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  News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008  

The Not-So-Awkward In-Between Stage

For those beginning with Accordance, we offer two distinct tracks in our product line. The Library Collection is for those primarily interested in doing English Bible study, but who may nevertheless want to delve into the Greek or Hebrew behind the English. The Scholar's Collection is for those who wish to work with the original language texts directly: seminary students, pastors, and of course, scholars. But what if you're an in-betweener? Someone who is primarily doing English Bible study, but who may nevertheless want to do simple searches of the original language texts and consult more in depth lexicons and grammars. Are you caught in the middle between our English Bible study oriented Library and our original language heavy Scholar's Collection?

Not at all. While dividing our product line into two distinct tracks makes it easy for us to offer an affordable starting point for the user who wants to do basic English Bible study (see, for example, the Library 8 Entry and Introductory Levels), as well as the seminary student on a budget (see the Scholar's 8 Introductory Level), we recognize that the best fit for most users will be some combination of the Library and Scholar's collection.

For example, the other day I was teaching a seminar and someone told me he was considering getting the Scholar's Premier level. He explained that he was going to be heading overseas and would be receiving seminary-level training in the original languages, but it was clear that he did not currently read Greek or Hebrew. Since the Scholar's Collection was largely beyond his current capabilities, I tried to steer him toward one of the Library levels and its various Key-numbered English Bibles, but he made it clear that he wanted to get the high end tools he eventually would be using before he headed overseas.

I then pointed him to our Library and Scholar's Bundles. The Introductory Bundle includes the Introductory levels of both the Library and the Scholar's for just $199. The Standard Bundle includes the Standard levels of both the Library and the Scholar's for just $379. Finally, The Premier Bundle includes the Premier levels of both the Library and the Scholar's for just $559. He decided to go with the Standard level, which would give him most everything he would need both now and in the near future.

These bundles are designed to give the "in-betweener" a way to get both the English Bible study tools he needs, along with a good selection of in depth Greek and Hebrew texts and tools.

In my next post, I'll talk about how someone like the gentleman mentioned above can, even now, piggy-back off the Strong's number resources of the Library in order to explore the in depth Greek and Hebrew materials of the Scholar's collection.

Thursday, September 25, 2008  

Taking The Typical Tasks Test, Take Two

In my previous post, I showed how Accordance can easily accomplish some of the "typical tasks" which Mark Vitalis Hoffman of Biblical Studies and Technological Tools enumerated in a recent post. In this post, I'll finish subjecting Accordance to Professor Hoffman's "typical tasks test."

Still in Mark 16.6, what is known about Nazareth? Find it on a map. (On a map in the program or linked out to an online map.)

To do this, simply select the word "Nazareth" and click the Map button of the Resource palette. A new map will open with Nazareth highlighted and centered on the map.

Want to know more? Simply double-click Nazareth on the map to look it up in a dictionary. I have my map set to amplify to the Bible Lands PhotoGuide, which gives me a detailed description of the site, along with forty photographs of the modern city and the reconstructions and reenactments of Nazareth village.

Returning to the map, I can customize the Map layers to reflect the time period I'm interested in. For example, I might choose New Testament sites as the Site layer, New Testament Palestine as the Region layer, and any of a number of animated Route layers associated with the life of Jesus. Here I've chosen The Birth of Jesus layer, which shows Jesus' parents' journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, their exile into Egypt, and their eventual return to Nazareth.

Where else is [Nazareth] mentioned in Mark, the NT, the Bible, the extra-biblical literature?

There are a number of ways you can go here. The easiest from a lets-get-the-information quickly standpoint is to select the word Nazareth and click and hold on the Search button of the Resource palette to select a Search All group. Professor Hoffman mentioned Biblical and extrabiblical texts, so I could just choose [All Bibles]; but I could also choose [All] to search all my tools as well. If I wanted to narrow my search down, I could set up a specific group of modules to search. Whatever subset of my library I decide to search, I'll end up with a Search All window listing all the modules containing the word "Nazareth." I can then click the modules I want to check out further and explore the hits. For example, Nazareth is mentioned several times in the second and third infancy narratives of the Apocryphal Gospels module, as well as by Irenaeus and Justin Martyr of the Apologists. I did this search in English, but I could easily have selected the Greek word Nazarenon in Mark 16:6 and done my search in all the tagged Greek texts. If I wanted to find both Nazarenon (Nazarene) and Nazara (Nazareth), I would simply use a wildcard symbol to broaden the search.

How can I notate and save the work I've done? What are the options for marking up the text? For making my own notes that are attached to the text? For exporting text to a word processor?

