Accordance Blog
Jul 28, 2016 Richard Mansfield

How Tall Was Goliath? 1 Samuel 17:4 in the LXX & DSS

David and GoliathAt church last Sunday, I taught from 1 Samuel 17, the chapter detailing the infamous battle between the young shepherd-boy-to-be-king, David, and the Philistine champion, Goliath. I’ve known the story since childhood. In fact, many who didn’t grow up attending religious services still know the basic story—that this young boy (probably an older teen in actuality) faced down this “giant” of an enemy and prevailed with no armor and only a sling in hand. Even today, we speak of facing down or overcoming “giants” when a seemingly impossible obstacle is before us.

Right: David Slays Goliath, Gustave Doré (1832–1883) from The Accordance Gallery of Bible Art.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of Goliath: a giant, hulking big bad in the Bible. When I was young, I assumed David’s sling was the same as my slingshot, and I played in the backyard pretending to take down my own giants. Instead, I only managed to accidentally (really, Mom!) take out a window or two.

As an adult, I’ve occasionally pondered the size of Goliath mentioned in the Bible. In 1 Sam 17:4 the Hebrew text describes Goliath’s height as “six cubits and a span” (שֵׁשׁ אַמּוֹת וָזָרֶת). If a cubit is roughly 18 inches, and a span is roughly 9 inches, that puts Goliath at well over 9 and a half feet. I’d want that guy on my basketball team—he could dunk without even jumping!

At a height of over nine and a half feet, Goliath would have undoubtedly been seen as a “Big Unfriendly Giant” (BUG), even to modern people who are taller than our biblical predecessors. I’ve been unable to find the source, but I remember reading or hearing many years ago that the average male height in biblical times was a little over 5 feet tall. If King Saul was taller from the shoulders up than anyone else (1 Sam 9:2; 10:23), he was probably somewhere over 6 feet tall, which would have been very tall for his day, but not nearly as tall as the biblical description of Goliath.

Robert Wadlow, giant! Consider though, in modern times, the verified tallest person ever recorded is Robert Wadlow (1918 - 1940) who stood an impressive 8 feet, 11 inches, still shorter than the biblical Goliath. Of course, Goliath was a giant right? Well, actually, that’s questionable. That is, the Bible never directly refers to Goliath as a giant other than giving us his height, which would definitely seem to fall into the “giant” category. Even though giants are mentioned other places (2 Sam 21:16, 18, 20, 22; 1 Chr 20:4, 6, 8), there’s no direct connection in those passages to Goliath.

Left: Robert Wadlow standing next to his father, Harold Wadlow (source: Wikipedia)

The curriculum I teach from on Sundays uses the Holman Christian Standard Bible as its basis. I happened to notice a footnote in the HCSB to Goliath’s height that read, “DSS, LXX read four cubits and a span”—(DSS: א֯רבע[ א]מות וזרת and LXX: τεσσάρων πήχεων καὶ σπιθαμῆς). I found this very interesting because the lesser four cubits and a span would be a little over 6 and a half feet tall. If there’s no claim to Goliath being a giant, but rather just a very big imposing warrior, this lesser height would make much more sense.

Add to this that both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls predate the Masoretic Text that the Hebrew Bible is based on by roughly a millennium, and it starts to seem as if Goliath’s height might have become a bit exaggerated over the centuries. On Monday of this week, in my post on the Göttingen Septuagint, I wrote the following as a general principle for determining a correct reading:

Often when the LXX and and Dead Sea Scrolls agree together against the 10th century Masoretic Text, the older reading is seen as more original. Thus, no study of the Old Testament can be considered truly comprehensive unless the LXX is taken into consideration…

The issue of Goliath’s height is merely one example of this principle.

