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following Jesus, the Word made flesh
November 25th, 2009

Technology in Scripture

John Dyer points to a effort by Matthew Clarke to catalog references to technology in the Bible at WikiChristian. I really like the idea of looking at the Bible through technology glasses.

If you have Logos 4, you can easily play along using the Biblical Things feature (brief tutorial video), which provides a comprehensive list of references for all the physical, depictable artifacts of technology (though not more abstract things like metal refining techniques).

This kind of broad study across the whole of Scripture can provide new perspectives on things that, in their immediate context, often go right by us.

November 2nd, 2009

Logos 4 Videos

If you’re interested in the capabilities i discussed in my earlier post about the Logos 4 launch, there are a bunch of videos on our site explaining different features of the software. In addition to showing new users how their software works, these also give you a good feel for what Logos 4 is actually like, in case you’re thinking about taking the plunge. And, well … these particular videos were done by me 🙂

November 2nd, 2009

Logos 4 Launches Today

I’m thrilled to announce that we’re releasing Logos Bible Software 4 today. This is a complete rewrite from the ground up of the best Bible study software on the planet, so that makes this an exciting day in my book.

Logos 4 sports an entirely new interface to make it easier than ever to find what you’re looking for and keep your study space organized and effective. There’s a wealth of new, visually oriented resources, and better controls for working through the enormous space of resources Logos makes available. There’s even an iPhone app for no extra charge!

That’s the marketing view (and i stand behind it). But this means much more to me on a very personal level. It’s been almost 3 years since i came at Logos, and this will be the first time most of my work has seen the light of day. Specifically, Logos 4 contains the work of my colleagues and me in several new areas:

  • Biblical People, which organizes information about the 3300 individuals, groups of people, and deities named in the Biblical text. It includes a comprehensive list of references, their family relationships, links to dictionary articles, and links to related items. It also includes family tree and story-based diagrams. And everything is hyperlinked.
  • Biblical Places includes all the same kinds of information for 1200 named places from the Bible: cities, regions, even geographic features like rivers and mountains. Along with the data, there are 60 new high-resolution maps commissioned by Logos and covering the major Biblical events, as well as a mega-map that shows all the places together.
  • Biblical Things describes the physical objects of the Bible: animals, plants, body parts, clothing, food and drink, and much more, as well as specific items like Noah’s ark and Goliath’s sword and weights and measures. There are more than 1000 objects here, which also bring together thousands of images from across the library.
  • There’s also a new collection of high-resolution infographics illustrating different aspects of the Biblical world (and i’m extra proud that the bulk of this work was managed by my wife Donna)
  • In additional to regular word search (which is much faster than ever), under the hood is the Libronix Controlled Vocabulary (LCV), working to organize 11,000 different subjects in the Biblical studies literature and coordinating information across the library.

So if you’ve been following my posts on the Bible Knowledgebase … well, now it’s here. I can’t overstate how important i think this is: this is quite literally the first time in the centuries-old history of Biblical studies that this information has been made available in this way. The LCV isn’t quite as visible (yet), but it’s also an important organizing feature that will continue to grow in power going forward.

I hope you’re catching my sense of excitement about these new resources (and this says nothing about all the hard work of my dozens of colleagues in other areas). I hoped i’ve piqued your interest to learn more about Logos 4. It really is a watershed event in Bible software.

Obligatory disclaimer: i work for Logos and highly value what i do there. So i’m not the least bit objective about this. (more detailed disclosures)

November 1st, 2009

Bible Chatbots

Suppose you had a database listing authorship and reported speech in the Bible, so that, for each set of words, you know who said or wrote them (the ESV folks did this using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a few years back, and Jim Albright’s Dramatizer has similar data embedded in it). I assume the speakers have standardized identifiers.

Now imagine a matching algorithm (there are lots of candidates out there) that, when provided with either a question or a list of words, and optionally a speaker, retrieves passages that best match the input.

Example: “why does God allow evil?” might return

  • Eliphaz the Temanite: Job 15:14-16
  • the woman of Tekoa: 2 Sam 14:14
  • the apostle John: 1 John 3:11-17

Querying about “what about God and evil?” with speaker=Jesus might (in the best case) give answers like

  • Matt 5:45
  • Matt 12:35

Apart from how accurate such answers might be (that depends on the sophistication of the matching algorithm), you’ve now got the engine for a chatbot that gives Biblical “answers” . Aside from perhaps being an interesting hack, would this be useful? Lazyweb, are you listening?

November 1st, 2009

Richard Baxter on the Need for Personal Study

I’ve been reading J.I. Packer’s A Quest For Godliness (in Logos), his attempt to reacquaint the modern Christian world with the works of the Puritans who have been so influential and are yet so little known.

A Quest for Godliness

This morning’s readings included some discussion of how Richard Baxter put knowledge ahead of emotion in his teaching: “first light — then heat.” To the imagined objections of his working-class congregation that ‘We are not learned, and, therefore, God will not require much knowledge at our hands,’ Baxter answers with several arguments (whose language i’ve updated slightly: the selection is by Packer) as to why laypersons have as great a responsibility as scholars to increase their understanding of God and the Christian life.

  1. Every individual should know that they are created by God, and the purpose of their life, as well as the way to individual happiness, as well as a scholar does. Do you not have souls to save or lose, as scholars do?
  2. God has shown His will to you in the Bible; he has provided teachers and many other aids; so you have no excuse if you are ignorant. You must know how to be Christians even if you are not scholars. You may find the way to heaven in English, even if you have no skill in Hebrew or Greek: but in the darkness of ignorance you can never find it.
  3. … if you think, therefore, you can be excused from knowledge, you might as well think you can be excused from love and from all obedience: for there can be none of this without knowledge… If you were as interested in the knowledge of God and heavenly things as you are to know your career or profession, you would have started learning it before today, and you would have spared no cost or pains until you had it. You think seven years little enough to learn your trade, and won’t spend one day in seven diligently learning the matters of your salvation.

and one closing comment:

If heaven is too high for you to think on, and to provide (prepare) for, it will be too high for you ever to possess.

Packer, J. I. (1994). A quest for godliness : The Puritan vision of the Christian life (70). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.