With respect to user notes, you can create a user notes file (or several for different purposes) and attach a note to each verse of the Bible. These can then be displayed in a parallel pane or a separate window or tab. A red dot appears beside any verse containing a note.

As for marking up the text, you can create a wide array of highlight styles and highlight whole verses or any part of a verse. If you highlight the whole verse, the highlighting will appear in every translation. If you highlight a portion of a verse, that highlighting will be translation-specific. You can hide the highlighting when you don't want to see it, and you can search by highlight style.

As far as exporting to a word processor is concerned, you may not want to go outside of Accordance. Creating a user tool may be a better route for producing papers and sermons you'll want to be able to search later on. Of course, if you do want to copy to a word processor or other program, there's copy-paste and drag-and-drop, along with the ability to copy according to a custom citation style, various export options for Greek and Hebrew, even the ability to copy original language text as transliteration.

What other issues should I be aware of relating to Mark 16.6? Are there text critical issues? Do scholars note anything special?

With respect to text-critical issues, I opened a pane containing the NA27 Apparatus, and saw that there are textual variants of the part of this verse which reads, "Look! The place where they laid him." Codex Bezae and Codex Washingtonensis both have different readings, and since both of those are available in Accordance, I opened them in parallel with the NA27 and compared the three readings. Instead of the interjection ide ("Look!"), Codex Bezae (D) has the imperative eidete ("See") and places the noun topos ("place") in the accusative. A literal translation would be, "See there his place, where they laid him." Codex Washingtonensis (W) has a similar reading, but places topos in the nominative, so that it reads something like, "Look there. This same place is where they laid him."

These two codices also contain another significant variant which is not mentioned in the NA27 Apparatus, but which is mentioned in the CNTTS Apparatus and which is obvious if one uses the compare text feature to highlight the differences between the NA27 and these codices. Instead of me ekthambeisthe ("Do not be alarmed"), D and W read me phobeisthai ("Do not be afraid").

The CNTTS Apparatus listed other variants as well, but most of those were minor differences in spelling.

With respect to whether scholars note anything special about this verse, that's one of those questions which leaves you wondering what specific thing the professor has in mind! But I took a stab at looking for other issues by consulting Word Biblical Commentary. Word mentioned a parallel to this verse in the Testament of Job 39:11-12. I therefore opened the tagged Greek Pseudepigrapha and checked it out. I found that while there is a loose conceptual parallel to Mark 16:6, the vocabulary is completely different. I'm therefore not sure the Pseudepigraphical reference sheds much light on Mark 16:6.

I've now finished running through Professor Hoffman's list of typical tasks, and I hope I've shown that it's relatively easy to perform each of them using Accordance. I actually could have streamlined things a bit more by setting up custom arrangements of modules as Favorite Workspaces, Text and Tool Sets, or Search All Groups, but I wanted to tackle each of these tasks from the standpoint of a basic setup. In the final analysis, Accordance is designed to perform these "typical tasks" in a way which is simple and straightforward.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008  

Tool Browser Font Size

I've been trying to finish Part 2 of my post on the Typical Tasks Test, but I'm afraid a lingering cold has me a little muddle-headed and struggling to write effectively. I will therefore attempt to stall by providing a quick tip in the meantime. :-)

A few people have asked recently if it's possible to change the font size of the Tool window's browser pane. Fortunately, it's very easy to do so. Simply go to Preferences, click on the Appearance settings, and choose a different size in the Browser Text font size pop-up menu. This will affect the size of text in the Tool window browser, the Search All window, and the Library window.

Hopefully this will be helpful to some of you. I'll try to offer something a little meatier in my next post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008  

Taking The Typical Tasks Test

Mark Vitalis Hoffman of Biblical Studies and Technological Tools recently blogged about the criteria by which he evaluates Bible software. After talking about things like value, quality content, and ease of use, he listed what he considers to be "the typical tasks that [Bible] software should be able to handle." I thought it might be interesting to subject Accordance to this "typical tasks" test to see how easily it accomplishes those tasks:

Sometimes I want to scan a large chunk of text. (Read Mark 16.)

Make sure a Search window is set to search for verses then simply enter Mark 16.

Sometimes I want to focus on a single verse. (Compare Mark 16.6 in Greek and a number of versions.)

Add panes containing the tagged Greek New Testament and whatever translations you wish to view. To do this, just click and hold on the Add Text Pane button, choose the translation you want from the menu, then release the mouse button. Lather, rinse, and repeat for each additional translation.

If you only want to see Mark 16:6, simply enter it in the argument entry box and click OK.

Sometimes just a word. (Analyze the word egerthe.)

