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Phrase and Syntax Search for the Layperson | Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer

eRhema’s primary goal is to provide a free tool that enables the layperson to explore the Bible in its original languages. While Bible translations are indispensable, meanings are inevitably lost even in the finest translations. Ideally, every serious student of the Bible should undergo training in Biblical languages, but it is not a realistic expectation. By processing morphologically and syntactically tagged content and presenting it via a modern language interface, eRhema strives to let users without training in Biblical languages gain a deeper appreciation of the Bible’s messages as well as discover inter-textual relationships that may not be discernible in a translation.

A key element that makes eRhema’s goal possible is the availability of quality open-source Biblical data that we have witnessed in recent years. Biblical data with linguistic annocations such as BHSA provided by ETCBC and New Testament Syntax Trees created by Global Bible Initiative and Biblical Humanities has been foundational to our project.

eRhema offers two features that make syntactical data easily and freely accessible to the layperson:

Phrase Search

A user browsing any verse in the Bible is able to see the phrases in that verse and the number of occurrences of the same phrase in the Bible. By phrase we mean two words in the original language that form a syntactical relationship, such as Subject-Verb or Preposition-Object.

An example is the Hebrew idiom for being slack with one’s hand. As the user is reading a verse with this idiom, such as Joshua 10:6, the Phrases tab indicates that other verses in the Hebrew Bible also have this identical phrase. Bible translators tend to translate this phrase differently in different places, such as “stay [one’s] hand,” “let [one’s] hand be weak,” or “slack [one’s] hand.” As such, a search using English would not be able to locate all the occurrences of this phrase. But with little or no knowledge of Hebrew syntax and without constructing complex syntax searches, the user may simply click on the search link to see the verses containing this phrase. (See picture above).

Syntax Search

Users who would like to see how a Hebrew or Greek word is used in a syntactical relationship with other words may perform a syntax search on that word. Using יָד (H3027) as an example, a syntax search on this word presents the resulting verses grouped by the type of syntactical relationship and then by the words related to יָד. This feature would be useful for anyone doing a word or topical study on a given word in the Bible. (See picture below)