Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IX

Word RTF

Question #1:

Hi Dr, I hope your thanksgiving went well. As you know I want to learn Greek and started on the path. Would you recommend translating first and then read the passage based off the English translation or just attempt to read without translating?

I am learning how to convert Greek words to English to help me pronounce and read sentence, otherwise I feel it will take a very long time to try and memorize pronunciation whole reading.

Your suggestion and help is appreciated. I have a picked 1st John as my reading while I am learning. This is a two throng approach I am doing, studying grammar and sentence structure and reading and pronunciation.

Also, can you recommend a good site or resource for verse by verse audio in Greek. I am looking for a resource where I can click on a verse and ot pronounces the word for me?

In Christ our Lord

Response #1:

First, I want to say that the aural dimension in learning Greek is very important, so I think it is commendable that you are attempting to address this. As you become more familiar with the sounds of the language, you will find that Greek is completely predictable in its pronunciation (a far easier thing to master than Biblical Hebrew in this regard). It does take a minute to get to the point of being able to pronounce things correctly, but not all that long. I always make a point of trying to indoctrinate my students to make a habit of always saying the Greek out loud whenever they are reading or studying at home. Even if a person only does this sotto voce or even in one's head, that is far better than just trying to process the language visually only. About 90% of language learning is through the ear, not the eye – a hard thing to remember sometimes in terms of "dead languages", but it is true. So please do persevere with this.

Second, I don't know of any site or software that will provide a correct pronunciation of the Bible in Greek. I think there are some out there in Modern Greek pronunciation but I would urge you to stay away from those at all costs. Modern Greek is remarkably similar to ancient Greek, given the great amount of time which has passed between the two, but the pronunciation of MG is so much different that it can ruin a person's ear for ancient Greek. The lack of some resource for giving a rendering of the NT is not really a problem because, as I say, once a person knows how to pronounce Greek it's all the same and no verse will leave you scratching your head . . . about how to pronounce the Greek, that is. The best website of which I know for getting help in issues of pronunciation is "Ancient Greek Tutorials" (at the link). If you can learn to pronounce all the words there, you'll have no problem with the Bible.

In terms of learning how to translate, using an English translation as a help when one is trying to do this on one's own is not the worst thing in the world. You will have to discipline yourself not to run to the translation at the first sign of difficulty, but if you can't figure it out in a reasonable amount of time (my Univ. of Illinois Hebrew professor famously told me on this score that there are "no fifteen minute problems – meaning that time is precious so that going overboard on being too meticulous is likely a mistake as well). A very good book to help in getting through the NT without having to look any further that it's running commentary and vocabulary help is Zerwick and Grosvenor's A Grammatical Analysis of the GNT (link is to ABE books as new copies are up to five times as expensive).

So best wishes for this noble endeavor, my friend! You will find out soon enough that the Greek (as with the Hebrews) unlocks nuances and important pieces of information never seen through English only study of the Bible.

Do feel free to write me about any of this.  For more about all this, please see the links:

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VIII

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VII

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations VI

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations V

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations III

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations II

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading IV

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading I

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

Now that I have a few months of Greek under my belt, I thought I might start looking into struggling through the New Testament in Greek. This email will primarily be focused on a) what texts to start with (e.g, the Textus Receptus, NA27, NA28, etc.), b) which supplementary resources would be useful, and c) which books to start with (e.g., John's gospel and epistles). I'm going to ask the same things for Hebrew since I'm starting that relatively soon as well.

Greek New Testament: I have access to the NA27/NA28 and UBS4/UBS5, with apparatuses -- all morphologically tagged and cross-linked with lexicons in my Bible Study Software Programs. I won't get into most of the textual criticism stuff (i.e., apparatuses) until later. I also have a copy of the Textus Receptus in a similar form. Which of these would you recommend starting out with, or does it not really matter too much? (I could also get copies of the Robinson/Pierpont Byzantine GNT, the Wescott-Hort GNT, Tischendorf's GNT, etc.)

Septuagint: I have access to Rahlf's LXX (with his apparatus), which seems to be the current academic standard. I am less familiar with editions of the LXX, but would be glad to hear any input you have on the matter. I hear Gφttingen is putting out a critical edition, which looks promising, but it's expensive and certainly not necessary at this point.

Supplementary Greek Resources: In terms of lexicons, I currently have Thayer's, Barclay's A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, Mounce's Greek Dictionary, and the New American Standard Greek Dictionary. (And Strong's, which doesn't really count). I could purchase BDAG (3rd edition), which seems to be popular among the seminary types. I seem to recall you not being too fond of this one, saying, in effect, that it was meant to be a replacement for Thayer's but ended up being mostly inferior (and liberal!). I could also get Liddell and Scott tied in (either the "Middle Liddell" or the complete version) -- which has obvious uses for me as a Classicist, and I would assume in the biblical sphere as well. (I believe that it is much more exhaustive than anything else I've named so far, correct?).

Hebrew Old Testament: I have access to the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (with its apparatus), as well as a copy of the Masoretic Text (Codex Leningradensis) with the Groves-Wheeler Westminster Hebrew Morphology. These seem to be the academic standards, and are fairly similar (BHS4 is based on Leningradensis) except the latter has more recently updated morphological tagging (at least this is my understanding). The Biblia Hebraica Quinta is in the works, but at the moment, is quite pricey and incomplete. My gut feeling on this is that this ought to be a significantly later purchase, if I decide the updated text and apparatus are worth the price tag. While there are plenty expensive options for acquiring the biblical texts of the Qumran dead sea scrolls, as I recall, you didn't think they were of much use aside from confirming the fact that the MT is reliable. Is this correct?

Supplementary Hebrew Resources: Currently I have an abridged version of BDB, and could cheaply acquire the full version. (To use within the program for convenience -- I know it is free online). I also have the Kohlenberger/Mounce Hebrew Dictionary, and the New American Standard Hebrew Dictionary. (And Strong's, which doesn't really count). Similar to BDAG, the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) seems to be all the rage in Seminary circles. I have little knowledge of this work except that it is expensive and well-respected by most. (Not that that makes it automatically good: see BDAG above). Unfortunately, the programs I am using do not have Gesenius' Lexicon on its own (I think one bundles it with BDB), but I may submit a request to have it implemented. (Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't). If I recall correctly, you thought that this was a good resource.

Grammars: Aside from my introductory textbooks I have no grammars (and know very little about them). Smyth's for Greek and Gesenius' for Hebrew? Others?

Basic Idea: All the Bibles mentioned above have morphological tagging -- I am going to work very hard to keep myself from "cheating" by using this as a crutch. Instead, I plan to make several passes at the Greek/Hebrew before I look at any grammatical parsing within the program. The programs will make it really easy to check myself, though, which is what I mostly plan to use them for in the beginning stages. I am also going to try to wean myself off of lexicons once I progress to a greater degree (at least for more common vocabulary), and instead understand meaning primarily by context. The Bible Study Programs I am using are pretty advanced, and can filter word usage across books or an entire testament to allow for easy contextual comparisons. They also allow for syntax-based searching, and usage by form (rather than strictly by lemma).

Starting Points For Translation: I've heard from various people that John's writings are some of the easiest in the New Testament (both his gospel and his epistles), with Luke and Paul in particular being more challenging. Where do you think the best place to start for Greek is? In terms of the Hebrew, most people say it's fine just starting with the Pentateuch and going from there, avoiding poetry for a while, and the parts of Daniel etc. in Aramaic. What do you think?

Wrap-Up: While I don't have tons of money to spend, I have enough that I could comfortably buy most scholarly resources relating to Greek and Hebrew even if they weren't valuable. (In my observation, it is the commentaries that are very expensive not the Greek/Hebrew resources -- even though they are much less useful). This is to say, even if you don't think BDAG and HALOT, e.g., are top notch, if they could afford some degree of use, I am willing to consider them nonetheless. This is compounded by the fact that the electronic versions of these things are much cheaper (relatively speaking) than their paper counterparts (and easier to use as well). However, I'm not fooled into thinking that spending money on a bunch of shiny resources is going to magically make the learning process of Greek/Hebrew any easier. People did just fine with a couple of grammars and paper lexicons, so I obviously have no excuses. All I am trying to do is give myself every advantage since the time is short.

Thanks for any and all thoughts on these matters!

In Christ,

Response #2:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope your classes are going well this semester.

In general, I would recommend trying to read a little Greek New Testament and a little Hebrew Old Testament every day – better a little consistently than a lot only once in a while. That approach has served me very well over the years. Also, there are worse things when it comes to Greek and Hebrew than starting from the beginning and taking it straight through to the end – then starting over again. Every book/author presents its own difficulties; every book/author is writing inspired truth which is valuable to read in the original language.

