Pondering and plotting: Biblical resources tips?

Because of some classes, lately I’ve been thinking a little and would like to bounce something off of anyone who’d have some input. I’d be particularly interested in hearing from those who’ve been through a seminary or similar program, and/or those who have planned and implemented a really successful Bible Study program in their parish.

I’m thinking of putting together a short list (or two) of Bible Study resources for the use of seminarians not only for their own use and edification during seminary, but that would also be of permanent value in planning out Bible Study programs in their parishes after seminary, and in fact of permanent value for personal study.

Now, I’m quite familiar with the Bible, the wider ancient Near Eastern cultural context, the history of scholarship, and so on. But in seminary, we’re seeing people, my fellow students, who don’t know the general outline of, much less the stories of the Old Testament, and never mind the cognate languages and cultures and the history of the ancient Near East and such relevant matters. These people are, however, need to be brought up to speed within four years, so that they can help others to learn these things. I think I can help, and I’m not going to abandon my fellow students just because the task is a daunting one. Already I’m helping them as much as I can. One has even affectionately termed me, “The guy who knows too much!” So droll. But it’s a serious issue. If one can help in such a situation, one not only should, but must.

They’re also going to need to have a set of resources available that will be useful in planning Bible Study programs in their parishes, particularly if they’re ordained and find themselves in charge of all the educational programs of a parish, or in fact need to introduce such programs, starting them from scratch, as the case may be.

Now, my problem is that I’m familiar with rather technical works, original language lexicons, chief reference works, advanced monographs, and so on. I’m not familiar at all with the level of references and helps available to the middle range of Bible students who want solid scholarship. I’d like help from my very helpful readers who’ve had experience in these areas. I’ll make some suggestions below in various categories, and maybe we can refine them through discussion in the comments. If we go about this right, the results could (and should!) be generally useful for everyone in a similar situation.

SOFTWARE PACKAGES
I don’t want to get into a huge discussion over which software is “best” or anything like that. I think it’s clear right now that we’ve got three major players: Accordance for the Mac, BibleWorks for Windows, and Logos for both. Accordance and Logos both have mobile device versions, which is very useful. The pricing for the three varies, but essentially they share the same approach: a basic application is purchased to which one may add various purchased modules. These modules may be entire collections of books, etc, or individual ones (particular versions of the Bible, single books, etc). Logos has a staggering array of materials available, but they are not cheap. Accordance likewise has a large number of materials available, but not too much on the free end. BibleWorks is the only one of the three which makes it easy to import fully any Bible version files (or anything else for that matter). I tend to think of Accordance and BibleWorks as roughly equivalent in search and analysis capabilities, but with BibleWorks being better for importing. The mobile Accordance is great (I have it on my iPhone and iPad). Logos I have used for many years not for Bible study, but as an electronic book reader. I think that’s really what they used to be, primarily. I have a large number of books and journal runs in Logos format. It’s very nice for that. The mobile version of Logos is also great, but there’s an important proviso: one must own one of the various base packages offered by Logos (see here) in order to access your electronic library in the mobile version. So, even if you own hundreds of books in Logos, if you don’t have one of those base packages, you won’t be able to see any of those books in the mobile Logos. That’s something to keep in mind.

Now, all three of these programs can of course be used in a basic, midrange, or advanced manner. So I think that the combination of either Accordance or BibleWorks (depending on platform) along with Logos (available for both Mac and Windows) would be one item.

And within those programs, in addition to a variety of English Bibles, the user should make certain to have the following:
1.) a Greek New Testament (in the case of us Orthodox, both the UBS/NA critical text and a representative of the Byzantine Text)
2.) the Septuagint (in both the original Greek and the New English Translation of the Septuagint and/or the Brenton translation)
3.) the BDAG NT Greek lexicon
4.) the “Great Scott” (the Oxford Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon)
5.) [if the user has Hebrew] the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible
6.) the HALOT Lexicon
I think those are a core of necessities.

To Logos could be added all of the above, and any other books discussed below (though I’ve found that things with illustrations are awkwardly displayed in the mobile version, with images not being zoomable, which lack simply results in useless illustrations) if they are available in the Logos format. It’s great to have a book in Logos, as it’s searchable! There’s no need to curse the lack of an index or a poorly done index.

COMMENTARIES
I’m rather eclectic in my commentary collecting. Electronically, I like to have commentary sets that are both recent and close to complete or indeed complete. I’ll buy individual volumes in hard copy from commentary series that for whatever reason don’t cut the mustard in toto when those volumes are said by reliable sources to be excellent. But I don’t think this is a very practical way of going about it. Multivolume commentaries may simply be too much in several dimensions: cost, size, potential uselessness. Perhaps a one-volume commentary would suffice in some cases?

