Logos Free Book of the Month for March 2019 – Leland Ryken, How Bible Stories Work

The Logos Bible Software Free and almost free books of the month are three excellent books by Leland Ryken. Ryken was professor of English at Wheaton College written extensively on classic literature from a Christian perspective, including the The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing and the classic How to Read the Bible as Literature (Zondervan 1984). Ryken served as the “literary stylist” for the English Standard Version (Crossway 2001) and was edited IVP’s Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (1998).

Ryken’s How Bible Stories Work is one of six volumes originally published by weaver but are now part of the Lexham Press catalog. Each are relatively short books (125-135 pages) and well-designed for quick reading.

  1. The Subject of Every Story: The Embodiment of Universal Human Experience
  2. Setting in Bible Stories: Seeing the Particulars
  3. Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 1): How Writers Do It
  4. Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 2): What Readers Need to Do
  5. Plot Structure and Unity: The Beginning, Middle, and Ending of Each Story
  6. Plot Devices: How Storytellers Tell Their Story with Beauty and Skill
  7. Hero Stories: A Neglected but Fruitful Narrative Genre
  8. From Story to Meaning: How to Find Significance in a Narrative Text

Each chapter focuses on specific narratives and include an exercise (“learning by doing”). For example, in the chapter on Hero Stories, Ryken outlines the way hero stories usually work, then reads Daniel 6 as an example of a biblical hero story used to teach moral virtue. Then he suggests Esther as an example of hero story, prints a series of verses from the book and asks the reader to do the literary analysis for themselves. For some readers, describing Daniel 6 or the Book of Esther as “hero stories” sounds like they are “just stories” and not really “true stories.” Ryken acknowledges this objection in the preface to the series:  “the literary approach to the Bible needs to be defended against legitimate fears by evangelical Christians, and through the years I have not scorned to clear the territory of misconceptions as part of my defense of a literary analysis of the Bible.” For Ryken, “a literary approach to the Bible is ready to grant value to the biblical authors’ skill with language and literary technique, seeing these as an added avenue to our enjoyment of the Bible.” But a literary approach to the Bible is not used in isolation, rather it is “takes its humble place alongside the two other main approaches—the theological and the historical.”

In Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels ($1.99 for the month) Ryken first argues the Gospels are narratives and as such, the insights of literary studies are helpful in tracing the themes of the book. In Short Sentences Long Remembered: A Guided Study of Proverbs and Other Wisdom Literature ($2.99 for the month) Ryken examines a different genre of literature, that of proverbial wisdom. The book deals primarily with the Book of Proverbs and describes how short, proverbial sayings function in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, but also in Beatitudes and other contexts (James).

The bottom line is that you can add three excellent, academic books to your Logos Library for about $5. Any of these books are worth the investment at full price, so a big thanks to Lexham and Logos for making them available so inexpensively. As of today, the giveaway is not open, but the Free Books page indicates Logos will do their usual context to give away a 40 volume collection of books published by originally Weaver (which was purchased by Lexham, so maybe this giveaway will be updated soon?)

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos released a major upgrade to their Bible Software. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7 and the upgrade is well worth considering. As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading and there are paths that will require you to mortgage your house. 

Anchor Bible Commentary for Logos Sale

Logos is running a great sale on volumes of the Yale Anchor Bible Commentary through the end of February 2019. All volumes of this series are only $19.95, including the most recent volumes. For example both volumes of Joel Marcus’s commentary on Mark are on sale for $19.95 each; the cheaper paperback versions cost nearly that much per volume (and new hardcovers are selling for up to $85!)  I really do prefer to have the real books, but at this price I can fill in some of the recent replacement volumes I have not been able to afford and use the features of the Logos library.

So what is good in the AB series? Joel Marcus on Mark, Fitzmyer on Luke (two volumes), Acts, Romans and 1 Corinthians are all worth using. Raymond Brown’s two volumes on the Gospel of John and addition volume on the Epistles of John are still worth using although they are a bit dated. The real steal is Louis Martyn’s Galatians commentary, new paperback copies are more that $50 on Amazon. Abraham Mahlerbe on 1-2 Thessalonians and Luke Timothy Johnson on 1-2 Timothy are both excellent.

For the Hebrew Bible, I recommend Jacob Milgrom’s three volumes on Leviticus (Vol. 1, 1–16, Vol. 2, 17-22 and Vol. 3, 23–27; one of the most detailed commentaries on Leviticus!) Both the Hosea and Amos commentaries by Anderson and Freedman are great (I have used Amos often). I have two of the three Joseph Blenkinsopp commentaries on Isaiah and find them useful.