We'll cover this in a moment.

Sometimes I want to compare this text with similar passages. (I.e., synoptic parallels)

Click anywhere in the verse to select it, then choose Gospels from the Parallels pop-up menu of the Resource palette.

The software should let me make such changes in focus quickly, easily, and consistently.

Check. None of the above actions required more than a click or two, and each resource opened is kept neatly displayed as a tab within the Workspace window.

Let's study that word egerthe. What does the lemma mean? (Here's where a good lexicon is needed.)

Triple-click the word to look it up in your default lexicon.

What is its grammatical form here?

Drag your cursor over the word to see its parsing information.

What does it mean in the passive as it is here? (What is a "divine passive," and does it apply here?)

Here's where you could go in a number of different directions. The first thing I would do is go back to my Greek lexicon and look for the reference to Mark 16:6. To do that, simply open the More Options section, set the second search field to Scripture, enter Mark 16:6, and click OK. In BDAG, I get a subentry which reads in part:

7. to enter into or to be in a state of life as a result of being raised, be raised, rise, pass. intr., of one who has died (Is 26:19; TestJob 4:9; cp. 4 Km 4:31) approaches anastenai in mng. (cp. mss. and synopt. parallels; s. anistemi 7).

BDAG therefore mentions that the passive of egeiro functions as an intransitive, but it says nothing about a "divine passive."

The next logical place to turn might be a Greek grammar. I opened Mounce's grammar and searched the contents for "divine passive" and found nothing. I then used control-plus to cycle to the next grammar in my list (in this case, Wallace), and clicked OK to perform the same search in that grammar. There I learned that a "divine passive" is one where God is the obvious one performing the action. The supposition is that the passive was often used to describe divine action as a way to avoid using the divine name. Wallace also mentioned that the "divine passive" is sometimes called a "theological passive." Perhaps, I thought, Mounce refers to it by that name. I then selected the term and chose Mounce from the resource palette. Sure enough, Mounce's grammar does include a discussion of the "theological passive."

Is egerthe in Mark 16:6 a "divine" or "theological passive"? From what I've learned so far, I could certainly see how it could be regarded as a divine passive (God being the one who raised Jesus from the dead), but I could also see it being regarded as a simple intransitive. To explore this question further, one might turn to a number of commentaries. The easiest way to do that would be to open a parallel commentary pane in the Search window displaying Mark 16:6. You could then cycle through multiple commentaries if need be. Of the handful of commentaries I checked, NIGTC had the most thorough discussion of egerthe, talking about its relationship with anistemi but mentioning nothing about it being a divine passive.

Another option might be to consult another lexicon, such as Louw & Nida. Louw & Nida did not speak about egerthe being a "divine passive," but it did say this: "In some languages it may be important to indicate . . . who is the agent, and one may therefore translate ‘he is not here; God has caused him to live again.’" That would certainly seem to fit the definition of a "divine passive."

How do various translations render it?

I've already added a variety of translations to my original search window, so comparing how they render egerthe is simply a matter of going back to that window and scanning the parallel panes. If the translations I've chosen have been tagged with Strong's numbers, then I can merely drag my cursor over egerthe to have the corresponding English word highlighted in each of my Strong's number Bibles.

What are possible synonyms?

A quick look at the tabs I've already opened for BDAG and Louw & Nida will tell us this. BDAG cites anistemi as a synonym, and Louw & Nida lists both anistemi and exegeiro. If I wanted to see additional related words, I would change the Show pop-up menu to All Text and check out the surrounding entries in that particular semantic domain of Louw & Nida.

How is it similar to / different from anistemi? (Can I have a graph comparing the use of these two words?) How is egeiro / egerthe used elsewhere in Mark?

To answer the latter question, I would select egerthe in Mark 16:6 and click the Search button on the Resource palette. This will find everywhere in the New Testament where egeiro is used. I can then jump down to Mark, or I could restrict the range of my search so that I just see the occurrences in Mark. To get that chart comparing egerthe and anistemi, I would simply add an OR command to this window and enter anistemi. When I click OK, I get every occurrence of those two words. When I click the Details button, and then choose Analysis Graph, I get a graph which lets me compare the frequency of occurrence of these two words across the entire Greek New Testament.

If I want to see whether these two words are used primarily in an active or a passive voice, I can simply change the Analysis Graph pop-up menu to Voice, and get the following.

