Re: Computer tools for B-Greek?

From: clayton stirling bartholomew (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 15:19:18 EST

>From: Ryan Simmons <>
>To: Biblical Greek <>
>Subject: Computer tools for B-Greek?
>Date: Tue, Feb 15, 2000, 3:32 PM

> I want critical
> electronic texts with an apparatus of variant readings
> of the NT, LXX, and Hebrew. I would like search tools
> and statistics that are as helpful and reliable as
> good printed concordances. I would like a selection
> of the leading lexicons in electronic format with
> citations of examples indexed to the text similar to
> Alsop's index of BAGD. I also want an index of the
> LXX text giving the Greek words used to translate each
> Hebrew word. In addition to all this wishful
> thinking, some electronic format of an arrangement of
> the text of the gospels such as Aland's Synopsis
> Quattuor Euangelorium would be nice.

> Besides the expense of a printed library containing
> the critical texts, good lexicons, indexes to those
> lexicons, and concordances of each set of literature,
> the use of these bulky volumes is more cumbersome than
> hyperlinked texts. I just don't know of an electronic
> package that is as good as the printed references. Is
> there such a thing? If not, what is the best
> available? My Greek professor and fellow students
> would be grateful for your suggestions.
*****private post, off list****

Ryan Simmons,

Your wish list is somewhat utopian. I have been using what has been
called by some the most advanced system for computer based research in
biblical languages since fall of 1994. I have all the modules installed
that have anything whatsoever to do with biblical languages and textual
research. This system addresses *in some form* about 70% of your
requests including the gospel synopsis and MT/LXX lexical data. It does
not address the critical text issue. This system only runs on a Mac. You
may have heard of it.

Guess what? I still prefer to use physical books for most of my work.
Why? Simply because the computer tools, no matter how good, are somewhat
inflexible. They always represent some particular way of looking at the
problem and they freeze this perspective into the architecture of the
software so that you end up with a tool which will impose restraints on
how you do your work. These restraints stifle thought.

This problem is addressed in detail by Matthew Brook O'Donnell** in his
article "The Use of Annotated Corpora for New Testament Discourse
Analysis." O'Donnell points out how most databases currently in use mix
discourse levels within the same tag (e.g., morhphologial and semantic
data). He also points out the more subtle and often overlooked issue
that the architecture of the database reflects a particular school of
linguistics (e.g., generative, functional, etc). This second problem is
the most serious of the two. I would add to O'Donnell's astute
observations that the architecture of the search engine also represents
a school of linguistics. So what you end up with is a
database/search-engine which only lets you ask certain kinds of
questions cast into the form in which E.A. Nida or someone like him
might raise the question. (I am not picking on Nida. He is just the
first person who came to mind.)

Short of building your own databases (an arduous task) you will never
escape the problem mentioned above. A number of people doing research at
the Roehampton Institute have taken to building their own databases. I
have no idea how they go about this. But I would guess that they have
some tools that reduce this task to a reasonable number of labor hours.

I did some database building of my own in the early 90's but gave it up
for Lent :-)))))))


**Porter, Stanley E. & Jeffrey T. Reed ̉Discourse Analysis and the New
Testament, Sheffield Academic Press, 1999, page 71ff.

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