So, what would be a good commentary set, particularly for Eastern Orthodox Christians? The Ancient Christian Commentary is cute, but it’s not fully a commentary, is it? (I don’t own any of these.) Blurbs from Church Fathers does not a commentary make. Is there a good set that would fulfill the following requisites: 1.) not too technical: enough detail to clarify, but not so much detail as to obfuscate; 2.) relatively conservative; 3.) references the Church Fathers: a boy can dream!; 4.) good interaction with historical-critical method: discussion of the perspective of historical-critical issues, even if it doesn’t wholly accept them; 5.) coverage of ancient world: that is, it should provide some discussion of the context of the ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman cultural spheres; 6.) coverage of the extended canon: the Orthodox Bible includes not only all of the books of the Protestant Bible, but those of the Catholic Bible and then some: 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasses, Psalm 151 and 4 Maccabees.

For one-volume commentaries, a while ago I picked up a copy of the Eerdmans Commentary of the Bible. I find it to be quite nice, a good balance of the above requirements, if a bit short in coverage. That’s the nature of one-volume commentaries. A definite plus of this single-volume commentary is that it covers all the books in the NRSV/RSV (which both include all the books of the Orthodox Bible) as well as including a commentary on 1 Enoch, which is a first, as I recall.

BIBLE ATLAS
Here, I’m all ears. I love my Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World, my Carta Bible Atlas and The Sacred Bridge, and even the Oxford Bible Atlas (although the fourth edition really needs to be bound differently so that the double-page-spread maps don’t lose content in the gutter). I also have the ESV Bible Atlas, which is a very nice production and probably exactly what I would recommend in this case. Any other ideas?

Any ideas on collections of electronic maps? These would be useful for presentations. I haven’t really looked into this, as I’ve never (yet–I shudder to think) had to do such.

BIBLE DICTIONARY
For this, I think the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible wins hands down. For a more advanced approach, I would recommend the Logos electronic edition of the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. But perhaps there are other recommendations, as well?

VARIOUS
Something that provides a good way to track down subjects that span multiple books of the Bible so that the reader can plan a thematic Bible Study program of some sort. I know there are lots of these things, but I don’t know of any in particular. Can anyone recommend something or several?

How about some books on planning a Bible Study curriculum itself? I have some books on individual Bible Study (Traina, Methodical Bible Study, McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, Jensen, Independent Bible Study, and Bullinger How to Enjoy the Bible, and some others probably kicking around here somewhere), but nothing on preparing a group Bible Study.

Anything else? Have there been any particular books or types of books that have been essential or very helpful in preparing Bible Study programs? That helped you learn more about the Bible itself when you were starting out? That work well for several levels of familiarity with the Bible?

Those of you readers who’ve done this kind of planning or studying already, who are in or have been through seminary or a similar program, particularly those with a robust program in Bible and some sucess in implementing a successful, appreciated, and well-attended Bible Study program, please do share some suggestions. We need all the help we can get!

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40 Responses to Pondering and plotting: Biblical resources tips?

  1. Nick Norelli says:

    I’ve never done anything on the scale you’re envisioning, and I’ve not been to seminary, but at first blush I think the Blackwell Bible Commentaries seems closest to what you’re looking for in a commentary. It’s a series focused on the reception history of each book so there’s plenty of references to Patristic writers along with writers from every age of the church. It’s attune to historical-critical matters, not terribly technical, but technical enough to keep someone at an intermediate level thinking, and it ain’t the most liberal series I’ve ever seen but I don’t know that I’d exactly call it conservative either. They do cover some of the cultural background that you’re looking for but not terribly in-depth. The problem is that they only have 10 volumes published to date and I’m not sure that they ever plan to produce volumes on the Anagignoskomena.

    The only series I’m aware of that cover more than the basic Protestant canon are Fortress Press’ Hermeneia series, Brill’s LXX Commentary series, and the old Anchor Bible series (I guess it’s Anchor Yale now but I have no clue if they’ve done anything new with it). Also, for a more critical one-volume commentary than the Eerdmans one you’ve mentioned, you might consider the Oxford Bible Commentary edited by John Barton and John Muddiman. For something that is conservative and a bit newer then Eerdmans Companion to the Bible might suffice. In addition to a running commentary on the entire Bible are a number of articles on various topics from a wide range of scholars. It’s “broadly evangelical” (publisher’s description) though, so I’m not sure how much help it will be to the Orthodox student.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. Keep us updated on how this all goes for you.

  2. Mark James says:

    I’m too long out of seminary to help, and the seminary I graduated from wasn’t even Greek Orthodox. I used BibleWorks myself since it only cost me $250. People who buy Logos end up spending thousands of dollars.

    However, isn’t preparation of classmates what the profs are supposed to be doing, not you? You might step on someone’s toes there. Just sayin’.

