Monday, October 29, 2012

Why we need to repent as soon as we're aware

'The application to our lives is quite evident: if God gives anyone a desire to repent and trust in Christ, he or she should not delay and should not harden his or her heart (cf. Heb. 3:7–8; 12:17). This ability to repent and desire to trust in God is not naturally ours but is given by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and it will not last forever. “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 3:15).'
Grudem, Systematic Theology p.498

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bibleworks 8 review: The Puritan’s package

I recently realized to my horror that I wrote a review for Bibleworks 8 two years ago, and never posted it to my blog! Because my upgrade to Bibleworks 8 was given to me free of charge by Bibleworks, I feel that although my review is out of date, it is only fair that I do finally put this review online. I have also now purchased an upgrade to Bibleworks 9 so that I can review that too:

I had decided to not upgrade from BW7 to 8, for financial reasons, but then Bibleworks very kindly sent me a review copy. So, I’m writing this review now to help those who are considering whether its worth upgrading to BW8.

One of the key things BW8 has done is to make some of the features of BW7 more accessible. I have called this version, the Puritan’s package, because this makes interpreting scripture with scripture more accessible than ever before.

Upgrading from BW7 was not as easy as I would have liked. There is no upgrade option, instead I had to uninstall BW7, and then install BW8 from scratch. Having done this, I needed to enter an activation code for BW8, and then new activation codes for all the modules I had previously purchased, plus Metzger now needed a code (Metzger is no longer free, except to BW7 upgraders).  The problem here was that Bibleworks had sent me the new activation codes for my previously purchased modules but not for Metzger. Bibleworks staff were swamped with the new release, and I had to wait a few days to be sent the new code. I also had to manually enter all my external links from BW7, and manually copy the extra databases I had collected over the last 2 years. I understand completely why BW implemented new activation codes (piracy), but they obviously weren’t ready for the high demand of this release. I also think a smoother way to upgrade would be nice.

What’s lost from BW7:
Some of the modules that were free in BW7, now have to be purchased: Metzger’s Textual commentary, Barclay’s Lexicon, and Lust-Eynikel-Hauspie’s Septuagint Lexicon. However there are free (activation codes are sent via email) for those upgrading from BW7.
Robertson’s Word Pictures is no longer included due to licensing issues, but I have this in e-Sword, so I’m not that bothered by this. Mark Futato’s “Basic Hebrew for Bible Study” is also gone.

What’s new in BW8:

Browse tab:
One of the previous weaknesses of BW7, was that when you viewed the browse window in multiple-version mode, you could not see the context (or cotext) of the verse. The way around this was to toggle into single-version mode, and scroll up a few verses, but this was frustrating when under time pressure such as in a debate. Now in BW8 the browse tab will display the whole passage in one version on the right of the screen, whilst you have multiple versions displayed in the browse window (in the centre of the screen). The browse tab will start the text 2 verses before the verse in the browse window, and will highlight the browse window verse in blue. Furthermore, you can put the browse tab in any version you want. This morning in my Bible reading, I put the BGT Greek text in the browse window, with the NET Bible (with notes) in the browse tab. Previously I had used Logos for this kind of set up, but I prefer doing this now in BW8. During sermon preparation, I have found the browse feature to be very useful. Before, when I was searching for how a word was used, it would take too long to check the context of each verse, now that is very easily done. This was one of the biggest appeals to me to upgrade.

Context tab:
This tab will display a frequency list of the words used in the current book, pericope and chapter. For example today I was studying Philippians 1:27 which contains the word euangeliou, and at a glance in the I could see that Philippians has 6 instances of euangeliou, 2 instances of euanglion, and 1 instance of euangeliw. This is also a great way of finding cognates, for example 1:27 containts the verb politeuesthe, and by glancing at the book context (which I listed in alphabetical order) I can easily spot the cognate word politeuma. When I click on this it takes me straight to Phil 3:20. There is also a chapter context window (bottom right), but this is limited due to the sometimes bizarre nature of chapter division of the Bible (which were not inspired). I would rather have had a version context window (but this can be obtained by clicking on the Words tab).  Under BW7, you could have found out all this information by using  the word list manager, but it would have taken longer, and I found it quite fiddly. Now in BW8 you can see this information at a glance without any knowledge of the word list manager. This is a tool that I will probably use much more, now that it is so accessible.

Words tab:
Now when you search on a word, the words tab will show you the following:
1) a frequency word list of the version (in alphabetical listing) so that you can see how often the word you searched for is used.
2) A word list for the current search results then shows the most commonly used words found in the search, showing you if there are significant words that repeat alongside the word you searched for.
3) The wildcard expansion list will gives lists of any of the wildcard expansions made during the search.
These features are useful and welcomed, but personally they would not have made me want to upgrade.

