Category Archives: Manuscripts

Review of Accordance

Accordance 9. By Oak Tree Software. 2010. Price varies depending upon the package purchased. (877) 339-5855.

Having heard so many Mac users rave about both Apple machines and Accordance Bible Software, I determined that the next time a PC in my possession died, I would switch to a Mac to see what all the fuss was about. The day came (no surprise to Mac users), and the switch was made. In recent months I have been learning the world of Apple and Accordance. This review will focus on Accordance Bible Software, but some Mac comments will be inevitable. Along the way I will mainly compare Accordance and BibleWorks. I am also grateful to have and use Logos 4, but I will not say much more about it. The main benefit of Logos is its massive electronic library. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a PC, BibleWorks is for you. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a Mac, Accordance is the obvious choice. It is possible to get software that will enable you to run Accordance on a PC, or BibleWorks on a Mac, but the only reason for doing this would be if you had been using one of them and were switching platforms and did not want to purchase and learn the other software. In what follows I will comment on price, environment, my one big complaint (which really isn’t about Accordance), search capacity, and the thing that has me most excited about the switch to Accordance.

I begin with some surface level comparisons. Macs tend to cost significantly more than PC’s, and Accordance Bible Software is considerably more expensive than BibleWorks. The basic BibleWorks package comes with every English Bible translation you could imagine, while the comparably priced Accordance package comes with a couple English Bibles and you will pay $30 to $40 for each additional one. BibleWorks comes with BDB unabridged. If you want the complete BDB in Accordance, the price is $50–$70, depending on whether you are upgrading from within a package. BibleWorks comes with the Syriac Peshitta and the Aramaic Targums, the Peshitta will cost you $100 in Accordance and the Targums another $100. Somehow BibleWorks is able to bundle BDAG and HALOT and offer these two lexicons for $212. The BDAG and HALOT bundle costs $299 from Accordance. In general I think it is fair to say that less money will get more texts in BibleWorks, though more can be done with the texts you pay to get in Accordance. These observations about prices should not be taken as complaints. Workers are worthy of their wages, and these companies are rendering a tremendous service and making precious resources available at a fraction of the retail price.

PC’s are notoriously unstable, but I have always found BibleWorks reliable. It suffers only from its environment: the PC’s in my possession take a long time to wake up, often need to be restarted, and seem to be constantly downloading updates of one sort or another. The Mac knows no such instability or sluggishness. It is fast, responsive, and smooth. Accordance Bible Software has the Mac advantage, though it does come at a price.

Running Accordance on a Mac does not return us to the Garden of Eden, however, and not everything is perfect. My biggest disappointment has been the fact that Word for Mac simply will not handle right-to-left text correctly, making it impossible to copy Hebrew text from Accordance, paste it into Word for Mac, and produce a structural layout of the text. Accordance/Mac users tell me that Mellel, a word-processing software developed in Israel, can do this, but I’ve already paid twice as much for this machine and I refuse to shell out the extra cash for Mellel. The $30–$50 Mellel would cost me could be used to purchase the texts of the Apostolic Fathers in Accordance (Lightfoot ed., which comes with BibleWorks at no extra charge, the Holmes ed. costs $100 in Accordance). When I need to do a structural layout of a Hebrew text, I will be returning to my trusty copy of BibleWorks on a not-so-trusty but functional PC. I will probably go there when I need to search the Apostolic Fathers as well.

I hasten to observe that this my biggest complaint has to do with something that is a problem with Microsoft Word for Mac. It is not a problem with Accordance, which has been nothing but impressive. I also hasten to add that I still love BibleWorks and find it to be nothing but impressive. I have found the two programs comparable in terms of search capacity. If I run up against a search that I don’t know how to do, someone knows how to do it, and a google search, or a scan of instructional material, or a phone call to a knowledgeable friend quickly resolves the difficulty. I would also observe that in my years of working from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to teach and preach the Bible and write articles, books, and reviews, I simply have not needed to do that many complicated searches. Most searches are simple and straightforward. Admittedly, most of the time I am not doing technical grammatical work, but neither are most of the people using these programs. So I am confident that BibleWorks and Accordance can both do whatever you need them to do in the way of smart searches. Let me say, too, that the best way to learn the way words are used and how grammatical constructions work is not to spend a lot of time doing searches with powerful Bible software but to spend a lot of time reading and re-reading the biblical texts in the original languages.