Last Sunday, I internally debated as to whether I should bring up the issue of the question surrounding Goliath’s height when I taught this passage to my class at church. I try not to get too technical in regard to textual issues, usually just leaving a passage as it is in its final form. However, a 6'9" Goliath seemed to make so much more sense to me! Plus, a shorter stature for Goliath doesn’t take away from the point that David defeated Goliath because his faith was in God and not in physical size or weapons (1 Sam 17:45) and as an example that the Spirit of the LORD was upon him (1 Sam 16:13).

Since the footnote in the HCSB gave me an opening, I went ahead and mentioned—in the most general terms—the difference in the readings regarding Goliath’s height. From what I could tell, the people in our class found it interesting and plausible, and no one accused me of “questioning the Bible” or being too technical.

In writing this post, I came across an article by J. Daniel Hays, “Reconsidering the Height of Goliath” [JETS 48 (2005): 701-715], that comes to the same conclusion. If you have the Theological Journal Library in your personal Accordance Library, I recommend checking it out.

Although 1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) is not yet available, the Göttingen Septuagint is on sale through August 1 at unprecedented discount.


Jul 28, 2016 Timothy Jenney

Power Searches (Lighting the Lamp Video Podcast #145)

Accordance has an amazing number of ways to strengthen searches in Bibles and texts: Search Options, Search Conditions, and Search Commands. This podcast provides an overview of all of these and detailed information on the seven Connecting Commands, as well as the Style, Range, Field, and Count Commands. Become an Accordance Power User!

See more episodes of Lighting the Lamp on our Podcast Page!


Jul 27, 2016 Richard Mansfield

Accordance Adventures in Japan



After visiting Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Seoul in our four-week "Accordance in Asia" Tour, Ryan Mudge and I headed to Japan. After one night in Narita, where the airport was located, we headed by train to the Japan Bible Seminary in Hamura, west of Tokyo. We arrived in time for the annual pastors conference which was being held at a Christian resort in Okutama-machi Nishitama-gun. This area is out in the countryside, and I have to admit that the region, which had mountains in every direction I looked, was just gorgeous. Certainly, it was the perfect location for a Christian retreat center.

Pastor's Conference - Japan

Chapel at the retreat center in Okutama where we attended the Pastors Conference sponsored by Japan Bible Seminary. Note the misty mountains in the background.

Knowing that Japan is only 2% (some claim lower) Christian, I was surprised to find so many pastors at the conference as we arrived in the middle of a teaching session. Adapting to the culture, Ryan and I removed our shoes and put on slippers before entering the chapel or the guest housing.

Pastor's Conference Session - Japan

Accordance Training session at the Pastors Conference in Okutama.

We stayed two days at the pastors conference and not only held Accordance demos for the entire group, but also met with Accordance users and prospective users individually. My main presentation at the pastors conference emphasized how to use Accordance for sermon preparation and as a ministry resource. I had already learned to talk slowly during presentations in the weeks leading up to our stay in Japan because most who understood English only did so as a second language. However, at all of our stops in Japan, I had to not only speak more slowly; I also had to remember to make my sentences short and pause to allow a translator to communicate to my audience in Japanese.

Student session at Japan Bible Seminary

Holding an Accordance session with students at Japan Bible Seminary in Hamura.

Ryan and I also held a session specifically for students after we arrived back at the seminary, where we also stayed in guest housing. I found a guestbook in my room with signatures and notes of thanks going all the way back to the 1980s! I left my own name in the book as well and thanking the seminary for their hospitality.

Train into Tokyo

Riding the train into Tokyo. Believe it or not, this was before it got crowded!

The next morning, we boarded the train again and headed into Tokyo City. We were right in the middle of rush hour and got to experience being packed into the train like sardines as so many people hurried to get to work. I marveled at how respectful and courteous people behaved on the train being confined so closely together with one another. Having ridden commuter trains and subways in large cities in the United States…well, let me just reiterate my amazement at the courtesy and restraint of Japanese commuters :-)

Ochanomizu Christian Center

Presentation at Ochanomizu Christian Center in downtown Tokyo

We held an all-day Accordance seminar at the Ochanomizu Christian Center in downtown Tokyo for current and new Accordance users. Many pastors, students, professors and lay leaders attended the seminar and improved their knowledge and skill in using Accordance.

