Friday, July 31, 2020

Bible Gateway

As a member of the Bible Gateway blogger grid, I have been asked twice to review its new website. I thought it was an invitation, but it seems it might have been an order.

There are a host of sites for studying the massively complex text that is the Bible. You might find something useful to you on them.

Bible Gateway has a new interface. "The color is a bit different and we now have a left-hand vertical navigation bar that expands and contracts for more usable screen space to accommodate viewing different Bible translations in parallel and reading supportive Bible reference material." This has potential for usage if you have a wide monitor or even two. I would not notice much in the way of differences since I generally do not use the site.

Gateway
My first desire when visiting a site that is a 'gateway' is to see through the gate. Regrettably, BG is like many gateways to the Bible and religious writing on the web. It is chock full of advertising. The ads are a distraction from the purpose. At random I first saw an ad for women's clothing. Then one for a poker tournament.

The gates of the city are twelve.
It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Rev 21:12)
If one is going to use a gate image, then one might want to avoid a gate with both clickbait and the association with Mammon. Clearly these are not among the names of the tribes of Israel.

I avoid sites that make their money through advertising. I brought the gateway up in the Brave browser which removes ads. It was an improvement. I could, of course, pay for the Bible Gateway + and I might get around the ads, but it's not my practice.

Bibles
The Bible Gateway has a massive number of Bibles. This alone is a testimony to the confusion of our times. I have contributed to the confusion by doing my own translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. There is no doubt that the city has a great high wall.

Every translation betrays. When there are many, there is a myriad of betrayals. But comparing them can be useful.

Purpose
Why do we do things? Is it to search for satisfaction? Is it a case of having control over something? What are we in business for?

I saw this morning a statement of purpose for BG but I can't find it now. So I did a search on Google. I got back to Bible Gateway for a perfect ad with a nice belly button above sleek slacks. Very sexy. Sex is a good part of creation, but I can't help feeling that these ads are a form of prostitution. I dare say the powers and principalities behind the ads are exploiting pretty labour. I do not use ads on my sites. Also, the very people one is trying to help may be put off by the ads. This is neither a good piece of policy nor clean money.

Peter Drucker says the first question for an organization is 'what is our business?' Working this out is always a decision.

I got myself back in to a page of the 'Encyclopedia of the Bible' explaining purpose. It is clear to me that the 'Bible helps', the supporting articles etc, backing up BG are the usual free resources that support an approach to the Bible that is traditional fundamentalism. I think this does more harm than good. Glib answers cannot be supportable for a life and are best ignored.

I switched back to the old version of BG so I could find the 'about page'. That has a statement of purpose.
Bible Gateway is a searchable online Bible in more than 200 versions and 70 languages that you can freely read, research, and reference anywhere. With a library of audio Bibles, a mobile app, devotionals, email newsletters, and other free resources, Bible Gateway equips you not only to read the Bible, but to understand it.
As I say, the 200 versions are impressive. But free resources sounds too good to be true. Do we really seek this sort of understanding?

My purpose is both positive and negative: to find beauty and joy and /---/ to avoid bringing others under my power.

I seek in supporting others to engage them in ways that enable their independence within the limits that we are, all of us, parts of a single mutually supportive body. There is no need for me to say in my purpose, for example, 'to save them from eternal damnation' or anything like that. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt. When one part rejoices, we all rejoice. Beauty and joy are as indefinable as God. They are good and will be completed. They may suffer fracturing to 'let the light in'. They require consistent hard work.

(Even the folks at BG are part of this one body. Even those who disagree with me or find me disagreeable.)

No payment is required to enter the city.

The Bible is a very important part of our history. Failing to see what is there leads to many avoidable problems. I also find the Old Testament, so called, to be a text worth detailed study in the original languages.

The Bible Gateway is one of many possible sources for information on the text. Would it have helped me in my youth or if I were beginning? Really, I don't know. I think some of it may be misleading. My trajectory has been so contorted, I can scarcely judge such a thing.

There are no simple answers.

#BibleGatewayPartner. (I am not sure these work in this context. I don't use them.)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Naming things - what is the justification in calling pointed texts lacking?