At this point, Accordance becomes dangerous, because the graphs get me asking all kinds of questions and wanting to explore further. I'll resist the temptation, since this post is already quite long, and I'm only about halfway through exploring Professor Hoffman's "typical tasks." His other tasks involve getting geographical background information, taking notes and marking up the text, exporting to word processors, and exploring text critical questions. I'll have to tackle all those in a follow-up post, but so far, I'd say Accordance has done everything Professor Hoffman has asked it to do quickly, easily, and seamlessly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008  

How Much Context Do You Want to See, Part 3

In my previous post, I talked about how you could use the Show pop-up menu to adjust the amount of context displayed in the Tools window. The default setting for most tools is "All Text," which displays search hits in the context of the entire tool. "Articles" will show only those articles containing a hit. "Paragraphs" will show only those paragraphs containing a hit, which, as I showed in the last post, can sometimes make it hard to see which article each paragraph belongs to. "Add Titles" shows the hit paragraphs with a minimal context of the article titles.

When you merely open a tool, the Show pop-up defaults to All Text. But when you amplify to a Tool, so that you're automatically presented with a search result, that may not always be the case. For example, if you select a Greek word and then choose Louw & Nida from the Resource palette, the Show pop-up menu is set to "Articles" rather than "All Text."

Whenever we develop a new tool module, one of the things we ask ourselves is how a user is most likely to want the results of a search displayed. In the case of Louw & Nida, which has multiple entries for each Greek lexical form, we decided that the most helpful view after you amplify from a word is to see only the Articles which contain a definition of that word. The advantage of this view is that you can scan the search results to get a quick idea of that word's semantic range. The downside of this view is that it breaks each entry out of the context of its semantic domain. If you're interested in viewing other words which belong to a particular semantic domain, you would want to switch the Show pop-up menu to All Text.

There aren't many tools like Louw & Nida which are set to show only the hit articles after amplifying, but we do have the flexibility to do that with tools for which a narrower context is advantageous.

Monday, September 15, 2008  

How Much Context Do You Want to See, Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about how Accordance lets you determine the amount of context you view with the result of a search. In the Search window, you can use the Add Context pop-up to view one or more verses before and after each "hit" verse. Today, I want to talk about how you can do something similar with Tools.

In the Tool window, the Show pop-up determines how much of the text is displayed. Unlike the Search window, where the default is to show only the hit verses with no additional context, the default for most tools is to display hits in the context of the entire text of that tool. In other words, when the Show pop-up menu is set to All Text, the entire text of the tool is displayed in the window, and hits are highlighted in context.

Why do we offer a narrow context for Bibles and a broad context for tools? Because in the Bible, you have a referencing system which makes it clear when there are gaps in the context. If a search returns Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, I know immediately that there's a great deal of context in between those verses which is not being displayed. I'm not going to make the mistake of reading the text of John 1:1 as a continuation of the text of Genesis 1:1. That cannot be said for most tools, a fact we can see when we view tools using the narrowest possible context.

In the screenshot above, I have searched Easton's Bible Dictionary for the word "beginning." By selecting Paragraphs in the Show pop-up menu, I have told Accordance that I only want to see those paragraphs of Easton which contain a hit. The advantage of this view is that I can quickly scan the results of a search. The disadvantage is that it is not immediately clear where any of these hit paragraphs come from. The first paragraph actually comes from the article on "Exile," which you can see from the Go To box in the bottom right corner of the window. The next paragraph comes from the article on "Exodus," but it reads like a continuation of the previous article. From this example, it's easy to see how a narrow context in a tool can be confusing, and why we default to All Text for most tools.

Nevertheless, a narrow context can be useful in certain tools. For example, in the screenshot below, I searched the MT/LXX for every place the Hebrew word rosh is translated by some Greek word other than kephale (for more on this, see my recent posts, Creative Merging, Part 1 and Part 2). Because I just want to be able to scan the list of hits to see which Greek words are used, showing just the hit paragraphs is helpful in this instance.

Between showing the entire text of a tool and showing just the hit paragraphs, there are two additional levels of context. Add Titles is essentially an expansion of the Paragraphs view which includes the title of every article and subarticle in which each hit paragraph is found. In the screenshot below, you can see how adding the titles in Easton gives us just enough context to distinguish the article on Exile from the one on Exodus.

Choosing Articles in the Show pop-up menu will show the entire article in which a hit is found. For example, if I search Louw & Nida for ginomai, showing only the hit Articles, I'll get every entry for that Greek word in its entirety, but the entries for other words will be hidden.

For most people, it's enough to leave the Show pop-up menu set to All Text, but there may be times when you'll want to filter your search results in one of the ways described above. In a few cases, we even do that for you by default. I'll talk about that in my next post.

Friday, September 12, 2008  

How Much Context Do You Want to See?