    Quick question. What’s the best book(s) in English on Greek Orthodox eschatology, ancient and modern? After some search I came up with these:

    At the end of time: the eschatological expectations of the church (1997), by Bishop Gerasimos Papadopoulos, Holy Cross Publ.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=_UYJAAAACAAJ

    The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of Ancient Christianity (1996), by Averky Taushev, and Seraphim Rose
    http://books.google.com/books?id=jigoAAAACAAJ&dq=0938635670

  3. Theophrastus says:

    Kevin –

    I think you are in a tough spot. As far as I know, there are very few materials in on Bible study English designed for an Orthodox audience. It seems that there are a wealth of materials designed for secular audience, or Protestant audiences, or to a more limited degree Jewish and Catholic audiences, but except for works such as The Orthodox Study Bible I know of few which are specifically designed for an Orthodox audience.

    But your query also seems confused. Who is your audience? If it is for a parish study, I am not convinced that all those Greek and Hebrew resources are required. Is that really “middle range”?

    In terms of layout, I really like the JPS series of commentaries — they present Hebrew, English, notes, and advances excurses. It is a pity that no one is doing something similar with the NT or Septuagint. I do know synagogues and lay people who have used these commentaries with great success.

    My favorite NT at this point is The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (NASB/NIV) (2nd edition, ISBN 0310492963). The advantage of this is the amazing interlinear translation by Robert Mounce, which preserves Greek word order. I think that this work would be useful even for an audience that reads a little Modern Greek. There is also a KJV/NKJV edition that might be more appropriate for an Orthodox parish (0310241642)

    Software packages

    I love Logos and now use it exclusively as my computer platform. It is very convenient for reference, however, I am not willing to sit down and read an entire book in Logos. Give me a bound book.

    For my iPhone, I prefer Olive Tree.

    Commentaries

    For printed commentaries, I think the best strategy is not to collect an entire set, but rather to choose individual volumes. For one-volume commentaries, I also like the Eerdman’s Commentary, but I suspect it is too advanced and historical-critical for your proposed audience. Also, with more than one book, I think you are inviting disaster for your parish study. I think you either need individual volumes (if you are doing a book-by-book study) or a study Bible. Asking congregants to bring in a thick Bible, a thick Bible dictionary, a thick Bible commentary — who is going to do that? Assuming that the Oxford Study Bible is out of the question, I think you are best off using one of the RSV or NRSV study Bibles — I know that you know all the usual suspects. For the NT, you may find Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament acceptable, but the constant references to the Catechism and Western Church Doctors would undoubtedly drive your congregants crazy. However, if you ever decide to go back to Catholicism, I think you would find it would meet most of your desiderata.

    Bible Atlas

    I have nothing to add to your list of books, but it seems you may be unfamiliar with the biblemapper software (just google it, or add dot-com to that name). I think you will find the software useful.

    Bible Dictionary

    You have a hard copy of the Anchor Bible Dictionary too, right? I find it is useful because, of course, it also contains a whole Bible commentary (book-by-book) in it. I also like the Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary

    Various

    Have you seen Wright’s “… for Everyone” series (e.g., Matthew for Everyone, etc.)? It is aimed considerably lower than you are thinking of, but I think it is perhaps more appropriate in level for a parish study. The problem, of course, is that it is Wright’s view of the NT; but I think it shows the possibility of a self-teaching Bible study that can be effective. At another level, as mentioned before, one has something like the JPS Commentaries, that are considerably more sophisticated, but still accessible to an educated lay audience.

    The three works that I mentioned here that you may not be familiar with but may find useful:

    The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, New Testament (until recently, this was available for $15 paperback and $20 hardcover from Amazon, but Amazon has just increased their prices — it also had a fantastic Kindle realization which seems to have been pulled.)

    Zondervan Greek-English Interlinear — I know you are a purist and would never let an interlinear sully your bookshelves. But I do think this is the best available interlinear.

    biblemapper — just amazing software

  4. Byron Stuhlman says:

    Kevin:

    You might want to post some on-line resources. I don’t keep a Septuagint bible, but do want from time to time to look up a text. I also go on line for the Hebrew text sometimes, although I have the Biblia Hebraica. If I want to copy text, however, it’s easier to get it on line. Here’s a site for the both the Septuagint and the Biblia Hebraica, though the apocrypha (e.g., the additions to Daniel) is found separately and one has to figure out book titles in German.
    http://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/online-bibeln/biblia-hebraica-stuttgartensia-bhs/lesen-im-bibeltext/

    It’s certainly cheaper to use these than to buy software.

    And here’s one for the Septuagint in its own order, with Brenton’s translation.

    Byron Stuhlman

  5. Mark James says:

    I’ll ask the Holy Cross librarian what the best Orthodox eschatology book is in English.

  6. Nick, yes, there’s really not that much available on an Orthodox front, but the Patristic angle is being played about lately, which is nice. In addition to the Blackwell series there’s the even better Eerdmans series The Church’s Bible, which does basically the same thing, but keeps to earlier Fathers. The Blackwell ranges up to the modern/reformation period.

