Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Bible Software in Action

Published: December 9th, 2009

The proof of the cake is in the eating, right? Right. Similarly, Bible software is certainly at its best when one can actually see its many practical applications. Here are some samples you may want to look at.

Mike Heiser explains some of the kinds of searches that can be performed with Logos’ syntactical databases. A few of the examples are geared towards scholars, while others are suited for more general uses. There are also short videos on how the searches were carried out.

David Lang points to a practical use of the INFER command in Accordance. He includes a download link to Robert Marineau’s paper presented at the past ETS meeting held in New Orleans, LA.

Rick Bennet, talks about how to use Accordance to search for nomina sacra in early papyri, and Tommy Wasserman, over at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog, shares his own experience in conducting searches like these.

Glenn Weaver, in one of his excellent Classroom Tips, shows how to search for Hebrew weak verbs with BibleWorks. You may recall that this was one of the challenges posed at the SBL Bible software shootout session.

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On Choosing Which Bible Software to Use

Published: December 7th, 2009

It seems to me that Karyn Traphagen has opened a can of worms, and I mean that in a positive sense. Her question is, Should Schools or Students Choose Bible Software?

In my view, every school and every student should be free to choose, provided the software package in question is suitable for academic purposes. Schools should teach students how to use the tools of the trade, not tell them what tool to use (when there are comparable tools available, that is). Yes, this means more work for instructors –who would necessarily have to be acquainted with more than one program–, but it would also mean that students can learn the big picture about computer-assisted study and enrich one another when actually trying to apply those general rules to their particular brand of advanced Bible software.

And in case you worry about the additional burden of requiring computer skills from your students, instead of focusing on more biblical and theological matters, keep in mind that in many European institutions you need to learn a second modern language to get a degree, and it is taken for granted that you will know that language (and pass the exam!) by the time you graduate, without actually taking any classes at that particular seminary or university. Similarly, computer skills should probably be taken for granted, at least in Western countries. Let  professors worry about their own computer skills and command of different Bible software packages. Students will do just fine.

I personally like having different choices, and therefore, in my view, the decision should be yours and only yours. But whatever decision you make, make sure it is an informed decision and don’t let others do the thinking for you!

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An Obsolete Competition?

Published: November 24th, 2009

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:

1. Syntax

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.

2. Books

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.

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SBL Bible Software Shootout

Published: November 24th, 2009

Last Saturday, a Bible Software Shootout session was held at the SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA. Participants were (in order of appearance) Logos, SESB, BibleWorks, Accordance and Olive Tree. If you are like me, you would have loved to attend. Sadly, I couldn’t be there. Still, modern day technology does help us to get the big picture via tweets, blog posts and so on.

So, what happened? Karyn Traphagen compiled a list of tweets by people who attended the session over at Boulders 2 Bits, whereas Rick Mansfield wrote a more comprehensive post on his This Lamp blog, and, more recently, Mike Heiser gave us his take on it. We can expect to read reports by David Lang at the Accordance Blog shortly (it’s here actually), and I heard that the Olive Tree Blog will be carrying info on the session too (right here). At this point I don’t know if we will read anything from BibleWorks.

These were the five challenges each presenter had to address:

1. Give the parsing of a word and its meaning from a standard source.

2. Show all the occurrences of a word in the NT and LXX and show the Hebrew word which corresponds with the Greek in the LXX (if there is a correspondence).

3. Find all the occurrences of oi de in Matthew’s gospel followed by a finite verb within the clause.

4. I want to study a part of speech, e. g., demonstrative pronouns or interjections. How do I get all of the lemmas for that part of speech, get all the occurrences of those lemmas, and the results organized in such a way that I could write an article/monograph on that part of speech from the data?

5. I want to study the inflections of the Hebrew middle weak verb, and I want to see what the range of possible variations is for each of the conjugations (perfect, imperative, etc.) person, number, gender, and stem. This means I need to find all the middle weak verbs, find all their occurrences, and organize them in such a way that the variation of their inflections are immediately apparent. The goal of the data organization would be to allow me to write an article about the variations of the Hebrew middle weak verb.

Everybody seems to agree on the fact that all packages were able to solve the problems posed, except for Olive Tree, (but that is understandable given the current limitations of mobile devices and their OSes in certain areas). It is also acknowledged that it was stimulating to learn about the different solutions adopted by each one of the “contenders.”

