Category Archives: Language/Translation

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I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.



A Brief Word about Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

Comfort, Philip Wesley. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2015. Pp. 443. Hardcover. $29.99.

I’ve had Philip Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament for a few weeks now (I seem to have forgotten to do an “In the Mail” post when it arrived). In many ways it’s similar to Metzger’s volume, which has been a standard for quite some time. Aside from the physical similarities of the two volumes, Comfort, like Metzger, offers mostly pithy notes on variant readings that span anywhere from a sentence to a paragraph. The long notes can cover anywhere from a half page to a page and a half. I’ve not come across Comfort disagreeing with the decisions made by the UBS committee yet, but I’ve only skimmed the commentary at this point. I hope to find Comfort going in different directions at certain points and am interested to see his reasoning for doing so if he does.

The differences I’ve noted off the bat are in the introductions. Metzger’s volume has a brief introduction that talks about the history and transmission of the NT text, the criteria used in determining the best readings, and a list of some of the more important manuscript witnesses delineated according to text type. Comfort’s introductory material on the other hand spans two chapters. The first discusses the NT papyri, significant uncial manuscripts, a primer on assessing manuscripts in order to determine the text, a brief discussion of the canons (11 noted by Comfort) of NT textual criticism, and a healthy discussion of the Nomina Sacra in the NT (Comfort is quite interested in the Nomina Sacra as he mentions in the introduction and is evident throughout the commentary). The second chapter is a helpful annotated list of the manuscripts of the NT.

The most significant difference, however, is that Comfort’s commentary is on actual manuscripts rather than on an eclectic text. He says, “Most commentaries usually adhere to a certain English translation, and the commentators refer to an edition of the Greek New Testament (such as Novum Testamentum Graece or the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament), diverging from it when they deem it necessary. These two Greek editions (which have the same text) were compiled according to the eclectic method, which means that various readings from various manuscripts were selected for the text on a verse-by-verse basis. In this commentary readers will be reading commentary on actual manuscripts, such as P75 for most of the Gospel of Luke, P66 and P75 for the Gospel of John, P46 for nearly all of Paul’s Epistles and Hebrews, and so on” (7).

I was quite pleased to find him disagreeing with the Alands’ categorizations of some of the papyri, not because I necessarily disagree myself, but because it shows that Comfort is an independent and critical voice in the field. I did note that he doesn’t treat certain variants that Metzger did (e.g., Acts 8:24, 35), while commenting on some that Metzger didn’t (e.g., John 17:5, 16). I suppose this could be explained by Comfort’s focus on individual manuscripts and it seems that a lot of Comfort’s unique discussions are related to the Nomina Sacra whereas Metzger doesn’t focus on these at all. I’ve also noticed that after nearly every used of the phrase “nomen sacrum” Comfort puts the English translation “sacred name” in parentheses. It’s a curious and wholly unnecessary practice.

I’m also more than slightly perturbed by the lack of citations of the variants in Greek. Metzger’s commentary, for example, shows “Χριστου [υιου θεου] {C}” at Mark 1:1 and then proceeds to use the Greek term under discussion throughout the note. Comfort’s merely has “Jesus Christ” and then proceeds with the discussion using English translations (which are Comfort’s own) of the variant readings. I can’t understand the reasoning behind this decision through. Presumably this is a reference source intended for students of the Greek New Testament. It would be nice to have some Greek to read throughout the discussions.

But in all I think this will serve as a useful tool to supplement Metzger’s commentary rather than something that can replace it. They each serve a purpose and can be used in conjunction, which is what I plan to do.


The Revised New International Version

Back in May I noted that this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Committee on Bible Translation to discuss the production of the New International Version of the Bible. HarperCollins created a website that’s loaded with information about the NIV’s history to include a fascinating article on the history of its revision. Casual readers are probably most familiar with the 1984 NIV and the most recent update released in 2011 but are not likely to be informed about the painstaking process that led up to this most current version or the many incarnations that came before it.

We’re treated to precisely this information in an article entitled “Made for You: Continuing the Mission of the NIV.” Apparently the revising process is near perpetual and the CBT are constantly studying the original languages alongside what’s current in English parlance. And that’s what stood out most to me when reading the article. The concern to translate the Bible into the English that people today know, speak, hear, and understand is always at the forefront. It was this, and not some desire for political correctness or pressure from outside feminist forces, that drove the choices made in the short lived TNIV.