The Anchor Bible Commentary included books from the Apocrypha as well. Most of these can be had used for less than $20, but there are relatively few commentaries on Sirach, Judith, Tobit, etc.

There are a few of the older AB commentaries on sale and I would not recommend them even at the sale price. I would not purchase the Genesis commentary by Speiser, for example. It is one of the original AB volumes and has yet to be replaced by a newer more detailed commentary. There are used copies everywhere for less that $10 (I see a copy on Amazon for less that $3!) The same is true for 1-2 Chronicles and the Ezra-Nehemiah volumes by Jacob Myers. Maybe the three volumes on the Psalms by Michael Dahood are in this category too, although these were better commentaries with a heavy emphasis on Ugaritic parallels. Despite being older, I think Marvin Pope’s commentaries on Job and Song of Solomon are both worth having (the SoS commentary is massive and filled with interesting interpretations of the Song!). The William Orr commentary on 1 Corinthians so not very good and has been replaced by Fitzmyer, but it is still available in this sale (you can get it used for $2 on Amazon). J. Massyngberde Ford’s Revelation commentary was replaced by Craig Koester. Ford’s commentary was brief and idiosyncratic (and is still pricey used, for some reason).

Logos recently launched a major upgrade, I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything runs faster than Logos 7 so the upgrade is well worth getting.  If you do not already have Logos, get Logos 8 Fundamentals for $99 then upgrade to a Logos 8 base package. Try using the code READINGACTS8, might save you some money.

The Anchor Bible Commentary sale expires at the end of February, so head to the Sale page and load up on excellent professional commentaries for your Logos library.

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for February 2019 – Mark Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness

Logos has an excellent book on offer for their Free Book of the Month. All three of the free and “almost free” books are part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology from InterVarsity Press. From the IVP Website, this series “Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprised by New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.”

For the month of February, you can download Mark Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification (IVP Academic, 2000). Seifrid’s work is solid and represents the traditional / reformation perspective on Paul (see my “What was the Old Perspective?”). His published dissertation was Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme (NovT Supp; Leiden: Brill, 1992) and he has contributed numerous essays and articles on Paul’s theology, such as “The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and its Problems,” Themelios 25 (2000): 4–18. He wrote the Pillar Commentary on the New Testament on 2 Corinthians. When I mentioned this book in an article back in 2013, I said “is a brief treatment of the topic but among the very best and most accessible for the layman.” My physical copy of this book is well-read and marked, a sure sign of a stimulating book.

In addition to Seifrid, you can add Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel (IVP Academic, 2004) for $1.99. Bolt “explores why the cross is so prominent in Mark’s Gospel, what Mark’s teaching contributes to our understanding of the atonement, and how it can inform, correct, and enrich our own preaching of the gospel in the contemporary world. He helps us to stand in wonder before God who has come close to us in the cross of Jesus Christ and to live in hope for the better things to come.”

Perhaps most exciting to me, Craig Blomberg’s Contagious Holiness:Jesus’ Meals with Sinners (IVP Academic, 2005) for $2.99. This book came out about the time I started by PhD work, and I did not discover the book until I was well into my dissertation research. Reading the book was a bit depressing since Blomberg was doing the very thing I wanted to do in my dissertation (and doing it better than I would)! The thesis of his book: “In sharing food and drink with His companions, He invited them to share in the grace of God. He revealed His redemptive mission while eating with sinners, repentant and unrepentant alike. Jesus’ “table fellowship” with sinners in the Gospels has been widely agreed to be historically reliable.” I ended up with some of the historical Jesus material, but focused on table fellowship as an anticipation of the messianic banquet (which Blomberg includes briefly).

The bottom line is that you can add three excellent, academic books to your Logos Library for about $5. Any of these books are worth the investment at full price, so a big thanks to IVP Academic and Logos for making them available so inexpensively.You can also enter to win a 22 volume set of “The Bible Speaks Today: New Testament.”

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. Through February 7, 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.

Logos Bible Software Upgrade Sale Ends Soon

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade at the end of last year. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything runs faster than Logos 7 so the upgrade is well worth getting.

If you upgrade to Logos 8, you can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8 and save a little money on the upgrade. But this upgrader discount ends on February 7, 2019. If you do not already have Logos, here is a loophole in the sale. Get Logos 7 Fundamentals for $59 then upgrade to a Logos 8 base package and use the code to save 25%.

As always, be sure to check out the Logos Free Book of the Month. They give away a new book every month and usually have promotional pricing on one or two others from the same publisher. This is a great way to build up your library.

