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<< Return to SBL Forum Archive Review of Accordance 6: Biblical Studies Software for Apple Macintosh


Frank Ritchel Ames

Accordance is the leading Bible research software for the Apple Macintosh computer, and its search capabilities, user interface, and digital resources are better than ever. The program has the look and feel that Macintosh users celebrate, and the latest version of Accordance makes use of Apple's Quartz graphics engine to render English, Greek, and Hebrew text with remarkable clarity. Accordance is powerful, easy to use, and easy on the eyes.

Search and Display
The focal point of Accordance is the search window, an on-screen workspace used to define searches and to display texts (see illustration 1). To conduct a search, the user selects a Bible version from a drop-down menu, types a word, phrase, or reference in the entry box, and clicks the OK button. For simple searches, results appear instantaneously. The reference and text of each hit are given in a list with search terms highlighted, and a drop-down menu allows the user to specify how much context is displayed with each verse. Complex searches are formulated using standard boolean operators, wild-card symbols, and commands that specify order, proximity, frequency, and range of texts. Additional commands link and merge searches.

Accordance's interface makes it easy to search for inflected words and syntactical constructions in tagged texts; two of the most important in biblical studies are bundled in its Scholar's Collection, though without the critical apparatus found in the printed editions: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (4th corrected ed. with Groves-Wheeler Westminster Hebrew Morphology) and Novum Testamentum Graece (Nestle-Aland 27th ed. with grammatical tagging by Mounce and Koivisto). Locating aorist passive participles in the Greek New Testament, for example, requires only a basic knowledge of the program and a few selections from its drop-down search menu. The program converts the menu selections into correctly formed search commands, which users can also modify or enter without the use of menus; they will feel confident doing so after exploring a few examples. The software comes with an excellent tutorial and manual, and the logic and language of an Accordance search is readily mastered. In addition, the software developers offer excellent technical support, periodic upgrades, and an active online forum with announcements, user tips, and additional technical information.

To assist with the formulation of more complex searches, Accordance offers a construct window, a graphical workspace that lets the user visualize grammatical elements and their relationships. To formulate a search for occurrences of the Greek attributive adjective in the second position (e.g., ten gen ten kalen, "the good soil"), the user drags the grammatical elements (article, noun, article, adjective) into columns in the construct window and drags relational elements (agree, within) into the connection area above the columns, specifying that the elements must agree in gender, number, and case (see the construct window in illustration 2, which yields 184 hits in Novum Testamentum Graece). Because the four elements in this particular attributive construction may be separated by other words (e.g., he chera haute he ptoche, "this poor widow"), a nuanced formulation will make the search more precise and inclusive (see the construct window in illustration 3, which yields 242 hits). Even a refined formulation may not retrieve every second attributive, for languages, as biblical scholars know well, are full of intrigues.

A search for a word, phrase, or grammatical element yields a list of verses, and often a long list, even if the search is limited to one book in the Bible. A search for elohim ("God" or "gods") in the Book of Psalms yields 365 hits; a search for yhwh ("Yahweh" or "LORD") yields 695. Accordance can present the list in the form of a concordance, analyze its components (123 of the 365 occurrences of elohim are construct forms), calculate descriptive statistics (in Psalms, elohim occurs about 12 times per 1000 words), and create a graph that shows the distribution of hits. An Accordance graph of the frequencies of elohim and yhwh in the Psalms, for example, shows the well-known preference for elohim in Book II of the Psalter (see illustration 4).

