BibleWorks 10!

BibleWorks 10

Jim Barr at BibleWorks was kind enough to send me a copy of BW10 to review.  I’ve been a devoted user of this program since working on my Hebrews commentary in 1998.  I have always found BW to be elegant and straightforward for working with the Greek and Hebrew text.  Perhaps it’s because I’m nearing fifty, but the most important thing to me in a new version of a familiar and much-used program is what has not changed.  (Windows 8, anyone?)

The interface has remained pretty much the same as BW8 and 9, with added possibilities for customizing.  The basic functions have all remained the same.  It remains, for my purposes, perfect for lexical analysis, concordance work, grammatical searching, analysis of English translations, and increasingly for textual criticism.  It has special tools for Synoptic comparison/redaction criticism; its parallel windows tool allows for ready comparison of any Bible texts or parabiblical texts one might wish (I use it for Septuagint/Hebrew Bible comparison more than anything else, but I’ve been delighted to find that I could also have the Apostolic Fathers open in Greek and English with this tool).  The move some versions ago to allow one to have four columns was extremely helpful one (I personally need to have two “browse” windows open frequently when teaching or researching, for example), and that has been retained.

Several additional tabs have been added to the BW10 interface.  There is now a “Forms Tab” that allows the user to see quickly the statistics on lemma usage as well as a “User Lexicon” that allows the user to compile his or her notes on the meanings and usage of particular words.  BW10 has lost the Moody Bible Atlas, but has replaced this resource with the ESV Concise Bible Atlas.

There is now an “ePub” reader window available in columns 3 and 4, so that users can import book files into BW, as well as a new photographic resource containing over twelve hundred images of sites connected with biblical history.  (No, I didn’t count them – you can access a surprising amount of BW’s content in Windows Explorer J ).  The available resources have been expanded to include the New English Translation of the Septuagint (please stop buying copies of Brenton, people), the Gospel of Thomas, a shorter lexicon by Frederick Danker, and the usual slew of new or updated Bible translations.

While an upgrade to the NA28 Greek text was available after BW9 came out, NA28 is now the base text for BW10 and many Greek-text resources (like the surprisingly helpful diagramming resource) have been updated to reflect the new edition.  The manuscripts project proceeds apace as well, with completed morphological tagging for Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and completed transcriptions of Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus and Codex Claromontanus.  With the (admittedly sideline) interest in the NT as it was actually read in particular communities of faith alongside the recovery of the theoretically original readings, this growing feature is quite helpful.  The manuscript image database is also a wonderful resource for introducing textual criticism in the seminary classroom. The image database now includes Codex Lenigradensis for students of the Hebrew Bible.

For the purist who really just wants good software to work with the text in the original languages – and who has some original-language competency – BW is easy to navigate and foregrounds the tools and resources that I personally find to be most essential.

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Growing in Passionate Worship

A short presentation I’ve prepared for a mini-retreat at my church, Port Charlotte United Methodist, happening tomorrow morning:

If we were to make it a priority to grow in “passionate worship” during 2015, we should first be clear among ourselves what such growth is not.  It is not about manufactured feelings and excitement, as if the emphasis in the phrase lay on “passionate” rather than “worship,” as if growth were to be measured in terms of what would be observable to the human eye and ear or in terms of imitating self-expression at rock concerts or sporting events.

It is about growing in our awareness of God as the Other who inhabits this space with us, in our desire to encounter and engage this God directly and personally, and in our openness to – and our transparency before – this God.  Growing in passionate worship will be the result of growing in this relationship with God through more frequent and more open encounters.  It will be the result of heightened attentiveness to God in at least two arenas – our worship together as a congregation not least on Sunday mornings, and our worship individually in between our times of corporate worship.  And I will say again for emphasis: growth in passionate worship will be the outcome of our increased intentionality in terms of our personal openness to God, focused desire for God, and frequency of interaction with God.

