Re: Computers and Misinterpretation of Scripture

From: Mr. Lemuel G. Abarte (
Date: Wed Aug 05 1998 - 00:51:41 EDT

As a structural engineer for 20 years, I made it always a point to review the literature behind the development of a computer program before testing the program for its user-friendliness, ease of use, and maintenance. It is usually a tedious job to read each line of code in FORTRAN particularly when a modular approach was made by the programmer. And the task gets really heavy when we have to modify the program to extend its applicability to the more mundane problems plaguing engineers in the construction industry while at the same time, placing our 'bugs', such as an inconsequential (.), that made the system administrator run to our office, pale-faced, since he thought his accounting program online might have crashed and the manager has to get his report 5 minutes ago. But as a whole, the resulting productive work is more than rewarding for the hours invested seemingly without end to get a good modified program going. While it usually took weeks to design a pile cap and to modify its components, for exam
ple, we could do so, in the advent of the high speed computer, changes in less than an hour! Talk of real time design and construction!

I think the availability of computers made it for the serious student of Koine and Septuagint Greek to produce a more balanced exegesis which carefully consider the options (Gordon Fee's advice, please see the book, Hermeneutical Spiral) involved in the interpretation of a passage. The Analytical Greek Lexicon for the Septuagint is one good result of computer-assisted Greek linguistic study. Perhaps our study in the original languages of the Bible has improved because of this tool.

But what may never change is the scrutiny of the approach adopted by the developers of any linguistic software for that matter. What we have today is the analytical comment, say for example, on the appearance of verbs in the imperfect indicative and the references where they occur in the NT. That would really aid us greatly in the understanding of the imperfect indicative but the form of verbs in the present subjunctive are also similar, in the case of EIMI, for example. What decision then should we make? That may not be covered by the computer string search! We still have to go the particular passage and the surrounding context to ascertain the choice (credits to Carl on this). So, the primary knowledge on grammar, syntax and clauses would still be necessary! Which of course, could only be learned in stages of study of the Greek grammar. Or, was the result 'sanitized' to include only imperfect indicatives?

Regarding misinterpretation, it is easier nowadays to correct our mistakes since we use electronic media to save, file, retrieve and review our errors. Anyway, we will always be in the hermeneutical spiral. That was not available a century ago when books were printed. Revisions and editions would always take a while. We should admit mistakes and we should modify. I think a pastor-teacher is humble enough to tell the congregation. That would make everybody know that he studies! :)

Once again, I thank the staff of Biblical Greek for their untiring help. Thanks, Carl and all subscribers for making Biblical Greek a great forum.


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