Select and Amplify
In Accordance, search results can be amplified — the term that the software developers adopted for analyzing results and accessing reference works. To amplify, the user first selects a word, phrase, or reference displayed in the search window and then chooses a tool or a set of tools that users can configure to meet individual needs. To facilitate my study of the Hebrew Bible, I defined a tool set that contains a reference grammar and lexicon. When this tool set is selected from Accordance's floating tool palette, the grammar and lexicon automatically open to display relevant entries. I confess that I am now utterly spoiled by the speed and convenience of digital resources and marvel at technology that makes it possible to pack into my small laptop computer many bulky reference works. Of equal and perhaps greater importance is that digital versions of reference works liberate information otherwise held captive in their printed and bound counterparts. In the printed edition of an unabridged lexicon, for example, alphabetical arrangement of entries allows the user to look up an article about a word; in a digital version, the user can look up information within an article, for every word can serve as an entry point. When exploring naming conventions in ancient Israel, I used Accordance to browse through the articles in the Koehler-Baumgartner Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon for terms of endearment and was able to find examples by searching within articles for "caritative" and its abbreviation, "carit," a technical term for the familiar form of a personal name (e.g., Ulla in 1 Chr 7:39). Using similar tactics, one could search for collective nouns ("coll"), Ugaritic terms ("Ug"), citations of Martin Noth's Die israelitischen Personennamen ("Noth" or "Noth Personennamen"), or references to Ezek 21:1-32. Accordance indexing is intelligent, and a search for "Ezek 21:1-32" also retrieves references to individual verses and ranges of verses within 21:1-32 (e.g., v. 2 and vv. 18-24) and even compensates for versification differences in English and Hebrew texts (Ezek 21:1-32 [Eng.] = Ezek 21:6-37 [Heb.]). A Koehler-Baumgartner search can target the Hebrew or Aramaic entry, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek content, English title, content, or gloss, scripture, transliteration, or bibliography, though search fields vary from one digital resource to the next. One does occasionally encounter an indexing error, though rather infrequently. In the Koehler-Baumgartner article on madqerah, for instance, selecting Prov 12:18 displays Ruth 4:18.

Those learning to read Hebrew or Greek will appreciate Accordance's instant details window, which automatically displays lexical form, grammatical information, transliteration, and English gloss for the word beneath the cursor. Instructors may regard the use of such aids by students to be either a blessing or a curse, to either accelerate learning or hinder memorization. Something is gained when a student wrestles with a printed Brown-Driver-Briggs to find the lexical entry for an irregular verb (and many of us can recall lexical wrestling matches lost and won in our own introductory language studies), but something is gained when a student spends time wrestling with the biblical text rather than with the dictionary. Accordance is a promising tool for language learning and includes features that students and teachers will find beneficial in various measures. The software has the capacity to read texts aloud in a variety of voices, male and female, and pronounces English, Greek, and Hebrew texts reasonably well, though mechanically and not always correctly, and with a distinctly robotic accent. [Click to hear a sample from Waltke and O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Eisenbrauns, 1990), § 7.4.3b.] Accordance will also create a parsing guide or syntax worksheet for all words within a range of verses and will open a window in which to diagram sentences. Accordance does not automatically create the diagram but provides a workspace with a palette of symbols and color-coded text to arrange (see illustration 5).

Collections and Modules
Accordance is available in bundled packages that range from a basic starter collection with KJV and a few minor reference works to a premium scholarly collection with several English translations, a variety of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts, lexicons and grammars, English and/or original language versions of the Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Mishnah, Targums, Pseudepigrapha, Hebrew inscriptions, Qumran sectarian manuscripts and index to the Qumran manuscripts, Parashot reference tool and Torah and Haftarah readings, and tools for exploring parallel texts in the Synoptic Gospels, Epistles, Old Testament, between the Masoretic Text and Septuagint, and between the Old and New Testament. A localized Spanish version of Accordance called Compubiblia is also available. Resources may be purchased individually, including popular English Bible translations, a selection of creeds, catechisms, theologies, historical and devotional works, reference works such as The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Doubleday), The Essential IVP Reference Collection (InterVarsity), Eerdman's Bible Dictionary (Eerdman), and New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan), and recent editions of The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Brill), Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft), and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press). Many other resources are available from the developers and collaborating publishers, and modules are easily added and integrate fully into Accordance, including Thesaurus Linguae Graecae Digital Library of Greek Literature (University of California, Irvine). Users may also develop and import their own modules. Unfortunately, only abridged versions of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon are currently available for Accordance. Commercial digital resources cost about the same as their hardcover counterparts, and a scholarly collection that includes a number of high-end reference works will easily cost $1,000 - $2,000.

