# Monday, December 29, 2014

With thanks once again to Adriana Wright (@adriannawright) and IVP (@IVPAcademic) for the review copy. Please see my previous post for some background on the book itself.

This is in essence new commentary material from J.B. Lightfoot. And, as with Lightfoot's other known commentary material, this new material contains frequent reference to classical literature (Plutarch, Seneca, and scads of others). These factors alone make the material in the book worth consulting when one is working through material in Acts.

Reviewing a commentary is hard. Reading a commentary straight through, especially if you aren't already invested in the text itself, is a difficult proposition. Not impossible, but difficult. As such, this post is not a review. Instead, I'll mention a few things about one particular section of Acts with which I'm familiar (Acts 18:18–23, which I thoroughly in this paper presented at the 2007 ETS National Meeting and later published in the Global Journal of Classical Theology). This will be followed by some thoughts on the presentation of the volume as a whole.

Lightfoot on Acts 18:18–23

My particular take on this passage in the mentioned paper is an exploration based on one major plank of Richard Bauckham's argument in his 2006 book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Bauckham, based on earlier work by C.H. Turner (work that Lightfoot had no access to as it was published after his death) on something Bauckham calls the "plural to singular narrative device." This is when a nonspecific plural reference ("They") shifts to a nonspecific singular reference ("he" or "she") in conjunction with a locational shift, as in Acts 18:19. Turner & Bauckham note this may be a marker indicating that eyewitness testimony follows. I'm not sure if it does or doesn't, but this spot in Acts 18 is the only non-gospel instance of something that can be considered to be an instance of the device. And that's what the paper is about. For the purposes of discussion here, it just means I've really looked at this passage in some depth.

First off, notes the text-critical issue in Acts 18:19. The verb in NA/UBS (and Westcott-Hort, which Lightfoot would've been using post-1881) is in the plural. But the TR has it in the singular. Lightfoot simply notes the plural is "The right reading" and further mentions that Luke "disposes of the movement of Priscilla and Aquila" in his move to singular with the next verb to "give his whole attention to" Paul. This is true, the attention is focused on Paul from this point, which helps resolve some referent ambiguity in the text later on.

At this point, one notices most of Lightfoot's comments on this portion of the text are text-critical in nature. He also handles issues in vocabulary (noting topographical terms and nautical terms in vv. 22–23). This leads me to think the material for this passage anyway is a bit more preliminary and note-like than Lightfoot's other published commentary material. It is a good reminder that we are likely catching Lightfoot in the middle of his work at many points in this new material, and not reading a finished work. Despite this, the material is still of great value.

Thoughts on Presentation

Most who read this blog know I love books, particularly older books. I have a soft spot for the older NT commentaries of, say, 1850–1950. You know, the old MacMillian commentaries with volumes not only by Lightfoot (Galatians, Philippians, Colossians & Philemon) but also by Westcott, Swete, Mayor, and others. One feature of these volumes was the inclusion of the Greek New Testament (usually Westcott & Hort's edition, but also as a version from the author or a modified WH with the author's readings) at the top of the page, with commentary as running notes. I realize it is a bit more difficult typographically, but with the royalty-free availability of Westcott and Hort's text today, I'd hoped to see the IVP volume formatted like the old MacMillian volumes. Lightfoot directly references the Greek of the passage with frequency as if it is laid in front of the reader. Including the text would make the book more useable, especially for those who do not have the text of Acts readily accessible.

There are some excursuses in the commentary. These are awesome. However, it is sometimes hard to tell where the excursus ends and the commentary begins again. Setting the excursuses off in some typographic manner (top and bottom borders?) would help.

There are two indexes, an Author Index and a Scripture Index. A further reference index of ancient references (Fathers and classical references) would be welcomed. There is gold in those references, and including indexes of the mentions would be helpful for those interested in pursuing such material.

A last quibble: I can't understand why the subtitle "A Newly Discovered Commentary" is used. It is a temporal reference that will not stand the test of time. I'm sure there are reasons, but every time I see the subtitle I wish it wasn't there, because it won't always be true. When I pick the book up off the shelf in five years, it will not have been "newly discovered." This is good stuff for marketing and jacket copy, but it gives me pause as part of the formal title of a book because it will appear worn in the not too distant future.

