[sword-devel] Virtual Library of Theology

DM Smith dmsmith555 at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 23 05:58:43 MST 2007

Dear Anja,

On Jul 23, 2007, at 5:32 AM, Anja Hofmann wrote:

> Hello!
> To introduce myself, my name is Anja Hofmann and I am currently  
> working
> at the University of Tuebingen on a project called "Virtual Library of
> Theology" while doing a PhD in computational linguistics. The  
> website is
> www.virtheo.de (note: not all pages have been translated into  
> English yet).
> Since May, I have been reading this list and I have shown the BibleCS
> tool and the Sword Web /BibleTool interface to my colleague  
> responsible
> for the theological content.
> What I would love to do: adding a full text search over existing  
> bibles
> and other theological texts, that allows users to view translations  
> and
> originals in parallel and to access dictionary entries directly  
> from the
> text.

Take a look at BibleDesktop (www.crosswire.org/bibledesktop) as it  
has the ability to not only show books in parallel, but is able to  
show an "editorial view" of different editions/versions of a work.  
That is it will visually show you the edits necessary to transform  
one text into another.

> There would be one public search interface and one for university
> members (including databases with licence restrictions).

This is excellent. And in align with my goals. Since 1979, it has  
been my desire to have pastors, seminarians, theologians and others  
have a full biblical library with full text search capabilities. At  
that time, my brother was in law school doing electronic legal  
searches using Lexis and I was in seminary pulling books off the  
shelves in the library. That very action was and is very limiting.

For this reason, I worked at Lexis for nearly 15 years.

> My colleague listened to my ideas, but thought that
> a. theologians (and other users) would search mainly based on content,
> not on linguistic criteria (such as e.g. all verb forms of "to give").

While that may be a true statement, content searching often needs to  
use linguistic criterion in order to be effective. The primary reason  
for this is that we often want to find content that we are not sure  
of the exact wording. Having the ability to do searches that go  
beyond the exact word that we are searching is helpful. For example,  
being able to find content via word stems would be very useful.

Ultimately, what content searchers want is the ability to have the  
machine read their mind. That is, they want to be able to write a  
question in the most natural form to them and have the computer find  
the desired content.

Further content searchers want to find supporting material.

A very desired ability is to search topically or conceptually. This  
often involves theological synonyms.

My opinion, linguistic searching is critical to finding content. For  
content searching it should be behind the scenes. But once it is  
present, making it available to those that want to dig deeper would  
be trivial.

By the way, searching all verb forms of "to give" is essentially what  
people do when they search on Strong's numbers in a work keyed to them.

> b. people would prefer to work with printed versions as they also need
> them for references.

The only preference that I have for printed works is that I can take  
them with me to wherever I wish; I still like the tactile sensation  
of paper.

The whole question of citations for electronic publication can be  
solved. And has been solved for other content domains.

In the realm of American law, citations need to be a particular form,  
generally containing work, edition/revision, page, and section/line.  
The nature of the citation is that it is durable temporally. West Law  
solved this for legal works, as they were the primary publisher of  
legal works. They embedded page numbers into their electronic texts.  
Lexis did something similar.

In the realm of theological works, there has not been an attempt by  
publishers to produce a consistent pagination for a given work. I can  
often find two publications of the same work that have very different  

My thought has been that each work has a natural divisional structure  
for which a reference can be constructed. For example, this may be  
chapter, heading, and paragraph position. It should be possible to  
ask of any text selection for a reference. For example, right click  
and choose "copy reference to clipboard".

Any electronic library of sufficient credibility and authority,  
having a robust citation mechanism could establish a de-facto  
citation standard.

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