Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries (hereafter ZIBBC) are beautiful books. Let us make no mistake about that. Zondervan has produced some real eye candy with these two sets. These volumes are of the highest production value: heavy semi-gloss pages, full-color throughout, with two or more illustrations in every facing-page spread, with combination (both sewn and glued) sturdy hardcover library bindings (the NT volumes bear identical dustjackets to the library binding covers). Each volume is over 500 pages in length, and the text is in a clear and easily legible font, neither too small nor too large. The page layout is truly skilled, something that Zondervan seems always to have excelled at in its illustrated volumes. They have some really excellent book designers on hand, obviously. The aesthetic is modern without being flashy, and is consistent throughout all the volumes, New Testament and Old Testament. The photographs are generally large but are nearly always of sufficient detail that they are illustrative, and the wealth of them is quite impressive. Maps and other illustrations are also full-color. I will deal more with the illustrations below.

Continue reading “Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentaries”

On anachronistic puffery

Some new reading is surprisingly supportive of the points I made the other day in my post titled A Core of Belief.

The following excerpts on the subject of modern perceptions of ancient Greek divinatory practices come from Michael A. Flower’s The Seer in Ancient Greece (UC Press, 2008) [Buy one now: they’re having an awsome sale!]:

I well remember an incident in a seminar that made a great impression on me at the time. A student of mind from India, who happened to be a practicing Hindu, said that he found nothing peculiar about accepting at face value the Delphic prophecies recounted by Herodotus; for it was simply the case that a god, whom the Greeks happened to call Apollo, was speaking through the priestess. The other students jeered terribly, and my attempts to defend the intellectual legitimacy of his point of vew had little effect. What this incident impressed upon me was not the authenticity of Delphic prophecy, but rather the difficulty that many of us have in taking different systems of belief seriously on their own terms.

I think that in a book of this sort it is not out of place to reveal something of my own biases right at the beginning. The reader will not find any declaration as to the validity of divination. That is not to say that I believe in the power of the Pythia to predict the future or in the ability of seers to determine the divine will by examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. But it is to say that I am convinced that the vast majority of Greeks really believed in such things. THey took their own religion seriously, and as a system of knowledge and belief it worked very well for them. It is methodologically inappropriate when modern scholars project their own views about religion on the Greeks and sometimes even claim that the seers as a group were conscious charlatans who duped the superstitious masses. Such assertions fly in the face of work on divination by anthropologists, work that reveals a good deal about the mentality of diviner and client as well as about the social usefulness of divination. (From the Preface, p. xiii-xiv.)

[I]t is common to be told that the priests at Delphi, who knew the questions in advance, put into verse the inarticulate ramblings of the Pythia; that generals cynically (or at least consciously) manipulated the omens to suit their strategic needs or to boost the morale of their troops; and that seers told their employers precisely what they thought they wanted to hear. Since divination is a marginal practice in industrialized Western societies, such questions and answers are formed from the viewpoint that divination must have been an encumbrance to the Greeks, something that rational individuals either had to maneuver around or else had to manipulate for their own interests. Above all, to modern sensibilities, a random and irrational system of divination must not be seen as determining what the elite of the Greek world thought and did. In fact, it has been argued that the elite manipulated divination for their own ends, whether to exploit or to assist the uneducated masses. It is easy enough to validate this prejudice by appealing to the more “rational” segment in Greek society; for instance, by quoting isolated expressions of skepticism, such as the famous line attributed to Euripides that “the best seer is the one who guesses well.”

Our own biases can be hard to overcome. As the anthropologist Philip Peek has observed, “the European tradition tends to characterize the diviner as a charismatic charlatan coercing others through clever manipulation of esoteric knowledge granted inappropriate worth by a credulous and anxiety-ridden people.” In reference to divination in sub-Saharan Africa he concludes: “Instead, we have found diviners to be men and women of exceptional wisdom and high personal character.” I am convinced that if we could go back in time and conduct the sort of fieldwork that a contemporary anthropologist is able to engage in, we undoubtedly would find that Peek’s observation would hold true for the Greek seer as well. (Pages 4-5.)

The book is fascinating. I recommend it to all. It’s the first book-length treatment of the subject.

