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The Updated NIV: Some Initial Thoughts

As promised, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) released the "2011 edition" of the New International Version, Monday, on Print copies are expected to follow by March, 2011.

This post is not a full review, but just as the title says, merely some initial thoughts. I doubt I would even attempt a full review until the text is "finalized" in print form or at least until I have a copy in Accordance where I can make better comparisons with both the 1984 NIV and the 2005 TNIV.

Almost immediately on Monday morning, I had emails asking me what I thought about the new NIV update and if I was going to post something here on This Lamp. My time has been so short lately (as evidenced by only one short post last month) that it's taken me three days simply to write this. I haven't had time to read a number of your thoughts and reviews on other sites, and I apologize for that. I realize none of us live in a vacuum. But perhaps, this allows me to simply write, without outside influence, the post that I would have uploaded Monday morning had I had more time.

I highly recommend that readers take a look at "Translators' Notes" released by the CBT for details regarding the decisions made in the new edition of the NIV as well as examples of distinctions from the original NIV and the TNIV. I will interact with some of this content below.

Here are a few observations I immediately noted:

  • The 1984 NIV and the TNIV have both been pulled from BibleGateway. The only translation now available is the updated NIV. I will be very interested to see if publishers of the NIV will be disciplined enough to follow suit and discontinue any new printings of the 1984 NIV once print editions of the update are released in 2011. Update: the 1984 NIV and the TNIV are now back on Bible Gateway.

  • Speaking of which, except when needed for comparison, the new revision is simply being called NIV. Elsewhere in the Translators' Notes, the CBT refers to new edition as "the updated NIV" only when comparing the revision to the original edition. "Updated NIV" appears 21 times in the Translator Notes.

  • The copyright on BibleGateway is dated 2010, but the Translators Notes still refer "Updating the NIV for 2011" and "the English of 2011" (p. 2).

  • When the CBT first announced its intentions regarding the NIV (and the retirement of the TNIV) in 2009, statements were initially made that the 2011 edition of the NIV would be the first revision to the NIV, completely ignoring the 1996 "Inclusive" NIV and the 2005 TNIV (The TNIV preface begins with "Today's New International Version [TNIV] is a revision of the New International Version [NIV]"). Those statements were later toned down, and in some cases disappeared from some of the statements that were in print. The Translators' Notes do refer to the TNIV in many places, but it is said that the TNIV was "separately published" (p. 2). I'm not certain exactly what this means other than the fact that there seems to be an effort on at least a subtle level to distance the updated NIV from the TNIV. There is no mention of the NIV revision released only in the UK in 1996.

The greatest challenge a new or revised Bible translation faces is acceptance. There's no real point to having a translation of the Bible if it's not going to be used. There's always a fine line between distinguishing a new translation or revision from the past while not going so far out on a limb that potential adopters are turned off. People have their pet verses, and if a new translation doesn't word these verses exactly to their liking, often the new version of the Bible is not given much consideration afterwards. And, of course, one of the most common verses affected by this not-always-fair-evaluation method is John 3:16. Most people who have not studied New Testament Greek look at John 3:16 not on the basis of how well it conforms to the Greek, but in regard to whether or not it veers too far from the traditional wording they knew, usually from the King James Version.

I look at John 3:16 in a new version, too, but not for the same reason. I always hope that it corrects traditional wording and communicates to a modern audience what the words that the gospel writer originally intended. When William Tyndale translated οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον as "For God so loveth the world..." (adapted by the KJV translators as "For God so loved the world...), his rendering was perfectly acceptable for his time. But for today's audience, the meaning is wholly misunderstood.

People tend to read this verse as "God SOOOOOO loved the world..." but that's not what it means. The word οὕτως, which is translated as the so in John 3:16 does not mean the understanding I described in the previous sentence. It means "referring to what precedes, in this manner, thus, so" (BDAG). Therefore, it's not that the traditional rendering is incorrect. Tyndale intended his use of so to be understood in this regard, but today it's almost always misread.

Every time a new revision of the NIV is released (and remember the 2011 edition is not the first revision; there have been two before it), I always hope that John 3:16 will be corrected from its potential to be misread. However, it remains untouched in this new version. Incidentally, the HCSB and NET Bible get it right, while the NLT actually reinforces the misreading!

Retaining the traditional reading: updated NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Getting it right: HCSB & NET Bible
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (HCSB) For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET)

Making it more confusing: NLT
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

As I already suggested, the Translators' Notes are worth reading on your own. I'm not going to rehash issues like translating κατάλυμα as "guest house" instead of "inn" in Luke 2:7 since this was first introduced in the TNIV and I wrote about it four years ago. There are a number of significant issues that could be discussed, but I believe the real question that everyone was interested in on Monday related to how the updated NIV handles the gender issues for which some criticized the TNIV.

Most of these issues never had anything to do with complementarian vs. egalitarian debates, let alone"feminist" issues. Rather, these translation choices have to do with how well the biblical writer's intent is translated into English. These are simply communication issues. I want the biblical message to be clearly heard by all in the manner the original writers would have wanted it to be heard. To me this should not be political or even theological, but should come from a desire to clearly communicate God's revelation in a different language to a different culture.

Retaining the Singular They

Honestly, I'm surprised. I felt that one of the compromises the CBT would make would be to remove the use of the so-called singular they—that is, when a third person plural pronoun is used as a singular to incorporate both male and female genders. With all the nonsense that went on in the criticisms of the TNIV, I felt the singular they was the only true controversial translation choice—and that wasn't because I actually find the singular they to be controversial, but only because it had never been used in a major Bible translation.

The CBT has stated:

Singular ‟they,” ‟them” and ‟their” forms were widely used to communicate the generic significance of pronouns and their equivalents when a singular form had already been used for the antecedent (p. 6).

I accept the need of the singular they, even though I still mark it in the freshman writing classes that I sometimes teach (my goal is to have students think about the connections between their words at early levels of writing, but I always discuss this issue in detail with them).

And while singular theys can be a good solution for an inadequacy in the English language, they can still be tricky in their own right. Consider the NIV's history for Revelation 3:20—

NIV 1984
TNIV 2005 NIV 2011
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

 Note that the very real awkwardness of the close proximity of them and they in the TNIV. The updated NIV is an improvement, but I can't help still "hearing" it, and that might just be me. I accept the idea of a singular they, but it still can be awkward at times, and I usually can't help noticing it.

The type of improvement found in Rev 3:20 is found in numerous places. For instance, the everyone of Romans 2:6 (he in the 1984 NIV) is now each person in the updated NIV, giving emphasis upon the consequences of sin for each individual. Everyone is also singular, but each one seems to emphasize that a bit better.

In some cases, the CBT chose to move from a singular they back to a generic he. The reasoning for this is not explicitly stated by the CBT in the Translators Notes. The notes refer to Job 31:29 in which my ememys' [plural possessive]...them in the TNIV reverts back to the singular my ememy's [singular possessive]...him in the updated NIV. Here I can speculate that the change was made since ‏שַׂנְאִי is singular and more than likely any enemies of Job would have been male (but would a female enemy be out of the question?). However, why the switch back to a generic he in Rom 14:22?

NIV 1984
TNIV 2005 NIV 2011
Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves._________

ἀδελφοί retained as brothers and sisters

In most cases, ἀδελφοί has been retained with the correct rendering brothers and sisters when the writer had both genders in view. This understanding of ἀδελφοί is fairly well established and something that even the ESV acknowledges in many footnotes to the text (making one wonder why the ESV translators don't simply put the more accurate phrase in the text).

There are a few interesting changes I stumbled across, though. In 1 John 4:21 one another of the TNIV has now been changed to the more accurate brother and sister, better reflecting the singular accusative ἀδελφὸν. And the (needlessly) controversial wording of Hebrews 2:17 takes a departure from all of its predecessors, creating a solution that perhaps will not be the target of so much misunderstanding:

NIV 1984
TNIV 2005 NIV 2011
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way... For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way

A few steps back?

I actually consider myself to be fairly conservative, but as I've described before, what really changed my mind about gender renderings in Bible translations was the day years ago when teaching Genesis 1 to a group of teenagers, a young woman raised her hand and stated, "Mr. Mansfield, I never knew women were made in God's image, too." I looked at her in disbelief; I assumed she was kidding. But she said, paraphrasing the first part of Genesis, 1:27, "All I've ever heard was 'Man was made in God's image'—not women." After realizing she was serious, I polled the rest of the class, only to discover that at least a third of them thought the same thing—both male and female students—but mostly female.