On Greek, John may be "easier" from some points of view but is not without difficulties (especially in terms of interpretation); and Matthew is not particularly hard. On Hebrew, Ruth is where BH classes often start the next phase in college, but Ruth is probably harder in some respects than Genesis (only shorter). Biblical Aramaic is not too difficult since it is not terribly different from BH (at least for those who have read the MT up to the point in Ezra where the first texts occur [yes, there is a half-verse in Genesis], especially for someone doing Classics on the university level). You can pick that up with a good pedagogical grammar when you get to it.

As to texts, I can't recommend the TR, but any modern edition will be fine. BHS is dandy for the OT. I realize there are many different modern editions now of the GNT, but they are 99+% the same, and in most (though not all) of the textually challenged passages they will have sufficient notes in the apparatus crticus at the bottom of each page of text. When it comes to interpretation, one will have to go through the same processes regardless of edition. This is a bit less of an issue in the OT where the MT is more homogenized. Some of the newer editions (like Quinta – there are others too, such as the Oxford) seem to hold promise because of a more informative ap. crit., but that will remain to be seen (the proof is in the pudding). From what I have seen so far, in most verses it will just be a case of more editorial suggestions (and these are usually questionable since the persons making them don't understand or accept the doctrine of inspiration); and as you note none of these is anywhere near completion. Given the shortness of the time, BHS will do nicely.

On the LXX, I can't recommend getting too excited about it. I spent a great deal of time with the Septuagint in seminary (a series of courses), and I have to say that it was not the most profitable use of said time. I have never found the LXX of much use in establishing the text of the MT; it is occasionally of some small vocabulary help in NT interpretation, but less so in the OT since the translators often had less of an idea of the meaning of "problem words" than we do today. Accessing it online for free somewhere when needed is probably sufficient.

On Greek resources, I use BAG from time to time and it is occasionally of some help (don't have anything in particular against it).  Most of the words in the NT are in common Greek use so that any dictionary is fine for reading (interpretation takes digging, of course).  I note that at ABE books print copies can be found for under $20.00 (link).  I sometimes use Thayer (which is not much different from BAG); I have enjoyed having Abbot-Smith's lexicon on my reference shelf as well (link).  I couldn't have gotten through school without my "middle Liddell"; the abridged version is also top notch.  The full version is great for pressing one's pants; too cumbersome to use as anything but a research tool, however (also available on line at Perseus).  One book I heartily recommend is Zerwick and Grosvenor's A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (this can be pricey; if you get it, please make sure you get both volumes – the newer edition combines them into one).

On Hebrew Resources, HALOT, the older version, is one of the most disappointing reference purchases I ever made – and very expensive too, even when it was only two volumes. Now the price is stratospheric . . . but in my experience it doesn't really contain anything important which is not also in BDB (which can be purchased for not too much; link). "Advances" in Hebrew lexicography usually have had to do with wacky suggestions based upon comparative Semitic vocabulary (which can be used to prove virtually anything) as opposed to digging into the Hebrew of the Qumran scrolls or even more importantly attempting to understand the text from the near context in the MT in the broad context of what scripture means. BDB will do nicely.

Qumran reading would be useful, no doubt. There is also a small corpus of Hebrew inscriptions that is good to read. But reading the Bible is "job one". I haven't had many "aha!" moments from what I have done with the extra-biblical Hebrew I have spent time in.

Gesenius Lexicon is available for not much in several reprint formats (link; can't recommend the E-book).  And it is also available verse by verse online in image facsimile at Blue Letter Bible.

On grammars, for Greek, Smyth is ideal.  There are NT specific grammars out there; the best is Blass [Debrunner, Funk] – but it's pricey (any edition you find would do), and its utility is in identifying NT oddities rather than in teaching you things you didn't know about Greek grammar generally. Plus, Blass is a cranky old German (or was) and an atheist (or maybe not an atheist, but like most Classicists "played one on TV").

On method, you will fall into something, I'm sure. I don't have a problem with using translations and tagging, but you are right to want to make sure you are actually learning how to translate. Somewhere between suffering over a verse for an hour and not really learning Hebrew on the one hand and flying like the wind . . . and not really learning Hebrew that way either . . . is a prudent middle ground – where you do learn Hebrew.

Exciting times!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for all the advice. Exciting times indeed! A couple more questions:

1) Is there a substantive difference between BAG (what you link to, an older addition) and BDAG (the newer version)?

2) Is HALOT mostly just rubbish then, or might it come in handy sometimes as something to compare BDB to? (Like I said, I can get it pretty cheap, so if it has the possibility of being helpful even a small percentage of the time, it might still be worth it).

3) You recommended Smyth's as a Greek grammar, but didn't mention any grammars for Hebrew. Is Gesenius' good?

4) Do you have any other recommendations like A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament -- non-lexicon things that you've found to be useful to have around?

5) In terms of technical commentaries, I've heard Keil and Delitzsch can sometimes be useful, especially when first starting with Hebrew. Does your experience reflect this, and is there anything similar for the New Testament? Any other commentaries that are good to have? (I think you mentioned that you liked Unger's commentary on the Old Testament).

In Christ,

Response #3:

You're very welcome, my friend. As to your most recent questions:

1) Nothing terribly significantly different between the old BAG and the newer editions, as far as I can tell. It's not as if there have been great strides forward in ancient Greek lexicography in between editions, after all. Mostly I think a detailed comparison would find that the newer ones are a) more "PC" (not helpful), and contain many more references to secondary scholarship (most of which is not worth the paper it is printed on). So the older edition may be better, actually.

2) I wouldn't refuse a free copy, but the one I have is, literally, a waste of my time and effort to pull down off of the shelf.  I gave a cursory look to one of the new volumes some time back and didn't see anything that had changed which would in turn change my impression.  Between BDB, Gesenius, the LXX, and the TWOT (which I neglected to mention: it is of some use; see the link), I have more than enough help in tracking down meaning.  Knowing Hebrew and studying the context of the actually occurrences of a word are the most important things.  Therefore a good Hebrew concordance (I have four of them because they have their individual strengths and weakness; best one for the money is: Mandelkern [at the link]).  For that matter I also get good use out of my NT Greek concordance (Moulton; link).  I do have and occasionally use other resources as well, but most of them are so occasional as to not have yet earned their keep after lo these many years.

3) Hebrew Grammar is a problem because there is no good unified theory for it. Gesenius is essential; Lambdin, though a pedagogical grammar, is very important as well. I have collected a number of other odds and ends over time which have been helpful, but essentially this is an area where on the job training in actually reading seems to be the only way forward after those resources are consulted. S.R. Driver's Hebrew Tenses is also good to have but not much use until you've read a lot of BH. We can talk about other things later. It's a trap to mistake collecting bibliography for actual work. I bought Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the Greek Testament as well as BAG and a number of other reference books before I even had the alphabets down. Even took them to Okinawa with me, like I was going to get it through osmosis or something, but never had time to get into the meat until I was back in college for degree #2.

4) Concordances. And there are plenty of other things that can be useful, such as a good Bible atlas, my Oxford History of the Christian Church, my Unger's two volume commentary on the OT, Jastrow's dictionary of Talmudic Hebrew and Aramaic. My Greek harmony of the gospels is invaluable (Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum by UBS). Of course one could go on. As I've said before, true reference works are in the long run much more likely to be useful than commentaries. But then there are HALOTs out there. The worst purchase I ever made – because it ate up six months worth of my disposable income at the time and has never been more than a burden on my shelves is Kittel's TDNT. A good Bible dictionary or encyclopedia is nice to have too, but these are also available on the internet.

5) Keil and Delitzsch's commentary is not perfect; their treatment of the Bible is very uneven (and better when D was doing the work than K); also, both suffer from scholasticism, just not to the degree of unbeliever scholars of the last hundred years or so. It can be gotten pretty cheap, but it is available online. Since you are of the new generation and are clearly an "online" kind of guy, I would think twice about burdening myself down with many heavy and expensive books which will only be difficult and expensive to move when you move (and you will move). Meyer's Commentary on the Greek New Testament is the best equivalent I know of – and slightly better than KD for most of the books. Lange's whole Bible set is of less use but sometimes of some small use (rarely).

And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob,

One of the reasons I am asking all these questions about resources is because I know I have a habit of buying things for the sake of having them rather then out of necessity (the collector's itch). I am also a huge bibliophile and tend not to need much of an excuse to buy more books. (My parents often tell stories about the movers muttering about broken backs from moving their boxes upon boxes of books -- and that was 18 years ago).

I am also, as you put it, an "online kind of guy". I am going out of my way now to digitize things that are important to me, particularly reference works that benefit significantly from the medium. Greek and Hebrew texts can be morphologically tagged and linked to their ap. crit., and tied in directly to lexicons and grammars (links). In normal English Bibles, looking up cross-references can be made instantaneous, and navigating to articles in reference helps (dictionaries, encylopediae, etc.) is as simple as double clicking a word. There is also the advantage that I now carry around my library with me wherever I go. I have almost entirely switched from physical books to computers for Bible study.

