Accordance Blog
Feb 23, 2012 David Lang

Simple Searches Can Yield Deeper Insights

On Monday, I wrote about a study of Psalm 91 I did with my family last week. We noted that the devil had quoted verses 11 and 12 in his temptation of Jesus, and we compared the context of the quotation with the context of the original. Then we read Psalm 91:13, which reads, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent." It occurred to me then that it is interesting that the devil chose not to quote that verse, particularly since Scripture describes the devil as both a lion and a serpent.

At that point, it would make sense to look at those passages where the devil is compared to a lion or a serpent. So how can we do that?

Let's start with the image of a lion. By selecting the word "lion" in Psalm 91:13 and choosing Search from the Search menu of the Resource Palette, we can instantly find every place the word "lion" is mentioned in the Bible. We could scroll through all 74 verses (in the HCSB) looking for places where the devil is compared with a lion, but it would be more efficient to create a search that would narrow down the number of hits.

One way to do that would be to look for any word that contains both the words "lion" and "devil." Then again, since the devil is also referred to by other names (Satan, adversary, etc.), we might do well to account for those possibilities as well. Here's one way to do just that:

In the new search tab, click after the word "lion" in the search entry box, then choose AND from the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu. Next choose Enter Words from the Search menu. This will open a dialog box which lets you choose any word in your search text. Type "devil" in the Go To box to scroll the word list to that point, then click the word "devil" in the list one time to add it to the list of words to enter. Next type "satan" into the Go To box and single-click the word in the list. Finally, type "adver" into the Go To box and double-click the word "adversary" in the list. (Double-clicking a word adds it to the list of words to enter and dismisses the dialog box.)

Use the Select Words dialog to select multiple alternative search terms

Your search argument should now look like this:

SimpleSearches2

Hit return to perform this search, and you go from 74 verses to just one: 1 Peter 3:8. Drag the context slider to the right to see this verse in context, and it is striking how much the message of this passage parallels that of Psalm 91—namely, that if we entrust ourselves to God's care and protection, he will defend us from the "roaring lion" and save us from the time of trouble.

Now we can go back to our original Search tab containing Psalm 91 and select the word "serpent" in verse 13. Once again, we can choose Search from the Search menu of the Resource palette. Alternatively, we can right-click the word and choose Word from the Search For submenu of the contextual menu. Either way, the second tab will update to show every occurrence of the word "serpent." The HCSB only contains 19 occurrences of this word, so it's easy enough to scan the results without modifying the search further. In doing so, we'll see the references to the serpent in Genesis 3. We'll need to add a little context to see 3:15, which speaks of the woman's "seed" striking the head of the serpent while the serpent strikes his heel. This image of a man treading on the head of a serpent sounds very much like the promise in Psalm 91:13 that the one who "dwells in the shadow of the Almighty" will "tread" upon the serpent.

Other interesting uses of the word "serpent" include Job 26:13, which describes the defeat of a primeval serpent at creation; Isaiah 27:1, which identifies Leviathan as a serpent; and Revelation 12:9 and 20:2, which identify the dragon as the "ancient serpent," the "Devil," and "Satan."

Exploring the literary connections between Satan and serpentine monsters and dragons is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I hope you can see how this simple search can open the door to a much deeper study. When studying a passage, it's easy to find other uses of a given word by selecting the word and using the Search menu of the Resource palette, or by right-clicking the word and choosing to Search For that Word. If you're not using these simple methods in your Bible study, you're missing out on a seamless workflow that can pay rich dividends.


 

May 11, 2011 David Lang

Word Lists and Tags

In yesterday's post and in another recent post, I talked about how you can use a list of words separated by commas and enclosed in parentheses to search for any of the words in that list. For example, entering (faith, hope, love) will find every occurrence of any of those words. The results are the same as you would get with an OR search such as faith <OR> hope <OR> love). Yet as I've explained in those other posts, a parenthesized word list has the advantage of acting as a single search term in a more complex search. Yesterday I showed how such a word list could be used as part of a phrase. Today I want to show how you can constrain such a word list using a grammatical tag.

Let's say I want to look for a series of words in the Greek New Testament which have to do with seeing or hearing. I could enter it as a word list, (ακουω, οραω, βλεπω), or as an OR search, ακουω <OR> οραω <OR> βλεπω. Both searches will find every occurrence of those Greek words.