What most excites me about Accordance is the way it grants access to the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Not only can the high-resolution photographs of the manuscripts taken by Dan Wallace and his team at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) be integrated into Accordance, Accordance has fully tagged, fully searchable transcriptions of the NT text of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Washingtonensis, and the NT Papyri from Comfort and Barrett. At some point I read of an NT scholar in the 1800s who tried to access the NT exclusively from the manuscripts. That possibility is now open not just to those who live near a library with manuscripts but to all who have Accordance. And the tagged and searchable texts hold out astonishing promise for the study of, among other things, the nomina sacra. Reading the text from the photos in Accordance will do more for one’s understanding of the challenges involved in the task of NT text criticism than countless books and articles on the topic could ever accomplish. The images are clear and legible, but not everything appears on them. For instance, take a look at the photographs of 1 Corinthians 14 from Codex Vaticanus provided by Philip B. Payne here. Not as much can be seen in the CSNTM photograph of a facsimile of Vaticanus provided here. This, of course, is not Accordance’s fault, as they are simply integrating the CSNTM photographs.

The pricetag on both Mac and Accordance may be high, but the treasures yielded are priceless. The unique ability to search a fully tagged text of the earliest manuscripts of the NT is astonishing and unprecedented, and to my knowledge Accordance provides the only way to do it. Proverbs 16:16 insists that wisdom and understanding are better than silver and gold. Accordance Bible Software is definitely a means to wisdom and understanding, limited only by the capacity of the human who makes use of it.


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David C. Parker, Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible

Hendrickson Publishers and the British Library have teamed up to produce a new facsimile of Codex Sinaiticus (best price here), an exciting piece of work I hope to say more about later.

The facsimile is one of the results of an agreement between the Archbishop of Sinai, the Chief Executive of the British Library, the Director of the Leipzig University Library, and the Deputy Director of the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg. These notables came together and agreed to collaborate in making Codex Sinaiticus available. So high-resolution photos of the manuscript are on the Codex Sinaiticus Website, the facsimile of the Codex has been produced, and now the history of the Codex has been told. The reason these dignitaries from Britain, Egypt, Germany, and Russia were involved is fully explained by David C. Parker in Codex Sinaiticus: The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible.

Parker has related the story of this Codex in way that all parties involved have endorsed, and given the convoluted history, that was no small task. He begins with a fascinating look at what would have been involved in producing this manuscript in the ancient world, and from there he tells the story of how the manuscript became known in the modern west.

Anyone interested in text criticism or in the history of the transmission of the text of the Bible will find this book delightful. The team of scribes who produced the manuscript were not just copyists but artists and craftsmen. Parker takes the reader through the whole process of preparing the parchment (which “is distinguished from leather by the fact that it is not tanned” [43]). From there, Parker walks through the work of the scribes in such matters as laying out the pages, paragraphing, ornamenting, and scripting the text. He even discusses how it appears they divided the work, how they edited their own mistakes, which scribe was the sloppier, and which one appears to have been the senior member of the crew. The volume is complemented with lovely full color plates that illustrate various things Parker discusses, such as hair follicles, veining, and preparation cuts in the parchment. Anyone who wants a fuller understanding of what goes into text criticism should read this book.

Anyone interested in church history and the intersection of diplomacy and scholarship will be romanced by the intrigue of the tale of how the manuscript was removed from St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt to St Petersburg in Russia, with some leaves landing in Leipzig, while the bulk of the Codex was later removed from Russia to London. Was the manuscript about to perish before Tischendorf rescued it? Did the monks mean to donate it to the Tsar? Did Tischendorf steal it? This is one of those books that kept me up past my bedtime because I had to know how this stranger-than-fiction story would reach resolution.

Parker takes a more relativistic view of the canon and the stability of the text than is warranted, and he is more skeptical of the reliability of ancient testimony than necessary. Still, you’ll find the testimony reported and discussed, and that in itself has great value. I think, too, that some of Parker’s own statements about the canon and the text’s stability undermine his fluid view and establish the antiquity and reliability of what this ancient Codex transmits.

Codex Sinaiticus is “the oldest surviving complete New Testament, and is one of the two oldest manuscripts of the whole Bible” (1). Congratulations and immense gratitude are due to the parties involved making it available, and to David Parker for his work in telling its story.

Get a copy of The Story of the World’s Oldest Bible, how it was prepared, produced, and preserved, for yourself, your pastor, and your favorite seminarian here.

