Saturday, February 26, 2011

Corinth and Mycenae

Corinth: Not a whole lot had changed at the site since my previous visit in 2004, except that more parts of the site are roped off. We did get to see another part of the museum. Lots of interesting stuff in the museum sections making it worth one's time to look around. There is a nice little area on the site that they have set aside that is convenient for conducting an informal worship service as we did. One does have a take an unmarked walk down to the area where the Erastus inscription is. (It was rather overgrown with weeds, and it was helpful that our guide knew where to find it.) I still have never made it up to the Acrocorinth. Next time...
Mycenae does not really have a biblical connection, but it is a fascinating site. Apparently, already by Roman times, its ruins were a tourist attraction. 
HERE are the pics.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Translation: Statistics Not Linguistics

I came across this interesting article in the Washington Post describing how Google Translate and Yahoo! BabelFish have improved their machine translations by using statistical instead of linguistic models. That is, with the massive abilities of computers today, better translations can be obtained by having them statistically analyze passages in two languages and generate translations on that basis rather than trying to linguistically analyze words and phrases. It does make sense given the idiomatic nature of so much of speech, but they are wise to go back now and try to provide some linguistic enhancement to their translations. 
Give it a try using Hebrew or Greek (but remember that it is modern and not ancient).
Google Translate

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Finally got a little time to edit the Athens pics... HERE are some of the more interesting ones.
We started the day at the new Acropolis Museum. It's wonderful, and it's kind of neat to see them at work excavating the area under the museum through the floor. The Acropolis is stunning and beautiful, but I've never seen it without all sorts of cranes and scaffolding that clutter up the views. Someday... There are some steps now to help people get up on the Aeropagus. This used to be something of a treacherous adventure.
Our guide on this trip did a great job walking us through the museum and Acropolis, but she also gave us an excellent overview as she took us through the agora and the museum in the Stoa of Attalos. (The museum in the Stoa of Attalos was also a new experience for me, and a very worthwhile one.) 
From the agora we headed over to the Plaka area to eat and we also had some time to take the Metro and catch Syntagma Plaza and Onamia Square. The Metro is quite nice and very reasonable for getting around Athens.
From a New Testament perspective, it is important to remember that Athens was probably a rather insignificant city in the first century. Given Athens' history and Paul's famous speech in Acts 17 and its role as the most prominent city in Greece today, we probably think of it in the same way when Paul went through. Yes, it had its history and reputation as a center of learning even in Paul's day, but it just wasn't that important. Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth were all more significant cities. It is not coincidental that in the history of Paul and the early church, those three cities are far more prominent in the literature of the NT.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Delphi has an appeal of its own, and it's not hard to imagine how ancients might have seen this as some kind of sacred place. On the other hand, I'm looking at ruins. Back in the day, it might have felt more like Las Vegas with its tourist appeal and opportunity for various groups to show off their successes. In any case, what happened in Delphi has pretty much stayed in Delphi...
Delphi is an important place in Greco-Roman history, and it does have one important biblical contribution, namely, the Gallio inscription. 
Gallio is mentioned in Acts 18:12. This inscription from Emperor Claudius to Gallio, procounsel of Achaia, can be dated to 52 CE, and it thus gives us one of the few certain dates in Pauline chronology establishing that Paul was in Corinth in the year 51 CE. (More info here and here.)
The rest of the pics from our visit are HERE.

Viewing Texts in Parallel Using BibleWorks8

In my previous post, I indicated all the English Bible versions that one might compare using a literal to dynamic scale.

For BibleWorks users, the next issue is how to view these versions in parallel. Do you want the texts horizontally or vertically aligned? How do you maximize the viewing area? How can you easily export them into a Word Doc?

I put together a PowerPoint that shows you eight different ways of doing so in BW8. You can either take a look at this PDF handout of the PowerPoint or play it online using SlideRocket. 

If you have another favorite way of working with texts in parallel, please leave a comment!

English Bible Versions: Literal/Formal to Dynamic/Functional

List of English Bible Versions (this is the file to download): Abbreviations, Literal to Dynamic, Notes, Recommendations
I have also posted this file as a Google Doc you can view online but not edit. (UPDATE: Sharing has now been enabled.)

I compiled this resource particularly for BibleWorks8 users in mind, but it may prove helpful to anyone who is working with English Bible versions. What I've done is made a listing of about 66 English versions, most of which are available in BibleWorks8. The first two pages of the DOC file pull together all these versions into three groups: those that come standard in BW8, those that are available as user-created downloads for BW8, and other versions for which it is usually possible to create an external link from within BW8. These have been organized alphabetically by their BW8 abbreviation. Since this is just a plain Word DOC, anyone can edit it as they see fit.

Next, I started with a helpful list I found online by Bruce Terry which provides an approximate rating of each version from literal (or using formal equivalence) to dynamic or paraphrase. I edited this list and added a few evaluations of my own. The scale used is where a "1" would be an interlinear Hebrew/Greek to English and a 10 would be a loose paraphrase. (The Cotton Patch Version gets a "10.") 

On the third page, the English versions are organized according to this scale of 1-10.

On the fourth page, you will find the recommendations I give to my students in terms of the versions I think are most helpful for consulting. (The graphic below is from this page.) In addition to the notes on the table, I also provide additional rationale why I think each are worth looking at.

If you are a BibleWorks user, you may be interested in having these texts appear in the program in this order of most literal to most dynamic. For such an ordering, you need to specify a Version Display Order (VDO) file. Save this file in your BibleWorks8/init directory. In BibleWorks, click on the little setup wrench icon, choose "Version Order" on the left, then open this LitDyn.VDO file you just saved. You will need to specify the versions you want to display to see them all visible. You can, of course, also modify this VDO file to something you think is better.

Listing of texts available for BibleWorks

I've been trying to pull together some resources for my students, and I have a few BibleWorks resources that others may find useful. 
I have compiled in a spreadsheet (what I think is) a complete list of texts for BibleWorks8 that are in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Coptic, or English. I've organized them according to Language, Content, Source (whether they are included in BW8, available for purchase as an Addon Module, or as a downloadable User-Created resource), the Abbreviation for each resource, a Description of the Text, whether there is a Morphologically-paired text or a Translation-paired text, and if there is any other Related text.
HERE is the XLS spreadsheet you can download. The first page has things organized largely according to content: OT&LXX, Targums, Intertestamental, Composite OT&NT, Greek NT, NT Peshitta, NT Misc, Latin, Early Christian, Other Jewish, English Versions, Islam, Classical, Doctrinal, and Miscellaneous. The second page alphabetically organizes the abbreviations used for the resources. The benefits of downloading this file are that you can have the listing available offline and can organize things as you wish. The drawback is that you'll have to keep it updated.
So, I also uploaded the spreadsheet to Google Docs where I and Michael Hanel and James Darlack will try to keep it updated. HERE is the online doc. (UPDATE: Sharing has now been enabled.)
In order to avoid problems, note that non-editors will not be able to change it. Now if anyone else wants to try to complete the list with all the other versions in BibleWorks, let me know, and I will give you editing privileges.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Meteora - Barlaam
Anyone who has visited the monasteries of Meteora knows what a fascinating place it is. Earliest monastics were here by the 10th century or so, and the first monasteries were built in the 14th century. Since then the place has both seen and preserved Hellenic history, been a place of prayer and meditation, bombed by the Nazis, and served as a locale for a James Bond movie. We visited Barlaam and St. Stephens. It was a beautiful day for taking pictures, and HERE they are.

