Bible Software Review website and weblog, December 2004

Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible: Welcome to Textual Criticism!

  A review written by Rubén Gómez, Bible software translator and beta tester.
Copyright © 2004 by the author. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.


One of the milestones of Bible software is the availability of the standard scholarly editions of the critical apparatuses for the Old and New Testament, published by the German Bible Society. For anyone who works regularly with the Hebrew (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) or Greek (Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek New Testament), this is reason enough to buy the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible. [1] But it is certainly not the only reason. Another major feature that will please Old Testament scholars is the WIVU [2] database that comes with the package and makes it possible to conduct searches on the BHS text at the phrase and clause levels! [3]

Logos has done us all an excellent service by providing a nice, clear, and very useful program in partnership with the German and Dutch Bible Societies. A very clear example of its willingness to meet the needs of academic users. For some detailed information on the program contents and features, check out, or else (in German only!). Also, if you are interested in getting to know more about what a critical apparatus is, and what one can do with it, there is some relevant information here.

What follows is a review of SESB, not of the Libronix Digital Library System in general. LDLS will be reviewed separately in due course. In the meantime, a fairly recent review on some of the general and advanced features of LDLS can be found at

System Requirements

The recommended system requirements for running Libronix are:

  • 700MHz Pentium III
  • 128MB RAM
  • Windows 98/Me/NT4.0(SP6a)/2000/XP
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 60MB hard drive space
  • 1024x768 display
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later

But LDLS is a very demanding program. Having a fast processor and lots of RAM (particularly the latter) will make quite a difference in performance. After using Libronix since it was first released, I would recommend a fairly fast Pentium IV and at least 512MB RAM.


You simply have to insert your CD-ROM and follow the prompts. Then start SESB (with the CD still in the drive), enter the serial number, fill in your user profile (unless you already have an account with Libronix), activate the product and user account, and move as many of your resources as you can to your hard drive using the Location Manager (a full installation requires just under 400 MB of free space). When you are done you can take the CD out and store it in a safe place.

 If you are running a non-English Windows OS, a few menu items might appear in German until you set the User Interface Language to English (en) by clicking Tools > Options > General > Interface. In fact, if you are not going to need the German UI, you may want to delete the file LDLS-de (Program Files > Libronix DLS > Shells) and all the addins ending with the “-de” tag found on your Addins folder (Program Files > Libronix DLS > Addins). This way, when you update the program it will not display any German language updates as Required.

The program includes the following addins: Bible Tools (including Passage Guide, Parallel Passages, Auto-Lookup, Verse List, Parallel Bible Versions, Passage In All Versions, and Weight and Measures), Dictionary Lookup, Graphical Query Editor, LLS Features, Power Tools (containing Define Resource Associations, Remove Duplicate Resources, Fuzzy Search, and Resources and Collections), and SESB (with SESB BHS Search and SESB Lemma Search). Of these, the Dictionary Lookup, Graphical Query Editor and Power Tools were optional downloads that only become available after running Libronix Update (program updated to version 2.1b). Bottom line: you should run Libronix Update as soon as you finish installing SESB onto your computer.


It is probably a good idea to customize SESB to our liking right after installation. The are many different options available to users, but three are of the utmost importance:

Preferred Bible

This is the Bible version that will be used in all pop-up windows, and I chose the NRSV instead of Die Bibel nach der Übersetzung Martin Luthers (1984). I decided to go with the NRSV in order to cover all my bases, since this version also includes the Apocrypha.

To set your preferred Bible you have to go to Tools > Options > Bible Tools... and choose NRSV in the Preferred Bible drop-down list (Preferred Books tab). Alternatively, you can open the KeyLink Options dialog (Tools > Options > KeyLink...) choose Bible (Data Type drop-down list) on the Keylinking tab, select NRSV in the lower listbox, and press the Promote button. But the easiest way, by far, is to select your Preferred Bible directly from the SESB Home Page.


Keylinking is one of the most powerful features of LDLS. It tells the program what resource to open when a certain data type (English, Greek, Hebrew, and so on) is clicked or accessed via the context menu. Keylinks can be configured via the KeyLink Options dialog. Here are the settings I used:

For Greek data type (Number of Windows to Open on a Keylink: 2)

1. The Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, and  2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Revised Edition.

