Monday, June 18, 2007

Unicode fonts for biblical studies

A post over on Tim Bulkeley's SansBlogue focuses on the advantages of Unicode. I want to add a few comments. (BTW, my comments are based on using WinXP. I'm not certain what differences are involved with Vista.)

  • What font should I use? Personally, I most use and have required my students to use David J. Perry's Cardo font. I like it because it is attractive, is weighted enough to be easily viewed when using PowerPoint or in print, is free, and contains all the characters needed for biblical scholars using Greek or Hebrew or doing textual criticism. That said, John Hudson working on behalf of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) has been creating Unicode fonts, and these are likely to become publishing standards. (Here is the SBL page. Note that keyboard drivers and the SBL legacy fonts are also available here.) For now, only the SBLHebrew has been released, though SBLGreek has been released in beta. When both are done, there will also be a SBLBibLit released that combines the two. There are quite a few other nice fonts out there, and the best place to see picture samples of almost all the Greek Unicode fonts is here. Links are provided to download sites. The beauty of Unicode, of course, is that you can any of these fonts for now, and it will be easy to change them to any other Unicode font later on.
  • How do I install the font? This may seem like a simple question for many people who have been working with fonts and know to download, unzip, install. My experience has taught me that this is a confusing and frustrating process for many. For this reason, I set up a page of instructions for my students, but the bottom line is that the easiest way to install fonts is to go to: "Fonts for Biblical Studies" (Tyndale House). Use the "Tyndale Unicode Font Kit" available for either PCs or Macs. This will automatically install the Cardo font and setup keyboards (see below). If you just want to install Cardo on its own or the SBL Hebrew among some other fonts, try the's Font Installation Wizard. BTW, on my page of instructions, I also provide some guidance on making sure the fonts work in your internet browser. I also strongly encourage and give directions on enabling ClearType. It almost always makes a drastic improvement in font legibility.
  • How do I type in Greek/Hebrew? If you use the Tyndale Unicode Font Kit I just mentioned, it provides very clear, step-by-step instructions for enabling typing in polytonic Greek and Hebrew. I am not, however, particularly fond of their keyboard, especially with its treatment of accents and breathing marks. (They have to be typed before you type the vowel.) I prefer the keyboards that Logos provides on this page. (A couple notes: I personally like having the Greek chi mapped to "x" and xi mapped to "z" as with the old SPIonic or SGreek font. I modified the Logos keyboard and you can follow steps to use it here. There appear to be a few quirks with how accents are rendered, and I have been having some troubles as I have been experimenting with the new Word 2007.)
Let me know if you have better solutions, or if you have experience with how Vista is dealing with fonts and such. Thanks.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Biblical Mapping - update

I described the site in an earlier posting and noted some of it strengths and limitations. They are indeed busy improving the site. In an earlier version of their site, I had chosen Acts 2 to see how all those difficult to pronounce places in the Pentecost story were located on the map, but only a couple places had shown up. I wrote to them and suggested this might be a worthwhile overview, and idou!, I just got an email back noting that the site had been updated. Nice work! Here's what it looks like, but why not go to the site and see for yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Something I was reading on another site made me think of this... just a bit of humor to lighten up this site.
I'm told this is a true story, but you can decide. Apparently someone wanted to make two banners for our seminary chapel for Reformation Sunday. So she took the opening and closing phrases of Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." Two banners, then, with appropriate and tasteful decoration, one which read, "
A Mighty Fortress is our God," and the other which read, "On Earth Is Not His Equal." Only one little problem... well, read the hymn verse for yourself:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Hymn verse from CyberHymnal

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Biblical art on the web

As I've searched for visuals to accompany work on biblical presentations, I've scoured the web for various resources. I posted on this topic before, but the occasion for this expanded posting is that I recently came across a new site (to me) for images to add to the list of links I've roughly compiled on this page.

  • As noted there, if I am looking for artwork related to a specific text, I start with Biblical Art on the WWW. I like it because it is a large database, and thumbnails of the images are provided which saves me time. One can search by biblical subject, biblical text, artist, or even a word in the subject or artwork.
  • The Art Index on Textweek is also very helpful, and though it doesn't list quite as many hits as the first site, it does provide some different ones. The listing are organized and can be found by theme, scripture text, or relationship to the readings of a given lectionary date.
  • The latest site for art I just found is Art and the Bible. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but it provides a tasteful selection of works that are connected to the full KJV text that is provided. One can browse through the text and see the related art or search by text or artwork title. There are nice overviews of the Last Supper, the Sistine Chapel, and Rembrandt.
As always, be sure to use copyrighted works appropriately!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jerusalem PhotoCarousel

Experimenting here... Enjoy this photo carousel that is a mashup using Microsoft's new Silverlight development tool on their Popfly site. This particular mashup uses the photo carrousel as one block, and then I set it up to draw in any picture from flickr that has a "Jerusalem" tag. (It's supposed to work on both IE and Firefox, but I can only get it to work on IE. Note that you can 'pull' the images around and click to magnify. BTW, this looks much better on a full screen like THIS rather than this small column.)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Do you speak Greek?

