have been happier.)

This was not the camping trip that any of us expected, but it turned out to be much better than our expectations. It was a fun, rustic camping experience. Each morning, we woke up, fetched the water from the river, boiled the water, made coffee, cooked breakfast, and enjoyed God’s gorgeous creation and one another.

And now, that the internet is back, all is right with the world.



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Jesus Heals the Little Children? Preliminary Thoughts on Mark 10:13

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus and the little children. A group of individuals bring children to Jesus, and his disciples rebuke them. Jesus, in turn, welcomes them and uses the occasion as an opportunity to discuss the kingdom of God. Jesus’ concern about entry into the kingdom of God is carried over into the following narrative about the rich young ruler. The juxtaposition of the dependent children and the self-sufficient ruler is unmistakeable.

Nevertheless, that is not the purpose for this post. The purpose of this post is to ponder aloud the question, “Were the children brought to Jesus to be healed?”

I noticed in my reading that Mark uses a specific word in 10:13. He writes, Καὶ προσέφερον αὐτῷ παιδία ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅψηται (And they brought to him little children in order that he might touch them).

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, the term ἅπτω (to touch) is used in connection with Jesus’ healing acts:

  • Mark 1:41, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ 
  • Mark 3:10, “for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.”
  • Mark 5:27–28, 30–31, “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.’ … And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ‘ “
  • Mark 6:56, “And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
  • Mark 7:33, “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.”
  • Mark 8:22, “And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.”

As a matter of fact, if Mark does not use ἅπτω (to touch) in connection with healing here, it would be the only instance in both his Gospel and Matthew’s, for that matter, where it is not used in connection with a miraculous act of healing (cf. Matt 8:3, 15; 9:20–21, 29; 14:36; 17:7).

Despite the lexical evidence, we must also consider the following:

  • there is no explicit mention of sickness, illness, paralysis, muteness, deafness, blindness, etc.,
  • there is an explicit mention of Jesus’ act of blessing the children,
  • the verb changes from ἅπτω (to touch) in verse 13 to τίθημι (to put or to place) in verse 16 when Jesus put his hands on them,
  • and finally, Matthew avoids using the term ἅπτω entirely in 19:14.

Presented with this evidence, we are left with a number of options:

  1. Mark’s use of the term ἅπτω (to touch) indicates that healed the children; However Matthew chose not to highlight this event as one of Jesus’ miraculous acts.
  2. Mark does not intend to restrict the normal semantic range of the verb ἅπτω (to touch) to Jesus’ healing ministry, but employs it according to its natural usage. This accords well with its absence in Matthew, as well as the fact that Mark is more concerned with entrance into the kingdom of God than he is with Jesus’ power to heal.

What do you think? Does Mark use ἅπτω (to touch) in connection with Jesus’ ministry of healing, or has he departed from his established usage of ἅπτω throughout the Gospel in favor of its broader semantic range?

Posted in Greek, New Testament Studies, NT Greek | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments