In part one of this series, we discussed how to use biblegateway.com’s basic study functions, such as the concordance and reading parallel English versions. These are suitable for Bible students at all levels. In installments two and three we will cover the more advanced features. Most of these will be more useful to pastors and others who are interested in using the biblical languages for sermon preparation or other higher-level study.
We previously learned how to use the parallel button in order to read multiple English translations on the same screen. After you open parallel versions, the concordance function will search all of them at once. If you enter a term or phrase in the search box while multiple versions are on the screen, the result will be a greatly expanded list of verses that are marked by the translation that each one appears in. This may alert you to differences of opinion on what exactly is meant by each translation in a given verse. For example, if you open up the NIV, the NASB, and the New Century Version (NCV) in parallel, and do a concordance search on “love,” you will turn up 861 results. The very first result, Genesis 4:1, appears only in the NIV. Why only the NIV? The other two versions choose different words to express that for which the NIV chooses “love.” At this point there are two options. One is to click on the verse address to the left, which will bring up Genesis 4:1 in the NIV. You can then open the NASB and NCV in parallel to it. The other option is to click on the “other translations” link just beneath and to the right of the verse. This will display a page containing all of the English translations of Genesis 4:1 that are accessible through biblegateway.com. In this way you can multiply the scholarly expertise of different translation teams by comparing and contrasting them, while keeping it in a language (English) that you understand well.
Here is where the study capabilities for pastors and scholars really come into their own. If you have some ability in Hebrew or Greek, you can use the parallel function to set up an interlinear Bible by selecting biblical Hebrew or Greek to appear beside the English version of your choice. Interlinear Bibles are great for those who have had basic Hebrew or Greek and want to use them in ministry, but are not comfortable enough with them yet to rely on the original language text by itself. Both biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek are included among the world languages contained in the drop-down menu that is used to select versions to read. The Aramaic portions of the Old Testament are displayed when biblical Hebrew has been selected for display, and an Aramaic passage, such as Daniel 7, is entered in the search box. If you are conversant in another language, such as Spanish, you can read Spanish and English side-by-side in the same way.
The Hebrew text available on biblegateway.com is the Masoretic text as found in the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC). The WLC is an electronic representation of the standard scholarly edition of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Leningrad Codex B19a. It is maintained by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS). The consonants, vowel points, and accent marks are displayed. It is not a perfect copy, and researchers at WTS are constantly correcting it to agree with the hardcopy facsimile edition of the original. You can find it beneath the English and Spanish versions under the heading עִבְרִית (the letters for “Hebrew”). The size of the font may be difficult to read, but that can be helped by pressing Ctrl-+, which will enlarge everything on the screen.
Four different Greek editions of the New Testament are available: the Stephanus, the Westcott-Hort, the Scrivener, and the SBL Greek New Testaments. They may be found very close to the Hebrew in the drop-down menu, beneath the English and Spanish versions, and under the heading κοινη (the Greek word for “koine,” the language of the Greek New Testament). The Stephanus and Scrivener versions are based on the Textus Receptus, the Greek text behind the King James Version. New Testament scholars today generally consider them to be less reliable than today’s standard scholarly version. If you prefer to use the KJV, then the Stephanus and Scrivener editions will be very helpful. The Westcott-Hort New Testament is the 19th century forerunner of today’s scholarly edition. The SBL Greek New Testament is an alternative modern edition.
In the next part we will continue with the strengths and weaknesses of the original language study tools that are available on biblegateway.com, and survey some other resources as well. May the Lord bless as you keep studying and preaching!
Brendan Ian Kennedy, Ph. D. (cand.)
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary