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February 14, 2004

Where to Start Reading about Bible Software

Although some of the specific contents are badly outdated, I would still recommend reading Harry Hahne's course notes "Using a Computer in Biblical and Theological Studies". A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1999, particularly so in the field of computing and computer-assisted Bible study, but many of his general insights still hold true (see, for instance, the first section: "Introduction: How a computer can help in seminary and ministry", where he deals with subjects such as Computer Basics, Major types of software, Computing and the Process of Research and Writing, What a Computer Can and Cannot Do, Working Efficiently With a Computer, etc.) The comments he makes, later on in the course, on certain programs and Internet sites only apply to the current situation at the time of writing, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Harry Hahne was also the editor for the Bible Analysis website, which unfortunately hasn't been updated in a long, long, time. However, his essay "Interpretive Implications of Using Bible-Search Software for New Testament Grammatical Analysis" remains a must-read, IMO, for anyone interested in the rigorous study of the Greek New Testament with the aid of computer tools, despite the fact than most of the programs he mentions in the test cases have been vastly improved over the years.

February 15, 2004

Features versus Content

There's no doubt that Bible software has become increasingly complex, with lots of "bells and whistles" that many users are likely to underuse, or misuse (or both!). This problem is here to stay, I'm afraid. And there is a very simple reason for it: either most people just don't read the user manuals or, even worse than that, very often there is no manual to read! And I don't mean a nice online help (that should be taken for granted), but the traditional, old-fashioned, printed manual with step-by-step instructions and lots of screenshots. When I review software package I always value very highly the availability of a printed guide. To be able to print the help files or documents yourself is not quite the same, but it's better than nothing. Anyway, let's not get sidetracked!

At the heart of any Bible program there is always a more or less sophisticated electronic Bible concordance. This concordance may look and feel better, nicer or faster, but at the end of the day it's a concordance after all! So, the point is that a concordance won't be of much use unless we have an appropriate set of databases to concord. And here is where the quality of the contents comes into play. Companies spend quite a bit of their resources developing neat graphical user interfaces and "wow" features (and rightly so, I hasten to add). But the key to usefulness and accuracy lies in what happens behind the scenes. To get a machine-readable text (MRT) is a relatively easy task. To tag a text is a very involved and time-consuming one.

John J. Hughes, in his milestone work Bits, Bytes & Biblical Studies (Zondervan, 1987, p. 496), defines tagging like this:

Tagging is the process of attaching descriptive codes to words. Those codes, or tags, may consist of any information - textual, morphological, syntactical, or semantic - that is to be associeated with a particular word or form.

Therefore, tags typically include anything from Strong's or Goodrick-Kohlenberger's numbers (in English texts), to full morphological and grammatical details (in Greek and Hebrew texts). The more information that is tagged to a given database or corpus, the better. But more coded information also means more grunt work, and a greater chance for errors to creep in. Tagging is a very costly job, but it's an essential part of developing good software packages.

Does this mean we have to underplay the functionality of a Bible program? Not at all! But features and sheer search power will be rendered meaningless unless we can rely on good, coded databases ready to be searched at different levels (as many levels as the number of descriptive codes available).

In sum, I believe we have a debt of gratitude with the people who are working so hard, often without proper financing or recognition, in order to develop those tagged texts that make our lives so much easier.

February 16, 2004

Where to Start Reading about Bible Software (II)

As a follow-up to my previous comments on this matter, I would like to recommend another useful online reference: Your Online Guide to Bible Reference Books & Software, by John R. Kohlenberger III. It's a more general resource, centered around Zondervan's own resources, but worth checking out nevertheless, particularly the section on Bible Study Software.

[Ed.] The link is no longer available. Sorry about that.

Of Dangers, Pitfalls and Fallacies

One of the books I end up recommending again and again is D. A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies (Baker, 1996 - 2nd. ed.) We can hardly deny the need for careful exegesis these days, when so much wishy-washy preaching and teaching seems to be in vogue. And I say this because Bible software is a great thing, but it needs to be handled with care. Cars are great tools, but I just saw one bumping into another on my way home today... So, watch out!

A few years ago, Terry Taylor wrote a short article on Computers in Bible Teaching: Bible Study Software, where he warned against a number of traps to be avoided by people using Bible software. More recently, David Lang has written another interesting piece along the same lines: The Dangers of Bible Software. It may be old hat to many, but it is something worth reminding ourselves.

I can think of a few of these pitfalls to avoid off the top of my head. They relate to the use of Bible programs, but are in no way limited to it. Maybe we could build a more comprehensive list another day.

1. A very frequent thing that can happen to us when we use Bible software is that we reach a point where we can't see the forest for the trees. Terry Taylor calls it the "tunnel-vision trap". The need to stay in context, as David Lang also alerts us, is something we have to have clearly before us all the time. In this age of increasing specialization we must never lose sight of the larger picture.

