Mar 17, 2011 David Lang

Contents Command to Compare

In yesterday's post, I talked about how you can use search commands to narrow your search results and avoid superfluous hits. The example I used was a search for "mercy" that would exclude hits for "mercy seat," and I demonstrated two approaches: mercy <NOT> mercy seat and mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat. I explained that because the first search will eliminate any verse containing the phrase "mercy seat," it might eliminate valid hits, while the second search would find references to "mercy" even if it occurred in a verse which also contained the phrase "mercy seat."

Unfortunately, I couldn't demonstrate the difference between these two searches because every English Bible I tried returned the same number of hits with either search. That's because none of those Bibles actually contained a verse which included both the word "mercy" by itself and the phrase "mercy seat." The one exception I found was the King James, which returned 239 verses with mercy <NOT> mercy seat and 240 verses with mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat. That meant there is one verse that has both "mercy" and "mercy seat."

Now the question was how to find that one verse out of 240. I issued what I thought was a challenge to find that verse, and was promptly given the answer by a user who knows the power of the CONTENTS command.

What is the CONTENTS command? The CONTENTS command lets you use the list of verses from one tab as a search argument in another tab. Knowing how to use this command makes it easy to find where two similar searches return different results. In this case, you need to set up one tab (KJVS) with the search mercy <NOT> mercy seat and a second tab (KJVS 2) with the search mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat. The KJVS tab will then display 239 verses, while the KJVS 2 tab will display 240 verses. To find the verse which is in KJVS 2 but not in KJVS, you need a third tab with the search argument [CONTENTS KJVS2] <NOT> [CONTENTS KJVS]. This search then returns Exodus 37:9, which has both the phrase "mercy seat" and the word "mercy" not immediately followed by "seat." (It's actually followed by "seatward," so it's easy to see why modern translations don't show this difference.)

The CONTENTS command can be used not only to compare similar searches in the same Bible, it can also be used to compare the same search in two different Bibles. For example, the ESV uses the phrase "mercy seat" 28 times, while the HCSB only has it 27 times. The CONTENTS command could therefore be used to isolate [CONTENTS ESV] <NOT> [CONTENTS HCSB].

The CONTENTS command is a powerful command with numerous applications. Learn to use it, and you can easily compare the results of multiple searches.

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Archived Comments

Stuart Kurtz

March 17, 2011 11:58 AM


(mercy <NOT> <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 1 Words> seat) <NOT> (mercy <NOT> mercy seat) 

to do it in one window. Parentheses are your friend in dealing with infix boolean operators :-).

David Lang

March 17, 2011 12:04 PM

Show off! ;-)

Peter Dubbelman

March 17, 2011 3:29 PM

Thanks, David. Having used Bible Works for decades, I'm slowly getting used to what Accord. 9 can do. These types of tips are helpful, as I work myself through forums, podcasts, etc.


March 19, 2011 11:57 AM

I have to admit it; the search language of Accordance is far easier than the other two Bible morphological/Grammatical search programs I use.

Peter Dubbelman

March 20, 2011 3:02 PM


I'd like to compare GNT-T words between two books, say 1 & 2 Thes. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong.

1. I've set up two tabs that have searched for word contents of each book:

a. * <and> [RANGE 1th]

b. <and> [RANGE 2th]

g. My third tab  "

* [CONTENTS 1 thes] <NOT> [CONTENTS 2 Thes]", as you know, returns an unsuccesful search, as this command will not search words.

Can you point this new Accord user in the right direction?


Helen Brown

March 21, 2011 12:23 AM

Peter: For this you need to use the HITS command (CONTENTS compares verses, Hits compares the word list). It's explained in the Help, and in this podcast which is one of a series:

To find words in common, in the second tab simply use:

[HITS 1Thess] <AND> [RANGE 2Thess].

To fiond words only used in 2 Thess use:

*@-[HITS 1Thess] <AND> [RANGE 2Thess]

whihc is the Accordance way of defining "all words in the current range which are not hits in the defined tab.

I hope this helps.

peter Dubbelman

March 21, 2011 3:45 PM

Thanks, Helen. Hope all is well.