This is why I say this is not a political or a theological issue; it's a communication issue. The masculine universal Man will always have the potential to cause some misunderstanding; a more inclusive word—which does no damage to the faithful rendering of the original languages—will not ever cause the kind of misunderstanding that I described in the paragraph above.

And while I admit that mankind will cause less confusion than man as a universal, I still believe the usage of the former is a step backwards.

NIV 1984
TNIV 2005 NIV 2011

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Consider how other contemporary translations have chosen to avoid the masculine universal and translate ‏אָדָם— humans (CEV, GWT ) human beings (REB, TNIV, Message, NLTse, TEV), humankind (NRSV, NET, NETS), people (NLT1).

Again, I still don't like it, but admittedly mankind is better than the NIV's man. Nevertheless, the updated NIV employs man as a universal, too.

NIV 1984
TNIV 2005 NIV 2011
Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

For some NIV users, this will not be any big deal. But for those who used (and still use) the TNIV because of the way that verses like Gen 1:27 and Matt 4:4 are handled, I doubt the updated NIV will be seen as a fitting replacement.

σάρξ/Flesh/Sinful Nature

Much of what has been changed in the updated NIV comes as no surprise. This change, however, was unexpected:

Most occurrences of ‟sinful nature” have become ‟flesh.” Especially in Paul, sarx can mean either part or all of the human body or the human being under the power of sin. In an effort to capture this latter sense of the word, the original NIV often rendered sarx as ‟sinful nature.” But this expres- sion can mislead readers into thinking the human person is made up of various compartments, one of which is sarx, whereas the biblical writers’ point is that humans can choose to yield themselves to a variety of influences or powers, one of which is the sin-producing sarx. The updated NIV uses ‟flesh” as the translation in many places where it is important for readers to decide for themselves from the context whether one or both of these uses of sarx is present (p. 7).

Look, I realize that the NIV's rendering of σάρξ as sinful nature had been problematic in some circles. However, the English flesh is equally problematic because outside of church, English speakers today do not use the word flesh in the way Paul used the word σάρξ two millennia ago. Flesh is insider language, not necessarily representative of the spirit of the Κοινή Greek in which the New Testament was written. But I have no doubt that this, like the move to use man and mankind, were concessions by the CBT to appeal to certain elements in Evangelical Christianity.

Restoring Messianic Allusions

I know some of you will think I'm contradictory here, but I do appreciate one of the particular "steps back" that the CBT made regarding the updated NIV. Again, the issues I've raised above, are nothing more than communicative issues to me. This one that I'm about to briefly mention really is theological.

In my initial review of the TNIV six years ago, I suggested that when it came to Old Testament prophecies and allusions to Christ, the theological importance of the passage should trump the desire to make a passage gender inclusive. I used Psalm 34:20 and John 19:36 as my example. Many of you disagreed with me strongly on this issue. And I understood the argument against me before I even made it:

The use of inclusive language blurs the prophetic nature of the passage. In my opinion, the choice to alter a verse like this is a distraction and brings unnecessary criticism to the TNIV. I've heard the opposing viewpoint--that an Old Testament passage needs to be treated in its own context, and I respect that. But I also read the OT as a Christian, and it's exactly these kinds of verses that root Christ throughout the Scriptures. I'm also aware that many quotations are slightly different anyway because most often the NT writers tend to quote the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew Scriptures; but again, I would leave such passages alone if I were running the committee.

Well, I haven't taken the time to run a thorough examination, but I can at least note that Psalm 34:20 in the updated NIV has restored "their bones" to the original "his bones. I believe that's a change for the better, but I know some of you will disagree with me, and that's fine.

How about my predictions?

When the NIV 2011 was first announced last year, I made a set of predictions. Let's see how I did.

(1) Get your TNIVs while you can as they will become more difficult than ever to find.
Well, that was pretty much a freebie. I have no insider knowledge about Zondervan's print runs, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that no new TNIV edition was printed after the 2009 announcement was made. And TNIVs aren't totally impossible to find yet. I've seen some of them in the Sale bin at the local Christian bookstore.

(2) The 2011 NIV will be more gender inclusive than the ESV, but less so than the TNIV.
Nailed that one.

(3) Say goodbye to the Singular They.
Definitely wrong on this one. Honestly, I'm still a bit surprised.

(4) Regardless of how much the progress of the TNIV is compromised in the 2011 NIV, it will still be controversial.
Only time will tell on this one, but what I said in 2009 bears repeating:

The CBT is simply not going to satisfy some of the detractors out there. That crowd actually dislikes the NIV, too. The TNIV was simply their excuse to rail and promote "other" translations. Most of these folks will do the same thing to the 2011 NIV. However, if Zondervan can get Lifeway and other CBA stores to carry the 2011 NIV where the TNIV was forbidden, they will have at least made some progress.

(5) As we wait for the 2011 NIV, expect the 1984 NIV to keep on selling.
Again, I've got no insider information (after the TNIV was killed, Zondervan quit contacting me altogether—really). However, I wouldn't doubt that the NIV still sells quite well. And the updated NIV should continue to sell as well, too, thanks to its keeping of the same name.

Final thoughts (for now)

The updated NIV is many things. It's a correction to the NIV; it's in some ways a step backwards from the progress of the TNIV (with a few exceptions); it's by nature a compromise; it's a course correction. And it also represents the hope of Biblica/IBS and Zondervan (not to mention Hodder & Stoughton) for the continued opportunity to sell millions of Bibles.

I honestly don't know if the updated NIV will appeal to all the people who treasured the TNIV. And I'm not intending to sound ugly with this, but I'm not certain that any of its handlers care. TNIV users were a clear minority, although I primarily blame its handlers for their lack of promotion (and their inability to wean themselves from the NIV cash cow) for that fact.

Even I have moved on. I went back to using the HCSB, especially in its recent update. In reality, the HCSB is even more conservative than the updated NIV, but as I always say, I reserve the right to "correct" it on the fly as I read it in front of an audience.

If I can make another prediction, I'm certain the updated NIV will be just fine. The average consumer and church member in the pew doesn't even keep up with this stuff. They'll (that's a singular they) walk into a store and simply buy the NIV they (that's another one) see on the shelf. That's what the NIV's handlers are hoping for. It's now incumbent on them to stick to their guns and quit printing the 1984 NIV. If they don't, the NIV will eventually fade, although not probably in our lifetime.

I'm still undecided, but I'll try to keep an open mind. I've only been able to make a cursory look. I'll have to read it in its entirety. In the past, I would have said that I need to get a print copy to do a proper evaluation. These days, I'm content if I can simply get a copy on my iPad.

Hardcore TNIV users may not be satisfied. They may end up using the NRSV or the NLT or something else altogether. I doubt many will follow my lead in making the HCSB their primary translation (my secondary text is the NLT). But that's the beauty of translation choice.

And for what it's worth, there's also nothing wrong with sticking with the TNIV or even the original NIV if either of those are the translations from which you best hear God's voice.

One more thing: be certain to check out the detailed computer generated analysis that Robert Slowly has created, comparing the updated NIV to the original NIV and the TNIV— "NIV2011 comparison with NIV1984 and TNIV."


2011 NIV Going Online November 1

In case you haven't heard, the 2011 NIV is going online on November 1, although print editions will not be available until March of next year.

Read today's press release.

Coincidentally, I used the TNIV last night in my deacon charge because it was the only translation I had that I felt rendered the particular texts I was using correctly. It was the first time I'd used the TNIV in well over a year. I'll be interested to see how the 2011 edition shakes out.


Highlights from the 2010 Accordance Users Conference

I know that while my posts have been infrequent lately, the most recent entries have primarily related to Accordance in one way or another. I promise that I will add a bit more diversity back to This Lamp very soon. I have a long lists of topics to write about, including a number of long-promised reviews.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a service center getting an oil change and the tires rotated on my wife's PT Cruiser. We put about 2200 miles on it last week driving from Simpsonville, Kentucky, to Mesquite, Texas, with a couple of brief stops in Louisiana to visit family—and then back! The main purpose of this trip was for me to attend the first-ever Accordance Users Conference, which met from September 24-25.

