Thursday, December 5, 2019

Y'all Version online!

When reading the Greek New Testament, there are separate forms for the second person singular and plural. In English, "you" can be either singular or plural. How can someone who doesn't know Greek tell the difference? Different parts of the world and of the United States have addressed the matter with various colloquial forms of the plural such as "you all" or "y'all." Wouldn't it be nice to have an English version that could help an English reader be aware of the distinction?
To the rescue is the Y'all Version! It's a version of the "Bible Web App (3.0): Online Bible study application with bonus study features for studying Greek and Hebrew" ... Developed by Digital Bible Society with major contributions from John Dyer and Michael Johnson."
As you can see in the graphic above, you (singular) get to choose various forms of the second person plural to highlight or use including "you all," "y'all," "youse guys," "yinz," and more! It may seem a little silly, but it is significant. E.g., in the graphic above is Matthew 20.20-23. James and John's mother asks a favor of Jesus for her boys, but in 20.22, Jesus replies to her using the second person plural, i.e., to James and John, not to their mother.
Check it out!
(Thanks to one of my students, NP, for pointing this out to me.)

Monday, November 25, 2019

OpenText 2.0: A Stratified Annotation for Multi-Layer Searching

I attended an interesting presentation at the 2019 AAR/SBL presented by Ryder Wishart, Francis Pang, and Christopher Land. They described an upcoming release of OpenText 2.0. The OpenText project has been a long running project (1998?) which I have previously commented upon. It's self-description is:
The project is a web-based initiative to develop annotated Greek texts and tools for their analysis. The project aims both to serve, and to collaborate with, the scholarly community. Texts are annotated with various levels of linguistic information, such as text-critical, grammatical, semantic and discourse features.  
In their presentation, they described an upcoming update. Here is their summary:
The upcoming OpenText 2.0 analysis of the GNT is an open annotation derived from data released by the Global Bible Initiative 2016. In addition to various minor modifications to the GBI syntax model, OpenText 2.0 introduces a stratified model that includes explicit distinctions between graphological, morphological, lexico-grammatical, semantic, and discourse-level markup. It also introduces feature annotations beyond just morphological parsing, allowing other units to be queried for meaningful features that have been identified in advance (to give a simple example, the clausal analysis explicitly identifies intransitive and transitive clauses). All of this data, however, is encoded in a single XML document using in-line markup, so that it is intuitive to query using standard XQuery—and even easier with the custom query resources that we are developing. In this presentation, we will present a series of queries that demonstrate the richness of the stratified data, focusing specifically on investigating phenomena that cut across the different annotation layers. We will also show how this markup is useful for teaching Greek by demonstrating a simple web page that allows students to investigate the syntax and semantics of a specific Greek lexeme. For both examples, we will show how the feature annotations facilitate the display of meaningful quantitative information about the relevant search results.
There have been some delays so they were not fully able to show the new tool in action, but the graphic above gives an example of what it will look like. The color bands provide a way to visualize the various semantic elements in the sentence. Using well-defined XML coding, it allows for advanced semantic searches. An example they gave was how OpenText 2.0 makes it possible to discern different types of narrative, e.g., the parables of Jesus are distinguishable from the context.
I'm looking forward to their work becoming available. (Perhaps January 2020, they said?)

Friday, November 22, 2019

Accordance 13 released - A Quick Review

I first started using Accordance 8 in 2008 running it under emulation on a Windows machine. As a Windows person, I ended up using BibleWorks and Logos, but a couple years ago I made Accordance the required program for my Greek students at ULS where I teach. With Accordance 12, we had a full-featured, reasonably priced software tool that worked well on both Windows and Macs. We use Accordance's Greek and Hebrew Discoverer Collection which provides most everything a beginning Bible scholar needs.
With the just released Accordance 13, we have a more full-featured, reasonably priced software tool that works well on both Windows and Macs! Τhe upgrade pricing from version 12 to 13 is very reasonably priced as well. I would describe this as more of an incremental upgrade than a major overhaul, but there are some significant new features, and everything in 13 is easy to use for those familiar with 12. You will want to check Accordance's own description of what's new in version 13, but I want to highlight some new things that I think are especially noteworthy.

