I am sure most of you who read this blog know by now that Logos is gearing up to publish the massive Perseus Collection. I am still in shock that they are releasing all of this for free! Soon we will have at our fingerprints a wealth of information that can help shed light on many historical, cultural, and grammatical issues. So, if you haven’t yet jumped over to the pre-pub page at Logos I suggest you do that pronto! (but finish reading this first:).
Some may be wondering how a collection like this can have any relevance for personal Bible study. While I must admit that I do not like this question; it seems to suggest a lack of concern for the historical background of Scripture. But that is a different topic for a different day. So I ask, What benefit does Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Herodotus, Dio Chrysostom, Homer, Plutarch, Quintilian and others have for us today? Great benefits in many ways!
A number of years back I fell in love with the art of ancient rhetoric. I began to read certain articles that applied rhetorical criticism to certain books of the Bible. It was these articles that led me to the writings of Aristotle (Rhetoric), Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria: 1-9), and Cicero. These authors were masters of rhetoric, and their works were handbooks on how to structure a rhetorical speech. There writings began to open up fresh understanding on how Paul may have structured Galatians, or how the author of Hebrews used various types of rhetoric in his homily. We must not forget that writers of Scripture were a product of their times. Therefore, understanding the writings of antiquity help us in turn understand the writings of Scripture.
Another fascinating feature of Perseus is the ability to now be able to see for myself the context of some of these ancient writers that are frequently cited. Let me explain what I mean by this by means of a few illustrations from the standard Greek Lexicon, BDAG.
As is common with BDAG, a number of citations are to references outside the LXX, GNT, and AF. In the above excerpt taken from BDAG you note that the highlighted text refers to Aristotle’s Poetics, a resource that will be included in the Perseus Collection. Many times I have wanted to see the cross reference to these writings, and now with the Perseus Collection in my library I may be able to! I am not sure about you, but this really excites me!
Here is another example
This example is from the entry ἐκτείνω in BDAG. Here, Acts 26.1 is mentioned as an example under heading one: “Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand (ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα) and proceeded to make his defense.” The gesture of stretching out ones hands was in some part connected to the orator and his speech, for which Quintilian is referenced for me information on this practice.
I leave you with one more example, this time mentioning Dio Chrysostom and Herodotus in the same reference:
Well, those are only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more examples that I could include, but I will leave some for you to discover. I hope you take advantage of this great resource that Logos has provided for us. And remember, just because it is not inspired writing it does not mean that it is of no value.