    Theophrastus, thanks for the tip on biblemapper. I hadn’t heard of that! My first concern is my fellow students and their own education right now. These are people who’ll be going into ministry of one kind or another and they’ll need some useful materials now that I hope are also going to help them eventually in planning the instruction of others. But right now they simply need materials that are going to help them learn the Bible and about the Bible while we’re in seminary. I’m thinking of things that’ll be of lasting value, covering the middle of the range of the simplistic to advanced spectrum (where the former is “children’s level Sunday School stuff” and the latter is advanced philological/historical-critical stuff), things that will help with their education now but also in planning simple lessons later. Something based around the level of the Eerdmans Commentary and the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible would be just about right: not too technical, but not too basic. There’s enough material to point them to further study, or they can just leave it at that. One issue is that the commentary would have to cover all the books in our canon, so all the “apocrypha” need to be in there (all those books in the RSV/NRSV). That limits the one-volume commentaries to (as far as I know) the Oxford and the Eerdmans in order to be comprehensive. I had a print copy of the ABD, but gave it to our assistant priest. I hadn’t cracked it open in years, instead using the Logos version all the time. I needed to cut down on the number of books! It’s a fine dictionary, and mini-commentary, as you noted. I’ll have to look at the other volumes you mention, most of which I’m not familiar with. I think, of the lot, the JPS commentaries would be good, from your description. Oh, and on the iPhone and iPad, OliveTree is my favorite, too!

    Mark, my fellow students need help, and have asked for it. I can’t ignore that. And our Old Testament professor has been surprised by the (lack of) knowledge of the OT on the part of this class already, mentioning it to me just yesterday. It’s a spiralling thing that he’s noticed: Biblical literacy is in a nosedive. With a little effort, we’ll get over this. Like you, I really like BibleWorks. But some stuff is only available on Logos. The Papadopoulos book would be a good one for a general view, and the other is pretty much the commentary on the Apocalypse written by St Andrew of Caesarea, which was just published in the Ancient Christian Texts series, here. A translation of the commentary on the Apocalypse by Oecumenius is in the same volume. St Andrew’s commentary is the basis for all Orthodox commentary on the Apocalypse. That being said, there’s not a great fascination with eschatology in Greek Orthodox circles, so that there’s not much available on the subject. I think you’d find Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity interesting, and the two books by Dennis Englemann, Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End Times and A Rumor of War: Christ’s Millennial Reign and the Rapture of His Church (which latter seems to be out of print). And, as you mention in your other comment, yes, you ought to ask our Librarian, Fr Joachim. I’m sure he’ll be able to help you.

    Thanks for that tip, Byron! I had that site bookmarked somewhere! Very nice! (Your second link is lost in the ether, though!)

  7. Theophrastus says:

    It is certainly not the case the Oxford and Eerdmans are the only one volume commentaries on the expanded canon. Both the HarperCollins Bible Commentary (ISBN 0060655488), the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (ISBN 068733411X) also have that. (However, in my opinion, the Eerdman’s is better than either of them, although the HarperCollins is not bad; and the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary is also not bad — although I haven’t yet looked at the 2011 edition; I know the 1996 edition. )

    For the JPS commentaries, I would suggest starting with Milgrom’s commentary on Numbers (ISBN 0827603290) — it is a nice complement to his Anchor Bible commentary on Leviticus. If you like that, you can consider investing in more.

    However, I would be a little surprised if your fellow seminarians don’t have a good NT background. It would seem that a general introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Septuagint might be what they need.

    But aren’t courses on Bible required in your seminary?

    There is a volume called The Portable Seminary: A Master’s Level Overview in One Volume (ISBN 0764201603). Actually it is pretty wretched, although it might correspond to seminary education at some of the not-so-good seminaries.

    But here’s the thing — I think that someone who works through whole Anchor Bible Dictionary (preferably not reading the articles in some order more logical than alphabetical!) and does language studies (and of course reads the Bible) — I think that arguably such a person might have the equivalent of masters in biblical studies.

    As I sit here right now, I cannot think of another work that I can say that of. Now you may object that the ABD is about 7300 pages. (If you read 5 pages a day, you can cover it in four years.) But I cannot think of of a combination of another 7500 pages that covers the Bible as thoroughly as the ABD does.

    • Thanks, Theophrastus! I only had the Oxford and Eerdmans one-volume commentaries. I have the first ed of the Harper Collins Study Bible and had a copy of the dictionary, but gave that away. I completely forgot about that commentary. I used to have it, I think, or at least online access. It was okay, as I recall, but nothing spectacular. The Eerdmans really is nice; they seem to be producing some really excellent tools lately. Although I like the actual physical characteristics of the Oxford (it’s beautifully made), I was always non-plussed by the content, so it joined the Great Batcave Book Giveaway on my arrival here (“Batcave” is the nickname for a very long hallway on the lowest level of the dorm building here, where I laid out about twenty feet of books for others to pick through).

