The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Aug 31, 2013

Some Brief Thoughts on Bible Software (and Other Electronic Resources for Ministry)

 I was excited to recently read on Dr. David Black’s blog that he and his research assistant are working on a new book, tentatively titled The 100 Most Essential Tools for Using Greek in Ministry (see http://www.daveblackonline.com/blog.htm; scroll down to his post on Saturday, August 31st, 7:48am). Immediately my mind jumped to Bible software and its potential for use in the ministry (by “ministry,” I don’t mean “vocational ministry,” I mean all Christians everywhere in their work for Christ’s kingdom) and even personal Bible study. You don't need to be a nerd like myself to benefit from such tools!

 For the longest time, the “Big Three” of Bible software have been BibleWorks, Logos, and Accordance (I’ve owned both BibleWorks and Accordance). Back in the day (i.e., a decade or so ago), BibleWorks and Accordance had the reputation of being superior at exegesis and syntactical studies while Logos was what you used to build your digital library. I think everything’s a bit more balanced nowdays, though my own bias is that Accordance is absolutely fantastic in its ability to do in-depth syntactical and semantic analysis (with a slightly steep learning curve), while Logos still has a very good reputation for making books accessible in electronic format. It’s worth noting, though, that Accordance is designed for Mac but can be run on a PC with an emulator. If curious, check out the respective websites at http://www.bibleworks.com, http://www.logos.com, and http://www.accordancebible.com.
Of course, there are probably other less-known software (some of it may even be free), so feel free to enlighten me in the comments section. In addition, I’m sure “smart” phones are now able to use Bible software to varying degrees. I still have a “primitive” cell phone, so I’m afraid I know little about such capabilities. While your phone is making you an Expresso and planning your next vacation, I use mine to actually make phone calls, which I thought was kind of the point of owning a phone in the first place . . ., but I digress. (Okay, so maybe I’m just a teensy-weensy bit jealous of your phone).

Anyways, good Bible software can help you do the following:
1.    Compare Bible versions. Even those without much Greek and Hebrew proficiency can still compare versions and at least get an idea of how controversial passages and/or words are handled. Also, study notes and even maps are usually included. All this is available with a mouse click.
2.    Give you immediate access to a theological library. This includes commentaries, systematic theologies, the church fathers, and Christian classics. Imagine being able to compare the views of Wayne Grudem and Millard Erickson on atonement, side by side, with just a few mouse clicks. Imagine being able to check out 3 different commentaries on Romans 9 within a matter of minutes, without getting up from your chair!
Now, frankly, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to books and journals; I prefer something actually in my hand, and I probably will never have much of a digital library. Still, mark my words, the day is coming when most preachers will get up in the pulpit and say, “Please take our your I-phones and scroll down to John, chapter 1 . . .”  (if you’re in the mood for a satirical Australian discussion on Bible mediums, check out Michael Bird, “Dear Presbyter, Bring your Scroll to Church
3.    Allow basic word searches. Many modules for Bible software come with Strong’s concordance numbers or its equivalent, so even those without Greek proficiency can see how the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word for “ministry” throughout his epistles. [warning: there are, of course, plenty of word-study fallacies that must be avoided. Most of these mistakes, however, occur quite frequently without the help of Bible study software, so this is hardly the place for an in-depth discussion of word-study fallacies! Still, there is much benefit, in my opinion, to seeing how a word is used elsewhere in Scripture, as well as in the 1st century literature]
4.    Allow in-depth syntactical and semantic study. This is the kind of stuff for serious Bible students and scholars. Accordance, for example, allows me to see how many times an Aorist imperative occurs within 5 words of a present-tense imperative in Josephus' Jewish Wars, if that ever becomes important [rabbit trail alert! In my opinion, the debate on Verbal Aspect Theory would be better served by less theoretical linguistics and more examination of actual 1st century 
      texts . . .]. With accordance, I can also see how the LXX uses the Greek word for “atonement,” or also how the Masoretic and LXX differ on a passage.

Naturally, all of the above costs money (and when all is said and done, the determined student may quite easily spend more on Bible software than he or she does on their computer!), but at the very basic package you’re sure to get a number of Bible versions with some basic study tools. In the meanwhile, you can search online for other resources (Google Books, for example, has many old classics that are public domain now).

One more thing: for the serious student of 1st century Greek, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG for short) can prove to be invaluable. As for me, I could not have done my dissertation without it (examining the use of the Greek words proginwskw and prognwsis within 1st century literature). It’s a bit expensive: over 100 dollars a year (though you can get a “five-years for the price of four” deal), but for some, it may be worth it.

