16 January 2013

Old Testament Studies

Old Testament Studies

Computers and Hebrew now work together very well, and you no longer need to be a geek to succeed. The following resources reveal a wealth of Old Testament Studies on the Web and many useful tools to aid research.


Mac or PC


Bible Software

Web treasures


Finding books

Background sources

Biblical Weblinks


Mac or PC

Windows is reliable and configurable, but can be clunky
Mac is cute and easy to use, but not so flexible
Linux is fast (once you get all the drivers) but scary
For the OT scholar there's only one choice: Windows.
A few decades ago Mac was the first to write and display Hebrew
(Actually, the little British Amstrad computer worked flawlessly with right-to-left Hebrew and English, thanks to my software and fonts, so  most British synagogue magazines used Amstrads. But Apple had a bigger advertising budget and ultimately a better machine.)
The Mac remained the favourite for biblical scholars even when the PC caught up. For the last few years, Mac users have had a big disadvantage: MS Word doesn't work properly with Hebrew on a Mac. On a PC it works wonderfully - Right-to-Left Hebrew wraps and formats perfectly - but on the Mac it all goes wrong.

Hebrew for Macs

If you are a Mac fan, here's what to do:
(Have you noticed that there are "PC users" and "Mac fans"? No-one is a "PC fan")
The Hebrew problem has nothing to do with Apple - Right-to-Left works fine with most software. If you only copy and paste Hebrew from other software, you can do that. Just don't edit it once it is in Word.
You can use NeoOffice  or OpenOffice which are almost perfect at Hebrew, though they don't have all the tools in Word. The sad truth is that Word has a better feature-set for footnotes, automatic contents & indexing, macros, and ease of use.
You can use Windows emulation in Parallels or Fusion. Or (and this may be cheaper) buy a $200 PC netbook and write your Hebrew on Word then open the files in your Mac. (Word on Mac and PC are totally interchangeable, though they may not be recongisable. PC looks for ".doc" or ".docx" at the end of the filename, and Mac looks for an invisible tag which the PC doesn't write. Nevertheless, you can instruct Word to open a file by dragging it onto a Word icon.)
Or, do the right thing and buy Mellel - only about $40 for what is arguably better than Word. It forces you to write in a different way: you start by defining Styles rather than simply starting to type. This is a GOOD thing, because most Word users never get round to Styles, which are so important when writing anything longer than a shopping list.

Unicode Fonts

The reason for all the angst with Hebrew is the new font system: Unicode. This isn't just a new fad - it is what we should have used from the start, and it is here to stay, so don't fight it. Throw away old fonts like SPTiberian or BWHeb, or Hebraica or SuperHebrew. They are as old fashioned and potentially useless as Cuneiform. Anything you have written in non-Unicode will be unreadable in a few years.
Unicode fonts include all the languages at once, and can mix two directions and still do proper word wrap. And if you don't like a font, you can simply replace it with a different Unicode font, and it will look OK. (If you try to change from a non-Unicode font to another, you are likely to produce gibberish.)
The best fonts to use:
Theoretically it doesn't matter which Unicode font you use, because they are all interchangeable. In practice, not all fonts have the pointing and strange characters needed by biblical scholars. Among the commercial fonts, Linguist is probably the best  - their fonts can duplicate everything in BHS - they are used for some printed editions.

You probably already have Unicode Hebrew & Greek on your computer, if you already have Bible software - Logos & BibleWorks & Accordance all ship with good academic fonts.
Among the free fonts I recommend Cardo - it includes all the Hebrew, Greek & strange early Christian Latin characters we need, all in one font.

Unicode Keyboards

The key to using Unicode fonts is the Keyboard. A Unicode font can have thousands of characters but your keyboard has only about 100 keys.
You may already have a keyboard you are used to. If not, I recommend the free Tyndale Unicode Kit  It installs natively in Windows and Mac OS X, and maps the characters intuitively by a combination of sound-alike and look-alike. If you don't like where letters are, you can change them.
- eg to write melek you type m-e-l-e-K  (upper case for final forms)
- soft vowels are on lower case and strong vowels on upper case
- even cantillation marks are fairly easy to type