Tabasco We had less time in Japan than in the other countries we visited and didn’t have a day set aside for sightseeing. Or, to be more accurate, I didn’t have a day set aside. Originally, our stay in Asia was supposed to end after our all-day seminar at the Ochanomizu Christian Center. However, we were invited to another seminar in Korea. I was not able to stay, but since we were already in that part of the world, and Ryan could stay, he saw me off to the airport but stayed behind for another two weeks. Hopefully, we can get Ryan to tell us a little bit about his solo adventures that occurred after I flew back to the United States.

To the right: the comforts of home away from home.

We had a wonderful time in Asia. Yes, there are linguistic differences as well as unfamiliar approaches to customs and food, but I was reminded that underneath these surface issues, we are all still human beings, made in God’s image. The circumstances may not always be the same, but at the core, people are people. We all experience hopes, ambitions, fear, joy, and sadness to varying degrees throughout our lives, regardless of differing causes or circumstances. And I observed a very real hunger to study, teach and preach the Bible in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Seoul, and Japan that served to renew my desire for the same.

I’m grateful for a tool as unique as Accordance Bible Software, and I feel extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to make this trip to another part of the world and to meet so many wonderful people. Truly, this was an unforgettable experience.


Jul 26, 2016 Accordance Bible Software

Seminary & Scholar Specials

Seminary Scholar Specials

Save $100s on Collections, Upgrades, and More!

A new academic year is right around the corner -- how's your personal Accordance Library looking? Whether student or prof, now is the perfect time to save big on the tools you’ll need for Fall semester. If Septuagint studies are on your calendar, we’ve not only updated our Göttingen LXX offerings with the Ezekiel volume, we’ve also lowered prices on most titles. Plus, don’t miss our deep discounts on the Theological Dictionary of the Old and New Testaments as well as unbeatable deals on serious Greek and Hebrew resources for those involved in advanced studies!

Reminder: NOW is the time to upgrade your Accordance 11 Collections. These particular packages will be going away in the coming weeks!

Special sale prices on the products featured below cannot be combined with other discounts and will end on August 1, 2016 at 11:59 pm EDT.

Final Days to Save up to 35% on Accordance Collections and Custom Upgrades!

Great Savings! See how much you will save on Version 11 Collections and Upgrades, already discounted 70% from regular individual prices. Shop online anytime, or call Customer Service, 407-339-5855, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT for answers to any questions you may have, and receive expert advice on your upgrade purchase.

*Just a reminder: with Accordance custom upgrades, you will only be charged for the modules you are adding or upgrading, never the ones you already own. The prices below are for new purchases.


20% Off
Accordance 11
Original Languages Collection

A scholarly collection of tagged texts and tools for Greek and Hebrew studies.

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A massive collection of top-tier Bible study resources and original language tools.

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$100 Savings or More! -- The Complete Theological Dictionary NT or OT

TDNT Complete

Complete Theological Dictionary of New Testament (Big Kittel)

This monumental ten-volume reference work is considered by many scholars to be the best New Testament dictionary ever compiled. Mediating between ordinary lexicography and the specific task of exposition, TDNT treats more than 2,300 theologically significant New Testament words, including the more important prepositions and numbers as well as many proper names from the Old Testament.

Buy Now 2List Price $700
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Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament

Recently Released In Accordance

This fifteen-volume set is as fundamental to Old Testament studies as its companion set, the Kittel-Friedrich Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Big Kittel), has been to New Testament studies. This massive work presents in-depth discussions of the key Hebrew and Aramaic words in the Old Testament.