Thessaloniki - Beroea - Meteora

Thessaloniki - St. Demetri

HERE are the pics for this day.
We started out this day with a tour of Thessaloniki. We stopped first at the excavations of the Agora. I'm not sure why (maybe it was still being excavated?), but we didn't see this in 2004. There isn't too much to see, but Thessaloniki has been built over so much, it's really hard to get to the Roman level without destroying much of the city. We did note where a subway track is being built, and it looked like they came across the old Via Egnatia and were working around it. From the Agora, we walked to St. Demetri's Basilica. This is an old church which dates its history back to the martyr Demetrius in the 4th century. The building and interior are rather a mixed bag since it has been destroyed or burnt and rebuilt so many times. I found the crypt under the altar area to be the most interesting, and you'll note that 11 of the 28 pics I pulled for this day are from there. Our guide said that this had formerly been the 'locker room' of the stadium which was just to the north, and that it was here, according to tradition, that Demetrius had been killed. Be sure to take the time to go down there if you visit the basilica.
From there we went up to the Byzantine walls in the upper part of the city near the Round Tower with its wonderful view of the city below and across the harbor to Mt. Athos. Driving past the White Tower, we continued west basically following the Via Egnatia and Paul's route. (Acts 17.10-15) We stopped at Beroea (or Berea, modern Veria) where some of the ancient road is still visible alongside the modern one. Not much to see, but there is a monument and mosaic commemoration of Paul near where an ancient synagogue used to be.
(If we ever come by here again, apparently it is well worth the time to visit Vergina and the tomb of Philip II about 15 miles away.)
The rest of the day was spent driving to Kalambaka at the foot of the Meteora complex. 
Enjoy the pics!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Neapolis > Philippi > Thessaloniki

HERE are some pics...
We drove through Kavala which was ancient Neapolis where Paul first landed in Macedonia. (Acts 16:11) There is a church there to commemorate the event--with actual stones from the first century! 
We next visited the location on the stream just west of Philippi which commemorates Lydia and her baptism (Acts 16:14-15), then headed to the ancient city itself. We were able to visit the area east of the agora (which had been closed in 2004) where the Octagonal Church is. Otherwise the rest of the site appears much the same as 7 years ago, though it looks like the theater (used for modern performances) has been fixed a bit. The main sites to see here are the bema in the forum (Acts 16:19-20), the Via Egnatia, and the 'traditional' prison of Paul and Silas.
Continuing on to Thessaloniki the road basically follows the old Via Egnatia (and that's what the highway is called still today). It passes by Amphipolis, but the new highway is now open on the north side of Lake Volvi, so you don't go through Appolonia any more. (Acts 17:1) 
As for Bible and tech... I brought my Droid X with me on the trip. I knew phone service was unavailable, but I have my Android Bibles on it, and it also has GPS. I had downloaded the free Endomondo app which is an exercise tracker type of app, but I used it as we were walking around the various sites. Once I got back in WiFi range, it pulled up the path on Google Maps and also uploads it to the web where it includes elevation, pace, etc. It comes in handy for quickly locating where we were and walking through the pics I took as I reviewed them and organized them. Here is how it works on the web--Lydia and Philippi--but you can also see the graphic below. In the upper left is the Lydia site, and then you can see how we took the bus to Philippi itself and then walked around the site.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Turkey > Greece

The next day was basically a travel day from Istanbul, cross the border into Greece, and heading on toward Kavala/Neapolis and Philippi. The pic above is in Alexandroupoli(s) where we stopped for lunch.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque, Topkapi, Hagia Sophia

Spent the whole day in Istanbul and saw all the standard sites: Blue Mosque, Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar. When we visited in 2004, the interior of Hagia Sophia was filled with scaffolding, but it had been removed recently. (Apparently the work had been completed for some time, but it took a couple years to get the money to pay for the removal!) It's a big, impressive space... Not much else to add, so HERE are the pics.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Troy and Canakkale

We stayed overnight in Canakkale and walked around the city a bit that evening. By the waterfront, you can now get a picture of the Trojan horse used in the 2004 movie Troy

In the morning we backtracked a bit to visit the ancient city of Troy. I was glad to hear our knowledgeable guide described the site as "complicated," because I have found it to be a confusing place to visit. Two reasons: 
  1. It is such an old site and there are so many periods/layers. It's hard to get a sense of the place at any one time. This pic on the right tries to show the different layers, but you can see that it is hard to get a sense of the place.
  2. The excavations are somewhat random, and it partly can be blamed on Schliemann and the clumsy trenches he dug in the late 19th century.
There is a small museum at the site that does have some very helpful illustrations showing the development of Troy and what it looked like at the various periods. Probably the highlight of the visit for most people (who by now have already seen a lot of ruins...) is to climb up into the Trojan horse that is there... Just 7 pics from this day HERE.

