In Bad Faith 18: Accidental Miracles of History – A Review of Reza Aslan’s “Zealot”

Lately I’ve been reading books analyzing Religion and New Testament Christianity in particular; actually that’s nothing new for me. If I’m not indulging in some sci-fi than I’m usually reading the latest from several writers, such as Bart Ehrman or Karen Armstrong. One of the books I’ve recently read is by Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American academic who has attracted a lot of attention over the past year for Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Re-watching the interview, it was probably a mistake for Aslan to repeatedly come back to his expertise as a Ph.D. I’ve personally heard respected pastors say from the pulpit that Ph.D. stood for “phenomenally dumb” (and even the seminary equivalent Th.D as “tremendously dumb”). So, it was probably a mistake to expect the interviewer to understand what Aslan was trying to communicate by talking about his expertise as a scholar in religion. At the core was the distrust that a non-Christian could undertake a “fair” exploration of the subject matter without biasing his book. Alas, the question of whether the book was biased or not was moot to the interviewer, who gave no indication as to whether she bothered to read it. Oops.

As someone who read the book (well, I listened to the unabridged audible book version), who has a B.A. in Biblical Studies from an Evangelical university (after spending two-years as a Religious Studies major at a Jesuit university), I can say that Aslan did what he set out to do, based on some of the best historical records from the period around the first century, to spell out what one can say about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. For me there were two basic take-aways. The first was that the land of Palestine reeked of messianic preachers in the centuries before and after the carpenter from Galilee. It would seem that there was no shortage of religious movements or prophets in those days. In fact, the only real unique thing might be that Jesus wasn’t also forgotten by history, like all the other hundreds or thousands who sprang up in the Jewish countryside. The second take-away was that, far from the gentle preacher of the beatitudes (Matthew chapters 5-7), it’s more likely, based on how Jesus was executed, that he was a preacher of the End Times, proclaiming that the world would be soon overthrown and that the God of Israel was going to bring this Evil Age to an End. Basically, because he was crucified, a punishment reserved mostly for political troublemakers, Jesus was more like John the Baptist and less Jesus, Meek and Mild. If anyone should have been upset with Aslan’s book, it would be the more liberal Christians, who would be more interested in presenting Jesus as an all-loving non-judgmental messiah, instead of the Galilean firebrand overturning the tables near the temple and calling down God’s judgment on those engaged in filthy commerce in the name of God.

The book wasn’t about proving any point of view other than looking at the culture of the time and piecing together what few things could be proven from the historical record. As a more liberal person, I would have preferred the Jesus of Matthew 5-7 versus the political troublemaker, but I cannot find fault with Aslan’s investigation. Any comment beyond that goes beyond the scope of the book’s stated intention and reveals a bias of the one finding fault. In that the Fox interviewer clearly could not understand how Aslan’s Muslim faith wouldn’t bias his book says volumes about the interviewer’s inability to not let her own beliefs (or faith) prejudice her own “journalism.” Insisting that this scholar could not do an unbiased book says more about this group’s inability to be unbiased themselves. My guess is had Fox News not shot themselves in the foot with the interview, which soon afterward went viral, Aslan’s book might have slipped by without much notice. But seeing that we’re here and especially for those who have never looked into an academic approach to first century history, the book might be a good introductory primer. The miracle is that the story of this eschatological Galilean preacher wasn’t lost to time, and maybe that’s enough to encourage a second look or deeper glance.

Sources:

Design by God – God by Design

God the Father 25 by Waiting For The Word

One of the greatest benefits of living in this age is the possibility of going directly to the first sources when one wants to read or listen to the thoughts of any particular speaker or thinker. Back in my Fuller days in the early 80s one of my favorite professors, Colin Brown, commented that then popular Christian writer, Francis Schaeffer, got Kierkegaard all wrong, adding that Schaeffer probably never really read Kierkegaard. Without leaving my computer I can look up the works of any of these folks and directly interact with the material. One amazing venue for connecting with today’s sources is TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment & Design” and whose tag-line is “Ideas worth sharing.”

The following link was given to me by Full Sail coworker, Linda, who was impressed with Rick Warren‘s ability to present his belief system without sounding “religious.” I appreciated that Warren seemed to respect the venue he was speaking at and addressed his thoughts as not addressing religious issues, but as human issues. Warren came off as firm but nurturing, understanding but uncompromising and very matter of fact, all hallmarks of a somewhat laid back “Seeker Sensitive” California attitude. Enjoy.

