The Pastor's Study: Detailed Accordance Workflow
This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Steve Bauer, Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in West Newton, Pennsylvania.
The people at Accordance have asked me to include a section on how I make use of Accordance in my sermon preparation. There is no doubt that some of this will overlap with what others have written. But I hope that as you travel through this with me you’ll learn to use Accordance in ways you haven’t thought of before, or in ways that might help save you some time in preparing for your sermons.
Do the Gruntwork
Whether you are not using a computer at all or using Accordance, there’s always the tedious gruntwork that is involved when preparing for a sermon. So, before we get to the fun, we need to get the gruntwork done.
Get the parsing into the user notes
Accordance has a separate, little file for each verse. So, the first task is getting the original language words into our notes so that we can make our own notes and comments on each word. Here’s the process I use:
- Drag your cursor over the words in a verse to select them
- Click the “parsing” button.
- A nice-looking table will appear. Copy the contents of this window (commmand-a, command-c)
- Close the parsing window.
- open up the user notes file for that verse (click back into the verse that you highlighted and then use the key combination, command-u)
- The user notes Edit window now opens. Paste your parsed words into your user notes (command-v).
Ok, we have the words in the user notes. But wouldn’t it be nice to have some space in beween the lines so we could write some notes? The proper answer is ‘yes---most definitely yes!’
- Drag the cursor from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line to highlight a linebreak.
- Copy it (command-c)
- within the user notes editor open up the find window (command-f).
- Make sure the “Latin characters only” button is not checked!
- Click the “Find” field and paste once (command-v)
- In the “Replace with” field paste twice (command-v twice)
- Click the “Replace All” button in the window.
What you should have now is a nifty looking window with vertical spaces between the lines. The great part about this is that after you have put the parsed words into each user note for each verse, all you have to do is open up the find window (in each user note window editor) and hit ‘Replace All’ to have these spaces added for each verse.
I walk through these steps for all my sermons. It doesn’t take much time. And if I don’t have much time to prepare (e.g. funeral sermons), I have the words formatted in the user notes so that I can move on to my exegesis.
Getting your windows to work for you
Some time ago, Accordance added Favorite Workspaces. That’s what that big, yellow star is for on your Resource palette. Those are where your Favorite Workspaces appear. Dr. Jenney has provided a good overview of workspaces in his podcast, but briefly, you can set up a workspace with all the tools you need for a given task and then save it for use at any time. I put my Grammars and Lexicons into these workspaces. I also put some of the user tools I have made (or have been given) into workspaces.
We will talk more about using workspaces a little later on. But if you haven’t put together some workspaces with collections of your precious tools you use most, now would be a good time to watch that podcast and make some workspaces.
Do the Exegesis
You’re on your own
This is the part of the post where I need to be a little blunt. I can’t teach you how to do exegesis. I went to school for five years to learn the biblical languages (greek and hebrew). I went to our seminary for four more years to learn how to use the biblical languages.
Accordance can’t teach you the languages. And when you learn the languages, Accordance can’t teach you how to use the languages. But, if you have gone to a good school, Accordance can be a valuable tool in your teaching and sermon preparation.
Highlighting can help
Once you have done a faithful text-study and have learned what the words mean, the next task is to figure out how to organize your thoughts and communicate them. There are many books written on this topic.1 But highlighting can help to show the flow of thought, the parallelism, repeated phrases, etc.
In order to get this done, I made two collections of highlights. The first highlighted relationships within one verse. The other set highlighted relationships between words spread out throughout several verses. Perhaps some examples would help.
- In this first example I highlighted instances of the same word (παραιτήσησθε...παραιτησάμενοι) or contrasting words (ἐπὶ γῆς...ἀπ᾿ οὐρανῶν)
- Likewise, since The Writer to the Hebrews carries this theme of shakable-unshakable throughout these words, I thought it would be a good idea to track it (ἐσάλευσεν... σείσω... σαλευομένων... σαλευόμενα... ἀσάλευτον)
I’ve found this pattern useful not just for NT stuff, but also for OT texts as well. Especially in Hebrew poetry, which relies on parallelism so much, highlighting can be a useful (and fun?) way of charting the flow of the words.
In the provided screenshot you’ll notice the parallelism highlighted within the verses. But, I also make use of highlighting to chart the connections between the verses.2
The whole point of this is to find how the words flow and speak so that the pattern you find in the words can give shape to your flow of thought in your sermon.
Protect your Humility
One of the troubles and temptations of preachers is to go beyond what either linguistically or contextually the text is actually saying. Here is where the workspaces come in handy. (If I have time) after I have finished my exegesis, I start at the beginning and use my custom workspaces to see if I might have gone too far in my translation. I highlight the verse3 and then click the ‘star’ icon to open up my workspace with my grammars, lexicons and tools. The workspace then spills out every time the verse you have highlighted is cited in your tools. This can be very helpful...
