Why Your Greek Students Need to Know About Stepbible.org (Gupta)

I love Bibleworks  – I use it everyday. But a few years ago I wanted to have my students buy Bibleworks and they had to pay more than $300. For a researcher like myself, it is a no-brainer to invest in heavy-duty software, but I did feel bad having my seminary students fork over so much when they would not end up using all the features.

Last year I was very excited to discover www.stepbible.org – a new *FREE* Greek software program designed by Tyndale House (Cambridge, UK). It just went through a major revision and operates very smoothly. Obviously, since it is free, you are not getting things like Louw-Nida, BDAG, or access to Dead Scrolls. But it meets the basic needs of seminary students. Here are the key features:

-Quick lexical access to LSJ (and Thayer’s I presume) when you hover over a word in the NT text (Greek, or even English).

-Ability to do word (and multiple words) search in English translations like ESV and NIV (no NRSV or NET, sadly)

-Ability to do word searches easily in Greek

-Shows Greek interlinear if you want

-Ability to Greek word search the Septuagint

-Helps students identify “related” Greek words.

There are also some public domain commentaries (Luther, Lightfoot, K & D)

There are lots of “free” Greek-English Bible websites, but stepbible seems to me to be the best for teaching Greek word studies and for getting students quick and easy access to Septuagint.

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My Colossians Article Now Free Online (Gupta)

A few months back, I published an article with Canadian Theological Review called “Beholding the Word of Christ: A Theological Reading of Colossians.” It is now available for free online from the publisher (thanks!).

This is my crack at theological interpretation of Scripture and a reading of Colossians especially sensitive to its socio-historical context, its canonical context, and its reception. I am especially interested in a Word/Torah vs. Idol dynamic in Col 3:16 and a righteous hearing vs. idolatrous seeing motif in the letter as a whole.

I got some strong pushback from my editorial reviewers especially because I present the theology in Colossians as (what appeared to them to be) a criticism of visual liturgy. This made me go back and sort this out, and I was able to finish the article with a reflection on this that still maintains the validity of visual liturgy.

Anyway, this piece has been accused of being too wide-ranging and unwieldy. Perhaps, but I hope that what I lost in precision I made up for in fresh thinking and creative explorations in canonical interpretation.

Pompeii: Back From the Dead – A Great 2011 Documentary on Netflix (Gupta)

Last night I watched a great documentary on Netflix called Pompeii: Back from the Dead. It is from 2011, but it is new to me and the film is produced very well. The documentary talks about a (then) new discovery of a group of skeletons in a cellar that tells us scores and scores about these people’s diet, social customs, relative wealth, and even sex life. Some of the insights are summarized here. More info here.

If you have Netflix or access to this film otherwise, it is definitely worth the time!

Is N.T. Wright’s ICC Philippians Volume Coming in Nov ’14? (Gupta)

According to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., N.T. Wright’s ICC volume on Philippians is slated to be released this November (2014). Could that be possible given the recent release of Paul and the Faithfulness of God and the upcoming publication of his Paul and His Recent Interpreters?

(funny sidenote: stores were given as description copy for Wright’s Philippians volume the description from a summer 2014 release on Ecclesiastes by Stuart Weeks, but they forgot to change the wording, so the Philippians description actually talks about Ecclesiastes! Check it out)

If someone knows better that Wright’s anticipated volume will not see the light of day in 2014, please let us know.

(second sidenote: Wright doesn’t do a lot of technical commentary writing. The two that he has done – Colossians and Romans – have both been extremely well-received and are two of the best commentaries in existence on both of these books; he has long loved Philippians for a number of reasons, not least of which involves Paul’s theopolitical language; put simply, this commentary will be 600+ pages of goodness!)