The last couple days I've worked on assembling a list of resources for my preparation (attached as an excel document). Basically, I've resolved to not buy anything without justifying it first -- and to start out slow and only buy things when I need them. For this reason, I'm maintaining 2 lists: a pared-down "to start" list, and an exhaustive "if money were not an obstacle" list. For the purposes of our discussion here, the former is what I'm most interested in getting feedback on. (Though feel free to comment on the more thorough one too -- I spent some time searching on Ichthys to find your recommendations on various topics and pulled it all together, almost exhaustively I think).

I've copied the shorter list below (also in the excel document) -- which contains many things we've discussed in the last couple of emails as well as your recommendations on other matters (e.g., Church history) from other places on Ichthys:



Greek: NA28 With Apparatus; UBS5 With Apparatus

Hebrew: BHS; Westminster Leningrad Codex

Lexical Study:

Greek: Thayer's; Abbot-Smith's; BDAG; Middle Liddell; LSJ

Hebrew: BDB Abridged; BDB; Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon; TWOT; HALOT

Intro Textbooks:

Greek: Athenaze; Reading Greek; Allen's First Year of Greek (online at archive.org)

Hebrew: Lambdin; Weingreen


Greek: Smyth (online at Perseus); BDF

Hebrew: Lambdin; Gesenius

Other Resources:

A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament

Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament

Keil and Delitzsch

Meyer's Commentary

Chafer's Systematic Theology

Walker's Church History

Schaff's Church History



Before I buy anything more (I already have NA28, UBS5, BHS, Thayer's, and BDB), I want to make sure the above is a good starting point for building up a library to help me prepare effectively. I've done the math, and can comfortably afford the entire list over the next year or so (assuming nothing comes up and I continue to live frugally). I just don't want to pull the trigger without running it by you first since you have so much more experience in what's truly valuable and what looks useful but is in reality not so (TDNT).

Additionally, I want to clarify several more things that came up in the process of compiling things:

1) What are the works of Walker, Theissen, Guthrie, and Meyer mentioned in https://ichthys.com/mail-gospel-questions11.htm?

2) What is the "KB Lexicon" for Hebrew? You cite it in footnotes several places on the cite (along with Gesenius and BDB, e.g., https://ichthys.com/Tribulation-Part5.htm#_edn48). Is this the German Koehler-Baumgartner form of HALOT, or an earlier (more useful?) edition of HALOT?

3) After doing some more digging, it seems that HALOT and BDB mostly differ in their treatment of etymologies and bibliography (BDB, being much older, obviously links to less "current" research... not that "current" research is better). Exactly how useful Ugaritic and Akkadian cognates are seems to be a matter of debate (and I take it you don't get much out of them) -- but it seems that they might come in useful when dealing with a hapax legomenon or low frequency word. I have had a good bit of linguistics already (albeit mostly dealing with Proto-Indo-European not Semitic languages) because it's somewhat a hobby of mine, so I'm not afraid of getting into protoforms and whatnot.

Most of the criticism I've seen leveled at HALOT -- which seems to match yours pretty well -- is that it is not terribly dissimilar to BDB for general use but costs significantly more, i.e. there's nothing wrong with it per se, it's just not really necessary most of the time.

I'm leaning towards picking it up anyway, for several reasons:

1) I can get it for significantly less money than the stratospheric print editions. (Especially if I wait for it to go on sale, which happens periodically and cuts a good bit more off the price).

2) Computer use make big reference works like this much easier to use, effectively eliminating the bother in pulling them off the shelf and paging through to find things. Think instantaneous rather than laborious.

3) It is really easy to view lexicons in parallel in the specific software programs I am using -- meaning in essence that I wouldn't have to give up using Gesenius, BDB, or TWOT to make full use of HALOT.

If you still really think it's not worth it, I'm not committed or anything. Just seems like the (slight) advantages that can be gained from having it around outweigh the cost of the version I am looking at.

4) In several email responses (e.g., https://ichthys.com/mail-metaphor.htm), you mention or recommend Bible dictionaries/encyclopediae, specifically, Unger's Bible Dictionary, Smith's Bible Dictionary, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Interpreter's Bible Dictionary, Hastings' Bible Dictionary, and the ISBE. I have several questions about these:

- Is this The Anchor Bible Dictionary that you were talking about, or was it something different?

- When you mention Hastings', were you referring to the 5 Volume Dictionary or Single Volume Dictionary?

- Would you still recommend updated versions of these dictionaries (i.e., the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, the 1979-1995 ISBE), or just the older (perhaps more conservative) versions?

- If you had to pick one dictionary/encyclopedia, which would it be?

5) You mentioned that you use the Mandelkern Concordance for Hebrew and the Moulton Concordance for Greek. Could you give me the full list of other concordances that you find useful?

Yours in Christ,

Response #4:

It's a good list. In practical terms and at the end of the day, there are always books one wished one had managed to get a hold of – and also always books which one comes to wonder why one bought in the first place. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you find yourself needing information which the book(s) in question could provide which other things cannot – or at least not as fully, effectively and efficiently. I find myself using online resources very often for older books which would be very difficult to find otherwise, and, blessedly, since the older stuff is the good stuff and is usually out of copyright, it tends to have a better chance of online availability. One site you should always check (in case you don't know about it) is Internet Archive (link; n.b., don't use the "Wayback Machine" but use the other search box in looking for something), where I have about 50/50 success of finding older stuff (e.g., the Driver book I mentioned and linked to ABE is there online for free) [p.s., I see you do link Allen there so never mind; just a reminder].

You will end up using (and needing) Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum by UBS.

I also would recommend getting the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance, because in the OT every word is linked to the BDB listing along with page number – a good help in getting used to BDB which is root-based and not purely alphabetical. A copy of Strong's Concordance is also occasionally helpful.

One note on the ap. crit.: one of my Classics professors used to call these, disdainfully, the "junk pile". The longer I've been doing this the more I tend to agree. One has a tendency to assume that "everything important" is there at the bottom of the page, especially in the voluminous apparati for NT critical editions. In fact, important things are sometimes left out altogether. I found this on numerous occasions in the book of Revelation doing Coming Tribulation, and that was odd too, because most of the omissions I found have to do with correct readings in Sinaiticus which were not even listed in any ap. crit. I could find – I only found them by checking the (online) manuscript. In about half a dozen cases they proved to be critical as well. This is a long way of saying that hyperlinks can also lead to misplaced confidence. More and more mss. are being put online and in days to come we will have less and less excuse for not doing the hard work of checking the good ones whenever there are serious textual issues. On that score, Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament is also very nice to have, especially if you use the UBS GNT to which it is keyed to read your GNT. There is a second edition out (I have the first); the one place I checked it out, they were correct in the first edition and changed (for political reasons it seems to me) to the wrong conclusion in the second edition.

On other Hebrew concordances, Lisowsky's Konkordanz Zum Hebraischen Alten Testament is sometimes helpful; I also have Even-Shoshan's but don't use it much. As with lexicons, the way the concordance is set up, morphologically or via root, makes a big difference in trying to find things (especially since no two scholars agree on all the roots). There is also the very pricey A Concordance to the Septuagint, by E. Hatch and H.A. Redpath; this sometimes comes in handy when wanting to compare LXX choices for Hebrew words and in reverse how Hebrew words are rendered in Greek (two separate issues); for the reverse you'll also need Muraoka's Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint. Of course the online TLG (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) will do nicely for all of that (if you have TLG access at your university, as I would suspect you do now and will in future when you're a Classics prof.).

On your questions:

1) Walker is Williston Walker's A History of the Christian Church – a good standby introduction to church history written by a very liberal and highly secular-in-outlook Protestant. But it's impossible to find anyone who covers church history from a really godly point of view; everyone who does seems to think that the church-visible and the Church are one and the same – and of course nothing could be further from the truth.

Theissen is variously Introduction to the New Testament by Henry Clarence Thiessen and also his Lectures in Systematic Theology.

Guthrie is Introduction to the New Testament by Donald Guthrie.

Meyer is Meyer's Commentary on the Greek New Testament (linked in the previous email as the best NT equivalent to KD in the OT).

2) Yes, KB is the older designation for HALOT.

