Manuscripts at Mountain Monasteries of Greece

Update on the work of the
Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM):

On March 13, 2017, Rob Marcello and I made a ‘front trip’ to central Greece. A front trip is one prior to digitizing manuscripts. As always, whenever we meet face to face with people, things happen. These front trips are absolutely essential for the ongoing work of the Center. It is still a true adage: it’s not just what you know but who you know that counts.

Briefly, we visited two monasteries in central Greece. The bishop of the region was truly accommodating and wants us to bring technology to these monasteries. His concern, and very legitimate at that, is to digitize these artifacts before they turn to dust.

Rob did a remarkable job of driving on the treacherously narrow mountain roads—sometimes in sleet and snow—and often with no guardrails protecting us from a sheer drop-off. At one point, a little Miata zipped around a corner and almost drove into us (his half of the road was down the middle). We swerved and so did he. But our swerve was on the outside. This kind of thing happens a bit too often in the mountains of Greece. That’s why there’s a cross atop a small shrine dotting the roadside every couple hundred yards: it marks the place where someone expired unceremoniously and unexpectedly.

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Rocky overhang on the way to our first monastery

On the morning of the ides of March, we met with the director of the National Library of Greece. CSNTM spent the last two years digitizing all of the Greek NT MSS at the NLG. 45 people went to Athens to do this work with state-of-the-art equipment, in teams of 7–8 people at a time. It has taken us months of postproduction work, too. (The images are currently being uploaded at—work we started in 2015.) We presented to the director the final batch of hard drives: several terabytes of manuscript images! I don’t know how many terabytes, but when you consider that each image is about 300 MB and we took altogether 150,000+ digital images, it’s got to be a lot.

After meeting with Filippos Tsimpoglou and his assistant, Andreas Vyridis, at the NLG, Andreas joined us as we drove to the rugged and steep mountains of central Greece. The drive took about six hours. As always Rob planned our trip down to the most minute detail. We stayed Wednesday night in an incredible hotel (a chalet during ski season), nestled in the mountains, and rented out on the cheap.

 NLG--last batch of hard drives!.JPG

Andreas Vyridis, Rob Marcello, Dan Wallace, Filippos Tsimpoglou,
and the last hard drives

Too bad we were there for such a short time. We had no opportunity to enjoy the surroundings. The breakfast the next morning was more like a four-course meal, with the hostess bringing out delectables in wave after wave.

Once we dropped off our luggage, we drove for 45 minutes to the first monastery. It was already late in the afternoon. The abbot greeted us and helped a great deal with our desire to examine what was in their possession. We spent some time in examination and analysis, then left at closing time. When we got back, we were exhausted and simply went to bed.

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On the way to the mountains of Central Greece

The next morning we packed up, had an early breakfast, then drove for two hours in the other direction to the second monastery. The abbot met us. He took us to the museum, where we learned about the long history of this monastery. The convent dates back almost one thousand years, but it has been destroyed several times. There we prepared some manuscripts. Then we had to drive back through the centrally-located village to get back to Athens.

Thursday was a long day. We started the day early, on very little sleep, and didn’t get back to the hotel in Athens till late at night. The drive back down the mountain was harrowing and, at times, nauseating. I don’t get carsick, but the switchbacks on this mountain brought me close. Being reminded of our own mortality by the shrines dotting the path can be a bit nerve racking. Add some crazy drivers, sleet, snow, roads that narrow to single lanes without warning, an overabundance of switchbacks, dusk then darkness, and the frequent absence of guardrails and you have the makings of anxiety overload. But we made it to Athens, dropped Andreas off, then crashed for about eleven hours at the hotel. I think I prayed more on Thursday than I had in the last month—and I’m not one to neglect prayer!

Switchbacks in mountains of Greece

Switchbacks going down the mountain
(thanks to Google maps)

Friday we had a strategic meeting in the evening. We got up before 5 on Saturday morning so that we could catch our two-legged flight back to Dallas. Saturday was 32 hours long. We arrived at 7 pm, pooped and jet lagged.

