Introducing Logos 8

I have been a Logos user since the middle 1990s. My first purchase was shipped on four floppy discs and I have continued to upgrade and add on to my Logos Library over the years. I appreciate the good folks in Logos Marketing sending me a copy of Logos 8 early to use for this review. In addition, you can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

To be honest, it was not early enough! There are so many new and important features in the new version it would take several weeks of dedicated time to explore them completely. Consider this review my “first impressions.”

The first thing I notice when launching the new Logos 8 is improved speed. The new fonts are sharp and readable, windows seemed to open quickly. There are some speed claims on the Logos website, I have no way to verify them other than the eye-test. Compared to Logos 7, this new version is lightning fast!

The Logos homepage has been completely revamped. I must admit I rarely used the homepage in previous versions of Logos, preferring to launch to my personalized layout of books. The new homepage has a customizable dashboard allowing the user to add content from their library such as devotional material, reading plans, Logos educational courses, lectionaries and prayer lists. As with previous verses, there are a number of items pushed into a section called “explore.” These might be hints as trying out some feature of Logos (“try a work flow….start now!), a sample from a book you already own, links to Logos Bible Study blog, training videos, etc. But there also a number of temptations to purchase additional books for your library. These are links to community pricing resources (usually a good deal if you participate early) or new books in the Logos Library.

One of the coolest new features is called Workflow. When you launch a new Workflow, you will be prompted to select a text or topic to study. There are different flows for different types of study. There are Bible passage and exegesis workflows, but also people, places, and theology topics. The Workflow tab will walk you through a series of steps in a personal study of the passage, making notes for each step in the process. Each step utilizes various tools of the Logos library. For example, the first step is to read the passage marking the text with highlighters and making notes. The second step is to read the passage in other translations using the Translation Comparison tool. The third step is to identify the people in the passage. I chose Exodus 16, so this step contained links to Moses, Aaron and the Israelites in various resources. This will be a very attractive feature for people who want to do personal Bible study but need some guiding questions to focus their study.

Logos Notes have also been upgraded in this new version. I will confess I have not used the Notes feature, primarily because I did not care for how the notes were stored. I rarely was able to find what I wanted to find later. Notes are now stored in an Evernote-like collection. For example, all my notes on Galatians are collected into one directory. One thing which surprised me was a notebook with 1000+ highlights I have made in books over the years. All my old notes were converted without any trouble, including notes I made 7 years ago when I was reviewing Logos 4.5.

Logos 8 Notes

Logos 8 Notes

Notes can be filtered by several categories. For example, all the highlights and notes I made while reading the Pillar New Testament Commentary on Thessalonians are filed together under resource>Thessalonians (PNTC), but also under Bible Book>1 Thessalonians or 2 Thessalonians. If I make highlights and notes in several resources on 1 Thessalonians, these will be gathered in one place. The filters can be stacked, so Bible Book>1 Thessalonians>resource lets me see all the notes and highlights I made from individual commentaries. All notes and highlights can be quickly searched. If you take notes as you read a book, considered tagging the notes with topics to make better use of the search feature.

For me, I prefer to read books through the Logos app on my iPad. Notes and highlights I make there are stored in the same notes system the desktop version of Logos 8. This means if I am sitting in a coffee shop reading and making notes on my iPad, those notes will be organized and ready form me when I return to my office. One feature I would like Logos to consider is exporting a Notes collection to a Word file. For example, I might use the filter tool to narrow notes to the book of John, search the topic of festivals, and end up with a series of notes drawn from various resources. If those notes could be combined and exported to a Word file for editing, the Notes tool would be even more valuable. (Maybe that feature is already there and I am missing it.)

Canvas is a new feature which reminds me of a large cork board for organizing notes. Think about just about any detective show, the detective collects pictures and notes and makes connections between various clues. Canvas is a way to take information from various tools within the Logos eco-system and lay them out into a visual diagram. To be honest, this looks like an excellent tool for visual learners and has so many complicated features I have not had time to explore it sufficiently for this review.

