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Learn Hebrew this Summer

You’ve been wanting to do it for some time…why not make it a goal to learn Hebrew this summer?

We’ve got some excellent tools to help make it as easy as it can be. Here are my top three picks, in no particular order:

Biblical Hebrew for Beginners

This brand new Logos book is due toshipat the end of the month, so now is your last chance to take advantage of the prepub discount and get this for less than $20.

The description says,”Biblical Hebrew for Beginners shows you how to master fundamental Hebrew in clear, simple steps. Starting from scratch with the Hebrew alphabet, Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok leads you through the essentials of biblical Hebrew and has you reading the Bible in Hebrew from the very first lesson. There are simple exercises (including answers), a word list, and plenty of examples throughout.”

How much easier could it get? Plus it’s even endorsed by a former Archbishop of Canterbury! So ignore the bizarre cover and check out the details

Beginning Biblical Hebrew

I had the pleasure to meet Mark Futato when he was here in Bellingham giving atalk on Psalmsas part of the Logos Lecture Series. It was a fantastic talk,and Mark would be a great teacher of Hebrew whether in person or via this grammar.

An RBL reviewer said of this one,”Mark D. Futato’s new Hebrew grammar is a simple, thoughtful, and straightforward work that reflects genuine empathy for the beginning Hebrew student. The agenda of the book is to provide the fundamentals of the language unencumbered by information that may fog the road toward basic Hebrew competency.”

Logos user George Somsel warned, “I can see it putting all Hebrew instructors out of work since it’s so simple to teach yourself.” Look to your tenure, Hebrew profs!

The First Hebrew Primer: Textbook, Answer Book & Audio Companion

This one is the big enchilada, complete with audio recordings and a workbook.

These resources begin with the alphabet…or you might say the Aleph-bet (aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, get it?)…and over the course of thirty lessons provides enough information and practice to enable you, with the aid of a Hebrew-English dictionary, to understand most biblical texts.

We just put together a brief video demo so now you can get a look at what the First Hebrew Primer package is all about.

Wouldn’t it be great if you got to the end of summer and could look back on not only a bunch of great barbecues, ball games and days at the beach…but also take with you a new knowledge of and appreciation for the Bible that Jesus used? Learning Hebrew would provide a lifetime of rewards and there’s no better time to begin than now!

Top 50 People in the Bible

Earlier this month, we blogged about the process used toquantify theThe Most Important Person in the Bible by computing factors such as frequency of mentions and the dispersion of those mentions across biblical books and chapters.

As you might suppose, Jesus Christ is the most important person in the Bible.

But what I findinteresting is how the Bible characters fall into rather distinct first, second and third rate clusters when we use Sean Boisen’salgorithm. These three clusters really jump out when the data is loaded into Many Eyes,IBM’sonline visualization engine.

Click the screenshot above to see a full-size static image that I enhanced with name labels…or click here to play with the live visualization at Many Eyes (Java required).

Three Clusters

Moving from right to left (descending order of importance), the three clusters that emerge are:

  1. Jesus, David, Moses, Jacob
  2. Abraham, Aaron, Solomon, Judah, Isaac, Saul (Son of Kish), Joseph, Paul, Joshua, Peter
  3. The remaining 36 characters…starting with Levi, Benjamin, Hezekiah and ending with Jehoshaphat, Uzziah and Adam.

If you wanted to study the various people in the Bible using a top-down list, it wouldn’t hurt to begin with Jesus, David and Moses. Jacob might be a little higher up the list than I would think warranted. But the second clusterseems pretty solid, with Abraham, Joseph, Paul and Peter definitely looming large in the pages ofScripture.

A few biblical figures I didn’t expect would be buriedso far down in Cluster 3: Noah and Adam, those staples of bedtime Bible stories and flannelgraphs. Plus prophets with whole books named after them such as Jeremiah and Isaiah. Of course, these are the top 50 Bible peopleout of 2,987…so we’re not talking about obscurity for any of them.

