Recommended Tools for Accessing the Biblical Languages
- Written by: Daniel Gray
- Category: Recommended Bible Study Resources
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I list some serious tools here , but there is something for most anyone. These are the resources I use in Logos for the most intense part of Bible study. That is testing the translation and trying to gather up what is lost in the translation from the original language into English. I cover Bibles, lexicons, Grammars, and more.
Click the title above.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update
I could choose most any English Bible I want. 80 of them sit in my Logos library. But I use NASB95. I only bought my hard copy of it because I started going to a church where Don, the head translator of the NASB95, taught a Sunday school class. I learned a lot from him. He taught me how to study the Bible better and to access to the original languages with good tools. I have become quite impressed with NASB95 as I have used it for more than a decade, comparing it to the Greek, Hebrew, and other translations. I look up the definitions of the words and sometimes find NASB95 was only one to really get it spot on. Seldom do I disagree with it and when I do I usually wonder what I am missing.
NASB95 is a formal equivalent translation so it is easy to see which English words come from which word in the original language using the reverse interlinear. They may appear to line up in a reverse interlinear when using a dynamic equivalent translation but a person sees how often they do not once they begin to look up the meaning of the words in a lexicon. You will not be satisfied with anything except a formal equivalent translation if you are really studying the Bible and comparing it to the original languages to understand its meaning.
What about the new NASB2020?
Well, I have not seen it yet. It is coming out in the spring of 2021. I am looking forward to getting it. I expect it to benefit from a lot of research since 1995. However the current trend in Bible translations has moved away from being so literal to being more easily read. I may find myself working out of 2 Bibles until I decide which one to use.
A good Greek Lexicon
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Don told me BDAG was what the scholars use and would be the only one I needed. It covers all the Greek words. I look at the available definitions. The Greek words forms used under them along with the verses listed. It is nice when the verse of interest is listed. Otherwise one needs to compare it to the verses that are listed. Sometimes I do not feel I have grasped the meaning very well and turn to another lexicon. The older lexicons are no good. You want one that gives more than a gloss.
Other Greek Lexicons I sometimes use
Spicq, C., & Ernest, J. D. (1994). Theological lexicon of the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. iv). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
I sometimes refer to Kittle but cautiously because there are problems in the earlier volumes of giving words more definitions than were warranted.
What about analytical lexicons?
I have only one use for them. Sometimes I run across a original language word in a resource other than a bible. For instance I am trying to understand the context of the word of interest in a sentence quoted in a resource. In this case it is not so easy to look it up in a lexicon. However, I can copy the word and search for it in an analytical lexicon to find the lemma of the word. Then I can look it up in a Logos Bible Word Study and a lexicon. I do not use the glosses in the analytical lexicons to learn the meaning of the word.
Lexicons to avoid.
Lexicons that simply provide a word or gloss as a definition, (Strongs, Newman Jr.)
Old lexicons miss out on recent research on many manuscripts and the work of many scholars.
Semantic Domains: Louw-Nida is a very popular lexicon, but it is bad. They went overboard with their new “semantic domains” tool to evaluate language and messed it all up. I shy away from everything semantic domains.
A good Hebrew Lexicon
Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 454). Leiden: E.J. Brill.
Again, this is the one used by scholars for the Old Testament. It gives the meaning of the words by the stems. You look up the stem in the morphology and find the definition for the word in that stem. (I.e. Qal, Piel and Pual, Hithpael, Hiphil and Hophal, Niphal)
Smyth, H. W. (1920). A Greek Grammar for Colleges (p. 149). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago; Boston; Atlanta: American Book Company.
It may be old but it is thorough. Once you find the topic than deals with the issue you want to understand your set. It includes classical grammar as well as Koine. I usually do a search of the relevant grammars to find what I need. I have set up collections of grammars to search only the language needed. I look to see if Smyth comes up in the search. If not, I scour the ones that did for the information I need. I focus on Greek grammars that use only 5 cases instead of 7.
Textual Commentary and apparatuses
A.) Omanson, R. L., & Metzger, B. M. (2006). A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: an adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual commentary for the needs of translators (p. iii). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
B.) Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (p. 557). London; New York: United Bible Societies.
C.) H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies. (2010). The Center for New Testament Textual Studies: NT Critical Apparatus (Col 3:6). New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
D.) Nestle, E., & Nestle, E. (2012). Nestle-Aland: NTG Apparatus Criticus. (B. Aland, K. Aland, J. Karavidopoulos, C. M. Martini, & B. M. Metzger, Eds.) (28. revidierte Auflage, p. 618). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.
The A & B are very similar. The first one explains it more and in a less technical fashion than the second on. Either one is good for a quick assessment of the textual issues involved in a verse. A textual commentary or apparatus identifies textual variances than can often explain differences in interpretation of a passage.
C. is a data base available in Logos which serves as an extensive apparatus. D. is the same apparatus printed on the bottom of the pages of NA28 and give better manuscript support than A or B, but it is encoded with special symbols which are explained with when moused-overed.