The Library Tool has been updated. I usually find my books by hitting ctrl-L and opening a floating window, entering the name of the book in the search line. The new Library window has a filter in the sidebar. This is the same system used to filter notes, although there are more categories available. Maybe the filter was always there and I never noticed it, but the Logos 8 library window now sorts by subject, topic and author, but also series. I can now sort out all the Library of New Testament Studies volumes. These filters can be stacked, Library of New Testament Studies and Paul, or Hermenia and Q theory. One serious frustration is the sub-categories are not alphabetical and I do not see an easy way to scan through the categories to find what I want. The new filter sidebar has a “new today,” “new last seven days,” etc. This replaces the update notice on the home page in Logos 7.

Logos 8 Workflow

Logos 8 Workflow

The Passage and Exegetical guides are excellent tools to jumpstart a Bible study. Select the tool from the guides menu and enter a passage. This can be a single verse or a section. This will generate a tab with links to all the resources you own on that particular verse, including commentaries, journal articles, parallel passages, and cross-reference tools. Logos 8 now generates a list of “important passages” and “important words” for your passage. For example, I entered John 3:16 and the guide identifies all the nouns and verbs as important, but did not list any of the words which are not very important for exegesis (and, but, the, etc.). The guide also includes links to various media you may have in your library, such as graphs and timelines. One extremely valuable tool in the passage guide is a list of allusions in other ancient literature. If you have the apostolic or church fathers installed, the guide generates links to the books which quote or allude to your verse. I was quite surprised to see links to New Testament apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and the Nag Hammadi literature. The passage guide concludes with allusions to the verse in systematic theologies and confessional documents as well as sermons in your collection (as well as those shared in the Faithlife by contemporary pastors). This guide will even find hymns that relate to your passage!

The Word Study Guide has been the main tool I use when preparing lessons. Right click on a Greek or Hebrew, make sure the lemma is selected and then pick the Word Study Guide. This will generate a tab with links to any lexicons and word study books you own. There is a helpful section listing words with similar roots. I ran a Word Study Guide on δοῦλος, root section included the verb δουλεύω and the noun σύνδουλος along with several other less frequent words lexically related words. These words are clickable and a Word Study tab will for the new word. The guide also generates a chart detailing the way that particular word is rendered in your preferred translation. If you are working on a Greek work the Word Study tool will generate a chart of how the Hebrew words translated with your word in the LXX. Although the Word Study Guide does not create a concordance style list, it will offer a few example uses of the word in different grammatical uses (subject, object, etc.). The new Word Study guide also generates “clause participation” in the preferred translation, although I am not sure this is useful information. The final section of the Word Study is one of the more important. The Guide will search for your word in the LXX, apostolic fathers, New Testament apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo and Greek Classics (if you have the Greek versions in your library).

New in Logos 8 is a Theology Guide. Launch the guide from the Guides menu and enter a theological topic. I entered justification, and a tab was generated including the Lexham Survey of Theology, This resource includes charts, key New Testament text on justification and several shorter articles on the Nature of Justification and the timing of Justification, etc. Each article has a Recommended Resources section with clickable links; if the resources is unlocked you will be taken to that resource, otherwise Logos will offer a chance to purchase the book. In this case, I owned Berkof’s Systematic Theology so clicking the guide took me right to his discussion of justification. But when I clicked on the recommended Perspectives Old and New on Paul by Stephen Westerholm I was given the opportunity to buy the resource.

In most of the guides and workflows Logos will suggest “Important Words” or “Important passages.” It is not clear now these texts are generated, but at first glance they seem to be useful lists of actually important words and passages. Sometimes automatically generated lists include less that helpful suggestions, this is not the case with this new tool.

Conclusion. There is plenty more to explore in Logos 8. This new version of Logos is a major upgrade, if you are using an older version this is a great time to considered upgrading. Use the code READINGACTS8 at checkout to save 25% on upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books.

