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

Monday, April 24, 2006  

Often Imitated; Never Duplicated

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:

  1. an article, followed by
  2. a noun or participle, followed by
  3. the lexical form kai (which means "and"), followed by
  4. 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!

You’re right – Accordance has something going there. But why invite flak! Why not just extol and demonstrate Accordance’s powerful graphical search abilities, instead of setting a tone of ‘my graphical search engine is better than yours!’

Besides, as you said, "It is not rocket science."

This post was great! Thanks for the construct for Granville-Sharp instances. That's a keeper. I was thinking it would be an interesting idea if you posted several complex but more common graphical searches that Greek and Hebrew scholars might regularly use (like the Granville-Sharp) for reference.

And the fact is that Accordance is better at doing what it does than any other program. Part of good marketing is to point out where your product has a competitive advantage. Well done.

Where's the next example? :)

Sorry this is so out of date. I'm a bit confused. Following your model for Granville Sharp's Rule, I get 152 hits on 99 verses. Many of these are plurals, which were not the intent of Mr. Sharp's rule, AND I don't get Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1, both of which are theologically significant. Can you clarify this for me?


Without seeing your Construct, I'm not sure why you're getting so few hits. Do you have a search range set, perhaps?

I get 215 hits in 280 verses when the "Search within every" pop-up is set to Clause and the range is set to All Text. Titus 2:13 is excluded because the Construct specifies that an Adjective may not appear between the article and the first noun. 2 Peter 1:1 is excluded because the Construct specifies that a Pronoun may not appear between the first and second nouns. You might therefore want to modify the Construct accordingly.

You can also specify that the nouns and participles in the second and fourth columns must be singular. Just double-click each of them and select "singular" from the number pop-up menu.

I didn't create this particular Construct, and I'm no expert in the Granville-Sharp rule; but the ease with which this construct can be refined helps to prove the point I was trying to make in my original post: namely, that it's easy to look at a Construct window and identify what is being searched for and what is being excluded. By comparing the Construct window to your two examples, I could see right away why they got missed.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for taking the time to answer this. I had an error in my original construct. So now, trying to accomodate Granville Sharp's actual rule, which allows adjectives and is limited to singulars I get 251 hits. Hmmm... not perfect, but very useful and a great demonstration of a complex construct. 2 Peter contains a total of five "Granville Sharp" constructions. They are 1:1, 1:11, 2:20, 3:2, and 3:18. Very important on the deity of Christ.
Thanks for your blog! It is my BEST professor of Accordance!

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