2. We must also carefully avoid the cut-and-paste syndrome. This reminds me of the preacher who had jotted down the following remark in his sermon notes: "Weak point. Shout louder!". The equivalent to that would be the urge felt by some people to back up some particular point with tons of references taken from the myriads of electronic tools available nowadays (including Internet resources, of course). Terry Taylor's "laziness trap" and "verse dumping trap" would fall under this category. An off-shoot of this syndrome is the pitfall of plagiarism. Let's try to think things through for ourselves, and if we want to quote some interesting or witty sentence or paragraph, let's give credit where credit is due!

3. We have all heard that "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing". Well, it surely can in the field of Biblical languages. There was a thread on B-Greek a while back where members discussed at great length the danger of knowing just a little Greek. Bible software grants us access to the underlying original text of any given passage like never before, but getting to know how to perform word studies and other similar exercises will not turn us into Greek or Hebrew scholars overnight! As David Lang puts it, we must avoid the danger of becoming "gnostics" (or falling into the "Greek geek trap", in Terry Taylor's words).

4. Last, but not least, there's the danger of suffering from an information indigestion. This happens when we cannot process the huge amount of information we have at our disposal, and simply pile it up. Computers can retrieve information at great speeds, but it is up to us to analyze and reflect on it. Maybe one of our main problems is that we need time. After all, exegesis will never be an instant, ready-made, computer-generated product...

There was a quote I once read (not sure where it came from) that said: "With computers we can now misinterpret Scripture at speeds never before possible". Well, I think whoever said it got the point across pretty nicely. I'm not a pessimist, and I firmly believe in the advantages of using new technology, but we would do well to keep our eyes wide open in order to avoid, to the best of our ability, some of these traps in the course of our study. BTW, If you want to share more dangers and pitfalls, by all means do!

February 17, 2004

Microsoft Strikes Again!

I've recently learned of the problems Silver Mountain Software has been going through as a result of Microsoft's pressure, er... I mean concerns. You can read all about it here. John Baima has just announced that the new Bible Windows update is now known as Bibloi 8.0. Apart from other improvements, the main new feature is the ability to import texts into the program. Users will now be able to import texts in a number of formats, including "Online Bible translations, Beta Code texts, plain text files, and texts from the Unbound Bible Project".

Quotable Quote

I thought you might enjoy this quote from John J. Hughes' Bits, Bytes & Biblical Studies (Zondervan, 1987, p. 5):

A computer can do nothing unless its task is explicitly defined not only in a logical fashion but in a way that turns every step of the task into a logical operation that the machine can perform by using its logic circuits. Computers do everything "by the book." They never operate intuitively. They do not know how to take shortcuts. They are not creative. You cannot delegate a task to them and expect them to figure out how to do it, unless that ability has been designed into the program the computer is running. Computers are tireless, perfectly obedient, incredibly fast, and never bored, but they are stupid. They cannot even tell you the time of day unless you have given them a program that instructs them in a step-by-step way how to do that. Computers have prodigious memories and powerful brains, but they have no minds."

Hughes' work has been out of print for a long time, but this little paragraph is certainly as applicable today as it was when it was first penned. I would add one thing: Computers never make mistakes, but programmers and users do! After all, making mistakes is an inherently human trait.

February 19, 2004

More on Interviews

I have heard back from a few of the people whom I emailed the survey. Some of them will be sending theirs in at a later date. Some others I haven't heard from yet. Whatever the case, it is impossible to hear from everybody. So I've decided to share some links that may be of interest to those who like to put "faces to names", even though sometimes there might not be any photos available! Here goes the first one:

You can find out more about Roy Brown, President of OakTree Software, by reading an online interview by Terri Lackey here, or by dowloading the PDF version (article found on pages 10-11).

Philo and the New Testament

It came as a nice surprise to me that Kåre Fuglseth, co-blogger of Philo of Alexandria blog had undertaken the job to compare all the Greek words in Philo and the NT in one of his books. I was intrigued about the approach/method he had taken, since he explicitly mentioned "personal computers", so I left him a comment. Yesterday he kindly sent me a short note in which he says: "I have used HyperCard for Macintosh. At the time it was the only program that could sort 430,000 cards (the Philonic corpus) in a Greek alphabetic order (or any order, autodefined)." So here's a good example of how computer tools can enhance our research.

February 20, 2004

Review of Bibloi 8.0?

Torrey Seland expresses his hope that either me or somebody else will get round to reviewing the latest version of Bibloi (formerly known as Bible Windows) from Silver Mountain Software. I will gladly take up the challenge if/when my upgrade arrives. If my mind serves me right, Bible Windows was the first program of its kind to offer Internet links to different sites of interest for Bible scholars and classicists from inside the application itself. This feature is now becoming available in other software packages. A step in the right direction, as I see it.

[Ed.] The review is now available.

March 3, 2004

Running Bible Software Under Emulation

One of the questions that people keep asking is how good is the emulation software currently available , and how do different Bible software packages perform when you run them under emulation. The answer is quite simple: If you want to run Mac-based Bible software on a PC get the free program Basilisk II. You can install up to Mac OS 8.1, although System 7.5 will do fine. It is fast and reasonably reliable. On the other hand, if you wish to run Windows-based Bible software on a Mac, you're... er... out of luck... Virtual PC isn't free, and it is painfully slow, no matter how much processing power and RAM you have (obviously, the more the better). Wintel users can run Mac-only applications on their PCs (yes, even on their production machines), whereas Mac users have a very difficult time running Windows-only applications on their Macintoshes.