      Courses on Bible are required here, of course, in both the undergraduate and graduate programs. The problem is that the students were (wrongly) expecting to be taught the Bible on arrival (they really don’t know it at all), and the professors (rightly) expect them to be familiar with it already. It’s not as bad with NT as with OT. We have lengthy pericopae from the NT (Epistle and Gospel) every Sunday, which covers most of every book (except the Apocalypse, which is not read from at all–the Byzantine lectionary was established by the eighth century, while the Apocalypse’s canonical status was not firmly agreed upon until apparently the late ninth/early tenth century, so it missed the lectionarial boat). But the Old Testament is really a mystery to most Orthodox Christians. Sure, there are basic references that people understand, but probably only very few more than the general populace does. Our current Old Testament Introduction class is too much for some of them. Not only do they not have the basic literary framework, they have no concept of compositional theories in any sense, so that the introduction to historical-critical methodology is more perplexing than you would think. It’s not too surprising, really, but it’s a challenge. I’ve heard from various priests in teaching roles that Orthodox don’t know the Old Testament. Now I’ve seen it with my own eyes: the future priests of our archdiocese need to know the Old Testament, and I’m going to help them know it. That’s what it boils down to. So I need to get organized about it all. If I can get everything together properly, the list of recommendations could be sent out to incoming students prior to their arrival, and they’d be better prepared to dive into the required OT and NT classes at the very least. But I also want the resources to be useful for years to come, for their own planning purposes for instructing parish Bible Study groups, Sunday School curricula, and such.

      You’re absolutely right about the ABD. It’s excellent. The electronic version is great for looking things up (which the indexless print version is not: I had a plan to do a full index of the ABD, but this is shelved), but it’s really not so comfortable for reading. The newer Logos version is much better than the old one though, the fonts of which were horrid. The problem is the price, of course. Most people here are absolutely broke. Student life! The one-volume Eerdmans dictionary and commentary would be both more immediately accessible and affordable right this minute.

      The Masoretic/Septuagint distinction needs to be worked on for an Orthodox context, and resources collected and synthesized. That’ll just need to be done. I expect it to become the seed for a book, some kind of introduction to the Old Testament for Orthodox Christians. Pentiuc (our OT Intro instructor) is actually working on one, but it’s not finished yet. It should be very interesting and useful once it’s done, as he has a very interesting take on the role of critical scholarship: generally positive but with reservations. To my delight, he brought up the antisemitic underpinnings of the “critical” venture and their mid-nineteenth century German liberal social/intellectual/political underpinnings, referring to Wellhausen (and others!) as “that bastard”! Awesomeness. Anyhow, you’re right: it’s a combined Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Septuagint introduction that these guys need. And they need it last week, actually….

      Thanks so much for your comments, everyone, especially Theophrastus the Educator! Now I’m off to Patrology class!

      • Theophrastus says:

        Just to clarify: I was not speaking of the HarperCollins Study Bible — but the HarperCollins Bible Commentary. (Just as elsewhere I presume that you were not talking about the New Oxford Annotated Bible but the Oxford Bible Commentary.)

        • Right, Theophrastus! I think they used to offer online access to the HarperCollins commentary through the SBL site, along with the dictionary. It was a really awkward implementation (basically just a bunch of hyperlinked pages), but the content seemed complete. I should’ve been clearer about that. That would’ve been the same edition you mentioned.

  8. Mark James says:

    Thanks for the copious tips on Orthodox eschatology. Now to follow those leads.

  9. Kevin,

    I for one support your efforts.

    I have been teaching Adult education at our Orthodox parish for years, and you are correct in your assessment, especially in regards to the OT.

    I grew up in an Evangelical context, so I knew the OT well before entering college. However, upon becoming Orthodox the OT has become much more meaningful and it has really opened up for me.

    I have done a handful of different things in our classes over the years. I have done quick OT surveys, where I introduced the class to 10 dates to remember, and then use those as pegs when talking about people, events and books. I try to come back to these often just to create scope and context. Then I have discussed the various genres in the OT, and done short book by book summaries giving one keyword to help remember the content.

    Here are my 10 dates I use (they are rounded for ease of memory)

    2000 Abraham
    1500 Exodus
    1000 David/Solomon/Division
    720 Israel Falls to Assyria
    600 Judah Falls to Babylon
    530 Exiles Return
    300 Greek Rule
    160 Maccabees
    60 Roman Rule
    4BC Birth of Christ

    The other thing I try to do often is context the OT to the liturgy and not just the festal readings. For example, I spent about 4 weeks prior to Christmas going through the personalities in the geneaology of Jesus in Matthew. I have also walked through the Canon of St. Andrew, explaining and unpacking all the OT references.

    As for resources, this has been hard. I agree with your assessment of the Ancient Christian commentary. I do refer to these personally, but I always come away frustrated, and they really become nothing more than a guidepost to finding primary texts. Fr. Reardon’s books on various OT books have been good, but they are often too dense for a lot of the classmates.

    Johanna Manley created a series of Adult Bible study resources that aren’t bad, but I think the project was dropped and they may be out of print.

    Once, I tried teaching through Hebrews, and realized I had to spend so much time on the OT to provide context and understanding.