I am frankly somewhat baffled that the WLC niqqud texts is called haser חסר or lacking, when it is so full of information and this information is not lost when the text is translated to music as I have demonstrated. But the so-called maleh text loses information over the WLC. So how is the WLC lacking?

Psalms 23
מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִ֑ד
יְהוָ֥ה רֹ֝עִ֗י לֹ֣א אֶחְסָֽר
a mzmor ldvid
ihvh royi la aksr
א מזמור לדויד
יהוה רועי לא אחסר
1 A psalm of David.
Yahweh is my shepherd. I will not lack.
בִּנְא֣וֹת דֶּ֭שֶׁא יַרְבִּיצֵ֑נִי
עַל־מֵ֖י מְנֻח֣וֹת יְנַהֲלֵֽנִי
b bnaot dwa irbixni
yl-mi mnukot inhlni
ב בנאות דשא ירביצני
על־מי מנוחות ינהלני
2 In verdant loveliness he makes me recline.
By waters at rest he refreshes me.

Internal vv and Patterns of Hebrew word endings

[Revised]
I have been looking at patterns of word-endings. I have identified several as I noted in the prior post. I transcribe them largely unconditionally from the haser to the maleh text. I am trying to see how to implement the move to vv. It has changed since yesterday and is much more general. Here's the whole table first for doubling the v and second for common word endings. vv - first 19 rows; remaining 63 rows are common middles of words and common suffixes. The counts for WLC are by verse. The counts in test are by word. In the next several posts, I have done a stem by stem analysis. What I am doing is verifying each test and considering if it is too restrictive or too loose as a predictor. (Still some unexpected results below... verifying ...)

String

WLC

Test

i*iàii

-qubuts-;v-patah-;i Psalms 102:10

1

1

uvi*i

-schwa-;v-hireq-;i

6

1

vvi

v-dagesh-;-hireq-;i

127

16

vvi

v-dagesh-;-hireq-;t-hireq-; Psalms 132:14

1

1

vvit

-hireq-;v-dagesh-;-schwa-;

22

4

ivv

-hireq-;v-schwa-;

22

3

ivv

-hireq-;v-schwa-;

22

3

vv

-patah-;v-schwa-;

60

14

vv

-patah-;v-dagesh-;-schwa-;

46

6

vv

v-dagesh-;-patah-;

36

6

vv

v-schwa-;

13726

2453

vv

-schwa-;v-dagesh-;

3

2

vv

v-dagesh-;-tsere-;

75

10

vv

v-tsere-;

204

37

vv

v-dagesh-;-segol-;

93

15

vv

v-segol-;

433

90

vv

v-dagesh-;-qamats-;

386

46

vv

-qamats-;v

1559

255

vv

v-qamats-;

6637

1280

vv

-hireq-;a

351

33

i

-hatef qamats-;

581

84

v

-hatef patah-;

14221

2978

v

-hatef segol-;

3821

753

v

-hireq-;i-dagesh-;v-holam-;t-qamats-;iv

6

2

i*iotiv

-schwa-;p-dagesh-;-qamats-;+-segol-;c-qamats-;

6

5

p+ic

-qamats-;d-segol-;c-qamats-;

24

9

dic

a-segol-;ic-qamats-;

19

9

ac

-qamats-;t-segol-;ic-qamats-;

9

3

tc

v-dagesh-;t-segol-;ic-qamats-;

2

2

utc

-qamats-;i-schwa-;c-hireq-;i

4

5?

i*ici

-schwa-;t-dagesh-;-hireq-;ic-qamats-;

55

7

tic

-qubuts-;t-segol-;ic-qamats-;

0

1?

utc

v-holam-;t-segol-;c-qamats-;

2

1

otic

-hireq-;i-dagesh-;-holam-;t-patah-;i-hireq-;c-schwa-; Song 1:8

1

1

i*ioti*ic

-hireq-;n-schwa-;i-patah-;n

4

2

ni*in

-hireq-;n-schwa-;i-qamats-;n

11

3

ni*in

-schwa-;i-qamats-;n

62

10

i*in

-schwa-;i-patah-;n

7

3

i*in

-schwa-;i-schwa-;nv-holam-;

0

1?

i*ino

i-dagesh-;-qamats-;t-schwa-;n-hireq-;i

0

1?