Personally, I have BibleWorks - a truly fast program - running on my Mac, and it is barely usable. I also have Accordance running on my PC, and it just flies. Yeah, I know, it ain't fair, but that's the way it is. Short of using the "real thing", Mac emulation on Windows boxes IS an alternative (albeit limited to 68K-compatible applications - No PPC and no OS X!). Sadly, the same cannot be said the other way round. Only if you are desperate and really, really patient would I advice you to get a Windows emulation program for your Mac. And if you decide to do that, make sure to max out your RAM and install one of the less demanding incarnations of the Windows OS (e.g., Windows 98).

March 4, 2004

Free Demo of Accordance Available

OakTree Software has just announced that a new demo of Accordance (version 6.1) is available for downloading. The download includes a brand new PDF Tutorial that gives an overview of the program and its features. Notice that this demo runs on any Mac (System 7.1 or above) and also on PCs under emulation.

Bible Software and Papyrology

As many of you know, there has been some debate over the exact identification of certain Qumran fragments (most notably 7Q5). Ernest Muro has been involved in the exchange of scholarly arguments that has taken place at different points in the controversy. One of his pages, entitled "7Q6: Can the Computer be of any Help?", explains how he went about his study of these fragments of papyri with the aid of BibleWorks.

Back in 1999, I had an email exchange with Ernest Muro. I had been researching O'Callaghan's identification of 7Q5 as part of Mark's Gospel (a hypothesis that was also supported by Carsten Thiede) for almost a year, and was interested in using Bible software in order to work on different identifications. We ended up sharing a few searches and some insights. In his former website there was a very interesting article summarizing the results of his analysis. Unfortunately, it is no longer available, as far as I know. The only one I could find that deals with 7Q5 is found here. So what follows is a brief excerpt from our "conversation" on 7Q5:

Ernest Muro: Please let me know your opinions regarding 7Q5 and also regarding the use of BibleWorks in this regard.
Rubén Gómez: Well, my personal feeling after examining the evidence is that 7Q5 does not belong to the Gospel of Mark, but I am not very satisfied (let alone convicted) with many of the other proposed identifications (either Biblical or pseudoepigraphical). At this point I must confess I don't know where this little fragment comes from. Therefore I must suspend my final judgment until further elements come to light.
Concerning the computer searches, what I did was a search based not on the editio princeps, but rather on O'Callaghan's proposed emendations.
I tried an Advanced Search Engine (ASE) query - a new graphical interface available in version 4.0 - for the 7Q5 papyrus fragment identified by José O'Callaghan as Mark 6:52, 53. The query was the equivalent to writing <'KAI *6 *NNHS* *1 *QHSA*> on the Command Line, and the only match was Mark 6:53. There were no hits in the LXX. Incidentally, Accordance for Macintosh returned the same results.
Now, obviously, the point of this particular exercise was to search the GNT/LXX to find out whether there were any verses that met such criteria (provided, that is, that the identification of the letters was correct and the two textual variants proposed by O'Callaghan were right, i.e. DIAPERASANTES would have turned into TIAPERASANTES, and EPI THN GHN would had been left out).
Regarding your own search based on the editio princeps, BibleWorks does not return any exact matches (and textual emendations and stichometric considerations are always highly subjective anyway). So, I'm afraid we are left in the dark again. I think it would probably be quite interesting to perform a search based on the latest edition of the whole Thesaurus Linguae Graece (TLG) CD-ROM, but I do not have access to it.
Finally (...) O'Callaghan's latest book on the subject (1995, and not translated into English as far as I know) is quite interesting, and includes some mathematical studies on the probabilities of the 7Q5 belonging to Mark's Gospel. But, as I said at the outset, in my opinion, the evidence is still inconclusive, one way or the other.
Ernest Muro: I have added more details to my web site for 7Q5 (...) I have given an example of one of the searches that I performed with BibleWorks. The command line was ('*h kai t*).2(*nnh*) This resulted in 9 "hits", which are listed at the web site. Of these 9, Genesis 46:20 was the best by far. However, it is not a suitable identification for 7Q5.

For the record, let me repeat that this exchange took place in 1999, that I never managed to publish my research, and that I haven't made my mind up yet as to the exact identification of 7Q5, though I'm pretty sure it does not belong to Mark (or proto-Mark).