3) I think it's great if you can buy it, have a place for it, and don't mind moving it around. My only point is that I don't think you're going to find it that useful. Generally speaking, we know what the Hebrew words mean pretty precisely. When doing research on the five percent or so about which there are questions large or small, comparing contexts of occurrences (and related forms of the root) is the best data (accessed by a concordance and a lot of sweat); occasionally, TWOT and other lexicons will be helpful. But the fact that a similar looking root occurs in Ugaritic and scholar X thinks it means Y in Ugaritic means next to nothing for studying Hebrew . . . unless a person is well enough versed in Ugaritic to know whether or not there is likely to be any useful comparison there; more than often it's less than useful information because it may give a false sense of security in going down the wrong road. I have found comparative etymology in Semitics a highly suspect approach. Unlike Indo-European studies, roots seem to have much more fluid and flexible meanings in the Semitic languages. One of my U of I Hebrew professors mentioned once that in Arabic nearly every root at some point has something to do with either camels or sand – a comical exaggeration that nevertheless has some truth in it and makes the point. I have noticed in Hebrew that there is often a correspondence between geminate verbs, hollow verbs, and three-He verbs – so that it seems clear to me that these words/roots were not as solidly differentiated in the minds and usage of the people who were actually native speakers at the time as modern day lexicographers often unwittingly assume. That is not to say that I have not used this method or made parallels or even that I have not used KB. It is a fascinating area and I spent a lot of time engaging the issue in seminary and later in my Classics Ph.D. as an aside (collected a lot of bibliography in voluminous old photocopies); in another lifetime, I might have done more with this, but I discovered that it hadn't a lot to do with actually figuring out the Bible and I had to prioritize. So back to HALOT, it's just that there is a massive lack of proportion here in my view between expense and positive future benefit. But you may find your methods are different, especially if you choose not to rely on BDB as your major lexicon in learning the language. Col. Thieme, I know, didn't make much use of it either.

On Anchor, yes, this is it, but I don't have it personally and can't tell you how useful it might be. The Anchor Bible Commentary series is hyper-liberal and worse than useless (unfortunately, I invested in a number of volumes of that).

On Hastings, either one would be good: it's not a bad book (from what I know about it). As with Anchor, the distinction between a multi-volume dictionary and an encyclopedia may be one without a much of a difference apart from depth of treatment.

I have an older copy of the Interpreters encyclopedia, and, despite its unbelieving pose, it has proved useful enough over the years that I don't regret the purchase. But the ISBE must be just as good and is online, I believe – and encyclopedias take up a lot of shelf space.

In short, I would – with the benefit of hindsight – be reluctant to buy anything I'm not going to use much if it is non-essential and especially if I am in the habit of accessing these things online. Let me recommend again, however, Abbott-Smith's Manual Lexicon – a handy little book which usually has very good things to say about Hebrew influence on the GNT vocabulary.

Best wishes with all this, my friend! Hope your studies are going well. Just gave my students the first hourly (could have been worse).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Thanks for all the feedback Bob.

I am indeed planning on spacing out the purchasing of things over time as the need arises. Compiling a list like this is mostly because I'm buying things digitally, and the providers run monthly/weekly sales on things that can knock off anywhere from 20%-50%. (Unfortunately they almost invariably discount useless rubbish like devotionals and liberal commentaries rather than Hebrew Bibles or Greek Lexicons -- which I guess isn't too illogical since that's what the bulk of the resources they sell are). If I spend 10 minutes a month checking the list of things on sale, and already know what I'll need eventually, I can save a good bit of money in the long run.

I'm viewing the ap. crit. as a starting point (much in the same way as HALOT) -- not definitive, but certainly better than nothing at all. Many of the software programs are now transcribing the major uncials (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, etc.), and a couple of them are making it possible to scroll HD pictures of the mss. in line with the searchable transcriptions. (As to papyri, there are transcriptions, but no pictures as of yet that I am aware of). I obviously haven't even gotten my feet wet with all this (kind of need the languages first!), but I'm planning on double checking the manuscripts themselves when issues of any substance come up. (As I'm sure you know, many of the pictures are available online for free as well -- the software programs just makes accessing them more convenient).

Finally, as I think I've mentioned before, considerations of space and transportation are not being taken into account here because I'm buying everything for use on the computer. This wasn't even possible 10 or even 5 years ago, but now, I can't think of very many good reasons to buy physical copies of things, especially multi-volume reference works like lexicons and dictionaries/encyclopedias.

In Christ,

Response #5:

You're very welcome. All this sounds reasonable to me, my friend.

Since most of your purchases are going to be digital, may I suggest that you carve out some niche in cyberspace to park your acquisitions? Personal computers have a tendency to fail catastrophically at the most inconvenient times. I once lost a chapter of my dissertation . . . and had to stay up all night recreating it best as I could from memory before I lost it (it turned out OK but I've always suspected it wasn't as good as the original). That was in the day of "dinosaur" floppy drives, but ever since, I've tried to be conscientious about backup. FTP-ing to private space on my server is the easiest way for me to do it now.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Many blessings to you, my dear brother. If you have some time to spare may I ask your assistance on a matter? Are you familiar with a book titled, A Textual Commentary to the Greek New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger [1st ed. 1975, 2nd ed. 2006]? I have only used it a handful of times, but, from what I understand it is a catalog of all the major variants in the text of the Greek New Testament, as well as the reasons behind the textual choices made by the UBS scholastic team, when putting together the UBS Greek New Testament. Is this assessment correct? Finally, may I ask, as far as you know, is there a text which would give the same type of material for the Majority Text, or better, is there a text that catalogs all the textual variations in all the different manuscript families, thus far discovered, which are subscribed to by the different scholastic "camps?" My purpose in asking this is that I am looking to collect all such data, and then put it all in a data base, so to speak, thereby making it possible for folks such as yourself (and me) to conduct research while having access to all the material at once. Suffice it to say, any help and/or suggestions you are able to offer is much appreciated, as is your continued friendship, Dr. Luginbill.

Sincerely in King Jesus, the Living Word of God!!!

Response #6:

As always, it's good to hear from you, my friend.

As to your question, Metzger's book is what it purports to be, namely, a commentary on the UBS text. It's not a catalog. Scholarly texts of the Greek New Testament, such as UBS or Nestle or what have you, all have at the bottom of each page of text an apparatus criticus wherein some of the variants are collected and some of the more important witnesses to the various readings are listed. But I cannot stress strongly enough that even in Nestle-Aland (the most complete of these devices), this is far from being a complete record. That would be virtually impossible (for reasons discussed below). UBS is a bit unique in that when deciding on which variant to print (in those places where there is an argument to be made), the editors of the text used an A/B/C/D system to express their (personal) confidence about the reading actually printed (with A being very confident and D very unsure about which is correct).

What Metzger's book does is to comment on some of these passages and give the committee's reasoning for the decision and/or disagreements with what was printed. I have the first but not the second edition, though I have accessed the snippets of the second on occasion. I will note that I am frequently in disagreement with the conclusions of Metzger and co., and also that on at least one occasion I recall they "got it right" in the first edition then reversed and "got it wrong" in the second. But the UBS "ap. crit." is far less complete than Nestle-Aland and the commentary is very selective about what UBS decisions it chooses to remark upon. And even Nestle-Aland is not anything like "complete".

In the course of doing the Coming Tribulation series I found a number of important places where variants in the best ancient ms., Sinaiticus, were not to be found in the ap. crit. of any of the critical editions I had access to. These could only be found (as far as I can tell) by looking at a facsimile of the actual ms. Blessedly, that is becoming more and more possible for many important witnesses with the internet (see the link for the best Sinaiticus site). But if the queen of ms. is not completely represented in the ap. crits. of the major critical editions, you can be sure that such is also the case with other mss. and papyri and what have you.

I have recently been comparing 1st Peter to p 72 (Bodmer papyri), and found at least one place where the papyrus, one of our oldest and best witnesses, contained a word not represented in any of the critical editions. True, the word was kai (usually "and"), so the significance was not earth-shaking, but it does make the point. So while it is fair to say – when viewed from any rational basis – that UBS and/or Nestle Aland is far superior to the so-called Textus Receptus critical edition on which the KJV was based, these are not perfect either.

As I always try to point out in such discussions, we are not talking about creed-altering, doctrine-changing issues here in the vast majority of variations. I think it is fair to say that if today we still only had the TR to work with, my own ministry would be teaching about 98% the same as it is teaching now. And if the false interpolations into the NT text are omitted too, an issue that is in no doubt for any critical edition (as in the case of the false "long ending" of Mark), then we are probably talking somewhere around 99%.

Not that the remaining 1-2% is not important! I truly believe that every word of scripture is crucial and have dedicated my life to the goal of seeking out God's truth through careful attention to His actual Word. But it is the case that it would be a mistake to think that if the precise autograph of scripture could be recovered to everyone's satisfaction that everything would change. Obviously, unbelievers would not become believers for that reason, and the vast majority of the lukewarm in Laodicea would not be any more likely to actually pay attention to the Bible for that reason nor would their lukewarm pastors be any more likely to dig into the truth just because they had the perfect NT as opposed to an almost perfect NT (most of them don't even know Greek well enough to benefit therefrom in any case).

In fact, I've never found a truly important case in scripture where to my mind the actually reading could not be recovered with the proper methodology and intellectual "elbow-grease". There are more than enough resources available for this today . . . for those who know how to do it and who have prepared themselves to do it. And a major part of that preparation is actually understanding the doctrinal truths that the scriptures teach – which explains why even a team of Greek scholars can "get it wrong", namely, because while they may be scholastic giants they may also be spiritually much less so.