 

When You Fast – Matthew 6:16-18

As he did with almsgiving and prayer, Jesus redefines fasting as a private act of worship. Jesus assumes his disciples will fast since he says “when you fast.” But the true disciple of Jesus will practice fasting in a way which does not draw attention to themselves. Quite a few years ago I had a friend start a ten-day fast. I remember this because he reminded every day (sometimes several times a day) that he was fasting. It is like the old joke, how do you know someone is a Vegan? Talk to them for five minutes.

Spirital FastingWhen the hypocrites fast, everyone knows what they are doing. The hypocrites “destroy (ἀφανίζω) their faces, a verb which means to render something unrecognizable, even “wear a disguise.” The Pharisees “seem to don masks during their fasting” (BDAG). Perhaps they wore older clothes or even sackcloth to appear to be in great distress after a long fast. The hypocrite wants people to know they are fasting so they are thought to be especially spiritual. Just like the one who makes a demonstration of almsgiving or public prayers, everyone knows the person is fasting.

Unlike the hypocrites, Jesus tells his disciples not to look like you are fasting. Jesus says his disciples should not “look somber” of “gloomy” (σκυθρωπός). The only other place this word appears in the New Testament is Luke 24:17, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus looked gloomy after the crucifixion. In LXX Psalm 37:7 (ET 38:6) the verb describes a person who is in mourning.

The person who is fasting should would wash daily, but the hypocritical person might not wash at all in order to appear in more distress. Jesus says, “Clean yourself up and look normal” when you fast. More than looking normal, Jesus seems to advise appearing to be “not in mourning.” Anointing one’s head was done as a sign of joy (Ps 23:4), perhaps more than daily personal cleanliness (it is more special than “use shampoo and conditioner).

Is there really spiritual benefit to fasting? Augustine said “Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Give it two wings: fasting and almsgiving.” (Cited by Wimmer, Fasting in the New Testament, p. 114)

As should be clear from the overview of biblical fasting, the practice does have a place in the Christian life as a spiritual discipline.

One important observation about Jesus’s teaching on fasting is that did not cite any examples of people who have fasted in the Old Testament, Moses or Elijah, nor did he put his own experience forward as a model of how to fast. Although there are people who have completed forty day fasts, this is not the normal practice in the ancient world and it is never presented as a model for modern Christians.

It is not the case that a longer fast is “more spiritual” than a short fast, or that a total fast is better than a fast during the day with a small meal in the evening. Like communion, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.

McKnight offers two very important warnings about fasting. First, churches should be very careful about how the present fasting because eating disorders are dangerous and some people may be negatively impacted by a period of fasting. Second, fasting is not abstaining from some particular activity (such as giving something up for Lent). Even though people go on an “internet fast” or a “TV fast,” this is not at all what the Bible is talking about (McKnight, Sermon, 202).

As Jesus commanded, fasting should be a private practice as much as possible. It is possible for a faith community to use prayer and fasting when coming to an important decision. Like Paul and Barnabas, perhaps a day of fasting and prayer can be used for appointing leaders or commissioning people to ministry.

In addition, churches could consider a day of fasting in response to a terrible event in the life of the community, or even in the life of the nation. McKnight suggest a time of prayer and fasting in response to a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The point would not be an attempt to manipulate God into action, but to focus the attention on God in response to the disaster.

But if someone decides to go through a period of fasting, they last thing they ought to do is announce it for all to hear, or sigh loudly when they are hungry, or go out to lunch and not eat in order to make every one aware of their spiritual discipline.

Those who fast ought to focus on their response to God, not in order to create a spiritual experience. This is not biblical, even though fasting can put one in a psychological place to have a spiritual experience.

I would love to hear from some readers on their own experience with fasting as a spiritual discipline. How does a private fast differ from a public demonstration? How does fasting focus one’s spiritual thinking?