Rick Warren @ TED: Living a Life of Purpose

Dan Dennett @ TED (Feb 2006) – The Biological Evolution of Religion

Interestingly for me both of these speakers represent a bifurcating pull in my own thinking between this “matter of fact” Christianity and a more scientific, cultural-anthropology view of things…

This shouldn’t be too surprising, given that after getting my B.A. in Biblical Studies at Biola University and several quarters at Fuller Seminary as a Masters of Theology student, I enrolled at Cal State Fullerton as an Anthropology major (which I switched to Communications New/Editorial after a couple semesters). I mean, I completely concur with Warren’s sentiment that there has to be more to this life than the day to day grind. That awareness in me has always led me to pursue an intimate connection with God, whether we’re talking about the musings of a Catholic teenager trying to read the New Testament for the first time or a 40-something playing his guitar and singing with everything he has as part of the Evangelical Sunday worship service. At the same time, I’ve crossed the cultural and religious boundaries so many times in my life that, as big a picture as any belief system tries to establish, I know that it is all more bigger still.

Back five years ago after I’d been calling myself an agnostic for 15-years ago, a good friend and fellow Biola graduate said flatly that she wouldn’t accept this, that I couldn’t deny that all I’d experienced wasn’t true. And she was right. And thus I gradually entered into a second period of spiritual intimacy and learning. But at the same time I could never shake this feeling that the whole practice was just something that we all do to satiate our need to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. Of late, this “maybe I didn’t quite get this right” sense of doubt has pushed me more toward my former skeptical position. Like Morpheus at the end of the second Matrix movie, things didn’t turn out the way I thought the Oracle had pronounced them and this is forcing me to reevaluate everything. Mind you, things are incredibly good with opportunities opening for me, some might say “miraculously,” at just the right time such that some might see this turn of fortunes as a definite sign of God’s favor in my life. And quite frankly I might have agreed with that assessment except that the one person who helped set me back on the path of Faith, the one person I wanted to share this spiritually intimacy with, is most decidedly not a part of my life. And my fortunate move to Florida has ended any possibility of ever seeing the vision of love that I had with her come to fruition. Had it been otherwise and she were with me, I might very well have spent the past six weeks looking for a new church home. So, it’s very personal but it’s not about me. It’s about this emotional connection and contrary recognition that I cannot close my eyes to a bigger picture than my former Bible-quoting self could even begin to understand. I want to understand and right now I seem to have all the “opportunity” in the world to explore what these contradictory pulls mean in my life. Onward and upward. jbb

Music: “First Prayer by Randy Stonehill

Another Voice in the Wilderness

“You’ve obviously been thinking about this a lot.”

I hesitated, “well, yeah.”

He looked at me, “not me,” and then he went on about “practical ministry” and not being one to spend any time on thinking. Thus my last connection seemed to snap and I felt all the more disconnected from a faith that had been one of my deepest passions for the past four years. It was all in my heart to serve, but somehow I really didn’t fit in. So I left thinking that I must be the only one like me.

Then a few weeks ago I happened to listen to an interview on NPR’s Fresh Aire podcast of New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, author of the best selling “God’s Problem,” and recently published “Misquoting Jesus” and I realized that there was someone else at least a little bit like me…

bart_ehrmanThough our lives paths have not been exactly the same, they have been similar enough for me to recognize the force to reconcile ones passions, devotion and upbringing with the nagging realization that it’s never entirely as neatly “packaged” as our faith would have us believe. For Ehrman, it was the inability to reconcile the nagging problem of a benevolent personal God with a world full of injustice, cruelty and suffering. I just wish that my turning point could have been some noble selfless struggle. Damn.