March 5, 2004

More on Emulation

One correspondent who uses PC Study Bible in Virtual PC comments that he finds it "...not as fast as I would like, but usable for study...". This, of course, brings up the question of how each one of us perceives the relative speed of the software, and what the threshold of our patience is. I'm afraid there will be as many answers as people you ask. In his review on Windows Software for Bible Study, H. Van Dyke Parunak has a whole section on Timing, where he says, among other things:

One of the most important characteristics of a Bible software package for me personally is searching speed. I often build searches incrementally, starting with a simple search, then refining it to narrow in on what I want. If each search takes more than a second or two, my thought process is interrupted. This experience is in line with research in computer interface design. A recognized authority on website design describes 0.1 second response as ideal, 1 second as maximum acceptable, and 10 seconds as likely to cause users to leave a site and look elsewhere. In one experiment, if a process lasted longer than 8.5 seconds, users assumed the computer had frozen and rebooted.

This is probably one of the areas where I find it difficult to agree with him a hundred per cent. Not that searching speed isn't important, but I am probably willing to wait a little bit if I like other important aspects of the package (important to me, that is! - see how much subjectivity comes into play?). After all, I don't think surfing the net is quite the same as waiting for a Bible search to be performed. Well, anyway, what is "usable" for someone will probably be considered "unusable" by somebody else.

Further to my previous entry on emulation, I should add that I run Virtual PC on a 600 MHz iBook with 640 MB RAM, and BibleWorks 5 running on Windows 98 is "barely usable", but usable still. As for Basilisk II, it runs on a 2,4 GH Pentium IV with 512 MB RAM, and Accordance 6.1.2 with Mac OS 7.5 runs very fast. Two caveats: I haven't tried BibleWorks 6 with VPC yet, and yes, the program would run better if I had a G4 (VPC is optimized for machines with G4 microprocessors). You're welcome to share your own results and experiences. On one thing we all seem to agree: Libronix Digital Library System, to name just one, cannot be used efficiently on a Mac.

March 9, 2004

Bible Companion

Apparently, Bible Companion Software as such is out of business. The website has been unavailable since late last year, and I have updated my links accordingly. I'd love to hear from Corey Spagnoli. Meanwhile, some "unofficial" information can be found here.

[Ed.] Sorry, the link is no longer active.

March 19, 2004

Perseus 2.0 On Sale

Dove Booksellers offers a limited quantity of copies of Perseus 2.0 (both the Complete and Concise edition) at reduced prices while supplies last. Here is a brief description of the product taken from DoveNews:

Named for the Hellenic hero who explored the world to its most distant reaches, Perseus is a remarkable, award-winning digital resource that is revolutionizing the study of ancient Greece by expanding the ways in which ancient Greek literature, history, art, and archaeology can be examined. Now available for the first time for PCs and Windows-based computers, Perseus has been widely praised as one of the most innovative educational tools ever published Perseus is the work of a collaborative team including philologists, historians, and archaeologists.

Perseus 2.0 is the most comprehensive collection of primary sources and supporting reference materials on ancient Greece ever created. It contains over 380 texts in Greek and in translation, representing all of the major authors of the classical period and others, extensive morphological tools, art and archaeology resources, and much more. Superb navigational tools and hypertextual links make searching this enormous resource quick, intuitive, and effective. This unparalleled program supports teaching and study in literature, art, history, and language and is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ancient world. Comprehensive EditionFour CD-ROMs contain the complete textual database, encyclopedia, lexicon, and atlas, plus the complete visual database of 25,000 full-screen images.

Concise EditionOne CD-ROM provides the complete textual database, encyclopedia, lexicon, and atlas with 5,200 full-screen images and an online catalogue of all 25,000 images in small format (1.3" x 1.1") for reference.

March 24, 2004

Recommended Link

Today I'd like to draw your attention to The SWORD Project, which I think is one of the most exciting open-source endeavors currently taking place. The CrossWire Bible Society is pursuing a number of projects, and their aim is "to produce a free, open-source, cross-platform Bible software engine: the SWORD API." I welcome the idea and personally feel it's got a great potential. I am finishing a review on MacSword (hope to post it soon!), which is the Mac OS X front-end for their search engine, and another one will follow on The Sword Project for Windows.

The whole thing works this way: different developers volunteer to build applications and graphical interfaces for the various platforms. Each application is OS-specific (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.), but it is based on the same search engine and the same collection of electronic texts. This has a number of advantages. Although I would not say any of the incarnations of the core engine that I've seen and used is a "finished" product yet (particularly if you compare them with the commercial packages -- or even some of the more sophisticated freeware/software alternatives), we'll have to follow future enhancements very closely. It does look promising.

March 25, 2004

Logos Wiki

Logos what?! If that is your first reaction you definitely need to read the Wiki Getting Started Faq and the Wiki Wiki Web Faq. Logos has launched a Logos wiki. According to Bob Pritchett, "It's an open, freely editable web site where anyone can contribute and add content." A longer general description goes like this:

Wiki is a discussion medium, a repository, a mail system, and a chat room! It's a tool for collaboration. In fact, we don't really know what it is, but try it and explore some links - it's a fun way to communicate! The concept may seem weird at first, but you will come to love it! The name 'Wiki' may seem strange too -- what does it mean, and where does it come from? The WikiWikiWebFaq answers this and other questions, but the short answer is that "wiki-wiki" is Hawaiian for "quick". Watch the pages grow and refine here; watch the discussions that surround the process. Watch information automagically crystallize before your eyes!