So, all in all it was an amazing week. And exhausting. When we got home we had 36 hours to recoup, then we put in a full day (Monday) transcribing P45 with Stratton Ladewig. The work never ends, but it’s always rewarding. And God is faithful, bringing our prayers to fruition at every turn.




12th Cave found at Qumran

My old friend and classmate at Dallas Seminary, Randall Price, was on the expedition that found the first Dead Sea Scrolls cave in over 60 years. Although no manuscripts were discovered, such were apparently there at one time. Thanks, Randy, for your part in this discovery and your continuing labors in archeology! See the article here:

Two other friends, Jeremiah Johnston and Craig A. Evans, sent me a link to a news post they did on this discovery. Here’s the link.

Nayda Baird Wallace now in the presence of her Lord

My sweet, spunky mother, who had an overabundance of personality, left this world for her eternal home on Monday morning, January 30. She had been admitted to a nursing home five days earlier. I was able to be with her this past weekend in Everett, Washington. Pati and I visited Mom and Dad in December, knowing that she would not long be with us. We played Trivial Pursuit and Mom (as usual) won! This last visit she was barely conscious. I don’t know if she recognized me at all in my two visits. On Friday I brought my dad with me to see her. She said three words then that turned out to be her last: “my sweet Daddy.” Dad didn’t hear her so I repeated the words to him. This next month they would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

In 2009 I wrote a living eulogy for four people; I wanted them to know the huge impact they had made on my life. A month later, two of them—quite unexpectedly—died. Harold Hoehner, my longtime mentor and friend at Dallas Seminary and Joe Aldrich, my pastor at Mariners Church when I was in college, both died on the same day in February 2009. The other two were Ed Komoszewski, my former intern and best friend, and my mother. Only Ed is still with us.

Below is what I wrote about Mom in January, 2009.

The third in the series of four ‘living eulogies’ is dedicated to my mom. I know, I know: it’s absolutely shameless of me to extol the virtues of my own mother when the rest of you don’t have your own blog so you can’t. Life isn’t fair; get over it.

At the same time, I am quite sure that what I have to say about my mother will relate to an awful lot of you. You’ll get your chance to say so, of course. And that’s when we can all play ‘Queen for a Day’ (in case the allusion is lost on you, this was an old 50s TV show that pitted deserving, pitiful women who told their sob stories to a live audience; the woman who got the loudest applause was made queen for a day; think ‘Extreme Makeover’ as a full-contact competitive sport). But I digress.

Nayda Baird Wallace celebrated her 79th birthday last November. Her health is not the best, but her mind is still sharp. She’s one of a rare breed of people who have been blessed with an overabundance of common sense. Both my parents have an extra share of the stuff, but for some reason it completely bypassed me and was a-genetically transferred to my wife. Mom also knew how to package it in such a way that made it palatable to my brother and sister and me, rebels without a clue that we were. My folks for decades have carried on conversations with themselves and others in which all the world’s problems would obviously be resolved if the world would just listen to what they had to say!

A keynote to their poetic ranting was responsibility. At times, it seemed as though that was the sum total of what life was all about. In some respects, they were free market thinkers for the family unit. But instead of the law of supply and demand, they developed the law of infraction and natural consequences. One of the greatest lessons I learned growing up was that if I violated some principle of life, there would be natural consequences to face. Unlike so many parents today who shield their kids from ever having to face the consequences of their own actions, my folks almost seemed to relish in brandishing the consequence sword. They had a great game face: even when doing the tough love thing was brutally difficult on them, they didn’t flinch. And all three of us learned that we couldn’t appeal to third base to get out of consequences: Mom was just as tough as Dad, and they were both united in the discipline that was doled out. Great models for my wife and me to follow! (And, by the way, an essential means of parenting is seen in this: the father should always be on the mother’s side and the mother should always be on the father’s side; if the father and mother do not present a united front, the kids learn to favor one parent, manipulate the other, and disrespect both.)

