Johann Cook, ed., Bible and Computer: The Stellenbosch AIBI-6 Conference: Proceedings of the Association Internationale Bible et Informatique "From Alpha to Byte," University of Stellenbosch 17-21 July, 2000. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2002. Pp. xxxviiii + 699. ISBN 90-0412-495-0. US $175.00.
1. This massive volume collects the papers read at the sixth conference of the Association Internationale Bible et Informatique (AIBI) held at the University of Stellenbosch July 17-21, 2000. Forty papers (thirty-eight in English, two in French) by as many authors consider the state of the art use of computers for biblical research. This review summarizes the key themes presented in this book.
2. The following essays present new tools and methodological questions regarding computer-assisted research: E. Talstra, "Computer-Assisted Linguistic Analysis: The Hebrew Database Used in Quest 2" (pp. 3-22); F. I. Andersen and A. D. Forbes, "What Kind of Taxonomy is Best for Feeding into [sic] Computer-Assisted Research into the Syntax of a Natural Language?" (pp. 23-42); H. J. Bosman and C. J. Sikkel, "Reading Authors and Reading Documents" (pp. 113-133). Bosman and Sikkel show that a formal description of a text needed for consistent linguistic analysis differs considerably from the usual scholarly procedure. R. de Blois, "Semantic Domains For Biblical Hebrew" (pp. 209-229), discusses the methodology that is required for a lexicon of biblical Hebrew based on semantic domains, the Old Testament equivalent for Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. He also offers impressive samples. É. Évrard, "Sur quelques précautions en statistique littéraire" (pp. 583-591), critically reviews some basic statistical tools applied to biblical texts.
3. Some of the articles deal directly with biblical texts: E. Talstra and C. H. J. van der Merwe, "Analysis, Retrieval and the Demand for More Data: Integrating the Results of a Formal Textlinguistic and Cognitive Based Pragmatic Approach to the Analysis of Deut 4:1-40" (pp. 43-78), research the mechanism of discourse in texts of the Hebrew Bible and use computer programming for a "close reading" of pericopes and "testing hypotheses of linguistic communication." Computer programs can detect linguistic traces that function as signals for the reader concerning how to navigate the text. E. Talstra, "Signs, Design and Signification: The Example of I Kings 21" (pp. 147-166), takes the story of Naboth's vineyard as a case in point to discuss the possibilities of computer-assisted research beyond the formatting, storage, and transportation of texts. F. I. Andersen and A. D. Forbes, "Attachment Preferences in the Primary History" (pp. 167-186), analyze a particular grammatical phenomenon in Genesis through 2 Kings in the Leningrad Codex B 19a.
4. Computers and the Internet can also be very helpful in editing and the creation of a bibliography. Hence, J. R. Adair, Jr., "Creating and Maintaining a Premier Electronic Journal" (pp. 135-145), reflects on the challenges and difficulties of launching a new e-journal and on the advantages of electronic publishing. He also adds several criteria for producing an e-journal that meets the highest standards of quality. T. Bulkeley, "Commentary Beyond the Codex: Hypertext and the Art of Biblical Commentary" (pp. 641-651), formulates thought-provoking insights about writing a commentary for the Internet user. J. H. Kroeze, "Developing a Multi-Level Analysis of Jonah Using html" (pp. 653-662), describes the advantages of the Internet standard HTML for a grammatical description and "tagging" of the Hebrew text of Jonah. Some examples demonstrate how it works; however, the data are not presented here. A. A. den Hollander, "A Bibliography of Bibles Printed in the Netherlands and Belgium (BBNB)" (pp. 663-672), presents a project that makes all Bibles printed in the Netherlands and Belgium since 1477 accessible for researchers from various disciplines; Bible illustrations, printing types, prefaces, translators, printers, etc., are presented in an annotated form.
5. The topic of translations in modern languages is addressed by the contributions of É. Brunet, "Un texte sacré peut-il changer? Variations sur l'Évangile" (pp. 79-98), testing statistical analysis using three French translations of the four Gospels, and E. Bladh, "Le jardinier or le gardien? Who Did Mary Think She Met in the Garden? (Lexical Comparison of Nouns in Modern French Translations of John 18:1-20:31)" (pp. 463-474).
6. Computers also assist work with manuscripts in various ways, be it medieval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, as described by M. Gómez-Aranda and M.-T. Ortega-Monasterio, "Critical Editions of Medieval Biblical Commentaries and Masorahs: The Cases of Abraham Ibn Ezra and the Masorah of Spanish Manuscripts" (pp. 231-243), or New Testament manuscripts, as addressed by D. Trobisch, "From New Testament Manuscripts to a Central Electronic Database" (pp. 427-433), and T. J. Finney, "Computer-Oriented Transcriptions, Collation and Analysis of the New Testament Manuscript Traditions (starting with Hebrews)" (pp. 435-461).