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Sale on Must-Have Resources for Serious Greek and Hebrew Students

Wallace Greek

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament

Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics integrates the technical requirements for proper Greek interpretation with the actual interests and needs of Bible students. It is the first textbook to systematically link syntax and exegesis of the New Testament for second-year Greek students. It explores numerous syntactical categories, some of which have not previously been dealt with in print.

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Greek MSS Images

Greek MSS Images from CSNTM

The eight GNT Images modules include images of the following codex facsimiles: Alexandrinus (NT & 1-2 Clement), Sinaiticus (NT, LXX, and Epistle of Barnabas/Shepherd of Hermas), Vaticanus (pseudo-facsimile), Washingtonianus, and the original Codex 2882. These images can be compared side by side with the tagged Accordance text of each codex (available separately).

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Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (3rd Edition) by Emanuel Tov


Since its initial publication, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible has established itself as the indispensable authoritative textbook and reference on the subject. Emanuel Tov has incorporated the insights of the last ten years of scholarship, including new perspectives on the biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, all of which have now been published. Included are expanded discussions of the contribution of textual criticism to biblical exegesis and of the role of scribes in the transmission of the text.

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The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research by Emanuel Tov


The Text-Critical Use of the Septuagint in Biblical Research is based on much background information, intuition and experience, clear thinking, and a solid description of the procedures followed. The author presents his handbook after half a century of study of the Septuagint, four decades of specialized teaching experience, and involvement in several research projects focusing on the relation between the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. This work is a must for students of the Hebrew Bible, textual criticism, the Septuagint and the other ancient translations, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Jewish Hellenism.

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LXX Göttingen with Apparatus -- Big 17 Bundle Sale (Includes NEW Work!)

The Göttingen Septuagint (Vetus Testamentum Graecum: Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis editum) is a major critical version, comprising multiple volumes published from 1931 to 2015 and not yet complete. Its critical apparatus presents variant Septuagint readings and variants from other Greek versions.

All volumes include grammatically tagged critical text together with the apparatus.


Big 17 Bundle

(Includes all published OT volumes except Job)

Custom Upgrade is available for those who own individual volumes. See the LXX blog for more details.

  • Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
  • Ruth
  • 1 Esdras
  • 2 Esdras
  • Esther
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Psalms and Odes
  • Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)
  • The Twelve
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel (NEW!)


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Regular Price $749
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Pentateuch LXX Göttingen with Apparatus

This module includes the grammatically tagged critical text of entire LXX Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) together with the apparatus.

Custom Upgrade is available for those who own individual volumes. See the LXX blog for more details.

Buy Now 2Regular Price $299
Sale Price $199


NEW! Ezekiel LXX Göttingen with Apparatus

Buy Now 2Regular Price $69.90
(Newly Released)

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Jul 25, 2016 Richard Mansfield

Accordance for Windows/Mac Updated to 11.2.3


Accordance 11.2.3 update

Fire up App Update-- Accordance for Windows and Mac has been updated to v. 11.2.3. This is a minor update including the following changes:

  • Removed length cap when saving search ranges
  • Easy Install will now download Atlas data updates if needed
  • Added Portuguese localization of the Atlas
  • Additional bug fixes and stability improvements.

Accordance 11.2.3 can be downloaded from within the program by selecting "Check App Update" from the Utilities menu (Windows) or the Accordance menu (Macintosh).

For a complete list of improvements see our "New Features Since 11.0" page.


Jul 25, 2016 Richard Mansfield

Göttingen LXX: Update & Price Reduction!

The Septuagint (LXX) is the first known translation of the Bible. Beginning in approximately the 3rd century BC with the translation of the Pentateuch into Greek from the original Hebrew, the creation of the LXX spans three centuries and comprises all books of the Hebrew Bible, plus the books of the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha. The significance of the LXX cannot be overstated as nearly all quotations of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers as well as Josephus and Philo come from this translation. Even today, over 200 million Christians see the LXX as an authoritative Old Testament text over and above the Hebrew Bible.