A Core of Belief

We’re constantly reminded by the modern academic establishment of the qualities required in its writings. A witch’s brew of transgressiveness, cynicism, and originality are claimed to be essential, but this seldom pans out: in every field there is an established orthodoxy, the strayer from which will be ostracised. Whether this be literature, economics, or physics, transgressing the transgressives will not be tolerated in this age of tolerance! This is no less the case in the nebulous group of quasi-disciplines which gather under the banner of “Biblical Studies”. The archest of humor and self-promotion is found in the synonymous umbrella term “higher criticism”: the application of overly lively imagination to objective data, the collection and description of the latter having been termed “lower criticism,” although its evidentiary value is objectively higher. Nineteenth century bored, drunk, liberal, syphilitic, Protestant German theological professors and their lickspittles are to credit for the terminology and much of the methodology of “higher criticism”, which combines a distinct hatred of all things Israelite with a self-proclaimed “objective” or “scientific” criticism of the Old Testament. It is a paradise of atheistic unbelief: where the methodologies are, however, not evolved by chance, but guided and nourished by the never-gently wafting strains of an antisemitism of Wagnerian grandeur and stridence, now generally brushed under the carpet for its inconvenience.

This establishment fails entirely, however, when it turns its bloodshot and bespectaled eyes to the past in an attempt to project their own mentalities and concerns, particularly their own cynicism, onto the ancients. A key failure in this regard is the unspoken general assumption that every ancient writer was as much of an unbelieving mediocre hack as so many of the modern writers (in print and online) are: cynically opportunistic to move the unsuspecting reader to support his own ideas, which really don’t reflect reality at all, but are his creation, usually in the cause of some ideology or movement or other. But every human being did not come of age in the 1960s, and such ideas of rank propagandism are ill reflective of the deeply rooted belief systems that are apparent in ancient writings, which depths of belief are backed by modern anthropological examination in numerous cultures, industrial and not, past and present. Likewise (Glory to God!), nearly all of the ancient writers are a great deal more talented and intelligent than the vast majority of those commenting upon them these days. The intellgent reader is likely to be more angered by wasting money and time on the latest all-praised volume than to gain anything of permanent use from it, such as one finds in the beautiful, skillful, and moving writings of the ancients, aesthetic and intellectual adepts such as they were.

But much of this skill of the ancients lies precisely in their immersion in cultures driven by religious belief. They lived in a numinous world, one in which the powers of Deity permeated everthing, whether as monolator, monotheist, or polytheist. The intermediary forces, emissaries of the Divine realm, were everywhere. The idea of a cynical, atheistic opportunist in such an age is an anachronism, yet it is the assumed (and required!) preconception for the “findings” of “higher criticism”. In the case of Israel and its writings, nothing could be further from the truth.

As I alluded to in my last post (in The Center of the Old Testament), and as I’ve touched on briefly before (in posts titled A Prophetic Perspective and Disobedience and Exile), the Old Testament is an archive of writings from the guild of the Israelite prophets and their supporters. These were the true believers of ancient Israel, ecstatic prophets and those who supported them materially and through prayers. These prophets would ecstatically prophesy, usually in song to the accompaniment of various instruments, and these oracles were remembered, recorded, and collected. They likewise constructed a history of the world and their nation and the dynasty that they had been told was specially favored by God, running from Genesis through the Pentateuch, then through Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the books of Samuel and Kings, with the latter extended at various periods after an initial ending likely early in the reign of Solomon. Other books come from the hands of descendants of those supporters who shared the exclusive prophetic faith of the prophets. Eventually, through rule of law, the prophetic faith was established as the sole faith of the Israelites, but this took much longer than it should have, and was not consistently the case, sadly, until long after the exile. Pre-exilic Israel was not a paradise of faith, where happy throngs crowded the beautiful Temple Solomon built in Jerusalem, bringing free-will offerings to the only true God, Creator of the heavens and the earth. More often than not, the Temple was used as the center for something very similar to the other national cults in the Levant, a chief god worshipped with consort and friends or children, lacking the purity of the prophetic faith and not adhering to the oracular prescriptions for purity of cultus.

