At the end of their first year I tell my Greek Students,
Congratulations! You've worked hard, you've done well. You've learned enough to be dangerous. You are now equipped to use powerful Bible programs that will enable you to misread the text like never before--and do it convincingly.For those who want to misread the Bible like never before, Logos 4 is the ideal program. Sound extreme? Let Logos speak for itself:
So how can you do better in word study if you’re not a specialist in Hebrew or Greek? There are three truly indispensable things you need for developing skill in handling the Word of God. First, you need a means to get at all the data of the text. Logos Bible Software is the premier tool for that. Through reverse interlinears, you can begin with English and mine the Bible for all occurrences of a Greek or Hebrew word....Second, you need someone who is experienced in interpretation to guide you in how to process the data in front of you. You need training in what questions to ask and why you’d ask them....Third, you need practice, practice, and more practice. - Michael Heiser
Our goal in Learn to Use Greek and Hebrew with Logos Bible Software is not for you to sight read the Greek NT or the Hebrew Bible without the helps. Instead, it’s to understand how to use the helps for interpreting the Bible. Do we still require you to be able to accurately identify the form of a particular word? Absolutely! But we don’t make you memorize a chart; we use our Visual Filter technology. After all, the inability to recognize liquid aorist verb at sight is not what makes a preacher “dangerous” with the biblical languages; it is being uninformed as to how the aorist tense works. - Johnny Cisneros
In its blog posts and promotional videos, Logos promises that its customers will be able to use Biblical Greek and Hebrew at a 3rd year level "without memorizing anything." While scholars may desire actually to learn the biblical languages, Logos is there to help the average student of the Bible get the payoff from language study without doing the work, to use Greek and Hebrew well, without learning the languages.
Sorry folks. It is not enough to learn theory about the aorist tense, you need to get a feel for how the language works as a language if you want to avoid misreading it. And the only way to get a feel for how Biblical Greek and Hebrew work is to spend a lot of time reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. Fortunately, the most important genuine insights from reading Greek and Hebrew come from patient, attentive, careful reading of whole passages in Greek and Hebrew, not individual word studies or gazing at an interlinear. To get beyond the point where you are dangerous there is no substitute for learning the languages, and learning any language takes time and memorization.
As usual, Carl Conrad is spot on the money:
[T]his pedagogy being peddled . . . effectively makes its user dependent upon predigested interpretation of the original-language texts. One learns not the languages, but the use of the software, and the software functions in such as way as to begin and end with English language versions of the Biblical text and English-language explanations of how and why the English-language version means what the original-language text says. I'm not happy about this, but I do think it is the wave of the future in the pedagogy of Biblical languages; in its own way, it's like the plume of slick oil spreading across the Gulf . . . .(Contrast Conrad's free advice with the $500/[$160 pre-pub] Logos is charging for its how-to videos.)
What bothers me is that the industry and practice here are expended upon what is essentially predigested analysis done by others. For my part, I question the value of learning a little Greek or a little Hebrew if one isn't going to go deep enough to digest the original texts on one's own.
Let me be clear: Logos is one of the best Bible software programs around. As an integrated, searchable library it has no peer. Some of its syntactical resources for Greek and Hebrew are unmatched. I own a copy of Scholar's Library Gold (donated, thank you!), and I have been highly tempted by the recent release of the Göttingen Septuagint. By all accounts, Logos is a fantastic company to work for. The company actively fosters biblical scholarship by creating visionary high quality resources, such as the Anderson-Forbes Hebrew Bible, by hiring scholars, such as Steven Runge, and encouraging their academic work, and by sponsoring college and seminary scholarships.
I expect the video series created by Michael Heiser and Johnny Cisneros to explain how customers can “Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew with Logos Bible Software” is of high quality. And I think there is a place for teaching English readers how to take advantage of Greek and Hebrew, how to do word studies, and how to avoid errors in the process.
I am concerned, however, that the way Logos is designed and marketed will give users a false sense of confidence, and that English language customers will use Logos's power tools to make the sort of basic mistakes that come from not knowing the languages from the inside. If the videos frequently remind English users that they are still dangerous, I am encouraged. (My assumption is that those who take at least two years of a biblical language have an even greater awareness of how dangerous they really are, and are therefore more humble and careful in their approach to the text.)
In his response to the original version of this post, Michael Heiser says “It's a simple fact of academic life that 90% (at least) who take Greek and Hebrew the traditional way simply do not take the time to maintain it after class.” Wherever the percentages come from, the problem is real: Most pastors who take the languages don’t maintain them once they enter ministry. To the extent that Logos helps people use what they have learned and encourages them to learn more, they are performing a service. However, Mike and I disagree about how the problem should be addressed. In my view, Logos has surrendered to the status quo when it comes to teaching the biblical languages. I remain an idealist, convinced that pastors can reasonably be expected to acquire a reading knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and maintain the languages while they are in ministry. Instead of giving up this goal in despair, I think educators (including myself!) should do all they can to teach better. It is not a question of either traditional language learning methodologies or using electronic tools. As I have argued before, there are better alternatives, such as Randall Buth’s Biblical Language Center in Israel, Christophe Rico’s Polis Koine, and schole.
The second main reason I don't recommend Logos is that its promotion and advertising seem misleading to me, and its products often strike me as overpriced: It may be the case that the "950 resources" in Scholar's Library Gold are "worth almost $15,000.00 in print", but who in their right mind would pay for them? Many of these resources are of low quality or are already in the public domain. The remainder—including the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, the New International Greek Testament Commentary Series, the complete collection of Semeia studies, the 3 volume Context of Scripture, and the Archaeological Encylopedia to the Holy Land--to name some that are important to me—may be worth $1379.95. Why not say that the price is based on the value of these copyrighted resources and give away the rest?