Although Alfred Rahlf’s 1935 critical edition (revised 2006) of the LXX currently remains the standard for LXX studies, its textual basis is somewhat lacking as it is based primarily on the Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus codices. Seeing the need for a more comprehensive critical edition, the publication of the more extensive Göttingen LXX began in 1931 and continues--still not complete--through today. The Göttingen LXX has a much more extensive apparatus, taking into account more manuscripts and textual variants as seen in this comparison below in parallel with Rahlfs’ edition.

LXX Ezekiel

Click/tap the image above and note the considerably more extensive textual apparatus in the Göttingen LXX on the left vs. Rahlfs' LXX on the right.

Ezekiel, revised in print in 2015, is the most recently updated volume of the Göttingen LXX. As of today, it is also available for the Accordance Library. In addition to releasing the Ezekiel volume, we have also reduced the price of most of our Göttingen titles. Accordance users who have purchased previous installments of the Göttingen LXX will want to upgrade to our new “Big 17 Bundle” which includes all published Old Testament volumes except Job. (*Note: For users who already own individual volumes of the Pentateuch, see upgrade options to the Big 17 Bundle here and upgrade procedure to the full Pentateuch here.)

All volumes of the Göttingen LXX in Accordance include the grammatically tagged critical text together with the corresponding apparatus. The Göttingen LXX can be placed in parallel with Rahlfs’ LXX, the Hebrew Bible, or any translation of the Old Testament.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in LXX studies. Often when the LXX and and Dead Sea Scrolls agree together against the 10th century Masoretic Text, the older reading is seen as more original. Thus, no study of the Old Testament can be considered truly comprehensive unless the LXX is taken into consideration, and no serious study of this ancient translation can be complete without the Göttingen volumes.

Special introductory prices listed below are good through August 1, 2016 (11:59pm EDT) and cannot be combined with any other discounts.


Big 17 Bundle

Note: See upgrade options below.

Includes all published OT volumes except Job: Pentateuch, Ruth, 1-2 Esdras, Esther, 1-2 Maccabees, Psalms and Odes, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), The Twelve, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel (NEW!)

Buy Now 2List Price $979
Regular Price $749
Sale Price $499


Pentateuch LXX Göttingen with Apparatus

Note: See upgrade procedure below.

This module includes the grammatically tagged critical text of entire LXX Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) together with the apparatus.

Buy Now 2Regular Price $299
Sale Price $199


NEW! Ezekiel LXX Göttingen with Apparatus

Buy Now 2Regular Price $69.90
(Newly Released)


Upgrade Options to the Big 17 Bundle:

In order to provide the best possible Custom Upgrade price for the Big 17 Bundle, upgrade options to the Big 17 Bundle depend on whether or not users have previously purchased any volumes of the Pentateuch.

  • For users who own NO individual Pentateuch LXX Göttingen volumes:
    • No additional steps are required. Just click the Custom Upgrade button for the Big 17 Bundle.
  • For users who own SOME or ALL individual Pentateuch LXX Göttingen volumes:
    1. First purchase the LXXG-PENT Bundle which provides a Custom Upgrade price to the 5-module Pentateuch Bundle (you will not pay again for any modules you already own).
    2. Also "purchase" the free upgrade to the combined LXXG-PENT module which provides a combined 1-module Pentateuch product.
    3. Finally, click the Custom Upgrade button for the Big 17 Bundle.

If there is a any question, just order the Custom Upgrade and leave a note for customer service. They will ensure a fair price for you.

Upgrade Procedure to the Pentateuch:

The Pentateuch products are available in two formats: 5 individual modules (LXXG-GEN, LXXG-EX, etc) or as a 1-module product (LXXG-PENT) which contains all five volumes in one module.

