A couple friends of mine from the University of Chicago have put together a very nice Hebrew (and Aramaic) Bible for Kindle and eReaders. Drayton Benner is the man behind Miklal Software which put the everything together and H.H.”Chip” Hardy composed the dictionary that accompanies the biblical text.
I have it on my Kindle and it is fantastic–the font is very readable and the book is easily navigable. I’ve even transitioned to using this whenever I’m reading the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. I still use BHS and BHQ when I am studying a text but I think this eReader has an advantage when what you want to do is read. I often find my eye skipping down to the apparatus of BHS and BHQ because I’m curious to see what the various versions read and I end up loosing my train of thought as I’m reading through a narrative or meditating on a poem. This text, on the other hand, presents the Hebrew (and Aramaic) in a straightforward and non-distracting manner which is perfect for reading.
I could go on and say more about it but Drayton and Chip were kind enough to participate in an interview and fill in some details:
Drayton, tell us a little about yourself and your studies at Chicago.
Drayton: I am an advanced PhD student in Northwest Semitic Philology in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, studying Hebrew, the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, and other languages, literatures, and societies of the Ancient Near East. For my dissertation, I am working on the use of sound in Biblical Hebrew poetry, particularly in the Psalms. I am also President ofMiklal Software Solutions. I have a rather unusual background that is a hybrid of biblical studies and software development, both of which I seek to practice at a high level. In terms of software development, my undergraduate work was in mathematics and computer science, and I did mathematical software development full-time for a few years before doing a Master’s degree in Old Testament at Regent College(Vancouver, BC, Canada). I continued doing mathematical software development on the side of my Master’s degree, but when I came to the University of Chicago, I switched to doing Bible software on the side of my studies, combining my interests. I have done a good deal of work for Olive Tree Bible Software, including most of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek work. More recently, I launched Miklal Software Solutions as a platform for a variety of projects involving the Biblical studies, Semitics, and technology.
What made you want to produce a version of the Hebrew Bible for Kindle?
Drayton: I assume that my experience with e-books is at least somewhat representative. There are some books I still like to have in print form because I am faster at taking notes on the physical book than I am with e-books. However, with reference books and many other books, I love to have them available in electronic formats for two main reasons: efficiency and accessibility. I can do my work much faster if I have the resources I need in electronic form. My physical books are spread out between my apartment and my locker at the main library on campus. The university’s more extensive resources are spread out between a main campus library and my department’s library, and the main campus library is massive. Having books, especially reference works, in electronic form means I don’t have to carry so many books with me, I don’t have to walk across campus or wait until I get to school (or home) to briefly check a reference work, and I can get to the right spot in the book rapidly. Moreover, I can have my Kindle by my side as I study in the library (especially in the library where the lighting is too bright to comfortably look at a computer screen all day), bring it to church and check the Hebrew during the sermon, or even bring it to the beach on vacation.
I think that e-readers are a fabulous invention, and they are growing quickly in popularity. In my work for Olive Tree, I had to develop ways of displaying Biblical Hebrew on devices (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm) that lack complex script support, and I enjoyed both the challenge of it and the results of enabling people to access the Hebrew Bible wherever they might be. Kindle lacks support not only for complex scripts but even for displaying any Hebrew and even any text right-to-left, so it was a challenge to produce this Hebrew Bible for Kindle (and Nook), but I enjoyed the challenge, and I hope that you and your readers enjoy the results and get a great deal of use out of it.
What is the basis for the Hebrew and Aramaic text?
Drayton: The source text for the Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is the Westminster Leningrad Codex. This follows a single manuscript, the Leningrad Codex, which is the oldest complete manuscript of the Old Testament in the Tiberian Massoretic tradition. It is the same manuscript that underlies Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta. The text, including all of the vowels, cantillation marks, and other symbols, has been digitized over the past several decades. The work began as a joint project between The University of Michigan and Claremont Graduate Schools with various grants supporting the project. Westminster Theological Seminary took over the project, and now it is the responsibility of The J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research, headed ably by Kirk Lowery. It is based on their version 4.14, which was the most recent version of the text at the time this product was released.
Chip, could you introduce yourself to us including your studies at Chicago and your new position, congratulations by the way.
Chip: I am a Ph.D. candidate in Northwest Semitic Philology in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. This means that I focus on the study of the languages and cultures of the Ancient Near East. In particular, my recent research has concentrated on the changing linguistic system of function words found in the Hebrew Bible. Some of your readers may be familiar with my nearly defunct DailyHebrew.com site. As you alluded, I accepted an appointment at Louisiana Collegeand the Caskey Divinity School starting in the fall term as Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. Thank you for the congratulatory remark, Charles.
What is the basis for the dictionary and how did you go about composing it?
Chip: The Complete Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic Glossary (CBHAG) was birthed from a project of OliveTree Bible Software. In their attempt to develop a tool for reading the Hebrew Bible on handheld devices, they decided to overlay the BHS text with a layer of information that would provide the user with word level data. This information included morphological information—noun, verb, verbal stem, person, number, gender, etc.—as well as an English gloss. What they discovered is that whereas there exist several databases for morphological data, the available glossaries were outmoded. At this point they asked me to construct a new product that would provide updated English glosses along with every verbal stem found in the Hebrew Bible.
CBHAG was constructed primarily using three Hebrew-English dictionaries—BDB, HALOT, and CDH—based on the lexeme list of the most up-to-date Westminster Hebrew Morphology database. The entries were keyed to their usages in the Hebrew Bible and adjusted to contemporary American English usage patterns. Instead of grouping the glosses according to semantic similarities, like one finds in BDB, the entries are listed according to the frequency of use, that is to say, the most common use is found first in the glossary. (This arrangement was chosen to provide the end-user with the most likely translation equivalent first.)
Since being incorporated into OliveTree’s Bible reader software, CBHAG has been used in several other very useful products. In particular, I should note (1) Babel Flashcards, which is a downloadable program for PC or Mac aimed at helping students of the Hebrew Bible to memorize vocabulary, (2) the Kindle Hebrew Bible mentioned previously, and (3) a stand-alone eReader version for Kindle and Nook. Each of these products is of superb quality, and I would recommend them highly to your readers.
Many thanks Drayton and Chip.