So on the one hand, I think what is needed is available already. On the other hand, actually performing a collation of all "information" would take a team of experts fifty years of doing nothing else (at least). And by the way, if I am not mistaken there are already such projects underway (see the link for one such). What is the value? No doubt there is some value in that time could be saved if the collations were accurate, depending upon how they were presented. What I mean by the former is that, especially when dealing with papyri but not only so, it is not always so obvious what the ms. or papyrus itself actually reads because of state of the exemplar (those are serious issues in and of themselves) – letters can be confused, marginal and supra-linear notations may be original or not, may be corrections or not. What I mean by the latter is that anyone with experience in doing textual criticism understands that not all witnesses are equal. With the NT, the vast majority of witnesses are late and mostly derivative of each other, while many of the older witnesses are individually worth more than the entire lot of the Byzantine mss. put together (so that collating these latter mss. is a very nearly a fruitless task, in my view). And if by carpet-bombing an ap.crit. with unimportant information the truly important stuff is obscured, one would be better off with what went before. In any case, there is no substitute for autopsy (at least of a facsimile) – and less and less excuse day by day now for overlooking this critical step of looking at the ms. oneself in disputable cases.

I don't mean to "rain on your parade" here! It's just that I know that this is an attractive looking type of project, but I can tell you from what I understand about it that there are much more profitable uses for your very valuable time, my friend. Keep on preparing to actually teach the Word of God. The Lord uses prepared men to minister to His Church. That is where I would put my extra "oomph" if I were you.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Also Professor, could you just briefly explain two terms I came across in Metzger, definitions of which I've not been able to locate: colometrically and strichometrically?

Response #7:

These adverbs are based on the adjectives "stichometric" and "colometric" which refer to techniques whereby papyrologists and others analyze fragments to determine the amount of text / number of letters which are missing in a damaged sheet (most are damaged in some way, after all). The former has to do with counting the lines on the papyrus / ms., whereas the latter has to do with counting and analyzing the poetic units of the work in question – so this latter technique mostly has application to the Bible in the Old Testament poetic books, such as in Psalms, but is of limited utility in my view because no one can really pin down Hebrew poetry with specificity that is possible with Greek and Latin metrics.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Blessings to you sir. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a matter related to English Bible translations? I was wondering if you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts on what you believe are the most accurate, balanced, and respected dynamic equivalence/functional equivalence translations, and their pros or cons in comparison to translations that are more formal equivalence/literal? Also may I ask if there are any recommendations you would urge when making use of such translations? My reason in asking is that while I often do use more literal translations for studying, to be honest, I feel like the Scriptures become clearer to me through those versions that are more free in their renderings of the original languages. However, I don't want to be naive to the fact that there is a cost to being more free in the way one renders the original texts, therefore I want to to be balanced in my use of those versions that emphasize a more dynamic equivalence approach. In light of these facts I wonder if you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts on my observation and also any recommendations you would personally give to help me be as balanced as possible in the way that I study the Bible using different versions, for e.g. what types of things to keep in mind about the versions, things to watch out for, etc. Any help and/or suggestions you may have to offer are much appreciated sir. Please know that you're never wasting your time to share advice with me.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you for all your continued help and friendship. Grace be with you and yours!!!

Response #8:

I'm always happy to hear from you, my friend!

Translation is more of an art than a science, as I've probably shared with you before. It is impossible to reproduce an exact replica of the original in another language because all languages are different. Trying to preserve the precise meaning along with the tone, emphasis, flavor and effect when rendering something into another language takes much time, effort, talent and also skill in both languages. To do it right also requires, especially in the case of something like the Bible, a deep understanding of the actual meaning of the text being rendered. This last point does much to explain the deficiencies of all English translations.

I have written a lot about this issue and will give you some links below. Suffice it to say first that I have found value in almost all of the major English versions. To take two extremes, the KJV and the NLT (both of which I have quoted from time to time), in the case of the former we have a methodology of trying to be as "literal" as possible with the result that for the most part the version preserves parallel ambiguities in English to what is found in the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek; in the case of the latter, rather than refusing to decide what passages really "mean", the renderings tend to spell out what the translator thinks the passages communicate. The problem with the former approach is that it is not as helpful as it might be for Christians trying to understand the passage in question and often enough leaves things ambiguous in English where they are really not so in the original. The problem with the latter approach is that since the translators are not necessarily spiritual giants or possessed of a deep understanding of the truths of scripture they frequently get the whole idea wrong. This is a broad brush analysis, but it does give the two extremes of what may be found in any English translation, namely, either being so timid in translation that the result is barely understandable, or being so bold from a basis of lack of understanding of the underlying truth that a completely misleading translation is often produced. I hasten to add that most of the other major versions are somewhere in the middle, and that any translation is capable of being wonderful on one verse and terrible on the next. For anyone who does not have an in-depth knowledge of the original languages, access to a good Bible teaching ministry to sort these things out is essential, and making use of multiple versions to compare passages (especially if something a little too interesting should appear when reading an unfamiliar version) is also a good idea.

Here are a few links on this and related subjects (apologies if you have already read or are otherwise familiar with these postings):

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading IV

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading III

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading II

Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading I

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Thank you Dr and much appreciated. I have most of all these tools, including learning Greek but can you recommend a good Hebrew bible and study tools?

Response #9:

My favorite textbook for self-study in Hebrew is is Lambdin's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (here's a link). Weingreen's A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew is also excellent. Both books also have "keys", which must be purchased separately (I've never used them but it would probably be helpful to get the feedback in a self-study situation).

As to the Hebrew Bible, the best complete edition currently available is the Biblical Hebraica Stutgartensia (here's a link). It will be a minute, however, before you'll be able to read this if you're just starting BH. There are three new critical editions of the Hebrew Bible currently being produced (at Oxford, Stuttgart and Jerusalem), but 1) none of them are finished 2) the parts that are done are stratospherically expensive, and 3) they seem to me, from what I've seen, to be not too much of an advance over the good old BHS recommended and linked above.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers daily, my friend.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hello Professor,

I'm just letting you know that hopefully tomorrow evening I will send you the final version of the Spiritual Battle document. I have been translating it into Polish all day today and I was hoping I would finish it. As I've been rendering it into Polish, I made a few cosmetic changes to the English version and also added a section on the fear of God. I really wanted to reach this milestone today, but it's late here now and I'm starting very early tomorrow. I've literally got last couple of pages left.

What has really slowed me down today is that I've been unable to simply copy and paste the verse quotations from Polish translations - they turned out to be problematic in many places and sometimes just incorrect. With the choice of Polish renderings being much more limited than English, I often went back to original languages to make the renderings faithful and understandable at the same time. A mountain to climb for a rookie like me. I also realised how good it is to have a range of English translations and also - how overall reliable the NASB is, even though it's not perfect.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #10:

Good for you, translating this! I know you have correspondents who will benefit from this labor of love, having something of quality in their native language.

Your friend, in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

p.s. very interesting comments regarding the Polish Bible translations.

Question #11:

What's the difference between 3rd person future indicative and 3rd person future imperative in Latin?

Response #11:

For one thing, the "future imperative" is unfortunately named by grammarians; the 3rd person forms resemble the Greek 3/p imperatives and are very rare in Latin; all imperatives are "future" in the sense that if I give you an order then obviously you haven't done it yet. The future indicative describes a future action as certain – perhaps for that reason it seems to be a derivative tense (i.e., go back far enough and you find people who were not yet so arrogant to believe that they could describe the future with certainty).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:

This is a popular theory in modern linguistics: that is, many linguist believe that the future tense should be classified as an irrealis mood (that is, a grammatical mode describing something "unreal" like the subjunctive) and not a tense for the reason that you gave, so the only real tenses would be past and non-past. This is how Japanese does their tenses also.

Response #12:

Interesting. Hebrew is the same way (the imperfect which is a combination of a subjunctive and a repetitive stem is now the "future" in Modern Hebrew), and in Greek the future definitely seems to have been developed from the aorist subjunctive.

Question #13:

Dear Dr. Bob,

Glad to be able to send some short emails to you now and then. Reading and then understanding the many studies at ichthys.com requires time commitment - not that I'm complaining.

A bible ad for CSB just came in my inbox which says, "The Bible is meant to be read, understood, and shared. So your translation of God’s Word should be true-to-the-original and one you like to read. The Christian Standard Bible captures the Bible’s original meaning without compromising clarity. An optimal blend of accuracy and readability..."

A Gospel of Mark sampler came with the ad which I included here as an attachment for you. What do you think about the CSB?

Always grateful to you for making your website available. Thanks a lot also for the prayer list. Aside from the opportunity for intercession for my siblings in Christ, praying for them makes fellowship possible that natural physical conditions may limit.

Just a thought I want to share: Genuine love for God and fellow men involves commitment for the objective good and right, and that is embracing the biblical worldview.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."
Romans 12:9

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments."
1 John 5:2

In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is altogether lovely,

Response #13:

Happy to hear from you.