Whatever it is, it is available to users of Logos Bible Software, and should prove to be an interesting collaborative effort. Hey, man, this is Internet at its best!

March 26, 2004

Accordance on Windows

Following my previous entries on emulation here and here, this link will give you all the information and help you need to get your Accordance for Macintosh up and running on your Wintel box.

March 27, 2004

New e-Sword Add-ons

As no doubt many of you know, e-Sword is a freeware/donationware Bible software program for Windows. Unlike other products, the application and all the available texts can be downloaded from the website for free (although you can get a CD containing most of the material in exchange for a small donation). The number and quality of modules available is worthy of note. Besides, there are three add-ons that can currently be bought at a reasonable price: The New American Standard Bible Study Set (including Updated NASB, Updated NASB with Strong's numbers, and Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries from the NAS Exhaustive Concordance), The Amplified Bible, and The Complete Word Study Dictionary (Old and New Testament) by Spiros Zodhiates. These last two items have just been made available this month.

March 29, 2004

Just How Important is a Printed Manual?

Not so long ago, Bible software packages (in fact most software packages) included a printed user manual. Today, the vast majority of software companies do not publish any manual at all. Supposedly it's all found in the online Help so, they say, there is no need to duplicate efforts. I could give you dozens of examples, but let's take just one:

Zondervan states that "in the interest of being environmentally responsible, there is no print manual with this software", in reference to their Bible Study Library line of products. And then they add, "The entire manual is included under the Help Menu in the program. You are welcome to print it from there if you desire." I beg your pardon! Do you mean to say that you want to be "environmentally responsible" but that it is okay if I, the user, spend hundreds of pages of paper and a good bit of ink printing the online help? Doesn't seem to make much sense to me! I know that different people have different tastes and study habits, but I for one deeply regret the fact that most Bible software vendors (with some notable exceptions!) are no longer providing detailed printed manuals. I can think of a good number of reasons why printed manuals are valuable:

a) Reading from a book is a lot easier on your eyes than reading from your screen, particularly when you reach a certain age ;-)
b) Most online helps aren't very complete anyway, to say the least. While ideally a printed manual should be comprehensive.
c) Printed manuals should offer, IMO, a good deal of information about the tagging/hypertexting philosophy that's being followed, as well as the rationale of the search engine (i.e., why do we get the results we get when we do what we do). d) Considering the price of most commercial applications, expecting to receive a manual seems quite reasonable.
e) I like reading books... Any problem with that? ;-))
f) There are many more, no doubt, but I have to go now...

And yes, the fact that many users don't bother to read the manual (any manual) and keep calling or writing tech support doesn't mean that manuals are useless. In fact, reading a good manual will go a long way towards mastering any software and overcoming the much-feared "learning curve".

March 31, 2004

Building Vocabulary Stats of Synoptics and John

I was looking at some interesting tables on John's vocabulary at this site. In it, the author, Dale Loepp, compares John's use of certain words related to the family with the total number of occurrences in the NT and each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). But what really hit me was the thought of how easy it is to get all those results in a very short time with some of today's Bible software programs. I happened to be browsing the net with my Mac, so I fired up Accordance and opened a search window set to Words with the Greek NT in it. I then chose [All text] as the search field (NT would have also been fine), and duplicated that same window four times. Next, I changed the search fields of those four windows to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, respectively. All that I needed to do before running the search was to link all five windows (by using the LINK command in the last four). The whole operation took slightly over a minute (maybe less), and I was all set to do the searching. I just wrote ἀγαπάω, pressed the Enter key, and in the blinking of an eye each window showed the results (143 times in the NT, 8 in Matthew, 5 in Mark, 13 in Luke, and 37 in John).

Getting a detail of the references in John was simply a mouse-click away with the Concordance feature, as were many other statistical and analytical tools. I thought I could make regular use of this particular layout, so I saved the session. Now, whenever I want to see the distribution of some Greek word across the NT, the Synoptics and John, all I have to do is write the term in one window and click OK. Yes, a single search is all you need! FYI, I could have used a Workspace (i.e., one window) with five tabs, but in this particular case I preferred the "clutter", so that I could see all the numbers at a glance (or maybe I was just too lazy to use Control-Tab or Shift-Control-Tab to cycle through open tabs?).

Incidentally, the data offered for the word ἀδελφός (26-3-5-3-6) is wrong. The right figures are as follows: 343 hits in the NT, 39 in Matthew, 20 in Mark, 24 in Luke and 14 in John. I'll let you find the refs. in John's Gospel all by yourselves :-)

April 1, 2004

More on Vocabulary Statistics

Further to my previous blog entry, I should point out that this type of research is a piece of cake for the main commercial packages that include a morphologically tagged Greek NT, though not all of them are equally flexible or intuitive. More on that when the reviews are ready.