One of the unique things about Accordance is the flexibility with which it can present the results of a search. When you do a search, there are times when you want to scan the results in an excerpted form to get a quick overview of what they contain. There are other times when you want to see each hit in context so that you can better understand the meaning of the text. In the Search window, Accordance lets you decide how you much context you want displayed via the Add Context pop-up menu. In the Tool window, you use the Show pop-up menu.

The Search window defaults to a concordance style view of your search results. That is, it shows only those verses which contain the words you were searching for. This enables you to scan down the list and see immediately which verses are of interest to you. If you want to see more of the context of each hit, you can use the Add Context pop-up in the More Options section to choose a number of additional verses to display. The number of verses you choose will then be displayed both before and after each hit verse. For example, if you select "1" from the Add Context pop-up, you'll get three verses for each hit verse, because one verse of context will appear before the hit verse, and one verse will appear after it.

You can select up to 10 verses of context, or you can just choose "All" to see the hits in the context of the entire text. When you choose "All," the hit verses become marked with blue bookmarks, and the Mark navigation buttons appear at the bottom of the Search window. To move from hit verse to hit verse, simply use the Mark buttons.

In my next couple of posts, I'll talk about the Show pop-up menu of the Tool window, as well as tell you how you can modify Accordance's default settings for the amount of context which is given.

Oh, and Rubén, I know you hate it when I leave things hanging like this, but I figure you know all this stuff anyway! ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2008  

"Ridiculously Cool!"

Over the past two days, I've had the privilege of demonstrating Accordance at two seminaries.

On Tuesday, I did a remote demo to a Greek class at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Professor Mark Vitalis Hoffman projected my computer screen, which I was sharing via the internet, to his class. In this way, I was able to demonstrate Accordance to students in Pennsylvania from the comfort of my home in Florida.

While just being able to do this is extremely cool, we did run into a few challenges along the way. First was the challenge of making sure everything would work right ahead of time. Professor Hoffman and I set up a couple of dry runs, and eventually were able to get the screen sharing and audio to work. During the demo itself, there were two challenges. First, there's a bit of a time delay between the moment when I do something on my machine and the time when the audience actually sees it. Second, there's a slightly shorter delay between the moment when I speak and the moment when they hear me, so it's easy for my running commentary to get ahead of the actions they see on the screen.

The most disorienting thing to me was that I could hear my voice on the other end about a second after I spoke, so I found myself pausing frequently in order to avoid talking over myself. After I finished the demo, I realized that while I was hearing myself twice, they were only hearing me once, so my frequent pauses must have sounded kind of silly. It also occurred to me after the demo was over that I could have alleviated the problem of hearing myself simply by turning down the volume on my computer. But Professor Hoffman reassured me that my pauses actually made it possible for the screen movements to catch up to my commentary, so it all turned out better than I thought.

On Wednesday, I did a live demo during the lunch hour at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Here I was a little more in my element, since I didn't have to deal with an echo and I could see the faces of the people to whom I was speaking. In about forty minutes, I was able to give the students an overview of the Accordance interface, explain the basics of searching, working with Key Numbers, amplifying to tools and other resources, and doing more in depth Greek and Hebrew searches. I really only scratched the surface, but the feedback we got was extremely positive, especially from those who already have Macs. My favorite quote from a student was that Accordance is "ridiculously cool."

Another student commented on how all the searches I had done were nearly instantaneous, and wondered if this was because I was using a fast machine, or if he could expect Accordance to run that well on an older machine. I assured him that Accordance would run well on just about any Mac, and mentioned how one of our users had gotten Accordance to run on a Powerbook 170 from 1991 (I think I mistakenly said it was a PowerBook 540!). The thing I should have mentioned, but didn't think about at the time, was that I was actually doing this demo on a four-year-old PowerBook G4, rather than the newer MacBook Pro I had recently sent in for repairs! Thus, the very machine he suspected of being a souped up demo machine was actually older and slower than anything most of those students probably own!

At times, I'm afraid I get so consumed with the work of developing Accordance that I forget how remarkable it can be to those who have never seen it in action. Our lead programmer accuses me of being "jaded." Whether I am or not, it's always good to be able to demonstrate Accordance to a live audience, so that I can be reminded of how "ridiculously cool" they find it to be.

Monday, September 08, 2008  

Creative Merging, Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about how I had used the MT/LXX with the MERGE command to verify a claim made about how the Hebrew word for "head" (rosh) was translated by the Greek Septuagint:

In the LXX rosh is translated as hegemon, archon, archegos and chiliarch, and not as kephale

The gist of this claim is that in those instances where the Hebrew word for "head" is used in the sense of a "leader" (much as we would use a term like "head of state"), it is always translated into Greek by a word which explicitly refers to some kind of "leader," and is never translated by the Greek word for "head."