However, within the prophetic phenomenon, there is a key: in the similarity of oracular pronouncements one to another over centuries, the consistency of concerns, the same voice is consistently heard in the prophecies. The prophetic experience was ecstatic, one involving the faculties of the seer, but in a complicated manner, as is the case in ecstatic utterance to this day. The seer is not gone, but is an instrument whose strings are plucked by an invisible plectrum, whether Divine or otherwise. There is the potential for the inspiring spirit to be either truthful or untruthful, yet Divinely-sent to either lead aright or to lead astray. So we learn from Israel’s own prophetic archives. What we do not hear of is false prophesying simply made up by the prophet, whether of oral or literary nature. The prophets methods were legitimate and real: these false prophets were also ecstatics, but the spirit speaking through them lied. We do not at all read of cynical literary pseudo-prophesying, though this certainly did come to exist in time, and is found in much later pseudepigrapha literarily tied to either Israelite Prophets or Christian Apostles. Yet not in that time, the time of the initial creation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Even so, we’re not entirely certain that some of these pseudepigraphic works do not originate in later prophetic circles, or what the methodology of their production actually was. Though they are certainly literary works, there was no dearth of ascetically-induced ecstatic prophecy, even amongst the early Rabbinic movement, as seen in Merkabah and Hekhalot mysticism. Early Christian ascetism is likewise replete with such accounts, from those to the present day. But what is lacking in those writings which are considered orthodox is any kind of cynical motivation to further a particular goal. Such cynicism doesn’t appear in other illustrative literature of the time. There’s no reason other than the projection of modern scholarly cynicism anachronistically into the past to expect that it was there. Today’s unbelief and opportunism cannot be a guide to the lives, practices, and writings of the ancients. There is a core of devotional belief in those writings in comparison to which modern Enlightenment-based exegetical and hermeneutical writings are pale, withered, gasping things.

Remember the core of belief in the ancients, and your own. Let them guide you in your readings. And try better in that regard to understand how the ancients, even more vividly faithful in their own times, less distracted by worldly concerns, studies, professions and so on, would have constructed such writings while living in the fear of God. This is a necessary adjunct to the approach of any faithful person to his or her Scriptures. And may God bless us all with greater understanding for this simple ascesis.

The Center of the Old Testament

A few days ago, Phil Sumpter wrote two related posts (“Picking Up Posting Again” and “Louth drew on Childs“), the former ending with links to two earlier posts of his working out some thoughts on Christological interpretation of the Old Testament (“Is Christological Interpretation OK?” and ” Jesus in the Old Testament?“). I recommend all these posts as thoughtful notes on the subject which I’m also now going to address. The comments in the last-mentioned post are especially interesting, and are directly relevant to what follows here.

Dispensing with introductory banter, I’ll get right to it: the center of the Old Testament is the Anointed, the Son of David. Everything revolves around him: from his appearance to his absence, thoughout the books of Israel collected into our Old Testaments, the sun around which everything revolves is the Son of David.

Notice in Genesis and through the Pentateuch how there is the creation of a race, and a continual process of God selecting one single family out of all the families of the world from which would come His chosen king. It is the line of the firstborn of all humanity, and therefore the rightful ruler over all humanity. God creates Adam, his firstborn son, the Son of God, then comes Abel replaced with Seth, then Seth’s line down to Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob/Israel, then the disqualification of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi in favor of Judah, then Perez, and his line to Boaz, then to the son of Jesse, David. Throughout, these tales are all related by prophets, from the prophetic viewpoint solely, one that follows the preferences of the God for whom they speak. These prophets know of the Divine promise to David, that he would never lack an heir: there would always be a Son of David to rule.

This promise of a Son of David is especially prominent in the book of Isaiah, where the imagery related to the Son of David, the ruling scion of the House of David in Jerusalem, reveals an intriguing and rather surprisingly high status for the Son of David as the firstborn Son of God, with comcomitant authority, and amazing imagery. All of the prophets describe failures and successes of the Sons of David, and they describe the usurpation of rulership by those unqualified, whether Israelite or foreign. Yet there is always the unspoken hope of another Son of David, the hope of the unfading and eternal Divine promise of an Anointed One to always be. Removal of an actual kingship from Judah at the time of the Babylonian exile didn’t stem the hopes, but rather crystallized them. The hoped-for Son of David, the Son of God as described in Isaiah and the Psalms, would come, and the kingship would one day be established, and the Son of David would rule over all the earth. These are exactly the expectations voiced by the apostles and other disciples of the New Testament.

But God had a surprise! The promises were understood in a particular way, but were to be fulfilled in another. Prophecies of the sufferings of the righteous (which happened more often than not in Israelite history, perpetrated by any number of ill-qualified rulers) were often ignored in thoughts concerning the Son of David, though they play such a central role in the great prophecies of Isaiah, for instance, and throughout the Psalms. As Paul said, “Every Scripture is God-breathed”―He inserted his own words here and there as desired, to point to something amazing He Himself was about to accomplish: His incarnation as the Son of David, and the fulfillment of all the hopes, expectations, prophecies, and every last jot and tittle of the Scriptures. This Son of David was the Son of God in a very real and much more immediate way than the Son of David had ever been before, as all history was established to accomplish exactly this.

The presence or absence of the Son of David, the Son of God, is spread throughout the Old Testament writings, and thus it is not only acceptable, but necessary to recognize this. To deny it is to deny the motivation for the writing of those Scriptures themselves, and the entire prophetic tradition of Israel.