“Where are all the ladies?” you may rightly ask. None of them made the Top 50 using this name weighting scheme…but Sean did generate a data set for the Top 50 Women of the Bible which I plan to blog about in a follow-up post…

Dot Size vs. Position

Many Eyes also helpsillustrate how Sean’s inclusion of factors such as dispersion overbooks and chaptersaffects the overall ranking. Here’s a close-up of Cluster 2:

The X-axis is the overall “importance ranking” and the dot size is the number of mentions. So Sean’s weighting is evident in those places where you see a smaller dot like Abraham promoted far above a larger dot like Saul. Ranking the Bible names strictly by number of mentions would put Saul above Abraham, so we’re clearly getting a more nuanced view here.

The upshot of all this? We’re not solving the Bible Code or anything…and not trying to. But Ifind it very cool that anaverage joe like me can play around with these data and visualizations without knowing a lick of programming. I made this visualization just by selecting a visualization style and choosing which data to put on which axes. Once the dataset iscomplete (thanks, Sean!) we’ll be able to do all kinds of additional cool things not possible today…and be able to do it using Logos Bible Software!

Related posts around the blogosphere:

Parallel Passages Hack

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again…Logos users are a very clever bunch.

One user, John Minter, recently posted a “wouldn’t it be nice if…” to the Logos newsgroups. Regarding Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels—a data set within the Parallel Passages and Harmonies tool—he wrote:

I like being able to generate with my desired translation. What would be nice is to generate a table for the given section as a handout…

Six minutes later he posted again to answer his own question:

OK Figured it out. Select a hebrew text like the BHS and all you get is the table. Woo hoo.

I’m not sure whether this little trick should be considereda hack orfeature (no doubt my friends in development would take credit for it as the latter) but it does seem to work and strikes me as the kind of thing that could be useful so I’m sharing it with you.

Try It Yourself!

To try it out, open Logos 3 and click Tools | Bible Comparison | Parallel Passages and Harmonies. For Source, choose Synopsis of the Four Gospels (Aland) if you have it. If not, don’t worry—it works with other data sets, too. For Bible version, choose BHS or ESV OT Rev. Int (the latter is in more packages).

Now when you drill down into a section of the synopsis, you’ll get the report shown below on the left instead of the usual report, shownon the right (click the thumbnail for a full size image):

This references-only table can be printed, or pasted pretty well into a word processor. It’s a handy little hack if you want to include just the parallel references in a handout or other document…

Thanks John!

Logos and Latin-American Missions

Today’s guest blogger is Rob Haskell, who works in the Spanish department at Logos.

It’s been fun to find out through my work with Logos that missions is a growing theme in Latin-American Christianity. This is so much so that we have been able to create a collection of 40 books on missions from a Hispanic perspective called Biblioteca Digital de la Misión (Digital Library for the Mission).

According to COMIBAM, an umbrella organization for missions from Latin America, there are almost 10,000 Latin missionaries around the globe – many of them in the US! Andthat figure does not take into account the number of “non-professional” missionaries who emigrate every day from Latin-American countries to all parts of the globe, taking with them the good news about Jesus.

Last month an elderly woman approached our booth ata pastor’s conference in Monterrey, Mexico. She was dark skinned and dressed in a sari so my initial thought was that she was East Indian. As it turned out she was a Mexican woman who was headed to India as a missionary in a month. She was outgoing, energetic and particularly excited because the Lord had just given her a laptop. Of course, the Logos booth was her next stop. Another person had also given her a crisp $100.00 billand after applying all possible discounts she was off with her very own Biblioteca Pastoral – our largest collection of books in Spanish. Now she can take a theological library of 144 books in her own language to the ends of the earth.

This committed missionary woman from Monterrey is probably the most striking image I have of the growing Latin-American passion for world missions, but there are many other amazing stories and surprising statistics which all point to a growing movement. It will be interesting to watch it develop and see how Logos can continue to play a role in the Lord’s work around the globe.

Parallel Passages – Verses Like These Verses

If you’ve spent time around Logos Bible Software, you probably already know that Bibles such as the ESV, NKJV, and NASB* include cross-reference linksright there in the text. They’re indicated by the “little letters and numbers” sprinkled throughout most passages.