What Jeff Bridges and the Johannine Jesus Have in Common (Skinner)

movieI am currently writing a little book for the Cascade Companions series called Reading John, which is aimed at helping non-specialist readers better appreciate the message of the Fourth Gospel. Today I am finishing a chapter entitled, “An Alien Tongue: The Foreign Language of the Johannine Jesus,” in which I discuss the distinctive features of Jesus’ speech in John (including “I Am” pronouncements, double entendre, and misunderstood statements). In the chapters I have already written for this book I have tried to introduce many of the illustrations I use in the classroom. Here I begin with a scene from the science-fiction/love story, Starman, starring Jeff Bridges. If I were in class I would show the clip (embedded below), though for the purposes of the book, I have to explain the scene in greater detail. Here’s the opening to the chapter as it currently stands:

The 1984 sci-fi film, Starman tells the story of an alien who travels to Earth after intercepting the Voyager 2 space probe. Affixed to the probe is a gold phonograph record with a message of peace for all worlds and an invitation for the inhabitants of other galaxies to visit Earth. Arriving here in the form of a blue mass, the alien is shot down by the US government over rural Wisconsin. In order to survive, the alien uses a lock of hair to clone and then take on the form of a recently deceased man named Scott Hayden (played by Jeff Bridges). After taking on Scott’s body, “Starman”—as he comes to be called—enters the house formerly shared by Scott and his widow, Jenny (played by Karen Allen). Finding this naked man standing in her living room, Jenny mistakes him for an intruder and pulls her gun on him. When he turns around, Jenny is astonished to see a man who looks and moves exactly like her deceased husband. However, as soon he begins to speak, Jenny instantly realizes that this is not Scott, and she’s not sure who (or even what) he is. She promptly faints in the corner—a moment of necessary comic relief in an intensely escalating scene. Neither Starman’s appearance nor his initial mannerisms give him away. But as soon as he begins to speak, it becomes clear that he is different, strange, alien. Jenny soon comes to realize that he is from above—a stranger from the heavens—and that his mission is now to return safely to the place from which he came.

The story of the Starman shares many similarities with John’s presentation of Jesus. In like manner, Jesus has come from above (1:1-2) and taken on human flesh (1:14). His mission is to complete the tasks assigned to him by the Father and return to the place from which he came. Like the Starman, when Jesus speaks he introduces alien concepts and utters enigmatic sayings that are all-too-often misunderstood by his audiences, who presume he is from Galilee (e.g., 7:52), and find his words difficult to accept (e.g., 6:60-66; 10:31-33). This Jesus is not the gritty, earthy, Synoptic preacher of parables from rural Galilee. He is rather a stranger from heaven, who consistently speaks about the things above while mystifying his hearers.

Introducing Logos’ Mobile Ed Courses (Gupta)

Logos Bible Software is great at creating innovative and helpful new content, not just books but now also video-based courses. This new line is called “Mobile Ed” and boasts an excellent array of instructors (people in New Testament like Craig Evans, Lynn Cohick, Darrell Bock, Jeannine Brown, David deSilva, David Garland, Joshua Jipp, Doug Moo, Jonathan Pennington, Joel Willitts, and Ben Witherington).

Here are five things you need to know about these courses:

Well-produced – Logos has pulled out all the stops to make sure this is slick, clear, easy to navigate, and fun to use.

Video and Text – the courses involve a series of very short videos segments that walk you through a subject. As a companion, the text of the videos is also supplied.

Integration with Logos Books – the material of each “course” is integrated with the Logos system, so that it makes suggestions for further reading that point to resources in Logos (some you may have, others you may purchase).

Exams – these courses try to approximate a real instructional environment so that there are opportunities to take exams based on the material.

Resourcing/Training – Logos integrates teaching tools to learn how to study the subject using specific kinds of Logos resources to enhance your own personal study.

Who is this for?

Two thoughts on this. These are not full-blown seminary courses, they are more like something suitable for undergraduate and/or layperson training. I would imagine a pastor (with seminary training) requiring the younger pastoral staff, elders, and interns to work through some of these courses as pre-seminary or on-the-job training. If seminary is just not an option, this is not a bad (though limited) alternative.

But, point two, this is fun stuff for pastors (and even professors like me!) to use as refreshers on a number of topics – especially if I (a NT person) want to brush up on OT, or church history, or ethics or whatever. Logos sent a pack of courses to me to try out and review, and I have listened to these while I cook and mow the lawn. It is fun to be “taught” by some of my favorite scholars, and it just keeps my mind active while I do everyday activities. They have sought out outstanding teachers and communicators, so I have learned much just from these lecturers’ teaching approaches.

Future Plans

Logos is doing a lot of course development and they are lining up some advanced-topical courses as well as traditional survey-like ones. This is very exciting stuff and I expect that in a short while they will have something for just about everyone.

Below are a couple of video items: a demo, and a sample from Lynn Cohick.