The CSB is "just out", so it's a little early to tell. The attachment contains the gospel of Mark, a fairly simple book to translate with none of the main "issues" of translation and text one bumps into in any epistle of Paul, for example. The most controversial thing about Mark is the collection of erroneous endings which have accreted to that book since medieval times. Chapter 16 ends with verse 8, but many versions, such as this even this new one, erroneously print the non-biblical endings anyway. This version does put it in brackets and gives footnote mention of the absence of these endings in "some early manuscripts", but that is a little like including a holocaust-denial paragraph in a book on WWII Germany and merely bracketing and footnoting ("not all agree with this assessment"). In other words, the damage done by such cowardly assimilation to the marketplace is not to be covered up by these editorial devices. Still, that is what most other versions do as well, so I suppose it can't be laid at the feet of the CSB preeminently (and I note that the online version of the HCSB gives no indication that this is a problem, so I suppose this is an improvement of sorts).

In my understanding of things, the CSB is an update of the HCSB which I have used from time to time. Translations are best judged one verse at a time. Even a "great" translation can be wrong; even a "bad" one can occasionally be correct and hit just the right note in a given passage. It's probably not a good idea for a believer without access to Greek and Hebrew to restrict him/herself to one version – especially since that is not necessary. We all have our favorites. My favorite reading version is the 1984NIV, but it is far from perfect– and it is no longer available except in old used copies, the NIV people have condemned it to the damnatio memoriae for some reason or other – perhaps because it was too good (it's certainly better than the new NIV).

For my advice on this issue please see the link: "Read your Bible".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hello Dr.,

I hope your visit to the Dr. this week went well, I'm praying for you daily Sir.

I had another email exchange with our mutual friend and he brought up a subject that has been drifting in and out of my mind recently and I want to get your input. He mentioned his desire to have your teaching at Ichthys translated into Polish since there is such a desperate need for accurate bible teaching in his home country. The thought had occurred to me more than once that translation into foreign languages would be of great benefit to the Church oh Jesus Christ. I have done some research and while I have not found an adequate text to foreign speech software, I did come across a powerful text translation software that would give me the ability to translate all your written text into several languages, including Polish. I would be willing to take on this project if it is something you desire for Ichthys. If this of interest to you let me know and I will begin to make preparations to move in that direction when I finish your audio files.

They are forecasting rain for tomorrow in my neck of the woods so this should give me time to finish the audio editing on the Peter files I have been working on. Also, I notice that you haven't posted the SR-4 re-edits yet so I've left them in the DropBox until I see you have them up.

Also, I'd been looking at other text to speech software programs and failed to realize the one that I am currently using can be purchased in several other languages. With the text translation software and upgrades to the text to speech you could end up with quite a selection, God willing.

Let me know your thoughts. Here's hoping you have a great weekend! Rev.22:20

Response #14:

While it sounds great and while I hear what you are saying, on translation software color me incredibly skeptical. Much of what I do in my secular work and also in this ministry has to do with translation, and I have discussed these issues for years with colleagues and fellow believers. Our friend was just telling me that a major hold up with the production of one of his recent studies was trying to find just the right word for a concept with which Polish was not naturally conversant. For similar reasons I only translate Bible verses occasionally, settling for an already published one which is a good or at least workable rendering when that will do; but sometimes I find that none of the versions get it right to the point where I have to do it myself, and that is time consuming because, well, one wants to get it right.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but while I am sure that a translation program could do a creditable job with cereal boxtops, I'm not really willing to entrust myself or anything I have done to a machine's judgment. Translation is as much an art as it is a science, and to get it right usually requires insight into the idiom and tone of both languages which is rare enough in human beings.

I sometimes read to my classes hilarious examples of the "Chinglish" officially produced on signage for the benefit of English speaking visitors to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Example: "If you want to know anything, question authority" was probably not what the hosts really wanted to get across, and while "deformed man toilet" may be capable of interpretation, it certainly missed the proper tone. If a police state with limitless resources and trying to impress the world can get simple signs so wrong, it makes me shudder to think what a computer would do to Paul's epistles – which are a bit more complicated, after all, and require an understanding of the doctrine he is talking about to get right. These signage mistakes are funny, but when it comes to theology the niceties of translation are even more easy to miss, and even more potentially catastrophic if serious mistakes are made.

Anyone in Poland can easily run sentences from these studies at Ichthys through free software at Google or elsewhere and get results which are of varying quality and varying clarity. In such cases, the individual realizes, or certainly should, that there are issues with this process and that the precise meaning may have been garbled. But if I post translations at the site, it will be assumed that they are "correct". Problem is, I can't vouch for that in Polish (or the majority of other modern languages). So knowing what I know about the process of translation and the difficulties that still defy a machine's ability to surmount them, I would prefer to thank you for your offer but ask you to save your money on this one, my friend. I'm thrilled enough with the efforts you've made on this ministry's behalf already.

I hope things are going well with you and your family. I'm keeping you in my prayers

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Dr,

I had someone here give me a book titled "New Age Bible Versions" by G.A Riplinger which argues for NIV, NASB, etc. basically all other translations are not the original translations because they are not based on Textus Receptus. I recently ordered the Nestle Aland 28th edition Greek new testament to start studying Greek. And this is what I read they state about Nestle Aland

"In conclusion, recent scholarship demonstrates that the majority manuscripts, as seen in the traditional Greek Textus Receputs and its translations, the KJV, represent the earliest, broadest (numerically and geographically) and most consistent edition of the New Testament. On the other hand the new versions and their underlying unsettled Nestle-Aland type eclectic text, use later readings, representing a narrow "fraction of 1%" of the extant manuscripts, from one locale."

Can you shed some light on Nestle Aland and why this would be a great manuscript to learn biblical Greek? And also, why in certain versus words are omitted that were not omitted from KJV? For example Is.14:12 where KJV has "Lucifer, son of the morning" while NASB has "O star of the morning"

I am doing my studies from the NASB and want to make sure I am correct in saying there is no huge variations and the omission of words primarily has to do with interpretation of the original Greek, which brings us to Nestle Aland vs Textus Receptus.

Thank for your insight and help in this matter.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #15:

I'm certain that maintaining a good Christian witness – which requires a consistently good attitude of trusting the Lord – is not easy in your circumstances. But I am also convinced that you can do it.

As to your question about Bible versions, there is a lot of info on the site. To start with the bottom line, the idea of KJV and TR being "better" is extreme foolishness. It is an example of a beloved conclusion producing an argument without recourse to common sense or evidence. The TR, the basis of the KJV, is essentially the same as Erasmus' critical edition of the NT – and it is questionable if he was even a believer. However that may be, he was a scholar, and what he did in producing a critical edition of the GNT is exactly what the folks who produce the Nestle series do – except that while they have a tremendous amount of evidence, he had a notable paucity of it (he even had to back-translate from the Latin version into Greek of his own making portions of Revelation where his ms. was incomplete). Further, the KJV translators used the TR irrespective of its goodness or badness – that is what a translation team has to do for consistency's sake, namely, stick to one edition. So the exemplar and the translation are two completely different issues. The KJV is not a bad translation (of the TR), but the TR is a somewhat defective text – more for what it includes that it should not than for what it has absolutely wrong. For example, it includes the famous and erroneous interpolations of "cast the first stone" and the longer ending of Mark. Since they were present in the TR, KJV translators translated them. But these passages (and some others) are not a part of the Bible.

Most of this is much ado about nothing. No two ms. are exactly the same. That is true also of the much later Byzantine texts which these people adore merely because they are closer to the TR but for no other, logical reason (the characterizations by this person of the important earlier texts such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus and Ephraemi Rescriptus is absolutely wrongheaded and self-serving). And no two translations are the same either. But it is safe to say that every critical Greek edition is "pretty much the same", and that every MAJOR English translation (not talking about the esoteric ones produced by cults such as the JW's for their own purposes) is recognizable as "the Bible" and rarely presents a translation which would turn a major teaching on its head. Not at all to say that all this is not important – you know how I feel about its importance. But it is to say that over 90% of the time all editions and translations are in essential agreement, and of the last ten percent, nine out of ten times the disagreement is not particularly important or profound. That last one percent is very important, but those 1% cases are never going to be "solved" by a "perfect" translation or a "bigger, better" edition. They can only be solved by prepared men with the gift who dig into the issues the right way and solve them with the Spirit's help. That is to say, when it comes to every "hard case" relying on the judgment of Erasmus (TR) or the men who put together the latest Nestle-Aland would be a big mistake either way.

When it comes to the OT, the Masoretic text is the same today as it was in KJV days. There are textual issues and ms. issues but they are much less of a concern than in the NT, because 1) we have the same tradition in virtually all of the ms. that are important (the Qumran texts are actually not nearly as important as scholars want to make them out to be, that is, when it comes to establishing the text of the OT), and 2) because of the way the OT is written, not as "theologically" as the NT, if you know what I mean, so that one word here or there is not as apt to have major doctrinal consequences. In your example, "Lucifer" vs. "morning star" is a translation thing not a text thing – both KJV and NASB are translating the same text. "Lucifer" means "light bearer" and is another name for the morning star (Venus), so it's a question of whether the translator wanted to emphasize the person who is meant by the star or the star which refers to the person (namely, the devil), since both are rendering the Hebrew word 'heylal'.