Just hover the mouse over an indicator and the cross-references pop up in what we call a “tool tip” window. Click the indicator (rather than hovering) and the tool tip will remain in place when you move your mouse away, allowing you to interact with the links inside the tool tip itself. This is a great way to see the cross-references—verses related to these verses—when reading through a passage.

But did you know that Logos also includes a more powerfultool specifically built for working with parallel passages, Gospel synopses/harmonies, and tables of quotations and allusions?

So you could spend thirty bucks to buy a printed “harmonized Gospel” which would give you a harmony in oneversion (NIV, for example)…or use the tool within Logos and viewthe harmonyin any Bible version you own, in any language!

Parallel Passages & Harmonies

The Parallel Passages & Harmonies tool is included in allthe Logos 3base packages—withincreasingly larger data sets available as you move up the product line. If you have a base package you should have at least four parallel passage data sets and maybe more!

To access the tool using Logos 3, click Tools | Bible Comparison | Parallel Passages and Harmonies. Click the Source button to choose a source—”Synopsis of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Jackson),” for example. Then select a Bible version in the Bible version chooser box to the right.

You will see a table of contents that looks like the image above; click a title to open the report to that section. Here’s what it looks like when I clicked “The Calling of Disciples.”

Mark, Luke and Matthew contain an account of this event so they all show up here in an easy-to-read columnar alignment…in the Bible version I chose.

Notice the commentin the right-most column, which is supplied by Jeffrey Jackson, the editor of this data. To learn more about the source of each data set, click the first item in the table of contents, whichis a description. For this data set, the description explains the approach Jacksonused to create this synopsis and the meaning of special formatting used, such as blueor bolded text.

To get back to the table of contents at any time, just click the title of the data set (in this case “Synopsis of Matthew, Mark, etc.”).

Navigate to the next or previous section of the synopsis by clicking the down or up arrow (circled in red above). Clicking the hooked up-arrow moves you up one level—that is, it will load the entire chapter into the display.

The left and right arrows work just like the back and forward buttons in your web browser—jumping you back to the previous view or ahead (when applicable).

More is Better

The cool thing about having multiple, overlappingdata sets is that each editor follows a slightly different approach when assembling something like a Gospel harmony. All told, Logos packages include no less than six “parallel passages” data sets for the Gospels:

  • Synopsis of the Four Gospels (Aland)
  • A Harmony of the Gospels (Robertson)
  • A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels (Burton, Goodspeed)
  • Synopsis of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
  • Eusebian Canons (Eusebius)
  • Records of the Life of Jesus (Sharman)

A quick glance at the Burton & Goodspeed harmony description shows that any project like this entails certain editorial choices that others may make differently:

“Our study of the Synoptic Problem, extending now through many years, has led us to certain very definite conclusions respecting the relation of the Synoptic Gospels to one another, and their literary sources. The purpose of this book, however, is not to demonstrate this theory; nor is its construction determined by that theory. It aims rather, as largely as possible in independence of all theories, to set the text of the several gospels in such parallelism as will make the facts themselves tell their own story with the utmost possible fullness and clearness.”

Because each data set is compiled by a different editor, each offers a unique perspective on the text. We offer as many as we can license, in hopes that your Bible study will be enriched!

* For the Logos editions of Bibles, we use the cross-reference data supplied by the publisher, which was generated by the publisher’s translation/editorial team. For some versions (e.g., NIV, NRSV) this data was not supplied by the publisher and so is not present in the electronic edition.

Those Little Numbers and Letters

We recently created a Libronix-based product for a third party company andone of their outside consultants did Quality Assurance testing on it. She had a number of questions about the way things work within Libronix DLS—but the oddest question she asked was, “What are these numbers and letters all over the Bible?”

It took me a couple of tries to figure out that she was talking about the footnote and cross-reference indicators within the text of a Bible such as the English Standard Version.

After further clarification, I realized that she was not confused by the electronic implementation…she would have been equally stymied by the appearance of these littleletters and numbers in a print Bible! I guess it’s one of those things I take for granted as someone who has been around the Bible all my life. And yet surely somebody must have explained it to me, too, somewhere along the way.

