Biblical People

One of the neatest features supported in the next release of Logos Bible Software is the Biblical People database. It has been included in the alpha releases since the end of June, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to see it.

The example here shows a visualization of all of the biblically-attested relationships of Aaron. The graph shows everyone Aaron is related to and the nature of the relationship. Nodes in the graph are colored by gender, if known, and labeled by relationship. Every relationship is attested to by one or more Bible verses, shown at the left side of the graph. Clicking on a person’s name regenerates the graph with them at the center.

The graphs can be generated for any person in the Bible, and a specialized version of the graph is included in the Passage Guide to show all of the people in the selected passage and their relationships to each other.

Logos Bible Software is more than just an electronic version of a paper library. And it is tools like this that demonstrate how software can help you see and explore the Bible in ways you never could before.

Sentence Diagrams

Logos Bible Software has a sentence diagramming tool, but until recently I didn’t know that the “traditional line diagrams” it supports have a name: Reed-Kellogg diagrams.

Searching on the name led me to a site with some other, older diagramming systems. The photo here shows Genesis 1:1 diagrammed by the Clark method. (Do we need to add support for this?)

The next release of Logos Bible Software will support flowing columns of text with user-adjustable margins and tabs. It is hard to explain but easy to use, and it is designed to support the outlining / phrasing / aligning / arcing advocated in some recent guides to exegesis. (These diagrams still support the line drawing objects, allowing you to mix shapes and flowing text.)

We are calling these “sentence flow diagrams,” after Gordon Fee’s description in New Testament Exegesis. But if you know a better or more accurate name, let us know!

Thankful for This Job

There are lots of reasons I love my job. I like the technology, the business, and the people. But most of all, I appreciate the incredible privilege it is to be developing tools that help people study the Bible.

Recently I came in to work to find this email from a Bible college president sitting in my inbox:

I’m sitting here, w/ a notebook computer, in a “not yet open Starbucks,” in <city name> (giving a series of lectures at <seminary name>) using Logos / Libronix in my devotions and am still amazed. I cannot believe the ease w/ which I can do word studies, check commentaries, compare versions, and get lost in Logos trails… it is truly amazing what you have done. Thanks again. This tool is a huge blessing to me. Appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

I believe that I could work unto the Lord in many different occupations; I know people who do in a variety of jobs. But I know that it is a rare and unusual job where you provide tools that so directly support people’s Bible study and teaching, and where you can get such direct encouragement and feedback. I am thankful for this job, and for the many users who have taken the time to encourage, challenge, and pray for us.

Street Signs

LogosHighwayBanner.jpgGetting ready for AAR/SBL this year got me thinking about our booth in previous years.

One of my favorite booth themes was our 2003 display with the road sign theme. We did a big banner with a highway overpass and freeway graphics and then made up custom street and parking signs to decorate the booth.

We got a lot of great feedback from people walking by the booth, and lots of people wanted to buy our “Parking for Hebrew Scholars Only” sign. But we kept it, and it now decorates the wall above our Hebrew scholar’s desk. The street signs are in our lunchroom.

(We ordered our signs from Cute Signs, where you can get your own custom parking sign for under $20.)

The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac

Eugene FieldAmong the 5,000 books available for the Libronix Digital Library System there are a few that make people wonder, “Why did they produce that one?”

Years ago, someone gave our family a copy of The Works of Eugene Field. In high school I read a few volumes with mild interest before getting to the final volume, The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, with which I fell promptly in love.

I was in my seventh year then, and I had learned to read I know not when. The back and current numbers of the “Well-Spring” had fallen prey to my insatiable appetite for literature. With the story of the small boy who stole a pin, repented of and confessed that crime, and then became a good and great man, I was as familiar as if I myself had invented that ingenious and instructive tale; I could lisp the moral numbers of Watts and the didactic hymns of Wesley, and the annual reports of the American Tract Society had already revealed to me the sphere of usefulness in which my grandmother hoped I would ultimately figure with discretion and zeal. And yet my heart was free; wholly untouched of that gentle yet deathless passion which was to become my delight, my inspiration, and my solace, it awaited the coming of its first love.