In light of a response to a previous post, I thought it would be interesting to see how people are dealing with the matter of the spoken word in NT Greek instruction.
I believe that some spoken familiarity is necessary, of course, simply because we have to be able to speak about words and letters in class. I also think that memorization is helped by hearing a word in addition to seeing and writing it. (Note that both BibleWorks and Logos have pronunciation aids embedded in their programs. In BibleWorks, you need to access the sound files through the vocabulary Flashcard module. In Logos, you can right click on a word in a Greek text to get the lexical pronunciation, or you can use the menu: Tools > Bible Data > Pronounce Original Language.) I also do a number of oral exercises with my students to aid in language familiarity, e.g., sing "Jesus Loves Me" (ο Χριστος με αγαπα..) and recite Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer.
This, however, raises the next issue. Which pronunciation scheme should one use? The so-called Erasmian one or one of its variants is helpful because it tries to help distinguish every letter so that there is an easier correlation between seeing and hearing. The problem is, though, that no native Greek speaker ever used this scheme. (I once was in Greece and spoke the Lord's Prayer as I had learned it. I gave them all a good laugh...) There certainly would be benefits to learning the original pronunciations, especially in terms of hearing wordplays and understanding how some text variants may have arisen, but there is more overlap between sounds that would make seeing/speaking more difficult. Another advantage of learning the ancient scheme, however, is that it is much closer to the modern pronunciation of Greek. On the other hand, learning biblical Greek is really not going to be all that helpful for getting directions to a restroom... (BTW, a good survey of the history of pronunciation schemes is HERE.)
So, how about another little poll? Whether you teach or were taught, how much emphasize was placed on speaking the Greek and which scheme did you use? If you have more to say on this topic, please leave a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Accordance Updates

Alerted by a posting on Deinde, I see that Accordance has updated and released some new resources (including the DSS Bible in English).

Tim Bulkeley's Biblical Studies Work

I've long admired the work that Tim Bulkeley has done on the web, especially his pioneering Amos Hypertext Bible Commentary that serves as the starting point for the larger Hypertext Bible Project. If you haven't done so already, it really is worthwhile to visit the Amos site. This project demonstrates a whole new approach to Bible commentaries, not simply because it is online, but also because it demonstrates the possibilities of linking all sorts of material together in ways that are simply impossible with a book. Furthermore, the project is envisioned as a collaborative and ongoing, peer-reviewed project.
Tim has also been busy with the podbible site, a collection of podcast readings of chapters from the Bible using the CEV. Even more interesting, I think, are the podcasts he is now sharing at his 5 Minute Bible site. These 5 minute or so reflections on biblical passages are a great way for people to grab some helpful perspectives on a text. Sort of like biblical studies in healthy, snack food packaging!
But wait, there's more... more of Tim's work is posted on his ebibletools site, but I especially want to highlight the work he is doing on images, descriptions, and video of archaeological sites. He shares some fine pictures of some selected sites in Israel, but I especially like the "Introductory Tour" videos he has produced. This provide excellent overviews that I find extremely helpful.
In all this work, I think Tim is exploring some new edges for biblical studies using the new technologies available to us.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Original Language Bible Software Poll

From my first poll, I can see now that I can be a bit more specific. I'm also trying to figure out which free polling service works best. Thanks for voting (or voting again!).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bible Software Usage Poll

Please take a moment to respond to this poll. (Note that viewing the results will take you away from this site. Use your BACK button to return to this page.) Thanks!

What is your experience with Bible software? (answer all that apply)
I used it regularly.
I use it occasionally.
I don't bother to use it any more.
I really have not ever used it.
---What Bible software do you use?
I am in a parish setting.
I am in an academic setting.
Neither parish nor academic.
Free polls from

It really is still Greek to me...

One of my long range plans is to enhance the ways of teaching/learning Greek so that it remains a practical tool for biblical study long after one has left seminary. From both formal and informal surveys, it appears that almost all the pastors in my tradition (ELCA) rarely use their Greek at all in sermon or teaching preparation. I am becoming convinced that learning how to use Bible software as part of Greek instruction is key to being able to use Greek longterm. I'm not the first to think this way (cf. the articles posted on the Logos site), but I'm still trying to discern exactly what this kind of instruction looks like. (I'm also just focusing on Greek for now, though this would of course also extend to the use of Hebrew.) I would appreciate insight and advice any of you may have to offer. In particular, I'm thinking of questions like:

  • What are the most important skills/understandings needed to use Greek profitably? How can Bible software address those needs?
  • What are some ways that you regularly use the NT Greek? What sort of 'exercises' could be taught to make learners proficient in such uses?
  • What other questions or considerations should I keep in mind?
Thanks for sharing!