Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WORDsearch 8 released

Though it is not yet posted on their own site, is promoting the new version 8 of WORDsearch. You can check out the list of enhancements. It's not really designed for academic/scholarly use (Greek/Hebrew only have limited resources). It is no doubt helpful, especially with its combination of translations and linked resources, but I continue to wonder just how much real good a lot of these software packages actually provide when they bundle so many old, public domain resources. I suspect that because these resources are basically free for them to include, it is attractive to beef up the library with this stuff.
Easton's Bible Dictionary is from 1897, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) was first published in 1915, and the ubiquitous Matthew Henry's Commentary was written in 1708-1710.
No doubt Matthew Henry was state of the art in the early 18th century, but I wonder if many readers who find that text online or in these software packages realize how old and outdated it is. Sure, there are still some valid observations that can be learned from these texts, but they really need to be checked against the new discoveries of the last 300 years!


  1. I understand what you say... but like many, you forget one small detail of biblical studies.
    Truth does not change. 2+2 =4 was true before man, is still true today and will be true when you and I are gone.
    If we apply your theory of biblical study to math, then we should not teach 2+2=4 any longer because it is at least hundreds of years old.

    Something to think about my friend.

  2. I agree that the truth does not change (and that is why I acknowledged the validity of some of the observations in texts like this), but our knowledge of facts does change in light of new discoveries. Publishers of encyclopedias and dictionaries have to keep printing new editions in light of new data. Even math and science textbooks may still be quite right about 2+2, but if they predate the theory of relativity or discoveries about the planetary system in the last 50 years, they will not be reflecting the larger truth as we now know it. Similarly in biblical studies, there have been so many things we now understand better because of archaeological discoveries (Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls alone!), manuscripts which help us understand the Koine Greek language of the NT better...
    So, yes, I do think about it a lot, and yes, there are 'classics' that have stood the test of time, starting with the Bible itself! As a Lutheran, I always like to check what Luther might say, but I also know that I have new resources to evaluate (and sometimes even disagree with) what Luther said.
    But because I don't have time to read everything, I try to read the best of what I can. In these particular cases, 100-300 year old commentaries and dictionaries probably aren't the best we have. As with everything, then, I think that we always need to read with discernment. When we do so, hopefully we will perceive the enduring truth even as we deal with newly realized facts.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts.
    One thing I will add to this discussion is this...
    Bible came from God. Commentaries came from man.
    God is perfect in all He says. Man is not.

    I think the Bible sheds a lot of light on all the commentaries.

    Biblical truth did not, has not, and will not change. It will be true no matter what culture, no matter what language, no matter what time.
    God's laws on the other hand have changed and did change with Jesus Christ. But since Jesus died, God's laws have not changed one jot or tittle since God has spoken to us through His Son, Jesus (Heb 1:1-2).
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. I agree with the conclusion that much of the public domain content bundled with so many Bible Study packages is of little value, but I disagree with the premise that it is so because of the age of the works. Works like the TSK, and topical indexes like Nave's or Torrey's, provide terrific benefit to the Bible student, because they help him to understand Scripture.

    The problem with so many other works has nothing to do with a lack of current "facts," but with a lack of ancient wisdom. Matthew Henry was no closer to the truth when he was "state of the art" (to use your words) than he is today.

    In fact, to follow up on the example you raised of the ISBE, I possess one volume of the 1988 Bromiley revision of that work, and I must say that I prefer the older edition, because it lacks not only the mundane if interesting archeological and semantic scholarship of the 20th century, it also lacks much of the boorish, intellectually trendy skepticism of the age.

    That category of "knowledge" that mutates from decade to decade is of the most superficial kind. Genuine Biblical scholarship doesn't get "old and outdated" - it just eventually needs to be translated into current languages.

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  6. Thanks, John, and I agree that 'old' does not mean bad. (And given my age, that is becoming more and more true personally, I hope...) So, yes, I do indeed use TSK and Nave's regularly as well. I also should say that some of the older commentaries often are much more attentive to details of the ancient language. Personally, I never had to learn classical Greek, and I only had a overview year of Latin. I suspect that the 'old school' language requirements made those scholars more aware of some things than I ever shall be.
    I suppose, then, that some of what makes me cautious about those resources are theological disagreements with them (and each of us may choose to politely disagree on this matter), some of it has to do with matters of perspective (a lot of stuff appears to be quite anti-Semitic in a way that the Holocaust forces us to rethink), and only some is simply new data. (An example: Easton's [1897] says that Nazareth in Jesus' time had "15,000 or 20,000 souls." Harper's Bible Dictionary [1985] says "1,600-2,000." The Anchor Bible Dictionary [1992] says "a maximum of about 480." I'm not losing any sleep over this discrepancy, and even two major modern resources can't agree, but Easton's certainly does appear to be wrong here.)
    As you note, our "knowledge" may change, but there is a kind of wisdom that endures.

  7. Thompson Chain and the only complete Ironside collection.


    But then again, so is Logos :)

  8. Easton, Anchor or Harper.
    MGVH... You point out the basic problem with religious people today. None seem to be willing to study enough to get to the truth of the matter.
    Whether Nazareth had x or x*2 or x+5 souls doesn't really matter in the scheme of the Bible or else God, in His wisdom would have deemed it necessary to have told us.
    But why build a house upon speculation? Why not build the house on truth?
    Like Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" - John 8:32.
    Thus it doesn't matter how old something is, if it is true, it will always be true and should be respected for being truth.
    After all, isn't the Bible older than all the other writings you have mentioned? And since it is, given your previous argument, then shouldn't we throw the Bible out based upon the fact it is old?
    God's Word was good for man when it was written by men guided by the Holy Spirit and it is good for man today. Truth never changes. 2+2 will always = 4.

  9. After discussing how outdated Matthew Henry's commentary is, you wrote, "Sure, there are still some valid observations that can be learned from these texts." I can only assume you haven't spent much time in Matthew Henry's commentary to make this kind of statement. Sure, if I want to know the number of people in Nazareth in the first century, I'm not going to turn to Matthew Henry. But how many excel Henry in getting at the heart of the biblical text and making application to the believer's life? When I listen to someone teach a Sunday School or Bible lesson, I want to hear from someone who has sat at the feet of Jesus, as it were. This is where Matthew Henry excels. I mean, who really has a better grasp of the teaching of the Bible: Matthew Henry, or someone armed with all of the latest data regarding archaeological discoveries, populations in the first century, etc., while remaining but an infant when it comes to understanding, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain"? Of course, it is not an either/or, but Matthew Henry should be on everyone's bookshelf, or computer. It is a gem! And 100 years from now, many of today's "cutting edge" commentaries will only be of historical interest, while God's people will continue to drink deeply from the fount of Matthew Henry's commentary.

  10. Oh but you forget again my friend...
    Matthew Henry was but a mere man, a mere mortal at best.

    Like I said, the Bible sheds a lot of light on commentaries.

  11. Wordsearch also has a number of recent resources as well including the Tyndale Bible dictionary, Holman Illustrated Bible dictionary, Bible Background commentaries, etc. Certainly, Quickverse and E-Sword for the most part repackage "out of date" material, but Wordsearch also includes a lot of recent works in their library.

    The older material is still valuable from a theological and devotional perspective anyway.