  • User Interface: The program does look 'cleaner,' and there are some options for choosing a theme. There is even a dark mode available for macOS (with the options for Windows promised). The icons look fresher, and there is greater consistency in the location of buttons. (I am referring to open/close/maximize buttons, and it is a challenge trying to have consistency give the fundamental differences between the basic Mac and Windows interfaces.) While that is all good, I do find that the themes are all rather light pastels. I would like a theme with greater contrasts. 
  • Tutorials: This is an outstanding new feature. It's a great selling point for a new user to Accordance as well as for experienced users. In general, the way one learns how to use a software program is through trial and error, necessity, or, as a last resort, read the manual or watch a video. The tutorials, however, provide a task-based approach to learning which I believe is more helpful. There are 75 interactive tutorials organized by skill and topics. They range from basic guides to opening books and doing basic searches to advanced work in using specialized commands like MERGE and TEXT with Hebrew and Greek texts. The "Getting Started with Accordance" module is still available, and it has an excellent and well-organized collection of training videos, but I suspect most people will enjoy and profit more from using the step-by-step, interactive tutorials.
  • Live Highlighting: This is a feature I anticipate using when I am teaching and using Accordance. Using the Pen tool, if you draw on the text something approximating an oval, circle, rectangle, line, curve, or line with an arrowhead, the program will automatically convert your drawing into the proper shape. You can use the Eraser tool to remove your markup. Even more useful for me is the Whiteboard feature. It basically 'freezes' the screen and allows you to draw anywhere on the whole screen. It's easy to 'erase' the screen. This will be a helpful teaching tool.
  • Cross-Highlighting for Hebrew - LXX - (Tagged) English texts: This is an incredibly helpful feature when working with OT texts. Hovering over a word in the Hebrew or LXX or any tagged English text (e.g., NRSV, ESV, JPS, KJV, NET 2nd edition just released, NIV) highlights the word in the other two versions. It makes it easy to track where you are and make comparisons. (I don't know whether it would ever be possible, but the next step is to get a tagged version of the New English Translation of the Septuagint.)
An example of running the TEXT command searching for all the ways the NIV and NRSV translate any Greek words related to the δικη root.

  • TEXT Command: This new feature is quite powerful, and I'm still figuring out ways to use it. It allows for a variety of cross-text searches.

    • For example (and one I hope to post about here soon) is to conduct a search in the NRSV of all the times that it translates a Greek word based on the Greek root δικη. (To do so, I would be working with the NRSV as my display text and do a Words search with [GNT28-T +δικη] in the command line.) The reason why something like this is helpful is because it is one way of establishing the lexical range of a word. E.g., δικαιόω is translated variously in the NRSV with "acquitted, free/d, justice, justify/fies/fied, vindicated.
    • As another example, I can search for all the ways the Hebrew word חֶסֶד is translated in the LXX. Something similar can be done using the MT-LXX Parallel resource, but using the TEXT command highlights all the instances in the LXX text.
    • Or, I can search all the instances in the NRSV where the word "faith" occurs within 3 words of either Jesus or Christ in the genitive. (Using: faith <WITHIN 3 Words> [GNT28-T =Ἰησοῦς@ [NOUN genitive]  <OR> =Χριστός@ [NOUN genitive] ] )
    • Or, with this command, I can conduct syntactical searches in an English version, since I can access the Greek behind the English. As an example, I can have highlighted in the NRSV all the times "God" is the object of a preposition using:  [GNT28-T  [PREPOSITION] <FOLLOWED BY> <WITHIN 3 Words> =θεός@ [COMPLEMENT] ]
    • As I first stated, there look to be many ways to use the TEXT command.
    I had highlighted και εγενετο in NA28 and then used the AMPLIFY to CONSTRUCT to generate this search. As you can see, it would be a lot of work to construct that from scratch.

