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

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.

Thank you! This is really good article! Very practical and that's exactly what I do almost every day.

In your parallels window example your screen shot shows both English (top row) and Greek (bottom row). Is there any way to make it come up automatically like this? As it is it takes 3 clicks--but I almost always want both Greek and English for this window. I don't seen any pref setting or way to save the "Add Text" check box as well as specify the text I want added.

Rod, we never changed our Parallel window preferences after we added the ability to display a second text, so there is currently no way to specify that the Add Text checkbox should be checked by default or that a certain text should be used. That's an oversight on our parts that we'll look into addressing in a future update.

In the meantime, you could get around this limitation by creating a Favorite Workspace with tabs for each of the Parallels. In each tab, you could check the Add Text checkbox and specify GNT-T as the text. The next time you want to amplify to a parallel use this Favorite Workspace so that everything will be set up the way you like.

Wow! Great job, David! I am working on my own review of Accordance, and this was exactly the kind of thing I was doing. A couple things to note:
1) One of the things about Accordance I really think will help my students is the ability to mouse over the Greek and have the word highlighted in an English versions that is Strong's encoded (such as the KJVSD).
2) The notes for the NET Bible would help you out on the "divine passive" business. It even points directly to the pages in Wallace.
3) I do encourage my students to get BDAG, but it is a costly addition to the base package. It would be nice if Accordance had an intermediate lexicon such as Friberg's Analytical Lexicon or the Gingrich/Danker Shorter Lexicon of the Greek NT. Both of these do indicate the issue with the passive of egeirw.
4) I partly used this example comparing egeirw and anisthmi to highlight one of the unique and really valuable features of Accordance, namely, the ability to graph more than one set of data at a time.
Thanks again. I am especially pleased that you got to that "dangerous" points of coming up with all sorts of questions!


Another resource that I would recommend is the Zondervan Scholarly Bible Study Suite. It's a little on the expensive side, but when you consider all the resources that are included, many of which will likely be required texts, it isn't bad (plus, students always get a 10% discount).

I initially thought of this package because it includes Mounce's Analytical Lexicon. It would be a nice intermediate lexicon, and is the only one I've seen that lists all the principle parts in an orderly fashion for each entry.

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