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Tuesday, April 03, 2007  

Finding all the Davidic Psalms

Whenever I demonstrate how to define a search range in Accordance, I usually mention that you can include non-contiguous ranges and that you can go down to the chapter and verse level. "For example," I say, "You could define a range for all the Davidic psalms." Yesterday, it occurred to me that I had never actually defined a range for the Davidic Psalms.

Being the inherently lazy person I am, I wanted to find a quick and easy way to find all the psalms ascribed to David. I did it by using a search command which I suspect many of you may not even know about: the Field command.

The Field command is a stand-alone command which is used in conjunction with the WITHIN command. Basically, you can tell Accordance to find something within so many words of either the beginning or end of your search "field."

What is the search "field"? It's whatever you have set in the "Search within every" pop-up menu in the More Options section of the Search window. By default, this is set to verse, but you can change it to search by clause, sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc.

If I want to find all the Psalms attributed to David, I need to find all the Psalms which mention David in the superscription, which is, of course, the first verse of the psalm. So I typed "David" (without the quotes), then selected the WITHIN command from the Enter command menu of the submenu (actually I used the keyboard shortcut shift-command-w) and entered a proximity of 20 words. Next I entered the FIELD command (using the keyboard shortcut shift-command-f). In the dialog box that appeared, "Begin" was already selected, so I just clicked OK to dismiss the dialog.

In the More Options section of the Search window, I selected Psalms as my search range and "Chapter" as my search field. My search argument now looked like this:

This search will find every psalm which has the name David within 20 words of the beginning of the chapter. In the HCSB, this search turned up eight verses, all of which were either verse 0 (zero) or 1. Since I know the zero verses in Psalms are the superscriptions, those are the hits I want. Psalm 132:1, which begins, "LORD, remember David," is a false hit because in that case David is just mentioned in the body of the Psalm.

Now, does it strike any of you as odd that this search returned only seven legitimate Davidic psalms? Surely David wrote more than that! The reason for this is that the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) I was using happens to translate most of the ascriptions to David with the word "Davidic." When I went back and put an asterisk (*) wildcard after the word "David" in my search argument, I got seventy-four verses, which seemed a little more like it.

Now I needed a way to remove all of the verse 1 references to David, so that I would just be left with the verse zero superscriptions. I used command-A to select all the verses, then bookmarked all the verses by choosing Mark Selection from the Selection menu. I then skimmed through the results and found that the only verse 1 hit was Psalm 132:1. I removed the bookmark from this verse by option-clicking the verse, then went back up to the Selection menu and chose to Add Marked Verses to a new Reference List window.

A Reference List window is basically just a container window for collecting related verses. I just used it as a temporary way to get all the Davidic psalm superscriptions together in one place. I used command-A to select all the verses in this window, then chose Copy As References from the Edit menu. This gives me a nicely formatted list of verse references that looks like this:

Psa 3:0; 4:0; 5:0; 6:0; 7:0; 8:0; 9:0; 11:0; 12:0; 13:0; 14:0; 15:0; 16:0; 17:0; 18:0; 19:0; 20:0; 21:0; 22:0; 23:0; 24:0; 25:0; 26:0; 27:0; 28:0; 29:0; 30:0; 31:0; 32:0; 34:0; 35:0; 36:0; 37:0; 38:0; 39:0; 40:0; 41:0; 51:0; 52:0; 53:0; 54:0; 55:0; 56:0; 57:0; 58:0; 59:0; 60:0; 61:0; 62:0; 63:0; 64:0; 65:0; 68:0; 69:0; 70:0; 86:0; 101:0; 103:0; 108:0; 109:0; 110:0; 122:0; 124:0; 131:0; 133:0; 138:0; 139:0; 140:0; 141:0; 142:0; 143:0; 144:0; 145:0

As you can see, this list gives me a nice basis for defining a "Davidic Psalms" range, but I don't just want my range to include the superscriptions of these psalms, I want to search all these psalms in their entirety. So I just pasted this list of verses into TextEdit and used the Find and Replace to remove every ":0".

Now all I had to do was copy the list of psalms from TextEdit, go back to Accordance, open the Define Ranges dialog box, create a new range, name it "Davidic Psalms," and then paste my list of psalms into the box labeled "definition."

By the way, once I had all this set up, I then decided to define ranges for the psalms attributed to Asaph and the sons of Korah.

I've detailed a lot of steps here, including the use of the FIELD command, how bookmarks and Reference Lists can be used to exclude unwanted verses from a search result, how the Copy As References command can get you a nicely formatted list of verse references, and how that list of references can be modified and used to define a very specific search range. It all took me just a couple of minutes to do, and it sure beats searching for every reference to David in the psalms, trying to sort out which of those hits are in the superscription, and then typing all those references out myself! As I said, I'm lazy. That's why I love using Accordance.


Update: Oops! It looks like I may have given you an example which doesn't work with the current version of Accordance! Currently, range definitions have a limit of 255 characters, and the Davidic psalm range as I gave it to you exceeds that limit. To fix that, you need to remove the spaces after each semicolon before pasting this into your range definition. In TextEdit, simply replace every semicolon-space with just a semicolon, and you'll be okay. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused. The next update to Accordance features an increased limit to the range definition, and since I'm using an early alpha of that version, I didn't catch the fact that my range definition exceeded current limits!

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