For Hebrew data type (Number of Windows to Open on a Keylink: 1)

A Hebrew/Aramaic-German and Hebrew/Aramaic-English Lexicon of the Old Testament.


By creating collections of related tools we are able to refine searches. This is an excellent way to categorize the different resources available in our library. The Define Collections menu item, under Tools, gives access to the dialog box shown below (Figure 1). I decided to create seven different collections (i.e., Hebrew Texts, Greek Texts, Hebrew Lexicons, Greek Lexicons, English Bibles, French Bibles, and German Bibles).

Fig. 1 Lexicons comprising the user-made SESB Greek Lexicons collection. 

The SESB Home Page

Upon initialization, the program opens the SESB Home Page. The value and potential of this page should not be underestimated. In actual fact, it is a very useful launch pad from where many of the program features can be accessed easily and intuitively. Under each of the five tabs users can discover pretty much all they need to know to get started and be productive right from the start. Particularly important are the first two tabs: Home (most notably the Working with SESB section) and Library. Options are self-explanatory, but context-sensitive help becomes available by clicking on the question marks located on the right hand side of the window.

Critical Apparatuses [4]

With SESB one can easily synchronize each text and its corresponding apparatus, so that they scroll together. The clear advantage over the printed version is that here all signs, manuscripts, sigla, etc. are hyperlinks, and both text and apparatus are fully searchable. Moreover, since the Greek and Hebrew texts are morphologically tagged, simply passing the cursor over any word displays the parsing details on the status bar (or information window).

Fig. 2 NA27 and critical apparatus scrolling simultaneously.
This screenshot shows the variant readings found in 1 Thessalonians 3:2.

Occasionally, the critical signs do not display properly in Reports (like the Auto-Lookup Report) and on the Information Window. The squares that appear are due to the fact that those critical marks are not in Unicode just yet. As soon as they become available as Unicode code points, and are supported by Unicode fonts, this glitch should be fixed.


There are many different search options available in the program. And I mean many. According to the Instruction Manual, “The SESB search philosophy is: ‘Simple searches should be easy to perform, while complex searches, or searches according to special resource features, should be possible’” (p. 93).

In order to achieve this goal, one would expect to find a lot more information (with plenty of practical examples), than what is actually offered. As it is, simple searches are easy when you become familiar with the search syntax and default behavior. As for more advanced searches, they are certainly possible, but there is a steep learning curve to overcome. Morphological searches are pretty straightforward, since they can be built by means of checkboxes and drop-down menus, but powerful field searches are more difficult to get a hold of.

One very interesting thing to check is the About Resource dialog (Help > About This Resource). There we find some vital information on the search capabilities and data types supported by each book. This, in turn, allow us to fine-tune our searches. If you ask me, it is worth your time to pay close attention to this area of the program. Once you master the fields and learn how to use them to your advantage, you will reap great benefits. 

Typically, texts are marked by "fields", and each field denotes a different kind of information that has been "tagged" independently. When we perform a field-based search we can isolate that information from the rest. This allows users to build highly specific queries. For example, let us take the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. This resource includes up to nine different fields. [5] Thus, it is perfectly possible to search only the Old Testament quotes, or the disputed passages. For example, the search "usedas:otquote:[=NMSV]" allows us to find all the words that are used as  noun masculine singular vocatives and happen to appear on quotes from the Old Testament. The result is 9 occurrences in Novum Testamentum Graece (Mark 12:29; 15:34; Acts 7:42; Hebrews 1:8; 10:7; Revelation 15:3), 5 of which correspond to THEOS. 

The table below shows some of the field searches that are possible with the different original language resources included in SESB. [6]



Resource Search Dialog Syntax

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: SESB

Bible Search

qere:prep (195 occurrences)

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: SESB

Bible Search

lemma:bra (54 occurrences), as opposed to the 63 occurrences we would get without limiting the field to "lemma"." 