  • AMPLIFY to CONSTRUCT: For more sophisticated searches, this is a great time saver. Highlight some words in a tagged text, right click, choose Construct and then Word/Phrase/Clause/Sentence, and the construct window is automatically created with all the syntactical and lexical features in place. Once that is displayed it's much easier to remove specific elements that are not needed rather than try to create the whole thing from scratch.
  • PDF Import: It has previously been possible to import HTML and text files into Accordance as User Tools. It is now also possible to import PDFs. There are so many papers and works available on the web, and it is great to be able to bring them into Accordance. In many instances biblical reference links can be automatically created or else can be created.  This is nice for bringing in public domain PDFs of older works (e.g., on or the many articles and papers being shared on Academia.
  • Other: There are many other little updates that make the program easier to use and organize. There is more control over installing resources. It's easier to organize one's library of resources. Check out this list of 13 other features in Accordance 13.
  • I don't have time or space here for a full review of the program, but here are some quick notes.
    • The program works well on OS X and Windows. Purchasing the program allows you to get the iOS (iPhone/iPad) or Android apps with access to your resources. (I can confirm that the Android app runs very well.)
    • The support is very good. Within the first two weeks, there have already been two minor updates to the initial 13 release.
    • Accordance has become my primary software tool since I ask my students to use it, but I still use BibleWorks and Logos on a weekly basis depending on the task. I can make some comparisons:
      • BibleWorks is no longer in business, sadly, but the program still runs fine. Neither Accordance nor Logos have the Word List or Verse List manager that I regularly used. BibleWorks had the best way to un/select search results and is the only one capable of generating multiple versions in customized formatting into a Word doc. On the other hand, BibleWorks was always a bit flaky on a Mac, and the interface was really one an old time DOS person could really like. Plus, they were never going to get iOS or Android apps out.
      • In some ways, Accordance 13 is catching up to Logos 8. Logos has had the cross-highlighting for some time now. The interface is nothing special, but I'm quite happy with its functionality. Accordance has an advantage with its new live highlighting, but Logos has the useful Canvas tool for presenting information. Logos' Bible Word Study feature is one I use regularly and it is quite thorough. I find Accordance's Construct searches to be easier to use than Logos' advanced searches, but for most search functions,  the ability to view, sort, and organize search results in Logos is extremely powerful. I like the new Tutorials in Accordance, but Logos offers Workflows to customize walking through a text study. So why don't I require Logos for my students? To be honest, it would cost my students hundreds more to get what is enough for their needs in Logos as compared to Accordance. Both have a wide and different selection of more advanced books and resources to add to their basic collections, and so for myself, I use both programs.
    SUMMARY: For new users, Accordance 13 is an outstanding choice. The program is easy to learn and to use for basic Bible reading and study, and it can grow with you. It is reasonably priced with a good variety of collections to purchase and a wide selection of other resources you can add. For Accordance 12 or earlier users, it is a nice upgrade at a very good price. As a person becomes familiar with the program, it has the advanced research and study tools to accomplish just about any Bible study task.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2019

    NET Bible 2nd edition: Online and now available in Accordance

    I have my students regularly consult the New English Translation = NET Bible. It's not necessarily the best translation, and since it initially arose out of individuals working on books instead of a committee, there is some unevenness across the Bible. Still, it is an excellent translation to consult because of its attention to the Hebrew and Greek texts. Even more importantly, the textual notes that are provided are a great aid to beginning language and Bible students. There are three sets of notes.
    • tc = Text-critical Note: These notes cover most every significant text variant with a good explanation of the issues involved. Important variants receive lengthy comments. (E.g., "God's Son" in Mark 1.1 or the endings of Mark) I give my students a basic introduction to text criticism, but I don't have time, and they don't have the interest to get into the weeds of the NA28. So, I basically tell them just to look at the NET Bible for a tc note, and that's really all they need. The NET does indicate instances where they differ from NA28.
    • tn = Translator's Note: These provide explanations for the translation choices, and they are extremely helpful drawing attention to grammatical, syntactical, or lexical issues in the original language. It includes such things as discussing the function of a genitive or the force of a tense. Alternatives are noted and discussed as well.
    • sn = Study Note: These notes provide some basic commentary on context or historical / cultural matters. They are useful, but sometimes theological bias is expressed.
    The NET Bible was initially conceived as a work in progress, and they recently updated to a second edition. They note the changes from the first edition HERE and summarize:
    The most substantial editing work for this Second Edition centered on the essential task of creating an updated Strong’s Hebrew/Greek to English mapping of the entire translation. This allowed the discovery of discrepancies and inconsistencies as well as creating a collating base for comparing consistency across the entire Bible. We completed many items on our list of initiatives for the Second Edition:
    1. Both OT and NT have updated Strong’s tagged using phrase tagging as well as multiple number tagging.
    2. This detailed Strong’s tagging was used to detect and correct inconsistencies across the OT.
    3. Divine names in the OT have been made more consistent.
    4. Technical terms related to geography, feast names, and the tabernacle have been made more consistent.
    5. References to explicit sexual body parts or sexual acts have been made more euphemistic like it is in the Hebrew and Greek. Sometimes a more transparent translation isn’t always better, such as reading the Christmas story with young children.
    6. Awkward/unidiomatic renderings were revised, and
    7. Hebrew references in footnotes were corrected and standardized.
    8. We did delete about 3300 footnotes which were deemed unnecessary and superfluous such as “δε has not been translated” or “και has not been translated due to differences in Greek and English style.”
    About 3000 verses were changed in the updated translation, and they are all noted on their summary page. The biggest change is the Strong's tagging. You can see it at work at their excellent online site, the Lumina Bible, HERE.