Do feel free to write back about specific passages/issues about which you have questions. Also, what materials are you planning to use to learn Greek (and how far have you gotten so far)? Curious about that for Hebrew too.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Thanks for the clarification Dr and sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone. No sense discussing an issue that has not importance on spiritual growth and that is where I am with this issue as it relates to a believer here. He won't read out of anything that is not KJV, so I move on.

I believe your studies will be of help here. The bible group here has asked me to read from a scripture to open bible study, so this will be my first foray into speaking to a group of people. Please pray the Spirit will guide me to a good passage that will edify the group.

I would really like to have a prophecy study group based on your series. I believe the more people know about 7 yrs of human history through the plan of God, the more diligent they will be in getting closer to the Lord through spiritual growth. That is what happened to me with your studies.

One last question, I received the Nestle-Aland 28th edition and i was reading and it was saying something about the ECM and Catholic Letters. Is the Nestle-Aland translation of the New Testament Greek based on Catholic philosophies and writings? Or when they mean Catholic Letters they are talking about the Church Fathers?

Thank you for everything and I will be writing back very soon.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #16:

The ECM ("Editio Critica Maior") is a new critical edition of the GNT (it's not even scheduled to be completed until 2030 – and since these things always go over schedule, it probably won't even be done by the time the Lord returns). Given all the different critical editions and the small number of points of difference, this edition can be of great interest only to scholars in the field, it seems to me. In the Hebrew Bible a new critical edition (there are three of them "afoot" but all a long way off) could be of value to the extent that the apparatus criticus at the bottom of each page gave any important information about mss. that have alternative readings. But in Greek, the most important mss. are themselves online now, so it's not necessary to take an edition's word for it. As I have said, for those really interested in the truth and prepared to mine it (with the requisite gift and education), important textual questions always have to be tackled on a case by case basis anyway. So what you've ordered will be just fine.

As to "Catholic Letters", I'm not privy to the context where you saw this phrase, but the "Catholic Epistles" is a phrase which refers to the general epistles of the NT which are not by Paul or John (i.e., James, Peter's two, and Jude – Hebrews is usually included too but it is actually by Paul), "catholic" being used in its original Greek sense of "for all" and having nothing whatsoever to do with Rome.

I'm happy to hear that at least you have more time to devote to preparation for future ministry – and some real possibilities to minister now as well. That is the "silver lining" in this cloud.

The Lord is faithful, my friend – and especially when we are being taxed and tried in our faith. So be pleased to trust Him completely – He is most certainly worthy of every ounce of faith you put in Him. I promise to be faithful in praying for you and your family.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Bob,

I remember some time ago you recommended the NASB version as a good 'middle-ground' version, if I recall correctly, as it did not take as many liberties with it's translation as the NLT version and was still in 'modern' English, which is easier to understand than the KJV. Is this still the case, or have you changed your recommendations as of late? I was just wondering which you would consider to be the 'best' version to read right now. I remember you saying that the KJV (or the new KJV?) is the best if you don't mind or can understand it, or something along those lines? I was just curious what your recommendations are now.

Response #17:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend!

I haven't changed my opinion on these issues from what I have posted various places on the site. I don't actually "recommend" any English translation because that would suggest that I prefer it and/or that it was superior to others. All have their strengths and weaknesses, some more of the former, some more of the latter. The NASB is one I do use but not as much as KJV, NKJV and NIV (preference there being the 1984 edition). That is because NASB is often not particularly good in its rendering of English in a smooth, readable and pleasing way, and it is not noticeably better in terms of "accuracy" vs., say, the NKJV, to a degree to make it worth the while to put up with its often difficult and cumbersome English. I couldn't recommend the NLT as standard fare because it often takes liberties which are too great and the result is that when they are wrong about their interpretation of a passage the translation has a tendency to be outright misleading – which is worse than "cumbersome". There are plenty of other versions which, roughly speaking, would be no better or worse – ESV, RSV, etc. I usually recommend switching around with versions because in practical terms it is a question of particular verses and parts of verses where a version may be "wrong" or "very good". I would estimate that in terms of most of the standard versions (NLT and newest NIV excluded along with other esoteric productions), I would probably be "mostly" fine with the translation of about 90% of scripture. But that other ten percent is crucial, of course. That is one reason why believers need to be accessing a good teaching ministry in addition to their personal Bible reading.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Bob, thanks for your website, it's awesome!

Not a big deal at all, but from my perspective an advantage of the KJV is the phrases have often come into common usage through the centuries – it's wonderful to read a common phrase we've heard a million times and realize it's from the Bible.

One more thing. There can be no argument whatsoever that when the KJV was exclusive to England and America our countries prospered. As other translations came into being our countries began to fall. Just an observation.

Once again, thanks! I'm enjoying the site.


Response #18:

Thanks for your email and for your positive comments about the site.

I love the KJV, and the biggest problems with it are generally not solved by the other major versions. That is to say, the pericope about the adulteress in John chapter 8 is not a part of scripture BUT it is still printed even in the most modern versions. The KJV editorial committee didn't know any better, apparently, but modern version have no such excuse. The language is also less and less clear to most modern day Americans – the NKJV is a very nice improvement there and in many other ways.

As to phrases, yes, there are some wonderful ones, but I have found that many times the familiar phrasing we think we know that comes from scripture is 1) often not exactly what the KJV says, and 2) when it is, that phrasing often goes back to earlier versions (such as Wycliffe, the Geneva Bible, etc.); the KJV wasn't translated in a vacuum either.

As to felicitous correlations, one could also argue that the material prosperity of this country has never been greater (for some people anyway) whereas the spiritual state has never been lower (for most people anyway). The latter is a function of the free will of Christians who are not interested in the truth of the scripture (from whatever version) and as a result are not much of a remnant for the Lord to take into account.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

I understand where you're coming from, Bob - but to me there's a bit of over-analysis here

When I read the King James I'm filled with a tremendous sense of majestic awe -- the thees, the thous -- the flow of the language seems poetic, commanding, authoritative - the translators show command of form. And to me the overall deep meanings come out.

For these and other perhaps more mystical reasons the KJV constructs like a 3D image of Jesus Christ as I read it over and over again. I do enjoy the NKJV too. My former church used the NASB and it was great but it didn't have this impact on me. Nor do any of the other modern versions.

Straining at gnats, forest for trees - I get it details may be blurred but to me the overall picture of Christ the KJV presents is superior. And the slide in our English/American experience of the Lord occurred as these "new improved" versions came around.

It's awe-inspiring the scholars were able to present such a tremendous document at such a time hundreds of years ago with the knowledge and resources they had. The Holy Spirit is very evidently involved, for me not only in the production, but in my reception.

Just my personal experience. I'm grateful more is being revealed. My faith isn't going to be shaken by minute distinctions when the big picture is clear!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my email. I serve the Lord with gladness. Please pray for me and know I am praying for you!

What does pericope mean I'll have to look that up.

Response #19:

I think it's wonderful to love scripture and also fine to love a particular version – just as long as that doesn't create a blind spot. No translation is perfect. Only the Bible in its original form (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) is perfect, and even then of course proper interpretation is necessary. But an incorrect or misleadingly translated verse (of which the KJV as with all translations has its share) will always result in an incorrect or misleading interpretation. As I have affirmed many times, I do love the KJV – but I am not blinded to its shortcomings. My major beef has been with people who are much more over the top in their devotion than you are and actually take it so far as to use the KJV as essentially "the text" and then try to dictate to the Greek, e.g., what the passage may mean, preferring, for example, inferior manuscripts and esoteric readings because they "agree" with the KJV (there is a whole movement devoted to this dangerous nonsense; see the link which leads to others).

I do use the NASB but comparing it to KJV reveals the shortcoming in the NASB translator's command of the language (or perhaps their Procrustean approach to translation), so it's not the fairest test of modern versions: the NASB goes far too far toward "literalism" which is impossible to perfect and only results in strained language, of which the NASB is replete.

In terms of awe and mysticism, I have awe for the truth (which I find illuminated in the Greek and Hebrew every day) and am not much on mysticism. To me that is just emotion looking for a rationale, and explains a lot about people who feel that stained-glass windows, vestments and high ritual add to their faith somehow. But to me these things are crutches, and potentially dangerous ones as well. Christ is real, and the more we learn about the truth the more we learn about Him and the more real He becomes to us in our Christian walk. I can't see how one version would make Him more clear than another unless it actually made the truth clearer, and the KJV is not any better at that than a number of other good versions and less so in certain respects given the anachronisms and the occasional faulty translations resulting from it being based upon an inferior text (aka the TR).

