Saturday, January 26, 2008

BibleTech08 good stuff

This really turned out to be a fine experience: interesting presentations and lots of good connections meeting people otherwise only known via the Net. Some things I want to remember:

  • Sean Boisen made a good case for encouraging those who are sharing material on the Net with biblical references to use a "Bibleref" markup. More info here. The idea is one of those commonsense things, and it really isn't that difficult to implement. There are, however, a number of questions (how to indicate version, alternate versification...) that might complicate it. There are already plugins available for Wordpress, e.g., Holy Scripturizer.
  • Stephen Smith from Crossway (and the ESV Bible) walked us through a much more nuanced and thorough way of thinking about how people read and use their Bibles. We also heard about the open policy they have had with sharing the ESV. It seems pretty clear to me that their free sharing of the text has led to it quickly pervading the cloud, but it doesn't really seem to have hurt physical sales of the product. Thanks to Crosswary and another plug for open source...

  • Now this is really neat. Reiner du Blois shared work on the Semantic Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, a project carried out under the auspices of the United Bible Society. The dictionary itself is a bit like a Hebrew OT companion to the Louw-Nida Lexicon for the NT, but the SDHB is using a significantly more nuanced approach that considers both lexical and contextual domains. The example he used is the word "sheep." Lexically, it fits in with animals and more particularly, domestic animals. Contextually, however, it might be associated with shepherding and so associated with words like shepherd, flock, pasture, staff, etc. It might also be contextually associated with Temple, however, in which case it is associated with words like priest, knife, sacrifice, blood, etc. He showed the tool that they are using to create this lexicon and then demonstrated the work that has been completed so far in the online application. Note that user comments are being solicited. It really provides a fascinating view of the language. Check it out.
  • I have highlighted the wonderful work done at, now The Resurgence Greek Project. Zack Hubert told a bit of his story. It is a fascinating story of how he got from Amazon to the Pastor of Technology at Mars Hill Church... with sort of happening on his spare time. He has a great sense of technology and ministry and the kind of community he is trying to support at his church.
  • Neil Mayhew and Larry Waswick from SIL talked about that is involved with their organization in the work of Bible translation. It is an incredibly 'thick' process that involves far more than just translating. Not only does it take a great deal of training for translators, but it also requires all sorts of supporting software to render languages appropriately. One of the tools they use is the SIL Fieldworks. I'll quote from the site:

A suite of software tools to help language teams manage language and cultural data, with support for complex scripts.

Language projects begin with careful study of the language and culture of a community by:

  1. entering cultural and linguistic observations
  2. analyzing and capturing linguistic and cultural rules and precepts
  3. writing papers, including dictionaries and writeups of linguistic and cultural phenomena

FieldWorks is a set of software tools that help manage cultural and linguistic data from initial collection through submission for publication. A sampling of what FieldWorks supports:

  • the Dictionary Development Process which defines an approach for building and refining a dictionary
  • categorizing cultural observations using the Outline of Cultural Materials
  • complex non-Roman scripts using Unicode and SIL-developed Graphite
  • most writing systems (except vertical script at this time)
  • limited multi-user capacity which opens the door to cluster project work over the Internet or a LAN

FieldWorks stores data in a common set of databases which allows for:

  • integrated data
  • integrated task work
  • normalization of data
  • What fascinated me was the cultural and ethnological sensitivity required for good translation, but this is exactly the same thing that is needed for seminary students translating the Greek NT into English. The Fieldworks suite is a free download that allows for journaling of cultural observations that can later be recalled in the actual work of translation. I'm going to check it out and see how it might be used with my Greek classes.
  • I got to meet Troy Griffitts of The Sword Project of the Crosswire Society. He pointed out to me the FlashCards program. It's free, has both Greek and Hebrew, and has a nice variety of lists based on frequency and grammars. He also showed me the beta of a very neat online app he has developed that calls up images of manuscripts (e.g., Sinaiticus, P46, Aleppo Codex) that makes it easy to do transcription work. (It's still beta, so don't bug him about it...) I'll use it with my Advanced Greek classes.
All in all, this was an excellent experience. Thanks to Logos for hosting this event! (And now I can look forward to the redeye flight back to the east coast, but it will have been worth it.)


  1. If you haven't found it out already, Fieldworks can be a rather frustrating problem as well as incredibly helpful. I've used in for classes at one of SIL's schools (www.

  2. Hi, Mike. I started playing around with Fieldworks. It appears to be a sophisticated, field-specific, word processor and database. That makes it very powerful, but it also seems that you have to be quite precise when doing the data entry.
    I would be very interested in hearing your experiences with the program. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to use it.
    1) I could ask students to use this ethnological awareness as they are reading the Bible, so that they become more attuned to the socio-cultural dynamics that are assumed in the text. So often we tend to impose our own cultural assumptions on the text. I.e., I would have them use Fieldworks to make observations about the biblical culture that is referenced in the text.
    2) On the other hand, we are so embedded in our own culture that I think we fail to be aware of all the dynamics we take for granted. If we come at everything with a 'churchy' perspective, we will probably miss a lot of what is happening in the culture today. So, I could ask students to use Fieldworks to be attentive to the modern culture, and then use that data to be more relevant and accurate in their translations.

    Hope to hear more from you and others...

  3. The UBS Semantic Domain of Biblical Hebrew looks worthwhile, if it gets to a finished product that is incorporated into Bible software such as BibleWorks. It would be useful to have something like this to help study the Hebrew text in different ways.