Over the centuries, this connection has not been lost in the Church, where Patristic Christological interpretation of the Old Testament was the only valid form of interpretation. This in itself is a legitimation of such interpretation that stands above all critique by lesser authorities, however erudite they may find themselves. Church hymnography, especially the particularly rich imagery of Byzantine hymnody, shows the refinement of this form of Christological interpretation of Scripture through the centuries. In this, it merely extends and continues the form of interpretation utilized by the apostles themselves in the New Testament writings. But we should not consider this Christological interpretation to be so severe a break with the original intent and focus of the Old Testament writings themselves, in light of the above. The focus was always God’s promise being worked out in the world through the Son of David, His firstborn son, the firstborn of all humanity and its rightful ruler. This is the very origin of the texts. A rejection of any interpretation that recognizes that centrality of the Son of David and the extension and extraordinary resolution of those promises in the person of Jesus Christ is simply not Christian.

But even aside from this religious value and application, the centrality of the Son of David within the Old Testament needs greater recognition. Current (generally Protestantized) scholarly squeamishness regarding Christological interpretation has blinded the exegetical field to this very obvious centrality. It doesn’t help that the atomizing tendencies of so-called higher criticism, the supposed pinnacle of Biblical studies, distort the texts, which are deprived of their own witness, their own voice, in the form in which they sit before us on the very page. Theoretical and worthless fore-drafts are proposed, with preposterous social dimensions invented, a ridiculous practice that is never presumed for any other ancient writing of any other culture. It’s a peculiar honor!

In short, regarding Christological interpretation of the Old Testament, I say: Bring it on! The more, the better. This is only the proper exegesis that can be expected of these writings because of their origins.

A great new blog

Some readers will have noticed the book that I still have in my “Currently Reading” spot to the right here: Anders Gerdmar’s Roots of Theological Anti-semitism (Brill, 2009), which I’ve posted some notes on already.

Well, just tonight I happily received a message from Anders Gerdmar himself, informing me (and thereby you, dear reader) of his new blog: Anders Gerdmar―Exegetical Notes and Blog. Some of his work in progress relates to the Jews in the Gospel According to John, of which depiction he says, and which I think any informed reader will agree with, “the picture is far more complex than is currently assumed.” He’s also working on another book with the working title The ‘Jew’ as the Perpetual Other, of which he says:

Christian exegesis has more often than not constructed the ‘Jew’ as the perpetual other. In a forthcoming book with this working title, I begin in New Testament texts, looking for how they describe the relationship to Jews and Judaism. Secondly, I follow the history of exegesis in relation to the Jews, talking about a ‘hermeneutics of exclusion’. Finally I discuss the linkage between exegetical theology and genocide, but not only that. I try to outline a ‘hermeneutics of association’, starting in Romans 9–11.

Very interesting!

Anyhow, if you were interested in my posts here related to the subject of his book or his book itself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy his blog, as well.

Bibles and Authorities

Recently on a particular academic mailing list, someone entirely in earnest put forth the question, “Which is the Christian Old Testament—the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text?” This person rightly recognized the use of various versions by the writers of the New Testament, a point to which we will return. However, his rather simple question brings to mind a flood of further questions and answers. Thus a relatively simple question involves much more than a simple answer of one word.

Firstly, this is not a question that can be answered as it is phrased. Why is that? It is because different Christians have different Biblical canons and hold different versions of the Old Testament (and, mutatis mutandis, the New Testament). Thus there is no single “the Christian Old Testament.” A more proper question would be “Which is the Old Testament of the [insert descriptor] Christian?” where the descriptor is “Roman Catholic”, or “Greek Orthodox”, or “Lutheran”, and so on. A more informed question will point in a meaningful way to the issues involved, and the correct answer for the particular situation in view. For a Roman Catholic, the official Old Testament (established by canon law) is the Latin Vulgate (specifically the Clementine Vulgate, though in recent official Vatican editions, the Nova Vulgata, itself based on the Clementine, is used). Although translations from the Hebrew Masoretic Text have been made (as in The Jerusalem Bible and The New American Bible), these were to take into account the differences in the Vulgate, preferring them to readings in the Hebrew where different. For the Greek Orthodox, the Septuagint is the Old Testament (mostly the Old Greek editions of books, though in some cases with other versions having replaced the Old Greek long ago, e.g., the Theodotionic Daniel). But the form of liturgical readings, preserved in the Prophetologion and other service books providing lectionary readings, trumps the preferred continuous text (formerly the Lucianic, but more recently adapted toward the text of Codex Alexandrinus). That is, where the liturgical texts differ from the continuous text (in Old or New Testament readings), the lectionary readings are preferred, and editions of the continuous text Septuagint are typically altered to reflect the litugical versions. All the Orthodox (Eastern and Oriental) hold to the liturgical texts as canonical. For the Syrian Orthodox, their own continuous-text Old Testament is the Peshitta with additions from later versions, and these are adjusted to the liturgical texts where necessary. And so on. There is, however, the interesting case in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox communions that the versions held as primarily authoritative for each national church (Coptic, Greek, Syrian, Georgian, etc) are not held to be exclusively authoritative. That is, the other versions used in the communion are recognized as valid, inspired, and true. There has never been any sort of conciliar discussion or determination regarding which text is considered exclusively canonical.