I may be alone in this, but I like it when grammarians rant. Sometimes the points they make I miss, simply because they hide them with five-syllable words. But when they start ranting, then I know I’m getting to the good stuff. Take for example what I came across in preparation for my last sermon. In Luke 11:4, Wallace offers this vivid commentary:
Fourth, as the colloquial aphorism goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The results of the traditional approach are almost comical. Exegetical and expository literature in the past several decades is filled with statements that are less than credible. Applying the traditional canon to Eph 5:18 results in: “Stop being drunk with wine, but continue to be filled with the Spirit” (μὴ μεθύσκεσθε, πληροῦσθε). On this view, one could ask, “Why stop getting drunk if it does not prevent one from getting Spirit-filled?” Further, if Ephesians is a circular letter, why are specific judgments made in it? Note, for example: “Stop provoking your children to wrath” (μὴ παροργίζετε in 6:4); “Stop grieving the Holy Spirit” (μὴ λυπεῖτε in 4:30); “Stop being foolish” (μὴ γίνεσθε in 5:17).14 Or consider John 5:8: “Take up [aorist: ἆρον] your mattress and continue walking [present: περιπάτει].” But how could the lame man continue walking if he had not done so for thirty-eight years?15
In sum, the basic force of the aorist in commands/prohibitions is that it views the action as a whole, while the basic force of the present in commands/prohibitions is that it views the action as ongoing process. This basic meaning may, of course, be shaped in a given context to fit, say, an ingressive idea for the aorist. Thus if the conditions are right, the aorist prohibition may well have the force of “Do not start.” This is an affected meaning or specific usage. But to call this the essential idea is not correct.4
But wait, the ranting continues in the footnote:
15 Other texts are equally absurd, if the traditional canon is followed. The following examples include translations that are patently ridiculous. For the present tense, note, e.g., Matt 4:10 (“Continue to go away, Satan”); 5:44 (“Continue to love your enemies” [when the audience had not yet begun]); Matt 7:23 (“Continue to depart from me”); Mark 5:41 (“Continue to rise”); 7:10 (“Let the one who speaks evil of his father or mother continue to die”); Luke 8:39 (“Continue to return to your home”); John 10:37 (“If I do not do the works of the Father, stop believing in me”); 19:21 (“Stop writing” the title on the sign above Jesus’ name—v 19 states that this was already a completed act). For the aorist, note, e.g., Mark 9:43 (“If your hand offends you, begin to cut it off”); Luke 11:4 (“Begin to forgive us our sins”)5
There will always be this temptation to make the immediate words we are translating say more than what they are saying. There are times that the grammars can keep us in check.
Prevent the Timidity
On the one hand, there is a temptation to say too much. But on the other hand, there is a temptation to say too little. Here again, Accordance can help.
In my sermon for Easter 5 - Cantate, my text was Hebrews 12:25-29;13:4-6. Robertson provides this comment on Hebrews 13:5:
Even οὐ μή was not strong enough sometimes, so that we have οὐδέ and οὐ μή in Heb. 13:56
There is no more extensive and emphatic way of saying ‘no’ in the NT than the strong future negation. Robertson’s note is worthy of considering in your heart and preaching from your lips. If οὐ μή wasn’t enough for the writer to the Hebrews, should it be enough for us?
What I mean is this: If the writer to the Hebrews tells us that God will never, ever, ever leave us nor will he ever, ever, ever abandon us, isn’t that a point we should emphasize in our preaching?
With “ancient and widespread” Variants
Ever since Accordance added the Nestle-Aland textual apparatus (and then later the CNTTS) the variant readings have been more accessible than they ever have been before. But, what do we do with them? Here is where the old phrase Ancient and Widespread comes into play. Yes, it sounds like a poorly crafted punchline to a joke about your grandma or mother-in-law. But it’s not. It’s how we attempt to find the original text (the autograph).7 So, if we look at Hebrews 13:5, we find this variant:
- Option 1: οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω (aorist subjunctive)
- Option 2: οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλείπω (present subjunctive)
As with all the variants in the NT, they don’t change the doctrine in the bible. However, they might change the emphasis in your preaching. In support of the base reading in the Nestle Aland text (ἐγκαταλίπω) we find Bezæ (D) and a whole bunch of later minuscules:
However, we find that earlier and more widespread witnesses have the second option (ἐγκαταλείπω):
If the variant (ἐγκαταλείπω) is the better option, the next question is “why should I care?” What difference in translation and preaching would the aorist subjunctive vs. the present subjunctive make? Although I can’t prove this with sufficient detail, my conclusion is that the writer has chosen the present subjunctive deliberately to show that God’s promise of never abandoning doesn’t just apply to the distant, abstract future. It applies now. If this is true, then it provides a good emphasis in preaching which I might have overlooked if I didn’t look at the variants.
This is my Sermon Preparation Workflow. I get the verses in the user notes and do the exegesis. If time permits, I use the workspaces to quickly and efficiently grind through the grammars, lexicons and other tools to see where these verses are cited. If there is still a little more time, I have a look at the variants to see what the most ancient and widespread witnesses wrote.
All of this serves two purposes:
- Save time in the areas I don’t want to be spending time (paging through dusty old tomes, trying to see what they might say about my text)
- Costing time in the areas I want to be spending time. I want to translate these verses faithfully. I want to ponder them. I want to avoid saying too much. I want to avoid saying too little.
I hope this little walkthrough hasn’t taken up too much of your time and has given you some ideas of how you might use Accordance in better ways than I do.
1 perhaps the best out there right now is Bryan Chappell’s, Christ-Centered Preaching.
2 עֶבֶד In Is. 49:3 and Is. 49:6
3 not the words in the verse---just the verse number!
4 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 717.
5 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 725.
6 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Accordance electronic ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), 1175.
7 Some might point out that this phrase and approach to solving variants is not what they were taught. My point here is only to concisely provide a format for dealing with variants. This method is what I was taught. And over the years I have become convinced that this is the only way of dealing with the variants in an objective manner.