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  News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007  

Time is Running Out!

I woke up this morning, checked my e-mail, and found I had quite a few e-mails from various vendors (some legitimate and some obviously spam) which all had the same basic message: Christmas is over, the end of the year is approaching, there's never been a better time to save, and time is running out!

I don't know if I can generate that same sense of urgency here, but I will give you two gentle reminders:

First, our holiday sale continues to run through the 31st, so if those holiday checks you received are burning a hole in your pocket, you can still get some great deals on Accordance packages and modules.

Second, you've got a few more days to send me your submissions for the Accordance Christmas Challenge I posted last Friday. So far, fourteen people have sent in their answers to my question about the wording of Luke 2:14. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that many of the pastors have been too busy to participate until now. There's an additional five percent discount on Accordance purchases in it for you, but you only have until Friday to send in your submission.

So far, I've been impressed with the variety of approaches our users have taken to find the answer, and I'm looking forward to sharing them here. The answers have ranged from in depth studies of the Greek to "I just opened up Resource X and found the answer." So as I said, "no answer is too simple or too elaborate." Thanks to all who have participated so far. I look forward to seeing what others of you come up with.

Remember, you have a limited time left to take advantage of the holiday sale and the extra Christmas Challenge discount. Time is running out! :-)

Friday, December 21, 2007  

A Christmas Challenge (And Reward!)

At this time of year, we will often hear the words of the angels in Luke 2:14, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." This, of course, is the rendering of this passage found in the King James Bible. Newer translations read quite differently. The TNIV reads, "peace to those on whom his favor rests." The ESV reads, "peace among those with whom he is pleased." The NRSV, NLT, NASB, HCSB, TEV, CEV, and REB all have similar readings. What's the reason for the difference?

Accordance provides lots of different ways to get the answer to that question, but rather than list those for you, I want you to list them for me. How you would find the answer will depend on which Accordance modules you own. If you own multiple Greek texts, you might use them to find your answer. If you have a critical apparatus or Metzger's textual commentary, you might use them. If you don't have those kinds of resources, you might consult a commentary.

However you find the answer, I want to hear about it and share it with the other readers of this blog. Just send me an e-mail at dlang [at] accordancebible [dot] com with the subject line: Accordance Christmas Challenge. Give me your name and address, then list the steps you took to find the answer. All those submitting responses, including specifics about which Accordance modules you consulted and which features you used, will receive an additional 5% discount toward their next Accordance purchase of $50 or more. Responses must be received by next Friday, December 28, and your discount must be used by January 15.

My interest here is on highlighting multiple ways of getting information in Accordance, so no answer is too simple or too elaborate. See how much you can find out about this little translation issue, and I'll talk about the different approaches you used in an upcoming post.

Have fun!

Thursday, December 20, 2007  

Accordance and the HCSB

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is a relatively new translation which I have personally found to strike a good balance between English readability and fidelity to the original Greek and Hebrew. It also happens to have been developed with the assistance of Accordance. At various stages in the translation process, we provided the translation team with an Accordance module of the HCSB they could search and analyze.

Blogger Will Lee has posted a fascinating interview with Ed Blum, the general editor of the HCSB. The way Blum rattles off translation statistics, one gets the impression he has been using Accordance extensively! He also makes brief mention of Accordance.

Rick Mansfield has also posted a summary of Blum's interview on his own blog. Both posts are well worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007  

A Focus on Teaching and Integration, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about how our focus on teaching and integration among resources has driven the development of graphical tools like our Bible Atlas. Today, I want to talk a little about how that teaching focus has also driven the development of our Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

When developing the PhotoGuide, we used photographs from a number of different photographers, but we quickly found that what they were photographing was not necessarily what we wanted to show. You see, a professional photographer is typically more focused on artistic composition and dramatic impact than on usefulness for teaching about a site. The ruins of a Byzantine-era church at an Old Testament site may make for a nice shot, but such a photo has limited value for teaching about that site's Biblical importance. We therefore passed over a lot of beautiful, postcard-style photographs we could have included.

Our purpose in developing the PhotoGuide was not just to offer a photo archive, but to create a photographic tour of various Biblical sites. We want our users to get a feel for the geographical background of Biblical events. Consequently, we might be more interested in a few flagstones from a first-century road than we are on the spectacular Medieval fortress beside it.

