Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Survey of the Lands of the Bible free online course

I am happy to announce that I am once again offering a "Survey of the Lands of the Bible" MOOC through Gettysburg Seminary. A MOOC is a "massive, open, online course," and it is offered for free. It runs on a weekly schedule beginning in September and is finished before Christmas. People can do as much or as little as they want in the class. Some buy the textbook, follow along weekly, and join in the discussions. Some just watch the videos I post. Some just drop by every once in a while. Some people just work on their own, but there were also a number of churches where adult Bible Study classes used the course for their fall curriculum. Last fall I had 230 people in the course including 32 from outside the United States.

For more information on the course and enrolling, check this web page. If you just want to check out the course brochure: 2015 Bible Lands MOOC.

I hope to see you online in the course!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fonts and Keyboards for Biblical Languages... again

Our seminary is getting new systems for the faculty! (Dell Venue Pro 8) That's great, but it also means we are revisiting what we are doing with fonts and keyboards for working with the biblical languages. I wrote about this matter back in September 2012, and since then, some things have changed and some not. So, this post will be an update of that one with additional info.


The font situation is clear for us. We moved to Unicode a few years ago, and at that time David Perry's free Cardo font was really the best choice. It's kind of a 'big' font (the characters are wider than usual and have a high x-height), so it works well in projection. Beginning students like it because it is easy to read. Cardo is now in release 1.04. It's also nice because it contains Hebrew, Greek, and every transliteration character and text critical mark. Further, Google obtained the rights to Cardo, so it transfers nicely back/forth from Google Docs. Cardo looks rather chunky in printed form, however, especially when used with a typical serif font like Times New Roman. Here's where we can thank the Society of Biblical Literature and the groups that supported the creation of high-quality Greek and Hebrew Unicode fonts. There is a SBL Hebrew and a SBL Greek, but we are just installing the combined font set known as SBL BibLit. It's a beautiful font that looks great in print.
SUMMARY: We are installing both Cardo and SBL BibLit on all our systems. I'll still use Cardo for projection, but I use SBL BibLit in printed resources.


The situation is better but still not ideal.
  • What I have been doing the last few years is have my students use the Tyndale Unicode Font Kit. It's free. There are installers for various flavors of Windows and for Macs. It installs the Cardo font automatically and handles the right-to-left enabling as part of the installation too. That's all wonderful! I could live with the Hebrew keyboard, but I do not like the Greek keyboard it installs because it requires typing accents and breathings before you type the vowel, and accents and breathings require a variety of CTRL-ALT-Shift combinations.
  • For myself, therefore, I have used the superior Tavultesoft Keyman progam. I bought licenses of their Desktop 8 Light version, and they work very well for me. I like the Greek layout for accents better, it allows for accents and breathings after you type the vowel, and it has 'smart' final forms for both Greek (ς) and Hebrew (ך  ם  ן  ף ץ). Until just last October 2014, Keyman cost at least $20 for their light version, and students weren’t going to pay for that when Tyndale was free. As of October 2014, however, Tavultesoft released the light version of Keyman Desktop 9 for free. This version even shows an onscreen keyboard if you want it. Once the program is installed, you load a keyboard. The Galaxie BibleScript Mnemonic is the one you want, and it includes both Hebrew and Greek. The free version only allows for two keyboards to loaded (in addition to the native language), so if you want to type Syriac, Coptic, or Hieroglyphic, you either need to buy the Pro version or dis/enable keyboards.
  • How big of a difference is there between the Tyndale and Keyman keyboards?
    •  I've noted some of the Greek differences above, and you can see them in practice in the examples below.
    • The Hebrew keyboards are very different as you can see in my examples below. The main thing is that Tyndale puts the vowels on English vowel letters, and Keyman puts them all on the number row. Keyman also puts all letters w/ dagesh in the uppercase and has ‘smart’ final forms. Tyndale has a keystroke for adding dagesh, and the final forms are all on the uppercase.
    • Tyndale has a printable keyboard layout chart, but I like Keyman because it has a popup keyboard available.
  • There are other options for typing in biblical languages, and they might do the trick if you don't have large amounts of text to write.
    • There are online tools for small bits of writing. Try the Unicode Classical Greek Inputter. Even better, check out the KeymanWeb for Greek or KeymanWeb for Hebrew and Hieroglyphic and hundreds of other languages. They use the Galaxie keyboards described above, and the keyboard is displayed.
    • If you don't use the biblical languages often enough to remember where all the accents and special characters are, check out Logos’ Shibboleth program. It’s free, and it has 15 language sets: Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Ethiopic,Coptic, Ugaritic, Armenian, South Arabian, Transliteration, Hieroglyphs, Akkadian, Hittite, Old Persian. It’s great because it displays all the characters, and it’s Unicode. (But it isn’t optimal Unicode since it still uses some combining characters rather than the preferred precomposed ones.) 
SUMMARY: I will probably have my students use the Tyndale Unicode Font Kit. It's easy to use, and it does Windows and Mac. Keyman is only for Windows (and iPhone, iPad, and Android). For students who are more confident with their computer skills and are using Windows, I'll suggest Keyman as an option.