Fasting in the Ancient World – Matthew 6:16-18

Of the three disciplines in Matthew 6:1-18, fasting is the most difficult because evangelical Christians have been hesitant to participate in fasts. For most, they would prefer a good potluck to a fast!

However, fasting was common in the ancient world and is still an important spiritual discipline for many religious people. The practice of fasting is considered a critically important method for getting in touch with spiritual things. For example, Bonhoeffer said “Satiated flesh is unwilling to pray and unfit for self-sacrificing service” (Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 158). McKnight considers this an example of the instrumental view of fasting: one fasts in order to gain some spiritual benefit. But he also states clearly this view of fasting is simply not found in the Bible (McKnight, Sermon, 193).

Jesus does not command almsgiving, prayer or fasting. He simply assumes his disciples will do these basic spiritual disciplines. What he commands is a re-thinking of the how these commonly practiced spiritual acts of worship should be done. In all three cases he turns the focus away from the one doing the act and toward God.

What did it mean to fast at the time of Jesus?

In the Old Testament, fasting was required only on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29-31, 23:26-32), Acts 27:9 simply calls the Day of Atonement “the Fast.” But there are other examples of fasting in the Old Testament in response to either an important or terrible event. The death of a loved one is often associated with “sackcloth and ashes,” perhaps fasting as well. In 1 Samuel 31:13 the people of Jabesh Gilead mourn the death of Saul by fasting for seven days. In 2 Sam 1:12, David and his men fasted and mourned Saul and Jonathan (although this fast only lasted until the evening). In Judges 20:26 the people fasted before the Lord all day before a battle the following day. In 1 Sam 7:6 Saul commanded a fast until a battle was won (although this is considered a rash vow). The people responded with fasting in response to the judgment of God in the exile (crises Isa 58:3-5; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5). This is similar to the fasts in Esther 4:16 and Ezra 8:23. Psalm 35:11-16 is an example of responding to oppression. David has been attacked by “malicious witnesses” and his response is sackcloth and ashes (cf., Psalm 69:10-11). For Second Temple period Jews, fasting had been encumbered by additional regulations.

There are a few examples of fasting in the New Testament which is not associated with mourning. In Luke 2:37 Anna is described as fasting and praying in the Temple. Paul and Barnabas are appointed to a mission after prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2-3) and Paul and Barnabas appointed elders only after a time of prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23). Paul refers to fasting in 2 Corinthian 6:5 and 11:27 although he may mean a time of hunger since it is in a list of suffering he has experienced.

Luke 5:33 states John the Baptists and his disciples “fasted often,” as do the Pharisees (Mark 2:18/Matt 9:14). In contrast, the disciples of Jesus did not fast in the same way.

The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), on Thursday and Monday. According to tradition, Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Thursday and descended on Monday. Those two days were the “market” days, when Jerusalem was the busiest, and fasting would have the largest audience. The early Christian church manual Didache 8 says “But do not let your fasts coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, so you must fast on Wednesday and Friday.”

Fasting was important in the early church and is mentioned thirty times in the New Testament and it is never condemned. As in the Old Testament, fasting marked times of sorrow or prayer, often accompanying a decision. Keeping the Old Testament texts cited above in mind, a person might fast during the day and have a small meal in the evening.

Polycarp, To The Philippians 7.2 Therefore let us leave behind the worthless speculation of the crowd and their false teachings, and let us return to the word delivered to us from the beginning; let us be self-controlled with respect to prayer and persevere in fasting, earnestly asking the all-seeing God “to lead us not into temptation,” because, as the Lord said, “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

Bibliography: N. K. Gupta, “Fasting,” page 270 in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Second Edition).