So listening to Ehrman was the complete opposite experience, that is, instead of feeling like there’s no one out there like me, I felt like I found someone who might understand me. Here was someone who was raised in a Christian home, became a born-again Christian in his high school years in answer to personal concerns about Heaven and Hell, went to a Fundamentalist college to study the Bible and then went to pursue an advanced degree and career in New Testament studies. At the core of this pursuit was the drive for Truth, in this case, looking for the “true” or “best” New Testament texts, because if this is the Word of God, than we need to have the original words or at least the ones as close as possible to the original words. While pursuing his advanced degree he did the pastoral gig, Note that his Master’s Degree is an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) which is a pastoral/ministry oriented degree. So, right up to the point where Ehrman went to Princeton and got his advanced degrees, I was on the exact same path. And had I not gone through a divorce at that point in my story I probably would have continued to run the same path. As weird as all of this might seem, I find a sense of hope in the realization that there might be someone else out there like me, someone with a scholarly appreciation and respect for the biblical text but who is also unwilling to just go with the party-line and ignore the nagging questions. Unlike some of the professors whom I knew at Biola who left teaching and teaching at the university when their doctrinal positions came under scrutiny, Ehrman’s situation is pretty unique, being a New Testament scholar at a secular university, such that he is free to see where the evolution of his faith takes him. That encourages me to not take the hard line, either/or approach to my journey like I did when I left the church twenty-year-ago. I wish I understood where I belong in all of this. jbb

The following embedded video is the first part of a ten part lecture by Professor Ehrman. I’m actually thinking taking one his courses through the online Teaching Company

Music/Podcast: Bart Ehrman, Questioning Religion on Why We Suffer from the album “NPR: Fresh Air” by NPR

Mt26ff “He’ll Be Back”

I began my journey through Matthew’s gospel over 4 1/2 years ago. Those were amazing days. I had been away for 15-years and everything seemed so new. And I was in love, trying to understand how this could happen to me and more importantly how I was going to deal with the fact that everything about this love was “wrong.” So, when I decided to start reading my bible I decided to start somewhere that seemed safe, as far as reading about Jesus the advocate of the underdog and lover of sinners. I certainly could identify with all of that.

A few months ago, when I was moving this blog I noticed that, especially in that first year I was spending a lot of time reading and writing about this renewal experience, noting that in that first year it was almost a daily thing, whereas in these last couple years it had dropped to something much much less frequent. in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but notice that I was often frustrated with the same kind of infrequent communication with my beloved as I was giving to my Savior. I was not happy not being a daily part of her life and yet I was slow to apply the same measure to my time spent with Him.

So, when it came to finishing the book of Matthew I found myself going from the second half of chapter 26 to the end of the book without being able to find places to pull over and reflect on the passages. It was like all the participants from Judas, to Peter, to the Sanhedrin, to Pontius Pilate were all doing what they were supposed to do and there was no turning from their course in history. It felt like everything was rushing to concluding commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Then the book came to a sudden end. For some reason it made me think about this stupid MadTV video… I guess what they mean to poke fun of causes me to ponder at why things happen the way they do… After 4 1/2 years I still have so many questions and so much to learn. JBB

Music: Road To Dead from the album “This Fire” by Paula Cole

Mt26 31-56 – Disciples Scattered & Jesus Arrested

Matt. 26:31-56 Disciples Scattered & Jesus Arrested

Part of me was distressed that, once again, it seemed that the disciples at the moment of the savior’s great need were not able so much as just stay awake with him while he prayed. Who knows whether they had any appreciation for what had just happened, the Last Supper, or the events that were about to transpire. If there’s a doubt about the historicity of these passages, one would think that the gospel writers would make the apostles at least a bit more heroic instead of portraying them so completely human, so unable to grasp what was happening all around them and with whom they were dealing with.

Peter had confessed who Jesus was (Matt. 16:16) and they had left their lives to spend three years with him. But I get the impression that they felt like they were following a great teacher, albeit not one respected by the religious or community leaders. A great teacher and miracle-worker, blessed by God. In the context of the time, I don’t doubt that they had all heard stories of others who had come before who had claimed to be The Annointed of God (Matt 24:24), so I’m not surprised that they underestimate who Jesus really is and what he is about to accomplish.