Then we are also faced with the relative anomaly of the Protestant preference for the Hebrew Masoretic Text as the basis for their Old Testament. Although the Lutheran and Anglican canons include various books of the Apocrypha within their own canons (originally deriving from the Vulgate versions, most of which in turn derive from the Septuagint), the books existent in the Hebrew Masoretic Text are considered of primary authority. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Peshitta and other versions are considered additional witnesses to an earlier version of the Hebrew text that has been corrupted, and they are (in)consistently mined for their variant readings to address that situation.

The development of the discussion leads into the territory of which one of these versions is “true” for the Christian. At this date, the answer can only be “all and none.” There are two reasons for this. Firstly, all of the versions of the Old Testament are recognized by some ecclesiastical authority as true and inspired and canonical for its respective flock, and yet all recognize that errors have crept into the texts so that none is exactly perfect, and, effectively, thus not exclusively true. Secondly, due to the variety of errors in transmission and the variety of textual traditions in question, it is certainly the case that no version (not even the Masoretic, as careful as its transmission has been) preserves a text entirely uncorrupted, much less a single manuscript. Yet in aggregate, some find it to be the case that where one tradition is in error, one or another or severl others may be correct, and perhaps all of these issues can be worked out, so that all the versions may be considered, in toto, to represent the original accurately. So in that sense, it is only by seeing all versions as exemplars of an original text, some more distant from it than others, that “all” may be considered true. This understanding lies at the heart of textual criticism of the Bible, whether of a version of the Old Testament (Hebrew Masoretic Text, Septuagint, Peshitta, etc) or the New Testament.

Even so, a question such as “Which of these versions is true for a Christian?” is not the kind of question that can be answered on an academic mailing list, nor should it be asked of one. This is precisely because of the multi-confessional situation described above. In addition, however, academic study has no standing to answer that question. That is, it is outside the competence of the Academy to decide in such matters. The answer to that particular question lies in the realm of ecclesiastical authority and religious tradition. There can be no academic answer to it. The Church and the Academy are separate worlds in that regard as in others, with distinct boundaries. And while each may learn from the other, they are neither one beholden to the other’s conclusions.

We return now to a very interesting fact: the use of various versions of the Old Testament in quotation in the works in the New Testament. Setting aside a detailed description of the quotations and issues involved (though referring the reader to the excellent Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Beale and Carson), I will posit that the answer to all the questions asked above is thereby given. That is, the Christian is to consider all the various available versions inspired and authoritative, just as the New Testament authors did, quoting from one or another at a given time. That is, the New Testament itself gives an answer to the question of “Which Bible is to be preferred?” That answer would have to be “All of these.”

So, though one may prefer to follow the tradition of one’s own Christian affiliation in regards to a preferred text of the Bible, the evidence of the New Testament itself suggests a less restricted and more open approach in embracing a variation in texts according to exegetical need. That should provoke some thought in those with more exclusionary views.

NETS corrected reprint

Professor Al Pietersma has informed me that Oxford University Press has just reprinted A New English Translation of the Septuagint, incorporating a number of corrections (over 200), though not yet a further set (about 100 more) which includes those that I’ve forwarded to him, some of which are mentioned here. Those and any subsequent corrections will be incorporated in the next reprinting. He expects to post the revised files of the electronic edition of the NETS soon.

So, if you haven’t yet bought a copy (Nick!), you may want to wait a little while to ensure that you get a copy of the corrected reprint, rather than a copy of the first printing. I’d also recommend ordering directly from Oxford University Press, as they’ll be certain to be both a.) the first vendor to run out of copies of the first printing, and b.) the first vendor to have the second printing first.