Naturally, all the fancy-schmancy software in the world is no substitute for living out the Word. At the end of the day, an 80-year old lady who only has her King James Bible yet strives to love her neighbor is a better servant of Christ than a Ph.D. student with the latest bells and whistles of Bible software who cares little about praxis. Still, we live in an incredible age with hither-to undreamt of Bible study tools. It wouldn't hurt to make use of some of them.

Aug 4, 2013

Book Alert! A must read for prospective doctoral students: Prepare, Succeed, Advance by Nijay K. Gupta

 Nijay K. Gupta, Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond (Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick, 2011).
Now this is not a full-blown book review. Samuel Emadi has already written a fine review in a recent issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (vol. 56.1, March 2013), and I basically agree with his assessment. However, this is a book that needs to be brought to the attention of any prospective doctoral student, and so I wanted to make a few comments on it.

To begin with, the book is fairly short (156 pages), yet surprisingly comprehensive. Nijay K. Gupta (professor at Seattle Pacific University) covers such diverse topics as the differences between British and US schools, looking for a job after you get your degree, basic tips for research (e.g., don’t over rely on commentaries! [p. 82]), and how to prepare for your dissertation’s defense. There are three sections to the book with 3 chapters in the first two and 4 chapters for the last section. The first section, “Prepare,” covers 1. “Choosing a Doctoral Program,” 2. “Preparing for Doctoral Studies: From Education to Application,” and 3. “Making an Application.” The second section, “Succeed,” covers 4. “Orientation to the PhD and Choosing the Research Topic,” 5. Researching and Writing the Dissertation,” and 6. “How to Defend Your Work (preparing for your oral defense).” The final section, “Advance,” covers 7. “Orientation: From PhD to Employment and Beyond,” 8. “Conference Participation and Publishing,” 9. “Teaching Experience,” and 10. “Job Hunting, Interviewing, and Publishing the Dissertation.” Gupta also includes a bibliography of helpful resources for research, although it is heavily weighted towards NT and Pauline research, and consequently not equally as helpful towards all.

As mentioned above, this is a must-read for most, if not all, prospective doctoral students, due to its wealth of material and its easily-readable style. Now, this book is geared towards both believers and nonbelievers interested in biblical studies, so you won’t see much on spiritual development or family life, both important topics for the evangelical student. I am somewhat disappointed that Gupta does not really spend much time discussing finances, something I wish somebody had discussed with me before I began looking at doctoral programs! Nevertheless, the book, for the most part, covers what you would want such a book to cover.

In his conclusion, Gupta provides us with some very helpful tips on the academic life. Let me focus on and reinforce two of them. Gupta states, “Be eclectic. Many PhD students and young professionals become a one-trick pony because their research was so focused that they are unaware of what is going on in the wider fields of biblical studies. . . . I would encourage you to maintain, alongside your primary specialty, an interest in a few other areas. This will actually enhance your research . . . .” (p. 150) I would personally add (even though it goes against conventional wisdom) that not all the classes you take should be connected with your dissertation. I audited OT Theology and benefited from it; I also took “Christian Faith and Science,” thoroughly enjoyed it, and got an article published out of it (totally outside my main field of study, yet a topic I enjoyed). It goes without saying that most of  your classes should be within your field of study (and SEBTS required 4 out of 8, I believe), but otherwise take a few topics that you think might challenge you, or that you’re curious about.

Gupta also states, “Count your blessings. . . . Remember the privilege of what you are doing!  In broader perspective, only a small percent of the world’s population will have the chance (and honor) t study at the master’s level, let alone spend several years at an even higher level . . . .” (p. 150) To that we can all give a hearty “amen”! Doctoral study is a privilege granted to some by God (and, in of itself, is no guarantee of spirituality or even intelligence). If you get that opportunity, thank God for it on a consistent basis and don’t squander it!

It’s worth briefly comparing Gupta’s book with the Ben Witherington’s recent Is There a Doctor in the House?(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2011). Witherington’s book, it seemed to me, is concerned more with scholarship and teaching ability; while his work is valuable and does contain some helpful info for prospective students (and, I might add, at this point I think Witherington is the better writer), I think Gupta’s book is the one I want prospective students to read first, since Gupta deals with a wider range of questions and issues that will plague doctoral students.

For any of my readers interested in doctoral work, please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail with your questions!