For instance, in Libronix DLS you have to open Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament with Gramcord's morphological database and search for ἀγαπάω (just click the Search button and it will open the Morphological Bible Search dialog). Once you get the 143 occurrences in the Search Results window, click on the Graph Bible Search Results link, under Other Tools, and you'll see the breakdown by book (make sure you choose Number of Hits in Book on the Graph drop-down list. You can also view the Bible references by clicking the Export results to Verse List option (back in the Search Results window). The concordance is automatically built if you have selected the option Hits in Context under Current View.

To get the same results in BibleWorks, you need to choose either BNM (NA27 with Morphology) or GNM (UBS4 with Friberg's Morphology) as your search version and run the search for ἀγαπάω (i.e., enter the word on the Command Line and hit Enter or Return). You'll find the full concordance in the Verse Listbox (if you have chosen the Verse Listbox + Text or Show Entire Verse options) right there on the Command Center. To get the breakdown by book, click on the Display Detailed Statistics button (or the equivalent menu item under Tools) and there you have a plot showing the figures (provided you have the What to plot drop-down list set to Number of hits in the book). If you want to keep the references, right-click on the Verse Listbox and select Open Verse List Manager. From there you'll be able to import the entire verse list.

As for the method I outlined yesterday, David Lang makes a comment suggesting an even easier and more straightforward way of doing things with Accordance. The fact that it can be done in different ways (though not necessarily obtaining the same data, as you can read in my reply here) comes to show that there are different ways (but not always!) to approach and solve a given problem. There may not be a single right answer, and that's when the software should ideally adapt itself to the different needs and tastes of each type of user. The fact is that most top-notch programs have more than one way of performing common everyday tasks. You just have to find which one best suits your own way of doing things.

New BibleWorks User Forums Open!

Current BibleWorks users, as well as potential users, will be glad to hear that a new series of web-based forums have been launched. BibleWorks User Forums will take over from the old BW Listserv.

April 3, 2004

More on the Importance of Printed Manuals

Jim Davila interacts with my entry on the importance of printed manuals, adding a few more reasons why he feels they are indeed valuable:

(g) If you're carrying around a device - say, a digital camera - you can easily enough carry around a printed manual too, but not a manual that only comes in a computer.

(h) Even if it's a laptop you're carrying around, the online manual (where the really useful information usually is) can only be accessed if you can find an Internet connection.

(i) If your computer isn't working, it's pretty hard to consult the manual to see if you can sort out the problem when the manual is only accessible on the working machine.

Software companies are being lazy and cheap, not "environmentally responsible."

Actually, regarding point (h), let me make clear that when I talked about "online help" I was referring to "onscreen help". Nevertheless, it is true that some companies are introducing help systems that require you to have a live Internet connection. Therefore, I think Jim's point is still valid. Anybody else got a few more reasons to add to the list?

April 6, 2004

Where are All Those Hits Coming from?

There are a zillion reasons why different Bible programs may return different results when we run the exact same search. One of them is the way the search engine counts the hits that are being found. For instance, in an AND-type search we could assume that the total number of hits will match the number of search terms (e.g., what AND are AND you AND doing would amount to 4 hits). However, not being an exact search (i.e., the literal string "what are you doing"), there can be more than one occurrence of any of those words in a given verse. This would be the case, for example, in Exodus 18:14 (NIV). The result would then be 7 hits (or matches, if you like - even though we would still have the same 4 different forms). But there is another way of counting, and that is computing hits by permutation. In such case, that verse in Exodus would only return 6 hits (i.e., all the possible combinations of each search term found in the verse). To put it another way, you multiply the number of hits of each separate word and get the amount of permutions.

So, next time you run a search, make sure you know how hits are counted or else you may be in for a little surprise. And how are you supposed to know? Well, THEY should tell you. This is just one of the reasons why user manuals should be really comprehensive.

April 8, 2004

Links of interest

Internet links are difficult to keep up with. They seem to be in a continuous state of flux, and when you really need them, they are gone! Anyway, here are some links you won't find at Bible Software Review, but I thought they would be appropriate for the weblog.

The first one comes from WEMTC (the West of England Ministerial Training Course) website, which includes a section on Bible Software Recommendations.

This one is an excerpt of a fuller review written by Randy Leedy, featured in the Newsletter of the United Bible Societies Translation Information Clearinghouse. In it, the author compares morphological searches performed with two academic Bible software packages. I like his concluding remarks on the value of using multiple programs, but I recommend you read the whole piece:

At one point I had the natural desire to find the one best Bible software package. I have since come to realize that there is no such thing and that it is not likely that there ever will be. And even if there were a program that in every point of functionality stood head and shoulders above the rest, complex searches when important issues are at stake ought to be checked against some other source for a second opinion. Differences in search algorithms and database details will always generate differences in results that the user will profit from analyzing. And the more complex one's search requirements, the more important it is to get a second opinion, because the more likely it is that any one program has erred at some point. BW has a certain amount of "second opinion" built into its New Testament package in the form of its two completely different databases (Friberg and BW's own tagging that makes it possible to use the LXX and GNT together). Serious scholars should learn to use both of these databases profitably. Further, BW actually has two search engines: the Command Line and the ASE. These two search engines, though they share some programming code, do not always return identical results. But an even more radically different search engine is needed for adequate cross-checking, and only GRAMCORD provides a sufficiently powerful alternative. Furthermore, besides the problems within each program that may be uncovered by using the other, the user often errs in his thinking about how to formulate a search, and being forced to reformulate it for another search engine or another database can bring these faults to the surface. It is also easy, when building a search query, to overlook small but crucial details like punctuation settings; most likely the search in the other program will have different settings in these areas, or the user will not forget them, and comparing the results will reveal the user's initial mistake. The prospect of paying for and learning to use multiple programs is not attractive; however, the prospect of significant flaws in one's research because of the limitations imposed by the use of only one is less attractive yet.