Search Statistics:
The bar chart search statistics is now displayed in their own tab on the right of the screen. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the BW7 way of displaying these results, but again the BW8 makes them even more accessible.

Cross references tab:
The puritans would live this, and I do too. You now have a whole fat tab available for cross references. These can be easily changed (via a pull down menu) to a number of different systems including Thompson Chain, TSK, Torrey’s, the Biographical Bible (to see all the references to Bible names). When these cross references are clicked on, they open in the browse window. If you right click on them, they can be opened in their own window. You can then open up any of those cross references in a new window. This means you can go on a wonderful journey of looking at related verses.

Bibleworks 8 is very useful software for using Scripture to interpret Scripture – hence I have called it, ‘The Puritan’s Package’

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Best Bible Software

A mate of mine recently asked me what Bible software I would recommend for Greek and Hebrew. Here is my answer to him, which I thought I would also post on this blog:

This is a tough question. First I will explain what I use and why:

The software I have had the longest is Bibleworks. This is excellent for exegesis of just about any language Bible. However, once I switched to a mac, I stopped using Bibleworks. However, when I was doing work on my Dmin, I found I missed the speed of Bibleworks and so started using it again (with parallels). I really like Bibleworks, but miss the fact that they don't have a mobile app. I also have Logos 4. I do not find this as useful for exegesis. When I'm in Bibleworks, I really feel like I'm in the text, when I'm in Logos I feel like I'm using software. However, there are some things that Logos does that I really like:

1) I have lots of commentaries on there, which means that by using the "Passage guide" feature, I can instantly call up all the commentaries I have on a particular verse.

2) I have lots of systematic theologies on there. This has been very important for my Dmin work on a Catechism for Council Estates (The Roehampton Catechism). I can very easily look up topics in multiple books, without creating a big mess in my limited space.

 3) It syncs with the iPad/iphone app really well. I can be working at my desktop and highlighting systematic theologies, and then I can lie down later when my back's hurting and continue working with my iPad. I can call up the same highlights, and start making new ones.

 4) Word Study - whilst I much prefer doing word studies in Bibleworks, I do find that word study in Logos quite good. I like to see the graphical pie chart of how a word is translated, and I especially like that I can do word studies in the iPad app.

5) Iphone/Ipad app - the Logos app is really good. I can do word studies using BDAG, TWOT, NIDOTTE etc. As I'm on the move a lot, I find this very helpful. This for me is big drawback of Bibleworks at the moment - they do not have an app! I do however run Bibleworks on my iPad using logmein - but I need a wifi connection for this.

I also have OliveTree Bible reader on my ipad/iphone (which I think they now wanna call "The Bible study app"). This is excellent for reading and studying in English or Greek or Hebrew on the go. It doesn't have the functionality of Bibleworks, but its great for reading a text and being able to look up words (and even do some simple word searches). This is what i use if I just wanna read Hebrew or Greek in my devotions. I also have some commentaries and maps on OliveTree - and there is a desktop version.

All these programs are great. However it is frustrating paying for all three. I have bought BDAG for both Logos and Bibleworks, and have bought Greek and Hebrew texts for all three! If I was starting all over again (now with a mac and iPad and iPhone), I would start investigating Accordance, to see if it was worth it. In fact I did recently try, but their demo version was too limiting to be able to asses how good it is for Biblical exegesis in the original languages. I like the fact they have a mobile app. But I don't like how expensive their modules are. Then again, perhaps if I was only buying one set of modules then it would work out around the same price? Anyway, for me Accordance is an unknown quantity, so please don't think I am suggesting it for you.

I will write more on this topic later….

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Estate vs Middle Class discipleship

I was having a good chat with a mate of mine who is also an indigenous council estate pastor. We were chatting about specific discipleship needs on estates. He suggested that a lot of the discipleship points we think are important to estates are actually important for everyone. However, he suggested it might be that middle class Christianity does not have a big emphasis on discipleship. Is it possible that there is not a lot of discipleship happening in middle class Christisnity? I don't know, I'm merely asking the question.

I havn't tested this theory yet.
But wouldn't it be good if council
estate Christianity could up the ante in terms of discipleship. What if we could develop our discipleship to the point that middle class Christianity was asking if they could benefit from our discipleship?