The Accordance Users Conference was designed to be distinct from the normal training seminar (of which I've led three or four myself in the past). While attendees could certainly learn to use Accordance better as in a training seminar, the Users Conference was chance to see a variety of specialized presentations on numerous topics. The timing of the conference also coincided with the release of Accordance version 9, and the upcoming iOS version of Accordance which was publicly demonstrated for the first time.

Two scheduled speakers were unable to attend. Martin Abegg had a family emergency, and Joe Weaks was ill. Abegg had been scheduled to deliver an address on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Roy Brown, the creator of Accordance and president of Oak Tree Software, filled in for him adapting a presentation he had previously presented on the subject in Israel.

Is Accordance for Academics Only?
Most of the time, attendees had a choice between "heavy" and "light" sessions—or technical and non-technical or requiring biblical languages and not requiring biblical languages.

I tended to gravitate to the so-called "heavy" sessions, but I have to admit that this was partly because I was also in the back grading papers and there was more room for this in the larger room. One supposedly "lighter" session I did attend was David Lang's "Sermon Prep Workshop." It was not that I thought Greg Ward couldn't teach me anything new in his concurrent "Original Languages Workshop," but I was more intrigued to see what David would present.

Here's why: often I hear a bit of faulty wisdom out there saying that Accordance is better for academics while Logos is better for pastors. The truth is neither of these assertions is valid. Logos can be used for academic biblical study and pastors can use Accordance for sermon prep. And people do both with each platform every day.

David, admitting he doesn't preach sermons every week, chose to create a conversation with people in the session—most of whom were pastors—regarding how they use Accordance in their preparation. Lots of good ideas were shared. This led me to an idea for a similar session that perhaps the organizers could implement for next year's conference.

I know from the Accordance training sessions I've led as well as from the Accordance forums that many pastors use Accordance intensively in their sermon preparation. I believe it would be a great idea to bring in a pastor for next year's conference who is both an experienced Accordance user as well as a seasoned preacher to demonstrate his actual sermon preparation workflow to attendees interested in the subject. Something like "Using Accordance for Sermon Preparation: 7 Basic Steps" or something similar might be helpful for those who preach regularly.

Daniel Wallace and the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts
On the evening of the first day of the conference, Daniel Wallace gave us a presentation relating to his work with The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. Wallace and his team have been traveling the globe making high resolution photos of priceless, ancient manuscripts before they are lost to history due to age and deterioration. Using high res photography and, in some cases, ultraviolet imagery, the team has been able to create better images and see text more clearly than ever before. The detail in the images Wallace showed us was truly remarkable. And the high res photographs are going to be invaluable for text criticism over the old microfilms that were the only resources some scholars have had to work with. Moreover, in the process of photographing known manuscripts, the CSNTM team has discovered over 70 previously uncatalogued New Testament manuscripts in the last 8 years.

As an aside, this work is fairly expensive. The cost to preserve one page of a unique, handwritten page of the New Testament is $4. The average cost of one NT manuscript is $2200. The CSNTM is a worthy cause for your donations regardless of your theological leanings or background.

In conjunction with Dr. Wallace's presentation, Roy Brown announced that there is currently in the works a project to bring many of the high resolution images taken by CSNTM to Accordance, much as has already been done with the Dead Sea Scrolls Images module. I got a sneak peak at the Sinaiticus images that will be made available. Between that and other tools already available such as the digitized Codex Sinaiticus modulealready available, Accordance users are increasingly able to do their very own textual criticism beyond the resources text critics had available a century ago.

A History Lesson
At the beginning of the second day of the conference, David Lang presented attendees with "A Brief History of Accordance." This was a fascinating session for anyone such as myself who enjoys history of technology, but it was also interesting to hear the history of Accordance development from much of the early "wild west days" which led up to the sophisticated features we have in v. 9 today. I've been using Accordance since version 3.5 (I think) in 1998, but I didn't know all of the background stories.

David is a master presenter who knows Accordance and its history, perhaps only second to Roy Brown himself, but sadly, the brief history was simply too brief. Thirty minutes turned out to be too short of time for this subject, especially with audience comments and question. For next year, I recommend giving this subject a full hour, perhaps titled "A Not So Brief History of Accordance"—and with more screenshots from the early versions, too!

It's a Mobile World
Much of Saturday's emphasis centered on Bible software in the mobile space. Scott Knapp, Oak Tree's primary iOS developer, gave the first ever public demo of Accordance for iOS. Participants were given a look at an early beta and feedback was invited. When the final product is released this Fall, it will be a universal app (meaning it will be optimized for both the iPhone/iPod Touch and the iPad).

As an unexpected bonus, Scott announced that all attendees at the Accordance Users Conference would become part of the beta program. And before you ask (because others began asking immediately after I mentioned this on Twitter last Saturday), no, being at the conference in spirit doesn't count. :-)

Accordance was not the only Bible software with a presence at the conference. Drew Haninger, CEO of OliveTree Bible Software, joined us for a panel discussion I chaired on "The Impact and Future of Mobile Bible Software." This was a "big picture" discussion on the history and current state of mobile Bible software as well as projections for what the future might hold. Although our discussion focused primarily on Apple's iOS, we also referred to Android and Kindle, among others, a number of times, too.

From left to right: Drew Haninger (OliveTree), Scott Knapp (Accordance), Mark Allison (Accordance), Rick Mansfield (Me)

Olive Tree's Drew Haninger shows us the "first" mobile Bible.

The panel discussion on mobile Bible technology was very enjoyable to participate in. Certainly, this is where the focus of my technology interests currently lie. In fact, I originally considered showing up at the conference with only my iPad in hand, but the fact that I needed to grade papers (which I cannot currently do on the iPad) and with the release of Accordance v. 9, I lugged my MacBook Pro along, too. Nevertheless, I suggested to Drew that we ought to consider a mobile Bible technology podcast because there is certainly lots still to discuss.

Also, for those of you who know what I'm talking about, Drew showed me a very quick look at "Project Glacier." I'd like to tell you more, but I'd have to kill you afterwards. But just be patient—it looks awesome.

Syntax Rules!
Admittedly, Accordance was not the first Bible software program to the table with syntax tagging, as many will acknowledge the extremely interpretive nature of assigning syntax to words and phrases in a biblical text. Nevertheless, since users kept asking for it, Oak Tree recently made available the beginnings of its syntax modules for both the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible with the promise (specifically made at the conference) of more to come. To see screenshots of Accordance syntax in action, see my previous post.

Robert Holmstedt delivered a paper, "Understanding and Using the New Syntax Searching Capabilities in Accordance 9" which offered a detailed look at both the philosophy behind Accordance's approach to syntax as well as practical and even very specific searches that can be performed. A copy of the paper can be downloaded from Holmstedt's public dropbox folder (if that link becomes broken in the future, let me know).

Besides the mobile technology panel, I also participated in the final session, "Ask the Accordance Experts," which was supposed to help round out any remaining "how to" questions regarding Accordance. I was very flattered to be the only non-company (although I have done contract work for Oak Tree in the past) member of the panel. Unfortunately, almost immediately the discussion became a forum for some attendees to voice suggestions (or complaints) about various elements in the user interface. While the Oak Tree employees surely appreciated the suggestions, this was not the actual intended focus of the session, and as one idea spurred another, we never fully got back on track. Thus, I had little to offer in this session. Perhaps next year, a separate session could be offered—perhaps on day one—for suggestions and feature requests. These are certainly important, but I imagine a number of users could have better benefitted from the final session if it had proceeded as originally intended.

The Accordance Users Conference seemed from my perspective—as someone who is both a user and a "sometimes" insider—to be a great success. The sessions were diverse and targeted every skill level. An untold number of fascinating conversations took place both during and in between sessions. It was great to meet many folks in person whom I'd only corresponded with online before.

I hope that this becomes an annual, or at least a regular event. When the next one is announced, I strongly encourage you to make plans to be there. It was truly an experience that cannot be simulated by the internet or even at one of the Accordance training conferences (as these are different in purpose) held throughout the year.

One more thing: A number of people have asked me if the sessions were recorded. I don't know the answer to that, but if I find out, I'll post information here.

