Okay, so that headline sounds like it should appear in the Babylon Bee, but hear me out. I’m referring, of course, to the recent announcement that the latest revision of the English Standard Version has now become the pretentiously titled Permanent Text. Quite a few criticisms have been leveled at the ESV’s revision committee and its publisher for this move, and I agree with almost all of the criticisms that I have seen thus far.
So I’m not writing to disagree with any of those criticisms, but to point out the importance of typography.The first blog post I read criticizing the petrification of the ESV text was Scot McKnight’s “The New Stealth Translation: ESV,” in which the following passage appeared:
The question arises because Steven Anderson, who founded and preaches for the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, attracted attention a couple of weeks ago for positing this metaphorical equation against LBGTQ individuals in the wake of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Specifically, the Friendly Atheist (Hemant Mehta) has drawn attention to a recent sermon in which Anderson ranted, “LGBT. They’re sodomites. They’re dogs. That’s what the Bible calls them: Dogs. DOGS!” To conclude his post, Mehta himself claims, “This is faith-based hate speech. You can say it’s not loving, you can say you disavow what he’s saying, but you can’t say the Bible has nothing to do with it.”
More properly, you can’t say that Anderson’s reading of a 400-year-old translation of the Bible has nothing to do with it. But before we go blaming the Bible for Anderson’s hateful sermon, let’s see if Anderson is accurately representing the Bible.
Spoiler alert: He isn’t, although he thinks he is; a problematic translation coupled with a misapprehension of the relationship between side-by-side verses has misled Anderson into misunderstanding his source. But demonstrating that is a process requiring several detailed steps. There is no shortcut and no tl;dr version. Also, please note that my purpose here is to investigate the meaning, translation, and use of two biblical verses—not to articulate a general biblical theology of sexuality, which takes a lot more work.
Wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking: “You can’t add fonts to an iPad!” Well, that’s what I thought, too, until I learned about AnyFont, an amazing iOS utility app by Florian Schimanke. AnyFont does just what the name implies: it allows you to import any font (well, any TrueType or OpenType font) onto your iOS device and use it in iWork apps, Office apps, or any other app that uses the iOS font chooser. Of course, the first font I tried to install in this fashion was SBL BibLit, and it works like a charm in Pages. Even vowel points line up properly.
Now, to actually type those vowel points, you’ll need either an external keyboard (which will follow the Hebrew layout native to the Mac OS) or a software solution like the Davka Nikud on-screen keyboard (which is effective, but slow, since you have to switch character sets (not keyboards) each time you want to type a vowel point. You can also copy and paste pointed text from Accordance or Olive Tree’s Bible app (which, after many years of being called “Bible Reader,” has gone through a perplexing number of name changes in the last few years). I don’t currently know of any way to type cantillation (trop) marks on the iPad. Accordance seems to strip the cantillation marks when you copy text, but Olive Tree’s Bible app preserves them, so that option exists if you need the marks in your iOS word processor.
But this talk about vowel points digresses from the main point: AnyFont enables you to use SBL BibLit and other third-party fonts on iOS. And to me, that’s a very big deal and a very good thing.
I haven’t had many nice things to say about Microsoft Office for Mac in the last few years two decades. Despite the suite’s power and the fact that it outstrips it competition in many different ways, I’ve used other software in preference to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for many years, largely because right-to-left text processing in Office for Mac has been poor nonexistent since the 1980s, even after the advent and wide adoption of Unicode. I have consistently made sure to have legitimate access to the latest version of Office (currently as a personal subscriber to Office 365) for collaborative purposes, but I almost never use it for my own independent work.
I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of reskinning some of my assignments and classroom resources to feature fictional characters who would guide students through various activities. I “piloted” one such assignment in my first-year Old Testament course, and it seemed to go over well. But I’m curious as to what Higgaion readers might think.