Currently some of us may have the quality of relationship and interaction with God that the stereotypical teen has with his or her parent.  We come to sit with our divine parent once or twice a week; our divine parent seeks to open the lines of communication between us and nurture a relationship; we reply to God’s earnest “how is it going with you?” with the equivalent of a sullen “fine” and go back immediately to whatever else preoccupies us.  Those who have sought and found God, and who have come to delight in God in the midst of prosperity and adversity, model a very different approach to their divine Parent – one that we must make more and more our own if we seek to have the experience and the practice of passionate worship:

“O God, you are my God, eagerly I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and barren land where there is no water.” (Ps 63:1)

“One thing I asked of the Lord, after this I will seek: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to seek him in his temple… Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.” (Ps 27:4, 8-9)

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42:1-2)

Passionate worship grows out of a passionate desire to meet God – not to sing about God, not to hear about God, but to meet God again and again.  And this desire grows, in turn, as we experience what it is like to meet God and to find ourselves open to and aware of the presence of the Almighty surrounding us.  Being in God’s presence – not in the presence of holy trappings, but in the presence of God’s very Self – is described as that which brings joy when everyone else is complaining or that which satisfies the soul’s hunger like a rich banquet satisfies the body’s hunger not only for plentiful, but for delightful food:

“There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!’ You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.” (Ps 4:6-8)

“I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Ps 63:4-6)

This last passage clues us in to another important practice that leads us into more passionate worship: frequency and regularity.  This psalmist makes it a practice to think of God on his bed and meditate on God into the watches of the night; another declares, “seven times a day I praise you for your righteous ordinances” (Ps 119:164). If we are to grow into passionate worshipers, we need to exercise ourselves more regularly in worship.  A relationship feeds upon and grows with regularity of encounter – and intentionality within those encounters.  What we bring to the act of worship, to the encounter with God, on Sunday is the fruit of our worship Monday through Saturday.  If there has not been worship Monday through Saturday, we come week after week just to get reacquainted with God, but not to grow into a more passionate relationship with him.

Another lesson of the psalmists, those passionate worshipers of God, is that God becomes more present to us as we become more present to him, more real and transparent before him.  The psalmists are shockingly honest in what they say and what they feel before God – thanksgiving and overflowing gratitude, joy and appreciation, fear and anxiety, disappointment and despair, even raw anger and resentment.  No human emotion is off limits here.  And as these psalmists expose their innermost selves to God they also strip away the layers that separate them from experiencing God’s presence and all that God would bring into their souls and situations in that encounter.

For many of us, the way forward toward more passionate worship may simply be to take up the discipline of daily worship, giving some time each day to be apart with God, acknowledging God’s presence and goodness, practicing opening up before God and becoming more and more open to God.  It requires discipline until it becomes desire in response to richer and richer encounters with the divine Other.  There are many strategies for facilitating this (I’ve prepared a sheet with some starting points); the main question to decide will be whether to invest in this, and the main task to find which strategies fit who you are and how you live.

For many of us, another way forward is to take the time to prepare ourselves prior to our worship together for that time of worship together – to prepare ourselves to come expecting to encounter God and to give ourselves permission to encounter God with our whole being, mind, heart, speech, and body in the presence of our fellow-seekers here.  Many of us give a lot of attention to getting ready for church without giving any attention to getting ready for worship.  If we arrived in the parking lot expecting to encounter God and to hear from God, eager for that encounter to begin, our experience of our time together here would be transformed in the direction of passionate worship. If a critical mass of us committed to the disciplines that nurtured this expectation, then our worship experiences together would indeed be of the sort to make the visitor who comes among “will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Cor 14:25).

Logos — more than Bible software

I find myself this week in Bellingham, WA, spending a week recording a course for the “Mobile Education” division of Logos — actually now FaithLife (or “The Company Formerly Known as Logos”).  This is my second trip to the Logos/Faithlife campus, the first one having taken place last March, also in connection with work for Mobile Ed. (then it was to record courses on the Apocrypha and on the Cultural World of the New Testament, this time it’s a course on the Letter to the Hebrews).