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Publications of Emanuel Tov

Tommy Wasserman points to an important resource:

Emanuel Tov has graciously made available a large number of his publications on his website here, including his two volumes on Scribal Practices and Approaches Reflected in the Judean Desert.


Those interested in OT Text Criticism will want to access this material.


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Free PDF of Leningrad Codex

Download a PDF of the manuscript behind BHS for free here.

I searched the database for “Leningrad Codex” and the results of the search are on this page.

It’s great to have these manuscripts, of course, but they’re worthless if unread. May we live in the book.

HT: Charles Halton


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Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls by Craig Evans

You’ll want to avail yourself of this valuable, attractive new Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls by recognized expert, Craig A. Evans.

Have you ever thought to yourself: I know there is a pile of scholarly information on the Dead Sea Scrolls that I could wade through, but I’d love to be able to sit down with a trusted, balanced, thoroughly informed expert on the scrolls and have him give me the lay of the land.

If you’ve had that thought, this is the book for you. It may not be as good as sitting down in person with Craig Evans, but in this book you’ll find matter-of-fact cut-to-the-chase discussions of all things related to the scrolls.

This is a handsomely produced, well illustrated volume of bite-sized chapters, and every morsel is tasty.

I recommend you buy one for yourself, and this would make a great gift for that student in your family, for your pastor, or for your Sunday School teacher.

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Are There Errors in the Bible?

I don’t think there are errors in the Bible, and I think that valid explanations can be given for difficulties that do exist. I started a new sermon series on Ezra – Nehemiah this morning at Kenwood, and I had planned to comment on some numerical discrepancies in the text. Because of time, I decided to cut this whole section from the sermon, so here’s the portion of my manuscript that got passed right over:

The material in Ezra 2 is repeated almost exactly in Nehemiah 7, but there are some differences between the two chapters. One of those differences is that in Nehemiah 7:7 there are 12 names. Many scholars think this indicates that there were probably 12 names in Ezra 2:2, and one of the names was not copied by mistake.[1] If this is correct, the fact that there were 12 leaders of the returnees represents an intentional reconstitution of the 12 tribes of Israel. Even if this wasn’t originally the case with Ezra 2:2, it is the case with Nehemiah 7:7.

Let me be very clear about what I’m saying here. I am not saying that the author of the book of Ezra made an error. I am saying that it appears that those who copied the book of Ezra made an error. This kind of thing is why evangelicals say that the Bible is inerrant in the autographs. An autograph is the hand-writing of some famous person. The autographa or autographs of the biblical manuscripts are the hand-written copies made by the authors themselves. We believe that the authors of the books of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit kept the authors from making errors. God is true and trustworthy, and what he communicated in the Scriptures through the biblical authors is true and trustworthy. So when we say that the Bible is inerrant in the autographs, we are simply saying that God did not inspire every scribe who copied the Bible so as to preserve them from error.

This portion of Ezra, with the numbers at the end of chapter 1 and the names in chapter 2, seems to have been a challenge for the scribes. The reason for this is that when numbers were written in ancient Hebrew, they used a system of symbols that might not have been clear to later copyists. Derek Kidner refers to “many other indications in the Old Testament that numbers were the bane of copyists.”[2] In the same way, the similarity of many Hebrew names could have caused scribes difficulty as they copied the text. We see difficulty with numbers in two ways in this section of Ezra:

First, if we add up the numbers of vessels in Ezra 1:9–10, they total 2,499, less than half the total of 5,400 given in Ezra 1:11. This could be because of scribal error,[3] or it could be that though the total number is complete, the itemization is only an excerpt.[4]

Second, if we add up the numbers in Ezra 2, we get a total of 29,818. The numbers in Nehemiah 7 total 31,089. The number in the Greek translation, 1 Esdras, totals 30,143. But all three lists state that the total number is 42,360 (Ezra 2:64; Neh 7:66; 1 Esdras 5:41). Kidner writes, “There is general agreement that the divergences are copying errors, arising from the special difficulty of understanding or reproducing numerical lists.”[5]

How should we respond to this kind of information? One way to respond is the way Bart Ehrman does: “What good is it to say that the autographs (i.e., the originals) were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies . . .”[6] If you are looking for excuses to rebel against the Bible, you can go Ehrman’s way.

