When Accordance 1.0 was released more than a decade ago, it was truly groundbreaking. Grammatically tagged Greek and Hebrew Bible texts had already been around for some time, but searching them had never been for the faint of heart. In developing a Mac program that could access these databases, our programmer applied Mac interface concepts to grammatical searching. The result was an enormous breakthrough in ease of use.
One of the coolest features of Accordance 1.0 was the Construct window. The Construct window provides a simple drag-and-drop interface for building complex grammatical searches. Just as the Mac graphical user interface made it possible for "the rest of us" to use a computer without having to learn an arcane system of text commands, so the Construct window enabled Greek (and later Hebrew) scholars to build sophisticated searches without having to learn a programming language.
Here's an example of a Greek construct designed to find examples of the Granville-Sharp rule:
If you don't know Greek, or haven't got any idea what the Granville-Sharp rule is, don't worry. You can still follow the logic of this search. And since you can use the Construct window in English as well, you'll want to understand how this works.
First, notice the columns along the bottom. Each of these columns represents a separate element of my search. So I can look at these columns and see that I'm searching for:
- an article, followed by
- a noun or participle, followed by
- the lexical form kai (which means "and"), followed by
- another noun or participle
See, it's not rocket science!
Now, look at the area above these columns. This area is where you define the relationship between the various items you're trying to find. Here I can see that the article and the noun need to be WITHIN 3 words of each other, they need to AGREE in gender, number, and case, and there cannot be any verbs, adjectives, or pronouns between them (INTER stands for "intervening," and the slash over the INTER means "not"). Now look at the relationship between the first and second nouns/participles. Can you figure out their proximity, the nature of their agreement, and the items which may or may not appear between them? Sure you can!
We've just seen how easy it is to follow the logic of a graphical construct—even one which is fairly complex. Try that with any of the other Bible programs which boast "graphical search engines." I think it was about five years after Accordance had pioneered these concepts that a Windows developer implemented its own graphical search interface. I remember at the time someone told us they had "copied" our Construct window, but when we looked at what they had done, we found they hadn't copied us at all. Their system was much more free-form: a blank canvas on which you could place boxes to define items and arrows to define relationships. This free-form system allowed you to do a few things which the Construct window wouldn't do, but it was difficult to follow, and it was much easier to create logically impossible searches. What's more, this graphical interface still used arcane abbreviations to represent grammatical characteristics, rather than actually spelling out words like "verb" and "participle."
Since then, other Windows developers have tried to get in on the act, but it appears that they followed the graphical conventions their Windows counterpart had come up with, rather than looking at the Accordance Construct window which had started it all!
The end result is that twelve years after Accordance pioneered a graphical system for building a search, nobody else has even come close to duplicating its power and ease of use. The point of graphical searching is not to create attractive flow-charts, but to make it easy to get your mind around a complex search. This week, I'll be showing you how to use this powerful feature. First, we'll build a basic English construct. Then we'll build a more complex one in Hebrew. Stay tuned!