Recommended Resources: StepBible.com

I love books! If you know anything about me you know this to be true. The idea of libraries going completely digital is equal to the unpardonable sin in my mind because I can’t fathom studying the scriptures without a desk full of books. Although I have a deep affinity for physical books, there is a diTyndaleHouseEquippinggital resource library gold mine. This resource is StepBible.com; a Bible software developed through Tyndale House. Dr. David Instone-Brewer has put together an amazing resource with many advantages.

First off, it is totally free! For a poor student, this is great! The program has a great deal of resources, commentaries, translations and texts. This is a huge benefit of a program that is comparable to a logos or accordance, but where logos can cost you thousands of dollars on resources, StepBible hands it over right in the public domain.

Second, it emphasizes the great importance of the original languages. In fact, most of the tools that are used to develop the unique functions of StepBible.com are built around the original languages. The program does not necessitate a knowledge of the biblical languages, but it certainly helps anyone seeking to deepen their understanding. With a program that is intrinsically oriented to the original languages, it begins your study off at the ground level. This basic principle of hermeneutics recognizes that you should never start at the commentary/exegetical level before diving into the original text language.

Third, not only does it start you off at the original languages, it builds additional information on the text. By just hovering your cursor over the text or a word, you are presented with a wealth of data: the semantic range of the word, the way it is parsed, how many times the word is used and so forth. What may have taken hours to find before is readily accessible with this program.

Fourth, the base is the biblical text, but they have indexed words based on their lexical morpheme. This means word searches are not based on the English word used or searching for the word in a particular verb form, but you can search its lexical form and you will find all of its occurrences in what ever range you have set.

The only downside to this program is it does not have the overwhelming amount of resources a program like Logos does. If you are looking for a deep exegetical or theological exposition of a passage, this may let you down. But for a resource that is not only free but so strongly linked to the original languages, it is hard to complain about the lack of commentaries. If that is your only concern, I would highly recommend starting with StepBible.com and then move to your closest theological library and get in contact with some physical books. I would highly recommend using this resource for any study or devotion you might be doing. You never know what you might unlock.


Recommended Resources are posts devoted to videos, blogs, articles, and sermons that have helped me think through some more difficult topics. This segment of the blog is to develop fodder for thoughtfulness in deeper content issues.

Go Big or Go Home: A Question of Redaction

It is very hard to argue with scholars of such great influence and ability as I. Howard Marshall, whose impact is still reverberating through the world of New Testament scholarship. Mars4358456713_2c95f9c8c5_ohall is one of those scholars who had his hand in everything. He was able to work at the theological, exegetical and textual/linguistic levels. Marshall reigns supreme in his own work in the Gospels and in his commentary on Luke[1], where he makes an interesting comment on Luke 8:4-8, the parable of the Sower.

By comparing­­­­ the redactionary relationship to all three synoptic gospels, Marshall says right at the offset:

The section 8:4–8 is based on Mk. 4:1–25. In Mk. this is part of a longer section (4:1–34) on the parabolic teaching of Jesus, which is expanded by the inclusion of further parables in the corresponding section in Mt. 13. Luke, however, has abbreviated his Marcan material at this point.[2]

Here, Marshall gives us the proper context to his argument by laying out the data in the other synoptics. I would like to highlight the quote where he suggests that “Luke, however, has abbreviated his Marcan material at this point.”

Most scholars would say that brevity in discourse or a lack of description is an indication of being an earlier version of a story. It is assumed that because you have less data, your story will be shorter. With the Gospels, we do not know where they get their data from, so we must assume that having less information is an indication of being more archaic.

We even use this principle in textual criticism. When we have a shorter reading and a longer reading of one text, we assume that the longer reading is an embellishment. A scribe might embellish a text in order to be “clearer” on a particular doctrine or to combat a heresy that was gaining traction.

This instance of redaction is slightly different. Marshall is saying that Mark, the shorter, earlier, more archaic version is longer than Luke. Luke is redacting from Mark and intentionally utilizing brevity as a discourse tool! There are a number of reasons that Luke slices down the word count from Mark, but my main issue is the sensibility that longer is better. This has become such a staple of biblical scholarship, yet we see Luke doing something completely contrary, and admitted by I. Howard Marshall.

Marshall explains further why Luke would shorten his Marcan source material,

Then he includes the brief narrative of how Jesus’ relatives visited him (8:19–21 par. Mk. 3:31–35); by holding it over to this point, Luke is able to use it as a final comment on the parable of the sower—stressing the importance of hearing and obeying the word of God. The section as a whole is thus concerned with the theme of hearing the word of God, and the accent has been shifted somewhat from where Mark places it.[3]

Marshall identifies this difference as stylistic; it is an issue of rhetorical strength. Taking into consideration that ancient histories were not considered with sequential chronology in the same sense that modern histories are, it would be okay to cut and paste this parable. But it still leaves the question of why he would shorten a text.

I might be splitting hairs here but I still find the question intriguing and that Mark is true to his source, and so is Luke, but one has cut a piece down to size for rhetorical value, for stylistic purposes. This makes me wonder if we could reconsider things like Marcan priority. Is it possible that the brevity we find in Mark’s gospel a stylistic one? That is not going to be answered here but it is still a good question to ask, and I fear we treat Marcan priority as a scholarly axiom. Is shorter better? Maybe so, but I think the conversation is still up in the air.

[1] Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978.

[2] Ibid 317.

[3] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 317–318.