The rest of the day was spent traveling: back to Canakkale, the ferry across the Dardanelles, and on to Istanbul. 

A few things: Troy does not have any biblical significance, but it seems to get confused regularly with the important port city of Alexandria Troas located about 10 miles south. (It is confused on quite a few biblical maps, e.g., the old Logos Deluxe Maps set. It is correctly located on the attractive new set of maps in Logos4. Pic on left shows locations of Assos, Troas, Troy, and Canakkale.) This Troas, along with Assos a bit further south, was an important gateway on Paul's travels (Acts 16:5-11; 2Cor 2:12; 2Tim 4:13) and was home to sleepy Eutychus (Acts 20:5-12). If I get another chance to visit Turkey again, I would be happy to skip Troy and instead visit Assos and Troas. They are not as easily accessible, so it may add an extra day, and they are still in early stages of excavations. For more info, here's a start:

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Leaving Izmir, we headed north and spent most of the day in Pergamum, now modern Bergama, aka, the place "where Satan's throne is." (Rev 2:13 - This could be a reference to the prominent Temple of Trajan, since Pergamum had a leading role in imperial worship.) When we had visited 7 years ago, there had been a light snow overnight, but it had cleared up by late morning, and the whole place was brillantly white. As you can see from the pics this time, we again had a beautiful day, and it was no less striking. 35 pics HERE
The big development here is that there is now a cable car service you must use to get to the acropolis. It was a challenge for buses before to wind the way up to the small parking area, and the new system is quite nice. I didn't notice much new with the excavations. 

From the Acropolis, we next stopped at the Red Hall, a building originally used for worship of Egyptian deities and later converted into a Christian church. We went next to the Asklepion. Again, nothing new that I recognized, but all these sites are well worth the visit.

I did especially appreciate Pergamum, because I had been reading (and since finished) Bruce W. Longenecker's The Lost Letters of Pergamum, The: A Story from the New Testament World
It is a historical fiction of a correspondence between Antipas--who is mentioned in Rev 2:13 as having been martyred in Pergamum--and Luke who is helping explain Jesus to Antipas as he is reading Luke's account of Jesus. I think it does an excellent job of highlighting the honor / shame dynamics of that time. It illustrates how radical Christianity must have seemed in the culture of that time and the sort of sacrifices Christians would have made to remain faithful. The book is well-written, and I highly recommend it.

Before heading to Canakkale for the night, we stopped at the Bergama Weavers' Association for a chance to see how Turkish rugs are made.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Philadelphia, Sardis, and Izmir / Smyrna

HERE are the 36 pics from this day.
Continuing on from Pamukkale, we headed west, first stopping at Philadelphia. Not much to see here except the remains of a Byzantine church. No one would really stop here except that it is one of the churches mentioned in Revelation...

Sardis, on the other hand, is a great place to visit. Something about the place evokes the sense of its history. The setting of the Temple of Artemis does inspire a sense of awe. It is perhaps more notable that this magnificent temple, now reduced to ruins, has a very early Christian church (a chapel would be a better word) attached to it. No one is worshiping Artemis any more...

On to Izmir, formerly known as Smyrna... There are only some Byzantine remains on the Acropolis, but from there you can see the harbor and some excavations on the ancient agora.

So, we did visit the sites of the 7 churches of Revelation except for Thyatira (which is rather out of the way and not much to see...).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Aphrodisias, Laodicea, and Pammukale / Hierapolis

We headed east on the next day of our tour to visit Aphrodisias, Laodicea, and Pammukale / Hierapolis. I had not visited this sites before. Aphrodisias does not really have any biblical connections, but it is a magnificent site that is well worth the visit. HERE are the pics. (Only 24 total) The Tetrapylon (Monumental Gate) is certainly picturesque, and the stadium is one of the best preserved, capable of holding 30,000 people. (It was damaged in a earthquake in the 7th (?) century and one end was converted to a theater.) The Temple of Aphrodite was converted into a church. Due to construction and time, we weren't able to see the theater and buildings at the southern end of the city. Time spent in the museum was worth while, however. Reliefs from the Sebasteion are well-preserved and quite remarkable, chronicling the triumphs of the emperors.  