That would be a good thing right?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why bother learning Biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew)

I've been asked this question a lot lately. Here's my response:

I find reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew a really good way to meditate on God's word. On my day off yesterday I was reading Jonah in Hebrew. There are a lot of word plays in the Hebrew that are not obvious in the English. One of these is the verb yare' which means to fear. I spend some time pondering on the meaning of this word, and ending up learning a lot about fearing God.
I also sometimes find it helpful to look up memory verses in the original languages. For example, earlier this year I was memorizing verses on God's compassion. When I looked at the Hebrew I discovered the word rahum means compassion and sounds like the Hebrew word for womb, and speaks of a close bond that a parent has with a child. This was a wonderful truth to meditate on.

Two weeks ago I was preparing a sermon on John 14:12-14, I was reading the text in English and read, John 14:12 "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."
- I mistakenly thought this meant that "they" as in "the church" will do greater things, and proceeded to prepare a sermon about how in the course of history the church will have done more than Jesus. After awhile I thought, "I better read this in Greek," when I did I realised that it said something to the effect of, "the person who believes will do greater works" - this showed me that my interpretation had been wrong. Jesus was actually saying individual believers would do greater works than he. Using Greek helped me rule out an interpretation that I had previously thought plausible. Now, I know some might say, "Well my translation makes that verse clear," but my experience of preaching from different translations over the years is that none of them are perfect, and each one will be ambiguous on some verses. Some people may also think, "Well we don't need Greek, lets just compare different translations." I think comparing translations is a very useful exercise but how do you then know which translation has it right? Some people say, "You don't need Greek, just use commentaries." Now, I use commentaries, but
a) I've read mistakes in commentaries before, especially mistakes in the Greek (abusing the aorist tense is one very common mistake),
b) I don't like to let other people chew my food for me,
c) When commentaries disagree with each other, how do you decide which one's right?,
d) I'm a busy pastor, I have limited time, I would rather spend my time meditating over the original words that God breathed out than reading commentaries. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against commentaries, and I do use them often, but when its the 11th hour, I'd sooner go to the Greek than a commentary.
My conclusion is that Greek is a very useful tool for sermon prep.

I frequently use Greek and Hebrew for word studies. Even with Bible software its hard to do word studies in English, this is because a particular Greek word is not always translated with the same English word. I know that its possible to use software to do Greek word studies without actually knowing Greek, but its also very easy to make mistakes that way, for example, someone might find all the times a word is used as a verb, but accidentally miss the times its used as a participle, and hence ignore a lot of the data.

I'm often using Greek when talking to Muslims and JW's. Here's some paraphrased examples of conversations I have (all said with a smile and a friendly manner):

Muslim- "that's tranlated wrongly",
me, "hmm, lets look at it... proskuneo, exactly how would you translate it?",
"Well I don't know Greek,"
me, "So how can you say its been translated wrong?"

Another time, a Muslim says to me, "Your Bible's been corrupted,"
 "Hmm, well Textual Criticism is a hobby of mine, I've got photos of papyrus manuscripts at home, you can come round and have a look and I can show you manuscripts from before Mohammed's time, and show you manuscripts from Mohammed's time, and show you our Bible today, and you can see there's been no corruption - what we read today is the same thing Mohammed would have heard."

A J.W comes round my house, tells me that Jesus wasn't crucified on a cross. I said really, he said "yes, its in the Greek." "Cool, lets have a look I said." We sat down and I gave him a Greek New Testament, he said thanks and opened it up, then he said, "I can't read this," I said, "Oh I thought you wanted to show me something in the Greek." I then proceeded to show him where the Bible uses the word stauros (cross), .... he later said, "well your using the Greek to make your point, but I don't think you should have to look at the grek to make your point, I said, well to be fair mate, you came in my house quoting Greek trying to make a point from Greek."

As we talked more, he told me that my verses that spoke of Jesus' divinity were corrupted. I then showed him verses in the JW Greek Diglott where the Greek was the same.

He then argued that we mis-translate the Greek in 1John 1, he quoted me a particular Greek scholar to make his point. I said to him, "Cool, I've got his Grammar book, lets look it up.... oh look, you've quoted him out of context, he's not saying what you're saying at all."

Knowing the original languages has been very useful in dispelling some of the myths that other religions say about the Bible.

This is something I will write more about later. My dream is to see more council estate people equipped to do their own theologizing. For this to happen, some of us (not all)  from Estates will need to know Biblical languages.

I thank God for the Greek and Hebrew that I do know. It has really helped me understand God's word better, and to represent him better, and to teach others better. I also pray that God would help me to get better at these languages so that I might know and obey him better.