Summary and Conclusion

This is Lightfoot. If you're working in Acts, you need to consult this volume. Despite the things I've said of presentation, which are hopefully received as constructive criticism from a fan, this is a useful commentary that will be consulted with frequency, and I look forward to the following volumes of the Lightfoot Legacy Set.

Post Author: rico
Monday, December 29, 2014 6:38:45 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Thursday, November 06, 2014

A few years back, Ben Witherington III (BW3) was nosing around the archives of J.B. Lightfoot and came across a manuscript with an unpublished, virtually complete commentary (Lightfoot-style) of Acts. This is big. BW3 and Todd D. Still edited the manuscript, and now IVP has now published it. And for some reason, Adrianna Wright (@adriannawright) of IVP (@ivpress, @IVPAcademic) has seen fit to bestow a review copy upon me.

I have read a bunch of Lightfoot's stuff. His magnum opus is his two-volumes-in-five-books work on the writings of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch (with Polycarp thrown in for good measure). His existing Biblical commentaries (Galatians, Philippians, and Colossians & Philemon) are still in heavy use today. Lightfoot is one of the best examples of scholarship in Biblical studies in the late 19th century. He was a polyglot. He knew classical literature like the back of his hand. This is good and bad: It means that he refers to a wide swathe of literature, but it also means he can be incredibly difficult to understand at times. But it is usually worth the work.

I've been looking forward to this commentary since I heard of its discovery, even though it is incomplete (through Acts 21). Lightfoot's text-critical ability, his grammatical and syntactic knowledge, and his exegetical mastery mean that this will likely be a go-to volume for Acts.

My plan is not to read the whole volume for review. Instead, I will focus on the front matter and on a few portions of Acts (perhaps Acts 18:19ff as I've done some detailed work there before).


Part I: Introduction to Commentating in General
Reflections on the Necessity of a Clear and Proper View of the Inspiration of Scripture as a Presupposition for Correctly Approaching the Bible

Part II: Introduction to Acts
Preliminary Matters

Part III: The Commentary on Acts
The Superscript
The Preface
Acts 1: Ascension, Judas’ Demise, the Filling Up of the Twelve
Excursus: On the Historical Problem of the Varying Accounts of Judas’ Demise
Acts 2: Pentecost and Its Aftermath
Acts 3—6: The Beginnings and Trials of the Church in Jerusalem
Excursus: The Sanhedrin and the High Priests
Excursus: The Primacy of Peter
Excursus: The Diaconate
Acts 7: The First Martyr for Christ
The Tabernacle
Excursus: The Authenticity of the Speech of St. Stephen
Acts 8: Simon, the Samaritans, and Philip
Excursus: Simon Magus
Conversion of the Ethiopian
Acts 9: The Conversion of Saul
Acts 10: The Surprising Story of Cornelius
Acts 11: Trouble in Zion—Peter Explains
Acts 12: The Persecuted Church and the Dawn of the Mission of the Persecutor
Acts 13—14: The First Missionary Journey
St. Paul’s Apostolic Journeys
Acts 15: The Apostolic Council and Its Aftermath
Acts 16: The Second Missionary Journey
Acts 17: Macedonia and On to Athens
The History of St. Paul’s Day at Thessalonike
Acts 18: And So to Corinth
Acts 19: Finally at Ephesus
Acts 19:21—21:39: The Third Missionary Journey
Timothy and Erastus
The Speech of St. Paul at Miletus
Conclusion on the Rest of Acts

Appendix A: Lightfoot’s Article On Acts For Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible
Appendix B: ‘Discoveries Illustrating the Acts of the Apostles’
Appendix C: St. Paul’s History After the Close of Acts
Appendix D: The Obituary/Homage to Lightfoot Which Appeared in the Contemporary Review in 1893, And Was Reprinted (in 1894) With A New Preface By B. F. Westcott And With Some Emendations From Others Author Index
Scripture Index

Post Author: rico
Thursday, November 06, 2014 6:19:18 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Monday, October 27, 2014

My employer Faithlife announced Logos 6 this morning. You can learn more about features on the forums "What's New" page or on the Logos 6 features page.