Another way to respond to this kind of information is to look at what we have and ask if what we have is enough to enable us to get at the message of Ezra? So the numbers of the temple vessels don’t add up, a name appears to have fallen out, and the numbers in Ezra 2 don’t match the total given at the end of the list. There may be valid explanations for each. The lists may be excerpts while the totals are complete. The copyists may have bungled the job. Can we understand the text in spite of these difficulties? I think we can. In fact, I think that going Ehrman’s way would be as silly as receiving a reliable written message from someone you trust, warning you about a nuclear attack, and rejecting the message because the word nuclear is misspelled. Would you risk being nuked because of a spelling error? Would you risk going to hell because there are difficulties (difficulties that have plausible explanations) in these lists in the Bible?

These difficulties do not keep us from understanding the message of the text. We can see, in spite of the question about the numbers of the vessels, that God kept his promise (Jer 27:21-22) and restored those temple vessels. We can see, in spite of the question of the numbers of the returnees, that the people of Israel are restored to their land.

[1] So Mark A. Throntveit, Ezra-Nehemiah, Interpretation (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992), 18; Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 37; H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1985), 24.

[2] Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 38.

[3] So Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 46–47.

[4] See Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 35 n. 1.

[5] Ibid., 43. Cf. also Fensham, Ezra and Nehemiah, 57.

[6] Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 7.

For further reading, see my essay on inerrancy: “Still Sola Scriptura: An Evangelical Perspective on Scripture.”


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Review of Hurtado, Earliest Christian Artifacts

Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006. 248pp. $22.00, paper.

Larry Hurtado is on a mission to help Christians know their own treasures. In this book Hurtado makes pertinent observations on what can be known from the earliest Christian manuscripts. The five chapters of this volume are on The Texts, The Early Christian Preference for the Codex, The Nomina Sacra, The Staurogram, and Other Scribal Features.

Hurtado argues that the physical features of these earliest Christian artifacts—the manuscripts themselves—have wider significance. For instance, from the sheer number of Christian texts that have survived from the second and third centuries, he infers that “early Christianity represented a religious movement in which texts played a large role” (24). Moreover, these texts appear to be “artifacts of Christians of recognizably mainstream, ‘orthodox’ stance” (29), which is not an insignificant point in view of the modern day champions of various heresies arguing that there was no mainstream, orthodox stance. From the fact that the only Gospels that were linked and copied together in one manuscript were those that became part of the New Testament canon, Hurtado concludes that “those Gospel texts that were copied together were regarded as in some way complementary and sufficiently compatible with one another to be so linked” (37). Notably, texts such as the Gospel of Thomas were not so treated. The manuscripts evidence that Paul’s letters were copied together and treated as a collection by the second century and perhaps late in the first, and similar evidence from the late third to early fourth century points to a Johannine corpus consisting of the letters of John, Gospel of John, and Revelation (39). This is important evidence on second and third century Christianity, and it indicates a wide use of the Old Testament and most of what was eventually recognized as the New. The “translocal” evidence from these texts indicates that the earliest Christian artifacts do not support hypothetical reconstructions of isolated “communities.”

Having described the making of a codex, Hurtado shows that the wide early Christian use of this format was a marked departure from the trend in the culture at large, which maintained a heavy preference for the roll/scroll. The manuscript evidence leads him to conclude that while “The roll seems to have been reasonably acceptable for some Christian texts,” “it appears that Christians strongly preferred the codex for those writings that they regarded as scripture . . .” (57). Having showing the weaknesses of other suggested explanations for this reality, such as the supposed practical advantages of the codex or the socioeconomic background it may reflect, Hurtado suggests that the early Christian use of the codex would have differentiated copies of Christian scripture from other writings. He is attracted to Gamble’s proposal that an early edition of Paul’s epistles in codex form set an influential precedent (80).

From there Hurtado discusses the scribal practice of abbreviating the nomina sacra (sacred names). He highlights the four most regularly abbreviated terms: God, Lord, Christ, and Jesus, noting that gradually other terms also came to be abbreviated as well. The wide margins, generous line spacing, and usual letter size in Christian manuscripts indicates that these terms were not abbreviated for space-saving considerations. He contends that the “Jewish reverential attitude reflected in the scribal handling of the Tetragrammaton and key related designations of God has a counterpart in the early prominence of the four nomina divina [divine names] . . . in the early Christian manuscripts” (104–105, 121). Hurtado notes that this is physical evidence in support of his suggestions regarding the “‘binitarian shape’ of earliest Christian piety and devotion,” since the name of Jesus is given the same treatment as names of God (105–106). Commendably, Hurtado models courteous, logical, convincing engagement with and against the proposals of others, giving several pages to Christopher Tuckett’s challenges to the consensus of opinion.