The last one is not exactly an Internet link, but a reference: Vern S. Poythress, "Greek Lexicography And Translation: Comparing Bauer's And Louw-Nida's Lexicons," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44.2 (2001): 285-296. If you have access to this article (available in electronic form as part of the Theological Journal Library CD for Windows or Macintosh), read it! It offers an insightful comparison of two of the most relevant tools available in academic Bible software: BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature) and Louw-Nida (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains). I'm afraid he falls into the trap of trying to compare apples with oranges (read "form" and "function" - you'll recall that we've hinted at the different purposes and uses of tagged morphologies before, for example here), but it's a good read anyway.

April 12, 2004

SBL articles

Jim Davila of PaleoJudaica.com notes a couple of interesting articles published on the SBL website and includes some excerpts. I recommend both, but the one by Robert A. Kraft, entitled How I Met the Computer, and How it Changed my Life, will probably be of greater interest to the readers of this blog, given the role he has played in the early stages of the whole field of computer-assisted Bible studies. For the full article, go here.

April 14, 2004

The Man and the Mind Behind the Numbers

I have always marveled at the work of James H. Strong (1822-1894), well-known author of the Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. I think he was a true forerunner of electronic Bible concordances. Sean Boisen has a nice piece about him at Blogos, called James Strong, IT Heavyweight. I recommend it. Here is a brief excerpt:

The author of Strong's Exhaustive Concordance was serious about data long before anybody had conceived of Information Technology as an occupation. My print version of Strong's has 1390 pages of small font, three-column excerpts from Bible verses, indexed by each and every single word in the King James Version. Even function words like "the" are included, though they're presented in a compressed format that just references the verse (10 pages for "the" in an 18-column format!). (...) i've been impressed at Strong's intuitive grasp of the value of structured data, even though in a pre-computer era he could only express it via typography.

Apart from being omnipresent in just about every Bible software program, you can find a complete online version (KJV with Strong's numbers and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries) here. Note that the New Testament includes the unaccented Textus Receptus as well.

April 15, 2004

Fancy Some Links?

Here you have a couple of links that may be of interest:

Bible Study Software: What's Right for You?, by David Alan Rech. Online edition of a Biblical Archaeology Review article on five different packages for Windows. (Some of the links don't seem to work, but the content of the article is fully accesible).[Ed.] Apparently, the link is no longer available.

The Westminster Hebrew Institute (WHI). This page offers quite a bit of information about different projects under development (most of them centered around the electronic text of the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia), and offers a list of the Bible software products that include the Westminster Hebrew Morphology.

April 21, 2004

Online Bible Forum

There is a new Online Bible Forum run by the Official Web Site of North America. I have added the link to my section on Bible Software User Groups.

April 22, 2004

Project Watch: The Fairhaven Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible

Logos has announced the creation of a new publishing imprint: Fairhaven Bible Reference Series. The first title to appear under this imprint will be a brand new Hebrew-English interlinear Bible. This work has been commissioned by Logos and is being developed exclusively for Logos Bible Software Series X. Looks like a major project, and is the clear sign of a new direction for the company. You can read the full press release or find more details and screenshots here. Here are some brief excerpts describing the project:

The first new Hebrew-English interlinear Bible to be published in 17 years is being created by a team of the world's top Hebrew scholars specifically for Logos Bible Software Series X (...) The Fairhaven Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible is a new breed of interlinear, designed for electronic reference and based on the latest linguistic research. Rather than present a single gloss for each Hebrew word, it will take advantage of the digital medium and offer multiple layers of English glosses that reflect the complexity of biblical Hebrew language structure. The goal of this "grid" approach is to provide interlinear translations at the lexical, word, phrase and clause level, as well as a wide range of annotations (...) The Fairhaven Bible Reference Series imprint will be placed on select titles as they are created, and a few existing titles will be added to the series. All titles published under the imprint will be commissioned by Logos and scholarly in nature.

Update (July 15): This product is now offered as a Pre-publication Special. Additional information (including a screenshot of an early prototype) can be found here.

More on Gospel Statistics

Stephen Carlson of Hypotyposeis interacts with my previous comments on some of his blog entries on the statistical use of certain words in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. He says that he's not out to establish some sort of literary dependence, and adds:

the purpose of my exercise, however, is somewhat more preliminary to that question, which is to begin to set up some criteria for distinguishing words that are actually more relatively frequent from those that are apparently so due to our limited samplings of the vocabulary of each of the evangelists.