Update: David Lang has written "Reflections on the Users' Conference" which you should read, too. Although note that he adds a possessive apostrophe to Users which I don't for the same reason I don't add an apostrophe to Mens Room Boys Choir [edit: better example]. ;-)



Accordance 9: Major New Features Screenshots

Accordance 9 won't see official release until Monday, but Oak Tree has begun sending out download links for those who have already paid for the upgrade. This post does not offer an exhaustive overview of new features, but hits a few of the big highlights. For more details and for other new features not mentioned here, go to the "New in 9" page at the Accordance website.

Click on the images below for a full-size view.

Zones: changing the way you work in Accordance. See here: the HCSB, Greek NT, and Word Biblical Commentary in parallel (top left); my personal notes (bottom left);The concept behind the new Accordance "zones" is not new to Bible software; it's been around for a long time. But sometimes different software of the same kind will follow different use philosophies, and that was certainly the case in the past with the way Accordance works. In previous versions of Accordance, biblical texts, commentaries, and notes could be in the same window (or on the same tab), but not modules of a different kind—such as the Greek New Testament and BDAG together. Yet the reality is that if you were to use physical texts, you might certainly place a Greek New Testament and a lexicon right beside each other. And there were ways to do this in previous versions of Accordance, but usually it meant manually aligning two separate windows beside each other if the user didn't want to go back and forth between two tabs. This is certainly Oak Tree responding to how users want to use Accordance for their work and study.

Searching in Accordance now offers results in context.Accordance has always been lightening fast in its searches, but in the past, searching through large numbers of texts could take a while. If, on a rare occasion I decided to do a true "Search All," I knew that I should really go do something else while the query was being processed. Further, the results list wasn't all that helpful. If a particular title returned multiple hits, I had to actually open that module to see what they were one by one.

In Accordance 9, search results of large numbers of files are not only fast, but displayed in their context. In the example above, I've created a group called "Journals" in which I've added 11 volumes of the Theological Journal Library, the entire Biblical Archaeology Review collection, and a beta of the upcoming Journal of Biblical Literature. This represents literally hundreds of thousands of pages of text. As I hit the search button, I looked at the second hand on my watch. I had the final results shown above in less than 10 seconds.

Even better than the quick results is the new contextual results list which you see in the right pane of the window. Note that I've selected JETS on the left. The results show me an issue by issue breakdown with my results in the full context of the paragraph that it occurs. See that in the results above, two different issues are represented, and when I scroll down I see many more.

Easy Install makes adding new modules easier.

I can't offer an accurate screenshot of the process without making a purchase, but now, if I buy a new Accordance module from the website, it will immediately be added to the list in the Easy Install window allowing me to download the file directly. Oak Tree has been offering downloadable modules for a while, but not for everything and never this integrated into the software. The list of files I have in the window below doesn't seem to be quite complete as it only goes back to 2005 (I've been using Accordance since 1998), but I believe it will be of most use in obtaining new titles from this point forward.

Syntax diagram for the BHS
Syntax diagram for the Greek NT

Accordance 9's new syntax modules offer graphical representation of the syntax of a biblical text. The cross highlighting feature that was available between tagged original language texts and keyed translation texts has been applied to the new syntax module. If you move your mouse over a word in the Greek or Hebrew text, it is also highlighted in the syntax window and even the corresponding word in a keyed translation. If you forget what an abbreviation for the syntax window means, running your mouse over it will reveal it's definition in the Instant Details window.

I started writing this post this morning, but didn't have time to complete it until this evening. In the intervening time, Timothy Jenney has posted a new video podcast offering an overview of some of these features and more. This video can be viewed in iTunes, YouTube, or on the Accordance podcast page.



Five (5!) Days Left to Preregister for the Accordance Users Conference

You've got five days left to preregister for the Accordance Users Conference, set for September 24-25 in Mesquite, Texas. You can still register afterwards, of course, but it will cost you more!

If you preregister, the cost is $70 ($35 for students), but beginning September 1, the cost goes up to $100 ($50 for students).

There's a lot happening over the two days of the conference, including multiple sessions and two different tracks (download conference schedule here). The headliners are Martin Abegg and Daniel Wallace:

Dr. Abegg is the Ben Zion Wacholder Professor of Dead Sea Scroll Studies at Trinity Western University. He is an active Accordance user and developer of all the Qumran and Dead Sea Scrolls modules used in Accordance. He will give a presentation on the relationship of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, and will be present during the entire conference for anyone who would like to meet with him.

Dr. Wallace is Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. He will give a presentation describing the Center’s work of discovering and photographing New Testament manuscripts in order to further New Testament textual criticism.

Plus, it's been announced that the upcoming iPhone/iPad Accordance app will be shown off at the conference, and yours truly has been asked to chair a panel discussion: "The Impact and Future of Mobile Bible Software." Joining in this discussion will be Drew Haninger, founder and CEO of Olive Tree Bible Software, makers of BibleReader for the iPhone, iPad, and a host of other mobile devices (see, who said Bible software companies can't get along?).

So, don't miss the preregistration deadline, and I'll see you there!


The Times, They Are A-Changin' (Are You Paying Attention?)

Do you have a friend or relative who forwards you a dozen emails a day? Who sometimes even forwards you the same thing six weeks later? If so, you may have seen this one, but what's new here is that I've added a few of my own responses.

My parents are very judicious in what they forward to me. They only send what they think I'll recently be interested in, and such is the subject of this post. Below you will find one of the various memes traveling around the internet interspersed with my comment. The meme's content is in the quotation box, and my response follows.

I tried to find the original writer of this, but it's been repeated so many times on the internet, I'm not certain as to its origin. If you know who wrote this, send me an email at and I'll give proper credit to the writer.

The original title on the email reads "This is very interesting...and a little sad!" I do believe that it's interesting, but not all of it is all that sad to me.

Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them.  But, ready or not, here they come!

1.  The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office.  They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term.  Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive.  Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

I doubt the post office is going completely away, but we may see five-day or even four-day service instead of the six-day delivery we are used to. The last sentence above is very true. Most of my mail is made up of bills, advertising circulars, and magazines (to add one item). With my iPad, I've already converted a couple of my subscriptions to electronic formats. The magazines that Kathy and I both read—Time, Christianity Today, Entertainment Weekly—will remain in physical form until a way is developed for us to share electronic versions between devices.

But back to the Post Office... More than Fed Ex and UPS, which is limited in what they're allowed to deliver to your door, the real threat to the future of the Post Office has been email. They say that the written letter is dead. But it doesn't have to be. Want to really impress someone? Write a handwritten letter or thank you note, and send it in the mail.

2.  The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018.  It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks.  Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check.  This plays right into the death of the post office.  If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

I pay as many of my bills electronically as I can. Saves postage costs (there goes the Post Office) and time. But we can't get rid of the check until all my bills take electronic payment. I can't pay my local water bill over the internet because their payment system is based on a 25-year-old DOS-based billing system! (West Shelby Water, are you reading this?)

Checks are still handy for other things, too, like when I owe my buddy $20 for some expense he covered for me. But that's only because it's more convenient to write him a check and make him go to the bank instead of going to the ATM myself. Speaking of which, we'll probably see physical cash disappear in our lifetime, too. I'm not so concerned really.

And speaking of checks, I realized not long ago that the only time I still use cursive handwriting was to sign my name and write the payment line on checks. So, I decided to quit cursive handwriting all together. I mean, what's the point? My handwriting is bad regardless, but I promise you that my print is easier to read than my cursive. I guess I'll keep cursive for my signature. But that's it.

3.  The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper.  They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition.  That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man.  As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it.  The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

Let's be honest, the newspaper is on life support because the traditional press has not kept up with the times. People don't sell their stuff in the classifieds anymore; they use craigslist and eBay. Further, the internet delivers the news almost immediately (and with services like Twitter, it's often literally in the immediate). By the time a newspaper story is written, printed, and delivered, it's not longer news.

And I've questioned why I still subscribe to certain magazines when they often deliver the same content for free on the web before it arrives to my door. And I'm not talking about breaking news stories, I'm referring to feature articles. In this regard, they're shooting themselves in the foot.

I do believe a free press is important. It's part of who we are as a democracy. But newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals need to rethink delivery. Printing on dead trees, paying for people to drive trucks, and paying for the trucks themselves is not an efficient use of the press' income anymore. I don't subscribe to the local Shelby County newspaper, The Sentinel News, anymore, but I'd be willing to subscribe again if it came "magically" to my iPad every morning at a price less than what they charge for a print subscription. It's basically their choice of getting some money from me or no money from me. It might be less money, but they could make that up by not having to pay for printing, vehicles and delivery.

