In this series I am exploring some ways that the new BibleWorks 9 can be used, not simply as a tool for exegesis or Bible study, but as an aid to communicative learning and teaching. For a good overview and introduction to the features of BibleWorks 9, see David Instone-Brewer’s guide.
The Vocabulary Hurdle
If you begin to try teaching or learning Greek communicatively, you will quickly run into a major problem: you don’t know Greek! What I mean by this is, first, while you might have memorized charts of paradigms, endings, or morphological rules to generate these paradigms, you don’t have the structure of the language internalized. Also, and probably more serious, your vocabulary is miniscule. Mounce gets you to about 330 separate words in his best-selling textbook (300-500 is average for beginning Greek textbooks). But, don’t forget, a lot of these are cognates (ἄγγελος) or proper nouns (Ἀβραάμ). Furthermore, most Greek classes only require the ability to passively recognize vocabulary words. Normally, when we talk about knowing a word, we mean that we can use it properly in all its forms (i.e. active knowledge). “Proper use” includes knowing its register, and how it relates to other words in the language, e.g. what words it collocates with, what case it takes for its object, etc.
Reverse Word Search in BibleWorks Lexica
Another major problem with regard to communicative pedagogy and vocabulary is a dearth of resources providing the basic elements necessary for communicating in Greek. In a previous post, I discussed the need for a contemporary English to Greek dictionary, and pointed you to several public domain English to Greek lexica that are currently available online.
How does this relate to BibleWorks? Well, BW comes standard with an abridged version of LSJ (Liddell-Scott-Jones), along with several other basic lexica, most notably Moulton-Milligan, which comes in handy sometimes, and Louw-Nida, which divides NT words into semantic domains. For a how-to guide to using Louw-Nida in BW, see Philip Brown’s tutorial here.
The great thing about these lexica is that you can search not just for the Greek headword, but also within the English definitions. So, let’s say I want to know how to say “sneeze” in Koine Greek: 1) I open up the Lexicons window in BW and select Liddell-Scott [I always start with LSJ because it deals with the whole of the ancient Greek language, while the other lexica only deal with a tiny slice of it, namely what is used in the NT]. 2) I go to the “Edit” drop-down menu and select “Search.” 3) I check the English option, since I want to search the English definition, type in the word “sneeze” and hit “Find.” [The search is fairly slow by BW standards (not sure why that is), but it eventually takes you through the several times “sneeze” appears in the English text of LSJ. The third instance is the one we want: πταίρω.
It’s pretty easy, but not really optimal. First, you can do the same thing on Perseus, but Perseus actually searches the whole LSJ, not just an abridged version. Of course, sometimes that’s helpful, but sometimes it yields more results than you actually want. Second, because you have only an abridged LSJ in BibleWorks, you often can’t get the kind of info on the word that you really need. If you want numerous examples of it being used in context, you’ll have to consult the full version of LSJ in many cases. Third, as I discussed in my previous post, LSJ is old and British, so you often can’t find what you’re looking for when you’re searching with a contemporary American English word.
So, here’s where another element of BW comes in handy. Just pull up an English translation of the LXX, NT, Josephus, Philo, or any of the other Greek texts that come with BW, and search for your word in that translation. If you’re looking for how you might render an English idiom into Greek, it’s often helpful to consult the NIV, NLT, NET. For example, in Acts 22:16, the NLT reads, “What are you waiting for?” as does the NIV and NET. The Greek here is καὶ νῦν τί μέλλεις; which LSJ tells us is idiomatic for delaying. That’s what the question “What are you waiting for?” communicates in English—Don’t delay!
It often takes a lot of work and time to figure out the right way to communicate your meaning in Koine Greek. But with BibleWorks, or similar search programs, you can often cut that time down considerably.
Next time: Frequency Lists in BW—How to use them for communicative purposes.