I was able to contribute all over the place in L6, in both major an minor ways. This post will list a few of my favorites, the ones I'm most excited about.

Ancient Literature Guide Section

For years, Logos has had access to all sorts of text and resources that are contemporary or in special relationship with the text of the Bible. Church Fathers, Josephus, Philo, Apostolic Fathers, Ugaritic stuff, Amarna Letters, Dead Sea Scrolls Sectarian material, ANET, Context of Scripture, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Talmuds & Mishah, Nag Hammadi codices … the list goes on. What we haven't had was an easy way to see what all that stuff says about or interacts with a particular Bible reference. And we certainly haven't had that material classified using intertextual terminology or topical terminology. Now we do, and it is sweet. Ken Penner and I sifted thousands (and thousands) of references to many of these different corpora. For others I wrote a lot of code to sift and classify references. We ended up creating a dataset of over 182,000 references between the Bible and all sorts of ancient literature. Learn more about it on this forum post, and watch the below video.

Textual Variants Guide Section

In Logos 5 and previous, we provided text-critical information in the Apparatuses section of the Exegetical Guide. In Logos 6, we have a new section: Textual Variants. More info in this forum post. The section is broken up into a number of subsections:

  • Textual Commentaries: Most are familiar with Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. This is a great resource, but it is far too technical for most students who want to know about textual variation, but get lost with all the lingo, sigla, and ancient language. And it only covers the NT. So I wrote a bunch of code to identify variation units in the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament that seemed to warrant comment of some sort. Then I got in touch with Israel Loken, and we wrote a new textual commentary: The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible. Israel wrote the notes for the Hebrew Bible, and I wrote the notes for the Greek New Testament. You can see more on the forum, or on the Logos web site.
  • Apparatuses: This is much like the old L4/5 apparatuses section.
  • Editions: These are printed editions of the Hebrew Bible (OT) and Greek New Testament (NT). Whichever editions you have in your library, if they contain the verse(s) you're querying, will be listed here — with a helpful link to compare them all, if you'd like.
  • Transcriptions: Logos has published several transcriptions of manuscripts, including the Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls, Comfort & Barrett's edition of several NT Papyri, as well as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Bezae. If any of the transcriptions in your library contain the verse(s) you're looking into, they will be listed here. Pretty cool.
  • Ancient Versions: Ancient (or Early) versions are early translations from the Hebrew or Greek into another language. The LXX is an ancient version of the Hebrew Bible. So is the Vulgate (for OT, in many places) and also for the Greek NT. Coptic versions, Syriac, and anything else you may have in this category will show up here.
  • Online Manuscripts: Even if you have Logos editions of NT manuscript transcriptions, there are nearly 6,000 of these guys. The folks at the INTF have been working on cataloguing, indexing, imaging, and transcribing these manuscripts in their New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (NTVMR). And now you can peek over their shoulder. If the NTVMR has public information on any manuscript containing the verse range you've specified, you'll be given links to their material. Images. Transcriptions. It is very cool. And they are working on it all the time, so the data just grows and grows. These are the very images and transcriptions that future editions of the NA and UBS texts as well as the ECM will consult. And the links are served up for you to follow up on, as you see fit. This is awesome, and we're thankful that the INTF/NTVMR allow this sort of use of their material.

Clause Search of LXX Deuterocanon/Apocrypha

So, there is this whole class of books that Protestants like to call "intertestamental" or "apocryphal." But whole faith traditions (Catholic, Orthodox) consider it to be, in some degree, canonical and they use the term "deuterocanonical." Whatever you call it, this is fascinating material, in Greek, and is useful for linguistic and historical study. Add in a referent analysis, and you can do some cool stuff with clause search.

But it was out of reach for one person to do. I thought, "why not interns?" We put out the word, and Jimmy Parks, Charles Bauserman, and Matt Nerdahl answered the call. And they did phenomenal work this summer to push this dataset out. More detail and a screenshot on the Logos forums.