7. Several articles deal with stylistic and structural analyses and how computer software can help: L. Vegas Montaner, "Towards a Computer-Assisted Classification of Discourse Types in the Psalms" (pp. 189-208); G. Seijas de los Ríos-Zarzosa, "Towards a Computer-Assisted Classification of Discourse Types in Proto-Isaiah" (pp. 245- 258); F. J. del Barco del Barco, "Towards a Computer-Assisted Classification of Discourse Types in Amos" (pp. 283-293); T. Stadler-Sutskover, "The Leading Word and its Roles in Judges 19-21" (pp. 295-307); S. Gillmayr-Bucher, "Relecture of Biblical Psalms: A Computer Aided Analysis of Textual Relations Based on Semantic Domains" (pp. 309-321); F. H. Polak, "Parameters for Stylistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew Prose Texts" (pp. 259-281).
8. Qumran cannot be left out in such a collection. Two articles demonstrate possibilities and desiderata: P. W. Flint, "The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls" (pp. 323-336), presents documentation of the creation and production of a PowerPoint presentation. On the basis of her ongoing work on the textual tradition of the Book of Esther, K. De Troyer, "4Q550 in the Context of the Darius Traditions: The Need for Integration of Different Tools" (pp. 573-581), formulates several hopes for future computer tools. In the process she makes clear that 4Q550 has nothing to do with Esther.
9. If one works with ancient versions (e.g., Septuagint, Targum, Syriac Peshitta), the computer can be helpful in a variety of ways. Several essays show the advantages: A. Pietersma, "A New Paradigm for Addressing Old Questions: The Relevance of the Interlinear Model for the Study of the Septuagint" (pp. 337-364); J. Lust, "The 'Rekenaar' and the Septuagint--LXX Ezekiel a Case Study" (pp. 365-393); F. H. Polak, "Pluses and Minuses of the LXX on the Pentateuch: Textual Transmission and Gradual Expansion" (pp. 395-412); J. Cook, "Towards a Computerised Exegetical Commentary on the Septuagint Version of Proverbs" (pp. 413-425); P. S. F. van Keulen, "A Case of Ancient Exegesis: The Story of Solomon's Adversaries (1 Kgs. 11:14-25) in Septuaginta, Peshitta, and Josephus" (pp. 555-571); W. Th. van Peursen, "Morphosyntactic and Syntactic Issues in the Syriac Text of 1 Kings 1" (pp. 99-111); J. Dyk, "Linguistic Aspects of the Peshitta Version of 2 Kings 18 and 19" (pp. 519-543); H. F. van Rooy, "Towards a Critical Edition of the Headings of the Psalms in the Different Syriac Traditions" (pp. 545-554); K. D. Jenner and E. Talstra, "CALAP and its Relevance for the Translation and Interpretation of the Syriac Bible: The Presentation of a Research Programme on the Computer Assisted Linguistic Analysis of the Peshitta" (pp. 681-699); W. F. Smelik, "How to Grow a Tree: Computerised Stemmatology and Variant Selection in Targum Studies" (pp. 495-518); D. Nikolaenko, "Old Church Slavonic Versions of the Gospels: Computer-Aided Classification and the Choice of Variants" (pp. 475-493).
10. Some papers cannot be subsumed among the topics mentioned above, but they also offer interesting insights. I. Swart, "The Imperative of Development: A Third Public Challenge to Computerised Biblical Scholarship"(pp. 593-613), reminds computer-skilled scholars and readers of the Bible to concern themselves with the issue of development, especially in the context of Africa and the Third World. How the use of computer "thinking" can improve the learning and teaching of Biblical Hebrew is addressed by C. H. J. van der Merwe, "Biblical Hebrew Instruction: A Programme Benefitting from Second-Language Learning and Computer-Assisted Language Learning" (pp. 615-639). R. A. Kraft, "Exploring Early Jewish Greek Literature Practices" (pp. 673-676), describes how electronic technology (e.g., electronic color images of ancient manuscripts) can help to uncover the literary practices of early Jewish Greek scribes (from whom early Christian scribes did not differ very much). Kraft presents the status of his project on the Internet: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/rak/jewishpap.html. This is a very interesting website featuring several annotated photographs of papyri and parchment fragments with commentary. P. R. Davies and C. E. Thomson, "The Wycliffite Bible: An Electronic Resource" (pp. 677-680), sketch their project to document the manuscripts of the Bible translations by John Wycliffe (1328-1384) from the Vulgate into English.
11. Some shortcomings cloud the interesting reading of this volume and may be mentioned en passant. Typographical problems like large spaces between words (e.g., p. 209, last line), charts with ugly zigzag lines (e.g., pp. 170, 172), and pictures with a heavy Moiré-effect (e.g., p. 328) detract from the worthwhile content. It is a little bit puzzling that such minor problems occur in a book dealing with "Bible and Computer." Readers expect that there would be enough skill to provide high-resolution charts and photographs. However, there is an excellent group photograph of the participants of the Conference on p. xxxvii (not all of the contributors to the volume are in the photograph). There are no indexes.
12. The wide variety of topics and issues collected in this book mirrors the multiple possibilities that computers and the Internet offer biblical scholars. Many essays sketch projects in process or even possible projects that are not yet begun; others dream and formulate desires of how computers and the Internet will help in the future. By reading the book, one gets an impression of what is going on and what could be possible. Yes, there is still a long way to go. But, as this book convincingly argues, the quest is well worth the effort.
© TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, 2003.
Thomas Hieke University of Regensburg Germany