Aim

The Biblical Online Synopsis (BOS) aims to establish an open-access online synopsis of the Hebrew Bible, providing global access to various textual traditions (the Masoretic Text, the so-called biblical manuscripts from the Dead Sea, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint and its daughter translations, quotations of biblical texts in Patristic and Rabbinic literature etc.), especially for scholarly purposes but also for non-specialists. Users have an easy and unprecedented possibility to compare textual variants in each verse, and they will be provided with a number of additional features which illuminate textual variants and their importance. High priority is given to well-ordered-information, ease of use, visuals, and accessibility. Collaboration will also be key, as some of the witnesses will be accessed from the web sites of other projects (see below).

By improving access to the variants for biblical scholars and students in theology, religious studies, and philology, the synopsis greatly increases the importance of different textual witnesses alongside the commonly used Masoretic Text. By displaying the textual variety of the Hebrew Bible online and open-access, the project contributes to the preservation of this important material of cultural heritage in the digital age. The societal impact of the project is in illuminating textual plurality and its repercussions globally without the need for specialist knowledge and costly editions. Moreover, showing the existence of textual plurality already in the Hebrew Bible, the project seeks to counteract single narratives and narrow truths in religious understanding and discourse.

Main features

The synopsis will provide an alignment of the corresponding segments in different textual traditions (= synoptic comparison of the witnesses) as well as text-critical tools and apparatuses to the main text of each tradition with a corresponding segmentation. The synoptic frame is the main view in the user interface, where the user can choose which textual traditions and apparatuses are shown. The textual traditions are aligned in parallel columns and the user can choose the desired detail level of segmentation (paragraph–clause–word–morpheme). The editors will also provide comments on the most important text-, literary-, and redaction-critical features of each text. The user community can contribute (= crowd-sourcing) to the building of the synopsis by proposing improvements, comments, and segmentations for the editors to approve (= quality control).

Scientific dimension

The synopsis will be established in conjunction with top-quality research. For some of the textual traditions (such as Qumran “biblical” manuscripts) a new edition will be prepared. For others (such as Palimpsestus Vindobonensis, an Old Latin witness for Samuel-Kings) the data input will involve considerable in-depth investigation as well. For example, the comparison of witnesses in different languages cannot be conducted without a proper understanding of the individual translation techniques. Therefore, the textual data as well as the comments will be input by biblical scholars specialized in working with the material in question, who can thus also connect their work on the database with their other scholarly work.

Team

The project is planned by an international research group. The team will eventually consist of a large group of textual scholars and collaborators. A core-group will coordinate the project, but will only do a small part of the actual data input. In addition to text-critical work by specialists (post-docs and doctoral students), part of the input of the data can be automatized.

Collaboration

There are more than a dozen ongoing or planned projects that aim at establishing an online edition of some of the textual traditions or books of the Hebrew Bible: for example, The Hebrew Bible—A Critical Edition, Scripta Qumranica Electronica, and Digital Edition of the Coptic Old Testament. BOS aims at bringing together the essential data of all of these endeavours and to provide the analytic synoptic layer to access them as well. The specialized text-critical work should be done by the experts in these projects. The BOS editors pursue an agreement on how to share or link their data with the project platform and data. In complementation to its main objective, BOS seeks to serve as a nexus and an umbrella project with already functional, state-of-the-art technical solutions to all scholarly undertakings that aim at making the textual plurality of the Hebrew Bible accessible to all. BOS thus in no way competes with any of these projects—on the contrary! BOS seeks to complement them by providing a new synoptic tool that none of the other projects seek to provide.

BOS also does not compete with commercial Bible software, which are designed to provide the user a quick access to already published biblical editions with limited analytical tools. At their best, they provide access to a module comparing the BHS Hebrew text and the Rahlfs Septuagint text at a word or phrase level. While useful as a quick tool to complement the use of a Septuagint concordance, the commercial software do not allow for a clause or sentence level alignment, not to say an access to the multiplicity of the Hebrew and Greek textual witnesses. Accordingly, BOS aims to provide much more insights into the textual plurality, but with no cost to the user and with extreme ease of use for non-specialists as well.

Data Model

BOS database will be built in collaboration with the Online Cultural and Historical Research Environment (OCHRE) a data-service of the University of Chicago. OCHRE provides services for data-intensive research projects in humanities. The data model is a Graph Database, in which data is stored in a web of nodes and connecting edges. The model allows for smooth handling of links between data.

In addition, special user interfaces for both the BOS editors and the end-users will be built using Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR) gadgets and other open source resources. The interfaces will utilize XML documents compiled from the atomic data in the Graph DB. The XML documents follow the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) scheme with necessary additions. Both OCHRE and VMR have a long history and user experience by humanities research projects, including biblical studies.

The data will consist of three entities:

  1. The actual texts of the main traditions, their segmentation, and alignment. This will be provided by the BOS project.
  2. Detailed information such as textual apparatuses, different versions of the Septuagint, special information on the Qumran texts etc. will be obtained from the databases of the respective collaboration partners (see below). The data of the collaborators will be either linked to the BOS site or directly shown in the BOS user interface based upon agreement and copyrights.
  3. Notes by the editors and the community that are linked to any piece of data (1 or 2 above) will be stored and managed in the BOS site.

The longevity of the data is secured by storing data entity 1 in database (relational or graph database) with constant back-upping in a simple format (e.g., csv). Data entities 2 and 3 will be retained and safety copied in XML format following the TEI Text Encoding scheme. For long-term preservation, the data and documentation will be maintained on university servers.

The future possibilities of utilizing the data include machine learning and big data approaches. Especially, automatic translation algorithms that are based on neural networks (such as the one behind Google Translate) can help in building the segmentation and alignment between Bible versions in different languages. In addition, pattern recognition techniques can help in recognizing composition or translation styles of different authors, translators, and redactors.

Concept demo with end-user interface is now available.
Click the button to launch the web app in a new window.
Please note that the layout and features are incomplete and do not represent a final product.

BOS
BIBLICAL ONLINE SYNOPSIS
The Biblical Online Synopsis (BOS) aims to establish an open-access online synopsis of the Hebrew Bible.
It will provide access to the various textual traditions, and enable complex searches and analytic tools.
BOS seeks to offer a central platform for various editorial projects related to the Hebrew Bible.
Our growing group of collaborators include 30 projects or researchers.