i*itni

-holam-;n-hireq-;im

208

32

onim

-schwa-;t-dagesh-;-tsere-;c-schwa-;

18

10

tc

-patah-;i-hireq-;c-schwa-;

243

97

i*ic

-qamats-;i-hireq-;c-schwa-;

5

23

i*ic

in-qamats-;h

153

37

inh

n-segol-;ih-qamats-;

49

16

nih

i-hireq-;i

279

61

i*i

-hatef patah-;l-tsere-;nv-dagesh-;

4

1

linu

i-dagesh-;-qamats-;hv-dagesh-;

290

20

i*ihu

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Understanding Hebrew vowels - a pandemic project

I have always found the vowels in the Hebrew Bible quite difficult. If I had to begin again, I would learn Biblical Hebrew today beginning with the music of the accents. I would hope to have a teacher who could train my ear without having to read dots and dashes. The music as reconstructed by Haïk-Vantoura is so beautiful that one can escape both the foreignness of a new language and its religious character by entering into beauty first. Actually my first learning of Hebrew was through music, the Chichester Psalms by Bernstein. Psalm 2 was quite challenging to sing with its angular rhythms. (Different music than the music embedded in the text, of course).

I say, escape the religious nature of the text, because there is a tendency, when translating a religious text, to jump to conclusions based on previous training or exposure to cultural norms. The music bypasses that to some extent.

Having set many verses in English to the embedded music in the Hebrew, (a miniscule amount of the total possibilities here), I am reviewing the language by examining the role of the vowels. Hebrew was written without them for most of its early life. They were added in the Masoretic text in the centuries following the destruction, remembered today. Now the pointed text is 'obsolete in Modern Hebrew', and the unpointed maleh text is used. It bears a relationship to the pointed text, but what is that relationship? The comparison of the two text forms is described at the link, and it was from that wiki article that I took my first rule: the hireq is not realized in words that do not contain /i/ in their base form. My understanding depended first on reading and decoding these rules, a process I found quite difficult.

Slave
That first rule I followed was to my mind only partially true until this moment, but it was an adequate starting point. I had a list of many stems (about 75!) that are now reduced to 5 stems: bin, hih, ihvh, kih, and mmi. Dozens of my 'exceptions to this rule' are managed by the rule above it about schwa nah. (See the summary at the end of this post). If I also used the remaining sub-points in that list below, who knows, rules and exceptions may be reduced again. The problem with decoding human language and re-coding it in a computer data language is subtle. What I have done is a second chiseling of the rock, knocking away some things that are not part of the final image. A third chiseling will happen.

These are a rough statement of the rules I have implemented. I have been able to section my program based on these criteria applied in this sequence:
  1. some common middle sequences of vowels and consonants involving vv, (needs further analysis), but it does follow a rule, sort of,
  2. vav's appear sometimes depending on hatef qamats(1459), hatef patah(1458) and hataf segol(1459),
  3. hireq (1460) prior to aleph in third position on a stem for some suffixes, (ti, im, t) becomes i and the aleph disappears,
  4. nearly 50 common suffixes apply universally and about 10 have a few exceptions,
  5. qamats-h at the end of a word sometimes is dropped,
  6. qamats(1464) in several combinations with i and v becomes ii for some stems,
  7. patah 
    1. with v becomes ii for some stems,
    2. with i likewise,
  8. holam(1465)
    1. 'oh' becomes o for some stems,
    2. for a set of stems, holam does not appear,
    3. oa and ao have some specific rules,
  9. tsere (1461) 
    1. vi may become vii,
    2. tsere with yod may have the yod removed,
    3. tsere with aleph may drop the aleph,
    4. i with tsere may become ii,
    5. tsere may become i
  10. hireq
    1. i + hireq + the first character of the stem with dagesh and patah or qamats becomes ii,
    2. hireq disappears for a closed syllable,
    3. in the hiphil, hi is suppressed,
    4. i may become ii,
    5. hireq may become i,
  11. segol may become i,
  12. a missing aleph may be restored,
  13. i with dagesh and segol, patah, or qamats may become i
  14. i with holam becomes io,
  15. v with dagesh becomes u in front of b, m, and p, (that one is really easy),
  16. some stems have a yod removed,
  17. for the remaining qamats
    1. with aleph may be dropped,
    2. for some stems, create a final h, or ha,
    3. with m, may become mo,
    4. with h, may become ho,
    5. in most closed syllables, will become o,
    6. with several stems in open syllables will become o,
  18. Finally, some i's are removed with common single and double prefixes,
  19. some stems do not allow double i,
  20. and there are a couple of spelling errors in the WLC that are corrected in the maleh text.
That is still too many rules and too many exceptions, and I haven't let you know yet the lists of stems to which these rules apply or not, but it works and it is now a better predictor for the remaining 7/8ths of the Bible. It could be that some classes of stems may have a rule applied.

