As I mentioned before, Michael S. Heiser, Academic Editor for Logos Bible Software, has blogged about the past Bible Software shootout at SBL. But what I found really interesting were his thoughts around the “status quo of Bible software.”
In this post I’d like to interact briefly with the first two points he deals with: Syntax and Books.
Let me say up front than I would answer ‘No’ to the question I’ve used as a title for this entry. My reasons for it are the following:
a) Syntactical databases are just another level of tagging. They do no supersede or render obsolete the other levels (e.g., morphological databases) but rather complement it. Syntax does open new and interesting avenues for doing research, but I would be reluctant to consider it a panacea for all our problems.
b) I’m not sure who exactly is “making light of it” (i.e., syntax databases) or charging syntactical tagging with being “subjective.” The truth of the matter is that tagging the Greek New Testament, whether it be for morphology, syntax, diagramming or even punctuation, is always a combination of objective and subjective decisions. So, I think the approach adopted by Accordance or BibleWorks at the shootout session is equally valid on this count.
c) I would not be at all surprised to see Accordance or BW (or both) come up with syntactical databases (see, for instance, this forum thread). So the key here will be –sooner rather than later– not so much who’s got the feature but rather what’s the best implementation in terms of intuitiveness and ease of use.
a) Logos is a digital library. Accordance and BW are not. So let’s compare apples to apples.
b) At the end of the day, it is quality that matters. More doesn’t necessarily mean better. Standard resources are not that many. If you have what you need to have (the tools of the trade), you are not missing out, regardless of the program you use.
c) I’d like to know more about the “under the hood issues” that apparently make searching Logos’ many titles “superior”. I can say that I find BW’s integration and searching of its secondary resources less than ideal, but the seamless integration and extremely powerful and versatile searching capabilities of Accordance’s tools are quite impressive and, some of them, unparalleled.
3. Final Comments
It seems to me that unless we define clearly the rules of the “game” and what we mean by “cutting edge” we will be talking at cross purposes. In my opinion, the game of Bible software is all about letting people access and interpret the primary texts. Everything else, including the program itself (and that goes both for the user interface and the secondary texts), should be subservient to that goal. In line with what I have just said, I would consider syntax searching, root searching or cross-version/cross-language searching as examples of “cutting edge” features.
Finally, let us keep in mind that the really important “wow” factor is to be found in the attainment of the original goal (see above) in a clear, unobtrusive, intuitive way. Other things may be the “icing on the cake,” but in my book they are neither cutting edge nor particularly wowing. If this is considered to be the “old way,” so be it.
Update: Check out Rick Mansfield’s post (I’m sorry. The author decided to delete it), and Danny Zacharias’ blog entry.