    I look forward to your plans and strategies, and would love to brainstorm more about this. There is much that needs to be done by us both on the academic level and the more devotional/lay level.

    • Thank you very much for that excellent input, Theron! That’s exactly on target. That date framework idea is very useful. And it very much appeals to my preference to avoid all hair-splitting!

      I’ll defintely be making the liturgical connection. That’s something that needs to be developed systematically in two directions: content and composition. Not only is what and how things were said in the hymnography important, but the methods of interpretation that led to that content and the intertextual connections therein are equally important. Typology may be unfashionable in some circles and illegitimate in others, but it is the backbone of Apostolic and Patristic interpretation of the Old Testament. I really want to develop that.

  10. Matt Reed says:

    I am a layperson in every respect and I know this is slightly off topic, but for students who are still novices big thick books and software programs might be a little intimidating. Have you considered putting together a list of other media that beginning students might find helpful?

    There are now a lot of good lectures and podcasts out there in audio and video formats, much of it for free or cheap.

    For Orthodox Christians just beginning to learn about the Bible, the first 50 or so of Jeannie Constantinou’s “Search the Scriptures” podcast is terrific. I think it’s an excellent beginner’s introduction, covering most of the basics.

    I’ve also listened to some of Christine Hayes’ Intro to the Old Testament course lectures at Yale Open Courses (she assigns readings from several of the books I’ve seen you recommend on this blog, like Pritchard, Kaufmann, Milgrom for instance), though I haven’t listened to the whole thing. Yale also has an Introduction to the New Testament, but I wasn’t impressed with it. There are a ton of resources from seminaries on iTunes U, but most of the delivery is too Evagelical-ly (forgive me) for me to stomach.

    I’ve also listened to some (relatively cheap on Audible and free in most public libraries) introductory lectures on the Hebrew Bible by Laurence Schiffman and the History of Ancient Israel by Eric Cline from Modern Scholar and they were kind of interesting, though superficial.

    There is a website that sells recorded lectures by Roman Catholic professors with lots of Scripture courses for sale called “now you know media,” but I’ve never actually listened to any of their lectures.

    I bet you there are lots more resources of this nature, too, as I am only a dabbler!

    By the way, thanks for your great blog and website!

    • Thank you very much, Matt, for both the compliment and for the pointers to podcasts/lectures. I hadn’t even thought of those! I’ll suggest them to my classmates, too. I learn better with printed material in front of me, and not as well in just listening. But others are different! It takes all kinds.

      I should clarify. I’m on a mission with two goals: to provide my grad student classmates with helpful material to bring them up to speed on the Old Testament especially, but also for those materials to be of more than just introductory value so that they’ll be useful to them in their parishes when they’re planning curricula for Bible Study, etc. So I’m thinking of this in terms of both stewardship (conservation of meager resources, that is, money) and quality (in that these materials should be of sufficient quality to be useful in both contexts). I’m not (yet) thinking in either case of materials for use by individuals in the parish Bible Study programs my classmates will someday be arranging. The materials are for my classmates.

  11. Mark James says:

    Here is what Mrs. Hilary Rogler from the H.C. library suggested.
    I’ll have to email Fr. Joachim now:

    > Thank you for your email. Below are listed some Orthodox books in
    > English on eschatology They are all extensively used by our students in
    > their classes here. They also should provided a comparison between the
    > early church and the more modern understanding of eschatology.
    > 1. Orthodox Eschatology by George Nedelkoff
    > 2. The Shape of Death: life, death and immortality in the early fathers
    > by Jaroslav Pelikan
    > 3. Beyond the Grave: an Orthodox theology of eschatology by Konstantinos
    > Kallinikos
    > 4. The Hope of the Early Church: a handbook of patristic eschatology by
    > Brian Daley
    > 5. Ultimate things: an Orthodox Christian perspective on end things by
    > Dennis Engleman
    > 6. Life after Death by Hierotheos Vlachos
    > 7. At the end of time: the eschatological expectations of the Church by
    > Gerasimos Papadopouklos

    • Thank you for sharing the response you got from Hilary, Mark! Fr Joachim is going to be an excellent help, too. We’re blessed with excellent people in our Library at Holy Cross!

      • Mark James says:

        About a week ago Father Jochim did send me some information on Orthodox eschatology. However, it was just a cut and paste from the library’s Sirsi system, plus the search results on Dumbarton Oaks papers. So he didn’t really recommend any book or books.

        I ended up buying these books which can be had for several bucks each plus shipping:

        Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End Times, by D E Engleman

        A Second Look at the Second Coming, by T L Frazier

        Unfortunately, “The Apocalypse: In the Teachings of the Ancient Christianity, by Archbishop Averky Taushev, is out of print, and the cheapest copies are $63:

        http://www.booksprice.com/comparePrice.do?l=y&searchType=compare&inputData=0938635670

        • Mark James says:

          I found that an institute at Holy Cross Seminary put out a book on early Christian eschatology called “Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity” with Robert J. Daly, SJ, as editor. It came out in 2009 and is published by Baker Book House. It is a reasonably priced paperback, too.