Several possible refinements suggest themselves to me as I document this sequence. If you have any insights as to general rules, please let me know in a comment. I think this is a useful exercise. It has been my pandemic project.

Now let me read those instructions yet again!
  • Every letter that appears in vowelled text also appears in unvowelled text. [Not so, some /h/, /i/, and /a/ letters are dropped]
  • After a letter vowelled with a kubuts (the vowel /u/), the letter ו appears: קופסה‎, הופל‎, כולם. [yes]
  • After a letter vowelled with a holam haser (the vowel /o/) the letter ו appears: בוקר‎, ישמור. [sometimes. There are many exceptions.]
  • After a letter vowelled with a hirik haser (the vowel /i/) the letter י appears: דיבור‎, יישוב‎, תעשייה. The letter י does not appear in the following situations:
    • Before a shva nah, for example: הרגיש‎, מנהג‎, דמיון; [yes with exceptions]
    • Words whose base forms do not contain the vowel /i/: ליבי ‎(לב)‎, איתך ‎(את)‎, עיתים ‎(עת); [yes with exceptions]
    • After affix letters, like in מביתו, מיד, הילד, and also in the words: עם‎, הינה ‎(=הִנֵּה, and inflected: עימי etc., הינו, etc.), אם‎, מן; [yes with exceptions, further study required]
    • Before יו (/ju/ or /jo/): דיון‎, קיום‎, בריות‎, נטיות. [haven't tried this rule]
  • After a letter vowelled with a tsere (the vowel /e/) the letter י generally does not appear [ממד ‎(=מֵמַד‎), אזור ‎(=אֵזוֹר‎)], but there are situations when י does appear (תיבה‎, הישג) and in words in which tsere replaces hirik because the presence of a guttural letter (אהחע"ר‎): תיאבון ‎(שיגעון‎), תיאבד ‎(תימצא). [yes but I didn't test to see if a guttural is always involved.]
  • Consonantal ו (the consonant /v/) is doubled in the middle of a word: תקווה‎, זווית. The letter is not doubled at the beginning or the end of a word: ורוד‎, ותיק‎, צו. Initial ו is doubled when an affix letter is added except for the affix ו- (meaning "and-"). Thus from the word ורוד one has הוורוד but וורוד (that is, וּוֶרד). [If you can read this rule... my implementation works, perhaps I can explain it.]
  • Consonantal י (the consonant /j/) is doubled in the middle of a word, for example: בניין‎, הייתה. The letter is not doubled at the beginning of a word or after affix letters: ילד‎, יצא ‎(=יֵצֵא‎), הילד.Still, consonantal י is not doubled in the middle of a word when it is before or after mater lectionis: פרויקט‎, מסוים‎, ראיה ‎(=ראָיָה‎), הפניה‎, בעיה. [I have all the ii's working, but the statement of this rule is unclear to me]
Those are the most basic rules. For every one of them are exceptions, described in the handbook "כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד" that the Academy publishes in Hebrew. [which I have not read, and probably could not.]

Here is an earlier post on this subject from a few months ago when I first set a chisel to this rock. Next post on this subject, I will see how many rules have been further refined and what exceptions by stem remain. It may then be time to look in detail at the stem lists and constraints.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The maleh text and the Leningrad Codex

I have for the last 4 months been comparing the pointed (WLC) and unpointed (maleh) texts of the Hebrew Bible. The maleh text (the word is variously spelled) roughly means 'full spelling'. I think of it as the Bible according to the spelling standards of modern Hebrew as you might find it in a newspaper.