Novum Testamentum Graece

Bible Search

otquote: theos (69 occurrences)

Novum Testamentum Graece

Bible Search

disputedpassage: * (718 occurrences)

Novum Testamentum Graece

Bible Search

lateraddition: * (414 occurrences) or 414 occurrences in 5 articles if set to chapters or sections rather than verses

NTG Apparatus Criticus

Basic Search

insertions: * and apostelgeschichte (4861 occurrences)

NTG Apparatus Criticus

Basic Search

transpositions: * and “1 Johannes” (115 occurrences in 8 articles)

NTG Apparatus Criticus

Basic Search

Insert: * BEFORE ihsou* (450 occurrences in 56 articles)

BHS Apparatus Criticus

Basic Search

footnote:symmachus (812 occurrences in 237 articles)

A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint

Basic Search

speech:N3F (634 occurrences)

Novum Testamentum Graece

Morphological Search

Crasis: [=C??] (91 occurrences)

Novum Testamentum Graece

Morphological Search

Usedas: [=J???] (115 occurrences)


Stemming versus Lemmatizing

By default, LDLS applies Porter’s Algorithm to index words according to their simplest form. Stemming means that the search engine looks for the most common morphological and inflectional endings usually attached to the English words as prefixes and suffixes (i.e., affixes). Therefore, different word variations derived from one single “stem” will be considered true hits.

That’s why if we look for “faith” the program will return “faith,” “faithful,” and “faithfulness” (but alas, not “faithless” or “faithfully,” let alone “unfaithful,” “unfaithfully” or “unfaithfulness”). With the NIV as the search Bible, the search syntax “faith” will find 412 occurrences (faith – 270 –, faithful – 83 –, and faithfulness – 59). “*faith” will return 270 (i.e., only occurrences of “faith”). “faith*” will find 443 occurrences (the same as “faith” plus 18 instances of “faithfully,” and 13 of “faithless”). Finally, the search “*faith*” will return 510 hits (the 443 occurrences above in addition to 50 instances of “unfaithful,” 3 of “unfaithfully,” and 14 of “unfaithfulness”). On the other hand, “unfaith” finds 64 occurrences (i.e., “unfaithful,” and “unfaithfulness”), and “unfaith*” returns 67 (64 plus 3 instances of “unfaithfully”).

This behavior can be modified using the nostem modifier. Thus, “nostem (faith)” will return just “faith” (286 occurrences in the NIV). And if you want to be really precise you may use the exact modifier instead. This will turn off stemming, accent-insensitivity and case-insensitivity. In this particular case, “exact (faith)” would find 273 occurrences (thus excluding the 13 instances of “Faith”). Unless modifiers are used, all queries will follow the default search routine.

Lemmatizing, as opposed to stemming, consists in grouping or organizing all inflected and variant forms of the same word under one single lemma (lexical root or lexeme) or dictionary form. For instance, if we choose Gute Nachricht Bibel as the search Bible, the search syntax “lieben” (stemming) returns 328 occurrences, while the search “lemma:lieben”  (lemmatizing) finds 297 occurrences. The difference is due to the fact that the first search includes noun forms like “lieben” (beloved) in addition to the verb forms (to love).

Therefore, stemming focuses on morphology (form), whereas lemmatizing focuses on grammatical categories (parts of speech – infinitive for verbs and masculine singular for nouns). It could be said that stemming is a subset of lemmatizing, but the latter is obviously more accurate.


This is, undoubtedly, one of the jewels of the crown. Old Testament scholars have often felt "left behind" by Bible software developments. Now, at long last, they have a useful "toy" that will help enhance their study and research.

Being not a Hebrew scholar, I decided to stick to fairly easy queries (easy if you know Hebrew, that is). I looked for instances of verbal predicates where an infinite absolute form of the Hebrew verb "to die" was immediately followed by another verbal form of the same verb (Figure 3). SESB returned a total of 8 occurrences.

Fig. 3 SESB BHS Search dialog.

SESB Lemma Search

This unique feature can only be used to search the Greek, Hebrew, and German lemmatized versions included in the SESB package. It can be particularly useful for finding themes and semantic domains (areas of meaning). This is achieved by locating clusters of certain related terms (synonyms, antonyms, and so on). For example, I performed a search for two lemmas corresponding to the Greek terms for “light” and “darkness” in NA27. Quite naturally, many of the hits were found among the Johannine writings (see Figure 4). Users who already own or decide to unlock Louw-Nida Lexicon will find it a very helpful source of information when it comes to grouping different lemmas.

Fig. 4 SESB Lemma Search dialog. 

