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

Monday, January 28, 2008  

Word Biblical Commentary for $12 per volume

At the recent training seminar in Berkeley, I spent some time talking about the various commentaries available for Accordance. On one end of the spectrum, I talked about commentaries like Expositor's Bible Commentary, which is great for an easily digestible summary of a passage and its key issues. On the other end of the spectrum, I talked about commentaries like NIGTC and Word Biblical Commentary, both of which are critical commentaries which will deal with all kinds of minutiae, discuss various interpretive options and controversies, and generally attempt to leave no stone unturned.

At 58 volumes covering much of the Old and New Testaments, Word Biblical Commentary is the most extensive critical commentary we currently offer. Each print volume retails for around $50, and you can pick them up from Christian Book Distributors for around $22. The Accordance edition of Word is currently on sale for just $699. That works out to be about $12 per volume, and of course, Accordance gives you this massive resource in a form which is fully searchable, which will scroll alongside the Biblical text, etc. I'm not sure how long this sale price will remain in effect, but if you've been considering purchasing Word, now is a great time to do it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008  

A Cracked Crystal Ball

For quite some time now, my family and I have been hunting for a new house. Our realtor is an interesting guy who has a saying or aphorism for just about any situation. One of his favorites is that he has a "cracked crystal ball." In other words, he can tell us what he thinks is likely to happen with the Orlando real-estate market, but he can't guarantee anything.

Recently, someone left the following comment on my post announcing the release of The Bible Speaks Today New Testament Commentary:

I just purchased this set on Nov. 7 for $92.00 for Logos because it wasn't available for Accordance. Any chance there's a way to upgrade to the Accordance version???

Also, is there any way to know what's due to be released in the next several months so this doesn't happen again. I would much rather have modules for Accordance when they're available.

First, let me address the issue of cross-grades. There are many modules which are now available for both Accordance and various Windows Bible programs. For those who own the Windows version of a module, it would be nice if they could upgrade to the Accordance version at less than full price. We have actually been trying to negotiate such a policy with the various copyright holders of such "shared" resources, but have been unsuccessful in making it happen. We'll keep trying, but at this point I'm doubtful that we'll ever be able to offer cross-grades. To recoup the costs of a module for another program, it looks like your best bet will be to sell it on eBay. Sorry I don't have better news on that front.

With respect to knowing what modules we're about to release so you don't make the mistake of buying a competing product, I'm afraid I can only offer you a cracked crystal ball. In general, we don't pre-announce products because we don't want to make promises we might not be able to keep. However, if a Windows vendor offers a resource from a publisher we have a good relationship with, it's a pretty safe bet that an Accordance version is not far behind. We have a great relationship with publishers like IVP, Eerdmann's, Zondervan, Hendricksen, Galaxie, to name just a few, and we're establishing new partnerships all the time.

If you're wondering about a specific title, there's a section of our User Forums where you can post feature or module requests. Ask us if the module you want is in the pipeline, and we'll usually give you a very vague estimate of how long it will be before it's released. Tell us you're thinking about buying a competing version of that module, and you're almost sure to get an answer! ;-)

As I said, we're pretty wary of making promises we can't keep, so we play things a little close to the vest. But if you need to make a purchasing decision, please contact us and ask us what we see in our crystal ball. It may be cracked, but it's better than nothing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008  

Home From MacWorld

Last week, my blogging was light because I was busy demonstrating Accordance to the attendees of MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. This year at MacWorld, we experimented with a new, more open booth layout. We used an Apple 30-inch Cinema Display and a microphone to do demos to larger groups rather than just one or two people at a time.

MacWorld is always interesting. All kinds of people wander past and into our booth. Some come to us and say that they didn't realize we existed. A few even came to MacWorld to find out more about Fusion and Parallels because they thought their only option was to run Windows Bible software in emulation. I can't tell you how relieved they were to discover Accordance!

Others are skeptics. They tell me they're using some Bible web-site or freeware program and ask me why they should pay for a program like Accordance. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly they uncross their arms and start asking which package they should buy.

Others are curious. They'll ask us some question about the Bible or wax philosophic until they get bored or a more serious customer comes along.

Still others look for ways to challenge or shock us. I found it amusing how many people asked me if we had the "Gnostic gospels," usually in a needling sort of tone meant to imply that we didn't have the "whole Bible." I think they expected me to get uncomfortable or defensive, so it was fun to be able to say, "Yes, we do. In Greek and in English translation!" At that, the truly interested would ask to know more, while those who were just trying to get my goat would say, "Really?" and then just quietly slip away.

