Saturday, June 24, 2006

We Have Moved!

Please update your bookmarks and/or aggregator feeds. The new Bible Software Review Weblog is now located at:

See you there!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Update on New Website and Weblog

Well, friends, the all-new BSR website is just a few days away from making its debut :-) I hope you'll enjoy it.

As for the blog, I have decided to drop Blogger and use Movable Type instead. I have given a lot of thought to these changes, and I believe it's the best way to go. The downside is that I will probably lose the comments (not sure yet) and my co-blogger (Ken Ristau), but even so there is much to gain.

Movable Type is a very professional publishing platform that includes, among other things, two key feature (to me at least!): the ability to assign each entry to one or more categories, and a very powerful management system.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Accordance 7

The new version of Accordance Bible Software has just been released. You can read all about its new and enhanced features here.

Update: I thought I was going to be the first in announcing it, but I now see that Ken beat me to it :-)

Review of Tagged Greek Texts

In tandem with the release of Accordance 7, I thought it would be appropriate to release a review of the morphologically tagged Greek texts (PDF) available on the Scholar's Collection 6.9 CD-ROM. I have reviewed the texts in comparison with BibleWorks 7 and Logos Bible Software 3. My review concentrates on the databases themselves rather than the actual programs but nevertheless there are some points at which I do comment on all three new programs. I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment thread. These are happy times for fans of Bible software!

Update: In response to criticism I received in the BibleWorks forum, I have made corrections to my review to better communicate my points regarding their implementation of morphological databases. I have also updated my review to reflect the additional information provided by Ken Penner, who is presently working on the Logos Pseudepigrapha. I apologize for some of my imprecise language and regret any unintended misrepresentation of the implementation of morphological databases in BibleWorks 7. At the same time, I stand by my assessment as it is now written and am disturbed at the treatment I have received in the BibleWorks forum (to be distinguished from BibleWorks, LLC with which I have no qualms). I believe that posts in the forum overstate the nature and extent of my mistake and attempt to insulate BibleWorks from my otherwise fair and responsible criticism.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bible Software Precursors

In a sense, all those who have been significantly involved throughout History in doing the kind of tasks that we now so easily perform with the help of a computer and a Bible software package, can be truly considered as "precursors."

Alexander Cruden, though perhaps less known than James Strong, is certainly one of them. His Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments is still in use today (I have a printed copy in my library), and his work is the subject of a nice article written by Roger G. Baker for the latest edition of the SBL Forum. Check it out.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On Comparative Reviews

Writing general product reviews is a worthwhile exercise, but writing comparative reviews is even more fun. However, it can also be a bit of a headache. No matter how hard you try to be objective, fair, and all the rest of it, you are probably going to leave just about everybody unhappy ;-)

Despite the difficulties, I do have a few comparative reviews "in the back burner." Hopefully they will elicit some interesting exchanges (they always do), and help improve our general understanding of some of the key areas of Bible software. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Graphical Search

For a long time I have wanted to run a graphical search based on a comment made by H. Van Dyke Parunak in his article "Computers and Biblical Studies," ABD, vol. I, pp. 1112-1124, where he talks about a search for "all verbs that occur within three words of the phrase 'in Christ,' without intervening verbs."

Today I decided it was about time to put some Bible software programs to the test, so I fired up Accordance, BibleWorks and Logos to perform this particular search, using the different graphical search engines available in each package. The goal of this little exercise was simply to find out which one of them offered a cleaner, more intuitive way to build the search. Here are the results (in alphabetical order):

Accordance seems to be very straightforward, and I didn't need to refer to the online help at all.

BibleWorks took me a bit longer, because there are different ways to "filter out" intervening words, and I had to look them up.

Logos' search was more involved, since I had to specify the Greek words and their morphology independently. I also needed to refer to the help files.

As for the results, Accordance and BibleWorks agree in returning 34 hits. Logos, on the other hand, finds only 31 verses (missing 4 true occurrences and returning one spurious hit). The reason for this is that Logos doesn't really count words, but characters. So, even though I specified 0-3 intervening words, the program in fact takes it as 0-21 characters (i.e., each "word" would amount to seven "characters"). For Greek, that includes accents and breathing marks, not just letters. Therefore, this explains why in one case four intervening (shorter) terms were returned as hits, while in four other cases three intervening (longer) terms were missed altogether. I have been told that the new Logos 3, with its ability to perform syntactical searches, handles these types of queries in a better and more powerful way. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for my copy, so I haven't been able to make use of the latest version. I'll be glad to update any relevant info once I get it. BTW, I want to thank Rick Brannan and Vincent Setterholm for their help in explaining the behavior of Logos's graphical search in this particular instance.

Now, I want you to be the judge. Apart from your own familiarity (or lack of it) with any of these three programs, which one of the screenshots strikes you as been the most "user-friendly"? Evidently, there's more to these searches than just what is displayed here (number of steps required, dialog boxes, and so on), but I'm more interested in letting you see the interface of the graphical query and interpret the information shown in each particular case.


- I forgot to explain that this search looks for all those verbs that not only occur within the set distance but also precede the phrase 'in Christ.'

- I hope I did not give the impression that I was looking for the more aesthetically appealing screenshot. What we are concerned about here is clarity and ease of use.

- Vincent (Setterholm) sends me a screenshot with a somewhat more organized layout, which I gladly reproduce below (slightly reduced in size). Note that some unnecessary proximity operators have been removed, and the morphological codes changed to full descriptions.

I am also told that the new database engine and syntactical tools in Logos version 3 do not have the same limitation noted above and, consequently, return the exact number of intervening words specified by the user.

Update (May 11):

- Rick Brannan blogs about syntactical searches, and the ways in which they can take us further than the current morphologically-based queries when it comes to doing exegesis. It's an interesting piece, but I am clearly at a disadvantage here, since I won't be able to speak intelligently about these new syntactical tools in Logos 3 until I actually use them. Got to be patient... Meanwhile I guess I should say that morphology and syntaxis must always go hand in hand, and the line between the two is often blurred. In fact, some morphologically tagged e-texts already take a more functional approach, and by doing so take us closer to what would be a typical syntactical analysis. But I digress, I'll get back to this fascinating issue in a future review. One thing is true, though: we have come a long way since Parunak's article was written.

- David Lang also interacts with my search over at Accordance blog, describing the steps that lead up to the construct window I showed above and commenting on some of the ways the resultant data can be handled by Accordance to enhance our research of this typically Pauline expression. I appreciate it, since I had no space to dwell on the implications of the search.

- Now, is anyone from BibleWorks going to give us some insights? I really wish they would set up an official blog ;-)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Logos Bible Software 3

The new revision of Logos Bible Software is out. Enhancements are too numerous to jot them down here, so your best bet is to check out this page.

I must confess that I'm looking forward particularly to the new Syntax Search feature (i.e., the ability to search syntactically tagged Greek and Hebrew texts for words, phrases, clauses, and so on). You can expect to see a full review here at BSR in due course.