I don’t see Peter’s proclamation that he’d never deny Jesus as empty bravado, but just that gap between the good we want to do when called upon and our lack of really understanding what’s going on around us. We assess the situation in our limited scope and when the odds seem to turn against us, we flee. Peter intended to defend his teacher to the point of cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers, but quietly standing beside his master as they took him away was not within him or the other disciples and they all fled into the night. So I’m left to see two things. Jesus knows us through and through, apparently better than we know ourselves. The second is that, even in the moment when foretold of their failure, he dsaid that he would meet them again after his resurrection and join them in Galilee. He extended the hand of forgiveness and hope, in that He would be waiting for them when He finished doing what he came for. Even within their small world, their small grasp of what He was going to accomplish, He offered them a small window into their reunion in Galilee (John 21:1-23). In the darkest of hours, when we completely fail, there is always hope and One who will never leave us or abandon us, even when we fail him. JBB

Music: I Am Your Child from the album “VC 56 Sweetly Broken” by Jude Del Hiero

Mt26 17-25 – Destiny & Responsibility

Matt. 26:17-25
Destiny & Responsibility

What began with his baptism in the Jordan and what he began to confess to his close disciples during his teaching ministry was coming to fruition. Like a path set before Him, he stepped upon it and, in today’s parlance, “made the path his own.” And so the menial steps of where to prepare the feast were engaged, no doubt just as they had the previous two years, with Jesus and His followers employing the courtesy of someone with a room where they could celebrate the Feast.

Then he marked the path another was choosing to take, a path to destruction. The disciples, knowing full well how what he said had a remarkable tendency of coming true and knowing how corruptable their own hearts were, asked, some might think, pleaded to not be a part of this prediction. Remarkably even the betrayer played the “It’s not me is it, Master?” game. We’re not told why he had struck the deal with the religious rulers to betray Jesus, but that’s not the point. Just as Jesus was on a path to the cross, so Judas was on a path and both had to choose whether they were going to continue on the path that was set before them. Matthew makes it sound like it was just greed, which is interesting when one considers that Matthew had been a tax-collector, the epitomy of betrayers making a comfortable living working for the hated Romans. He knew something about greed, one would think.

Jesus was pressing toward the cross and the animosity between himself and the religious rulers was such that Jesus avoided entering Judea until just before the Passover. How or why this scenario would lead one of his inner circle to make what looks like a business deal with the religious rulers is hard to imagine. But there in the upper room Judas had the opportunity to “come clean” and not fulfill his “destiny.” Instead he played dumb and, according to John’s gospel (John 13: 21-30), immediately left the group and met with the religious rulers to seal the deal and his fate. But was this entrapment? Was he trapped in his fate? Could he have chosen to not complete his plan to betray Jesus?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that if the religious rulers really wanted to find Jesus and arrest him, in Jesus’ own words, they could have done that at any time. Judas’ actions just pushed the timeline up. It would have changed the story a bit, but the religious rulers had already made up their minds to get rid of this troublesome messiah from Galilee. So, Jesus’ journey to the cross is not dependent on Judas’ betrayal. Thus, at least theoretically, Judas could have stayed and broken bread with Jesus instead of being the catalyst behind Jesus being arrested and put to death. My thought is that destiny still requires that we walk the path set before us, just as Jesus and Judas chose to “fulfill their destinies.” Every day we have the choice of staying in Jesus’ inner circle or going out and striking deals on our own. Ultimately destiny does not relieve us of our responsibility to do with what we know. Judas was more or less unmasked before his peers and instead of acknowledging it, he simultaneously acted dumb in front of them and then went ahead and did the deed.

Just as the disciples fearfully asked, “Lord, is it I?” I know that each day presents itself with an opportunity for me to either continue on the path with Him or to do something stupid that seems to be advantageous to me at the time. And having just reviewed the last few years while transfering my journals to this current blog, it’s pretty obvious to me that I’ve failed to continue on the path that He gave back to me four years ago when I first began to work my way through the Book of Matthew. Fortunately for me, I can choose a better path today than the one that I was on yesterday. Whatever my destiny may be I still need to walk the path and hope for a better choice than I made yesterday. Fate is something that is used to explain the journey once it’s over. I’m hopeful that I’m far from over. JBB 7/3/2007

Mt26 26-30 – Ritual

Matt. 26:26-30
Ritual

Part of me is surprised at the brevity of this passage. Here is this important moment in Jesus’ ministry that we remember every Sunday (or at least once a month, depending on your church’s tradition) and Matthew spends a mere four verses on it. It seems so deceptively simple and straight forward. Four verses and over a thousand years of conflict about whether the communion elements were actually becoming Christ’s body and blood through transubstantiation or transmutation. I remember these questions being a very big deal in my early Christian experience because to question the miracle of communion that the priest performed each Sunday was to question the whole foundation of the Faith. Not that our opinions were going to change the welfare of the Church, but I remember some very heated arguments.

