Want to impress your professors? Show them that you know how to do original/independent research using the INFER command in Accordance. Discover intertextuality not only between the books of the Bible, but also between the Bible and related literature of the time period.
One of the more challenging tasks a student in biblical studies will face is that of pursuing original research. Easily, we can ask, after 2,000 years of Christian study of the Bible--and even more than that for Jewish study--can anything original truly be found? At one time that question might have been more difficult to answer, but with features like the INFER search in Accordance Bible Software, there continue to be opportunities to make new discoveries.
Let’s start with just the Bible itself. As far back as I can remember, I had access to a Bible with cross references. These references that run parallel with a biblical text indicate where there is a similar theme, quotation, or allusion. This is fairly straightforward and most who have spent any time with any copy of the Scriptures are familiar with cross references. What many do not realize, however, is that most of these kinds of tools were created in a pre-digital age. That means someone had to read through the Bible, and based on his or her knowledge of the entire Bible, wrote down these cross references. Obviously, that is not a perfect system because our brains are not perfect.
Truth be told, though, when we’re discussing the Old and New Testaments, odds are probably against finding allusions or quotations that no one else has seen before. This is where that 2000 years of history works against us. However, the sister of original research is independent research. At the very least, you can use the INFER search to verify not just cross references but also works such as Beale & Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. In your paper, to show your instructor your independent research—or your original research if you do happen to make a new discovery—you can write something like “Using the INFER search in Accordance Bible Software, I verified…” [or “…I discovered…”].
So what, exactly, does the INFER search do? The INFER search can be used to find allusions or quotations between two independent bodies of literature. This can be done not just between books of the Bible and the testaments of the Bible, but more importantly, between the Bible and extrabiblical literature. As an example of the latter, a couple of years ago at a conference, a doctoral student approached me with a question about how to use Accordance to find any allusions in the extrabiblical Dead Sea Scrolls to a very particular passage in Leviticus about which he was writing. Since we not only have the Hebrew Bible in Accordance, but also the sectarian DSS, I used the INFER search and found multiple passages for him to explore. In recent years, I’ve heard about students and scholars finding these kinds of parallels that had been previously overlooked back in the era when this had to be done simply with the eye and the limits of one’s recall.
I hope I’ve whetted your appetite about using the INFER search. It’s one of the more powerful searches in Accordance, first introduced in Accordance v. 8, but often overlooked by those who don’t know about it. I’m not going to go into detail here about how to use the INFER search since it’s been covered fairly well elsewhere, but I will provide you a few helpful links.
INFER and SEARCH BACK (Lighting the Lamp Video Podcast #89)
And, of course, don’t forget the Accordance Help System. Really solid instruction for the INFER search can be found in the Help at Biblical Research and Analyses > Search Criteria > Search Commands > [INFER 6 ?]
Final tip for the INFER command: as you follow the steps laid out in the links above, don't forget the very import SEARCH BACK command as your final step.
Don't miss previous installments in our Strategies for Students series!
In my last Throwback Thursday post, I mentioned my role in the design of the Parallels window. This window lets you view parallel passages side-by-side, such as parallels in the Synoptic Gospels or those found in Kings and Chronicles. Yet Accordance also includes Parallel databases covering less obvious parallel passages. For example, the Epistles parallel database lets you compare similar passages in the various New Testament epistles.
You can open the Epistles parallel from the Library or from the New pop-up menu of the Toolbar. When you do, the first "pericope"—that is, set of parallel passages—is automatically displayed. This first pericope just happens to be all of the Pauline Salutations, and it is fascinating to look at how Paul introduces himself in each of his epistles.
By default, the Parallels window will typically open with two or three panes. If there happen to be more than two or three parallel passages in a pericope, you'll see two right-facing arrows on the right side of the parallel window directly beneath the list of pericopes. Just click on that to add another pane.
You can add as many panes as you have room for on the screen. On my 17-inch MacBook Pro I can view 11 parallel passages—all but two of the 13 epistles attributed to Paul. To see the passages from Titus and Philemon, I can simply view them in any of the existing 11 panes. A pop-up menu at the top of each pane lets you choose which passage you want displayed in that pane. You can also use these pop-up menus to change the order in which the passages are displayed. For example, if I wanted to group all the passages where Paul calls himself a "slave" together, I could change the second pane to Philippians and the third pane to Titus.
Viewing parallel parts of the epistles like this can reveal interesting things about the author's situation, or his purpose for writing, or the nature of his audience. We might ask why, for example, Paul refers to himself as a "slave" in Romans, Philippians, and Titus but not in the other epistles. Or we might observe that Paul calls himself an apostle in all but four of the epistles (Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon) and ask ourselves why those four are the exception to the rule. As for those that do use "apostle," we might look at the ones where Paul adds to the usual formula. Why, for example, does he emphasize that his apostleship is "not from men" in Galatians or that he was "singled out for God's good news" in Romans?
If you're starting a study of one of the epistles, I'd recommend you spend a little time with the Epistles parallel. You'll be surprised at the observations you can make by comparing one epistle with another.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon writing an Easter meditation, and I wanted to see all the gospel accounts of the resurrection. I could have gone about finding those passages in a variety of ways, but by far the easiest way was to open one of the parallel modules dealing with the gospels. A Parallel module is a database of parallel passages, and we currently have three pertaining to the gospels. Harmony is based on A. T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels, Gospels is based on the Aland synopsis, and Synoptics is based on the synopsis of Huck and Lietzmann. I happened to use Gospels yesterday.
After opening the Gospels parallel, I could have searched it for a particular passage or pericope title, but since I knew the resurrection would be among the last pericopes I simply chose to scroll toward the end of the list and browse until I found the one I wanted. I chose the one titled "The Burial of Jesus." Once I clicked on it, I could see three of the four gospel accounts, and a plus on the right side of the window indicated that there was at least one more parallel that wasn't currently being shown. Clicking the plus opened a fourth pane showing John's account. Now I simply needed to skim each parallel in order to find the details I was looking for.
When looking for a particular episode in the Bible, the various parallel modules can be extremely helpful. Don't forget about them.