          • Yes, it’s a collection of papers from a conference of the Pappas Patristic Institute. It’s a very interesting collection. Most memorable from it was a description of the final judgment iconography. Very informative! All the articles will help you in your research.

  12. Dana Ames says:

    Hi Kevin, glad things are going well for you.

    You might know my friend John Burnett; he lived in Berkeley but went to church at St Nicholas in San Anselmo. He did missionary/adult catechetical work in Africa the last few years, so had to “start from scratch” and with very few resources at hand (most in boxes in the States). He’s back in the US, living in Salt Lake City. I met him through the NTWright email discussion group; we’re both fans. In fact, studying Wright pretty much opened most of the doors for me on my path to becoming Orthodox.

    In any case, John is also a big fan of John Sailhamer’s work on the Pentateuch, and similar structural/narrative approaches to especially the Gospels. He’s done extensive study on the book of Mark. You can contact him through his blog http://jbburnett.com/index.htm. I’m sure he’d be happy to share ideas with you.

    Dana

  13. As a young layman entering the world of Biblical Studies myself, Eugene Merrill’s ‘Kingdom of Priests’ was a very good overview of OT history, and John Walton’s ‘Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament’ and Richard Hess’s ‘Israelite Religions’ are good for contextual stuff. I’ve learnt a great deal in a relatively short space of time through reading these books.

    • Thank you for your recommendations, Benjamin! I’ve read both the Walton and Hess books, and agree with you. I’ve not read the Merrill book, so I thank you for pointing it out. I’ll have to read anything before I recommend it!

  14. Byron Stuhlman says:

    For a basic New Testament commentary, I find Raymond Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament (Anchor Bible Series) very good. Note that I filled in the missing link above.

    Byron

    • Hi Byron! Yes! I definitely intend to include Fr Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament. It’s excellent, a classic. I also like Luke Timothy Johnsons Writings of the New Testament, though I haven’t checked out the newest edition. I have the first. I’ve always enjoyed his work.

  15. Thomas Valentine says:

    Dumb question (in the packages needed for software): I understand the first four items, including the Byzantine text (I would say the Patriarchal text of 1904), but why items #5 and #6?

    Any good software packages for Linux?

    • Hi Thomas! Those are not dumb questions at all. The Hebrew is really necessary to arrive at an understanding of the Septuagint, and vice versa. Somewhere between the two lies a kind of ideal Bible. But the interaction is necessary. And unfortunately, those particular software packages, which are the cream of the crop, are not available natively in Linux. But you’d be able to run them in a Virtual Box environment. (I think they can do OSX now, though I haven’t checked in a while.) I don’t have any input on the quality of the Linux software, though. Someone out there probably has reviewed the various options, but I’m unfamiliar with them. Good luck!

  16. I have a list of Biblical Reference text recommendations here:

    http://www.saintjonah.org/articles/biblicalreference.htm

    I would be interested in your thoughts on it, and any supplementary suggestions you would add.

  17. Monica says:

    Greetings Kevin,
    At my church (GOA) hardly anyone is interested in Bible study. They just want to hear it said to them in the Divine Liturgy. Why? Is that an “Orthodox thing” — I ask as a convert from Catholicism (not that the Catholics I knew seemed any too interested in it either)?
    Also, please, I hope this is not too ignorant of a question…I heard the NRSV is not a good version for Orthodox, that it has bad modern interpretations…do you think this is true? I like it has all the Apocrypha, but is it OK for Orthodox?
    I learn so much from you and your readers/commenters though sometimes it is a “stretch” for my brain.
    MONICA

    • Thank you for your compliment, Monica. I’ll answer your questions in detail later today. These are very good questions.

    • Thomas Valentine says:

      Hi Monica,

      I’m sure when Kevin has the opportunity he can provide a lot more information than I, but in the meantime, you might want to take a look at something Kevin already wrote: http://www.bombaxo.com/blog/?p=701 — I think this covers the range of attitudes among Orthodox leaders in the United States (from the Holy Synod of the OCA’s condemnation to Metropolitan +Philip’s [apparent] endorsement).

      The article by Father John Whiteford to which he provided the link in his comment above has a link in §2 to a good overview on translations along with some recommendations.

    • Dear Monica,
      I’m very sorry to have forgotten to reply to you! Things got so busy, and then I was just about to write another post, and wanted to check these comments, when I noticed that I’d promised you answers and then failed to deliver them. I’m really very sorry. So here are your answers!