    I am also happy to report that Accordance has just incorporated the new edition with the Strong's tagging and made it available as a free update (for those who owned the 1st NET).

    Thursday, November 14, 2019

    Remembering Tim Bulkeley

    Picture from one of Tim's many web sites
    I saw a notice by Jim Davila on the PaleoJudaica blog that Tim Bulkeley had passed away. I can't find any other details, but Tim was still posting on his blog in August. Davila notes that Tim started his SansBlogue in 2004 which makes Tim one of the earlier and certainly most lasting bloggers.

    I first 'met' Tim through his Amos Hypertext Bible site. This must have been around 2000 or so, and it was one of the first real attempts to create such a resource that included Hebrew and English, commentary, audio, and visuals. The site is still worth consulting.

    I had started a conversation online with Tim regarding the Hypertext Bible project and subsequently had the pleasure of meeting him a couple times at SBL meetings. I found him to be a gracious and friendly person in addition to being such a fine scholar. In addition to the Amos project, he was ahead of the curve in other ways, reflecting on the Bible and technology, the ambitious "5 Minute Bible" video series, organizing the Podbible project (300+ volunteers who read the CEV) in 2006 before podcasts were really a thing, and much more. Check out his homepage for a survey of all he's done.

    I have had occasion to reference the work he was doing numerous times on this blog, enough so that he has his own tag on this blog. Since Tim was one of the pioneers in Bible and technology, especially on the web, I simply wanted to note his contributions and posthumously thank and recognize him. His scholarly work will endure for as long as Internet Archive endures, but Tim was also a Christian pastor, and I trust that he also endures eternally in Christ.

    Friday, September 6, 2019

    ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

    Paul's First Mission Journey on ORBIS
    I've mentioned ORBIS before, but Chiara Palladino just posted an excellent review of the site. She writes:
    The aim of Orbis is to allow investigation of the concrete conditions of travel in the ancient world, with a particular focus on the 3rd-century Roman route and transportation network. Orbis is a response to the long-standing scholarly debate about visual representations and study of “spatial practice” in the premodern world: traditional mapping approaches fail to convey the complexity of the variables involved in travel practices and provide a flat view of phenomena that are strongly connected with space and movement, such as trade, economic control, and imperialism. Orbis was conceived to respond to the specific question of how travel and transport constraints affected the expansion of the Roman Empire.
    You will want to read the rest of the review and see examples of what sort of insights ORBIS 
    can offer. From a biblical perspective, it can provide a good sense of how long and how expensive travel might have been in New Testament times. You cannot list more than a beginning and endpoint for each journey, but you can keep stringing them together to get the kind of map of Paul's first mission journey I depict above. You will see that not every city is included in the ORBIS database, so it does not include smaller locales like Lystra and Derbe. You also should create a map by right clicking on a site to make it a start or endpoint, since some of the names have changed by the 3rd century CE. (E.g., Antioch of Pisidia is listed as Caesarea of Phrygia.) You do have the options to choose fastest, cheapest, or shortest; set the season which would affect sailing options; choose whether you go by road and/or river/coastal sea/open sea.
    Paul: Neapolis to Thessalonica - Via Egnatia

    In this segment Paul traveled on his second mission journey from Neapolis > Philippi > Amphipolis > Appolonia > Thessalonica, ORBIS correctly picks out the Via Egnatia route. We also learn that such a trip would take 5.8 days to cover 173 kilometers (107 miles). 

    So check out the review, and then play around with ORBIS for yourself.

    Tuesday, August 27, 2019

    Atlas of the Biblical World released!