Just puttin’ it out there

Wellhausen’s demonstration that Judaism was the inventor of νομος παρεισηλθεν—the Law that sidled in, interrupting the true spiritual development of Israel—made it unnecessary for liberal Protestant thought in Germany to reassess any traditional judgment of Judaism. Indeed, as Leo Baeck showed in his critical review of Harnack’s Das Wesen des Christentums, Judaism could continue to be for the liberal Protestant the dark background against which the incandescence of the religion of Jesus could ever more brightly shine, once it had been purged of the dross of dogma. What had been dogmatic was now scientific. Of the consequences of this I shall not write.

Lou Silberman, “Wellhausen and Judaism” (Semeia 25: 75-82), 79.

Silberman ends his article on the low note of the consequences of the result of the anti-Judaism of Wellhausen and all prior German liberal Protestant Biblical scholarship having been pronounced and perceived to be scientific fact. Voices to the contrary earlier in the nineteenth century that did speak out against such anti-Jewish beliefs were ignored or silenced, and the opportunity was lost to nip in the bud the development of a “scientific” anti-Judaism and its evil child. For within a matter of years after the publication of Wellhausen’s magnum opus, “scientific” racial antisemitism appeared and was promptly established not only as the opinion of the intellectual elites, but was eventually enshrined as law. To quote Silberman: “Of the consequences of this I shall not write.”

Those who will support the methodologies of de Wette, Graf, Wellhausen, Baur and the rest need to recognize this connection and its ethical nullity. The circular reasoning of an invented dialectic of devolving Jewish religion (and later, devolving Jews) giving rise to methods of Biblical study that are designed only to support that dialectic, which are then used to “prove” the validity of the dialectic, needs to be recognized. The ethical failure of liberal Protestantism in nineteenth and twentieth century Germany needs to be recognized. The ethical failure of ignoring these ethical failures needs to be recognized. There’s plenty of recognizing to be going on. Any truly rational person can recognize that the Germans of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries ought to be the first people in the world to be ignored when the subject came to the Jews.

And will it ever happen? No, it won’t. Maybe some very few will change. Rather, the whole perverse engine will keep rolling on, oblivious to its intellectual, ethical, and spiritual failings. Its supporters and defenders will continue to belittle any detractors as “fundamentalists” or whatever the insult du jour may be. That changes nothing. The whole of the fields of Old Testament and New Testament studes are teetering tenements of tacit denigration erected on thoroughly vile anti-Jewish, antisemitic foundations. They should be demolished, the old foundations torn out, the ground levelled, new foundations laid, and a new superstructure built.

But no, that won’t happen.

After all, it’s only Jews….

Rahlfs and NETS Versification

As those attentive to my latest posts will have gathered, I’ve been spending much time working with the New English Translation of the Septuagint edited by Albert Pietersma and Benjamin Wright (Oxford, 2007). Part of this work involved determining the exact differences between the versification in the NETS text and the text of the readily available original Rahlfs Septuaginta (which is found in most electronic texts of the Septuagint), or the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta Editio altera, which uses the same versification. As the NETS utilized the versification (where available) found in the Göttingen Septuaginta, and its versification differs in some places from that of the Rahlfs editions, NETS ends up being slightly different than Rahlfs. The information below will show where this is the case. I hope it proves useful.

Readers of the NETS will have noticed that there is at times an alternate versification noted in the text of the NETS itself. These are pointers to the NRSV. I may present that list later, as well, but the following seems more immediately useful as these differences are not indicated in the NETS itself. If I’ve missed any that anyone else is aware of, please do let me know. I’ll add those in right away.

NETS Rahlfs
Gen 31.55 Gen 32.1a
Gen 32.1 Gen 32.1b
Ex 22.1 Ex 21.37
Ex 23.2-31 Ex 22.1-30
Ex 25.6-34 Ex 25.7-35
Ex 28.23 Ex 28.29
Ex 28.26-39 Ex 28.30-43
Ex 36.24 Ex 36.23b
Ex 26.25-37 Ex 36.24-36
Ex 36.38-39 Ex 36.37
Ex 36.40 Ex 36.38
Ex 39.2-3 Ex 39.3
Ex 39.4-5 Ex 39.4
Ex 39.6-16 Ex 39.5-15
Ex 39.16-17 Ex 39.16
Ex 39.18-20 Ex 39.17-19
Ex 39.21 Ex 39.19b-21
Ex 40.6 Ex 40.8
Ex 40.7-8 Ex 40.9-10
Ex 40.9 Ex 40.10
Ex 40.10-25 Ex 40.12-27
Ex 40.26 Ex 40.29
Ex 40.27-32 Ex 40.33-38
Leu 6.1-7 Leu 5.20-26
Leu 6.8-30 Leu 6.1-23
Leu 6.31-40 Leu 7.1-10
Leu 7.1-28 Leu 7.11-38
Num 13.1 Num 12.16
Num 13.2-34 Num 13.1-33
Num 16.36-50 Num 17.1-15
Num 17.1-13 Num 17.16-28
Dt 12.32 Dt 13.1
Dt 13.1-18 Dt 13.2-19
Dt 14.14b Dt 14.15
Dt 14.15-28 Dt 14.16-29
Dt 22.30 Dt 23.1
Dt 23.1-25 Dt 23.2-26
2Es 14.1-4 2Es 13.33-36a
2Es 14.5 2Es 13.36b
2Es 14.6 2Es 13.37
2Es 14.7-23 2Es 14.1-17
2Es 19.38 2Es 20.1
2Es 20.1-39 2Es 10.2-40
Wis 17.10 Wis 17.9b
Wis 17.11-17 Wis 17.10-16a
Wis 17.18 Wis 17.16b
Wis 17.18-21 Wis 17.17-20
Sir 34.11 Sir 34.10b
Sir 34.12-14 Sir 34.11-13a
Sir 34.15 Sir 34.13b
Sir 34.16 Sir 34.14
Sir 34.17-18 Sir 34.15
Sir 34.19-21 Sir 34.16-18a
Sir 34.22 Sir 34.18
Sir 34.23-26 Sir 34.19-22a
Sir 34.27 Sir 34.22b
Sir 34.28-31 Sir 34.23-26
Sir 35.1-2 Sir 35.1
Sir 35.2-3 Sir 35.2
Sir 35.5 Sir 35.3
Sir 35.6-7 Sir 35.4
Sir 35.8-14 Sir 35.5-11a
Sir 35.15a Sir 35.11b
Sir 35.15b-17 Sir 35.12-14
Sir 35.18-19 Sir 35.15
Sir 35.21-22a Sir 35.18
Sir 35.22b Sir 35.19
Sir 35.22c-23a Sir 35.20
Sir 35.23b Sir 35.21
Sir 35.24-26 Sir 35.22-24
Sir 36.1-2 Sir 36.1
Sir 36.3-5 Sir 36.2-4
Sir 36.6-7 Sir 36.5
Sir 36.8-9 Sir 36.6
Sir 36.10-12 Sir 36.7-9
Sir 36.13* Sir 36.10a
Sir 36.16-22a* Sir 36.10b-16
Sir 36.22b Sir 36.17
Sir 36.23-31a Sir 36.18-26
Sir 36.31b Sir 36.27
Hos 1.10-11 Os 2.1-2
Hos 2.1-23 Os 2.3-25
Hos 11.1a Os 10.15b
Hos 11.1b-11 Os 11.1-11
Hos 11.12 Os 12.1
Hos 12.1-14 Os 12.2-15
Mich 5.1 Mich 4.14
Mich 5.2-15 Mich 5.1-14
Na 1.15 Nah 2.1a
Na 2.1-14 Nah 2.1b-14
Zach 1.18-21 Zach 2.1-4
Zach 2.1-13 Zach 2.5-17
Mal 4.1-6 Mal 3.19-24
Esa 8.22b Is 8.23a
Esa 9.1 Is 8.23b
Esa 9.2-21 Is 9.1-20
Esa 64.1 Is 63.19b
Esa 64.2-12 Is 64.1-11
Ier 9.1 Ier 8.23
Ier 9.2-26 Ier 9.1-25
Ier 29.8-23 Ier 30.1-16
Ier 30.1-5 Ier 30.17-21
Ier 30.6-16 Ier 30.23-33
Iez 20.45-49 Iez 21.1-5
Iez 21.1-32 Iez 21.6-37
Dan (Th) 3.98-100 Dan (Th) 4.1-3
Dan (Th) 4.1-34 Dan (Th) 4.4-37
Dan (Th) 5.31 Dan (Th) 6.1
Dan (Th) 6.1-28 Dan (Th) 6.2-29
Dan (OG) 5.31 Dan (OG) 6.1
Dan (OG) 6.1-28 Dan (OG) 6.2-29


So, I’ve recently been working alot with BibleWorks, in getting the NETS version imported into it properly (no, don’t ask me for it), and then getting the verse mapping properly aligned with the Rahlfs Septuaginta Greek text and with the NRSV. Of course, if I had Accordance, I might’ve simply paid a nominal fee. Instead I’ve had to do it myself, because BibleWorks has run into licensing issues with Oxford, whatever they may be. (Maybe it’s because Oxford doesn’t want its text mangled!) I have had such a headache for a week. Anyhow, here are some notes on what I did.