Commercial Bible software

The big three commercial Bible software packages are Logos, BibleWorks & Accordance. They all have strengths and none have particular weaknesses. I recommend them all.
Logos is esp good for integration with other scanned books. You can add 1000's of them.
BibleWorks is esp good for speed, and their basic bundle is perfect for Biblical scholars
Accordance is esp good for tagged texts such as Targums and Dead Sea Scrolls which make it particularly good for OT scholars.
There is no longer a Mac/PC divide. Logos is now available on Mac and PC, and this year the other two should be on both platforms

Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible

Whatever package you have, you should add SESB which is the only way to read and search textual apparatus of BHS, LXX and NA/UBS. You can buy it as a Logos or Accordance product. If you prefer BibleWorks, get the Logos one which integrates well with BibleWorks. It includes:
  • BHS with Apparatus & WIVU Syntactic Analysis
  • Biblia Sacra Vulgata with Apparatus
  • Septuaginta with Alternate text and Apparatus
  • Greek NT (NA27/USB4) with both Apparatuses
  • Metzger's commentary on Greek NT textual criticism
  • The first volumes of Quinta with full textual commentaries.
  • - and various Bibles and lexicons.
See a full review.

Online Bible software

Free Bible software can be disappointing. There are lots of good software programs, but they are hampered by using free resources, so they can't include things like Hebrew full morphology or the latest critical texts. It is, of course, understandable that those who spent time & money making them should be rewarded but it is frustrating for most users.
One of the best sites for OT texts is Crosswire, who are custodians for many of the free modules used by other free software. Here you find (for example) the NASB tagged to Hebrew with Hebrew OT and Rahlf's LXX both tagged to lexical searches.


Commercial Bibles for Free

Logos publish a large amount of free Bible software online. Their best offering yet is the fantastic Bible.FaithLife.com. This combines commercial and free Bibles with dictionaries, maps, photos, and a large number of high-quality books. It is mostly aimed at the non-scholar though their resources are reliable and often surprising.

If you have a Logos account, make sure you sign up with that ID, because it will give you access to all the resources you have paid for. In some ways this interface is easier to use than the Logos software.



Tyndale STEP

At Tyndale House we are developing new software esp for the Disadvantaged World. It is designed to be used without the internet or with intermittent internet. It is based on free resources which are being improved and also written from scratch
The interface is so good that I imagine it will be used by very many in the rest of the world. We welcome volunteers to help with this project.


One of the exciting things (which won't be in the first release) is textual information for English readers. For the OT this is summarised as readings from LXX, Targums, variant Hebrew texts, Qumran, Syriac, Samaritan and Ketiv/Qere
For precise manuscript information you'll still have to use the BHS Apparatus and other sources, but this will be a quick way of checking which versions are worth investigating.

Interesting treasures on the Web:
TanakHML for Masoretic structure

This interesting (but often ignored) project displays the Hebrew Bible using cantillation divisions to split up the verses. It is the easiest way to appreciate the Masoretic structure of the verses

The example at 1Sam.3.3 shows that the the Masoretes were careful to punctuate it to show that "in the Sanctuary" wasn't where Samuel was sleeping, but it was where the lamp was still shining.  


Here's another way to visualise it:

Scholars Gateway

Another interesting project is the Hebrew parsing engine at Scholars' Gateway. It isn't finished, and they may welcome some collaboration.


Biblos has a surprisingly good interlinear Hebrew OT and interlinear LXX OT. It isn't perfect, but perfection is very difficult for this kind of project. They also have many other projects which aim mostly at the non-scholar.

Rashi in English & Hebrew

This not only has a fully-pointed Hebrew OT with JPS translation, but also the full Rashi commentary in English & Hebrew. The English translation really helps to explain what Rashi's compact Hebrew means.

Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project 

This is a wonderful set of resources, (lexicons, concordance, Aramaic & Syriac texts) but it is very difficult to use.

The easiest way to use CAL and many other Bibles is the Tyndale Toolbar. It gives immediate access to the all Targums and Syriac versions at CAL, as well as more than 100 Bible translations and other ancient versions.

Translation tools

The Tyndale Toolbar also has and very easy translation tools linking to real lexicons


The ancient-language links go to 2LetterLookup where even a non-linguist can access real lexicons simply by clicking the first two letters in a word, then picking the likely one. It lists weak verbs even when a key letter is missing.