If you have multiple pictures of a single location, they can be joined into a multiple perspective picture using Photosynth. HERE is one I compiled of the Tetrapylon at Aphrodisias.

We next went on to Laodicea which has experienced tremendous archaeological renovations within the last few years, and work is in progress still. It is a rather impressive site, and we only got to see a portion of it. 9 miles to the east is the mound that is what's left of Colossae. 5 miles to the north is modern Pamukkale just below ancient Hierapolis. One of the drawbacks of traveling in January is that it gets dark rather early, and so we didn't have time to go through Hierapolis. I'll have to plan another trip back...

UPDATE: Thanks to a comment added, I've been looking for the reference to the church discovered in Laodicea. HERE is the article. As Todd Bolen notes, however, this 4th century building is not the "church" mentioned in Colossians 4:15-16 or Revelation 3:14-22.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ephesus and Miletus

After flying from Dulles > Munich > Izmir, took the bus to the hotel in Kusadasi. The first full day we spent visiting Ephesus and Miletus. I had visited these sites 7 years ago, and not too much has been done since then. The main progress at Ephesus was that the structure covering the excavations near the library has been improved. There was also a big crane at the theater, and a fence kept people from going more than halfway up. Virtually nothing had changed at Miletus. It always is a bit boggling that tourists can have such easy access to these sites poking around in the ruins... Notable artifacts like the "Place of the Jews and God-fearers" inscription at the theater in Miletus are just there for people to walk on. I suppose they've seen worse than tourists in their thousands of years. 

In any case, HERE are 42 pics that don't necessarily try to illustrate the sites but were ones I found 'interesting' (for whatever artistic sense I may have...). These pics are reduced from the originals, but you can get the idea. They are all geotagged and linked to Google Maps and to Google Earth. In addition to Ephesus, we visited the Church of St. John the Theologian, the remains of the Ephesian Temple of Artemis (still just one column standing...), and Miletus.

In the Steps of Paul and Revelation: Pictures

I had the great opportunity to co-lead a trip to Turkey and Greece last month. We covered most of the Paul and Revelation sites in western Turkey and Greece. We had beautiful weather, excellent guides, and wonderful food and lodging. In preparation for the trip, I got a nice entry-level DSLR camera (Pentax K-x) and spent a few months practicing with it. As compared to the mid-range digital point-and-shoot camera I had been using, I found that one can certainly take much better quality pics with a DSLR camera, but it is also much easier to take bad pics when the settings aren't correct. During our 2 weeks over there, I ended up taking about 2000 pics and deleted about 1/5 of them right away. Now I've been going through them, picking out the better ones, and doing some post-processing. 
I got plenty of pics illustrating the significant features of a site, but I was also trying to take some pics that did more to evoke the site rather than just display it.

I've been using Picasa for most of the quick editing and Adobe PhotoElements 9 for extra work. One of the nice things about Picasa is that I've been geotagging the pics, and it is possible to locate the shot within meters of where I actually shot it. With Picasa I then also upload selected pics to space on the free Picasa web album. I'll start posting various day's worth of pics.

This trip was a wonderful experience, but one result is that I would love to go further east and south in Turkey to places like Cappadocia, Tarsus, Syrian and Pisidian Antioch, Derbe, Lystra...

Moulton & Milligan: The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament

Larry Hurtado recently posted about the importance of Moulton & Milligan's The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources (M&M).  

Where can you obtain this excellent resource?
  • It is available at Amazon for under $30. This is the 1995 Hendrickson edition which includes a Scripture Index.
  • Mike Heiser on The Naked Bible noted its availability in Logos (for $40). It is linked to the Greek NT texts and is searchable in both Greek and English. An extra benefit is that the entries in BDAG which refer to M&M are linked.  
  • M&M is also included for free in BibleWorks, and words are all linked between the lexicon and the Greek NT texts. It also is searchable in both Greek and English.
  • (M&M does not appear to be available in Accordance?)
  • The 1929 edition is available on for free. If you get it from here, be sure to use either one of the PDF versions or the DjVu version since they are page scans and will display the Greek. (Sadly, the Kindle version does not display the Greek.) These versions are searchable in English only.
Now you know...