People expect a fair bit of documentation with their new Bible software, which is why we include a help manual within the program, ship a free video tutorial disc with every base product, offer training articles, 70+ video tutorials on the web, Morris Proctor’s Tips & Tricks blog, tutorial posts right here on the Logos blog, user newsgroups, the Logos Wiki, and Camp Logos.

But what kind of help do people get when they pick up a print Bible for the very first time? How do they find out what all the little letters and numbers mean?

Trekking Through Texas

Today’s post is written by Scott Lindsey, director of ministry relations for Logos, who is on the Bible Study Bus road trip. View more road trip photos at Flickror readScott’s first post from the trip.

The Bible Study Bus is still trekking through Texas. Wow, is this a big state! We have been driving all around Texas for over 2 weeks now. It was so great to see so many old friends while we were in Abilene. 3rd Week - WindmillMy 11-year-old son, Beau, was born in Abilene. When he found out we had the Texas leg of the Road Trip he exclaimed, “I get to see my people!?” Beau sure has loved the great BBQ we have been eating while in Texas. None has been better the feast we had with our friends, the Held family, at Harmon’s BBQ in Cibolo. If you are ever in the San Antonio area you have got to make this detour. Your mouth and belly will thank you for it!

While in Abilene, we were able to introduce our friends, the Ganske Family, to the awesome hobby of Geocaching. We spent a Saturday venturing all over 3rd Week - GeocachingAbilene looking for geocaches.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt using a handheld GPS. My family is hooked! We have done 14 geocaches while on the Bible Study Bus tour. The best part of geocaching for the kids is when they find a larger geocache that has small presents in them. The rule is: take something, leave something. We have left Logos coffee mugs, t-shirts, and Logos-branded, Bellingham roasted coffee as treasure for the next geocache discoverers.

We have many geocachers at Logos. It’s a great way to be in the great outdoors with your family. For more information on the sport, visit:http://www.geocaching.com/faq/

After Abilene we headed to San Antonio where we had the biggest Bible Study Bus event to date at Castle Hills First Baptist church. The drive down to San Antonio was all small country and farm roads. 3rd Week - Nearest StarbucksYou know you are out in the middle of nowhere when the GPS in the RV shows that the nearest Starbucks is 94 miles away!!! I had to wait almost 3 hours for my caffeine fix.

We had a great turnout at Castle Hills. Logos created a lot of Bible study excitement that night! I received a great email from the senior pastor a few days later concerning his Bible Study Bus presentation experience:

“Our church lovedthe Bible Study Bus Road Trip presentation! Scott has a unique ability to connect with an audience.His presentation was engaging, entertaining, and most of all, inspiring. He demonstrated to our people the power of Logos.3rd Week - Castle HillsHe showed ushow user-friendly and convenient it is to use this revolutionary software.As a result, I now have dozens ofleaders and teachersin my church who are seriously studying the word of God with the best tools available.Pastors make many decisions whileleading their people to grow spiritually…having the Bible Study Bus visit Castle Hills First Baptist Church was a homerun.We can’t wait for it to return!”

Just a few more weeks in Texas… hope to see you at a Bible Study Bus event soon!

The Most Important Person in the Bible

Today’s guest blogger is Sean Boisen, senior information architect at Logos.

Logos Bible Software iscontinually undertaking new projects to expand our tools for Bible study. Many of these involve wading through data, usually lots and lots of data.

For example, the Biblical People feature (described in this previous post) provides Bible references, family relationships, social roles, and other information for every person mentioned in the Bible, some 3000 different individuals in all.

I’m currently working to enrich this data set much further to include place names, other named entities (like ethnic groups and languages), and an even richer set of relationships: people who knew each other or collaborated together, places they lived or visited, their beliefs, and many other kinds of information.

But too many projects chasing too little time means you have to prioritize. This raises an interesting question: how to prioritize development for our people data so we spend the most effort on the names that will matter most to those studying the Bible?

