Things to Love in BibleWorks 8…

Written by Michael Hanel on November 29th, 2008

We’re finally up to the eighth thing you will love in BibleWorks 8. For this one I decided to pick out something which I found very interesting, even though I don’t think I can quite give it a five star review (I’ll point out the one shortcoming in the context of the review).

Oh, so I should mention what it is. It is the MacDonald Greek Textual Transcription. Earlier versions of BibleWorks introduced a Greek grammar by a guy named William G. MacDonald. Now I can’t vouch for this grammar much as I’ve never really used it before, but in it he has a section on a textual transcription technique:

Textual transcription is a syntactical technique that finds the joints in a block of Greek text, and keeping the biblical word order, copies the text in a new grammatical format. The  grammatical relationships and syntactical transitions are indicated by subordination and showing parallelism. The text always flows left to right, down a line at a time at the appropriate junctures. The great benefit of this method is that it causes the main ideas to appear, hinged by the text’s own transitions and highlighted by parallels.

Note that this is a way to see relationship between words, phrases and clauses in Greek. The Leedy Greek NT diagrams are another way to accomplish the same thing, but I think that MacDonald is on to something with his method of transcription.

As a Classicist I read quite a bit of material in original languages (Greek and Latin). If you’ve never had the opportunity to read a Ciceronian periodic sentence in Latin or a Thucydidean sentence in Greek, you’re really missing out on the beauty of the languages. English cannot compare to either language, and when those works especially are translated into English, even if done quite literally, there’s a lot lost in translation. Actually the real difficulty is trying to translate the sentence at all because there are so many clauses and conjunctions and all sorts of fun things there to get tripped over. But one of my professors taught us to “diagram” the sentences, very much in the way of MacDonald because it helps you to see relationships you normally would have skipped over. And over time, with practice, you don’t have to physically diagram every sentence, you just get better naturally at reading and seeing these relationships because you’ve trained your eye to know what to look for.

So unlike Leedy diagrams, these will make breaks along clauses. Each verb will get its own line and then things underneath it are lined up in accordance with his general rules. Here’s an example he gives:

If you’re familiar with normal syntactical diagramming you will notice this is very different. In my opinion it’s easier to read and much better for looking at overall relationships, but if you want your Leedy, you can go back to him.

So that’s what MacDonald does. What BibleWorks 8 then has is the entire textual transcription of the Greek New Testament done by MacDonald. It is integrated into BW8 as a HTML module. When you are in a NT verse, in the Analysis Window tab, you will find a link to the verse transcription in MacDonald’s Transcription.

Old McDonald had a farm. Will MacDonald had a Transcriber.

Old McDonald had a farm. Will MacDonald had a Transcriber.

Now here’s a look at that verse in William MacDonald’s Textual Transcription:

Look, it's in color!

Look, it's in color

If you look at this page image, you should see at once how “easy” his method of transcription is. There are no fancy syntactical symbol languages to learn. Basically you only need to use two keys, the “enter” key and the “tab” key. It’s really easy stuff to learn and get the hang of, and it will definitely help you read the languages better. Again, this is no replacement for those of you who love syntactical diagrams. This aims to do something slightly different.

Now I’ve personally never created any syntactical diagrams of any sentences, but I have done the sort of thing that MacDonald did here. I find his way both helpful for understanding and pedagogically efficient for teaching others to read languages like Greek and Latin better. I don’t mean to pit these two kinds of resources against one another (since they both come in BibleWorks). I’m simply saying that of the two resources, I find MacDonald more helpful than I find Leedy Diagrams. Obviously, others will have other opinions, but I think you will enjoy the visual aspect that MacDonald’s resource adds to BibleWorks.

Okay, now the one criticism I have. As this resource currently exists, all of the textual transcriptions in the MacDonald module are page images, not actual text. The reason this is a bummer to me, is because I’d love to copy and paste some of MacDonald’s work into my notes while working on a passage. But since it’s an image, I can’t do that. I could only paste a picture of his work into my text. Or, alternatively, I could quickly copy the text into the Editor or Word and imitate his transposition. It would take probably an extra minute or so per verse, so it’s not a game-breaker, it’s just a, well this is a nice resource, but I think it’d be better if it were all text rather than the images. To BibleWorks credit, I am sure it would be possible for them to convert it to all text, but they’re likely waiting to see what kind of feedback this resource gets before pouring extra development hours into it. So, after BW8 comes out, if this is a resource you get a lot of insight from, please don’t be shy about telling the BibleWorks people about it! They actually like hearing feedback from users.

I don’t quite know how I’d assign a monetary value to this resource, but in my opinion, however much you value the Leedy’s diagrams, chalk this one up for double that. At least that’s an indication of how much I like this mode of diagramming versus the more structured one in the Leedy version. This is not one of those things I ever would have thought BibleWorks is missing, but now that it has it, I’m thinking, wow, this is a really great resource.

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