      I think it’s a general trend in most churches that people are becoming less interested in reading or hearing about the Old Testament. Instead of seeing the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and Prophets as Saints (which they are, in the Orthodox Church) and as examples for life, they think of the Old Testament as (if anything) a book about Jews and for Jews. Part of this is prejudice, of course, part of it ignorance, and part of it laziness. The Old Testament was the entire Bible of our Lord and the Apostles. Not a single book of the New Testament was used by our Lord, of course. They were all written long after His Ascension. And in the books and letters in the New Testament, references to the Scriptures refer to the Old Testament books, not to anything else. It’s backwards for people to ignore the Old Testament. It’s a treasure house. So part of the issue is to get people to realize all of this, and they would have a better chance of that if parishes celebrated all the feasts of the Forefathers and Prophets.

      The NRSV is something I think of as “Beauty and the Beast”. Like you say, it’s got all the books right there. And generally, it’s very well done. But the big issue with it is that in one of the last stages of editing, the language was atrociously altered to be more gender-neutral. It’s really a hack job, and tortures the language in places. In the New Testament there were also some other translational fads that were taken up, and these make it less useful for an Orthodox reader. The old RSV is still preferred in that sense. It’s a more solid and less fad-ridden translation. If it’s too stuffy, the ESV (English Standard Version) is a new Bible translation that’s basically a revision of the RSV, though without all the apocrypha, unfortunately. But the NRSV is okay to read especially in the Apocrypha, because they didn’t monkey around with it as much. They ruined the Psalms, unfortunately. But generally it’s quite good, particularly in the historical books. Those are done very well. If you’re worried about it, though, just stick with the RSV and ESV, and buy a set of the NRSV Apocrypha separately, like the New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, which I have and really like. The notes are very brief, and at the bottom of the page, giving dates and short clarifications, not overwhelming the page with commentary.

      I highly recommend the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) translation, though. The text is all online, but the printed volume is also inexpensive. The Septuagint is THE Old Testament of the Church. The NRSV, RSV, ESV, and all the other Protestant-originated Bible translations are based upon the Hebrew Masoretic Text, which is related to but not identical to the Hebrew that lay behind the Septuagint’s original Hebrew books. For us, the Septuagint is first, and the others second.

  18. Peter A. Papoutsis says:

    Hi Kevin:

    Well, I am a Septuagint guy all the way as you know. So I will leave the Hebrew to you. NETS for a good and up to date translation of the Septuagint in English. Brenton and Thompson for the Septuagint in older English. The Parallel Apocrypha from Oxford for a detailed study from various English renderings of the Deutro-canonicals and the Apostolic Bible for a LXX interlinear, even though the Deutros are missing. That personally bugs me and I even told the publishers that it was wrong for them to publish their work without the Deutros. Obviously I prefere The Holy Orthodox Bible for the LXX in English, but heck that’s just me what do I know. its not like I’m biased or anything.

    As for basic LXX text: 1) Zoe Brotherhood Text 2) Apostoliki Diakonia Text 3) Alfred Rahlfs Septuaginta, Editio Altera. Also, if you can get Swete’s LXX GET IT! I love it personally. I think Amazon is selling a new facsimile copy of it in 3 volumes.

    For the Greek New Testament I LOVE the RSV hands down for an English translation. Yeah its got problems in a few places, but we can correct it for Orthodox use, and do as its the official English translation of the Holy Gospel read in Englishy in the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

    Base Greek NT texts: 1) 1904 Patriarchal Greek New Testament 2) both UBS/NA critical texts 3) Textus Receptus Scrivner.

    Again. just me.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

    • Thomas Valentine says:

      Hi Peter,

      What is the difference between the Zoe Brotherhood Text and the Apostoliki Diakonia Text?

      Is there an official (in the sense of the 1904 Patriarchal Text) OT text?

      From what I’ve seen of your The Holy Orthodox Bible for the LXX in English, I like it, but, alas, my personal finances are not good. Will the entire OT eventually be offered as a whole? (Feel free to write me directly here.)

    • Thomas Valentine says:

      Is there a table of conversion of proper nouns as used in NETS to the more familiar Hebrew forms? Most of what I encounter in NETS I can figure out without problem, but there are some I really struggle with. A conversion table would be most helpful.

  19. Fr. Jim Rosselli says:

    Dear in Christ, Kevin–
    Orthodoxy is not big on technical/scholastic stuff. The demands of academic
    skepticism hinder, rather than help, understanding of the Revealed Word of God.
    To us, the Bible is not a textbook or a law book. It does not stand outside of or apart from us in any way, but is as intrinsic to our personal life and the life oif the Church as metabolism or breathing. So, we don’t do a lot of “commentary.” Instead, we soak up the Church Fathers, so that we might acquire their mindset, and so make this
    mindset the lens through which we read the Word of God.

    You would probably do well to pick up both the Fuill Bible and New Testament editions of the Orthodox Study Bible. But if you’re in a seminary environment, and hoping to reach students aspiring to Orthodox priesthood or ministry, you’re going to
    need a whole different approach from the one you’re perhaps used to.

    Merry Christmas!

    Fr. Jim +

  20. Dorian Hames says:

    Hi my loved one! I wish to say that this article is awesome, nice written and include approximately all significant infos. I’d like to see more posts like this .|

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