But Mom also had been given an extra measure of compassion and passion. She was the biggest believer in her children, always fascinated by what we did, always encouraging us to shoot for our dreams, whatever they may be. Her compassion was displayed in constant worry, something that I would especially exploit (sinner that I am!). After awhile, she started to turn that worry into prayer, and conveyed to me how to do the same (since I, too, am a born worrier). She and Dad prayed especially that we would know the Lord, love the Lord, and marry someone who did the same. And her passion was obvious in her belief that although her kids could certainly do wrong, they were nevertheless quite capable. Most memorably, she defended me in front of my second-grade teacher when the teacher thought I should go into a special school for mentally challenged children. Mom simply declared, “You’re wrong about him and you don’t know what you’re talking about. If he’s not learning well in your class, perhaps the problem is with the teacher.” Mom should know: she was the best teacher I ever had; she could consistently bring out the best in all of us. At bottom, Mom cared for us. Really, really cared.

When we were weak in some areas, Mom would help us shore them up in a creative way. Whenever we went on vacation, Mom would tell us stories hour after hour. (I have no idea how Dad stood it all those years! I’m sure he wanted some adult conversation, but this was Mom’s time to instruct her charges.) She would get us to play mind games, and use every opportunity to teach us. I remember seeing her wheels spin as she figured out in front of us how to tell the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite. She was always working on mnemonic devices for just about everything. My brother had great difficulty learning how to spell. He still is no William Safire when it comes to the mechanics of the English language, but Mom helped him become far, far better than he would have been without her aid. She would ‘drill’ into us how to spell all the states’ names. But the drill was always a game. Always. It usually had a story with it that she created ex nihilo on a moment’s notice. I recall distinctly her helping all of us learn how to spell Oklahoma. It involved the story of an Italian man who, with his Italian wife, traveled all over the U.S. in search of a place where they could settle down. They landed in Oklahoma. Now it just so happened that the man’s nickname was ‘L.A.’ So, when they got to the great state, his dear wife put her foot down and declared, “O.K., L.A., this is homa!” I never forgot how to spell that state’s name since. I don’t ever recall her cramming knowledge down our throats, but I do recall hundreds of hours of imaginative and fun instruction.

Combining her aptitude in common sense, ability to teach, and love for the Lord, Mom taught me the rudiments of theology well. There was a time when I had doubts about my faith because of some fairly trivial matter that was being challenged in my thinking. Mom reminded me that at the core of my beliefs must be Christ himself. And on the periphery should be less important matters. And that a wise man knew how to tell the difference between vital matters and peripheral ones. She would say, “Nail one foot to the floor inside the circle where Christ is; let your other foot tap dance all it wants, recognizing that you can never get too far away from that inner circle.” The making of a doctrinal taxonomy in that simple but effective illustration!

There is so much more that I could say about my mom. I owe her a lot. She was always there for me, and was my first and best mentor. Thanks, Mom, for all you’ve done for this sometimes-wayward son who never got a dime’s worth of common sense, unfortunately. Maybe you still have a few things to teach me!

New Online Zondervan Course on Greek Grammar just released

Zondervan Publishing House videoed me last August for an intensive week on Greek grammar. They wanted to produce an online course based on my Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. (It also works well with my abridged work, The Basics of New Testament Syntax.) It also updates some of the sections–e.g., verbal aspect, deponency, etc. The team in Grand Rapids was thoroughly professional: Two videographers and one content editor for every video, another editor of the slides (of which there are hundreds), and then the post-production team. It was awesome working with them–and they got the videos out a month ahead of schedule!

Here’s the link:


And yes, I did wear my Hawaiian shirts almost every time!

