For instance, what if someone were curious how to perform a complicated search in Logos, Accordance, or BibleWorks?

I genuinely am torn on this issue, because I don't want to see product reviews or software comparison questions, but it would also be nice if someone didn't know how to perform a given query.

Also, some of the tools have evolved to the level of practically being a source of information, and at times these sources make controversial assertions without notifying the user of alternative interpretive options. My primary concern is that as more and more connections and interpretive tools are created, more and more subjectivity is involved. A great example of this can be seen in the Logos 5 exegetical guide’s syntax tagging for ‘Jesus’ in Romans 3:26. The morphology is of course correct (‘Jesus’ is in the genitive case), but the syntax tagging tool takes the extra interpretive license to say that this particular word is in the subjective genitive (which is a highly debated interpretive position).

Romans 3:26 Logos 5

In other words, the syntax tagging is telling me that the ESV has incorrectly translated Romans 3:26 as “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” According to the syntax tagging, this passage should be translated as “This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.” That’s a big difference, and a hotly debated interpretive solution. Obviously one’s knowledge of the original languages comes into play here to agree or disagree with the interpretive decision made, but for a weaker language student there is no indication that there is even another option here. Good commentaries and other tools can tip the student, but I think the syntax tagging should at least indicate that there is some disagreement in circumstances such as these. It might be helpful to point these issues out and/or challenge them in questions and answers.

Then again, this sort of thing could just as easily be answered my merely asking about the text itself (Logos says X about this text, is it correct?). Hence why I'm torn. Thoughts?

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    "...the syntax tagging tool takes the extra interpretive license to say that this particular word is in the subjective genitive...". Time for new Bible software!! :P That's astonishing. That deeply confuses grammar and syntax with interpretation (as you note). It reminds me of a faux pas I made once in a Greek class as a callow grad student (with a fairly weak background on the linguistic side). I called some verb an "inceptive aorist", and Pietersma nearly took my head off! :) He was a brilliant teacher, though. – Dɑvïd Feb 1 '14 at 20:12
  • @Davïd I feel ya, I had to use Wallace for Greek III. So... many... subjective... categories.... – Dan Feb 1 '14 at 20:16
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    Ugh. Not sure why this is so especially an affliction of NT Greek. Possibly because it's so introverted? Pretty common for NT types never even to have ventured into Septuagint, or so I've observed over the years. I'm pretty sure that trauma I had (related in comment above) is when I was forced (willingly!) to read Frank Stagg, "The Abused Aorist", JBL 91 (1972): 222-231. It ought to be required reading in seminaries! – Dɑvïd Feb 1 '14 at 21:49
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    @Davïd yes. indeed. i believe that greek just "feels" more accessible to folks so they start there and make all kinds of stuff up once the get a little bit of information (cough new world translation cough). also, as a "recent" seminary grad in an academic area, i had to push my way into the lxx greek syntax and grammar. semantics was covered well, but how the lxx greek compared with the nt manuscripts was a personal exploration – swasheck Feb 26 '14 at 16:42

I could see this going either way depending on the subtleties of the question.

  • On the one hand, the "tools for the job" are certainly of relevance to the field of study, and part of showing your work might actually include tips on how to effectively use the tools.

  • On the other hand the specifics of the tools seem slightly incidental to the process. I would not want to make a blanket statement that such software packages are on topic here because there are better sites on which to ask software usage related questions. Super User for example.

I think the make or break feature of a question asked here will be whether the main issue is about the process of interpreting texts or about using a computer. I think our site will probably be the better for a few questions about the former even if a some of them end up being more about the tools than the result. However if they stray too far towards the latter, I think the field of expertise will no longer be hermeneutics but software proficiency. I don't want that to end up the focus of this site, so I'd draw the line somewhere in between.

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    Note: I'm beginning to disagree with myself on this issue. If I can articulate a position I like better I'll post another answer. – Caleb Feb 1 '14 at 17:46
  • Wouldn't questions about formulating searches in these software packages best be dealt with on their own support/community forums? I've been using the Bible Works forums for years..... Would be strange (IMO) to ask about formulating a complex BWks search on BH.SE. – Dɑvïd Feb 1 '14 at 20:08

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