4.  The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages.  I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes.  I wanted my hard copy CD.  But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music.  The same thing will happen with books.  You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy.  And the price is less than half that of a real book.  And think of the convenience!  Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

I completely agree with the writer. My first electronic book came in the way of the Online Bible for DOS which an acquaintance gave me on multiple 5.25" floppy disks back in 1988. Over the last couple of decades, thanks to programs like Accordance, Logos, and Wordsearch, I've accumulated electronic books in the thousands. But I still held on to my physical books, also numbering in the thousands, with many titles duplicated in both physical and electronic form.

It took Apple's iPad to convince of what I can now say with no reservation: I absolutely don't care if I never buy another book in physical form. And since Logos has an iPad app and there's one in the works for Accordance, I've been pulling the physical duplicates from my shelves and have them stacked in my front room waiting to be catalogued and sold. Some books I'll never get rid of for sentimental and in some cases, practical reasons, but I'm definitely reducing all the "stuff" in my house.

I'm not knocking physical books, and I have no agenda to change your mind. It's strictly a personal decision. But carrying thousands of books on a device as small as the iPad as opposed to using up the entire guest bedroom to hoard my own personal library is a much better choice for me.

5.  The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore.  Most people keep it simply because they're always had it.  But you are paying double charges for that extra service.  All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

Absolutely agreed. I haven't had a landline since 2002. Why would I need it? Why do you need it?

6.  Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story.  The music industry is dying a slow death.  Not just because of illegal downloading.  It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it.  Greed and corruption is the problem.  The record labels and the radio conglomerates simply self-destruction.  Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with.  The older established artists.  This is also true on the live concert circuit.  To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

I guess I stopped listening to new music sometime after I graduated from college in 1990. Occasionally, I'll hear a musician I like and pick up something new, but for the most part, music is simply not part of my day. And when it is, I'm listening to something from decades past. My tastes definitely aren't mainstream, so I can't judge the quality of current pop music. Everyone believes the next generation's tastes and talent are not as good as their own.

Like the press, the music industry is also an example of an industry not keeping up with the times. I don't encourage breaking the law, but I do believe the laws concerning music sharing should be changed to accommodate the reality of how easy it is to share music electronically. Look, I want everyone to get paid their due, but we need a different paradigm for musicians to accomplish that.

I haven't read the books mentioned above, but I did read Michael Lewis' book Next: The Future Just Happened way back in 2001. In that book, Lewis discussed the idea of bands who simply give their music away and support themselves from fan support either through donations (We'll make our next album when we've raised enough money to cover costs), concerts, and selling of merchandise. Patron funding is actually how musicians supported themselves for millennia. Of course, it eliminates the need for middlemen, i. e. the record labels.

Well... good riddance.

7.  Television.  Revenues to the networks are down dramatically.  Not just because of the economy.  People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers.  And they're playing games and doing all lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV.  Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator.  Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  I say good riddance to most of it It's time for  the cable companies to be put out of our misery.  Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

Well, I'm not in disagreement, but I feel that I still watch too much television. And when I do watch, I've recorded it on my TiVo, and I fast forward through the commercials. That's not good for the networks that depend upon advertisers' dollars, but it saves me 15 minutes of every hour-long television show.

Further, I've become mistrustful of new television shows. With the immediate ratings expectations that networks have (Fox seems to be the worst), a show will get pulled for low numbers just as it gets interesting without resolving the conflict that was the basis of the show. These days, I'd rather wait and see if a new show is successful in the long run before investing my time end emotions into it. This is the kind of approach that Netflix was made for.

I don't know what the exact solution to this is for those who make television shows, but I do know that this is clearly yet another medium that hasn't kept up with changes in technology and lifestyle.

Plus, if television were to actually go away tomorrow (which it won't), we wouldn't get bored for lack of something to do. We're entertaining ourselves to death as it is.

8.  The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future.  They may simply reside in "the cloud."  Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents.  Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be.  But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services."  That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system.  So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet.  If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud.  If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud.  And you may pay a monthly subscripti on fee to the cloud provider.

In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device.  That's the good news.  But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?"  Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical?  It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

Well, yes and no. First, the idea of a simple dumb terminal, connected to a larger network, has been around since the nineties, and technically even earlier. It's yet to be a complete reality for the majority of computer users. To me "the cloud" is great for backup and transfer, but I still prefer to keep actual copies of my files handy and easily accessible, regardless of whether or not I have a wireless connection or not.

Even at the most practical level, while WiFi access has become fairly commonplace, it's not completely ubiquitous yet. How many times have I gone to a coffee shop to do some work for a couple of hours, only to discover the wireless router is on the fritz, only after I've already ordered my coffee, pastry and had a seat? Too often. If I completely depended upon a cloud service like GoogleDocs and wanted to finish a half-written document, I'd either have to relocate or start over. No thanks. I'd rather have my files local, thank you. Oh, I know WiMAX, cellular internet service and similar technologies are supposed to be the answer. But all of them are either too expensive or not quite ready.

I moved ThisLamp to WordPress almost a year ago, a completely cloud-based website service. Yesterday, accidentally, I completely overwrote my previous post after I used a different device to attempt to compose a new post. Although I am partly to blame, this could not have happened with my previous method of blogging. Had it not been for an internet cache of the original post, it would have simply been lost. Therefore, I am seriously tempted to begin using a program like MarsEdit to compose local files that will then upload to WordPress on the internet.

One more example: a couple of weeks ago, in trying to test out the personal notes feature in Logos Bible software, a function that is primarily cloud-based, a number of the notes I created were corrupted during the synchronizing process to and from their servers to my computer That left me with the choice of either deleting them and forgetting about it or re-creating them. Now, granted, the Mac version of Logos is in beta, so I knew my risks, but beta or not, this shows the danger of not having complete control over local files as well as having good backups.

Of course, lack of backups is the real danger to the current "things" we own on our computers. The average computer user simply never backs up his or her files. How many friends have called me wanting to know what they can do to retrieve the years' worth of digital photos sitting on a dead hard drive. I even have one of those hard drives myself, although with just a few weeks' worth of un-backuped pictures, waiting for the day when I have an extra couple thousand dollars to pay a professional data retrieval company to get my pictures back.

I've learned the hard way. I backup my my main laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad multiple times a week and my primary backup is not kept in my home.

9.  Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy.  That's gone.  It's been gone for a long time anyway.  There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone.  But you can be sure that 24/7 "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View.  If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits.  And "They" will try to get you to buy something else.  Again and again!

Well, this is a double-edged sword, isn't it? While we might feel those cameras in public places are an invasion of our privacy, we certainly are glad for their presence if we've been robbed, assaulted, or wronged in any way. Cameras in public places come as a cost of our safety. If I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, they will never be used against me.

And while it might make me feel a bit squishy to know that Kroger is tracking my purchases when I use their discount card, I certainly like the discounts and the coupons they send me now and then based upon my shopping habits.

The real invasion of our privacy often comes at our own doing in this technological age. I finally embraced FaceBook, but I don't share my information with just anyone (including strangers, teenagers and children of friends who try to friend me). I don't post anything that a current or future employer might frown upon. I don't post anything that would shock my mother. I'm careful when installing new software to at least scan through the user agreement and not allow something to be added to the toolbar of my web browser (these little apps are often being used to track a user's movements). I don't add people to my Foursquare friends list whom I don't know because I don't want strangers tracking my movements. Yes, I sometimes rebroadcast these updates on Twitter (which is public), but I purposefully don't post all of them.

All we will have that can't be changed are Memories.

Well, yes and no, here, too, right? How often do I look at photographs from way back and wonder why I can no longer remember the names of some of those people or even wonder who they were and what I was doing in the picture? We're concerned about serious conditions such as Alzheimer's, but we continue to eat food cooked in aluminum and reheat the leftovers in plastic—neither of which are probably a good idea.

Look, things change. And it's not always clear cut as to whether it's for the good or bad. We think of our past as being a simpler time, but often we do that to the neglect of remembering how many conveniences we have now.