I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, that's how I view the relevance of the use of statistical studies of that nature. They are good at showing us the choice of words the authors/redactors have made in order to best suit the points they are trying to get across. IMO, vocabulary has a lot more - or at least as much - to do with subject matter than with any kind of dependence (which obviously has taken place anyway and should certainly be kept in mind!) It goes without saying that the subject matter of the Gospels is similar, but the outlook, theological emphases, etc. aren't. That's why, me thinks, there are peculiarities (known as Mattheanisms, Lukanisms, and so on).

As for my "subtle" invitation to share a bit about the tools used in his study, he has clearly gone beyond the call of duty. He used Bibloi and a custom made C program. I would recommend you to read the whole blog entry.

Finally, Stephen has added my weblog to his blogroll. Much obliged!

April 24, 2004

Synoptic Concordance

This afternoon I was looking at some material on the Synoptic Gospels, and came across the Synoptic Concordance: A Greek Concordance to the First Three Gospels in Synoptic Arrangement: Statistically Evaluated, Including Occurences in Acts, 4 vols. by Paul Hoffmann, Thomas Hieke, and Ulrich Bauer (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1999-2000). It is a massive work, with a price tag that takes away your breath. There is more information here, some more in PDF format here, and a sample page here. This is how Thomas Hieke, one of the authors, describes the work:

Under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Paul Hoffmann, this research project was undertaken by Dr. Thomas Hieke, and by Dr. Ulrich Bauer, who developed the necessary computer programs. After preliminary planning and experimentation, financed by the University of Bamberg, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft has supported the project since 1996. The Synoptic Concordance is a new research tool for the analysis of the first three Gospels, in that it presents an extensive mass of data that facilitates in a major way their literary and linguistic analysis. The advantages of a concordance are combined with those of a synopsis: Each occurrence of a word in the synoptic Gospels, along with a swath of text that provides its context, is displayed in three columns. The effect is that one not only sees the occurrences of a certain word in one Gospel, but also the parallels in the other two Gospels. Prior to the availability of this new scholarly tool, it was necessary first to check the concordance for the occurrences of a certain word, then to look up one by one each reference in a synopsis, and, finally, to take notes, before moving to the next entry in the concordance, and so on. However, by means of the Synoptic Concordance one has in view the whole synoptic situation at one time. One can see all differences and agreements at a glance, so as to compare the first three Gospels regarding their diverging terminology and syntax. In terms of the Two Document Hypothesis, one can see, for example, how Matthew or Luke takes over and changes his Markan source, or how they differ in the redaction of their Q text.

Since these volumes are fairly recent, and given the fact that "the necessary computer programs" were developed ad hoc, I wonder if it's ever going to be available in electronic format. I cannot comment on the quality of the Concordance (I once read that Stephen Carlson had bought a copy of the first volume, and surely most theological libraries must have copies of it), but this is just the kind of work that would lend itself nicely to electronic use... Any takers (at a reasonable price!)?

April 25, 2004

Interface versus Data

Sean Boisen recently announced the release of a semantic knowledge base called New Testament Names. It basically consists of a multilevel categorization of almost every name that appears in the NT, including a whole grid of relationships between them.

Since this is not really an application geared to end-users, but rather a structured data (best viewed with editors like Protege), I did not comment on it initially. However, yesterday he blogged about a prototype graphical interface, under the name of NT Names Explorer, that he is hoping to develop for it. This in itself is good news, but there's a comment that caught particularly my attention, since it is something I have been giving some thought to lately:

Of course, data isn't all that exciting (unless you're a serious geek). I could make a good argument that, in the long run, the data is actually much more valuable than individual applications (and i hope to get around to writing that argument down one of these days), and it's arguably much harder to come by as well. But most people can still appreciate a good application more than the data behind it, though of course the data is what makes the application possible. The best evidence of this is the NT Hyper-concordance. This continues to be the one thing on SemanticBible that brings most people around (according to the server logs), even though the data behind it is a pretty minor transformation of an OSIS-formatted New Testament text.

I think he's got a point here. When most people think about a Bible program, they do it in terms of the interface, not the data. I'm afraid we won't be able to change that. In a day and age where even Linux has taken on a friendly face (e.g., KDE, Gnome), we all (and that includes me!) expect to work with an appealing and intuitive graphical user interface. This is not bad in and of itself -- after all, we cannot expect every user to be a computer geek! -- but we must never lose sight of the fact that the "bells and whistles" of a user interface are not necessarily a mark of the quality of the data contained in the program. I am all for nice and advanced interfaces, but data must come first. Without good data, everything else will be a waste of time. However, having said that, I think it is fair to expect that quality data will be matched by an equally well-designed and visually pleasant graphical user interface. Software developers face the challenge of having to strike the balance between the two. Do give us some attractive, easy to use (yet powerful) interfaces, but don't forget to pay special attention to the content you offer. Will you do that for us? Please? Meanwhile, Sean, I will be looking forward to that article on the value of the data...and to the finished NT Names Explorer.