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Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 102 (No. 2) Spring 2005

The Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible (SESB)

© 2004 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, www.bibelgesellschaft.de. USA distribution from LOGOS, $279.95.

For most busy pastors, no doubt, variant readings rarely come into play when considering the text to be preached the next Sunday. It may be all he can do to translate the original faithfully and too much to ask for him to wade his way through that arcane array of “sigla” and Latin abbreviations which are the stock in trade of many critical apparatuses.

But for those who have maintained their interest in the textual criticism of the Old and New Testaments, as well as for those who would like to brush up on those skills with a minimum of pain, the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible may offer some truly exciting possibilities. For the first time, the standard scholarly editions of the critical apparatuses of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia as well as of the Nestle-Aland 27 (NA27) text of the Greek New Testament have been made available in an electronic form. This is truly an outstanding achievement.

As anyone knows who has worked with the Bible modules of Logos, the Libronix interface requires a fairly robust computer. On the outside of the box, it suggests that a Pentium II with 128 MB RAM might be adequate. My own feeling is that these resources would be too puny, making searches inordinately slow and frustrating. One would do better with a Pentium IV and 512 MB RAM.

Besides the original language texts, the SESB boasts the Septuagint and the Vulgate. A few modern versions are also bundled in, such as the New Revised Standard Version and the New International Version. But if you do not possess a good Greek or Hebrew dictionary from some other Bible package offered by Logos, you will be disappointed at the offerings of the SESB as a stand-alone. The only original language dictionaries included with the program—such as Barclay Newman for the New Testament—offer basic glosses but little else. The one exception to this might be Lust’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint.

Before discussing the advantages of the electronic textual apparatuses, we should pause to note the program’s other great strength. The SESB offers even more options for searches than does the Logos Series X Scholar’s Library Silver Edition. Like the Silver Edition, the Septuagint comes tagged with the standard CCAT database while the NA27 relies on the GRAZMCORD database. Morphological searches of both the Greek Old Testament and the New Testament are thus easily done. Constructing these searches graphically is also possible, using the program’s add-in Graphical Query editor.

To the standard morphological searches available in most biblical modules of Libronix, the SESB also adds a special “Lemma Search,” allowing the student to look for Greek and Hebrew words by their lemma or dictionary form. A search for the lemma “πιστις” for example, will come up with all 243 instances in which that noun occurs in the New Testament, regardless of its inflection. With this tool in one electronic hand and Louw-Nida’s (LN) dictionary of semantic domains in the other, a person can quite easily search for thematic material in books and areas of emphasis in chapters. To illustrate: if I make a selection from the lemmas listed under LN’s domain “judge, condemn, acquit,” I can easily note those books and chapters in Scripture where those synonyms and antonyms feature prominently. Romans, as we might expect, takes the prize with 81 hits, followed by Matthew’s 45.

Even more importantly, however, the SESB comes equipped with an entirely new database for Hebrew Old Testament searches called WIVU, named after the Werkgroep Informatica of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam which developed it. The WIVU database enables searching the Hebrew Bible not only at a word level, but at a phrase and clause level as well. This means that students can look beyond simple words or word pairings for more complex linguistic patterns and structures in the Hebrew text. My own knowledge of Hebrew grammar and syntax is not sophisticated enough to make an adequate evaluation of it, but I get the sense that in the hands of someone more knowledgeable, the SESB’s WIVU search tool could be extremely powerful indeed.

The one complaint I would have of all these search tools is that there is really very little assistance offered in teaching someone how to use them. The article in the SESB’s instruction manual introducing the WIVU database offers some assistance on BHS morphological searches, but the examples given are written in such a telegraphic style—so replete with techno-speak—that it is very difficult to understand.

Let me hasten to add that this is not simply a problem with the SESB. Logos/Libronix is similarly unhelpful. While the online support for the Graphical Query Editor is useful (http://www.logos.com/support/lbs/graphicalquery), there is not much else out there to help a person with the morphological or even the basic searches. If these tools are meant to be one of the selling points of Logos Bible programs, a purchaser might fairly expect to have available to him for free a manual that would take him step-by-step through the process of using them. One should not have to pay extra for this.

Still, considering what one does get from Libronix and the SESB, perhaps I ought not be so critical. The program’s main selling point remains, and it is a true treasure. Having the text-critical apparatuses of both the Old and the New Testament in an electronic form puts a wealth of information at one’s fingertips.

First of all I can easily synchronize scrolling the apparatus side by side with the text as I’m reading it. With note popups and hyperlinking, it doesn’t much matter if I’m so used to the UBS text that I can’t remember what all the signs in the Nestle text mean. Simply holding the cursor over any sign in the apparatus reveals whatever mystery has me stumped. What does that little square box stand for? It signifies that words, clauses, or even whole sentences so marked have been omitted from the text by the witnesses mentioned. What is the date of uncial “D”? A popup note reminds me that the answer would be different depending on which book in the New Testament I’m reading. The sign actually represents two codices: one from the 5th century containing portions of the gospels and of Acts (aka: Bezae), and another from the 6th century containing portions of Paul’s letters (aka: Claromontanus).

Unfortunately for the reader without Latin, the electronic BHS—just like its print-version—keeps its textual notes pithy by using abbreviations of that excellently lapidary language. In the second verse of Psalm 2, for example, the apparatus informs us that the section from “against the Lord” to “against his anointed one” are “frt gl.” The popup explanation for these—“fortasse glossatum”—will remain opaque to a non-Latinist until he has recourse to a dictionary. Only then will the student realize that the editor is speculating on the possibility that those bracketed words are an explanatory gloss that crept into the text. There are a few typos, too, as one expects in a 1.0 version. But on the whole, the Latin abbreviations are repeated often enough that most students should be able to master them with only a modicum of effort.

‘What is more, either apparatus is fully searchable. If I want to have a list of all the places in the book of Romans where the Nestle-Aland text makes note of an addition to their published text, a simple search quickly reveals the answer: there are 1683 of them. If I would like to note some of the qualities displayed by the Sinaiticus manuscript in the book of Romans, another simple search of the apparatus will reveal every place where the א sign occurs.

Clearly the Logos/Libronix team are making good on their promise to make more scholarly resources for biblical studies available in their format. The Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible is a milestone in this ongoing effort. Logos and the German and Dutch Bible Societies who worked together to bring it about are to be congratulated for their achievement. Whether you are a dabbler or a scholar, this study Bible definitely makes the resources for textual criticism far more accessible.

Paul O. Wendland

© 2005 by Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly. Used by permission.