Then there are always those who don't dare enter our booth, but who walk by, notice the sign, nudge the person next to them and mouth, "Bible software?" in a bemused sort of way.

Saturday, after MacWorld was over, we held a free training seminar across the bay in Berkeley. I taught most of the seminar, but I also asked Tom McVeigh, a Mac consultant, Accordance reseller, and trainer-in-training, to teach a portion of the seminar. Where I tend to teach from the perspective of a developer, going from feature to feature in much the same way that a manual does, Tom taught from the perspective of a user who wants to integrate all those features into a practical workflow. He covered the use of user notes, user tools, sentence diagrams, etc. in a way that I think many of those who attended could easily apply to their own study.

After the seminar, we packed up, drove to the Oakland airport, and took a red-eye flight home. San Francisco is always a nice place to visit, and MacWorld is always fun, but it sure is good to be home. :-)

Thursday, January 17, 2008  

A Review of Metzger on the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog

Tommy Wasserman posted a review of the use of the Metzger GNT Commentary as an Accordance digital tool versus the print edition, on the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog yesterday. This has been followed by some interesting discussion, which some of our readers may like to follow.


From the MacWorld Show Floor

I'm writing this from the MacWorld show floor and the doors open in about ten minutes, but I wanted to share a few quick tidbits.

As usual, I've enjoyed meeting several enthusiastic readers of this blog, along with others with whom I've exchanged e-mails. It's always great to connect a face with someone I've met via the ether.

I've been too busy at the booth to do more than just stroll by the Apple booth, but the MacBook Air is definitely the coolest-looking laptop I've ever seen. Now if I can just find the time to play with one of the demo models.

BareFeats.com listed the Accordance booth as one of the "hot" booths to see. Perhaps I should make identifying the source of "God helps those who help themselves" the subject of a future Accordance blog "challenge."

In terms of brushes with celebrity, I haven't seen Steve Jobs, but I have seen actor/comedian Sinbad walking the floor.

Most unusual MacWorld moment? That would have to be when the woman with the plunging neckline offered the services of her "marketing company." Apparently she has several attractive "booth babes" who could help draw crowds to our booth. I know sex sells, but I'm not sure it would be an appropriate marketing strategy for Bible software!

Well, the doors are opening, so I'd better sign off.

Friday, January 11, 2008  

Christmas Challenge Results, Part 2

Last week, I began summarizing the various approaches used by those who responded to my "Christmas challenge." The challenge was to use Accordance to find out why most modern translations of Luke 2:14 read so differently from the KJV's familiar "peace, good will toward men." All those who responded discovered that the difference in wording stems from a single-letter difference between the Greek text behind the KJV and the Greek text behind most modern translations.

In my last post, I looked at three of the most common methods used to discover this textual difference: consulting the NET Notes, consulting Metzger's Textual Commentary, and comparing the Greek texts directly. Here are a few other approaches people took:

Search All. One user simply did a Search All for every module which contains a reference to Luke 2:14. This is a bit like drinking from a firehose, but it will get you a lot of information about Luke 2:14.

This user also pointed out a couple of issues which make such a search even broader than he thought necessary. First is the fact that there is currently no easy way to search for references to a single verse. A search for Luke 2:14 will find every reference to Luke chapter two or any range of verses which includes Luke 2:14. There is a trick you can use to get around that, but it's not exactly convenient. The ability to exclude ranges of verses from such a search is an enhancement we have planned for a future version of Accordance.

This user also pointed out what he saw as "false positives": references to the end of Luke chapter 1 in certain commentaries and notes modules. Believe it or not, this is a feature, not a bug. When searching the main reference field of Reference Tools, Accordance will take you to the nearest possible reference to the verse you searched for. That way, if a commentary doesn't have a comment on a specific verse, you are at least taken to the nearest relevant section of the commentary. In the Search All window, you can preview the results of a Scripture search and skip the false positives.

EBC Notes. The twelve-volume Expositor's Bible Commentary comes in two modules. EBC contains the main body of the commentary, while EBC Notes contains the more detailed technical information of the footnotes. One user, after comparing the Greek texts and looking at the NET Notes, turned to the EBC Notes and found a wealth of information there:

[EBC Notes] lists the two readings with respect to their age, discusses the likelihood of the addition or deletion of the final sigma, mentions textual critical canon: "prefer the more difficult reading," notes several finds from the Qumran caves that confirm the phrasing of the genitive, and references Metzger's suggestion that the genitive reading is "more in accordance with the doctrine of grace" than the other reading. On this verse, the EBC Notes yield an excellent collection of data.