Lexham English Septuagint English-Greek Reverse Interlinear

With Logos 5, the Lexham English Septuagint was released. For Logos 6, to make clause search hit display in English work for the LXX deuterocanonical/apocryphal material, we needed a reverse interlinear. So Isaiah Hoogendyk did a lot of magic to make our antiquated tooling work, and he and a developer did even more magic to integrate that data into a new, spiffy, shiny tool. We presently have the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books aligned, along with portions of Esther and Daniel that also occur in the Hebrew Bible. We hope to have the rest done sometime this winter. Learn more on the Logos forums.

And All Sorts of Other Stuff

Only four features, and I'm winded. But you can see videos on other stuff I'm excited about. Here are the links:

There is so much more, I can't do it justice. Do check it out.

Post Author: rico
Monday, October 27, 2014 8:20:24 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) 

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# Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jim West's Person in the Pew Commentary Series is available on pre-pub from Logos Bible Software.

Jim has been steadily working on his Person in the Pew Commentary series for awhile. And I have huge respect for him for doing it. Jim's task is a bit thankless. He's not writing a sexy groundbreaking commentary digging into scads of nearly-never-read articles by academics to serve up the myriad details of an intensely deep look at the text to folks working on graduate degrees. No, he's writing for the person who has had little or no professional training, who has a desire to learn more, and is probably going to take the leap from study Bible notes into an actual, bona-fide commentary.

Actually, that's a good way to look at Jim's work. It is like a study Bible on steroids, helping the reader walk through the challenging parts and cruise through the relatively straightforward parts without bogging them down with too many details.

Now, a few disclaimers: Jim is a friend. I work for Logos. And I have not read a full volume of Jim's commentary. But I have spent some time examining a number of the sample pages available for view on the Logos prepub page, and I get exactly what he's doing. And I stand by my earlier statement that it is a largely thankless task, but is of immense value for most folks in the church. He's flying over the Biblical terrain at 30,000 feet, giving a very high overview of how it all works together. This isn't a sexy commentary, but it is hugely useful for the person who is used to just using a study Bible to answer questions in a Bible study with the proverbial, "my notes say …". Jim's work starts where that reader is, and helps them into the text, to begin to understand more about it. It sensitively walks them through it all, not skipping the hard parts, with the detail necessary to provide a good understanding of what it all might mean.

So I commend Jim's work. And I respect him for it. He is working through and struggling with the whole text (and the apocrypha/deuterocanon!). He doesn't get to skip a few chapters of genealogy in 1 & 2 Chronicles because nobody will notice. He doesn't get to skip those hard parts in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 where myriad authors have spilled ink in haste, hate, and insensitivity. He's working through the whole thing. I'm sure he gets tremendous value from it, and that his understanding of the Word of God has grown as a result. So hop on board with Jim and give it a shot.

Thanks, Jim, for this work.

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:50:36 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Thursday, May 15, 2014

Previous posts: Part I; Part II

Part I, the most substantive post of this series, is on Jefford’s introduction. Part II is on the Greek text, the apparatus, and the translation. This post is on the commentary proper, which takes up the last 60 pages of the book.

Here are the commentary sections and titles:

  • Title
  • 1.1–2: Introduction
  • 2.1–10: On Greeks
  • 3.1–4.6: On Jews
  • 5.1–6.10: On Christians
  • 7.1–9.6: About God’s Power
  • 10.1–8: First Conclusion: About God’s Plan
  • 11.1–12.9: Second Conclusion: The Witness of the Word

As with most commentaries, it doesn’t read very well from start to finish. You’ve got to have knowledge of the text of the section being discussed in order to track with the discussion on the page. But that is par for the course for commentaries.

The Greek text, where necessary, is referenced in the commentary. Typically the English is given, with the Greek in parentheses after. The discussion is routinely of lexical issues, related early Christian literature, structure/grammar/syntax, as well as historical and theological issues.

There’s not much more to say apart from: If you’re doing any halfway-serious work with the Epistle to Diognetus, then you need to look at this volume.

Post Author: rico
Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:04:41 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Wednesday, May 14, 2014

There are scads of commentaries on and opinions about the book of Revelation. While I’m not an expert, I’m not sure how many books there are like this recent tome from Joel Watts. The best word I can use to describe it is “refreshing.”

