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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.
- 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.
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!)
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.
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.
- 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.
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 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.
- Video: Flash, 9 megs, 7:40, with sound.
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 is 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.
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
It used to be thatprisoners would roll an inexpensive cigarettefrom a pageout of theBible, but no longer.According to a report fromCrosswalk.com, smokers half a world away are driving up the cost of the special paper used to print Bibles.
What goes around comes around.
Religion Today Summaries, April 26, 2007—There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for Bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.
I’ve always been intrigued by how our experience of the Bible is affected by the medium, which in turn is constrained by logistical factors such as the cost of paper.
The Bible has a lot of pages and yet it’s a book we carry around with us more than most other books. That means we want it to be thin and light, not big and bulky.Hence special, super-thin paper, small print, two- or three-column layout, and relatively narrow margins. All of these factors impact our interaction with the Bible in subtle or not-so subtle ways. Example: Thin pages => special no-bleed marking pens =>crocheted Bible cover with pockets to hold pens. It’s a slippery slope.
Of course, the experience of using an electronic Bible is similarly influenced by the library software used to read and search it. How cross-references or footnotes are handled, how poetry is formatted, options for notes and highlighting—all these and more contribute to the user experience, and all are subject to various constraints.
The difference is, electronic Bible publishers fret about CPU, RAM, and screen size while print Bible publishers lie awake at night worrying about how many Chinese are taking up smoking.
Update 4/27 – Smoking Bible pages actually does happen, as attested by a Bible Network News audio report about a prisoner whose chaplain asked him not to smoke the book of John. Click here to open the BNN page, then scroll down to “Texan smoked Bible passages”.
Here’s a quick round-up of some Logos-related posts from the blogosphere…
Logos user and seminarianPatrick McCullough is Looking for more Anabaptists on Libronix Software.
He writes, “If you’re a fan and owner of Logos Bible Software (aka Libronix Digital Library), and I am, there’s a good chance that your particular theological tradition is represented in their available collections of historical works.”
Patrick includes a great list of links to theological titles from the Lutheran tradition already available for Logos, then goes on to offer a big list of Anabaptist titles and author she’d like to see in his digital library. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re always eager to receive customer suggestions so keep them coming!
New Logos user Heavy Dluxe tells the story of his 11-month search for the right Bible software and how he chose Logos Bible Software. It looks like he’ll be writing a series of posts that would be helpful to anyone doing their pre-purchase homework.
One of the fun things about the world of blogs is getting to “eavesdrop” on conversations people are having with their family and friends (and random readers who drop by).
One blogger recently described her first experience using Logos at a relative’s house and wrote, “Seriously, even if I couldn’t get excited about Bible research, I could still get quite giddy with the thought of using a program where I just have to click a link and I can see every commentary in the digital library on any specific topic or passage I require.”
Could this be our new tagline?
Logos Bible Software: Making Bible students giddy since 1991.
Another blogger who is a self-described Bible study geek says she cried (tears of mourning, not joy) when Libronix DLS replaced the old Logos Library System back in 2001. But Logos 3, released in May 2006, has made her a happy Bible study geek again.
We always appreciate comments and links; we’ve said it before and will say it again: our customers are the best and we’re privileged to serve you.
“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.