Bible Software Review: By way of an introduction, please give us any personal information you'd like to share with our readers...
Bennie Wolvaardt: For the past 20 years my personal ministry focus has been to help equip believers in the pews and in ministry, to interpret the Bible in an in-depth and practical manner. This motivated me to start the work of Veritas College International in the UK in 1992. Since then the ministry has expanded to form a network of colleges in some 28 countries. It is this desire that has led me to develop the ScriptureDirect Bible software.
BSR: When did your company start,and why did you feel the need to set this project off?
BW: The company was only recently incorporated in Perth, Western Australia and the product was launched from here. My wife and I, with two of our adult sons, now call Perth home and I continue to lead the ministry of Veritas College International from here.
The development of the software started back in the late nineties. It was roughly a 9 year project that can be divided into three main parts:
The first was the creation of the content. An entire new Greek English transliteration of the New Testament (NT) had to be done. I was privileged that my Greek professor and friend, the well-known scholar Johannes Louw, committed himself to this task after his retirement. He saw this as a wonderful next project after editing with Eugene Nida the Greek-English Dictionary of Semantic Domains (popularly known as the Louw Nida dictionary).
The creation of the content involved the following main elements:
Dividing the whole Greek NT into lines (some 27,000) to make it easier for users to interact with the text
Translating the Greek text line by line and linking the Greek to the English text
Linking each Greek word to the Louw Nida dictionary and selecting the most likely meaning in the context
The second part of the project that ran parallel with the first, was the design and programming of the end product. We tried to be innovative by seeking solutions to the following: What should a program look like that can give not only scholars but all believers a direct access to the Greek text of the New Testament? How could it provide the necessary tools to do proper interpretation of the text? How could it provide a framework for a user to store all their notes, research, Bible studies, devotions, etc on the NT with an easy to use but powerful search facility? We believe that the end product contains innovation and after being encouraged by professionals, we have already obtained patent protection and have pending applications in other countries.
The third part of the project was to create the 3D animated movie Back to the Source. It is almost 30 minutes long, free of charge and can be used with or without the software. We set out to produce a professional movie that provides guidelines on interpreting the Bible in an entertaining way. I am aware of pastors, small group and youth group leaders who have used it successfully for this purpose. Hopefully the movie will also serve to encourage people without knowledge of Greek to engage with the Greek text through the software. Thus it has a dual purpose, instruction in how to interpret the Bible and an advertisement for the software.
BSR: What is your current role in the company?
BW: I am the CEO of ScriptureDirect.
BSR: When you look back, what would you identify as being the single greatest feat in the history of Bible software?
BW: I think the greatest feat is that software developers started to use the computer to make the Bible text electronically available. I know it takes us back to the beginning, but once it started, it was possible for creativity to be released to produce the variety of programs now available.
BSR: What segment of Bible software users do you consider to be your main target?
BW: The main target group of ScriptureDirect is any believer seeking to better understand the powerful message of the Bible by returning to the original Greek. This includes believers without a knowledge of Greek seeking to meaningfully engage with the Greek text of the New Testament. Those with a knowledge of Greek but who seldom work with the Greek text, should find the user-friendly interlinear function with its associated data helpful. This also applies to new students of Greek. A last group is Bible translators or scholars who may want to check the meaning choices made in the Louw Nida dictionary.
BSR: In your opinion, what are the three most salient features of your application?
BW: User-friendly interlinear function with the associated Louw Nida meaning choices: Most of the features of ScriptureDirect revolve around the Greek/English transliteration. When the user moves the mouse over the Greek or English Bible text, the linked words in the Greek and English are underlined. This allows one to see how each Greek word relates to the English text. When one clicks on any of the linked words, the Louw Nida dictionary is opened and the list of possible meanings is displayed. The most likely meaning for the context is highlighted and the description for that meaning is shown. The user can also view the other meanings.
Meaning sensitive search facility: The Louw Nida Dictionary lists all the possible meanings that are found in the New Testament and describes each one. ScriptureDirect goes further by selecting the most likely meaning for each New Testament Greek word in its specific context. This makes it possible for the user to think in terms of meaning and to see words as references to meanings. For example, if one just searches the Bible for occurrences of a specific Greek word, and that word has more than one possible meaning, then the search is not meaning sensitive and brings up references that are not related in meaning. The outcome is inaccurate in terms of meaning. In contrast, ScriptureDirect can search the New Testament for the occurrences of a specifically selected meaning of any Greek word.
Tools to interpret the Bible with functions to store and search one�s own work: ScriptureDirect provides four tools or "keys" to help one interpret the New Testament, namely:
Information on the historical context or communication situation of each book.
Information on the type of literature as well as a complete structure for each New Testament Bible book. The structure shows the context of each passage.
Enabling one to work directly on the Greek text of the New Testament to find the meaning of words and phrases.
Providing tools to do semantic discourse analysis on a passage.
BSR: If you had to recommend the use of Bible software to someone who has never been exposed to it before, how would you go about it?
BW: I would do it by demonstrating a few Bible software programs and asking the person to do the same tasks without the software.
BSR: Why do you think people should consider using your software?
BW: Perhaps I should start with what the ScriptureDirect software does not provide. It is not an electronic library of published books or of Bible translations with a search engine. There are many other wonderful software programs for free or for sale that provide that.
The ScriptureDirect software provides user-friendly tools to interpret the New Testament in depth with useful reference to the meaning of the Greek � doing and recording one�s own interpretation as opposed to reading the commentaries of others.
BSR: What is the primary use you make of your own software?
BW: I use my software extensively, but the most essential use is when preparing for sermons. However, my dream is to have enough time to do a structural analysis of a complete Bible book at a time.
BSR: Is there any feature lacking in Bible software in general, that you would love to see implemented soon?
BW: It would be great if those programs that allow exegesis on the Bible text, could provide export and sharing facilities. Users will then be able to share their findings and encourage others to do the same.
BSR: Are there any specific plans to port the software to other platforms? (Mac, Linux, PDA...)
BW: We are working on a Mac version and aim to have it available within two months.
BSR: Besides English, is or will your software be available in other languages in the foreseeable future?
BW: We are not planning to have the interlinear translation available in other languages. However, there is the possibility to add translations in other languages next to the Greek-English interlinear translation.
BSR: From your perspective, what should Bible software be heading for in the years to come?
BW: I think we are going to find more diversity. There will not be one program that caters for the needs of everyone. At the same time, it will be great if each one of these programs could be cross platform to be available to at least Microsoft, Linux and Mac users.
BSR: Would you like to add or share anything not covered in the previous questions?
BW: The creation of the content of the software was an extremely intensive process. For large parts Johannes Louw and I worked side by side, making decisions, inputting data, proofreading and making changes. We do not claim inerrancy and the complexity of some of the translation and meaning choices tended to discourage us from time to time. We then had to remind ourselves that one of the strengths of the software is that it is completely transparent -- providing the user with the tools to check our work and make their own decisions. The facilities are provided for these own decisions to be documented in the program.
Last but not least, the importance of the team of technical specialists in a project like this cannot be overstated. I want to introduce only the three main contributors who are also dear brothers and friends. Jan Holtzhausen is the main programmer who has worked hard and been dedicated for more than 8 years to this project. Jaco Graaff is the graphic artist who worked for a number of years on the movie Back to the Source and on the visual interface of the program. He also created the Greek font that we use. Gustav Venteris the creative script writer of Back to the Source.
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