Friday, August 9, 2013

Bible Software Recommendations

In my second year Greek and Hebrew syllabi I recommend the following resources: 

The best computer programs for serious original-language study of the Bible are Accordance (Mac/Windows [coming soon]/Ipad), Bibleworks (Windows/Mac), and Logos (Windows/Mac/Ipad/Android).
Accordance 10 ( The Original Languages Collection includes the grammatically-tagged Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and Greek New Testament, several lexicons and English translations. Cost: $299.99 US.
Bibleworks 9 ( Includes the grammatically-tagged Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, Greek New Testament, Targumim, Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Philo, and Greek Pseudepigrapha; as well as several lexicons, grammars, and many translations. Cost: $359 US. 

Logos Bible Software 5 ( Ken Penner informs me that you can get basic Greek New Testament, LXX, and Hebrew Bible texts with parsing and translation for a $160 minimal crossgrade. If you want the standard Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, Rahlf's LXX and the BHS Hebrew Bible, you can choose the Bronze package, which includes the grammatically-tagged Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, Greek New Testament, and Targumim; as well as several lexicons, translations, and some new tools for syntactical analysis of the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible, as well as other resources. Cost: $629.95 US. If you purchase a major Logos package and you are a student or faculty member, be sure to apply for academic pricing:

My 2 cents: In my view, Bibleworks gives you the most bang for your buck, though if I were to start over, I would probably go with Accordance. (I really like what they have included in their Original Languages Collection.) Logos has fantastic resources, but you pay a premium for them. For my earlier posts on Bibleworks and Logos see here and here. For another perspective, I recommend Mark V.G. Hoffman's blog Biblical Studies and Technological Tools.

I should add that all three programs are powerful and sophisticated tools. To get full value for your investment, you should plan to spend a minimum of 8-10 hours learning how the program works. No doubt it is because I have done this with Bibleworks, but not with Accordance or Logos that I find Bibleworks easiest to use--though not as user-friendly as Gramcord used to be.

Finally, my comments are geared toward students of Hebrew and Greek. If you don't know Hebrew or Greek, you are better off spending your time and money on learning a biblical language. Bible software power tools are no substitute for the ability to read the original.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Essentials of Biblical Hebrew Syntax

Technical post alert: I am interested in feedback from Hebrew-savy readers, and don't know where else to put my query.

As I began reading the Hebrew syntax textbook I assigned for this fall's "Hebrew Syntax and Exegesis I" course, it quickly became apparent to me that requiring students to read the whole thing carefully, or spending most of the semester talking about syntax as I have done in the past with Greek, would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Don't get me wrong, John C. Beckman's, Williams' Hebrew Syntax (3rd ed.; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) is fine for what it does. As a "traditional, sentence-level syntax that concentrates on the meanings of morphological categories" rather than "discourse-level analysis," the book is a clear, succinct and remarkably comprehensive resource (although its 19 categories for the [non-existent] Hebrew genitive is dwarfed by Wallace's 33 categories for the Greek genitive case). But most of the book describes what can happen in Hebrew; its main value is in explaining difficult and unusual constructions and linking to reference grammars. As with most syntaxes, long lists of categories threaten to drown the reader in second-order linguistic jargon instead of helping them learn to follow the linguistic cues of Hebrew.

Rather than reading about all the different possibilities, it is better by far to read Hebrew, and discuss unusual constructions as they surface in the Biblical text (where one can draw on a syntax as a resource). After all, the whole point is to help students learn to love reading Hebrew over the long term, and to read it well.

As I finalize my syllabus, then, I need to decide which elements of Hebrew syntax are essential for second-year students to learn because they can transform the way we read the text or because they are debated--or as is normally the case, both. While we will spend most of our class time reading Hebrew, there are a few places where it is helpful to stop and talk syntax because of its potential exegetical pay-off. Here is my list:
  • Subjects, complements and adjuncts
  • Construct relationships - We don't need a gazillion categories; it does help to be aware of the possibilities.
  • Word order, topic and focus
  • Narrative sequence and discourse analysis
  • The tense vs. aspect debate in connection with the Hebrew verb system.
Questions: What else am I missing? What are the essentials of Greek syntax, and why is it so much easier to make a short list of the essentials of Hebrew syntax?