But what if I'm really interested in finding these words when they're used as commands? I want to find where someone is commanded to "hear," to "see," or to "look."

If I've entered the search as a word list, all I need to do is add a grammatical tag after it, like this: (ακουω, οραω, βλεπω)@ [VERB imperative]. If I had created the search as a series of OR commands, I would have to add the imperative tag after each of the three words, like this: ακουω@ [VERB imperative] <OR> οραω@ [VERB imperative] <OR> βλεπω@ [VERB imperative].

Once again, either approach will work, but the word list is much more concise. Not only does it require less effort to enter, it is also much easier to follow without getting confused. That becomes especially important when you want to add additional criteria to your search.


 

May 10, 2011 David Lang

Got Some 'Splainin' To Do

In yesterday's post, I showed how to do a search all for images with the caption "Table of nations" or "Family of nations." I constructed the search like this: (table, family) of nations. In response to that post, one user asked for an explanation of the list of words in parentheses. So it would seem I have some "'splainin' to do."

I actually mentioned this search syntax in a recent post, explaining that a list of words separated by commas and enclosed in parentheses is equivalent to an OR search for each of those words. In other words, (table, family) will return the same results as table <OR> family. The advantage of using the parenthesized list is that it acts as a single expression which can be combined with other expressions. As I did in yesterday's search, a parenthesized list can be used as part of a phrase. So (table, family) of nations is the same as table of nations <OR> family of nations, but using the parenthesized list saved me having to type "of nations" twice.

An OR command, on the other hand, cannot be used like this to find alternate words in a single phrase. If I were to enter table <OR> family of nations, Accordance would find any occurrence of the word table or the phrase family of nations. It would not understand from this syntax that I want to find the phrase table of nations.

Using parenthesized lists of words is a concise and flexible way to look for alternate words in a more complex expression.


 

Mar 18, 2011 David Lang

Simply Powerful, Powerfully Simple

I once saw a Bible software discussion in which someone wanted to search for Hebrew verbs which did not have a pronominal suffix. I was absolutely dumbfounded by the eventual solution that was offered, because it required a string of programming language gobbledygook which I found impossible to decipher.

Puzzled, I fired up Accordance to see if I could construct the search. The solution I came up with was very similar to one of the English searches I've been discussing in the last two posts. I simply entered [VERB] <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> [SUFFIX]. Unless I'm not understanding something about the requested search, this simple search returned the desired result, and it didn't require a degree in computer science to figure out.

In Accordance, things don't suddenly get harder just because you happen to be searching Greek and Hebrew. The same search commands that work in English work in the original languages too. It's what makes Accordance simply powerful, and powerfully simple.


 

Mar 16, 2011 David Lang

Use Commands to Narrow Your Search Results

Suppose you're looking for verses that talk about "mercy." Do a word search for "mercy" in many English Bibles and you'll find a great many references to the "mercy seat." How do you weed out all the occurrences of "mercy seat" so that you can just concentrate on the references to mercy by itself? You do it by using search commands.

Search commands let you group and exclude items from a search in a variety of ways, and you'll find them all conveniently listed in the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu.

One simple way to exclude "mercy seat" from your search for "mercy" would be mercy <NOT> mercy seat. This search finds any verse which contains the word "mercy" but which does not contain the phrase "mercy seat." However, this search might eliminate positive hits. For example, what if there were a verse which reads, "You will find mercy at the mercy seat"? Such a verse would be excluded because <NOT> mercy seat eliminates every verse which contains the phrase "mercy seat."

A better way to construct this search would be mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat. This search will find every occurrence of the word "mercy" except those which are immediately followed by "seat." So if there really were a verse which read "You will find mercy at the mercy seat," Accordance would highlight the first occurrence of "mercy" but not the second.

Now, it just so happens that in most English Bibles, both of these searches return the same number of results. That means that there are no verses which mention "mercy" together with the phrase "mercy seat." Still, I hope you can see the difference between these two searches and the level of precision which is possible by combining multiple search commands.

By the way, if you do these searches in the King James, you'll find that there is a difference which shows up. Can any of you tell me which verse is excluded by mercy <NOT> mercy seat but found by mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat? If you can, how did you find it? I'll show you an easy way to locate the difference in tomorrow's post.