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Friday, June 27, 2008  

Deissmann's Bible Studies

[Today's guest blogger is Rick Bennett, one of the members of our module development team. I asked Rick to write a brief blog post about the value of Deissmann's Bible studies, one of the new modules included in the Scholar's Standard level. He responded by writing a full-blown book review. Enjoy.]

One of the newest additions to the Scholar's Collection is Dr. G. Adolf Deissmann's renowned work, Bible Studies: Contributions Chiefly from Papyri and Inscriptions to the History of the Language, Literature, and the Religion of Hellenistic Judaism and Primitive Christianity. Originally published in German as two separate works, Biblestudien (1895), and Neue Bibelstudien (1897) our version represents the 1901 English edition translated by Alexander Grieve and published by T & T Clark.

The importance of this work is evident in the number of times it is cited (over 100 times in BDAG, and 150 in WBC-NT), and in the praise it has received from New Testament scholars. In commenting upon the place of New Testament Greek within its larger linguistic context, Dan Wallace writes:

... in 1895, Adolf Deissmann published his Bibelstudien—an innocently titled work that was to revolutionize the study of the NT. In this work (later translated into English under the title Bible Studies) Deissmann showed that the Greek of the NT was not a language invented by the Holy Spirit (Hermann Cremer had called it "Holy Ghost Greek," largely because 10 percent of its vocabulary had no secular parallels).

Deissmann demonstrated that the vast bulk of NT vocabulary was to be found in the papyri. The pragmatic effect of Deissmann's work was to render obsolete virtually all lexica and lexical commentaries written before the turn of the century (ExSyn, 25).

In this brief article I will outline the basic contents of the book and give an overview of the enhancements and advantages of the Accordance version.


The book is divided into seven chapters, the first two of which originally comprised Biblestudien, and the latter Neue Biblestudien. In his Prolegomena to the Biblical Letters and Epistles, Deissmann sets out to distinguish between letters and epistles, and to answer the question: "Was Paul a letter-writer or an epistolographer?" (42).

Chapters two and three comprise the greatest portion of the book and function both as a grammar and lexicon. For this reason we've made some interesting enhancements to how we handle the Greek words and phrases (see below).

It is these chapters that gave Wallace the basis for his praise of Deissmann's scholarship. Deissmann has selected key words and phrases and, by way of a commanding knowledge of the papyri and inscriptions published during his time, defined them on the basis of their Biblical and extra-Biblical context.

In addition to chapters two and three, chapter four, An Epigraphical Memorial to the Septuagint, is relevant not only to New Testament studies, but to Septuagint and Cognate studies as well. In this chapter Deissmann gives a full transcription, translation, and line-by-line explanation of an inscription which "has been influenced in the most marked degree by the ideas of Greek Judaism, or, what is practically the same, of the Alexandrian Old Testament" (273).

In the final three chapters, Deissmann focuses on some specific areas of Biblical studies that can be aided by his investigations in the papyri and inscriptions.

Chapter five contains a description of select Biblical persons and names aided by both epigraphical and papyrological sources.

Chapter six gives a unique look into the various ways the Tetragrammaton (Hebrew designation for the sacred name of God) has been transcribed in Greek. This chapter will have a modern appeal to those who are interested in the recent links debated between the transcription of the Sacred Name and the Christian preference for the nomina sacra (see, for example, Larry Hurtado's work, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins).

Chapter seven ends with some final gleanings from the papyri and inscriptions regarding some Biblical difficulties such as the unique statements by Paul in his closing of Galatians 6, and the literary history of 2 Peter.


As is common with all Accordance tools we have indexed it according to standard fields such as Titles, Scripture References, and Greek and Hebrew Content. In addition, we have fields for Manuscripts, Page Numbers, and Transliteration. By far, one of the most notable enhancements is the addition of the 'Greek Entry' field. For the most part the book is arranged by chapter so we have grouped it as a general tool. But, Bible Studies represents a unique amalgam of both a general tool and a Greek tool. To adjust for this we added the Greek Entry field common in Lexicons and dictionaries so that you can amplify from any tool or text containing Greek and search for one of the many entries Deissmann has defined. Not only can you amplify from your favorite Greek text or tool, but you can also use the browser to scroll through the list of entries.

Increase your productivity even more by creating a custom workspace containing your favorite lexicons and add Deissmann to it. With this new feature in version 8 you can amplify to this workspace and instantly search both Deissmann and your favorite lexicons for a particular word or phrase.

In addition, we've made some minor editorial changes to increase the usability of the book. In the original table of Principle Abbreviations (xv), many of the descriptions simply contained an entry that directed the reader to another page and footnote to find out the source of an abbreviation. In our edition we've integrated the footnote descriptions with the table itself, and hyperlinked all abbreviations to the table making them viewable in the Instant Details box.

We also made a bit of an artistic change. In Deissmann's gleaning on the literary history of 2 Peter he included a two-column comparison of 2 Peter 1.3ff with a Decree of Stratonicea (361-362). In the print version he emphasized the similarities of the two texts with a series of underlines and dots. As can be guessed, these were not carried over in the electronic text, so we highlighted these in colors where the matching colors correspond to the parallels.

With these enhancements it's easy to see the advantages of the Accordance version over the print edition. Deissmann's Bible Studies represents the best in the Biblical scholarship of old, with a timeless relevance for the scholar or student of Greek.

This was an excellent post. It should be on the product page for this module.

Done, there is now a link

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