And that’s the end of the agreement. If you want to know who won this shootout –where no one got hurt–, you’re out of luck. It depends on who you listen to. I’m always amazed at how sensitive this whole area of Bible software comparative reviews/presentations is. If you read the different comments and reactions to posts here and there you will soon realize that, for the most part, people tend to be rather defensive when exposed to software packages other than the one they are most familiar with, and very few dare to “think outside the box.”

If someone recorded the SBL session on video it would be great to know. Failing that, it would be nice to be able to access the content of each presentation so that everyone could draw his/her own conclusions about the pros and cons of each program. Don’t you think?

Update: Accordance handout can be downloaded from this page. Olive Tree’s presentation can also be downloaded here (PDF file).

Tony Cartledge, who attended the session, blogs on the shootout here.

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More Online Reviews

Published: August 4th, 2009

I am extremely busy on various fronts, so I can do little else than point you to some recent reviews you may want to check.

Accordance 8 — A Review, by Keith Mathison, over at the Lingonier Ministries blog. Also, Rick Mansfield has published a screencast (updated shortly afterward here), comparing the new Speed Search feature in Logos for Mac with Accordance.

BibleWorks 8 — A Review, by Keith Mathison, and BibleWorks Review by Weston Williams.

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Getting Behind the English Text – III

Published: June 10th, 2009

After introducing the subject in Part I and Part II, it is time to see how this all works in real life.

Let me emphasize that the ability provided by some Bible software programs to search a Bible tagged with Strong’s numbers is important for a number of reasons (despite other opinions).

First of all, it allows us to search on English and Hebrew/Greek words at the same time. Thus, it is possible to find “master” only when it is a translation of the Greek term κύριος (Strong’s number 2962). This automatically excludes from the search any verse where “master” is used to translate another Greek word (δεσπότης, διδάσκαλος, ῥαββί, and so on).

It also gives us the opportunity to study how different translations have decided to render a particular word or sentence in a given context. This gives us a hint about the different translation philosophy (literal, dynamic, etc.) followed in each particular case.

It is also noteworthy that words without a corresponding Strong’s number (i.e., “untagged”) have their importance. Many of these are often understood or implied in the original, or else are simply supplied in the modern language translation for stylistic reasons.

Using Boolean operators, mixed phrases (that is, Strong’s numbers combined with English words) and wild cards can greatly enhance these types of searches and allow for a greater amount of flexibility.

Having said that, do keep in mind the caveats I have mentioned in my previous posts. In this regard, you might want to check David Lang’s series of posts “Contra Strongnosticism” (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Today I would like to focus on the implementation of Strong’s searches in Accordance 8.2.3, BibleWorks 8 and Logos Bible Software 3.0f. These three high-end programs can do pretty much anything we require them to do.

In the table below I have listed a sample of searches and the different syntax used by each one of the programs. I have limited the examples to text searches, although there are alternate ways to build these kinds of searches in a graphical environment.

Accordance BibleWorks Logos* Search
[KEY g2962]@-lord [email protected] greekstrongs=g2962 NOTEQUALS lord Strong’s #2962 not translated as “lord”
[KEY g2962]@-lord* .!lord*@2962 greekstrongs=2962 NOTEQUALS lord* Strong’s #2962 not translated as “lord*”
[KEY g2962]@lords [email protected] greekstrongs=2962 ANDEQUALS lords Strong’s #2962 when translated as “lords”
[KEY g2962]@lord* AND [KEY g2962]@-lord*
.lord*@2962 !lord*@2962 (greekstrongs=2962 ANDEQUALS lord*) AND (greekstrongs=2962 NOTEQUALS lord* Instances of Strong’s #2962 translated as “lord” and the same number translated with a different English word
m?n[KEY g444]@-lord [email protected] m?n ANDEQUALS greekstrongs=444 “Man” or “men” when they translate Strong’s #444
*@[KEY g44] *[KEY g435] (/*@444 *@435).!(*@444 *@435) (greekstrongs=444 OR greekstrongs=435) NOT (greekstrongs=444 AND greekstrongs=435) Strong’s #444 or #435, no matter how they are translated, but not both
[KEY h3068] of [KEY h6635] ‘*@03068 of *06635 hebrewstrongs=3068 of hebrewstrongs=6635 The phrase variously translated in English versions as “Lord of hosts,” “God of hosts,” etc.