    I am happy to report that the Atlas of the Biblical World I coauthored with Robert Mullins is now available through Fortress Press and Amazon.
    Based on the latest current scholarship, Atlas of the Biblical World features striking full-color maps and insightful commentary to make the ancient biblical world come alive. The complexities and questions that accompany the responsible study of the ancient world and its intersection with the biblical narrative are addressed through innovative map design and analysis. Sharp commentary that accompanies each map provides factual data, addresses questions of interpretation, and locates the biblical narrative in its wider historical and cultural context, making this particular atlas an ideal introduction for students of biblical studies. The atlas will feature over 60 full-color maps, illuminating commentary, full-color photographs of key historical artifacts, timelines, charts, and an index to the maps and content.
    The official blurb from Fortress is quite glowing (!), but I am very happy to stand behind the content Bob and I have provided. The abundance of quality maps means that there is usually a map on every two-page spread, so that the commentary refers directly to the map at hand. Bob wrote the larger share of the atlas covering OT history. I wrote the chapters beginning with Alexander the Great to the Second Jewish revolt. I also provided most of the cover photos and six others in the book.

    Here is what I wrote in the preface:
    This atlas is intended to serve both as a collection of maps useful for biblical study and as a survey of biblical history. With a subject so vast and with space limited, the authors had to make choices about what to include. It is hoped that what remains is a helpful introduction to the Bible’s people, places, and events. The volume is organized chronologically rather than by the order of biblical books, but it does parallel the biblical narrative and is thoroughly cross-referenced. It should be easy to consult this atlas as one reads the Bible and place the biblical events within the larger history and context of the biblical lands. A Gazetteer is included for convenience in locating sites.
    This atlas provides more than just maps with historical commentary. Geography is important, because it accounts for why things happened where they did. History—based on archaeology and extra-biblical artifacts in addition to the Bible—is important because it clarifies what happened. With better clarity about where and what events in the Bible occurred, we are better able to interpret the biblical story and understand why things happened from the perspective of what God has been doing since the beginning. 
    As for us contributors:
    Dr. Robert Mullins, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Azusa Pacific University and co-leader of an excavation at Abel Beth Maacah, has written chapters 1–45. Mark Vitalis Hoffman, Glatfelter Professor of Biblical Studies at United Lutheran Seminary, and frequent traveler to and photographer of archaeological sites in Israel, has written chapters 46–69. The cartography is the work of Cambridge-based Nick Rowland. Page layout and design has been carried out by, Great Gransden,  Cambridgeshire, while the index and gazetteer have been compiled by Christopher Pipe of Watermark, Cromer.
    At 170 pages, it does not compete with the more comprehensive atlases available and which I have reviewed here and here. (I am still using the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas in my seminary course that surveys biblical geography and history.) It is intended, however, as the kind of atlas one could bring along on a trip to the biblical lands, since it is in a portable size, with good paper stock, and a very durable binding. Using the criteria I set in my own reviews,
    • Approach: It is intended as a Bible-reading companion, but the Gazetteer and Index make it useful for general reference.
    • General Matters: It can be used as a travel companion and is also ideally suited for adult Bible studies. I think it is reasonably priced at $24, and it is also available for Kindle or ebook for as low as $13. That's a great bargain.
    • Scope It covers the full biblical story from prehistory to Revelation and the second Jewish revolt in 135 CE. The intertestamental period from Alexander the Great to the Herodians gets special attention, since it is so important for establishing the context of the New Testament. While some atlases have chronological proportionality (and hence the 100 years of the NT period gets only scant attention compared to the 2000+ years of OT history), our atlas has ~35 pages covering the NT.
    • Perspective: Both Mullins and I understand the Bible to be telling a story. We do not need archaeology to 'prove' the Bible, but we also regard the Bible as one important resource for making sense of the archaeological record. We have our opinions, but we reflect the most recent and best scholarship.
    I hope you will check the atlas out, and I'd love to hear any feedback!

    Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    Photo Companion to the Bible: Daniel and Esther

    I had previously reported on the Photo Companion to the Bible: Acts and noted what an outstanding visual resource it is. Todd Bolen at continues to release more resources in this series, the latest of which are the Photo Companion to the Bible: Daniel and another on Esther. Previous volumes on Ruth, Psalm 23, and the Gospels have also been released. The resources come as DVDs, but in the package a link is included to download all the files. Given the disappearance of CD/DVD drives on portable devices these days, distributing the volume on a USB drive would be handier, but the download option is a good workaround.

    Each volume is a collection of PowerPoints with one file per chapter of the book. Each PowerPoint is a collection of slides with clear chapter and verse references labels on the slides. It makes it very easy to go quickly to a particular passage and see what visual resources are available. For presentation purposes, a slide could be directly copied into one's own presentation, but the images can be easily copy/pasted on their own. Each slide has excellent annotations describing what is depicted. There are over 1000 images for Daniel and over 700 for Esther.