Users who own any of the individual modules of the Pentateuch who wish to upgrade to the full Pentateuch should:

  1. Use the Custom Upgrade option of the LXXG-PENT Bundle product, and
  2. "Purchase" the free upgrade to the combined LXXG-PENT module which provides a combined 1-module Pentateuch product.


Jul 22, 2016 Richard Mansfield

Accordance Adventures in Korea


John 8.32 Yonsei University

Above: a monument on the campus at Yonsei University.

Around the first week of July, Ryan Mudge and I travelled to Seoul, South Korea, to represent Accordance at the International Society of Biblical Literature meetings. The ISBL meetings were held on the campus of Yonsei University, which is where we also took our lodgings in one of the university guest houses. The university campus was beautiful, vast, and the terrain was anything but flat. In fact, Ryan and I regularly joked that just going back and forth between the ISBL meetings and our guest house across campus was a journey that was truly uphill both ways.

Yonsei University

Above: A small glimpse at the beautiful Yonsei University campus in Seoul

In addition to our setup in the exhibit hall, we also gave two presentations during ISBL. The first of these presentations was absolutely packed with standing room only for the attendees who were either Accordance users or curious potential users who had come to check us out. After the first presentation, an ISBL attendee came by our exhibit table with an envelope of cash. He told us that he had come to the conference with the primary purpose of purchasing books to take back for use in both his studies and his church ministry. However, after listening to our presentation, he decided that purchasing an Accordance Collection would be a much better investment than print books. Plus, he wouldn’t have to pay to ship his books back home!

ISBL Seoul Presentation

Above: one of our two presentations at the ISBL meetings in Seoul

Dr. Steven Chang of Torch Trinity Graduate University invited us to lead an all-day Accordance Training Seminar at their school for any students, faculty or clergy in the area who were already Accordance users or might be interested in the software. After the conference, Ryan and I went with Dr. Chang, some of his students, and another faculty member to a Korean BBQ restaurant where we cooked our food right on our table.

Torch Trinity - Seoul

Above: All-Day Accordance Training Seminar at Torch Trinity University in Seoul

Korean BBQ

Enjoying Korean BBQ with new friends after our Torch Trinity presentation

Ryan and I had one free day in Seoul to take in some of the history and culture. We visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds and the National Folk Museum of Korea among other interesting local attractions detailing the history of the Korean nation and people. We regretted having to say goodbye to Korea, but we had more appointments ahead of us in Japan. Look for our adventures there a few days from now in an upcoming blog post.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Above: Entrance to the Gyeongbokgung Palace grounds in Seoul, South Korea

Here are some of the other "Accordance in Asia 2016" posts:

Accordance Adventures in Hong Kong

Accordance Adventures in the Philippines


Jul 22, 2016 Richard Mansfield

Take Class Notes in Accordance (7 Strategies for Students #1)


Class Notes-User Tool

When I began my M.Div classes in the early '90s, laptops were a luxury most of us could not afford, and powerful Bible software like Accordance was non-existent (Accordance 1.0 was released in 1994). In class, I took my notes by hand with pencil and paper. Then, I went home and transcribed them onto my computer in Microsoft Word. Although this repittive method was actually a good way to reinforce what we had covered in class, it was also very time consuming.

If I were a student taking classes today, I would simply create a User Tool in Accordance and take my notes in the application itself.

What are the advantages of taking class notes in Accordance?

  • Accordance User Tools are fully editable on the fly. With each new session, open the class notes User Tool and pick up where you left off in the previous class.
  • Since you're already in Accordance, take advantage of quick access for copying content from the Bible, whether in Greek, Hebrew or in a translation.
  • All Scripture references can be hyperlinked, and you can also create links to other content in Accordance, including textbooks in your Accordance Library.
  • A class notes User Tool is fully searchable according to the kind of content it contains: Scripture references, Greek, Hebrew, English, etc.
  • Your class notes are integrated into Accordance and can be used to Amplify to or from other content in Accordance.
  • You can create a searchable Group of all your class notes or combine them with other titles in your personal Accordance Library for comprehensive searches in Accordance’s Research feature.
  • If your professor creates a chart or diagram on the whiteboard, take a photo of it with your smartphone and drop it into your class notes in Accordance.
  • Create a Table of Contents around the structure of your notes for a running outline.
  • Share your Accordance class notes with your classmates who also use Accordance.