Lead us Not into Temptation – Matthew 6:13

This line of the Lord’s Prayer does not mean, “Don’t let us be tempted.” but rather “do not let us yield to temptation.” Craig Blomberg draws attention to a similar saying in Mark 14:38, “pray that you do not come under temptation” (Blomberg, Matthew, 120). Temptation is a fact of being human and is unavoidable for the disciple of Jesus. For example, in James calls trials “tests of faith” and considers them occasions for joy because they produce steadfastness which leads to maturity (James 1:2-4). For James, the result of being steadfast in suffering is a “perfect” faith, one that is complete and lacking nothing. James is not teaching his readers they can achieve perfection since he is clear humans struggle. But he is also clear people can mature and overcome specific sins.

There is an important translation issue in this verse. First, the Greek word normally translated “evil” covers a wide semantic range, as does the Hebrew and Aramaic word which Jesus likely originally used. The word πονηρός (ponēros) can refer to something which is poor quality or physically unhealthy, but also to something which is degenerate and wicked. A person who has poor vision, for example, has “bad eyes.” This does not mean their eyes are morally degenerate, only that they do not function properly. So this could be translated “bad thing” or “evil thing.”

Second, the Greek phrase in Matthew 6:13 is ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ (apo tou ponērou) and can be translated either as “from evil” or “the evil one.” In the first case, the prayer is to be rescued from bad things which happen in this world, in the second case it is a prayer to be delivered from the power of the tempter himself. This would refer to Satan and the dark spiritual forces of this world.

Both observations are important decisions to make at the translation level since there is quite a difference between “rescue us from bad things happening to us” and “rescue is from the power of the devil.” Should the disciple of Jesus expect that God will rescue them from every bad thing that might happen to the in this life? This is highly unlikely since he has already warned his followers they will face persecution. The disciples are the poor ones who hunger and thirst, they are the ones who will be persecuted and falsely accused for all sorts of evil because of their stand for Jesus.

It seems better that this is a prayer to be rescued from the dark spiritual forces that are active in the world. Jesus prays in John 17:15 that God the Father would protect his disciples “from the evil one.” In Ephesians 6:10 Paul says the believer does not wrestle against flesh and blood, but rather against dark and sinister forces of evil. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 Paul says “the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the trials that the disciples faced were very real threats to their lives – they were going to be arrested and likely beaten by both their friends (the Jews of the Synagogues) and their enemies (the Romans, eventually). In Mark 14:38, Jesus is talking about a trail which might result in apostasy, a denial of faith. We might describe this as a “crisis of faith,” a difficulty which is so severe that the believer may be tempted to reject his faith, to deny the Lord and, in a sense, return to a state of unbelief.

There is a strong indication that Jesus believes his disciples will pass through the time of trial, and be restored after the resurrection. This is also found in contemporary Jewish literature as well, that the one who fears the Lord will be rescued in their time of trial. Sirach 33:1 says “No evil will befall the one who fears the Lord, but in trials such a one will be rescued again and again.”

The disciple of Jesus should expect trials and temptations. There is no way to avoid them. In fact, trials and temptations are an indication the true disciple of Jesus is living out their faith, they are coming to the attention of an evil society which seeks to suppress them.

If this is correct, there is a serious contrast with some strains of Christianity which teaches the real disciple of Jesus will always be happy and healthy, or that any trial in one’s life is the result of sin. This is not at all what Jesus or Paul taught! The disciple of Jesus will still struggle with a failing body, they will endure pain and death. The disciple of Christ will still face the economic disaster of a lost job through no fault of their own. They will still face the heartbreak of rebellious children or a faithless spouse. These are not punishments for sin, but the sort of things all people face because the world is a fallen place. It is a lie to tell people their lives will be perfect if they aspect Jesus as savior. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount the true follower can expect all sorts of hardships and will suffer persecution for their faith.

Forgive us Our Debts – Matthew 6:12

For the small time farmers and day laborers who listened to Jesus in Galilee, forgiveness of debt was a serious issue. Just like today, farmers often need to take loans in order to plant a crop; fishermen may have need to take a loan in order to finance new equipment. Even though the Law forbid charging interest on loans, this applied only to the Jews. If a Galilean worker owed money at interest, he may have been in debt to a Gentile landowner. A prayer for debt-relief would have been very attractive indeed!

