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!
Martin Manser is a professional reference book editor and has compiled or edited over 200 books. Macmillan Publishers has called him “One of Britain’s leading lexicographers.” Manser’s unique ability to organize information has led him to produce two new titles that we are releasing today for the Accordance Library.
Daily Guidance is a devotional guide for Christians who want to bring the light of God's Word to bear upon their lives every day. Compiled with the aim of providing a source of daily encouragement and guidance for Christians, the readings from the Bible draw upon several modern translations as well as the King James Version. The Bible readings are accompanied by hymns and godly poems that have been chosen to aid believers in their personal response to God and his Word. Thus, some readings provide inspiration and others offer challenges to live the Christian life.
With 366 devotions (Leap Year entry included!) Daily Guidance can be used in Accordance Daily Reading mode with all referenced Scripture passages automatically opened in parallel.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Manser's Daily Guidance.
From ability to zeal, this resource has over 6,000 quotations covering over 500 topics and subtopics. Originally titled The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations, this volume will be used again and again by pastors and teachers searching for the perfect historical statement to illustrate a point.
Manser uses the title regularly himself. Recently, he wrote the following:
I looked at the content recently when I gave a talk at church on Peace in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Reading through the quotations helped steer my initial thinking. I saw different angles that I could focus on in my preparation. On other occasions I have used quotations from the book, so I know that a pithy quote can inject life into a talk. Two of the ones I like best are “I sometimes think that the whole secret of the Christian life is to know how to use the word ‘Therefore’” (D.M. Lloyd-Jones), and “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers” (Ruth Bell Graham).
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Manser's Christian Quotations.
With these two volumes, Manser helps the reader with his or her inner life as well as proclamatory responsibilities.
I love everything that’s old—old friends, old tunes, old manners, old books, old wine.
—Goldsmith (From Dictionary of Quotations From Ancient
and Modern, English and Foreign Sources)
New, up-to-date commentaries and reference works are important, but older works still have their place. Here are a few reasons you should add old books to your library (followed by a few newly-released old books you should consider).
- When we read the biblical text, we are often quick to connect it to our immediate concerns, to focus too quickly on how it applies to the current news cycle or the latest theological controversy. Classic commentaries do not look at the text through those same lenses, so they can (paradoxically) help us to see the text from a fresh perspective.
- Classic commentaries also have the advantage of having been written by scholars and clergy whose works have stood the test of time. The fact that they’re still around is an indication that they contain insights which are timeless.
- Older works can also prove to be a rich source of sermon illustrations. Your people may well have repeatedly heard that joke or sappy story that’s circulating via the internet, and your use of it can therefore seem stale and outdated. On the other hand, an illustration that is a century old can (again paradoxically) come across as novel and informative. You want your people saying “Wow, I never knew that!” rather than “Yeah, I've heard that one before.”
- Finally, classic works are typically a great bargain. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to expand your library, don’t neglect the classics.
Here are some newly released classics I’m really excited about. These works are being offered with introductory specials through April 27, 2015 (11:59pm EDT).
J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: A commentary on the gospels by the famous nineteenth century Anglican Bishop, Ryle’s Expository Thoughts were published in seven volumes. Ryle’s aim was to be “plain and pointed,” seizing on “the really leading points of the passage.” It is therefore both succinct and yet deeply devotional.
List Price $80
A. T. Robertson’s Studies in the Epistle of James: Written by the renowned Baptist scholar who authored Word Pictures in the New Testament and a landmark grammar of New Testament Greek, this commentary demonstrates a depth of grammatical understanding combined with pastoral sensitivity. The commentary offers solid verse-by-verse exposition without getting bogged down in minutia.
Regular Price $19.90
Dictionary of Quotations From Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources: I absolutely love this collection of quotations. The compiler’s aim was to select ancient and modern sayings “that seem to reveal an insight into” and “bear pertinently upon” life, literature, speculation, science, art, religion, and morals. Because of this emphasis on wisdom, I find that this collection of quotes contains far less dross than other collections. It’s packed with proverbs and maxims from various nationalities, like the Cornish proverb, “He who will not be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock.” It contains quotes from ancient Greek and Latin authors in the original language as well as in translation. It includes the insights of church fathers and the pithy sayings of modern (prior to the 20th century) writers, politicians, and philosophers. It’s truly a rich vein to be mined.
Regular Price $19.90
Clergymen and Doctors: Curious Facts and Character Sketches: Another rich source of illustrations, this book is a collection of anecdotes about medical doctors and clergymen. Naturally, I find the clergy stories the most interesting. There are stories of famous preachers who dealt comically with sleeping listeners, and others who dealt cleverly with reprobate kings. For example, there is the story of a famous French minister who was told by Louis XIV: “Father, when I hear other preachers, I am very well satisfied with them; when I hear you, I am dissatisfied with myself.” That’s a critique any preacher might aspire to!
Regular Price $9.90
One of the most powerful and unique features of Accordance is the INFER command, yet it's quite possible you've never even heard of it. This command is designed to let you search two different passages for "inferences" from one to the other.
An inference can be a direct quotation, a paraphrase, or even a relatively vague allusion—really any use of similar language. For example, the gospel of John begins with the phrase "in the beginning," a clear allusion to Genesis 1:1. Understanding that connection helps us better understand what John is saying. In the same way, a Hebrew scholar might want to find where the book of Isaiah alludes to the book of Deuteronomy.
Historically, finding such allusions has been tricky. Scholars had to trust to their own ability to spot similar language by memory, which required an intimate knowledge of the texts they were comparing. We can spot the connection between John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 because we are quite familiar with those two verses, but imagine trying to spot any allusion to Deuteronomy in the entire book of Isaiah! With the INFER command, researchers now have a way to find measurable data on relevant inferences.
Okay, so you're not writing a dissertation on "intertextuality"; what does the INFER command have to offer you? Well, let's say you're teaching a Bible study on Genesis 12:1-3, God's call to Abram to leave his home and travel to the land of Canaan. Do other parts of the Bible allude to this passage? You can find out in seconds using the INFER command.
To use the INFER command, you first have to set up a Search tab containing your "base" text: in this case, Genesis 12:1–3. To do this, just click the Verses button, enter Gen 12:1-3 in the search box, and hit Return. Your Search tab should now display only those three verses in the Bible text you chose to search.
Now you need to create a second Search tab where you'll search for inferences to your base text. I find the easiest way to get this second tab is duplicate the first one using the keyboard shortcut command-D. This will open a tab using the same Bible text. Now just click the Words button in this second tab, then choose INFER from the Enter Command submenu of the Search menu (or use the keyboard shortcut shift-command-I). A dialog box will appear asking you which Search tab you want to use as your base text, and offering a variety of options you can choose from.
Just click OK to use the default settings. Your search argument in this second tab should now look something like this:
When you click OK to perform the search, Accordance will search the entire Bible for any place that uses similar phrases to those found in Genesis 12:1-3. In some cases, you may find that these phrases consist of very common words and the connection with Genesis 12:1-3 may just seem coincidental at best. In other cases, you'll find some very interesting connections. Rather than analyze those for you, let me just ask those of you who have tried this yourselves: which of the passages found by this search strike you as the most interesting? Let us know in the comments on this post.
This is, of course, one very simplistic use of the powerful INFER command, but I hope it gives you a taste of what "the rest of us" (non-scholars who know little about "intertextuality") can do with it.