Beyond the selection of each photograph, we went to great lengths to research each site thoroughly and provide detailed descriptions of every shot. In my opinion, the real value of the PhotoGuide is not just in the pictures themselves, but in all the background information it includes. I was privileged to help develop the PhotoGuide, and frankly, I learned more about the Bible in the process of researching all those sites than I ever learned in seminary!

Like all Accordance resources, the PhotoGuide can be used on its own, but it was really intended to be used in conjunction with the Bible Atlas. I recommend that all users who have both the Atlas and the PhotoGuide go into the Map Window Display settings of the Preferences and select the PhotoGuide as the default tool for hypertexting. That way, any time you double-click a place name on the map you'll get the PhotoGuide entry for that site. This integration really strengthens the teaching value of both resources, making it far more likely that you'll discover something significant.

The biggest challenge we have with resources like the Atlas and PhotoGuide is getting past the perception that the Atlas is just a collection of static maps and the PhotoGuide is just a collection of photos. On the contrary, these are tools designed to teach you about the Biblical world. That is their real value, and the thing which sets them apart from mere map collections and photo archives.

Monday, December 17, 2007  

A Focus on Teaching and Integration

Last week, I blogged about how good we have it with the Accordance Bible Atlas, and boasted that it is "so far beyond what most people have access to that they're still wishing for the basics." One of the comments on that post asked me to compare the Accordance Bible Atlas with a PC Product called the Holy Land 3-D CD.

While I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with that product to be able to give an informed comparison, we have known the developers of that product for years, and can certainly vouch for the quality of their work.

I went to my first SBL conference in November of 1995, when I was still a fresh-faced seminary student. I vividly remember my excitement at getting to sit in on meetings with various publishers, scholars, and software developers—all aimed at establishing strategic partnerships to help move Accordance forward. One of the most memorable of those meetings was with the gentleman who would eventually develop this Holy Land 3-D CD. Back then he was demonstrating high-resolution 3-D images on a Silicon Graphics workstation running Unix, since what he was doing was well beyond the capabilities of personal computers. In fact, certain images could only be viewed properly using a pair of expensive 3-D goggles (which I was careful not to drop!).

While we didn't end up establishing on ongoing partnership, I think we both benefitted from the interaction, and we've both delivered products which enable people to explore the topography of Israel in three dimensions. From what I can see of this product, it looks to deliver a first-rate multimedia experience.

How then is Accordance distinct from this or any other Bible Atlas? One of the things I think makes the Accordance Atlas unique is our focus on teaching and integration with other texts, reference works, and study aids. When I say that we are focused on teaching, I mean that our primary focus is not on the multimedia experience itself, but on what that multimedia experience can teach the user about the Bible. The Accordance Bible Atlas is intended to be a resource you can consult for information about the geographical locations you read about in Scripture; and it has been designed in such a way that you can easily answer any question that might arise.

For example, when I demonstrate the Atlas to people, I usually will start with a passage like Joshua 10, which describes the battle of Gibeon. "Where is Gibeon?" I ask. I'll then select the name Gibeon in the text of the Bible and click the Map button to display Gibeon on the map. To learn more about the site, I'll double-click Gibeon on the map to read a detailed article and see photographs in the Bible Lands PhotoGuide. If I want to go to another resource, such as a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia, I can easily do that too. Then I'll overlay an animated route of the Battle of Gibeon, which shows the Canaanites attacking Gibeon from the southeast, but fleeing to the northwest to escape Joshua and the Israelites. "Why," I ask, "would they not have fled back the way they had come?" To find the answer to that question, I'll simply select the terrain and create a 3-D map, which will clearly show that when they fled to the northwest, they were heading downhill toward the coastal plain. If you're running for your life, the last thing you want to do is flee uphill!

This ability to customize the map to show the information you want, or to jump to other resources as needed, makes it easy to explore the geographical background of the Bible in a way which is natural and non-linear. Many other atlases I've seen are far less flexible. They may offer hyperlinks to information or the Biblical text from the map, but there's just not the same level of integration among resources that Accordance offers.

By the way, this same focus on teaching and integration is also what distinguishes our Bible Lands PhotoGuide from other collections of Bible land photographs. Since this post is already so long, I'll discuss the PhotoGuide in a future post.

My point here is not to make direct feature comparisons with other products. As I said at the beginning of this post, I don't know enough of their specifics to be able to offer an informed comparison. Thus, my general comments about "other Atlases I've seen" should not be taken as criticisms of any particular product. My aim has been to emphasize what I see as a strength of Accordance. It is our focus on teaching and integration among resources which has driven the development of all our graphical tools, including the Atlas, the PhotoGuide, and the Timeline.

