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Top 50 Women in the Bible

As promised, I’m back for one final post on this whole “most important people in the Bible” topic. The first two posts in the series are here and here.

Today we’ll take a quick look at a visualization of the top 50 women of the Bible, as determined by Logos information architect Sean Boisen’s calculations. This data is also available at Many Eyes for anyone to manipulate and try out new information visualizations.

Here’s the scatterplot; click the thumbnail for a full view.

This time, dot size is the final “importance” scoreusing all the weights and factors calculated. The x-axis is the total number of mentions in the Bible. Bigger dot = more important; further right = more mentions.

One of the most interesting things we see here is the name Zeruiah with a pretty big dot and fifth place in terms of mentions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever hearing a Bible story about Zeruiah. My girls (ages 3 and 4 1/2) and I are on our second time through the cartoon Picture Bible and we haven’t encountered any such person.

Who is this mystery woman?

With the help of the Biblical People Addintool within Logos Bible Software 3, it’s pretty easy to find out. I fired up the tool and typed “zeruiah” to generate the following graph.

Turns out Zeruiah was King David’s sister. But ifshe’s the fifth most-frequently mentionedwoman in Scripture and is closely related to a majorcharacterwithin the biblical narrative why wouldn’t I know anything about what she did or said?

The answer to this question is also provided by the Biblical People tool. I can hover over or click each of the Bible references to see every mention of Zeruiah in brief context. Or better yet, type Zeruiah’s name into Bible Speed Search and get all the verses on one screen.

Looking through the results, we find that 24 of the 25 mentions of Zeruiah consist of the phrase, “Son(s) of Zeruiah.” The exception is in 1 Samuel 17:25 where we read that David’s sister Abigail (not to be confused withDavid’s wife named Abigail) is a “sister of Zeruiah.”

So it turns out that we don’t know anything about Zeruiah except for her relation to other people. We don’t know of a single thing she did or said. Commentators speculate that her sons are frequentlyidentified by her name because of the link back to King David.Anyonewho trailed an older siblingthrough high school or has a star athlete in the family could commiserate with Zeruiah—”Wait…aren’t you Abigail’s sister?” “You’re Joab’s mom, right?”

It may be that Zeruiah points up another opportunity for improving Sean’s “importance” weighting factors. Can somebody who appears in Scripture by name only, with no speaking or acting role, benumberedamong the mostimportant? I’d ask Sean for comment but he’s presenting a case study at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose so I’ll just have to wait until he gets back.

In the meantime, I’ve got to quit playing around with Many Eyes and get back to work. :-)

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!

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.

Syntax Search Example: Prepositions and Nouns

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know that sometimes I just notice things as I’m reading through the text. This time, it was a syntactic structure used in 1Ti 6.3, shown below in the  ESV NT Reverse Interlinear:

The structure that is highlighted is what we’re interested in. This is a neat little syntactic structure where the article + substantive (here a noun) combo surrounds a prepositional phrase. Here’s the syntax graph of the verse:

I thought it might be interesting and instructive to walk through constructing a search to find this and other instances (over 100 in the NT!). So I created a video.

[Note: I used WMV format because the video as captured was too big for Camtasia to save as Flash format. I'll try to keep it shorter in the future -- RB]

Reading and Using the Apostolic Fathers: Part III

This is the third post in a series of posts having to do with the Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English. (The first post is here, the second is here).
Today’s video focuses on different reports and resources that the Apostolic Fathers resources complement through providing text on hover, on how references to Apostolic Fathers within lexicons can be exploited, and also how Apostolic Fathers information can be used in the Bible Word Study report.

Note: The video discusses two resources that do not ship with Apostolic Fathers but can be added to your digital library: NA27 (included in “language” base packages) and the BDAG lexicon.

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Stuff like stacked window tabs, fuzzy searching, and quick navigation?

Of course you do.
Then you need Power Tools. If you don’t have ‘em, you should check out the Power Tools Addin.

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!)

Reading and Using the Apostolic Fathers: Part II

This is the second post in a series of posts (first post here) having to do with the Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English. Today’s video focuses on basic capability of the morphologically annotated Greek texts, including configuring the interlinear lines, keylinking and using visual filters.

In the third and final installment next week, I’ll show how to configure linking and hovering preferences related to the Apostolic Fathers and dig into the Bible Word Study report.

Note: The video discusses two items that do not ship with Apostolic Fathers but can be added to your digital library: morphological filter (part of Biblical Languages Addin, which is included in “language” base packages) and the BDAG lexicon.

Reading and Using the Apostolic Fathers: Part I

The long-awaited Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English has shipped! This includes three editions of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (each edition has both Greek and English text, so six resources in all). More info, of course, is on the product page.

I thought I’d take a few posts and show some of the things you can do with these resources. Today’s video has to do with general use of the resources with some ideas of further things you can do to get more from the books as you read them. Today I’ll focus on the English, though I’ll focus on the Greek editions in future posts.

Future posts will likely include things like keylink preferences, hovering and highlighting and also integration with the Bible Word Study report.

Cake and Exegesis

“So you work for that Logos software company…”

With 130+ employees and 5 years in Bellingham, Logos has become a big enough fish in a relatively small pond that I now hear something like this pretty regularly when I meet someone new.

This past weekend, I was at a birthday party for my wife’s good friend. My wife’s friend’s dad (let’s call him Bill) heard I worked for Logos and jumped right into a discussion of translation philosophies, the benefit of studying the New Testament in Greek, and the rendering into English of a number of his favorite passages.

It was a fun conversation, but, man, was I ever pining for my Logos Bible Software.

At one point, the discussion turned to Luke 17 and the cleansing of the ten lepers. As you recall, ten were cleansed but only one—a Samaritan—returned to thank Jesus. Jesus tells the man, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Bill observed that the Greek word translated “made you well” in verse 19 is not the same word used for the lepers’ cleansing earlier in the passage. In verse 19, the word is a form ofσῴζω (rescue, save, heal) while in verses 14 and 17 καθαρίζω (make clean, purify, heal) is used. [My glosses here are from DBL Greek.]

Bill wanted to make a distinction here that the man’s faith was instrumental in his salvation, not his healing.

I hadn’t studied the passage in enough depth to have an opinion…but the cool thing is that Logos Bible Software makes it very easy to dig in and explore a question like this. A great place to begin is with the ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear of the New Testament.

A quick glance shows me that there are actually three different Greek words used in this passage to describe what happened to the lepers. In verse 15, Luke writes that the Samaritan sees that he is healed (ἰάομαι).

To give myself some visual markers, I grabbed the highlighter tool from the main Logos toolbar and applied a different color for each of the three words I was interested in studying (click the image above for a closer look).

From here it was mere child’s play to execute the mechanics of word study and dig into these three words. I don’t have an answer yet (and I’m holding off on looking at commentaries until I get a little further into the study) but if you are inspired to check it out for yourself here are a couple of pointers:

  • To very quickly find out how the ESV translates each of these words across the New Testament, use either Speed Search or Englishman’s Concordance (both available from the right-click menu).
  • If you use Speed Search, you want to right-click a word and choose Selected Text | Lemma | Speed Search This Resource. (Use lemma instead of manuscript form because we want to find all instances of the word in the NT, not only instances that share the form of the word as it appears here in this passage.)
  • Bible Word Study report gives you visualizations that make it easy to see translation frequencies at a glance. Because of the syntactically tagged resources in Logos 3, it also shows syntactical patterns. For example, your faith is the most common subject of clauses where σῴζω (rescue, save, heal) is the verb.

Enjoy!