A service like Facebook, for instance, allows me to stay in at least minimal touch with a significant larger number of my graduating high school class than my parents could have at my age. Are those "friendships" as relevant as the relationships I have right now in my immediate community of work, neighborhood, and church? Probably not, but I'm glad I have them anyway.

When I can play Words with Friends with an old classmate I've known since the second grade, but haven't seen in two decades in person, I still prefer that connection over playing with a stranger. And I'd rather have that than no contact at all.

Yes, I run the risk of legacy file formats twenty years from now for eBooks I buy today, but I also know of people who have lost hundreds of books from fire and flood. I'm willing to take the risk on the technology and hope that with millions of us making the same choice, there will be enough momentum to ensure we can still access them years down the road.

Here's a new question for all of us to face: Can I leave my virtual properties to a family member or friend when I pass on? This will be the next question (among many) to answer in our changing and increasingly technological world.


Top Ten Bible Versions: Revisited (2010)

In 2006, I created a top ten list of my favorite versions of the Bible. It was partly based on preference and partly categorical. Then, over the next year, I attempted to write meaningful reviews as to why these selections were chosen. Some liked my selections and some didn’t, but they were mine. See “Top Ten Bible Versions: The Complete Boxed Set” at my old site.

As I’ve written many times before, collecting English versions of the Bible has always been a bit of a hobby for me—going back to my teenage years. I was fascinated by even the minute choices that translators could make. Studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary, and incorporating original languages into my own personal study of the Bible gave me even greater insight into my fascination. In other words, one might think that learning biblical languages would negate any need for translations, but rather it made my interest deepen.

Further, I still use English translations in front of an audience. It takes a lot of time to create good translation that is better than what a committee has spent a few years on. And this is made even more clear when I attempt to translate a passage from Greek on the fly (previously unprepared), so I usually have both original languages and translation with me.

When not in the classroom or not in church, my study of the Bible comes mostly from electronic platforms such as Accordance on my Mac and Olive Tree’s BibleReader on my iPad. Electronic platforms especially accommodate the use of comparative readings of the Bible, much easier than laying out multiple physical copies side-by-side.

I occasionally get asked if I would update my top ten list now that a few years have gone by. Well, these kinds of preferences are always open to change. So, in light of that, here’s my list for 2010. The first five or so are actually ranked more or less. The latter five are more categorical in nature.

1. Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

See original review here. I still find this translation to be the most significant version of the Bible to arrive in decades. I chose it in the first place because of what I called “technical accuracy” in translation and the willingness to break with traditional renderings for the sake of correct meaning. The HCSB is essentially a median translation (the best kind in my opinion), sometimes more literal and sometimes more dynamic according to the need.

Since I placed the HCSB at the top of my list in 2006, I drifted from it a while, but last year while teaching a series on the Psalms I came back to it, and I haven’t left since. Yes, there are some renderings I don’t always agree with, but I reserve the right to “correct” on the fly if necessary.

This is the primary translation I’m currently using in public, and having just recently bought a new edition with the revised text, I don’t expect that will change for a long time.

If you’ve dismissed the HCSB because you think it’s a “Baptist” Bible, you’re selling it short (half the translation committee, including the general editor, are not Baptist) and both you and your audience are missing out.

2. New Living Translation (NLT)

See original review here. Continually improved since its debut as an actual translation (as opposed to its predecessor’s status as a paraphrase) in 1996, the NLT remains the best example of contemporary, conversational English language of any translation. It’s a great choice for both new believers as well as seasoned Christians who might have heard the Bible so many times in traditional terms that they no longer hear it so clearly.

The narrative portions are the best. If you’re preaching through the gospels, I don’t have a better recommendation than the NLT. However, by the same token, I don’t find it as helpful in poetic sections as metaphors are often flattened out a bit more than I’d prefer. Nevertheless, even this has been improved in recent years.

I still haven’t found a good “carry with me” copy of the second edition text, although I had a couple of favorites in the first edition.

3. NET Bible (New English Translation)

See original review here. Note that I switched title and abbreviation order for this version because it’s known better by its acronym which also makes a play on the word internet, where the NET Bible was first released. This version didn’t even make my original list because I was still in the process of familiarizing myself with it. But a few years later, after using it extensively in personal study, in the classroom, and from behind the pulpit, I can recommend it without hesitation.

As I said in my long-delayed review, “I recommend the NET Bible–especially the standard edition with 60,932 notes–to all believers.” Hands down, the complete NET Bible has the best set of notes I’ve ever seen in any study Bible. The translation, while still having a few rough places, is solid, too. Ultimately, this is simply a translation of the Bible in need of better exposure.

4. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

No official review, but see NRSV tags on both the classic and current This Lamp site. This is another translation that didn’t make my original list. While I had used the NRSV a good bit in the early nineties, I’d neglected it afterwards. But in recent years, I find myself referencing it more often and have come to appreciate it again.

The NRSV often gets a bad rap as a “liberal” Bible in some conservative circles. And while there are certain renderings that I would translate differently, I find the NRSV to be quite reliable. Its senior editor was the late, great Bruce Metzger, and because I trust him, I trust the NRSV. It’s the current de facto standard translation in academic circles, and the NRSV contains the widest selection of apocryphal/deuterocanonical literature of any English translation.


5. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

See official review here. For better or worse, I doubt I’ll ever escape the NASB (and don’t necessarily want to). This was the first Bible as a teenager that I could understand (claims of woodenness be hanged!). The NASB was the first translation I read from cover to cover. I taught from this translation for almost two decades. Most scripture I have memorized is in the NASB. In many ways it is still standard for me, even if it is a bit dated these days. If someone wants a formal equivalent translation in the Tyndale tradition ,this is still the version I recommend.

6. Good News Translation (AKA Today’s English Version; GNT/TEV)

See original review here. I can remember looking at Annie Vallotton’s simple, but profound line drawings, even before I could read, in my parents’ paperback copy of Good News for Modern Man. I’m very thankful to have access to this translation in Accordance, but I wish I had the pictures, too!

After reading Eugene A. Nida’s book, Good News for Everyone: How to Use the Good News Bible, I gained new respect, not only for this translation but also for the method of translation. While somewhat dated, the GNT remains the best pure dynamic equivalent (DE) Bible in my opinion, perhaps closely challenged by the Contemporary English Version. However, the CEV removes most parallelism in poetic passages (making them quite unpoetic), so I still give favor to the GNT. Plus, I still like the pictures; I don’t care what you think.

7. The Message

See original review here. While I would never recommend it as a primary Bible, the Message is easily the best pure paraphrase of the entire Bible ever produced. Those who detest it don’t “get” it, in my estimation. Eugene Peterson essentially redefined the word paraphrase, which had previously been applied to works reworded from existing translations, since Peterson created his paraphrase directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts.

Some parts of the Message are admittedly troublesome and some parts are genius. I particularly like the Old Testament wisdom literature (especially Proverbs) in the Message.

8. New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)

See original review here. Essentially, a Catholic Bible, this translation is far superior to the “official” Catholic New American Bible. I like to say that if I were Catholic, this would be the Bible I would use. I don’t keep up with the NJB’s wider use much these days, but I’ve heard for a long time that a third edition was in the works. I wouldn’t doubt with the Catholic Church’s recent disallowance of the use of the Divine Name in worship services (which the NJB uses almost exclusively over the traditional LORD), the NJB may have fallen on even harder times than before. This is another translation I’m fortunate to have access to in Accordance.

9. Revised English Bible (REB)

See original review here. While not as risky or quite as dynamic as its predecessor, the New English Bible, the REB is still the best literary translation of the entire Bible since perhaps the King James Version. It never quite caught hold in the United States but had a small following in Great Britain. I continue to read it for my own enjoyment. It still surprises and delights me at times. And this might still be the only Bible I’d take to the desert island. As far as I know, Accordance is the only software to offer the REB in electronic form.

10. Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

See original review here. There’s not much more I can say about the TNIV that I haven’t already said. I’ve called it “the best translation no one ever read.” While it received the worst (and often mean-spirited) attacks of any modern translation since the RSV, I blame the real demise of the translation on its handlers: Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) and Zondervan. There was too much money to be made on the NIV, and the TNIV was never fully backed or promoted as it should have been. I used it for quite a while as a primary public translation. The folks at Zondervan used to keep in pretty good contact with me while I was writing about the TNIV. They even flew me up to Grand Rapids for a day once for meetings and conversation. Funny that I don’t hear from them anymore. Well, the NIV 2011 is coming. Knowing who is on the translation committee, I assume it will be a solid translation, but the real test of the NIV 2011′s endurance will come down to whether or not Zondervan and Biblica can finally let go of the NIV 1978.