Really, the sky’s the limit for the many different ways your class notes can be used in Accordance. I still have all my class notes in ancient MS Word formats, but they’re all isolated as separate files. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to convert all my class notes into Accordance User Tools, but if you’re a student now, consider using Accordance as your ultimate note-taking tool for classes revolving around biblical studies, theology, and church history.


Jul 18, 2016 Timothy Jenney

Scripture to Sermon, Part 2 (Lighting the Lamp Video Podcast #144)

This is the second podcast in a two-part series on preparing a sermon from scratch. Resuming the process at studying the paragraph, Dr. J explains how to harvest the hard work of exegesis (the verse-by-verse study) to build an expository sermon. Novices and experienced preachers alike will appreciate this clear explanation of the sermon-building process.

See more episodes of Lighting the Lamp on our Podcast Page!


Jul 15, 2016 Richard Mansfield

A Closer Look at the Orthodox Study Bible

Orthodox Study Bible cover w/drop shadow This past Spring, we released the Orthodox Study Bible for the Accordance Library [see original announcement here]. I have known Theron Mathis, one of the contributors, for nearly two decades. In the interview below, I asked him about his involvement in the project and what he considers significant about the Orthodox Study Bible for all readers of Scripture.

Theron, tell us a bit of your background and how you got involved with the Orthodox Study Bible project.

I have two Religion degrees: a BA from Liberty University, where I also minored in Greek, and an MDiv from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I got involved in the Orthodox Study Bible as a Baptist when I was exploring the Orthodox Church. After my wife and I had become catechumens in the church, I reached out to the organizers of the project and asked if I could participate. After checking credentials, I was assigned to translate 1 & 2 Samuel (1 & 2 Kingdoms) and write the study notes on the project.

Much like many modern translations, this is not a pure, from-the-ground-up translation. It is technically a revision of previous translation. Thomas Nelson was helping with the project, so we used the New King James Version as the base translation and corrected the text wherever it deviated from the LXX.

What are the more significant places where 1 & 2 Samuel/1 & 2 Kingdoms in the LXX differs from the Hebrew text?

We tried to make the Christological allusions more apparent where they occurred. An example of this is the use of "the Anointed." Rather than translate it as Anointed or perhaps Messiah, we used the word Christ, which is really a transliteration of the Greek word for anointed [χριστός].

When reading Hannah's prayer, there are some similarities in the Greek with Mary's prayer in Luke 2. Because of this, we used the same English words the translators did in Luke 2, so the connection would be obvious.

There is much more detail and conversation in the challenge between David and Goliath. The Davidic covenant differences really stand out to me. This is found in 2 Samuel 7. The first major difference was in 7:13. The Hebrew uses the word establish [כּוּן] for the action God will take toward the Davidic line. The Greek that is used [ἀνορθόω] suggests that God is doing something again. Restore is the closest English we could find for this. Restore suggests a future action by God because of something that has happened to the Davidic line. This makes the prophetic nature of the passage much more clear.

In 7:14 the SAAS says, "And if he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men..." This shows God's protection of David's lineage, and that he will not allow it to be fully corrupted, but will continue to make in line with righteousness through the chastening of other men if necessary. As the monarchy became more corrupt, the fulfillment of this by outside threats, including the Exile, are obvious. The Greek could have been translated differently to give future implications. An acceptable translation could have been "Whenever his injustice arrives, I will chasten with the rod of men and the blows of the sons of men." This translation only makes sense in the light of Christ, who although righteous, suffered injustice at the hands of humanity.