    As a typical example of how it all works, the Daniel volume has 12 PowerPoint files for each of the 12 chapters in Daniel. Opening the one for chapter 7, there are 121 slides. There are 7 slides connected to Daniel 7.1 which reads: "In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:" The seven slides include images of:

    • Nabonidus Chronicle which mentions Belshazzar
    • Nabonidus cylinder which mentions Belshazzar (cf. image below)
    • Stele of Nabonidus (Belshazzar's father) from Teima
    • Picture of "Daniel St." sign in Jerusalem
    • Clay model of a bed, from Nippur, 2100–2000 BC
    • Model of a wooden folding bed, Egypt, circa 1550–1300 BC
    • Scribe copying Scripture
    Each of the slides includes info about what is depicted, and I've bolded the words in the text and for the images to show why they were included. In a personal study of working through Daniel, these images provide helpful supporting commentary. If I were creating my own presentation or study guide, I doubt that I would use the street sign or the bed images which come from different contexts. The inclusion of peripheral images is typical throughout, and it is better to have them than not, though it does sometimes mean perusing through lots of slides to find the most relevant ones.

    The pictures all are of good quality and include a mixture of artifacts (statues, coins, mosaics, many museum artifacts, etc.), sites, abstracts (e.g., sky, sea), maps, and modern images (animals, plants, signage, etc.). Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the images in these volumes on Daniel and Esther is that Bolen and the other contributors went to Iraq and Iran and obtained these images where the ancient Babylonian and Persian empires were located. These are not the typical tourist sites, and getting such images will likely become more and more difficult. Also note that free lifetime updates are promised. Further, as for permissions to use the images, it states, “The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts.” Any other use would require specific permission.

    These volumes are a fabulous resource. It is fascinating to peruse them on their own, and it's even better to employ them in conjunction with focused study of the biblical texts.

    Disclosure: I was provided these resources for review but without any expectations of positive review.

    Thursday, April 18, 2019

    Library Extension for Firefox and Chrome (You'll want this!)

    I just discovered Library Extension for Firefox and Chrome, and it really is remarkable. Once you add the extension in either of the those browsers, an icon appears in the toolbar. Click it on to select your available public library and some educational institution ones. If your library system offers it, it will also allow you to connect to Hoopla and OverDrive.

    Then, when you are looking for a book in places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads or  Audible, Library Extension will automatically include information on its availability.

    For example, I looked up Rasmussen's Zondervan Atlas of the Bible on Amazon, and the page looks like this:
    As you can see, a new box has been added on the right telling me that it is available on Hoopla through my county library system. I click on the link, enter my library credentials, and I can start reading the atlas right away. That's pretty excellent. It even works for audiobooks, e.g.:
    It's not a perfect system. Depending on which edition or version of a book you select, you will get different results. And your public library probably doesn't carry that technical volume on an advanced biblical topic. And sometimes, you really want to just buy the book and have your own copy!

    In any case, this is a handy way to see if your local library has a book you can check out, and sometimes it is even available as an eBook or an audiobook. It's a great way to save some money!
    HT: CNET

    Monday, April 15, 2019

    Designing for Agency in Bible Study

    I didn't make it to this year's BibleTech in Seattle, but Stephen Smith at posted the slides of his presentation. (Find them HERE.) Doubtless he provided more context for the slides, but it's fairly easy to follow his argument. Basically, he looks at Bible software and Bible reading from the perspective of game design which is concerned about agency. I'm greatly simplifying and making some assumptions from the slides, but he points out the importance of Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy as motivating factors. Bible software marketing tends to promote competence and autonomy. (You can master the Bible on your own with our program!) But that's not what most people are concerned about when looking for something in the Bible. Here's where aspects of creating relationships come into play. (E.g., YouVersion's sharing options.) As Smith states,
    Bible software, in general, supports competence across a narrow audience: mostly male Christians in some kind of leadership role. This narrow focus limits the market for Bible software because it doesn’t support life as lived by most Christians (slide 23)
    Here's where Smith's previous work on a "Franken-Bible" comes into play. (Cf. my blog post here or go to his Adaptive Bible site.) He now has an Expanded Bible site which attempts to bring in Competence (you get to choose among translation options; the text includes sidebar notes with info and links; once you complete a chapter, you're rewarded by it generating an audio version you can listen to), Relatedness (you can share your created translation with others, something that can't easily be done at the Adaptive Bible), and Autonomy (you can do it on your own, and there is no wrong answer to discourage you).