Author: Joel L. Watts (blog, Twitter)
Title: Praying in God’s Theater: Meditations on the Book of Revelation (amazon.com) [Available in print or Kindle editions]

Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com) isn’t a commentary. You won’t get into millennialism, supralapsarianism, or other eschatological quandaries and dogfights. You won’t have to answer the question, “Pre-, Post-, or A-?” to get past the first chapter. You won’t get into timelines, you won’t count days/weeks/years. You won’t worry about whether it is John the Apostle, John the Elder, or some other John who wrote it. You won’t get tangled in establishing the date, or with overwrought diatribes on the weirdness of the Greek found in the book, or whether a simple Galilean fisherman could’ve written it.

No, you won’t get any of that stuff. Instead, Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com) is a practically oriented look at how the book of Revelation can be used in the prayer life of a Christian. You get to follow along with Watts as he treats the text liturgically and prays through the text of Revelation. In the process, the reader’s focus changes from the self-centered look — wanting to know more about the return of Jesus for personal planning and expectation — to a Jesus-focused look. Here’s a snip from the introduction:

Revelation is not about what will happen (futurist) or even what happened (historicist), but what is always happening above us. It is quite simply, a book envisioning Christ enthroned through suffering, something the Eucharist represents. (Watts 3)

Watts’ prayers are intended to be corporate and responsive in nature. But he does a better job of explaining than I would:

Like call and response prayers, you will find portions in bold. The bold sections of Scripture are based on (usually) Revelation, while the words in regular print are the literary sources for John’s writing. John used a tremendous amount of Scriptural allusions drawn from the New Testament and other works while drafting his work. I will make use of many of them to provide an answer to him. I have tried to arrange it so John’s words are met with similar words or thoughts from other writers of the faith. … Surrounding the prayers are mediations and devotions from saints throughout the ages. You will find familiar names like John Wesley and maybe a few unfamiliar ones like St. Bonaventure and a sixth century theologian by the name of Oecumenius. This is an ecumenical book, so you will hear Catholic and Orthodox voices as well as Protestant ones. (Watts 7–8)

The end product is a set of rich prayers focused on the text of Revelation with surrounding material setting the scene based on the testimony of the church through the ages. You’ve seen and read nothing like it on the book of Revelation. If you read it seriously, you’ll be better for it.

[Disclaimer: Joel Watts is my friend. He supplied me with a copy of Praying in God’s Theater (amazon.com), but I have examined it and would like to think I’d write the above about the book whether I knew him or not.]

Post Author: rico
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 6:35:43 AM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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# Sunday, April 13, 2014

Previous post: Epistle to Diognetus (Part I)

The previous post was on the introduction, which takes over 120 pages of the book. This post is on the edition Jefford supplies of the Greek text, the apparatus, and the translation.

Suffice it to say, Jefford has the most extensive look at the Greek text for Diognetus that I’ve ever seen. We have only ever known one manuscript of the Epistle to Diognetus, dated to the 13th-14th centuries, and it is lost. There are some transcriptions that date back to the late 16th century, and Jefford has examined all of those. Further, it appears that he has evaluated and transcribed almost every edition ever printed — by my count 41 editions. Jefford’s lists these editions in his apparatus, which is extensive. If you want to know the textual history from the editio princeps to modern time, then you need to evaluate Jefford’s work. I mean really — take a look at the apparatus:



Each two-letter abbreviation represents a different edition. The apparatus brings out emendations suggested by editors over the years, and even notes where editors have a preferred reading (using <<notation>>) that is not found in the early transcriptions. The <single bracket> readings are where the early transcriptions prefer a reading not in agreement with the original exemplar.

This is an immense amount of work, both in the actual collation but also in the tracking down of all of these editions. In thanks and gratitude, we all should buy Jefford an adult beverage of his choice the next time we see him.

The translation is serviceable. The major attraction here is the Greek text and apparatus. The translation is what it is. On the literal-dynamic scale — which isn’t really fair for Diognetus because if you translate it word-for-word literal, you end up with yoda-speak on drugs — it tends toward the dynamic, but not nearly so much as Ehrman’s translation. That said, the translation is readable and adequately reflects his Greek text.

Next up: Thoughts on the commentary proper, if I can ever get the gumption to finish it.

Post Author: rico
Sunday, April 13, 2014 10:02:14 PM (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00) 

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