Here are the key points about the video course:

  • Brand new
  • Introductory pricing – save $40 for a limited time
  • c. 20 hours of video, plus access to GGBB and Basics of New Testament Syntax
  • Best way to learn intermediate Greek online


A Curator’s Guide — An Exploration into Revelation

img_9080We will complete this series with a recommended reading list for Revelation, with Rob Bowman providing a helpful introduction.



“There are innumerable bad books on the Book of Revelation. The number of good commentaries and studies on the subject, though no doubt much smaller, is too large for anyone to read or even to consult them all when studying Revelation or a particular passage in it. This bibliography therefore presents a highly selective list of references of relevance to the serious study of the Book of Revelation. Even so, I have listed double the number of works here that I list for other NT books in this series of bibliographic essays. The criteria for inclusion here are as follows. (1) Priority is given to the most current and most thorough references. This does not mean I think newer is necessarily better. However, the newer works often helpfully review the arguments of earlier studies and so can be avenues to learning about the earlier references. (2) Since the Book of Revelation is arguably the most controversial book in the New Testament, with a bewildering array of interpretive approaches, the selection here emphasizes the need to become acquainted with the different ways of reading the book. In addition, a mix of differing viewpoints on Revelation is of value to anyone who wants to understand current scholarship on its interpretation. Given the diversity just among conservative, evangelical approaches, I have omitted liberal and heretical commentaries. (3) The commentaries are generally exegetical or academic in approach, not devotional or homiletical, as valuable as those approaches are in their own right. The goal here is to provide a usable list of the reference works that anyone writing an exegesis paper on a passage or theme in the Book of Revelation should normally try to consult.”


Beale, Gregory K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Masterful analysis from an idealist, amillennial perspective, especially strong in relating Revelation to the OT.

Bock, Darrell L., gen. ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Stanley N. Gundry, series ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999. Generally well-done, cordial discussion by three NT scholars defending and responding to postmillennialism (Kenneth L. Gentry Jr.), premillennialism (Craig A. Blaising), and amillennialism (Robert B. Strimple).

Boxall, Ian, and Richard Tresley, eds. The Book of Revelation and Its Interpreters: Short Studies and an Annotated Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. For no other book of the Bible is its reception history of importance in approaching its interpretation today than in the case of the book of Revelation. This book reviews the history of how Revelation was interpreted up through 1700.

Gregg, Steve, ed. Revelation: Four Views. A Parallel Commentary. Foreword by Robert Clouse. Rev. and updated ed. Nashville: Nelson Reference, 2013. Orig. 1997. Four separate passage-by-passage commentaries on Revelation, all written by Gregg though including excerpts from other commentaries, to represent the four major approaches to the book, placed in parallel columns for ease of comparison.

Keener, Craig S. Revelation. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000. Evangelical commentary emphasizing application to the church’s contemporary context and concerns, by a scholar intimately familiar with the Jewish and Greco-Roman literature and cultural backgrounds. One of the best commentaries occupying the middle ground between academic exegetical references and popular expositions, and therefore of special interest to pastors.

Newport, Kenneth G. C. Apocalypse and Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Studies in how Revelation has been interpreted in the past three centuries, with special attention to Adventism and Koresh.

Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002. Historic premillennial, eclectic approach (moderately futurist). Comparable theologically to the older (and still excellent) commentary by George Eldon Ladd.

Poythress, Vern Sheridan. The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000. Idealist, amillennial introduction (not an exhaustive exegetical commentary), arguing that Revelation is meant to be understood even (or especially) by non-scholars.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary; Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary. Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1992, 1995. Dispensational premillennial (futurist); perhaps the best commentary from this perspective.

Wilson, Mark. Charts on the Book of Revelation. Kregel Charts of the Bible and Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007. Extremely useful information relevant to Revelation presented in a very accessible way, covering such topics as views on the author, date, genres, and structure of the book; thematic parallels to other NT books and to 4 Ezra; symbols, colors, numbers, and angels in Revelation; and much more.