    I'm including a graphic of Smith's annotation of the print version (which is really inferior to the online, interactive version) so you can see how the Expanded Bible site was constructed, but you really just need to go play around at the site.
    Smith, slide 32
    I appreciate the various perspectives that Smith brings to bear on this project. They are certainly worth considering. Thanks to Steve Smith for sharing this!

    Saturday, April 13, 2019

    New KJV Parallel Bible - Textus Receptus vs. Critical Text

    On Thursday 11 April, Mark Ward announced on the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog the release of a free, online tool for teaching textual criticism to English speakers: the KJV Parallel Bible. Ward explains:
    The site dedicates one page to each of the 260 chapters of the New Testament. On each of these pages are two columns. The left column is the KJV as it stands in the common 1769 Blayney edition. The right is the KJV as it would be if Peter Williams and Dirk Jongkind could travel back in time and hand the KJV translators an NA28—instead of the mixture of Stephanus (1550) and Beza (1598) the translators in fact employed... The differences between the two KJVs are then highlighted.
    This is more of a thought experiment than a critical tool, but it's a helpful one. As I teach my students, I note that the most likely time when text criticism will arise in the parish is when someone notes that their KJV Bible is not the same as the NRSV or NIV Bible someone else is using. This site clearly highlights such differences, as is visible in the example from Mark 1.2 above.

    With the critical text rendered in the archaic English of the KJV, it's not intended as a translation but as a text that's easy to compare with the KJV. What Ward concludes is that:
    1. What’s really remarkable about Scrivener’s TR and the modern critical Greek text is not how different they are, but how similar they are.
    2. English makes certain patterns in the variants more visible.
         A. “Jesus Christ” and “Christ Jesus” are a common variant pair.
         B. Revelation appears to me to be worse, textually, than other books.
         C. The TR is not so much “longer” as “easier” or “smoother” and therefore longer.
    3. The same thing can be said with different words.

    While you're at the site, be sure to check out the Study Guide and also the fun TR Quiz. Some of the quiz examples can be guessed correctly if you think in terms of making things more understandable and orthodox, but many are indeed inconsequentially different.

    Thanks to Ward and the others who have shared this interesting resource.

    Friday, March 29, 2019

    BibleWorks Update!

    When BibleWorks announced they were closing up shop in June 2018, they noted that the program would, of course, continue to run as normal. They also indicated: "We will, Lord willing, continue to provide compatibility fixes for BibleWorks 10 well into the future."

    I still use BibleWorks regularly since it has so many resources I have not purchased in either Accordance or Logos. True to their word, I still was pleasantly surprised to see that they recently released a Windows 10 Compatibility Update:

    I haven't had any issues running BibleWorks in Win10, but if you still have the program, it probably is worth it to start it and update.

    Universities of Cambridge and Heidelbergt Announce Digitization Project

    A Greek New Testament manuscript dated to 1297 from the collection of Cambridge University Library.
    The University of Cambridge posted on their web site:
    In a major collaboration announced today (March 28, 2019), Cambridge University Library, 12 Cambridge colleges, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Heidelberg University Library and the Vatican Library have come together as part of a two-year £1.6m project, funded by the Polonsky Foundation, to digitise more than 800 medieval manuscripts... Hundreds of medieval and early modern Greek manuscripts – including classical texts and some of the most important treatises on religion, mathematics, history, drama and philosophy – are to be digitised and made available to anyone with access to the internet.
    While the digitizing is a great asset, just as important is the cataloging and conservation that will be accomplished in this project. You can see what's available now on the Cambridge Digital Library and the Heidelberg Digital Library.

    Thursday, February 21, 2019

    Online Bible Reference Taggers Comparison recently announced the availability of their free ESV CrossReference Tool. It gives me an opportunity to compare the three options that are now available. All are free. All work by adding a simple javascript either to a web page, or, if you want to make it available site wide, to a site template. They automatically find Bible references on a web page and generate a popup when hovering over a Bible reference like this: Mark 6.34.
    By following the links below, I provide examples of each one's capabilities and provide some commentary.

