Jan 21, 2011 David Lang

Not Dissected, but Digested

Yesterday I waxed philosophical about how it is more important to read English well than to know Greek and Hebrew. My point, in brief, was that the best exegetes are those with literary acumen and a firm grasp of how people communicate through the spoken and written word. That skill is developed in one's native language and, once acquired, can easily be applied to the original languages. Conversely, no amount of learning in Greek or Hebrew can overcome the lack of that skill.

If we are to exegete the Scriptures well, we need to be deliberate in our efforts to slow down and really read the text, not merely so we can cull it for the information it contains, but so that we can develop a full-orbed understanding of its meaning. Unfortunately, the many helps we have available to us can actually get in the way of such efforts.

It is ironic that every tool created to aid in Bible study can actually interfere with the process of exegesis. When verse numbers were added to the text, they made it much easier to locate specific passages, but they also broke up the text in such a way that we sometimes read Biblical passages as a series of self-contained units rather than as continuous narratives. Concordances enabled us to find passages that contained a specific word, but they also made it easier to wrench those verses out of context. And, of course, Bible software is both the best and the worst in this regard. Programs like Accordance place a wealth of information at your fingertips, but all of that information can actually distract you from really reading the text.

We take those dangers seriously, and we've tried to design the Accordance interface in such a way that the text of the Bible always remains your central focus. All of Accordance's many resources are a click away through the Resource palette, and the menu bar and contextual menus contain a whole host of options, but we do our best not to hit you over the head with all the bells and whistles. We want you to turn to those bells and whistles when they're needed; not to be distracted by them when they're not.

We've also tried to facilitate reading the text by offering unparalleled control over the text's appearance. You can hide verse references and footnote markers to remove distractions, format the text as paragraphs or separate verses, control the leading, background color, text color, and more. These options have all been added to facilitate your interaction with the text. Over time, we'll be bringing more of these display options over to Accordance for iOS as well.

Finally, we've got some cool options to help facilitate reading whole passages rather than isolated verses. One is the auto-scrolling feature that slowly scrolls the text like a teleprompter. Another is the ability to select text and click the Speak button in order to have the text read aloud. Using either of these features can help you see or hear things in the text you might otherwise have missed.

Great exegesis begins with reading a passage as it was meant to be read, not as a disjointed series of verses, but as a continuous narrative with a coherent message. The text of the Bible is not just meant to be dissected, but to be digested.

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Archived Comments

Julie Falling

January 21, 2011 8:50 AM

Another excellent blog.  Thank you.

Rod Decker

January 21, 2011 4:15 PM

Yesterday I waxed philosophical about how it is more important to read English well than to know Greek and Hebrew.

Dave, I wonder if perhaps we ought to say instead:

"It is more important to read well than to be enamored with technical details of Greek and Hebrew."

You've made some very good point (in both posts), but the goal is to learn to read well, whether that be reading English or Greek or Hebrew or Spanish, or whatever language a text may be. This ought not to be contrasted with "knowing Greek and Hebrew." The same reading skills which you champion for English--and rightly so (Adler's advice is still valuable)--is just as true for reading Greek and Hebrew. The dangers of Greek and Hebrew (or at least one of them) is what I call grammatical maximalism (AKA, "the golden nuggets approach")--making too much out of isolated grammatical details and not paying enough attention to context. The grammar is, of course, important; without grammar there is no context, but the grammatical details are only individual pieces that, in themselves, do not communicate much meaning. Meaning comes from statements in context.

You are also quite right to emphasize the text-centric focus of Accordance. Instead of being told what is important (a "Big Brother" mentality, IMHO), Accordance keeps the text central and enables the user to easily access the supplementary material as needed to understand the text.

Harold Hosch

January 22, 2011 11:30 AM

David, I was very happy to read your comments regarding the importance of reading the biblical text. Though retired now I taught Hebrew for about 30 years. I have always emphasized that being able to read the biblical text as an insider is more important than becoming an expert with all of the technical aspects of the Hebrew language. I say that knowing the importance of the technical features of Hebrew—discussions of the function of wayyiqtol and weqatal verb patterns in a specific discourse for example. The one feature that I have found in Accordance that has served as the core of my using the program for many years is its central focus on the biblical text. I have used that focus in both accessing the resources I have needed for the more technical articles I have written, for accessing resources that I am using now in writing Old Testament Bible studies for an adult Bible class I am teaching. I want to encourage everyone at OakTree Software that the emphasis chosen, to keep the Bible central, is the exactly right emphasis to enable one to study and to write in both a pleasing and stimulating biblical environment. Thanks

Sharon Jensen

January 22, 2011 2:03 PM

David, I love to hear this discussed.  Thanks!  It is one of the most important understandings we need to have if we are truly going to Hear the voice of the Lord in His Word.  It is Wisdom in all her glory to learn to read the text as the message we are intended to hear, rather than as a 'store from which we are allowed to shop'.

Many years ago, as a learning tool for my students, I expanded on the axiom "Context is King!".  It goes like this:  "If Context is KIng, then Observation is Queen--and Interpretation and Application will be their royal offspring."  "Wisdom is vindicated by all her children."  Luke 7:35

I am new to Accordance (18 years with another platform) and I am thrilled and thankful for Accordance's centricity of the Bible.  I sincerely thank you.  Sharon Jensen