First, because I am something of a perfectionist, I was unsatisfied with having the names of the books be the same as they are in the NRSV and just about every other version in BibleWorks. After all, we have in NETS 1-4 Reigns, not 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings, Makkabees not Maccabees, Esaias not Isaiah, and so on. But there is unfortunately no version-specific titling. So, this means I added entries to the master book name files, so that I could name them whatever I want. This also means that I had to make up some new book abbreviations. This is because BibleWorks is limited to a three-character alphanumeric code for all booknames. It’s a poor design, and this is a workaround.

Then, having imported the text, I wanted to be able to read it in the order in which is occurs in the actual NETS (or even LXX), but this is another thing you can’t have in BibleWorks (except as a help file, which is useless as it is not part of the usual toolset). The order is determined entirely by verse numbering. Of course, for various historical reasons, the versification of the Septuagint is an absolute nightmare. But throwing the text into the order of the versification is not an acceptable solution. There is also the serious drawback that sub-verses cannot be included (1a, 1b, 1c, etc). This results in several verses in the version being extremely lengthy, including the sub-verse numbers in brackets [a], [b], [c], etc. This latter is a disaster for mapping.

So, on that mapping thing. BibleWorks can only map one verse to another. A range of verses to be mapped to another range must have the same number of verses, and those verses must be valid, existent verses in their version. (Note also that in the stupid map files, you can only enter a maximum of one chapter’s range of verses; you can’t enter a range of chapters and verses, like 10:1-20:23.) However, if there are some verses which are not included in the version (and this happens alot in the LXX, where you might be missing a whole string of verse numbers, because they either sit somewhere else or were simply not included in the translation of the Hebrew/Latin tradition of versification on which the verse numbers are based), they display as blanks. This is annoying, but bearable when dealing with the version in browse mode. However, if your book name is the same as one in another Bible version, even if those blanks are not included as mapped to some other verses as parallel to some other version, you’re going to see those versions in parallel, even if you’ve specified that they’re actually parallel to something else. That’s just atrocious. So, you have to work around this by creating new Bible book codes and name. Then it’s almost bearable, except you’ll have to remember whatever weird abbreviations you were forced by this nightmare of bytes to utilize. As I said, it’s almost bearable, except in the case of those lengthy verses with sub-verses. This is truly unacceptable: all the parallels to those sub-verses end up aligned not in the order of the sub-verses to which they’re parallel, but in the order in which they occur in their own version. So it is completely useless to map these at all.

Now, in my specific mapping situation, I wanted two things: 1.) accurate mapping of the NETS to Rahlfs LXX text, and 2.) accurate mapping of the NETS to the NRSV. I put everything in the mapping file, had everything correct, and then looked at the results. It was a total mess! In Jeremiah, although my mapping file didn’t state for any of this to happen, I would see the NETS verse aligned properly with its NRSV equivalent, but then often also the NRSV equivalent of the same chapter and verse number of the NETS (which is completely wrong more often than not in Jeremiah). In a window displaying the Rahlfs, NETS, and NRSV, things were even more unpredictable. Fortunately, I discovered another workaround: keeping the two sets of mapping separate. I keep two separate files of the Rahlfs and NRSV maps and copy into the NETS version map file the mapping which I want to use. This will suffice, but I am nowhere near happy about it. I really am incensed that I have to do such a thing.

I should not have had to spend so much tiime to get this working properly. I should not have to work around so many limitations in the software itself. And in a program which is specifically designed for presenting parallel Bible texts, I should not run into any instance (much less dozens of them!) in which I cannot meaningfully present those parallels due to the software’s own seemingly arbitrary limitations. There should not be a case in using this supposedly powerful software that my sitting with two books and comparing the text “manually” happens to be easier and more accurate than using Bible(doesn’t)Works. My notes I put together for entering the mapping are more useful than the result of the mapping itself!

So, Accordance users, do you have problems like these? Do these problems exist in Accordance? Can Accordance do the following?:
1.) Present a version in its own proper order within the normal context of searching and display
2.) Include subverses as full verses for searching, etc
3.) Accurately align all verses and subverses without mysterious glitches
4.) Utilize any system of book names one wishes

At this point, I’m seriously considering a complete switch. I could go Mac, and then have Accordance. I’ve heard it’s a zillion times better, anyway. My recent experience has pretty well pushed me over the edge. If anyone has any experience with importing and mapping Bible versions in Accordance, I’d love to hear from you.