Friday, December 14, 2007  

"Now It's Killing Me" No Longer

Latin is a dead language,
As dead as dead can be.
First it killed the Romans,
And now it's killing me!

Many generations of Latin students have employed this little rhyme to voice their frustration over learning a language so very different from English. Granted, they might not get too much sympathy from those readers of this blog who have undertaken Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and other Semitic languages, but for the average high school student, an inflected language like Latin can be bewildering.

Even for those who have learned Greek and Hebrew and other Semitic languages, there are times when you need to consult Latin texts such as the Vulgate, and if you don't work with Latin every day, you may find the going a little rough.

Now there's help for new students and rusty scholars alike. For some time now, we've been developing a grammatically-tagged and lemmatized version of the Latin Vulgate. The New Testament is now complete and was recently released at the annual conferences of ETS and SBL. Users of the tagged Vulgate can now drag their cursor over Latin words to get the full parsing information, and can find all inflections of a given lexical form.

The new tagged Vulgate module can't bring the Latin language back from the dead, but it can reduce its ability to "kill" the Latin student!

Thursday, December 13, 2007  

They Just Don't Know How Good We Have It

A blogger who focuses on the use of technology in Bible study recently posted a request for feedback on the various computerized options for displaying Bible maps. Though he knows about the Accordance Bible Atlas, he admits he's not familiar with it. Both on his blog and in other forums, he asked the following questions:

  1. How are you using digital mapping resources now?
  2. What would you hope to be able to do with such resources? (projecting them, printing, how are you using in classroom/church/synagogue, etc?)
  3. What types of maps do you find most helpful? (Or, what makes a map not useful?) Are there some maps that you find yourself using most often?
  4. Are there features you would like to see/use in a biblical mapping resource, especially given the potential of digital/electronic tools?

So far, I've only seen one response to his questions:

  1. Projecting them.
  2. I would love to be able to click on a city and get a concordance list of references to the location. Presentation wise I would like to be able to project them.
  3. maps that display general regions have been most helpful as I have been going through the OT prophets on Sunday Morning.
  4. as mentioned, one click concordance. Have one general, geographical map that overlays different sets of information much like the plastic overlays in those map inserts for paper Bibles. This way the congregation can better see the relationship between maps without having to "re-orient" themselves with each different map...if that makes any sense :-)

When I saw this "wish-list," I found myself mentally checking off each one and thinking, "Yeah, we've been doing that since 1998!"

With the Accordance Bible Atlas, you can easily project any map you create. There's even a "Slideshow mode" which is designed for presentation!

Getting a "concordance list of references to a location" is easy. Simply click on a place name on the map and then choose the Bible text you want to search.

"Maps that display general regions"? Sure, pick the Region layer you want to appear.

"One general, geographical map that overlays different sets of information much like the plastic overlays in those map inserts for paper Bibles"? That's the very metaphor we used for the Accordance Bible Atlas. You pick from a variety of map backgrounds, and then overlay the sites, regions, routes, and user-drawn items you want to appear. We don't make you choose from a variety of static pictures of maps; we give you an interactive Atlas which is completely customizable.

The amazing thing to me about this gentleman's "wish list" is how basic it is. What about the really cool things like animated routes, 3-D maps you can navigate and fly through, the ability to double-click a place name to look it up in a dictionary, the ability to option-drag to measure distances, the ability to create your own custom map layers, etc.?

After nine years, the Accordance Bible Atlas is still so far beyond what most people have access to that they're still wishing for the basics. Accordance users, meanwhile, are happily doing things with the Atlas that those people haven't even thought to ask for yet. They just don't know how good we have it.

Oh, and did I mention that the Atlas is currently bundled with the Timeline and PhotoGuide at a substantial savings? ;-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007  

Sounding the Trumpet for The Context of Scripture

One of the more popular new resources we released at the annual conferences of ETS and SBL was The Context of Scripture.

This is an impressive collection of Ancient Near Eastern documents which shed light on the historical, literary, and religious context in which the Hebrew Bible was written. Edited by William W. Hallo and published by Brill in three print volumes, The Context of Scripture contains English translations of Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Sumerian, and western Semitic creation myths, king lists, court documents, poems, wisdom literature, etc. The contents include familiar works such as the Enuma Elish, Epic of Gilgamesh, Mesha Inscription, Cyrus Cylinder, etc., along with a vast amount of obscure material which would otherwise be inaccessible to most students.