Print commentaries. The previous example shows what a good commentary can give you. One user began his response to the challenge in Accordance, and then turned to a favorite print commentary:

BDAG settled the question of why modern translations have something like "peace among those with whom he is pleased.", but I was left with the question of why the KJV used a different translation. I suspected a different Greek manuscript was the reason, but that was only a guess.

At this point I had to leave Accordance to consult a commentary. I realize this may disqualify me since I abandoned Accordance at this point, but the truth is that most of the commentaries I use are not offered in Accordance modules. In this case I consulted what I consider to be the finest commentary on Luke in English, the two volume work by Joseph Fitzmyer.

[Fitzmyer] solved the rest of the puzzle . . .

Far from thinking this user should be "disqualified," I think he gave us an excellent example of how Accordance can be used in conjunction with other study aids. While he might have found the answer faster by consulting the NET Notes or some other Accordance module, he used Accordance as a springboard for further study elsewhere, and that's a strategy all of us may have to use at one point or another.

There are still more strategies to cover, but again, this post is getting pretty long. So look for part 3 of this series next week.

Monday, January 07, 2008  

Bible Speaks Today New Testament Now Available

I'm pleased to announce the release of the Bible Speaks Today–New Testament commentary from InterVarsity Press.

The equivalent of twenty-two print volumes, the Bible Speaks Today–NT covers every book of the New Testament, with an additional volume devoted to the Sermon on the Mount. Edited by Alec Motyer, John Stott, and Derek Tidball, BST is designed to be Biblically accurate, readable to a modern audience, and relevant to contemporary life. BST is therefore not a technical commentary like Word or the NIGTC, but a practical exposition and application of the text. When one reads through this commentary, one gets the impression that the authors are certainly aware of all the technical issues and that they have wrestled with those issues in the background, but they don't get bogged down in those details when it comes to elucidating a passage's meaning and application.

Perhaps best of all, BST is one of the most affordable commentary sets we offer. It lists for just $115, but for a limited time, you can get it at the introductory price of just $92.

Saturday, January 05, 2008  

Accordance or Photoshop?

Last week, Chris Heard of Higgaion, blogged about how he used the Accordance Bible Atlas to create visual aids for classroom instruction. Chris mentioned in passing that he used Photoshop to create additional labels for his maps, and I pointed out here that he could have accomplished the same thing within Accordance by creating his own User Layer of the Atlas. Chris has interacted with that suggestion in a follow-up post which I'd encourage you to check out.

Chris gave a number of reasons for his choice to export maps from Accordance and enhance them in Photoshop. The first was that he knows Photoshop well and was in a hurry. It's hard to argue with that.

Next he mentioned aesthetic appeal. Although the drawing tools available in Accordance User Layers are remarkably flexible, Photoshop it definitely is not. That said, some of the things Chris wasn't sure how to do in Accordance are in fact possible.

For example, he mentioned the creation of rectangular shapes with triangular callout pointers. Chris was right that the Bezier curve tool can be used to create polygon shapes with straight sides. Just click to create each corner and don't drag out any curve handles. He's also right that there's no easy way to constrain a side to be perfectly horizontal or vertical. It would be nice to be able to hold down the shift key to do that. As it was, I had to keep tweaking the shape to get it to look right.

Text in Accordance user layers cannot currently be rotated or modified with respect to opacity. I was also surprised to find that the text items do not support center or right justification (I had to fake it with spaces). Heck, I don't think the user layer drawing tools have been upgraded since we first added them in 1998! That's why we need people using these features and pushing their limits.

One little known feature of Accordance user layers is that you can paste images into them, and those images will scale along with the rest of the map. Since I couldn't duplicate Chris' 50% opacity labels with Accordance, I simply took a screenshot of his "Great Sea" label and pasted it into the user layer! Of course, as a bitmapped image, the text can get ragged at different zoom levels, so it's not a perfect solution.

Another thing Chris did in Photoshop was to have drop shadows on the text boxes. That too is not yet possible with Accordance user layers.

Chris next talked about how he used maps in instruction, explaining that his custom maps were used online more than in the actual classroom.

Finally, Chris closed with these words:

I rarely consider any individual application to be "one-stop shopping." I mean, that's so Microsoft. In my Apple world, I use suites of software, and in this case I found that adding my annotations in Photoshop satisfied my immediate needs.