Since I’m inherently a data-driven, quantitative type of guy, my practical answer is to:

  • assign a numeric weight to each name
  • start at the top and work my way down the list in order
  • stop when when the available resources, enthusiasm, or both are exhausted

Since we’ve got the data that connects people to the passages that refer to them, a good starting place is simply to go through and count how many times each person is mentioned in the Scriptures. There’s an important technical detail here:I really do mean references to people, not just names (as strings). To see why this matters, consider:

  • the same person can be known by several different names (Peter, Simon, Simeon and Cephas are all names used in the New Testament for Jesus’ disciple)
  • the same name can be used for several different people, or even different kinds of things

As an example of this second point, it’s not enough to find the string “Judah” in a verse: you want to know when it’s Judah the person, as opposed to a cover term for Israel or the Southern Kingdom. For hard cases like Judah, the only way to know is to go through verse by verse by hand and decide. (This investment of effort is one thing that makes Logos’ Biblical People data such a uniquely valuable resource.)

For many other cases, while the name is only used to refer to people, there are numerous individuals with the same name. Zechariah is the toughest case here: there are 30 distinct ones in our database. So just counting occurrences of the string “Zechariah” doesn’t get it right: you need to know whether it’s the prophet Zechariah (from the Old Testament book of the same name), the father of John the Baptist, or one of the 28 others (most of which are only mentioned oncein the entire Bible). So some pretty detailed data is required to do a reasonable job with this computation.

There are many different ways you could count and compute weights on a per-person basis. Here’s one (there are other reasonable possibilities too):

  • Let frequencybe a count of the number of verses that mention a given individual (only counting one for verses like Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to sift you like wheat”, which shouldn’t really count as two observations of Simon’s significance as a Biblical character).
  • Let book dispersionbe the number of books of the Bible that mention the individual. The intuition here is that, for two individuals with the same frequency, the one that’s mentioned in more books is probably more important, broadly speaking.
  • Let chapter dispersionsimilarly be the number of chapters in which a mention occurs. This helps distinguish people mentioned frequently but within a relatively shorter range of verses.
  • Normalize these values by their maximums (frequency=1370, book mentions=31, chapter mentions=258) just to scale things more nicely
  • Assign a weight to each of these three factors (I used 0.6 for frequency, 0.2 for book dispersion, and 0.2 for chapter dispersion: clearly this choice affects the outcome).
  • Multiply each factor by its weight, and add the results to get a number between 1 and 0.

Here’s a graph that shows this metric for the top 50 people, along with the individual factors. (The image is linked to a larger version where the names can be read.)

While the top names (Jesus, David, Moses, Jacob, Abraham) are no surprise, there are some interesting observations farther down.

First, the composite metric really does change the rankings: Levi is #15 by this method, but #52 if you only ranked by frequency. Likewise, King Saul would be #51 if you only ranked by book mentions, because he’s mentioned in just a few books: but he’s clearly one of the most important characters in those books, and so it seems fitting that incorporating frequency and chapter dispersion boosts him up to #10 in the composite metric rank.

Graphically, the places where the lines approach each other are the cases where the various factors are more equal, and places where they’re farthest apart (Judah’s a good example) where they’re most skewed. Back to the previous point about counting genuine person name instances versus strings: only 99 of the approximately 780 occurrences of “Judah” actually refer to Jacob and Leah’s son, so counting strings would be highly misleading here.

Since names, like many linguistic phenomena, typically follow a Zipfian Distribution(sometimes called a “long tail” or power law distribution), it’s no surprise that the majority (1634 of the 2987) of these names occur exactly once in the Bible, and the 59 most frequent names account for about half of all the name mentions in the Bible. So clearly these top names deserve much more attention than the long tail. Important disclaimer:I’m not making any claims here about theological or historical importance. That’s a subjective matter, and you’d get different answers depending on your perspective.

One advantage of making ideas explicit and quantifiable is that you can compare their predictions against your intuitions and see how they compare. Some other factors that might improve the estimate even further (and remember, this is just an estimate):

  • Though we value the whole of Scripture, there’s a sense in which certain sections are broader in their implications. For example, anyone mentioned in the first chapters of Genesis should probably get an extra measure of importance: these are the foundational stories of Hebrew and Christian history.
  • We’re only counting proper names here: other descriptions and pronouns would help refine these measurements even further (we don’t have this data yet, however)
  • External sources (like Bible dictionaries) are a rich and quantifiable source of judgments about importance: the more words or sentences used to describe an individual, the more important they’re likely to be. By consulting several dictionaries, you can overcome the biases of an individual work or editorial slant. The key feature here is making the connection between the described individual (often in a numbered paragraph) and the Biblical character: we don’t have that data yet, but it’s in our plans for the future, and an approximation with
    a bit of programming ought to be possible at better than 90% accuracy.