How great of a challenge was it to prepare the study notes for these books? Did you discover that Orthodox understanding of these passages differed greatly from your previous Baptist background? What would you say stands out theologically or interpretively about 1 & 2 Samuel/1 & 2 Kingdoms from an Orthodox perspective?

I didn't have the electronic tools we have today in doing research and had to spend many hours combing indexes of books to find instances where the Church Fathers may have commented on a passage. The searchable tools we have today would have made the research portion much easier.

When reading the Fathers on the Old Testament, they are constantly reading with an eye to Christ and the renewal that He brought to mankind. If Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, then He can be found there; and it feels that they are on this quest as they read the Old Testament. This doesn't mean they denied the literal or moral aspects of the text, but seeing Christ was first.

Alongside Christ, they see many NT realities that we might miss--from the person of Mary to the Church. For example, they often see the Ark of the Covenant as an image of Mary, who brought the presence of God into the world through bearing the person of Christ. So, connection is often made between David dancing before the Ark as well as the unborn John the Baptist "dancing" in the womb of Elizabeth when she meets the expectant Mary.

The continuity of liturgical worship from the Old Testament into the new was something I would not have seen before. Often words such as λειτουργία are translated as “ministry” or “service,” which might be acceptable; but you miss a sense of worship in those words. The same words used in Samuel's ministry in the temple are the same words we often find in Paul's letters when he is discussing worship.

Also, it was refreshing to find that the Fathers were not afraid of difficult passages. That strange story of the Witch of Endor was addressed by at least 14 different early theologians, to try to explain what was really going on with Samuel appearing at her command.

From your perspective as a contributor to the Orthodox Study Bible, what makes it unique besides the obvious Eastern Orthodox point of view?

  1. It provides a very accessible entry into the Septuagint. Prior to the Orthodox Study Bible, there was only one English version of the LXX, which was originally published in 1844. It reads like the 1611 KJV, so the language can be a stumbling block for many people. Reading the LXX provides a glimpse into many of the New Testament writers’ use of language, and often explains a New Testament quotation that doesn't quite fit right with the Hebrew Text. It is usually because it is being pulled out of the LXX.
  2. Many of the study notes are direct quotations and commentary from the Church Fathers. In my experience most modern Christians are unaware of the thoughts and ideas of Christians prior to the 15th and 16th century. The Orthodox Study Bible can open up a whole new wonder of reading and understanding the Scripture.
  3. There are more books of the Bible to read [the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon].

Do you believe Non-Orthodox readers would benefit from the Orthodox Study Bible? If so, how?

Yes. Translators do their best to be faithful to the original text, but ultimately translations are interpretations. Knowing this is why Christians will often read multiple versions of the Bible to help understand a passage. Reading the Orthodox Study Bible brings a different perspective that most Western Christians have rarely seen.

Theron Mathis You’ve written a book, The Rest of the Bible: A Guide to the Old Testament of the Early Church, which surveys what many Protestants often refer to as the Apocrypha. Even Luther said that these books were “useful and good to read.” Luther placed these books in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments; but of course, in the Orthodox Study Bible they are back in their original positions as they appear in the LXX. What would you say is the advantage of reading “the rest of the Bible” in its original order?

In a few words, these books provide a lot of moral instruction for Christians. Sirach itself feels like Proverbs on steroids. The early Church loved the Maccabean books because of their encouragement in the face of potential martyrdom. They also show a deeper understanding of God by Israel that leads smoothly into the person of Christ. I think this is often missed when we drop off 300 years of God's actions among his people by stopping with Malachi.

Is there anything else about the Orthodox Study Bible that you would want to mention to Accordance users who might be discovering it for the first time?

Use this edition of the Bible as another tool to see a perspective on Scripture that may be slightly different than the standard Western approach. Even if you disagree with the Orthodox understanding, hopefully you will be challenged, and your faith will deepen as a result.