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.