Logos “Free Book of the Month” for January 2019 – John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone

Logos Bible Software is starting 2019 off right by offering a copy of Isaiah for Everyone by John Goldingay for free in January. From the blurb, “In this volume on Isaiah, John Goldingay explores the first of the great prophetic books. Isaiah is a compilation of the prophetic messages of several prophets. Their messages to the people of Judah and Jerusalem included a call for injustice to be recognized, a message of liberation and hope from the oppressors of the people, and a message of the coming day of judgment.” Goldingay is always a good read, and I have used his The Theology of the Book of Isaiah as a textbook in a grad class on Isaiah several times.

Seriously, all you need to know is it is a free copy of a commentary on Isaiah by John Goldingay. If you are a Logos used, then you should get this book!

Since Logos is partnering with Westminster John Knox for the give away this month, they are also offering two excellent books as “almost free” add-ons. First, for only $1.99 you can add Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis (Fourth Edition): A Handbook for Students and Pastors, and for $2.99 more you can add Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (Third Edition): A Handbook for Students and Pastors. I have used the Fee book as a textbook in a NT Exegesis class for years, it is very good introduction to NT exegetical method. I was assigned Studart’s book in a PhD seminary on Hebrew Exegesis and used it the last time I taught a Hebrew exegesis course

You can also enter to win the Westminster John Knox Theology Collection (6 vols.; $180 value). The set includes The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and there are several ways to enter.

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. 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.

Book Review: Amy Anderson and Wendy Widder, Textual Criticism and the Bible. Revised Edition

Anderson, Amy and Wendy Widder. Textual Criticism and the Bible. Revised Edition. Lexham Methods Series 1; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. Pb.; 236 pp. $29.99   Link to Lexham Press

This volume is the first of five texts in the Lexham Methods Series. Each volume is edited collection of basic introductions to important concepts for biblical studies. The series appears in both print and Logos Bible Software format. Although there are several basic introductions to textual criticism, it is rare to find a primer on textual criticism of both testaments in a single volume.

Anderson, Widder, Textual CriticismThe first two chapters of this guide to textual criticism define the discipline by describing the goal of textual criticism as establishing the earliest reading text of a biblical text (40). This is not translation or interpretation since textual criticism precedes both of these steps. Textual criticism is necessary because of the massive number of copies, translations, and quotations of Scriptures in the literature of the early church, all preserved in hand copied manuscripts.

The bulk of chapter two catalogs the usual list of textual variations with several examples draw from examples from both testaments. Greek and Hebrew is used, but the texts appear in translation so a reader without language skills will be able to get the sense of the explanation of the variants.

  • Haplography, writing something once instead of twice
  • Parablepsis, “eye-skipping” that overlooks and eliminates or repeats text
  • Dittography, writing something twice instead of once
  • Conflation, combining multiple readings
  • Glosses, incorporating marginal notes into the text
  • Metathesis, switching the order of letters or words
  • Confusing one letter for a similar-looking letter
  • Homophony, Confusing words that sound alike

For the most part these are unintentional errors which slip into the copying process. Although there are a few difficult examples, most are easy to explain and do not cause much trouble. More difficult are intentional changes to the text. In many cases a copies will correct spelling and grammar with the goal of improving the text. This is especially the case when the original syntax of the text is difficult. Sometimes a copyist will harmonize two parallel texts. This may occur when a copyist remembers the parallel passage and unintentionally inserts it into section he is copying, as in the case of the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. But sometimes this is an intentional attempt to harmonize two parallel passages. One a few occasions, a copyist made theological changes, perhaps to prevent a reader from misunderstanding a text. The authors include the tiqqune sopherim as Old Testament examples. These are eighteen modifications to the Masoretic text made because the reading of the text seemed to be irreverent. The classic example of this theological change in the New Testament is 1 John 5:6-8 where the Latin Vulgate is clearly Trinitarian.

The second chapter concludes the basic method of textual criticism. Anderson and Widder offer three principle for evaluating external evidence, preferring the older manuscripts (although this is nuanced slightly since early manuscripts are just as likely to have intentional changes), the reading that has multiple attestations, and the reading found in a variety of manuscripts (text types, families). With respect to internal evidence or transcriptional probability, the basic rule is “the reading that best explains the origin of the other readings is probably original” (45, citing David Alan Black). Three corollaries follow, usually called the “canons of textual criticism.” The critic prefers the shorter reading, the more difficult reading, and the reading which best fits the author of the text. This assumes (correctly) that copyists were more likely to expand a text rather than shorten it. This is the case for the name of Jesus, a copyist is more likely to add titles to the name of Jesus than delete them. It also assumes that a copyist is more likely to smooth out difficult grammar.

After the first two chapters outlining the science and art of textual criticism, there are two sixty-plus page chapters for both the Old and New Testaments. Both chapters feature brief description of the materials for doing textual criticism, such as critical editions of manuscripts, translations and versions. These are necessarily brief and concise, and often summarized with helpful charts giving names, dates, and scholarly conventions for abbreviating these materials in the textual apparatus of critical editions. There are helpful charts for important papyri, majuscules, minuscules, but not for church fathers or lectionaries. Some readers will find these charts frustratingly brief, but since comprehensive lists appear in the front of the critical editions of the Greek New Testament is unnecessary to include more than the important witnesses in a handbook like this.

Both chapters have a section on method with several examples of the process a student might follow in order to examine a particular variation. The tree steps are simple: (1) assemble the evidence for all variants, (2) analyze the variants, and (3) draw conclusions. I will comment on two examples, one from each testament. For Lamentations 3:22 there is a variant “we are used up” or “they are used up”? The evidence is drawn from the Peshitta, a Targum, and the Vulgate (although the LXX is not used in this example, it is for other examples in the chapter). The student then should work through the list of potential variations in order to explain which reading is likely to be the original reading.

Doing New Testament textual criticism is more complicated because there are far more manuscripts and two different ways of indicating variants. The critical apparatus in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament uses a series of sigla to indicate a variant (see the chart on pages 150-51, this is worth memorizing) while the United Bible Society uses footnotes when a variant occurs. The general rule is the NA has more variations and less evidence, the UBS has fewer variants and more evidence. Using the same three steps as outlined for the Old Testament, the authors walk a student through the process for a variant in John 3:32 using the evidence in NA28. Each chapter ends with an annotated Resources for Further Study. These resources are often sections or chapters rather than a monograph or article.

The final chapter is a short reflection on textual criticism today. Anderson and Widder make two points as a conclusion to their book. First, they discuss how textual criticism is reflected in popular Bible translations. This includes a short note on what critical editions the translation used for their translations as well as the textual-critical approach used by the translators. Second, the chapter includes two pages considering the impact textual criticism has on the authority of Scripture. They conclude “we can have confidence that the Bible we use reflects an extraordinary degree of accuracy and integrity” (184).

Two items add value to this book for students. First, there is a twenty page glossary of terms used in the book. Second, the new edition of the book has an expanded, twenty page bibliography, including subsections for critical editions of the Old and New Testament, Peshitta, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and Vulgate). The previous edition of the book was heavily dependent on Bible dictionaries, especially the Anchor Bible Dictionary; that is not the case for the revised edition. The book includes subject and Scripture indices.

Logos Bible Software Features. The book has a number of illustrations and charts. Most key terms appear in a PowerPoint like slides. These images can be copied and pasted into presentation software. The Logos Bible Software version also provides links to the glossary for key terms and scholars. For example, on the desktop version, floating the cursor over terms like Origen, Vulgate, or haplography and the glossary entry will appear; clicking the link will go to the glossary. This is extremely helpful when reading the book on an iPad. I am not sure if this is easily done, but I would challenge Lexham to take this glossary and release it in a flash card format, such as Study Blue, Quizlet or the adaptive learning technology platform Cerego. This would make the book more useful to students, especially of the book is adopted as a textbook.

 

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.

 

Logos “Free Book of the Month” for December 2018 – John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him

For the  month of December Logos users can download John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Crossway, 2001) for free, Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit for $2.99 and Bruce Demerast, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation for $4.99.

These three books are part of The Foundations of Evangelical Theology from Crossway. In Feinberg’s general introduction to the series, he indicates the intention of the series is “to address all areas of evangelical theology with a special emphasis on key issues in each area. While other series may be more like a history of doctrine, this series purposes to incorporate insights from Scripture, historical theology, philosophy, etc., in order to produce an up-to-date work in systematic theology. Though all contributors to the series are thoroughly evangelical in their theology, embracing the historical orthodox doctrines of the church, the series as a whole is not meant to be slanted in the direction of one form of evangelical theology. Nonetheless, most of the writers come from a Reformed perspective. Alternate evangelical and non-evangelical options, however, are discussed.”

You can also enter the Logos giveaway for the Crossway Studies on the Bible (8 Vol. set).

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. 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.

Head on over to the Logos Free Book page and get yourself a nice Christmas present (or two).