By searching the tagged Hebrew Bible for rosh and the tagged Septuagint for kephale, I then used the MERGE command to merge the results of those searches within the MT/LXX tool. This resulted in 305 occurrences where the Hebrew word rosh is translated by the Greek word kephale. Most of these cases were talking about the literal "head" of a person or animal, as opposed to referring to some kind of "leader." Being too lazy to wade through all 305 occurrences, I then began to look for a way to isolate those instances where "head" was being used to mean "leader."

I looked up rosh in The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), and found the section dealing with rosh as "leader, chief". By command-clicking one of the Scripture references in that section, I opened a Text window containing all of the verses which HALOT lists as having that particular meaning. Now I just needed a way to limit my search of the MT/LXX to that specific list of verses.

I brought my MT/LXX tab to the front, then placed the insertion point in the argument entry box right after the two MERGE commands. I then used shift-command-A to insert another AND command, and shift-command-C to insert the CONTENTS command.

The CONTENTS command lets you use the verses displayed in another window or tab as part of your search argument. When you insert the CONTENTS command, a dialog will appear asking you which window or tab you want to link to. I chose the text window containing the list of verses from HALOT. The resulting search argument looked like this:

When I tried this search, however, it did not return any results. At this point, I had to entertain two possibilities. Perhaps the search had failed because I had constructed it incorrectly. Or perhaps I had constructed it correctly, and it was simply the case that rosh is never translated as kephale in that particular set of verses. If that was the case, that would tend to confirm the claim I was seeking to verify. But I wasn't convinced that I had constructed the search correctly, so I decided to try it another way.

Instead of placing the CONTENTS command in the main argument entry box, I decided to try to construct the search as a multi-field search. So I set the field of the second argument entry box to Entry (which in MT/LXX is the verse reference) and then placed the CONTENTS command there. Like this:

Unfortunately, that search wasn't successful either. So I took a hard look at the Tool window to see if I could detect an error in the logic of the search. A look at the Search within every pop-up menu gave me the answer. In my previous post, I explained that I had set this pop-up to Paragraph so that rosh and kephale would both appear on the same line. Since the verse reference in the MT/LXX is on a different line (and therefore a different paragraph) than the actual Hebrew and Greek words, the verse references represented by the CONTENTS command would never be found unless I changed the Search within every pop-up back to Article. If I did that, however, my search might return cases where rosh and kephale appeared in the same article, but not on the same line. In order to really get this search right, I needed a way to specify that the Hebrew and Greek words had to appear in the same paragraph, while the verse references represented by the CONTENTS command had to appear in the same article. Unfortunately, the Tool window only contains one Search within every pop-up menu, so I had no way to do this within a single MT/LXX window.

So I decided to try to extend my search by opening a second MT/LXX window and using the MERGE command once again. I simply merged this second MT/LXX window with the first MT/LXX window, then inserted the AND command and CONTENTS command in the main argument entry box, making sure that the Search within every pop-up was set to Article. Lo and behold, this search did return a handful of cases where rosh is used to mean some kind of leader and is translated into the LXX with kephale. The original assertion that this never happens would appear, therefore, to be incorrect.

By using the MERGE command, I was able to bring the search results from one window over into another window in order to extend the search. I know this kind of multi-window searching can seem a little complicated, and I'm sure I haven't explained it as clearly as I should, but I hope you've been able to glimpse some of the power provided by advanced search commands like the CONTENTS and MERGE.

Friday, September 05, 2008  

Creative Merging

In an internet discussion, someone made a broad statement about how the Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew word rosh, meaning "head." The assertion was that in those cases where rosh is used in the sense of a leader or ruler, it is never translated by the Greek word for "head," which is kephale, but by a word which explicitly refers to some kind of ruler:

In the LXX rosh is translated as hegemon, archon, archegos and chiliarch, and not as kephale.

Curious to verify whether this was, in fact, the case, I turned to the MT/LXX. The MT/LXX is a parallel arrangement of the words in the Masoretic Text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible with the Greek translation of those words in the Septuagint (LXX). This resource enables me to search for all those places where the LXX translates rosh as kephale.

Since the MT/LXX is a tool, and tools do not have grammatical tagging, searching the MT/LXX directly for those Hebrew and Greek words will get me some results, but will miss any places where those words are inflected differently than the lexical form. If I want an accurate search, I need to find every possible form of rosh and every possible form of kephale. To do that, I'll piggy-back off the grammatical tagging of the BHS and LXX texts using a powerful command called the MERGE command.