"Microsoft," Chris? That really hurts! ;-)

But seriously, my point was not that Accordance should be a "one-stop shop." Rather, it was that using an Accordance user layer enables you to use any customizations to the map over and over again, with an incredible degree of flexibility. In the following examples, I used an Accordance user layer to mimic some of Chris' custom labels. I then combined that user layer with the "Return from exile" route layer, as well as the various region layers for modern nations.

I appreciate Chris' willingness to blog about his use of Accordance, and to interact with me on the pros and cons of different approaches. I hope it helps some of you use the Atlas in ways you might not previously have realized were possible.

Friday, January 04, 2008  

Christmas Challenge Results, Part 1

Just before Christmas, I challenged you to use Accordance to find out why most modern translations of Luke 2:14 read so differently from the KJV's familiar "peace, good will toward men." Twenty-one people responded to this "challenge" by e-mailing me a description of how they found the answer. The approaches ranged from simple lookups in a commentary to the use of multiple Greek texts and textual apparatuses. In every case, I was impressed with our users' resourcefulness, and the number of different methods used to skin this particular cat.

The answer: Everyone who tackled the challenge came up with the same basic answer: the wording of Luke 2:14 is not a translation issue, but a text-critical issue. The Greek text from which the KJV was translated has the word for "good will" in the nominative case (eudokia), the same case as the word for "peace." Consequently, both words should be translated as the compound subject of the phrase: "peace, good will toward men." The Greek text upon which most modern translations are based has the word for "good will" in the genitive case (eudokias), in which case it would act as a modifier for the word "men." Literally, it would read "peace to men of good will." Most translations render the sense of this phrase as "peace to those on whom his favor rests." It is interesting to note that a single letter (the sigma) at the end of this word makes all the difference in its meaning!

The methods: How did those who participated in the challenge uncover this textual issue? Here are some of the methods they used and resources they consulted:

The NET Bible Notes. One of the most widely consulted resources was the NET Notes module. The New English Translation (NET) is a modern translation of the Bible which has been made freely available via the internet. One of the distinctives of the NET Bible is its extensive array of translator's notes. In these notes, the NET Bible translators detail why they chose a particular wording, examine text-critical issues relating to certain passages, and give helpful background information. The text-critical discussions are written in non-technical language, and are much easier for the non-specialist to understand than any textual apparatus. The NET and NET Notes modules also happen to be included in every level of the Library CD-ROM as well as the Core Bundle of the Scholar's CD-ROM, so nearly everyone has them.

After listing the manuscript evidence for each reading of Luke 2:14, the NET Notes offer the following summary:

Not only is the genitive reading better attested, but it is more difficult than the nominative. "The meaning seems to be, not that divine peace can be bestowed only where human good will is already present, but that at the birth of the Saviour God's peace rests on those whom he has chosen in accord with his good pleasure" (TCGNT 111).

Metzger's Textual Commentary. That "TCGNT" at the end of the NET Notes entry on Luke 2:14 is a reference to Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. This reference tool contains Bruce Metzger's discussions of the textual variants listed in the critical apparatus of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament. Like the NET Notes, its major advantage over a critical apparatus is its accessibility. Metzger lists the major witnesses for each reading, then discusses why the editorial committee chose one reading over another, how variant readings might have arisen, and how certain they feel about what they see as the preferred reading. In the case of Luke 2:14, Metzger talks about how the final sigma of eudokias might have been written as a tiny stroke which a copyist easily could have missed, thus resulting in the nominative form behind the KJV's "good will toward men." Metzger also addresses an old objection that "men of goodwill" was an unlikely construction, citing evidence of such expressions in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Comparing Greek Texts. Many of those who responded to the Challenge went straight to the source and examined the Greek texts behind the various translations. By displaying the modern critical edition of the Greek New Testament (GNT-T) with the Greek text behind the KJV (GNT-TR), they were able to see the difference between eudokias and eudokia. A few used the Compare Texts feature of Accordance to highlight this difference, as shown below:

As you can see, checking the Compare texts button immediately draws your attention to the difference between the Greek texts. You can then drag your cursor over the highlighted words to see that eudokias is genitive and eudokia is nominative.

This summary of approaches is now getting pretty long, so I'll go into some of the more elaborate approaches our users took in my next post.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008  

Accordance Atlas in the Classroom

Chris Heard of Higgaion, blogs about how he used the Accordance Bible Atlas to create visual aids for classroom instruction. Chris used Photoshop to create additional labels for his maps, but he could easily have created a User Layer to accomplish the same thing. Then, if he decided to change the background later on, he could just overlay his user layer and copy and paste from Accordance into his presentation software. Better yet, he could use the Slideshow mode in Accordance to present his custom map with animate routes! :-)