But you can read all of this for yourself. And you should!


In Which I Wax Eloquent on Bible Software (@emschumacher)

Eric Schumacher asked for some advice on Twitter about whether he should go with BibleWorks or Logos since he’s just switched over to a Mac. To complicate things I threw Accordance into the mix. The reality is that all of these programs are great and they can all run on either Windows or OS X nowadays. This wasn’t always the case. There was a time when Accordance was the only game in town for exegesis on a Mac. Then Logos crossed over and from what I understand, the early version of Logos 4 for OS X was buggy and not a great joy to use. They’ve come a long way. I’m still using Logos 5 even though 6 is out and I love it for the things I use it for.

And that’s the issue. Logos, for me at least, is a great searchable digital library. I mainly use it for reading and searching the texts that I’m reading as well as it’s fantastic cross referencing features (you don’t know the joy that it brings me to be able to hover over a footnote in one of Craig Keener’s commentaries to an ancient writing and have the Greek or Latin version of the writing along with an English translation [thanks to the Perseus collection!] ready to be referenced at the click of a button). I know that it’s capable of doing intense exegetical work but compared to Accordance and BibleWorks it takes too long. To be honest, the mobile app is what I love most about Logos, and when I say love, I mean it! That app is fantastic and if ever I do use Logos for exegesis it’s when I’m out of the house and have the app handy.

But Accordance and BibleWorks both fly through even the most difficult tasks. Sure, over the years they’ve built up respectable book packages, but nothing that comes close to rivaling Logos’ massive library options. But that’s not a problem since they’re both great for—you guessed it—exegesis! Now a couple weeks back I noted how I’m just getting back into BibleWorks 9 even though it’s the reason I put a virtual machine on my MacBook Pro in the first place. The reason I stepped away is because I’ve been using Accordance. Honestly, they’re both equal in my eyes, but Accordance offers a little more customization in terms of the user interface. I like that. I like it a lot.

But this is all stuff I’ve said before. Just search through the technology category on this blog and you can find my thoughts on all of these programs as I’ve used them throughout the years. The bottom line—and this seems to be the sentiment of most that I’ve discussed this with—is that Accordance & BibleWorks are preferable for exegesis; Logos is preferable for building a strong digital theological library.


Late to the Game: Some Scattered Thoughts on BibleWorks 9 (Mostly about NT Manuscripts)


I know that BibleWorks 10 has been out for a little while now and from all I’ve seen it looks fantastic. My introduction to BibleWorks came with version 8 and it was incredible. I used the program daily in my study of the Bible and ended up writing a series of review posts sharing some of my thoughts on the features I used most. Then came BibleWorks 9 and I was provided with a copy for review… 2+ years ago!

My apologies for this delayed response. I’d love to say that the cares of life kept me from using the program but that just wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I had installed BW9 on my Toshiba Satellite Pro and after doing one of the routine updates it began to crash every time I opened it. This went on for quite a while and I tried to fix the problem by doing multiple system restores in Windows Vista. That didn’t work.

It took quite a bit of deliberation for me to finally decide to do a fresh install. The main issue was that my laptop’s screen had given up the ghost and I had it hooked up to an external monitor. The laptop was, for all intents and purposes (not intensive purposes!), a desktop. But it was situated in a spot behind the monitor in the dark recesses of my desk that made the disc drive difficult to access. A reinstall would mean more work for me than I had really wanted to do.

But a fresh install I did, and I ended up loading the program on an external hard drive since my Toshiba’s hard drive was nearly full and slowing daily. So onto the 1TB Seagate it went. I was finally able to open the program without issue but then I became gun-shy with updates, refusing to install any. The truth is that after the reinstall I really didn’t take advantage of any of the new features of the program. I used BW9 just like I used BW8. And then I got a Mac.

When I got the MacBook Pro I installed Logos 5 on it and that was my go-to Bible software in the earliest stages. Then I contacted Accordance because I wanted to see how well their software worked on the machine it was designed for. It works great by the way. But I still wanted to use BibleWorks and it was now a possibility on OS X. There are three options: native, virtual, dual boot. I opted for running it in a virtual machine so I installed Parallels, Windows 8.1, and finally BibleWorks 9.

