David DeSilva on Bible Software

Published: July 20th, 2004

In his recent book (An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. InterVarsity Press/Apollos: 2004), David A. DeSilva includes a section called “A note about Bible software” (pp. 710-713). His comments are set within the context of a larger section on “Word Studies and Lexical Analysis”, which according to the “socio-rhetorical interpretation” paradigm adopted by the author (p. 23) belong to the inner texture of the text.

After a few caveats where some of the most common exegetical fallacies are mentioned (e.g., word = concept fallacy – my term; is there a better name for it? -, etymological fallacy, and a few others), he presents what he terms “merely an introduction to the use of computer-assisted research in the study of the Greek New Testament” (p. 710, n. w). The list of Bible software programs includes BibleWorks, Logos Digital Library System – Scholar’s Library, Bibloi (formerly known as Bible Windows), and Gramcord for Windows.

His comments throughout seem to indicate that he particularly likes the first two (i.e., BibleWorks and Scholar’s Library). Mention is also made of Thesaurus Linguae Graece (TLG) and Perseus Project (p. 709, n. u).

Among the advantages DeSilva finds in using Bible software are the following:
a) Costs less than print versions of the same resources
b) It is easier to perform all kinds of searches with it
c) Renders print concordances superfluous
d) Facilitates comparative study of texts
e) Helps students read the Bible in the original languages
f) Integrates a dearth of research tools into a single, user-friendly environment
g) Saves time that can be (might I add “should be”?) invested in reflecting on the Bible text itself
h) Makes possible to carry out complex lexical searches involving two or more words
i) In the case of advanced students, allows them to search for grammatical constructions (he cites the example of PISTIS followed by a noun in the genitive case – p. 712)
j) Students with limited knowledge of Greek can gain access to the original language text with the aid of an interlinear Bible (he does not mention the ability to work with Strong’s numbers)

The only disadvantage he points out explicitly is that the learning curve can be quite high, particularly in the case of the more complex and advanced packages, though the tutorials and help available in some cases are very useful.

All in all, an interesting read. I find the stance taken by the author quite stimulating, though I haven’t read the whole book yet – almost 1,000 pages! – only the section reviewed here.

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