The King James Version. No one is fully culturally literate without reading the entire KJV Bible at least once. And you should probably read it twice.

The English Standard Version. Some will be surprised that I put this here. But I’ve mellowed, and I also realize that quite a few folks really hear God speak to them through this version. I’ve privately used it a little bit myself now and then over the last couple of years, and I do admit the ESV can start to grow on a person.

The Modern Language BibleSee original review here. This is the Bible that “could have been.” If you read my review, you’ll see why it almost could have been what the NIV is/was. I’m not certain that it couldn’t be updated and regain its voice, but we do have enough English translations, don’t we? I do wish I had the MLB electronically, though.

God’s Word. I’ve received two review copies of this Bible and what I’ve had time to read, I like; but reviewing an entire translation takes time. Nevertheless, this will be my next major translation review.

So there it is. Perhaps I’ll update the list again in 2013 or 14. Feel free to discuss the particulars in the comments below. And consider offering your own top ten (or even top five, maybe) list yourself.


Plagiarism Is the Worst Part of Teaching

Clearly, the worst aspect to teaching is dealing with plagiarism—and I'm not referring to the inevitable confrontation about it. That's awkward enough. No, plagiarism is an ethical issue. It's a personal violation on multiple levels. And I grieve to see a student do that to himself or herself no less than I'd grieve to see physical harm come to a student.

Granted there's an initial thrill involved in the "detective" process. However, in the end, knowing that there's a real live person connected to the offense grieves my soul. It grieves me because this person has not only violated the assumed trust between us, but more seriously the student has taken an ethical shortcut, endangering academic status as well personal integrity.

Every time I begin a new class, I warn my students about this. I tell them I assume that they will not plagiarize, but I discuss the issue because I have found that discussing it up fronts cuts down on its occurrence. I implore them to come to me to negotiate turning in a paper late if they are behind in their work. But it still happens. I've actually had students turn in plagiarized papers in the same class where we've had the discussion about it, which along with signed statements that the paper is their own, included at the beginning of the paper, makes the act even more egregious.

I know the difference between carelessness and willful intent. I can handle carelessness or lack of experience citing a source properly and help the student correct these issues. Careless work is not the issue, although I often stress to students that carelessness can result in plagiarism, intended or not.

I suppose that when a student plagiarizes, I ought to feel anger at some level. Yet, that is rarely the emotion I feel. Normally, for those who seek to knowingly pass off work that is not theirs, I can only feel grief (that is indeed the correct emotion).

And sadly, I've dealt with plagiarism at every institution in which I've ever taught, despite the fact that most of these institutions have religious affiliations.

The majority of my students do not plagiarize (or I'm not as good at detecting it as I think I am). Occasionally, I hear from an instructor that he or she never has to deal with plagiarism. All that tells me, based upon my experience and the simple odds of occurrence, is that those individuals are not reading their students' papers closely enough.

Some of the tells for plagiarism are so obvious that I can't imagine a student thinking that there's any chance of getting them past me. I never share the signs of plagiarism with students; why equip them to become better at deception?

I do seem to be "gifted" at detecting plagiarism. I jokingly refer to it as one of my super powers. But ultimately, it's no joking matter because the exercise of this "gift" brings to the forefront how flawed we (as a culture) really are. But I still press forward with idealism and naivete. I really do assume that no student will ever plagiarize again. I will not allow myself prejudice against them.

Surely, I'll never have to send another paper to the dean again...


Official Word (pun intended): STILL No RTL Text Support in Office:Mac (2011)

Over at the MacMojo blog, the Microsoft Office for Mac team has officially announced that Office 2011—and most significantly, Word 2011—for the Mac will not handle right-to-left text. This means no Unicode language support for anyone writing in languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. So, not only does Word remain fairly useless for native speakers of these languages, but it also has significant impact on any Mac users who are engaged in biblical, Middle Eastern, and Ancient Near East studies.

The announcement itself was sandwiched between two other announcements about language support in the post, "Добро пожаловать ! Zapraszamy ! (And I know I've spelled this right!)." The post itself is written to be a bit lighthearted, but clearly the big news is that yet again, Mac users still do not have RTL support, meaning the Mac version of Word plays second fiddle to the Windows version. Yes, Windows users, feel free to gloat. This is one instance where Windows users have an advantage.

There are other alternatives on the Mac, including Mellel, but Word is such a universal format, used both in the academic and non-academic world that this exclusion continues to put Mac users at a disadvantage, especially those engaged in biblical studies. While a Mac user can request a PDF file from a Windows user who includes Unicode Hebrew in a document, obviously, such a request precludes direct collaboration on a file between users of the two platforms.

What I found most interesting is that  Microsoft's Mac Business Unit managed to blame Apple for the lack of RTL support in their announcement:

Office 2011 relies on the Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging (ATSUI) as the set of services for rendering Unicode. Due to technology restraints on the text input tools, Office for Mac’s Unicode support doesn’t include languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Okay, I'll be honest. I really don't understand half of that. But here's what I do understand: RTL language support is fully supported in specialty word processors on the Mac such as Mellel as well as a host of other programs. Heck, it's even supported here in Safari, where I'm composing this post in WordPress.

Hey, Microsoft MacBU: ‏אָבִיךְ הָאֱמֹרִי וְאִמֵּךְ חִתִּית

Look, I'm not anti-Microsoft like some Mac users. In fact, I use Word just about every day. But if this affects you, I encourage you to give the Microsoft MacBU grief over this. RTL support needs to be added as soon as possible. If it doesn't make the October release of Office 2011, it needs to closely follow it with a point update.

It's not as if this is a new issue. In fact, it feels a whole lot like 2005 all over again.


Review: NIV Application Commentary (New Testament) for Accordance

Click for a larger view.
Earlier this month, OakTree Software released the complete NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) on the New Testament for Accordance. The NIVAC Old Testament Prophets will soon be available (see details about the entire series here). The NIVAC has long been a favorite of preachers and anyone else who regularly teaches others from the Bible. The series is known for having a stellar list of evangelical contributors (see list at the end of the review), many of whom have written on the same texts in other, more technical commentaries. To borrow a phrase from one of the key components of every passage treated in the NIVAC, this series attempts to "bridge the gap" between the ancient text and the modern audience.

From OakTree's product description:

Most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip from our world to the world of the Bible. But they leave us there, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. They focus on the original meaning of the passage but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The information they offer is valuable—but the job is only half done! The NIV Application Commentary Series helps bring both halves of the interpretive task together. This unique, award-winning series shows readers how to bring an ancient message into our present-day context. It explains not only what the Bible meant but also how it speaks powerfully today.

As one would expect, the Accordance module brings everything included in the print editions of the NIVAC, but, of course, with the advantages of an electronic text (more about that latter aspect in a minute). Each introduction to individual books of the New Testament includes background information on issues such as title, author, date and context of writing. Each introduction also includes explanations of features unique to that NT book, a section explaining the contemporary significance of the book, an outline and an extensive bibliography of other commentaries and articles about  each NT book.

The commentary portion on the text itself is divided into sections that could easily be handled in the time allotted for the average sermon or serious Bible study or lesson. The NIV text is included in the commentary followed by three major sections: (1) Original Meaning, (2) Bridging Contexts, and (3) Contemporary Significance.

The section, "Original Meaning," examines the passage in its original context, attempting to determine how its original hearers would have understood it. As stated in the series introduction: "All of the elements of traditional exegesis—in concise form—are discussed here. These include the historical, literary, and cultural context of the passage. The authors discuss matters related to grammar and syntax and the meaning of biblical words." Note that a knowledge of biblical languages is not necessary for using the NIVAC.

Since certain aspects of the human experience are common regardless of the age in which one lives, the "Bridging Contexts" section looks for the timeless themes from a passage that are mostly universal in nature.