Let's see an example.

Qohelet 4
שְׁמֹ֣ר רַגְלְךָ֗ כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר תֵּלֵךְ֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים וְקָר֣וֹב לִשְׁמֹ֔עַ מִתֵּ֥ת הַכְּסִילִ֖ים זָ֑בַח
כִּֽי־אֵינָ֥ם יוֹדְעִ֖ים לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת רָֽע
iz wmor rglç cawr tlç al-bit halohim vqrob lwmoy mtt hcsilim zbk
ci-ainm iodyim lywot ry
יז שמור רגלך כאשר תלך אל־בית האלוהים וקרוב לשמוע מתת הכסילים זבח
כי־אינם יודעים לעשות רע
17 Keep your footing as you are walking to the house of God, and approach more to hear than to give an offering among the dullards,
for they haven't a clue that what they do is evil.

Comparing the two is a long way from just dropping the dots and saying you are done. The relationship between columns 2 and 3 is (almost) reversible. Column 1 cannot be built from either column 2 or column 3. Information has been lost and transformed in several ways. The algorithm I have written takes column 1 and transforms it into column 2, a left to right simulation of column 3. So in effect, I am comparing the Leningrad codex (tanach.us) with the maleh text such as is found on the Mechon-Mamre site (mechon-mamre.org). You can transform any Hebrew to SimHebrew here. (So why are you doing this exercise, Bob?) Read on.

So the first word above שְׁמֹ֣ר is in the full spelling שמור or in SimHebrew wmor. The rule of allowing the holam to become o is not followed for all words but is easily seen in this example. The second and third words do appear to just drop the dots. רַגְלְךָ֗ becomes רגלך rglç and כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר becomes כאשר or cawr. This word is so mirror image. The w is not, of course, the w familiar to an English speaker, but an /s/ or, in this case, /sh/ sound.

One verse will not illustrate all the rules. Of the 38,543 words in my test data, 19,568 simply drop the dots. About 50%. Good grief what do the rest of them do? Dropping the dots would be a trivial string manipulation problem. One would do that in an hour or so. It would not require 6 months of experimental programming.

Of the remaining, there are 9,217 with my column 2 (Sim) showing o, u, and v where column 3 (maleh) will have only v. Rule: o and u are realized in SimHebrew but not in the maleh text. These vowels may also come from holam or qubuts so that is why columns 2 and 3 are not fully reversible. When my program converts WLC to SimHebrew, it sees the qubuts, otherwise invisible in maleh text.

That still leaves us with another 10,000 or so to account for. These are the places where hireq is or is not rendered, or tsere, segol become i or double i, and the myriad of possibilities for the various shades of the vowels for /a/, hatef and otherwise. These become double i, or i, or o, or v. Even the humble schwa plays vital roles in the process.

In the test data, there are 10 verses that show a conflict where the identical word in WLC has been converted into conflicting forms in the maleh text. Only 10 words in 10 verses out of 38,543 words, a little over 1/8th of the Bible.

So roughly 50% are simple string manipulation, 25% are v-related, and 25% are i-related and 0.03% are in conflict. I should note that the maqaf plays no part in the transformation (and there are variations in the placement of maqaf between the two text sources.) You can see in the result that SimHebrew contains some i's, o's, u's, and a's (only some of which sound like a) but no e's. /a/ like /y/ is a guttural and can carry any vowel.

Now I will search for a way to explain to you how the program decides what to do with a word. (See the next post.) And you can tell me how to simplify it further. Then we will begin to 'make visible' a little of the psychology behind the use of vowels in the Hebrew text.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Some thoughts on today.

Prod after prod comes into my view from reading various things. Bart Ehrman for example has a post on why many (Biblical Studies) textual critics are fundamentalist evangelicals. This is a BS carnival outtake. I suppose I could include it, but I already have examples of his work this month and I generally follow the rule to share the carnival among as many sources as possible in the month. He is certainly a coherent author and I am occasionally prodded by his work. But I am still questioning his apparent certainty of his own position. Some things are unknown even to ourselves, the knower.