I will note that BibleWorks 9 was the sole reason that I put a virtual machine and Windows on my MacBook. It’s also the sole reason that I bought Apple’s overpriced Superdrive since I had the installation DVDs and needed to get them onto the laptop without a disc drive. That’s how much I cared about this program!

Scattered Thoughts

So how does BW9 work on my Mac? It works great! It’s fast as ever once opened but it does take a moment to load initially (longer than Accordance but that shouldn’t be a great shock). But it seems to me that the real difference between BW9 and BW8 is the addition of the fourth window and all of the manuscript features (pictured in part below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.33.11(2)

The addition of transcribed versions of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA 1141 including high resolution images of the actual manuscripts is a boon to those engaged in textual criticism. I don’t do much textual criticism these days and in the interest of saving precious space on my limited hard drive I have opted to install Sinaiticus alone (which can be seen in the above screenshot).

I was somewhat surprised to find that only the NT portions of Sinaiticus appear in the program. It would have been desirable for the OT portions to have been transcribed and images included as well. One might argue that much of the OT material is fragmentary, which is quite true, but there are entire books (e.g., Jeremiah) that do appear in the manuscript, and access to those portions of Scripture would have been quite helpful.

There are a number of image processing options that are designed to allow the user to alter things such as the color or sharpness of the manuscript in order to get a better look at hard to read portions. I haven’t found that any of the alterations I’ve tried have made the text any easier to read, in fact, I think the original image provided is probably the best quality I’ve seen.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 21.52.18

The transcriptions themselves are what I find most useful though. It’s immensely satisfying to have a searchable text that includes the nomina sacra (which can be copied from BW9 and pasted into MS Word, Pages, or even a WordPress blog post in unicode – Χ̅Ω̅ Ι̅Υ̅ – by the way!) and does the work for me in separating the scriptio continua. I’m well aware that there are people who enjoy working through manuscripts and deciphering such things but I’m not one of them. I also enjoy reading the occasional transcription note that appears below the manuscript image (see below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.00.28

The Center for New Testament Textual Studies’ New Testament Critical Apparatus appears, as far as I can tell, to be a powerful tool. I’ll admit that it frightens me a bit and I don’t quite know how to use it to its full potential just yet. Thankfully, the BibleWorks website has a page explaining just what it is, what it does, and how to use it.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.13.47

There are undoubtedly thousands of other features that I’ve yet to discover, and I’m pleased to report that everything I loved about BW8 (e.g., the diagramming, the lightning fast searches, the ability to create custom parallel texts, etc.) has been carried over into BW9. I look forward to getting back to my roots and using this program more in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Who knows, maybe I’ll get proficient in it one day and make the move to BW10. More anon, I’m sure.


NIV 50

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the existence of the convening of the Committee on Bible Translation to discuss the production [thanks to David McKay for the correction] of the New International Version of the Bible. I have a long history with this translation spanning a little more than ¼ of this time. I confessed Christ as Lord in 2002 but was given an NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible by my friend and now pastor before I was a believer. It was the first Bible that I really read and thought about. It was certainly the first I had ever written in. The blank pages in the back are littered with verses I wanted to memorize and meditate on. The blank pages up front have my thoughts on the interpretation of certain passages. But after I started attending worship gatherings regularly I adopted the KJV because it was what the congregation used. I still held on to my trusty NIV though.

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I would eventually begin to teach the 8-14 year old boys in Sunday school and was given an NIV Revolution Bible for Teen Guys. To date this is the only Bible that I have read cover to cover. There aren’t nearly as many markings in this one as in my Couples’ Devotional Bible but it was perfectly designed for reading with its single column layout. Along the way there were plenty of sidebars, summaries, questions & answers, as well as book introductions to keep things interesting. This Bible served me well alongside my others.


When the NIV was updated a few years ago my friend Robert Jimenez graciously sent me a beautiful decorative Italian Duotone edition. This is the Bible that I preach and teach from primarily at church. Throughout the years I have acquired many NIVs and they’ve all served me well, but more than the physical artifacts, I value the translation itself. In the video below Bruce Waltke summarizes my feelings exactly when he says that the NIV is “simple, clear, precise.” I loved the 1984 edition and I love the 2011 update. I pray that it serves me just as well for the next 50 years of its existence should the Lord keep me around that long to use it.