On scholarship, whether the men who translated the KJV were believers or how many of them were or how spiritually advanced they were is impossible to say. They were good scholars indeed, but they also stood on the shoulders of those who went before and the KJV is nearly a verbatim rendering of prior English versions in certain places. If the KJV has one characteristic in its translation style which is notable in my view it is its tendency toward creative ambiguity. That is to say, the KJV tends (especially in the NT epistles) to avoid interpretational translations and steers instead towards renderings which might mean any number of things, depending upon how one understands the passage. That is a good thing when one is not sure of the meaning (which is why I wonder about the spirituality of the translators). Translating a passage with an interpretational twist and being wrong is certainly worse. But that characteristic plus the distance of the language from modern English results in many folks being able to read, e.g., Romans, and be a lot more confused about what it might mean than if they had spent their time with, e.g., the NKJV. If there were no Greek original available, that approach would be a blessing. But indeed we do have the original text (unlike with "the book of Mormon"), so we are not reliant upon someone's one-time translation (as with "the book of Mormon"). Not that most Christians today are interested in what the Greek text actually does say or, more to the point, with what it really means. I've often noted the irony that today we have more resources more easily and readily available for learning the original languages and developing one's skills therein but less and less interest in so doing among most believers, even those gifted to teach the Bible.

As to spiritual decline, I'm not sure that I would place 17th century England over 18th and 19th century America in terms of spirituality, and I would also say that the majority of the new versions post-date the beginning of spiritual decline in this country. The era of Laodicea began at the end of the 19th century (see the link).

With one thing I thoroughly agree: anything we receive in terms of truth and all that we apply is completely dependent on the Holy Spirit. Our will is empowered to do the will of God when we respond to Him, and He uses the truth in our hearts to guide us.

So thank you for your email and for your spirited defense of your KJV – I love it too (it's just that I love it in spite of its warts).

Thank you also very much for your prayers!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

p.s. pericope: an extract from a text, especially a passage from the Bible. I.e., a passage (usually somewhat self-contained).

Question #20:

Dear Bob,

Wow! Thanks for the awesome reply – I fully agree. I'm glad our exchange didn't devolve into an argument as too often happens. There's so much to digest here; I gotta get ready for work! You're like a professor or something – I'm honored!

One more little question real quick – the italicized words in the KJV – what happens if I skip over those and read the passage without them? Sometimes I do this, and as I know you're aware it can have a different and even opposite meaning. Or it can change the context as to who it's about etc.

Thank you so much for your help and explanations I really appreciate you taking the time!


Response #20:

You're most welcome!

As to the italicized words in the KJV, that is the device the version uses to represent words which are not actually there in the Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic text, but which represent a fair translation into English. No two languages are the same. If we say, in English "bread on table", it is meaningless, but in other languages – such as Greek – it means "There is bread on the table". To leave that out is to fail to translate; the italics are a middle ground to let you know that this (correct) expansion was engaged in.

Biblical languages, like some modern spoken languages, make greater use of such ellipsis than does English. Not putting in the words (whether one chooses to italicize them or not) would actually represent a gross mis-translation. There are many such issues in translating texts, especially ancient ones, and they are not necessarily apparent to anyone who has not attempted such translation themselves (although any first year Greek or Hebrew student will know immediately what I mean). Translation is more of an art than a science in the end.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello Professor,

I’ve just finished re-reading Metztger, which was very helpful. Completion of this reading combined with using his textual commentary gives me at least some footing in this hard area of study. A couple of questions here:

Would you suggest any further reading in this area?

Have you looked into the issue of there being Western text in John 1:1-8:38 of Sinaiticus? It seems otherwise one of the most trustworthy witnesses.

I know I asked you before, but I still haven’t got a good outline of textual sigla. If I could find a good and comprehensive source I would happily have it always ready to hand in my study and I’m sure that with time I would start remembering the witnesses. If there was such a resource, ideally showing the age, family and some basic details, it would really help.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #21:

Good to hear from you, my friend. As to your questions:

There are other works on secular Greek textual criticism but they are very dense and not particularly helpful for the basic things we are trying to accomplish. After all, there is a significant functional difference between secular and biblical text-criticism, namely, the abundance of resources in the NT mss. versus often times only one or a handful of exemplars in a Classical author (Classical Greek is usually also fraught with more linguistic complexity). So we are almost never attempting to reconstruct something not present anywhere and in a difficult to understand text; we are dealing with generally straight-forward Greek where there is almost always some ms. which has the correct reading. As with most in Classics, I would say that it is more a case of learning by doing. The best thing anyone can do to improve their ability in Greek textual criticism is to read more Greek. We are well able to reconstruct gaps in contemporary English documents (or whatever languages we are fluent in) because we know how the language works and also what is possible and what is unlikely.

I'm skeptical of the idea of text families in biblical textual criticism. That is because there are more exceptions than similarities so that basing any conclusion on "family" evidence would be a mistake – and if that is the case (and it is), then there is no point practical point in worrying about such theoretical text families. This kind of creation of stemmata does work for Classical texts, but in the case of Classics, we have many fewer mss. to work with and indeed they were copied less frequently in antiquity and in Byzantine times – so it is possible to see the necessary connections in many cases. For the Bible, there are so many mss. and so much cross-pollination in antiquity that this is a dubious exercise. When one actually compares readings for these putative families, there are so many exceptions in actual cases that the whole theory seems unlikely, specifically in the case of the so-called Western family.

The Nestle-Aland editions have very good lists both of major mss., papyri and minuscules, and also of other sigla. No list, I can assure you, is perfect. There are some lists of Latin abbreviations on the internet, I recall. If you bump into anything that gives more than a "15 minute problem" (as my old Hebrew prof. used to say), I'd be happy to help.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Here is the text from an article I read on this website:

Q: In what language did the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus happen?

A: What a great question! You've put your finger on one of the issues that NT scholars face when trying to understand the words of Jesus in the Gospels. On the one hand, almost all evangelical scholars would recognize that we can't be sure when we have the actual words of Jesus, even though we can be confident that we have his 'voice.' That is, in this case, John may have summarized the account in a way that was clear to Greek readers even if the conversation took place in Aramaic. Linguists point out that one can say virtually anything in any language, even though the same number of words may not be used. If that is the case here, John is skillfully showing that there was confusion on Nicodemus' part about what Jesus meant, even though the word-play exists only in Greek. How would the conversation have taken place in Aramaic? I don't know, but it would most likely have been significantly longer and more convoluted, leaving Nicodemus with the question he had. But there are two other considerations. First, does Jesus really mean only that he must be born from above? That is highly unlikely, since word-plays are John's stock-in-trade and he often, if not usually, means BOTH things. So, Nicodemus could well have understood Jesus partially, but not fully. And John is thus giving hints to the reader that a double meaning is in view, only one of which could have been known to Nicodemus. Second, it is not at all impossible that the conversation actually took place in Greek. More and more NT scholars are coming to the conclusion that Jesus often taught in Greek. And there is significant evidence that even in Jerusalem--even among the Pharisees, which Nicodemus was--Greek was the only language spoken by them. Thus, we really can't say that this conversation did not occur in Greek. What we can say is that John has accurately, if selectively, portrayed it and that the double meaning he uses was most likely intended to have its full force on the readers. That is, Nicodemus needed to be born again AND born from above.

If you have time, can you provide your comments on this article? This reads like it is a lot of conjecture with no support. Would appreciate it much. Thanks so much my friend,

Response #22:

This is a favorite game played by "scholars" since the middle of the nineteenth century. Many careers have been made on this issue, but very little important work has been done in my opinion. Why? First, because the NT is in Greek. That is the way the Spirit inspired it. So what language was spoken that was rendered into Greek under divine inspiration is entirely beside the point . . . unless someone foolishly wants to assume that 1) he/she knows the "real language" (not as easy a question as might be assumed at first), and 2) attempts to "back translate" to find out "the real meaning". That is folly and the worst possible hermeneutic approach. Which is why the devil no doubt has supported this sort of thing in academia, namely, because instead of "illuminating" the meaning it has the effect of distorting it or of casting doubt on the very clear Greek text. Secondly, what is very much misunderstood especially by the scholarly community is that in Judea and particularly in Jerusalem Hebrew was the native tongue, not Aramaic. And Greek was spoken throughout the entire area by a very large number of the inhabitants as the commercial and political language of that day – so sometimes the Greek of the NT really does represent Greek being spoken at the time on top of that. The writer of this article is not as bad on this issue as some I've heard but you can see from his reasoning how easy it is to get trapped in this foolish vortex. In terms of the example written, the Spirit actually had John write anothen, which indeed means "from above" as well as "anew", and that is deliberate. It has nothing to do with what language might have been used in this conversation. Interestingly, in Delitzsch's masterful translation of the NT into Hebrew, for anothen he uses milma'lah which means "up" but not "again" – because in Hebrew (and biblical Aramaic) one must choose one or the other since there is no such ambiguity as with anothen in Greek. Nicodemus clearly took the word in the other sense than Jesus meant it – which is a strong argument for the conversation having taken place in Greek because otherwise the word would not have been ambiguous .

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Ichthys Home