I just have to say that I continue to be so impressed with this company.  I don’t say this as a real Logos “user” (I still tend to use BibleWorks 9 for my day-to-day Bible software needs, and still love it, though I have learned how to use, and thus now use almost daily, Logos’s digital library resources, upon which I’m becoming increasingly dependent).  But there is just something really different and really striking about the ethos here.  First, I’m genuinely impressed with the sheer ingenuity and creativity of the people who populate this company (or perhaps I should say, “ecosystem” 🙂  ).  I come away from encounters here the way I come away from SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) — thinking new things, imagining new projects, and just plain excited again.  Second, I’m even more impressed with the corporate culture that Bob Pritchett and his core team have created and sustained here.  Everywhere there are signs of their care for their employees’ wellness at work, as it were — places to plug in and work while exercising, fabulous cappuccino machines and well-stocked refrigerators full of less caffeinated beverages in every building, a sizable employee lounge with DVDs, video games, and other venues for blowing off steam and taking a break.  I’m told they have kayaks, bicycles, and other outdoor “toys” available for borrowing, though I’m not in a position to try any of these out.  There’s also a real respect, it seems, for letting people work in the way that works for them — as long as the work gets done — as well as balance their own needs for days on and time away.  And, perhaps not surprisingly, “faith” does indeed pervade “life” here at Faithlife.

Yes, I imagine working at the speed of technology is also pretty stressful, but Bob & Co. certainly seem to be going far out of their way to make it also sustainable for the people working under their care.  All this to say, I leave after my second week here confirmed in all the impressions I had after my first visit.  God forbid I should ever have to find a “real job,” but if I did, I’d apply to Logos without hesitation.

A Christmas Sonnet

Each Christmastide we think nostalgically
About the baby born so long ago,
So far away. We dwell on what we know
So well — the mother smiling wearily,
The sage and shepherd there to see,
The husband, angels, and a star to show
The special stature of the child below.
But not alone to distant scenery
Does Christ belong, nor yet to prophecy
Still unfulfilled. Christ comes each day and walks
Among his churches, searching heart and mind,
Calling us away from our iniquity.
He stands outside the door and knocks,
New incarnations in our hearts to find.

Online presentation on the Septuagint

I’ve moved to Florida with my family and will continue teaching for Ashland Theological Seminary almost entirely online.  I need to use YouTube as a host for my lectures, so I’ll be making a good number of these public.  Perhaps they will be useful to others as well.  Here’s an introductory presentation on the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek for the use of Greek-speaking Jews which came to be the primary version of the Old Testament used by the early church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVoMv4M9ckk&feature=youtu.be&hd=1.

 

Hopefully I’ll cultivate a better “radio voice” as this process unfolds for me. 🙂

Lyrics for All Saints Day

About a decade ago, I was inspired (well, you should perhaps be the judge of that) to compose some lyrics appropriate for All Saints Day to be sung to the tune “Jerusalem” by H. H. Parry (we have this in the United Methodist Hymnal under the title “O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines”).  I just came across this sorting through endless stacks of papers and files in preparation for our move.  Only the second of the two verses has a rhyme scheme.  Don’t know what was up with that.  I guess the main thing was fitting Parry’s meter.

 

As by a veil obscured from sight,

So seem the saints who went before:

While their lives end, their witness remains

As mother lives in heart of child.

Both death and space conspire to divide

The members which in Christ are one,

But God has not left us alone,

Nor have the souls who to God fly.

 

O what a cloud of witnesses

On ev’ry side, in ev’ry mind,

Beckons us still to persevere

Until God’s peace and rule we find —

And like the cloud that led by day

God’s chosen people to their Land,

So let us follow all these saints

Till we at last among them stand.