Topic and Reference Browsers

The Topic browser (Figure 5) is designed for topical searches. Not all resources are tagged for topics, but those that are can be profitable searched with this tool. In SESB it is possible to search for Hebrew topics (Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament), Greek topics (any of the three Greek lexicons available), French topics (La nouvelle Bible Segond, édition d'étude), or German topics (Martin Luthers 1984 or Gute Nachrich Bibel).

Fig. 5 A Hebrew search for "AB" returns quite a few topics. Clicking on any of the topics that appear on the Topics list
displays all the available articles. Another click on one of these articles will open the resource to the appropriate section.

The Reference Browser, on the other hand, is used for searching data types. The only one available in SESB is "Bible" (Figure 6). Actually, it is also possible to look for GRAMCORD's morphological codes (e.g., "V??FPP???" would find all future passive participle verbs), but this is best done with the Greek Morphological Bible Search dialog.

Fig. 6 Reference search run against the French Bibles Collection. Note that the program finds
all the places where the book of John is referred to. In this particular example we can see that the
Bible reference (John 5:17) is found in a footnote in Genesis 2:3.

Suggested Improvements

I think the package would be greatly improved with the addition of a Latin-English dictionary and a copy of Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Also, considering the fact that the original language texts are morphologically tagged, it would be nice if the Morphology Filter could be added to the visual filters available. Whatever the case, these and other tools can be conveniently unlocked and added to SESB in order to enhance its already quite impressive capabilities.


Those of us who have been longing for an electronic version of the standard critical apparatuses have, at last, been able to see one of our dreams come true. I will not be dropping my printed editions altogether (God forbid!). They are still necessary, and include some useful bits of extra information not found in digital form. But it really is a pleasure to look up and search in ways never thought possible before these great electronic resources. I must confess that the "wow" factor remains high even after roughly three months of use. Thank you, Logos. Now, if we could only have UBS4 critical apparatus...


  • The first ever electronic version of the standard critical texts and apparatuses in Greek and Hebrew
  • Field and morphological searches
  • Seamless integration with an impressive array of LDLS-compatible resources
  • High degree of customization


  • Searches are slow
  • Advanced and field searches could do with more thorough explanations and examples.


[n.1] SESB version 1.0, is powered by Libronix Digital Library System (LDLS) 2.1a. It comes as a boxed product that includes a 120-page Instruction Manual (in English and German) and a CD-ROM. Retail price is 240 Euros (279.95 US dollars).

[n.2] A syntactically tagged Hebrew Bible prepared by the Werkgroep Informatica (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), under the leadership of Eep Talstra.

The stated purpose of the research that lies behind the WIVU database is to “produce computer-readable, linguistically analyzed texts beyond word level” (Instruction Manual, p. 23)

[n.3] It should be noted, however, that the current search engine does not yet take advantage of the full potential offered by this highly specialized database.

“The commonly used Bible search programs being word-oriented, are basically incapable of collecting data at these higher levels of linguistic analysis. Even when it is clear that the SESB software will not yet be capable of answering all those questions, its data are being produced in a research project that already allows for computer-guided proposal to the majority of the sample questions mentioned here. More and more results of this research project will be included in future releases of SESB.” (Instruction Manual, pp. 23-24)

“Of course, the options available with the data can only be realized by a search engine that is able to exploit in an effective way all the textual features present. Creating a database is one thing, using it is something else. I am pleased by the fact that the Amsterdam Hebrew database can now be used within SESB. The user interface presented in this software will be optimized by further development to give the users access to all the important features of the Amsterdam Hebrew database.” (Instruction Manual, p. 29, emphasis mine).

For practical examples of what the current search engine can and cannot do, please refer to pages 29-31 of the Instruction Manual. Incidentally, it appears that future incarnations of SESB will include Emdros, “an Open-Source text database engine for storage and retrieval of analyzed or annotated text”, for searching the Hebrew WIVU database. Just how this is going to be integrated, if at all, I do not know at this point in time.

[n.4] Note that SESB does not include the cross-references and Eusebian canons included in the printed edition of Nestle-Aland.

[n.5] Despite the fact that ten are listed, the Footnote Text field seems to be an error, since the Greek morphology used by SESB has no footnotes.

[n.6] No examples are given for the Septuagint because the only available field is Bible. Also, Hebrew and Greek characters are conveniently transliterated. They should be typed in real Hebrew or Greek script (pressing F2 once or twice and writing according to the keyboard layout selected).