To really understand how to use the MERGE command, you should check out chapter G6 of the Grammatical Supplement PDF in the Manuals and Documents folder inside your Accordance folder. The Training DVD also includes a video tutorial on using the MT/LXX. For now, I'm just going to give you the steps to follow so you can see how the Merge command works:

  1. Open a window or tab containing the BHS-W4 (tagged Hebrew Bible), click the Search for Words radio button, enter "rav" and click OK.
  2. Open a window or tab containing the LXX1 (tagged Septuagint), click the Search for Words radio button, enter "kefalh" and click OK.
  3. Open a window or tab containing the MT/LXX. In the argument entry box, use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-M to insert the MERGE command.
  4. A dialog will appear asking you to select a window or tab to merge with. Select the BHS-W4 window you just used to search for rosh and click OK.
  5. Use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-A to insert the AND command.
  6. Use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-M to insert another MERGE command. This time select the LXX1 window you used to search for kephale.
  7. Open the More Options section of the MT/LXX window and select Paragraph from the Search Within Every pop-up.
  8. Click OK to perform the search.

This search should highlight every place where the Hebrew word rosh is in the same paragraph (on the same line as, and therefore translated by) the Greek word kephale. 610 hits are returned (one for each Hebrew and Greek word found), which should mean that there are 305 instances where the Septuagint translates rosh as kephale.

To quickly scan the results, I changed the Show pop-up from All Text to Add Titles. This gives me only the hits, along with the verse reference. To check out each occurrence, I simply dragged my mouse over the Scripture reference and read the verse in the Instant Details Box.

I very quickly discovered that the vast majority of these cases were talking about a literal head; that is, someone's noggin. I wanted to see if any of these cases were where rosh was being used in the sense of a leader (like we would use the term "head of state"). Being lazy, I didn't want to wade through all 305 results, so I began looking for a way to narrow those results down.

I first turned to the Hebrew lexicon HALOT and looked up the word rosh. I scanned the entry and found the paragraph dealing with rosh as meaning "leader, chief." This paragraph contained a number of verse references giving examples of this particular usage of rosh. If I could somehow narrow my search of the MT/LXX to that set of verses, I could quickly see whether any of those instances of rosh are translated as kephale.

First, I needed to get that list of verses out of HALOT. The easiest way to do that is simply to command-click any of the verse references in that paragraph. Doing so will open a Text window displaying each of those verses.

Now I just had to use that set of verses as an additional criterion of my MT/LXX search. The usual way to do that is to use the CONTENTS command, which essentially lets you search for the set of verses contained in another window. In most cases the CONTENTS command is the easiest of the advanced search commands to use, but I had trouble getting it to work in this case. Since this post is now getting pretty long, I'll discuss my failed attempts, and eventual success, in my next post.

Thursday, September 04, 2008  

Accordance At Work

Yesterday I read a couple of excellent blog posts in which the authors made good use of Accordance.

Rubén Gómez of Bible Software Review interacted with a text-critical question raised at Evangelical Textual Criticism. Rubén used the various tagged uncial manuscripts in Accordance, along with the CNTTS textual apparatus, to examine variations in Luke's genealogy.

Rick Mansfield of This Lamp used Accordance (and print resources) to examine the proper interpretation of Matthew 5:28. In addition to comparing multiple translations and consulting BDAG, Rick found A. T. Robertson's monumental reference grammar of Greek to be especially helpful.

Be sure to check out both posts.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008  

More Yearbook Photos

Last week, I showed you a few screenshots from versions 2 and 3 of Accordance. Today, I want to look at the interface changes in versions 5 and 6. While version 4 of Accordance offered powerful new features, there were only very minor changes to the interface. The major interface changes took place with versions 5 and 6.

A teenage boy in the midst of puberty finds himself going through radical changes. He may grow dramatically taller (that never happened for me, but I hear it happens for some people!), but he may then become awkward and lanky. One minute he may sound like Barry White, and the next he'll sound like Shirley Temple! He experiences newfound physical strength, but it's often the strength of a bull in a china shop.

Version 5 was kind of like Accordance's puberty stage. In many respects, it was one of the most feature-packed upgrades we ever released, and it included some long-needed interface enhancements, but it also introduced new problems and exacerbated old ones.

In this screenshot, you see a Search window from version 5. In version 5, we finally got rid of the Mode button and replaced it with radio buttons for switching between Word and Verse searches. This provided much better visual feedback as to which mode you happened to be in. We also used color backgrounds for the windows themselves to help the user distinguish which type of resource he was looking at (text, tool, parallel, etc.). Again, we were trying to solve the problem of window clutter, and we thought the color coding of windows might help the user more quickly distinguish a search window from a tool window. The color coding of windows didn't look too bad in OS 9, but when we released an OS X version of Accordance 5, the colors caused all kinds of problems and looked really out of place.