Best of all, many of these documents contain cross-references to related Biblical passages. So, for example, if I'm reading God's instructions to Abraham in Genesis 15:9 to cut several animals in two and arrange the pieces opposite each other, I can click in the verse reference to select it, then choose Context of Scripture from the Resource palette. Immediately I'll be taken to a similar Hittite ritual; and as I click the Mark buttons to explore other references to Genesis 15:9, I'll find a discussion of similar kinds of "perpetuity" oaths. Being able to see such seemingly strange Old Testament practices in their cultural and religious context can give us a much clearer understanding of what's really going on.

Perhaps the best recommendation of The Context of Scripture I can give you comes from a long-time user who wrote us an e-mail shortly after we announced all the new releases:

I hope that the staff at OakTree will have a blog entry talking about "Context of Scripture".

In the news section on the website, I had totally ignored it since there was no description and it sounded quite basic. It wasn't until I saw the e-mailed newsletter and I realized it was the work edited by Hallo & Younger. (I have thought that the older Pritchard's ANET would have been nice in Accordance.)

Perhaps there are others like me who have passed over the mention of COS not realizing what it is.

OakTree should sound the trumpet for COS!

Consider the trumpet officially sounded!

Friday, December 07, 2007  

Not only in the Caribbean

Software piracy is a fact of life and will probably stay with us for a long time. Accordance has always tried to avoid harrassment of our users so that they can install on new computers without problems, and without being on-line or needing to call for a new code, and we do not require the physical CD each time the program is run.

We always hoped that in the field of Bible study we could rely on the honesty of our users, but it seems this is not the case. We know that people share their installation codes with others, give away older copies of CDs that they have upgraded, and sell their computer with software installed, without officially transferring the license. None of this is legal.

We do attempt to verify that a new user has a legally purchased and licensed copy. We try to be nice about it, so please do not be upset if you are asked how you came about your CDs and codes. Unlock codes can only be purchased from us, which is why we will ask you if you do not show up on our database. It is up to the buyer of secondhand software to make sure first that the license will be transferred. We understand that some of the software sold on ebay is actually stolen.

In general we will not accept new owners of old software unless we can verify that they legally own it.

Piracy hurts us all, since it deprives the copyright holders and developers of the resources needed for further development.

For more details please see our posted policy on piracy.

Monday, December 03, 2007  

Accordance at SBL: Initial Impressions

Today's guest-blogger is Rick Bennett, the newest member of our module development team. Rick helped out at the annual conferences of ETS/SBL for the first time this year, and I asked him to write a little about his experience there.


I was both surprised and excited even to be able to attend SBL this year. I was planning on becoming a student member, but lacked the resources to attend. As I was browsing the SBL web-site, looking through the papers to be presented and brainstorming ways I might be able to attend, I got word that OakTree needed additional people to work the booth and do presentations!


One of the things I was impressed with was how well our team worked together. Each of us doing presentations had our own strengths, and we would switch off with each other when a customer needed additional support. Some members of the team were experts on the grammatically-tagged Greek texts, while others had extensive knowledge of Hebrew. One member of the team focused on demonstrating Accordance on the PC with the emulator, which was extremely helpful for the growing number of PC customers interested in our product who still haven't switched over to Mac. I can't forget to mention our sales team, who worked tirelessly throughout the conference to assist our customers in purchases and to provide technical support. I really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the team.


As David has written in the past, I was also impressed with the number of people that came to our booth in comparison to the other booths around us. It was rewarding to see our customers' excited reactions to all the new releases. In many instances they were blown away by the amount of time they could save in their research using Accordance. Since I don't have regular contact with our customers, it was nice to see the fruit of all those late night hours staring at seemingly incoherent lines of code!

According to other members of our team, we had an increasing number of first-time Mac users who either purchased Accordance, or were interested in getting more information. We even had one customer who made a trip to the local Apple Store to buy a new Macbook so we could install Accordance on it for him. Also, it was encouraging to see the number of loyal customers who came back either to greet some of the team, or update to the newest version—some stretching back to version 1.0. Plus, as an aspiring academic myself, it was great to be able to meet the numerous scholars who either are users of Accordance, or were interested in checking out the new releases.

Overall, the conference was a success and I am grateful to have been a part of it. Next year the conference will be in Boston, so mark your calendars now and plan to be a part of it. You may see more of me in the future here on the blog, as I may write an occasional review of a new release the Development team has been working on. Till then...