Graphics-oriented modules available for Accordance include collections of photographs of Bible-related locations and artifacts taken by Roy Brown, the software's developer, or selected by the editors of Biblical Archaeology Review; a user-modifiable timeline that includes both conservative and critical chronologies of biblical events and characters; and an interactive historical atlas of the Mediterranean world. The map in the atlas module allows users to zoom in and out from a viewpoint of 1 to 200 kilometers (a map scale of 1:82000 to 1:26195000), to select color schemes and overlays with empire boundaries, cities, and proposed locations of biblical events from various eras, and to view three-dimensional representations of selected areas. Double-clicking on a location conveniently opens a related entry in a dictionary or other reference work. Teachers will find the photographs, timeline, and atlas useful in the classroom. Of related interest is the Biblical Archaeology Review Archive, which contains the articles (about 1,600) and photos, illustrations, and maps (about 8,000) published in BAR from 1975 to 2003, plus lectures delivered by notables in the field of biblical studies at four symposiums sponsored by the Biblical Archaeology Society and the Smithsonian Institution: The Rise of Ancient Israel (Dever, Halpurn, McCarter), Aspects of Monotheism (Redford, Dever, McCarter, J. Collins), The Search for Jesus (S. Patterson, Borg, Crossan), and Feminist Approaches to the Bible (Trible, Frymer-Kensky, Milne, Schaberg).

The innovative features, stability, and security of OS X, Apple's remarkable operating system, and Apple Corporation's decision to migrate to Intel microprocessors next year are stirring the industry and attracting new users, and Accordance adds one more reason to purchase a Macintosh. (For those who use a PC running MS Windows, the makers of Accordance report that their software will operate under the Basilisk II Mac emulation software, which is available at no cost.) Macintosh users who install Accordance with a judicious selection of scholarly modules, plus a multi-lingual word processor such as Mellel and a bibliographic utility such as Endnote or Bookends, will create a formidable computer workstation for research and publication in the field of biblical studies.

Bible study software is an investment that repays users by extending their capabilities and by saving time, and Accordance is a mature product that works very well. It is, in a word, impressive. Growing interest in the Macintosh, however, is stimulating competition. MacSword[http://www.macsword.com], a free, open-source program with basic search capabilities in Greek, Hebrew, and many modern languages, offers an uncluttered, entirely Mac-like user interface and will continue to add features and resources, though as a non-commercial project it is not likely to match Accordance's capabilities in the foreseeable future. QuickVerse [http://quickverse.com], a new native OS-X application oriented to devotional reading and Bible study, promises speed and an intuitive interface, but lacks the original-language capabilities and resources required for scholarly use; and iLumina [http://www.ilumina.com], a cross-platform, media-laden Bible and Bible encyclopedia, is designed for Christian youth, parents, and elementary and secondary teachers, not scholars. However, Logos Bible Software [http://www.logos.com], which has expressed and demonstrated a strong interest in providing scholarly digital resources for PC users, plans to release a native Macintosh version of its research software and extensive digital library in December 2005. The creative minds behind Accordance's established, MacSword's free, QuickVerse's new, iLumina's creative, and Logos's anticipated products will no doubt continue to pursue innovations that will strengthen their own software and competing programs to the benefit of everyone in the field of biblical studies.

Accordance is published by OakTree Software, Altamonte Springs, Florida. Packages include the Starter Collection, $39; Library 6, $69-$269; Scholar's Collection, $199-$1599; Jewish Collection $79-$249; Catholic Collection $149; and Compubiblia, $45. Individual add-on modules, $30-$399. Replacement CDs, $10. A complete list of modules is available online at http://www.accordancebible.com.

Frank Ritchel Ames (Ph.D., Denver/Iliff) is Professor of Biblical Studies at Colorado Christian University. fames@ccu.edu

Citation: Frank Ritchel Ames, " Review of Accordance 6: Biblical Studies Software for Apple Macintosh," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Aug 2005]. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=433

 
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