Postscripts

  • Some of this material was previously posted hereat my Blogos weblog. Unfortunately, as of this writing, some problems with my service provider have made these posts unavailable.
  • This post at OpenBible.info is a response to the original series, with some interesting thoughts about alternative ways to rank names.

Related Posts

Follow-up posts here at the Logos Blogusing Many Eyes to further analyze and visualize the data:

Update 5/25 — Chris Anderson, author of the best-selling book The Long Tail and editor-in-chief at Wired magazine wrote about this post on his blog! Check it out: The Long Tail of Bible People (AKA Jesus is #1!)

Logos Lecture Series Presents Dr. Mark Futato

On Saturday, May 5 the Logos Lecture Series will feature Dr. Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Futato will be presenting a lecture entitled “The Psalms and Our Destiny: Understanding the Message of the Book of Psalms.”

The Psalms contain some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. However, what often goes unnoticed is that they have been purposefully arranged in order to tell the story of God’s grace and mercy. Dr. Mark Futato, one of the nation’s top scholars on the Hebrew language and the Psalms, will illuminate the message of the Psalms and help attendees further appreciate this beloved part of the Bible.

Lecture details:

  • Date: Saturday May, 5
  • Time: 7:00 PM
  • Location: Mount Baker Theatrein downtown Bellingham
  • Admission: no charge!

If you can’t make it to the lecture, you can always check outsome of Dr. Futato’s teaching on Psalms in the audio files posted at Third Millenium Ministriesor his book Transformed by Praise: The Purpose and Message of the Psalms. Futato’s widely acclaimed Hebrew grammar is available for Logos Bible Software.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Mark Futato is currently the Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America as well as an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Futato teaches courses on Hebrew, the Psalms and other biblical wisdom literature.

The Bible Study Bus is Rolling!

Today’s post is written by Scott Lindsey, director of ministry relations for Logos, who is on the Bible Study Bus road trip. View more road trip photos at Flickr.

Right after Easter service on April 8th, I took off with my family to begin the 2007 Bible Study Road Trip. Our first event was in the Gresham, OR area at Good Shepherd Community Church. We had a great turnout. Those who attended were shocked to see what Logos has been doing for the last 16 years.

The goal of this year’s Bible Study Road Trip is to introduce congregations to the potential of using the Logos technology for Bible study. We are honored to have American Family Radio sponsoring this year’s tour. American Family Radio Bible Study Busis one of the largest Christian radio networks in the country and they will be promoting a majority of the events in the cities where they have radio coverage.

For the past 2 weeks we have been trying to get to the AFR listenership areas as fast as we can…3,000 miles in 14 days! In has been an amazing journey with my wife and children seeing this awesome nation we have the privilege of living in. We have made stops in Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and now Texas. We will be in great state of Texas for the next few weeks. Tornado Pictures006

The children had a great home school learning experience this past Saturday night in Amarillo when we all spent 4 hours in a RV park storm shelter while 11 tornados dropped all around the city! My wife loves the Pacific Northwest even more now! On the way down to Lubbock for our April 23rd event, we stopped through the small town of Tulia, TX where one of the bigger tornados touched down. The tornado completely destroyed a Ford dealership, grocery store, and gas station (see the news story).We took some amazing pictures and were glad to find out no one was seriously injured. My children pay a bit more attention now to Texas storm clouds!

We are currently in Abilene, Texas. I was stationed here at Dyess Air Force Base over 10 years ago and we still have great friends here. It has been a wonderful few days of fellowship. We are on the way to San Antonio this weekend. If you would like more information about the Bible Study Road Trip and where we are going, please visit www.BibleStudyBus.com. We would love to see you at one of the events!

Scott Lindsey & family- The Bible Study Bus Crew Chief

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