However, debt is often associated with the debt of sin. Jesus’s followers are a movement characterized by forgiveness. Many experienced radical forgiveness from Jesus. Those who followed Jesus were reformed tax-collectors, prostitutes, outsiders, etc. (Luke 7:36-50). People who had experienced healing also represent a form of forgiven since there was an association of sin with major disease for some in the Second Temple period (Mark 2:1-12).

Is Jesus saying “confess your sins to God and you will be forgiven”? Does this imply if you are not confessing your sins they will not be forgiven? First, Jesus is not talking about “how to get saved” here, so the confession of sin in Matthew 6:12 is a requirement for salvation. The original audience are the inner-circle disciples of Jesus, the very people he has chosen as his closest followers. The person praying a prayer of confession already has a relationship with God.

Second, if the person praying is already right with God, why must they confess their offenses? Confession of sin allows a person to recognize they are falling short of the glory of God and are still in need of God’s forgiveness.

Third, nothing in the Bible suggests the follower of Christ must confess every sin along with all of the gory details. The point is acknowledgement of God’s grace and mercy for our daily offenses.

Fourth, the person praying a prayer of confession is “in their closet.” This is not a public confession before the whole congregation. I recall a prayer meeting I was leading many years ago when a person began to publicly confess some rather specific sins during a prayer. In that case, the person was more gossipy about what they had done, looking for some sort of public affirmation they were “not all that bad.” The true disciple of Jesus should not draw attention to themselves even in their confession of sin!

I suggest that the true disciple of Jesus has a healthy understanding of sin and how it affects their relationship with God. This is not some sort of self-flagellation nor should confession of sin lead to extreme low self-esteem (“such a worm as I”). Healthy confession of sin reflects an honest and open relationship with God.

The second part of the line is important too: we are to forgive others. Jesus will return to the theme of forgiveness in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-44). The focus in that parable is on forgiving those who have wronged us even if they are unable to “pay their debt.” Forgiveness of others is based on the common Old Testament theme that God is the avenger. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus reversed the popular view that one can hate their enemy and seek revenge when wronged. Rather than seeking revenge, Jesus says, pray for your enemy and allow God to avenge you.

Forgiveness was an important part of the Judaism of the first century. The Jewish people knew that they had to be forgiven by God, and that they too needed to forgive their neighbors of their offenses against them. Sirach 28:1-7 is remarkably similar to Jesus’s call to forgive others.

Sirach 28:1–2 (NRSV) The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance, for he keeps a strict account of their sins. 2 Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.

If Jesus’ followers are forgiven, they too must be forgiving people. But this is much harder to do than say. Contemporary (western) culture tends to glorify revenge, but so did the Romans. The Bible, however, consistently describes God as the avenger of the weak. Forgiving people who have wronged you is difficult because we have to let go of a lot of pain, hurt, anger, most of which we really enjoy!

Most people are aware of some great act of forgiveness, perhaps a person deeply hurt forgives the criminal who wronged them. Sometimes it is easier for a Christian to forgive someone of a crime than to live out the ideal model of forgiveness described in the Sermon on the Mount by daily forgiving the little offenses against us.

The forgiveness Jesus describes in this line frees us from the chains of our debt. Most people know what it is like to be freed from a debt of money (paying off a loan, for example). If you owe a friend money, that debt can do serious damage to your relationship. By forgiving debts of offense against us, by accepting forgiveness when it is offered, we can be free from the weight of the debt. The true disciple of Jesus lives out the forgiveness they have received in their relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Book Review: Karl V. Kutz and Rebekah Josberger, Learning Biblical Hebrew

Kutz, Karl V. and Rebekah Josberger. Learning Biblical Hebrew: Reading for Comprehension: An Introductory Grammar. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 417 pp.; Hb.  $39.99  Link to Lexham Press

Kutz is professor of Biblical Languages and Josberger is an associate professor of Old Testament, but at Multnomah University. Their collaboration for a new first year biblical Hebrew primer reflects their experience in the classroom. As they say in the preface, this grammar is “aggressive” and assumes the use of Hebrew resources available to students of the Old Testament. However, Learning Biblical Hebrew does not seem to be any more “aggressive” than other recent introductory grammars. For example, the material in this new textbook is similar to the recent second edition of Page H. Kelley’s Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar (Eerdmans, 2018) or the second edition of Gary Practico and Miles Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar (Zondervan, 2014; a third edition is slated for the first quarter of 2019).