 

 

Transformation: The Core of Paul’s Gospel

As I work my way towards a full-blown commentary on Galatians, I find myself trying to tackle separate facets of this daunting task in a variety of pre-NICNT publications.  I have two coming out later this year.  The first is an attempt to get a handle on Pauline theology, and to do so in a way that avoids the bifurcation between “justification by faith” and the Christian life (or sanctification).  I think I have found this handle in the metaphor of “transformation,” as seen in Paul’s fairly frequent featuring of words with the “morph-” root at their heart.  At present, this little book represents how I would answer the question, “What does Paul think is at the heart of the good news.”  I offer it not as a slam at more traditional theologies, nor as another sortie in the new perspective/old perspective debates, but as an attempt to look at Paul’s message afresh apart from the way certain understandings of “justification” may have limited our focus in regard to that message (and in regard to what Paul passionately wanted to see happen in and among his converts).  You can see more about the book here:

https://www.logos.com/product/42383/transformation-the-heart-of-pauls-gospel

There will be a print edition coming, perhaps a little later than the electronic edition.  I’m all for e-books, but I swore a decade ago that I’d never write a book that was only going to be published electronically.  Call me old-fashioned. I’m grateful to Logos for supporting both formats in its new program (spearheaded by the division called Lexham Press).

The second book will appear in the Baylor Handbooks on the Greek New Testament series.  It’s a fairly “nuts and bolts” guide to the grammar and lexicography of Galatians, meant as an aid primarily to students and pastors trying to work through the book in Greek as they are growing in familiarity with the language themselves, but I hope it may have some insights that will stimulate even seasoned scholars’ reflections on Galatians.

 

1 Peter 5:1-10

Freshly translated with our seminary’s graduating class in mind, and read at graduation.  Perhaps it will help you hear something fresh in this fabulous passage (and perhaps not — I enjoyed the exercise myself).

“I exhort the elders among you, then, — I, a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and a partner in the glory that is about to be revealed: tend the flock of God in your midst, not as people forced to do so begrudgingly, but willingly, in alignment with God; not with a view to what you can get out of it for yourself, but with a view to how you can offer help freely; not in a domineering and authoritarian manner, but in a manner that gives an example for the flock to imitate. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the wreath of glory that never withers.

“In the same spirit, you younger ones, submit yourselves to the elders. And all of you — clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God ranges himself against the arrogant, but gives favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, beneath God’s powerful hand, in order that he might exalt you in the proper time. Do this, casting all your anxiety upon him, because he is concerned about you.

“Stay sharp. Be on the watch. Your adversary the devil stalks about like a roaring lion, seeking to swallow someone up. Resist him, immovable in your faithfulness, knowing that the global community of your brothers and sisters endures the same kinds of sufferings to the end.

“Now may the God of all favor himself, who calls you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus after you have suffered for a little while, equip you, make you take root, strengthen you, and lay deep foundations for you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen.”

 

The Full Serenity Prayer

The “Serenity Prayer,” made famous through its use by Alcoholics Anonymous, is actually an 18th century German prayer of significantly greater length, appearing on the tombstone of Friedrich Oetinger (1702-1782) and presumably, therefore, of his composition.  It is sometimes attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892­–1971), which is impossible.

 

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,

courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other,

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

My denomination’s love affair with the insipid, part 1

I used to love the Christmas carol, “What Child is This?”  But now I wince every time I have to play it in church from the United Methodist Hymnal.  The reason?  The version used here has lost much of its force due the elimination of the second half of verses 2 and 3 in favor of repeating the innocuous second half of verse 1 as a refrain after all verses.  Did someone on the editorial board feel a twinge of nausea at the thought of the destiny of this little baby being crucifixion?  But, then, isn’t that really the whole point of Christmas?  And if we forget this core fact at Christmas, we end up trivializing the holiday.  It’s not about the warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we think about a newborn baby; it’s about the love of God shown in what would befall this particular baby.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Or, in the words of a stunning anthem by J. Martin,

Forgive us Lord, and grant us eyes to see
in every Christmas, Calvary;
Implant it in our hearts.
Help us recall amid trees of red and gold
on another tree raised long ago
we hung God’s brightest star.

I do so wish the United Methodist Hymnal contained the original, more profound version of this Christmas hymn.