My current fellowship offers a communion table every Sunday but it’s off to one side and done in a private way during the last part of the service during the worship music following the message. My previous fellowship seemed to break ranks with our Vineyard/Calvary Chapel heritage and had communion every Sunday following the message with single worship song. I have to smile because I know how Protestants are so insistent, several hundred years after Martin Luther, to maintain a belief that they have no rituals or “ceremonies” and that it’s all about the personal spontaneous relationship with our God. In some podcast by J. Vernon McGee I heard him go on against the dead rituals that the 1st century Jews had built up. He’s right, we do need that personal connection with the Almighty, but he seems to forget that even personal relationships need ritual or familiarity to move past those awkward first moments of not understanding.

Ritual is one of the things that we humans do. It’s the sound of a loved one’s voice coming from the door at the end of the day. It’s the familiar hand held in the darkened theater during a movie. It’s a Christmas carol (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse) sung outside ones door during the holiday season. It’s saying “I love you” before hanging up the phone. We take something that takes a lot of time spent and perhaps endless conversations and compress it into a gesture or symbol. If done with the right heart none of the meaningfulness or depth or importance is lost. It’s wrong headed to think that this is just wrong because some of us have forgotten the depth or meaning behind the symbol, gesture or ritual. And in the church, no matter how we attempt to skate around it, whenever we do something (greeting, three songs, announcements, message, three songs/communion/offering, concluding bless/prayer), if we do it more than once, it become ritual. And that’s okay.

Jesus knew that and he took the millennia old passover meal and institute a new observation, a new memorial. He connected something that was part of their heritage to something that he was going to do for them (and us) in the future. He took the familiar, some might say mundane, elements of this meal and gave them new meaning. He was also answering, in advance, the question of why he was going to die. Through this new institution he was connecting his death with the Passover sacrifice. Simple bread and wine become reminders of our Savior’s sacrifice so that we can share in his Father’s kingdom. Jesus took a ritual and made it his own and that’s what we remember every Sunday: the sacrifice behind the ritual. JBB 07/04/2007

Mt26 1-16 Intentions

Matt. 26:1-16 Intentions

Having finished teaching the disciples “all these things” Jesus reminds them of his intended destination, the cross. Interestingly Matthew doesn’t record the disciples reaction (at least not here). At the same time the religious rulers plot to bring Jesus down, but it is not their intention to do it when it might create a riot situation.

Along the way to the cross Jesus stopped in at the house of one Simon the Leper. In Luke’s version of the incident (Lk. 7:36-50) Simon was a Pharisee who had been seeking to have Jesus come to his house to eat, an act to share in Jesus’ glory. Interestingly Matthew gets into none of that and focuses more on the woman pouring the precious ointment on Jesus’ head and the disciples’ negative reaction.

Here was an act of great sacrifice, no doubt more than a little excessive, but from the heart of this woman. And this sacrifice was almost completely dismissed by those who had been closest to the Messiah who was, in just a few days time, going to also pour out all that He was for them. They were thinking in terms of what they probably thought would have been enlightened Kingdom practicality, with great and no doubt genuine concern for the poor among them. But they were completely missing the bigger picture.

One of the things I find interesting is that we know what Jesus is thinking about, his appointment with the cross. We know what the religious rulers are thinking, to put Jesus away, but at a time that suits them. We know what the disciples are thinking, excessive behavior shouldn’t be tolerated and one needs to be practical and socially responsible. What I really find interesting is whether the woman was really thinking about Jesus’ appointment with death and the cross when she poured the perfume on him. Jesus said that she did it in preparation for his burial because he sees the larger picture (as opposed to the disciples’ small mindedness). My first thought was that she was more likely doing this as a gesture of love and sacrifice and may not have even been aware that Jesus had been telling his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die. In Luke’s version of a similar story (Lk. 7.36-50), which takes place earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he uses the incident as means to teach that forgiveness and the Love of God are greater than the limitations of proper social etiquette. Here I get the impression that, regardless of what the different parties intend, larger things have been set in motion and they are all heading to the cross whether they acknowledge this or not.

