08 July 2010

A Bible Recommendation

One would think that the last thing we would need is another Bible - especially given 2008's being nicknamed The Year of the Study Bible. The LCMS was only slightly late to the party with CPH's well-received The Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) being released in 2009.

But the Apostolic Bible, 2006 edition, edited by Charles Van Der Pool, is not a new translation nor a "study Bible," but rather a reference tool that I have found very helpful. It weds the Greek New Testament to the Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint.

The Septuagint (LXX) is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament made by Greek-speaking Jews around 250 BC. For the most part, it is the version of the Old Testament that is quoted by the New Testament (which was also written in Greek), the version in use in the days of the early church. This early Greek translation is a huge help to understanding the Hebrew Old Testament - which can often be open to various interpretations. The LXX is a window into how the Jews who awaited the Messiah, as well as the Christians who proclaimed Him, read and understood the Old Testament.

A well-known illustration involves Isaiah 7:14. This is a Messianic prophecy that speaks of a virgin giving birth. The Hebrew word rendered "virgin," however, literally means "young girl" or "maiden." Technically speaking, עַלְמָה (almah) doesn't really mean "virgin." Some critics claim that Christians are reading into Isaiah's text and finding a prophecy about Jesus that doesn't exist.

However, we can see how Jews from even before the borth of our Lord interpreted almah in this context by how it was rendered into Greek: παρθένος (parthenos), which does mean "virgin" in the literal and technical sense.

Another example, given in the Apostolic Bible's introduction, involves 2 Cor 5:21, in which St. Paul describes Jesus becoming "sin" for us - which can certainly cause Christians to scratch their heads. The Greek word is ἁμαρτία (hamartia), which, when cross checked into the LXX, such as in Num 6:14, we see the word being used not only for the word "sin" but also meaning a "sin offering." This helps us understand how St. Paul understood the word in a Christological sense.

The Apostolic Bible is actually several resources in one. It has a helpful introduction, the Septuagint Old Testament (without getting into all the nitty gritty about which texts were used - you can read about all of that here), the Greek New Testament (I thought it was the Nestle-Aland text, but it doesn't actually identify it as such), an English-Greek index, and a Lexical Concordance.

Remember, this is a reference work, not a Bible one would tend to pick up and read. It is an interlinear - which means that under each Greek word (or word group) is a literal English word-for-word translation. In addition, a modified word-numbering system (a variation of the Strong system) is used. Some may balk at the interlinear, but once again, this is a reference work, not a "reading Bible" - though the English text does include helps so that it could be read as a cogent translation in a pinch. The numbering system helps people not familiar with the Greek alphabet to navigate the Lexical Concordance. I find it a nice feature that will hopefully encourage the study and use of the LXX by everyone and that people are not put off if they have not studied Greek.

The English-Greek Index allows one to look up an English word and locate the Greek word or words - along with their numbers - that correspond to the English. From there, one can locate the word in the Lexical Concordance to locate all uses of that word - in both the Old and the New Testaments.

By making use of seven columns, the Lexical Concordance contains a head-spinning amount of entries. Words appearing 50 times or more do not appear in the Lexical Concordance (and they are listed on page xiii of the introduction). At a glance, the Lexical Concordance shows where, and how often, such words are used. It makes it easy to cross between the testaments and draw them together.

I have found the Apostolic Bible to be invaluable for preparing for Bible class and sermons. It not only helps narrow down often-subjective Hebrew words, it helps illuminate the Christological continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

You can download the entire book - Introduction (14 pages), the Old Testament (1242 pages) , the New Testament (372 pages), the English-Greek Index (88 pages), and the Lexical Concordance (366 pages) for $15. The format is an easy-to-navigate (and read) PDF. You can print a page or two, or even the whole thing, as you see fit. And when you buy the download, you get a $15 off coupon to purchase the print edition (which makes the download a freebie if you buy the book).

The basic paperback (which I find to be quite rugged) is $40. If you desire, you can get various leather covers - and the prices are not bad. I went with the basic format, and find it to be just fine for my purposes.

On the downside, I have two gripes: 1) No Apocrypha. The LXX includes the Apocryphal books, but the Apostolic Bible omits them, and sticks with the canonical order of the King James Version. 2) The Greek letters do not include the typical accents (nor the breathing marks over initial vowels), but instead places a dot over the stressed syllable.

But all in all, this is a fantastic resource. It is useful beyond what I imagined, is priced right, includes the PDF format that resides on my computer, and is a quality-made book that (as far as I can tell so far) is fastidiously accurate.

--- Rev. Larry Beane

1 comment:

Jim Pierce said...

Thank you for this review. This does look like an incredible resource for the price, so I put in my order. :)