* In Logos one can use “@” instead of ANDEQUALS and “[email protected]” in place of NOTEQUALS. Other search symbols are also accepted (“&” – AND, “|” – OR, “!” – NOT, for example). On a side note, in order to get Logos to return roughly the same results as Accordance and BibleWorks, the syntax shown here has to be tweaked. Thus, unless term modifiers like nostem, marks, etc. are used, results will generally be way too broad due to stemming.

Accordance never displays Strong’s numbers in the Bible window. All the related information (number, English translation, original language word and English transliteration) appears in the Instant Details box instead when the mouse rests on a tagged word. To set up a search, Hebrew numbers must be preceded by an “H” and Greek numbers by a “G.” This is not necessary, of course, if we run the search by right-clicking or control-clicking a tagged text. On the other hand, by opening an original language text in parallel with a Bible keyed with Strong’s numbers, the original text will highlight as we move the cursor on the corresponding English term.

If using the NASB, Logos includes a somewhat similar feature whereby right-clicking on the English text one can navigate to the associated Greek word (in NA27), but it is not highlighted automatically.

BibleWorks can display Strong’s numbers inline (right after the word it is attached to) or hide them altogether, and offers the ability to do studies of word groups “associated” with a particular Strong’s number when the option “Extend <> Tags to All Words” is on. As for typing searches, a zero must precede OT numbers, and no prefix is needed for NT numbers. I should also say that BW can run cross-language searches (but only with the Graphical Search Engine [GSE]) and automatically highlight all the occurrences in both the English and Greek (or Hebrew text). Thus, we could easily find verses with Strong’s number 435 when it has been translated as “husband*” and the Greek version has some form of ἀνήρ.

Accordance can do that with two windows linked by the [CONTENTS] command. As for Logos, the way to do it is via a Reverse Interlinear, by writing the search syntax greekstrongs=435 ANDEQUALS husband AND lemma: ανηρ in a Bible Search window.

Logos can display Strong’s numbers inline, in an interlinear format (below the English text), or hide it from one’s view. A nice touch is the fact that when there is more than a single search term, each one of them is highlighted with a different color.

Further reading:

For a slightly outdated but still relevant article on the various ways to work with Strong’s numbers with Mac-based Bible software, see Getting the Bible’s Numbers, by David Lang.

To know more about how to work with Strong’s numbers in BibleWorks, check out the appropriate Study Guide from within BW8.

Finally, Logos has two recent blog posts on how to use Strong’s numbers, here and here.

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Logos Forums

Published: June 10th, 2009

Logos Bible Software has recently opened a new forums site for all its users. This is intended to replace the older newsgroups.

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Reviews Galore

Published: June 1st, 2009

Here are a number of recent online reviews for you…

Accordance 8 — A Close Look at OakTree’s Accordance, Part I: Basic Bible Study, by Timothy R. Butler (two more parts to be published), and Working Bible Magic, by Tony W. Cartledge.

BibleWorks 8 — Getting the Best Out of Bible Software: BibleWorks 8, by David Instone-Brewer (Tyndale Tech).

Logos 3 — Bible Software Review: Logos Gold, by Terry Delaney, and Review of Scholar’s Library (Logos Bible Software), by James Anderson.


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Accordance Podcasts

Published: May 22nd, 2009

Accordance Bible Software is making available free podcasts from the iTunes Store. If you have iTunes installed on your computer, you can search for “Lighting the Lamp” and download the episode you want or subscribe to future podcasts. Alternatively, you can go directly to the podcast by clicking this link.

These podcasts will revisit the topics covered in the former webinars and add many more subjects in due course.

The different episodes are an excellent way to become acquainted with the many features offered by this sofware, and suitable for both current and potential users.

Update (June 26): Those with no access to iTunes can download the podcasts here.

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Free Bible Explorer for Mac & Windows

Published: May 22nd, 2009

Unlike its older brother (WORDsearch 8), Bible Explorer 4 is available as a free download. There is even a new beta version for Mac (running through WINE and X.11) that can be downloaded. Once the program is installed, there are over 200 free titles (Books and other reference works) that can be added to the library.

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