Learning Biblical HebrewThe first three chapters deal with letter formation, and pronunciation, followed by seven chapters on nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numbers.  The next seven chapters introduce verbs and the entire Qal system, followed by chapters on the niphal, the piel, pual and hithpael (one chapter), hiphil and hophal, and “rare verb stems” (reduplicated stems and qal passive). There are two separate chapters on object suffixes, then the final ten chapters are devoted to weak verbs.

Several chapters stand out as unique compared to other beginning Hebrew grammars. Chapter nine is entitled “Learning to Read Intuitively: Common Patterns and Hebrew Nouns.” The goal of the chapter is to demonstrate patterns for detecting the meaning of words from how the word is formed. The preformative mem can be added to a stem to form a related word. For example, יצא is a verb “going out,” the noun מוֹצָא means “exit.” The verb אכל means “eat,” the noun מַאֲכָל refers to things eaten, or “food.” Nouns referring to professions or personal traits are often verbs pointed as nouns. The verb דין, “to judge” can be pointed as דַּיָּן, “judge” or דִּין, “legal case.” By paying attention to this reuse of the basic elements of Hebrew words, a student can expand their vocabulary and read new words in context.

Chapters five and twelve deal with a related issue, vowel changes in nouns and verbs. One of the more difficult problems for beginning students of Hebrew is the way vowel change when suffixes are added to a word. It is important to memorize and understand the rules, but the illustrations in these two chapters will help students visualize the way vowels reduce when a suffix is added. It is one thing to memorize “distant open syllables reduce” but quite another to see a clear example using multiple colors.

Exercises for each lesson appear in a separate workbook which was not available at this time of this review. (The Lexham website indicates it is shipping in the first quarter of 2019.) Although I do cannot know this for a fact, I assume the workbook will have vocabulary lists since the chapters in the textbook do not include them. One observation: the Logos Bible Software and Lexham websites list the publication date for Learning Biblical Hebrew and the workbook as 2017, the printed copy has 2018 and the workbook will be 2019. A Graded Reader with Exercises will be published by Lexham Press in 2019.

In addition to the usual paradigms in the back of the book, there are five appendices. First, the authors provide a short introduction to the Hebrew Bible, including the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew canon along with the Hebrew names of the books. There is a short note on differences in chapter and verse divisions (although there is no comprehensive chart of all the differences in the Hebrew Bible). The authors also provide short definitions and examples of liturgical notations (seder and parashiot), section breaks, ketiv/qere and perpetual qere. The second appendix introduces students to Hebrew accents and cantillation marks.

The third appendix offers instructions on creating grammatical diagrams. This is not a syntactical display, but rather a “visual representation of the author’s flow of thought” (432). Most examples are based on the English text in order to demonstrate how to subordinate clauses, but the final diagram of Deuteronomy 4:5-8 is given in English and Hebrew. The main reason for doing this sort of work is to weigh interpretive options and assist the reader to find the main point of a unit. The fourth appendix offers advice on constructing a thematic outline, or moving from a grammatical display to a functional outline for teaching and preaching. The final appendix is deals with transliterating Hebrew to English letters (although copy/paste from Logos to http://transliterate.com/ is the easiest way to transliterated Hebrew and Greek).

There is nothing in the textbook on using computer based tools for reading Hebrew. This is remarkable since Lexham and Logos Bible Software are part of the same family of companies. This textbook is therefore aimed at students who want to develop a solid working knowledge of Hebrew rather than an overview of grammar as a crutch for using computer based Hebrew Bibles.