Hurtado then takes up the scribal practice of writing a rho upon a tau to create a “staurogram,” which appears to be an early abbreviation for the terms “cross” and “crucify” (stauros/stauroo). This monogram apparently gave rise to others, such as the chi-rho (Christos), the iota-chi (Iesous Christos), and the iota-eta (Iesous). Here we have a fascinating discussion of where this early pictogram appears and how it arose. Hurtado is keen to the notion that “the tau-rho device was appropriated initially because it could serve as a stylized reference to (and visual representation of) Jesus on the cross” (151). The “t” shape of the tau with the superimposed “P” shape of the rho presenting a simple picture of a man on a cross. This is powerful physical evidence against claims that “visual references to Jesus’ crucifixion do not predate the fourth century” and the idea that “there was ‘no place in the third century [or earlier] for a crucified Christ . . .’” (153). The textual evidence comes from manuscripts “at least as early as the late second century” (154).

Hurtado’s final chapter explores “what the sizes and dimensions of early Christian codices may tell us about their intended readers and uses” (156–57). From these realities it is possible to conclude that many features of surviving manuscripts indicate that they were prepared for public reading. Others appear to have been prepared for private study. Moreover, from the early scribal corrections we can deduce a high degree of concern for an accurate text, indicating that the tradition was not fluid (186–87).

This fascinating book should command the attention of all who are interested in questions of how the New Testament came into being, when the documents began to be recognized as Scripture, and what can and cannot be maintained on the basis of the actual manuscript evidence. This book deserves wide reading among those with a high view of Scripture, and we can hope that it will spur students to access the manuscripts directly and thereby to know the treasures these texts contain. We can thank Prof. Hurtado for his service in calling attention to the riches of these manuscripts. May he be rewarded with droves of students who turn their attention to the direct study of these “earliest Christian artifacts.”


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Dan Wallace DVD’s on the Reliability of the Text of the NT

There aren’t many things in the world that are more significant than the text of the New Testament. Without it, after all, we don’t know what Jesus said or did, and we don’t know how the Apostles interpreted and proclaimed what God had done in Jesus. The New Testament is the most basic witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, apart from which there is no reconciliation to God the Father, no forgiveness of sins, and no hope for deliverance from sin, death, and hell (if you want to know more about this gospel, click the “Two Ways to Live” icon on the right side of this page).

All this means that the work of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts is very, very important. They are taking high resolution photos of the best manuscripts of the New Testament, which allows them to do two things: 1) it preserves these manuscripts in highly readable form, and 2) it makes possible the dissemination of these manuscripts–people who would otherwise have no access to them can get to them if they have a computer and an internet connection.

If you would like to learn more, a great place to start would be these two DVD’s of lectures done by Dr. Wallace. Here’s a release advertising these two DVD’s:  

Two DVD videos on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts 

Several have asked about getting a hold of Dr. Daniel B. Wallace’s plenary address, delivered at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting in November 2008; others have wanted to get his lecture at apologetics conferences and in churches on whether our Bible today essentially reflects the wording of the original text. Both of these lectures are now available as video DVDs. They would make great Christmas presents—and the price is nominal. The ordering information is available below. 

“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?”

A lecture at an apologetics conference in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, about whether our printed New Testaments today accurately represent the original text. 

“Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the 21st Century”

A plenary lecture at the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, on current issues in NT textual criticism. 

The price of each video DVD is $10. The price of both video DVDs together is $15. Texas residents also will pay 8.25% sales tax. Allow two to four weeks for delivery. 

Also, if you haven’t signed up yet, you owe it to yourself to get the free monthly e-newsletter of the Friends of CSNTM (the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts). ‘Friends’ update you on the adventures of Dr. Wallace and his team as they travel all over the world in search of New Testament manuscripts. To sign up, simply respond to this email. You’ll get the next e-newsletter at the beginning of the month. 

Friends of CSNTM (

You can order the DVD’s here

May the Lord prosper his word! 


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PDF of Vaticanus (NT)

And here’s a PDF of the NT portion of Codex Vaticanus.

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PDF of Codex Sinaiticus (NT)

The Wikipedia article on Codex Sinaiticus has a link to a PDF of the facsimile of the NT portion of Codex Sinaiticus.

The pictures of the actual manuscript are appearing on the Codex Sinaiticus site, but they don’t have everything up yet and a PDF might be faster than a website. There are also a number of nice photos of the manuscript on the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts page.


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