Often many contemporary readers treat the Bible as if it were written in a vacuum, or worse written in their times. Therefore, these first two sections are crucial before addressing the purpose of the third section, "Contemporary Significance." Proper understanding of the Bible (or any ancient text for that matter) must include the proper historical setting and significance of a text before making contemporary application. It's been said that the majority of heresy in the church comes in our application of the Scriptures. No doubt, there is some truth to this idea which makes attention to the first two sections of the NIVAC's chapters so very important. When discussing "Contemporary Significance," the NIVAC writers attempt to

  1. [I]dentify contemporary situations, problems, or questions that are truly comparable to those faced by the original audience. Because contemporary situations are seldom identical to those faced by the original audience, you must seek situations that are analogous if your applications are to be relevant.

  2. [Explore] a variety of contexts in which the passage might be applied today. You will look at personal applications, but you will also be encouraged to think beyond private concerns to the society and culture at large.

  3. [A]lert you to any problems or difficulties you might encounter in seeking to apply the passage. And if there are several legitimate ways to apply a passage (areas in which Christians disagree), the author will bring these to your attention and help you think through the issues involved.

The NIVAC can be searched in Accordance according to a number of very specific categories.

The advantage of any electronic text over a physical one comes with the ability to perform both simple and complex searches. Any reader with a physical book that has an index in the back is at the mercy of what the indexer thought was important. An electronic text can be searched for any word or any combination of words.

Accordance has long been unparalleled in regard to text searches and the same remains true for the NIVAC. Every part of the NIVAC has been tagged in the underlying code so that the user can search for very specific information. For instance, perhaps you want to find discussions of the word grace, but not everywhere it appears in the text itself (1978 hits) as this would be too broad, but rather every time grace appears in subject headings (9 hits). This is done by specifically searching through Titles rather than English Content.

Even searches for Scripture content have been specifically separated between "Reference" and "Scripture." If you want to search to find overall treatments of a passage, you can run a Reference search and your search is limited to those places where the Scripture reference is part of a heading. If you want to see every place a particular passage is referenced within the content of the commentary, run a Scripture search.

When I ran a generic search simply for "Matthew," I found 468 separate headings that treat a passage from Matthew's gospel. But when I run a Scripture search to find any place that a text from Matthew is referenced anywhere in the entire series, Accordance responded with 5867 hits—in the literal blink of an eye! Accordance is easily the fastest software available for these kinds of searches, able to scan through the nearly 10,000 pages of the entire NIVAC NT and produce such results instantly.

Searches can also be made for any specific Greek or Hebrew content in the NIVAC. As with any module in Accordance, when searching for a Greek or Hebrew word, the user does not have to change keyboard layouts or specify in any way that a biblical language is being used. Accordance is smart enough to figure out what kind of text is being searched based on the category the user selects (or in the case of an original language text, the type of text being searched).

As already stated, the NIVAC does not require a knowledge of biblical languages. In my examination of this kind of content, what I found was that nearly all of the Greek and Hebrew content appeared in titles of articles listed in the series' many bibliographies. When original languages are referenced in the commentary itself, it is transliterated, and Accordance allows the user to search for specific transliterations of Greek and Hebrew words as well.

The NIVAC includes the entire text of the NIV Bible, and although the NIV can be accessed separately in Accordance, the text is still included in the NIVAC module. Thus the user, who might be looking for a specific passage but at the same time might be unable to remember the passage, can search for a phrase specifically in the NIV text of the NIVAC to find the passage in question.

It's a short list, but you can even run searches for specific NT manuscripts referenced in the NIVAC.

As the NIVAC is not a technical commentary, there is not a lot of emphasis placed on textual criticism and attention to specific manuscripts. But nevertheless, if the user wants to see exactly how the NIVAC treats manuscripts, these can be searched as well.

Searches may also be made of content found in the bibliographies. So if you're looking for a particular article title or author, you can easily find that reference. Page numbers can even be searched, too.

And of course using the "More Options" feature that is available in any Accordance tool, including the NIVAC, allows you to combine any of these very specific category searches with another category search to make your query even more precise.

The fact that the NIVAC in Accordance includes page numbers (set in brackets in green text) is especially helpful in citations. These brackets interrupt the text when necessary so that you know exactly where a page ended and a new one began in the physical book.

This can be very important for citing your source. Although technically, electronic sources don't require page numbers in a citation, the connection to the original printed book is often vitally important or even required.

I copied a random sentence from the 1 Corinthians commentary and pasted it into Microsoft Word. Here is the resulting footnote placed at the bottom of the page in Turabian format:

Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, ed. Terry C. Muck, The NIV Application Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 25.

The user could even remove the reference to Accordance and his or her readers wouldn't even know an electronic source had been used.

Note also that the text is correctly cited by the individual commentary writer's name (Craig Blomberg). This is a bit amazing when you realize that Accordance does not create a separate module for each volume of the NIVAC, but treats it as a whole in one single data file. This may be something of a philosophical difference of practice, but some Bible software platforms create a separate  electronic file for each component part of the series, requiring the user to create a grouped collection of the titles (20 separate files!) to run a search through the entire series. But the entire series is in one file in Accordance. What's the advantage of this? Well, first, every one of the different and specific kinds of searches described above can be performed in the same window in which the text itself resides. Secondly, there are often occasions in which I might be studying a passage, for instance, in one of the gospels, but at the same time need to see if or how that passage is referenced in other parts of the commentary. Thus, the value of the earlier mentioned search in which I can look for a particular scripture reference from one book of the New Testament in all the other commentary volumes is easily recognized. Or as mentioned with the search for a subject like grace, I might want to see how it is treated throughout the NIVAC. It's not that it's impossible to do that kind of search in software that treats each volume as a separate file, but its simpler, requires fewer steps and is decidedly faster (blink of an eye!) in Accordance.

Hyperlinks are another advantage to electronic texts over printed books. In the NIVAC for Accordance, moving a mouse over any Scripture reference immediately makes that text appear in the Instant Details window. Clicking on the text opens a tab or window (based on the user's settings) with that text in context. In fact, there are over 4700 hyperlinks to other resources in Accordance, including not just biblical texts, but extra-biblical texts, other commentaries, lexicons, and dictionaries, too—assuming that the user has these resources in his or her library.

The same functionality applies for footnotes. Hovering over a hyperlinked footnote with the mouse makes the footnote's content display in the Instant Details window while clicking on the hyperlink moves the reader to the entire list of footnotes for that particular section of the commentary. Clicking on the "Move to Prior Location" button takes the user back to the original part of the text where the footnote was first cited.

Accordance allows a wide flexibility of options for how one uses a commentary like the NIVAC. One can easily use the NIVAC by itself in a window as seen in the first image at the top of this post. This is especially helpful if specific searches need to be applied to the commentary text. But the NIVAC may also be integrated with other texts:

NIVAC with the HCSB, Greek NT, and personal notes. Click for a larger view.
So, although the NIVAC uses the NIV text as a base, Accordance allows the user to easily place other texts, such as the HCSB and the Greek NT seen above, next to the commentary. Notice also my personal notes in the window. All four of these panes are synced automatically (i.e. they do not have to be manually linked) and as one pane progresses through a passages, the other panes automatically stay at the same point in the passage.

The NIVAC New Testament is regularly priced at $532 for all 20 volumes. However, until September 30 it can be obtained for the sale price of $317. It is available for immediate download, so the purchaser can start using it within minutes after payment. The eight-volume NIVAC Old Testament Prophets will be released in a few days (regular price: $218/sale price through Sept. 30: $130).

List of NIVAC NT contributors:

General Editor: Terry C. Muck
Consulting Editors: Eugene Peterson, Scot McKnight, Marianne Meye Thompson, Klyne Snodgrass

Matthew: Michael J. Wilkins
Mark: David E. Garland
Luke: Darrell L. Bock
John: Gary M. Burge
Acts: Ajith Fernando
Romans: Douglas Moo
1 Corinthians: Craig L. Blomberg
2 Corinthians: Scott J. Hafemann
Galatians: Scot McKnight
Ephesians: Klyne Snodgrass
Philippians: Frank Thielman
Colossians and Philemon: David E. Garland
1 & 2 Thessalonians: Michael W. Holmes
1 & 2 Timothy, Titus: Walter L. Liefield
Hebrews: George H. Guthrie
James: David P. Nystrom
1 Peter: Scot McKnight
2 Peter & Jude: Douglas J. Moo
Letters of John: Gary M. Burge
Revelation: Craig S. Keener

Disclosure: Oak Tree software provided me with a review copy of the NIVAC NT.