Real Lexicons

2LetterLookup links to complete lexicons such as Jastrow's Rabbinic Hebrew dictionary. It goes straight to the correct page, and they are quicker to navigate than the paper copies.

Akkadian lexicon

All published vols of the wonderful ASSYRIAN DICTIONARY OF THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO (CAD) are available for free download.


LexiCity is a link library for lexicons, grammars and texts for 16 ancient languages including Akkadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, though some like Ugaritic have depressingly few resources yet. 

Bibliography databases

ATLA is The first place we all go to - but it is a subscription site, and it  isn't the only place worth looking.

indexes about 600 journals and festschriften each year, cataloguing them by title and subject. They include many European titles missing at ATLA, so it is worth checking. (I found two papers I'd written and forgotten about in this database)
The Tyndale Toolbar is also a good way to access this information easily. Jjust type in a word of the surname and the subject or title (eg: "Clines", "Job" produced this list)

Specialist Bibliographies

The big bibliographies are good but sometimes they miss the really good specialist books and articles.
RAMBI is esp good for Jewish books but also for all things OT
The Orion Center database for Dead Sea Scroll research is getting larger and larger 
ABZU/ Etana is a wonderful bibliography of books and electronic resources for the ANE 


An Abstract service is like own electronic research assistant who reads the papers and tells you if they are what you are looking for.
OT Abstracts is very good, though it is expensive (Cambridge University doesn't subscribe, but you are welcome to visit Tyndale House)
Religious & Theological Abstracts is cheaper and wider-ranging, and has a useful limited free service which is easy to use via the Tyndale Toolbar. the top five results are free, so if you know the paper you are looking for, just type in more words from its title to get fewer results.

Tyndale Toolbar

The Tyndale Toolbar has been mentioned a few times above. It works on Mac & PC, in various browsers. It gets you straight to the best of the web, and sits helpfully at the top of your browser.

Background sources:
Dead Sea Scrolls

These are still frustratingly difficult to find online. We now have access to the newly scanned images but they are not yet accompanied by translation, transcriptions or even a search engine. Nor can we see the multi-spectrum images - there is just the 'best' image of each fragment.
However, the new photos are better than the old monochrome ones and it is much easier to find an image of a particular manuscript or text you are working on.

Cuneiform Texts

- Sources of Early Akkadian Literature - is a large collection of texts with transcriptions and often translations

- Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative - is a well-funded attempt to visit and photograph collections of texts in libraries all over the world. They have even been to Tyndale House (we have a few pieces bequeathed by Donald Wiseman).

Biblical Weblinks

There's a whole planet full of material on the web, and most of it is rubbish. BiblicalWeblinks  aims to point out the good stuff.
One person can never keep up with the web, so this is a collaborative project set up and monitored by Tyndale House. Different institutions can 'own' this by creating their own entrance page for it, with editing rights for the whole site.


Here (for example) is the Tyndale House entrance for BiblicalWeblinks. You could be an editor and  your own institution could have an entrance page which shows the site belonging to your website, enhancing it with a library of relevant links.
The links presented in this quick summary are all found in BiblicalWeblinks, which lists many more useful resources.


EWZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EWZ said...

Thanks for a very helpful post. I'm curious about your comment "Logos is esp good for integration with other scanned books. You can add 1000's of them."

I have Logos and I have scanned books, but was not aware there was a way to integrate. Do you know of anywhere that how to do this is explained?

Tyndale STEP Project said...

I actually meant that you can purchase 1000's of books.
Nevertheless, you can add your own books - see http://www.logos.com/support/logos5/personal-books

Toni said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

This seems rather interesting. I am looking for a place to actually search the Jewish texts in Hebrew. Any clue outside the Maagarim where I could not register and which seems a paying one.
Thanks in advance.

Tyndale Member said...

Patrick, You may find www.RabbinicTraditions.com useful.
You can read Mishnah, Tosephta, and both Talmuds in Hebrew & English for free and search in Hebrew & English, but there is a small fee for searches outside Mishnah.

Malekah said...

Is 2letterlookup available to be downloaded as a software packet? I use it for research and the site's down but I would like to download it if at all possible. Are there any other sites comparable to 2letterlookup?