Learning Biblical Hebrew is an excellent textbook for a beginning Hebrew class, likely taught over two semesters at the graduate level. Grammatical explanations are clear and sufficient examples are provided to allow the student to see the concept in context. Pending the release of the workbook, Learning Biblical Hebrew should be considered as a primary textbook for the seminary classroom.

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread – Matthew 6:11

In the context of the ministry of Jesus, this is a prayer for the needs of the individual. Frequently “our daily bread” is made into “spiritual bread” or a sacrament, but that is not what Jesus is talking about. While this is a genuine attempt to make the text “applicable,” it misses the point that Jesus is setting up a model prayer for his disciples. The followers of Jesus really did live in crushing poverty and relied on God for their daily bread!

daily-breadThis is a very Jewish idea, that the ones with food would share it with the poor, James 2:15 for example, indicates it is our responsibility to care for the brothers and sisters who do not have food. In the Second Temple book Psalm of Solomon the writer encourages moderate living and contentment (PsSol 5:16-19). Later in Matthew Jesus is going to send his disciples out to visit the villages throughout the Galilee and they are to rely only on God (Matthews 10:4-15). He tells them to not take any money but rather rely on God totally for their needs.

In a culture which did not have a way to store food, sharing makes a lot of sense. Bread which is surplus will go bad, extra milk will spoil, etc. If a person “slaughters the fatted calf” they must give it all away that day since it will be wasted. This is why the poor were regularly cared for by the leftovers from a banquet table. Some holidays, Sukkoth for example, included sharing food with strangers intentionally. There is nothing like this in the modern church, even the potluck is something of a trade – few people stay for a pot luck if they have brought nothing.

In Church history, some people have gone to extremes which are not at all what is in mind here. There were some in the medieval period who took voluntary vows of poverty, relying on begging for their daily needs. Their goal was noble, to be like Christ in every way, including his poverty, but a Mendicant monk was not balancing voluntary poverty with Paul’s command to work and provide for your own needs (1 Thess 4:8-12).

A monk living in voluntary poverty stood in contrast to the extreme riches of the church. The great cathedrals cost enormous amounts of money in a time when there was great poverty. Is it right to spend that much on a building or for the opulent trappings which went along with this in a time when people were dying of starvation? The mendicant reaction was reasonable, but perhaps misguided.

This balance between poverty and riches has always been a problem for the Christian. Usually this results in a wise use of resources (which are provided by God) so that needs are met and God’s work is supported.

How are we to pray for our daily needs? First, recognize we have daily needs. It is very difficult for us to admit we do have daily needs. Part of the reason is that they are so easily met we do not think of them as needs. Most of us have never really suffered from serious want, so food and shelter are taken for granted.

Second, develop an attitude of thanksgiving for how God has provided for your needs. We have a job, we have resources which are far beyond what we deserve, and from the perspective of the history of the world, mind-boggling in richness. No generation of the church has been as wealthy as the western church of the twenty-first century. How often do we seriously thank God for allowing us to be born when and where he did?

Third, bring your real needs before the Lord. God is not too busy to be interested in our needs, do not think that our physical needs are so insignificant that God is not interested in them. Analogy: Perhaps your child has an assignment in school, maybe a science fair project. They are perfectly capable of doing it without ever telling you about it, but most parents are thrilled to hear about what their kids are doing in school, and want to help (or even take over the project!) Just as you are happy to know about and help your child, God is thrilled when we bring him our projects, needs wants, desires.

Finally, find ways in which you can be used to provide for the needs of others. There are some who are praying for their daily needs who are going to struggle to make ends meet, who are needing the miraculous gift of a bag of groceries, or an anonymous Meijer card in the mail at Christmas. God gave us our affluence in order to manage it for him, we ought to find places to make use of our riches to meet the needs of others.