Eugene Field was a poet and journalist in the late 19th century (most famous now for Little Boy Blue and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod). His fanciful memoir of an old bibliomaniac delighted me; I found within it the name of my book obsession and license to revel in the malady.
I memorized the first chapter for recitation at a drama competition, and for years afterwards I pressed copies into the hands of fellow book lovers.

One of these fellow bibliomaniacs worked at Logos in our text production department. He took it upon himself to type the entire book and then presented it, fait accompli, in Logos format. And so it went into our collection as an unlock, with about five to ten copies sold each year.

So, is it useful for Bible study? No, but it is a delightful read if you are enchanted by chapter titles like “The Luxury of Reading in Bed,” “On the Odors Which My Books Exhale,” and “Our Debt to Monkish Men.” And now it is free.

Why Electronic Books are Better

EliECF.jpgMy favorite story about why electronic reference books are better than print is from AAR/SBL 1996. We had just released the Early Church Fathers on CD-ROM and a woman came up to our booth to place an order.

“I am so glad you have this in electronic form,” she said. “I already have it in print, but I am a student and have had to move the 38 volumes three times to second floor apartments. I’m selling the paper!”

With more than 5,000 titles available today, the case for saving space and weight is made. Still, the ECF remains our first, best single-title example, and we still drag the paper edition out as a prop for photographs.

During a recent shoot, as several of us hauled the set out to the lobby, I observed that I had seen someone carry the whole set. Logos blogger Eli Evans did not believe me –- but he was the one who did it. I found the photo, from 1998, though the evidence shows he could only handle 37 of the 38 volumes.

We Did Remember Hebrew

It would not do to have a syntactically tagged Greek NT without something similar for the Hebrew text. So we are partnering with Francis Andersen and Dean Forbes to make their three decades of work available to you for display and searching, too.

From Morphology to Syntax

Morphologically analyzed texts have been an important feature of Bible software packages for years. Logos offers several different morphological analyses for the Greek NT and we will soon have three different analyses for the Hebrew. Recently we announced or shipped analyzed versions of the Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha, the Apostolic Fathers in Greek, and the Works of Philo. (The Works of Josephus aren’t far behind.)

But what if you want to look at syntax? There have not been a lot of tools available. Logos is partnering with to change that, and you soon will be able to see (and search!) a syntactically annotated Greek NT. The image below is an early view of just one of the ways you will be able to use this data.

Navigation History as a Tree

HistoryTree.pngWhen I am browsing electronic texts I tend to follow a lot of rabbit trails. One of my frustrations with web browsers and other hyperlinked systems is that my navigation history is a straight line. I can follow links from A to B to C to D, but if I back up to C and follow an alternate link to E, the system forgets that I was at D.

Real world browsing involves following lots of parallel paths, and this is especially true in Bible study, where you want to follow lots of cross references on a single theme, each of which may lead you to other ideas, without losing track of where you started.

The next release of the Libronix Digital Library System records all of your navigation and can present it as a tree, not just a list. So while Back and Forward work just as they always have, if you want to revisit one of the branches your study took earlier in your session, you can open the History Dialog and find it quickly.

(The History Dialog is already available as part of the Libronix DLS v2.2 Alpha.)

I am excited about the new History Dialog not just because it is a feature I have wanted for a long time, but because it is representative of the innovation in the Libronix Digital Library System. To the best of my knowledge, this is one of the first visual tools for navigating your browsing history in any hypertext system. (A similar feature was added to one web browser just weeks ago, and it has been suggested for others.)

We are not content to simply apply the established technologies and interfaces to Bible study tools – we want to be on the cutting edge with new and better solutions.

Slicing Books for Art

At a used bookstore in London I found a Bible atlas from 1900 with beautiful colored engravings. I have seen individual atlas pages in old map shops sold for more than this book cost, and it had 11 full page engravings. Few things hurt me like cutting up a book, but these clean, neat 8 x 10 inch pages simply begged to be framed and hung on the wall for everyone to appreciate.

After a quick check on the Internet to ensure that the book wasn’t too rare, we carefully cut out the pages and scanned them at high resolution before framing them. You will see them on the wall if you visit Logos in the future, and you can download this diagram of the tabernacle and the temple right now. (The file is 2.85 MB and the image is 3232 x 2464 pixels.)
The whole set of corrected images (cropped, rotated, color adjusted and scaled to 50%) are available in an 8 MB file.