    SUMMARY (Update 2019.03.05 - Thanks to comment by Andley Chang)
    • ESV CrossReference Tool
      • Only links to ESV
      • Does have audio function
      • Provides social media and email linking
    • NETBibleTagger
      • Only links to NET Bible, but...
      •  ... click through links to the outstanding Lumina Bible online site with many additional resources
      • Allows customization of display
      • Also note that there is a NETBible Web Service (API) you can use to create links to Bible texts without using the automatic reference tagging.
    • Faithlife Reftagger
      • Offers option to link to a selection of Bible versions
      • Provides social media linking (but I regularly have trouble making the popup persist long enough to click on the link)
      • Links to the Biblia or Faithlife Study Bible. From these sites you can access many more resources
      • Allows customization of display 
    • BibleGateway Reference Tagging Tool 
      • Offers options to link to most Bible versions (over 60 English Bible versions, Greek (SBLGNT), Hebrew, and uncounted other non-English languages)
      • Links to BibleGateway site for more versions and other resources
      • Option for a Spanish interface link and other customizations
      • Does not recognize period separator for chapter.verse
    As you can see, each has some benefits. Since I have a good Logos library, linking to Biblia online provides me access to all my resources. If you want access to non-English language, BibleGateway is the only choice. For most of my purposes, sharing Bible references on a blog like this or online articles I write, I will most often use the NETBible Tagger with BibleGateway as a second choice.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2019

    Photo Companion to the Bible ACTS - Review

    In addition to his informative blog, Todd Bolen at has been compiling some excellent study resources, the latest of which is the Photo Companion to the Bible volume on Acts. Previous volumes on Ruth, Psalm 23, and the Gospels have been released. The primary creators of the Acts volume are Steven D. Anderson, A.D. Riddle, Christian Locatell, Kris Udd, and Todd Bolen who have provided most of the photos and commentary. According to the introduction:
    The Photo Companion to the Bible is an image-rich resource for Bible students, teachers, and researchers. Just as a librarian stocks the shelves with as many relevant materials as possible, so we have tried to provide a broad selection of images. Our goal is that you will find in this “library” whatever it is you are looking for. 
    The volume is organized into 28 PowerPoints, one for each chapter of Acts. This makes it convenient to search for images connected to a chapter in Acts. Further, each of the images in the PowerPoint is labeled with a verse number and order sequentially. There is a variety of images included: photographs of sites, artifacts, historic photographs, aerial views, and maps. Where it would be helpful, some photographs are duplicated and include an overlay labeling notable features. (Many images come from BiblePlaces’ Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.) Each slide includes the portion of the verse to which it relates, the chapter:verse reference, and a descriptive caption. In the comments section of the PowerPoint, additional information is provided.
    There are over 4000 images in the Acts collection, and the 28 PowerPoints take up about 1.6GB of storage. There are between 65 and 250 slides for each chapter. The maps provided by A.D. Riddle are very nice, and most of the pictures are of high quality. As for permissions, it states, “The purchaser is granted permission to use this work in face-to-face teaching, video-recorded sermons, class notes, church newsletters, and like contexts.” Any other use would require specific permission.

    This resource will certainly be useful to anyone teaching or studying Acts and looking for visuals. Whether it is a location (e.g., Capernaum), topic (e.g., Baptism), or reference (e.g., “times or seasons”), there are multiple images that can be used. To have everything organized by specific Bible reference simply makes things much easier to access. Some items are very loosely connected with the text, and there are a few identifications or comments with which I might quibble, but overall this is a fantastic and immensely helpful resource.

    The list price is $149, but the introductory sale price is $89 which includes free shipping in the US as well as immediate download. For a sample of what this outstanding collection is like, you can download for free the PowerPoint for Acts 18.

    Disclaimer: I provided a couple pictures of a memorial to Paul at Apollonia for which Bolen provided me this volume for free.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2019

    All you wanted to know about the great polyglot Bibles

    London Polyglot of 1657

    The Newberry Library in Chicago has recently created a website (actually just a page with popups) that provides excellent visuals and descriptions of three of the great polyglot Bibles of the 16th and 17th centuries: the Complutensian (1517), Antwerp (1571), and London (1657). The goal of the site is not to provide access to the texts (you cannot look up passages) but to provide an overview of the layouts of the Bibles. It explains not only what is in each section of a page spread but also why it was included. It's a great way to see what was going on with these "Cathedrals of Print." It reminds me of a few hours I spent back in the day when I was working on my dissertation on Psalm 22 and perused the 1645 Paris Polyglot in the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale. These Bibles were certainly magnificent publications, and the amount of work required to print them is staggering. We have so much in digital formats these days, and we can be thankful for the much broader access provided, but we can be grateful for the work that preceded it.
    HT: John Linebarger in Anglican Biblical and Theological Languages Forum on FB with a HT to Peter Gurry at the Evangelical Textual Criticism blog