I have no 'certain' position on the matter of faith. I am more likely to catch on to the idea of faithfulness and trustworthiness. When years ago, I asked Bruce Pullan what he looked for in a soloist, he replied with one word, reliability.

The problem with my position with respect to the Bible is that I know much of it was written with an axe to grind, ... but I wouldn't mind a sharp axe occasionally if only to clear away some of the broken and tangled branches in myself. Those that stop me from being reliable. Could I get an axe somewhere else? I don't think I could. I don't have time. The Bible has a sufficiency of conflicting voices to be humanly credible for me. But I must hear the voices separately and not conform them to a single voice. All things are more complex than their soundbites, e.g., sola scriptorum, sola fide, sola gratia. It all takes hard work even to find the value in the process. If we had no divisions to see and hear, we would not have any choices to make.

On a different tack, I read the three-page folio in the Globe and Mail from yesterday this morning. I have a paper copy but you may be able to read at the link. It describes the dismantling of Canada's early warning system for pandemics. It outlines stupidity and bureaucratic face-saving behaviour no different from other countries that we sometimes criticise for the practice. Why would we dismantle the very part of our governmental work that has a chance of uncovering the unknown and a chance of overcoming our natural inertia? Why having done that, would we muzzle our civil servants? We are not told the failures until they are exposed. Is that not a deception that should be avoided by a capable government, whether communist or capitalist, corporate or individual?

It occurs to me that we can be too open. There are some things my mother said we don't talk about. Smile now, for we talk about everything. My parents silence was disastrous for them. That's as far as I will go along these lines - hearing with sympathy the levitical instruction about not uncovering the nakedness of others. We are fortunate for death and the covering of memory.

2017 article on the praetorian guard
About bullying others into one particular position, we are now and have been for longer than we might like to know, in the presence of a new Praetorian Guard in all governmental entities. In particular, in the US today we see the use of Homeland security as a personal political tool of POTUS. From Wiki:
the first emperor, Augustus, founded the Guard as his personal security detail. Although they continued to serve in this capacity for roughly three centuries, the Guard became notable for its intrigue and interference in Roman politics, to the point of overthrowing emperors and proclaiming their successors. In 312, the Guard was disbanded by Constantine the Great, as he oversaw the destruction of their barracks at the Castra Praetoria.
Do we want three centuries more? Dark ages can last longer.

What value am I looking for that would give sense to the abundant life that we still can see around us? Even with our transitory nature, life is, as the film says, beautiful.

There's another word like 'God' - beauty, the opening scene of Room with a View, or quality, the stuff of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I often think of life as a complex programming problem. Somewhere in its bootstrap is self-preservation. Such a motive is necessary for temporary survival and gives ongoing momentum, the positive aspect of inertia. But the real mystery is why anything should be beautiful and why our sense of that beauty is marred. We have to work to find, preserve, and enjoy beauty. This is the value of the arts.
Paper bunny  (Life, it's all done by folding.)

I came to the Bible with fear and intellectual arrogance. This was not faith even if I called it that. Faith is there in us all but with what integrity will we pursue such trustworthiness? And is it even possible?

I keep going because of programming, music, and finding new things in the ancient sources that have a real relevance for us - to stop us from destroying ourselves. It is part of my self-preservation algorithm to care for others.

But so much of my life is not 'preserved'. I, for one, have forgotten a great deal of it. I was supposed to have a one-word conversation on Facebook today, and it turned into a memory from over 60 years ago stimulated by a friend of my deceased brother that made me recognize how much I forget. I had no idea that this friend married my favorite first cousin. I had lost touch entirely with this side of the family tree. I am distantly preserved in the minds of some of my friends. But this nice surprise for me contrasts with the dismal surprises we have daily in the news.

In a similar way, I had not been in touch with many of my graduating classmates from 60 years ago. Now I have been with a collected mailing list of about 20, but while I am glad to have made contact, the school memories are not of the best days of our lives. Yet it is partly those old days of my childhood that gave my life its trajectory, its love of music, and its flirtations with and radical reactions against fundamentalist Christianity. Yet retaining an inarticulate hope and a serious respect for the love of the texts that have touched billions of lives, and a recognition that 'our knowledge in in part'. There is something reliable here even in the face of bad governance.