Now, if the woman poured out the perfume with full knowledge of Jesus’ appointment with death, then her act speaks of an even deeper level of understanding, devotion and sacrifice. At a time when the disciples were still vying for position, going so far as to have their mother ask Jesus to have him appoint them places of honor on his left and right when He takes his place as King and are ogling at the size of the temple buildings and buildings of Jerusalem, this woman poured out her love and sacrifice, identifying herself (and probably her family) with the what he was about to do. If she understood what she was doing than she stood beside her Messiah unlike the disciples, especially Judas, who shortly after this pressed what he thought was his advantage and made a deal to turn Jesus over to the scheming religious rulers.

All parties acted with specific intentions in mind. But Jesus’ destiny to pour himself out on the cross took precedence. And if this woman knew this and poured the precious perfume on him, then this is a picture of devotion and love that goes far beyond the petty self-interests of those around her and her Messiah. JBB 3/18/2007

Wonderful Accordance Info-mercial

fuller001

fuller001

Accordance Training at Fuller Seminary

Mac/Computer & Bible geeks in one space… how scary is this? Beyond the scariness of being among persons who qualify as geeks in two realms, this is a bit dangerous for me in that I’m feeling the pull of this life that I used to live over twenty years ago when I was a student here at Fuller. At lunch I walked around campus and downtown to get a sandwich. Alas, nothing was open on campus so I wasn’t able to go into the student center or cafeteria where I used to have lunch or break-time but the walk was nostalgic nonetheless. More than that, this visit made me pause and contemplate the course of my life.

Part of me was thinking that I need to get my paperwork in to Pepperdine to continue and finish my work on the Ed.D., and at the same time wondering if i couldn’t begin taking some classes here at Fuller or Biola. Yeah, even Biola. Juls reminded me that as a alumnus I’m entitled to take a course for free and gave me a hard time because she felt that I didn’t respect the education I got there. Ack. I don’t know. I loved my time at Biola, but when it was time to move on to graduate work I was more attracted to Fuller than Biola. I guess I was (and probably still am) a “critical/scholarly” snob. Sad thing is that all of that went away when my marriage went away. I got very lost and I don’t doubt that some would say that I’m probably still very lost.

Anyway, just thinking about continuing my graduate work in theology while finishing the Ed.D., I had to remind myself that it’s not something for me to contemplate as if I were doing this on my own. That was the mistake that I made in the last go around, I was trying to do on my own without considering my community in this endeavor. I mean, if God wanted me to do this than a way would be made for me to do it and I have clearly seen that one thing I’ve erred in greatly was trying to do things without the benefit of interdependent relationships as part of the task. I was watching a couple of guys unloading their car in the parking lot next to the student residences and again I was reminded of the importance of others in this journey. No one does it alone.

2007-03-15 Accordance Training at Fuller

2007-03-15 Accordance Training at Fuller

As for today’s seminar, It’s really brilliant for Oaktree Software to do this all-day seminar. It’s like an all-day info-mercial, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve previous written about this macintosh software collection (see Bible Stuff & Community, Bible Geek and Bible Geek, continued), but it basically takes the power of having one’s whole library of sources and reference tools and wraps it around ones study of the actual Bible text that it feels completely natural. I’m not so much running around a virtual library or collection of disconnected e-books as much as feeling linked to what other sources might say about the passage currently under consideration. Anyway, the instructor, Dave, went through all of the features, step-by-step, getting down to doing linguistic analysis of the texts in the Greek or Hebrew. Far too much power for a amateur such as myself, but I was sitting next to a first year M.Div. student who was literally calculating how he might find a way to afford this software, and he didn’t even own a mac (so that had to be factored into his calculations). The presentation was so good that I was considering buying the Scholar Collection, but I just couldn’t see myself wending my way through four different versions of the Greek text or however many version of the Hebrew Old Testament they had. I could, however (or unfortunately), see myself upgrading from my Introductory level to the full featured Premier level which added a lot more commentaries and references sources (and an annotated version of the Greek & Hebrew) for a lot less than the Scholar collection I’d been drooling over. Ack. It’s a scary thing when one chooses to combine mac/tech geeks and bibles geeks… but I love it. JBB