The same was true of icons. Version 5 was the first version of Accordance with icon buttons on the New Window and Amplify palettes. Until then, we had only had text buttons, and some users felt that there wasn't enough visual distinction among buttons. So we developed icons which wouldn't necessarily have won any design awards, but which weren't bad by OS 9 standards. Granted, we had a hard time coming up with coherent symbols for statistical details like the Analysis, Plot, and Table, but the system of using scrolls to represent texts and hardback books to represent tools worked reasonably well. But then we transitioned to OS X, which features much more sophisticated icons, and again a new interface improvement suddenly looked dated.

With Accordance 6, we decided to take a hard look at every aspect of the Accordance interface, reevaluating it according to the changing interface standards of OS X, and looking for ways to solve long-existing problems such as the proliferation of windows. At the same time, we wanted to preserve the strengths of the Accordance interface, such as its central focus on the text of the Bible, the ability to "amplify" seamlessly from one resource to another, etc.

The first thing we did with version 6 was to add the Workspace window, which keeps all your Accordance windows neatly organized as tabs within a single window. This finally solved the problem of window clutter in a way which was clean and simple.

Next we looked at ways we could reduce visual clutter and confusion. The first thing we did was to consolidate the New Window and Amplify palettes. These two similar-looking palettes with identical-looking buttons were used for two different purposes. The New Window palette was used to open a module in a new window, while the Amplify palette was used to select a module to be searched for a selection of text. Yet having two separate palettes with buttons for accessing the same modules was confusing, especially to new users. Our solution was to combine the two palettes into one Resource palette, which could be used to open a new module if there was no text selected, or amplify to a module if text had been selected. A modifier key (originally command, but later changed to control) could be used to override the amplify behavior even if there was a selection of text somewhere.

With respect to the icons on the palette, we decided we needed professional help. No, not that kind of professional help! I mean the professional help of the artists at the IconFactory. They did a beautiful job of creating true OS X icons.

Another thing we did was to move controls which only affected certain windows off of the palette and onto the windows themselves. For example, the icons for adding a new text, reference tool, or user notes pane to the Search window had previously been located on the New Window palette. If you didn't have an active Search window, these buttons could not be used. The same was true of the Analysis, Plot, and Table buttons which were so hard to represent with an icon. They were only usable if you had performed a search in a Search window, so it made sense to take them off the palette and locate those features on the Search window itself.

With respect to the redesign of the Search window, we tried to make it less intimidating to the new user by offering better explanations of what each control was for. Rather than having three unlabeled pop-up menus along the top of the window, we left only one pop-up (the search text pop-up), the Search for Words and Verses radio buttons, and the argument entry box. The Range and Field pop-up menus, along with the Add Context pop-up, we moved into a More Options section which could remain closed when not in use. We also added a natural language explanation of what the Range and Field pop-up menus are for. We did the same for the number of hits and verses, which had previously been displayed as an unlabeled number and fraction.

The redesign of the interface in Accordance 6 extended far beyond anything I can detail here. Every dialog box was carefully redesigned to make them more readable. The menus were reorganized to make it easier to find things. Windows were reorganized to make them more visually inviting.

With every change, we sought to reduce the complexity of the interface for the new user, without making advanced features harder to find or access. We sought to make the interface aesthetically appealing without overemphasizing eye-candy. Ultimately, we tried to address the weaknesses of the existing interface without abandoning its considerable strengths.

With version 6, we came out of the awkward adolescent stage of version 5, and paved the way for further improvements in subsequent versions.

Monday, September 01, 2008  

Accordance 8.0.5 Released

Over the weekend, we released another free update to Accordance, which users of Accordance 8 can download here. Accordance 8.0.5 fixes some obscure bugs, adds a couple keyboard shortcuts, and greatly impoves the import of html files into Accordance User Tools.

The keyboard shortcut for adding a new folder in the Library window has been changed from shift-command-F to shift-command-N to make it consistent with the Finder's shortcut for creating a new folder. We've also added command-option-X as a shortcut for removing selected verses from a Reference List window.

In response to a couple users who uncovered problems in the HTML import, the import process has been greatly enhanced. Accordance no longer inserts blank titles to break up long articles, and does a much better job of handling complex subarticle hierarchies. Other improvements include better handling of the superscript and list tags. If you've tried the HTML import and been frustrated with the results, you might try it again.