Accordance Blog
Jul 6, 2011 Robb Brunansky

The Pastor's Study: Non-Biblical Texts and Text Criticism

Study This week's installment of The Pastor's Study comes from Robb Brunansky, the senior pastor of Desert Hills Evangelical Free Church in Phoenix, AZ, and a PhD candidate in New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Robb is also one of the trainers who teaches our Accordance training seminars.

The primary reason I decided to purchase Accordance in 2005 was for the original language tools. I had been trained in seminary to use the Greek and Hebrew text, and I wanted to maximize those skills, even grow them, in pastoral ministry. I’m happy to report that Accordance has been more than up to the challenge of keeping me regularly engaged with the Greek and Hebrew text and sharpening my original language skills. Many Accordance users are familiar with the basic Greek and Hebrew texts and search commands, so for this article, I want to discuss some other aspects of Greek and Hebrew research that pastors might not regularly consider, including the use of non-biblical original language texts and textual criticism.

Non-biblical Original Language Texts

Like most of you, some of the first Accordance texts I purchased were the GNT-T and the LXX1/LXX2 modules. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that I could greatly enhance my exegesis by looking beyond these two foundational texts. So what texts would most enhance my biblical studies and sermon preparation? As I considered this question, I began to look through BDAG to see what works were being referenced frequently.

One that immediately stood out to me was the Apostolic Fathers module. It is full of early interpretations of the biblical text (not to mention some very entertaining works, such as the Shepherd of Hermas!). For example, if I were preaching through the Sermon on the Mount and I came to Matthew 6:16-18, I might want to know more about the practice of fasting. Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other resources certainly would help, but reading early interpretations in works like the Didache is also invaluable. For example, Jesus instructed His followers not to be like the hypocrites in their fasting. The Didache takes up this very thought in Did. 8:1, “But do not let your fasts coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, so you must fast on Wednesday and Friday.” A simple word search for “to fast” (νηστεύω) reveals that the Apostolic Fathers module mentions fasting 23 times.


In addition to the Apostolic Fathers module, I often find myself referring to Josephus’ works and the Pseudepigrapha. While these kinds of modules might not immediately jump out at the busy pastor, they are the kinds of Greek texts that can not only enhance his understanding of the New Testament but sharpen his Greek skills as well. As a New Testament scholar, I primarily use extra-biblical Greek texts, but original language Semitic texts such as the Targums are a gold mine of information for Old Testament exegesis.

Textual Criticism

In the NAS95S text, Titus 2:11 reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” but in the NKJV, the same verse reads, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” The difference between these two translations potentially has significant implications for understanding the Apostle Paul’s theology of the atonement. What should we make of these translations? Do they illustrate a different theological bent in the translation committees, or is something else at play?

One of the quickest ways to find out is to view the base text of each translation side by side with Accordance’s Compare Texts feature enabled and set to Single Text. The NAS95S is based on the NA27 Greek text (GNT-T), while the NKJV is based on the Textus Receptus (GNT-TR). Take a look at the workspace below:


With the compare texts feature enabled, we can immediately spot a textual difficulty in Titus 2:11. The TR includes an article before the word σωτήριος (“bringing salvation”), while the NA27 omits the article. This difference has grammatical significance. In the NASB/NA27, the adjective σωτήριος is understood as a predicate adjective describing what the grace of God has done in appearing. However, with the article before it, the NKJV/TR takes σωτήριος as an attributive adjective modifying what the grace of God is like. It is the “salvation-bringing” grace of God.

What is the pastor to do in this kind of situation? Undoubtedly, he has his text-critical work cut out for him. The good news is that the pastor knows why this difference exists, and that it’s not simply a matter of translation committees having a different underlying theology.

The Compare Texts feature is often used in conjunction with English texts, but its hidden power is its ability to compare original language texts. Such comparisons enable the busy pastor to quickly spot differences in texts to see where major text-critical problems lie. With the variety of New Testament texts available in Accordance and the new Multiple Texts feature added to the Compare Texts command, pastors have unprecedented options for examining evidence for variant readings.

Next time you’re studying the biblical text and you get in an exegetical bind, I hope you find these tips helpful. Check out some other original language texts to see if they shed light on grammatical, syntactical, or lexical problems, and don’t forget to use the Compare Texts feature to see if peculiarities exist in the manuscript tradition.


Jun 22, 2011 Steve Bauer

The Pastor's Study: Detailed Accordance Workflow

Study 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:

  1. Drag your cursor over the words in a verse to select them
  2. Click the “parsing” button.
  3. A nice-looking table will appear. Copy the contents of this window (commmand-a, command-c)
  4. Close the parsing window.
  5. 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)
  6. 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!’

  1. Drag the cursor from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line to highlight a linebreak.
  2. Copy it (command-c)
  3. within the user notes editor open up the find window (command-f).
  4. Make sure the “Latin characters only” button is not checked!
  5. Click the “Find” field and paste once (command-v)
  6. In the “Replace with” field paste twice (command-v twice)
  7. 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...

With rants

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.

With Workspaces

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:

  1. Option 1: οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω (aorist subjunctive)
  2. 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:


Variant Option 1
Date Ita/Gaul Asia Minor Syria Palestine Egypt
400-500 D



However, we find that earlier and more widespread witnesses have the second option (ἐγκαταλείπω):


Variant Option 2
Date Ita/Gaul Asia Minor Syria Palestine Egypt
200-300 M M P46
300-400 M M ‏א
400-500 M M A02,C04



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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.


Apr 23, 2010 Helen Brown

Textual Studies Podcasts

Anyone who is the least bit interested in New Testament texts and translations will know how confusing the subject can be. Why are some sections omitted from certain translations? Why are some verses so different?

The Hebrew Bible doesn't have nearly so many of these issues, since before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls we didn't have early manuscripts, only copies based on a much later codified text.

But for the New Testament we have hundreds of early manuscripts and fragments, replete with spelling variations, marginal notes, omissions and additions. How can we decide which version to follow? Thankfully, scholars have produced many aids to help us, such as the commentaries by Comfort and Metzger, and the NA27 and  CNTTS apparatus tools, and these are available in Accordance together with a wealth of Greek manuscripts and eclectic versions. The tools are on sale until May 9th.

Now our scholar in residence, Dr. J, has produced two podcasts on the subject of Greek New Testament text critical studies. These podcasts provide a great introduction the topic. They go on to demonstrate how we can use the tools, whether we have little or no knowledge of Greek and just use the commentaries, or whether we want to make the most of the apparatus modules and original texts.

You'll come away from these podcasts with a new appreciation for the men and women who have labored to provide us with trustworthy Bibles in our own language.