This week we've been discussing the interpretive value of looking for repeated words in a passage of Scripture, and I've been showing how to do this using Accordance's highlighting tools and other shortcuts. Yesterday, I showed how, having noticed a repeated word, you can quickly search for other occurrences of that word and highlight the results with one click. But I ended that post by discussing the challenges of searching for repetition in a translation rather than in the original Greek or Hebrew:
In most cases, the repetition of a word in a translation actually reflects the repetition of a word in the original Greek or Hebrew, but that's not always the case. It may be that a Greek or Hebrew word is translated by different English words in the same passage, in which case our search for repetition in English would miss instances of repetition in the original. Conversely, it may be that the same English word is used to translate different Greek or Hebrew words, in which case we would be seeing repetition in the English which is not actually present in the original.
So if you're working in English, how can you be sure you're finding repetition which occurs in the original texts? The answer is to use an English Bible tagged with Key numbers that link you to the original Greek and Hebrew words. Accordance has quite a few such texts available (ESVS, HCSBS, JPSS, KJVS, NAS95S, NKJVS, NRSVS, NIV-G/K, and even the Spanish RVR60S), so you likely have at least one such text already.
Yesterday, I did a search for every occurrence of the word "sent" in 2 Samuel 11, and I found 9 occurrences in the HCSBS. How can I be sure that all nine occurrences translate the same Hebrew word? Well, I could hover my cursor over each occurrence and see which Hebrew word appears in the Instant Details box, or I can simply click the Details icon of the Search window and select Analysis from the pop-up menu.
If I do the latter, an Analysis tab will appear listing all the words that were found by my search, as well as all the Key numbers attached to those words. This tells me right away that all nine occurrences of "sent" translate the Hebrew word shalach.
Now, how can I be sure that my search for the English word "sent" found every occurrence of shalach in 2 Samuel 11? The easiest thing to do is to search for the Hebrew word itself. We can do that by right- or control- clicking the English word "sent" and choosing Key Number from the "Search for" submenu of the contextual menu.
This will open a new tab showing every word in the entire Bible which has been tagged with the Key number representing shalach. Since I'm only interested in the occurrences of this word in 2 Samuel 11, I would then limit the search by specifying that chapter as the search range.
Now I can see clearly that my English search actually missed two additional occurrences of the Hebrew word shalach. If I want to highlight those additional occurrences, I can simply shift-click my highlight style again to apply that style to all the hits from this Key number search.
Obviously, I would have saved a step if I had searched by Key Number to begin with, and I'd recommend you make a habit of searching by Key Number rather than by English word. I began with the English word search in yesterday's post purely for teaching purposes.
Now that I've found all eleven times the Hebrew word shalach is used in 2 Samuel 11, I'm ready to begin analyzing each occurrence to see how it develops a theme and decide what that theme communicates. Again, using Accordance to speed up the process of finding all this repetition frees me to do the work of interpretation that no software can do for me.
So far, we've been using an English translation as a gateway to study the original Hebrew, but those of you who are comfortable working in the Hebrew directly can go even further. In tomorrow's post, I'll show you an even more sophisticated way to find repeated words in a passage.
This week we've been discussing how finding repeated words in a passage can make you aware of its major themes and motifs. On Monday, I showed how to use Accordance's highlighting tool to highlight key words so you can begin to notice patterns. Yesterday we applied this method to 2 Samuel 11, highlighting every mention of cleansing and then unpacking how those key words are used to develop a particular theme. Today I want to look at another oft-repeated word in 2 Samuel 11 and show you a few helpful shortcuts along the way.
If you work your way through 2 Samuel 11 and just begin highlighting the actions taken by the main characters, a pattern very quickly emerges. Can you see it? In this handful of verses, the word "sent" is used over and over again.
The advantage of highlighting key words as you work your way through a passage is that it can alert you to repeated words like this. But once you've noticed a pattern, there is no longer any point in working your way through the text looking for every remaining occurrence of that word. Once the pattern has emerged, that's the time to switch gears and have Accordance complete the pattern for you.
In other words, now that we know the word "sent" gets repeated, we want to find all other occurrences of the word "sent" as quickly as possible. That way, we can move immediately from gathering the relevant data (observation) to analyzing that data (interpretation).
One obvious way to find all the other occurrences of "sent" in 2 Samuel 11 is to search for it. You can do that by right- or control-clicking the word "sent" and choosing Word from the "Search for" submenu of the contextual menu.
This will open a new tab showing every occurrence of the word "sent" in the entire Bible. Since I'm only interested in the occurrences of this word in 2 Samuel 11, I would then limit the search by defining a range for 2 Samuel 11 in the Range pop-up menu or by using the Range command. Either approach will show me that "sent" is used no less than nine times in this chapter.
Searching for the word "sent" in this way has two advantages. First, it's instantaneous (as most Accordance searches are), where reading through the passage looking for each occurrence is time-consuming. Even more importantly, I can be confident that every occurrence of the word has been found, where I might easily miss one or more occurrences when trying to spot them myself.
Now that I've found every occurrence of "sent," I can instantly highlight the ones I haven't already highlighted by hand. To do this, simply shift-click the desired highlight style on the highlight palette. Shift-clicking a style will apply that style to every "hit" word resulting from a search. Using this method, you can very quickly highlight key words in a passage. And once again, the advantage of such shortcuts is that it moves you more quickly from the work of observation to the more engaging process of interpretation.
Up to now, I've been looking for repeated words in an English translation (the HCSB). For most of us, that's how we have to work through a passage, and that's perfectly fine. In most cases, the repetition of a word in a translation actually reflects the repetition of a word in the original Greek or Hebrew, but that's not always the case. It may be that a Greek or Hebrew word is translated by different English words in the same passage, in which case our search for repetition in English would miss instances of repetition in the original. Conversely, it may be that the same English word is used to translate different Greek or Hebrew words, in which case we would be seeing repetition in the English which is not actually present in the original. In my next post, I'll show you how to make sure the repetition you're seeing is really present in the original.