Hebrew and Aramaic Developments
Exciting changes are happening here at Olive Tree Bible Software with regard to the handling and display of Hebrew and Aramaic text! A variety of new technologies related to the representation and rendering of complex scripts have been developed over the past few years, and we are looking to take advantage of them as much as possible. These changes will allow us to give a clearer presentation of Hebrew and Aramaic characters. We are moving to Unicode, beginning with the mobile devices that support it, namely Pocket PCs. We are making this switch first for our Hebrew Masoretic Text Old Testament, and we envision switching to Unicode soon for our Hebrew Masoretic Text with Parsing and BDB Dictionary as well. Unicode allows for a more consistent and font-independent representation of Hebrew and Aramaic texts than has been possible in the past, and its adoption is spreading across platforms and applications. Switching to Unicode now will allow us to take advantage of its implementation on the Pocket PC and position us well for the coming day in which more handheld devices will support Unicode. This switch to Unicode allows for better Hebrew and Aramaic font rendering. Now the consonants, vowels, dageshes, cantillation marks (accents), and other Masoretic symbols can all be shown. Moreover, recent developments in font technologies allow the vowels, cantillation marks, and other symbols to be placed appropriately around the consonants in order to promote maximum readability. The results can be quite stunning.
There are currently a variety of obstacles at the level of operating system support for the use of the most advanced Hebrew fonts on handheld devices, but we at Olive Tree are dreaming big. We have set our sights high, dreaming of a presentation that will provide you with an electronic version of the Masoretic text with all of the information in the main body of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) as well as kethib/qere information. Not only will the standard consonants, vowels, dageshes, and cantillation marks be present, but so will be other symbols like maqqephs, soph pasuqs, paseqs, raphes (when BHS prints them), pethuhas, and sethumas. Moreover, we are seeking to make the display aesthetically pleasing and geared toward maximum readability. We are hoping that it can equal the quality we achieved with this screenshot, which begins at Genesis 1:1:
A beta version of the Hebrew Masoretic Text Old Testament for Pocket PC will soon be available from our website for trial. We will look forward to your feedback. If you know Hebrew and/or Aramaic and would like to be notified when the beta appears, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who are biblical scholars or others educated in Hebrew and/or Aramaic, this is a major step forward in your being able to gain all the information you need about the Hebrew and Aramaic text on your mobile device wherever you are. For those of you who leave intense language study to others but still want to compare your Bible translations to the Hebrew or Aramaic original to gain a better understanding of a particular word or verse, this will make your decipherment of the original Hebrew or Aramaic an easier and more enjoyable experience.
Those of you who read this blog regularly may not recognize my name. I am a new addition to the Olive Tree team, specializing in those areas of Olive Tree’s software that deal with Hebrew and Aramaic. After studying computer science and mathematics at the University of Virginia and working in software development for a few years, I shifted my primary attention to the Old Testament. I picked up a Master’s degree in Old Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and I am currently working on a PhD at the University of Chicago in Northwest Semitic Philology in the Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Department, the department to which the Oriental Institute is attached. (Hebrew and Aramaic are Northwest Semitic languages.) I am excited about improving the quality of the representation and rendering of the Hebrew and Aramaic text of the Old Testament as well as advancing searching capabilities. I am also excited about bringing additional ancient texts to your handheld device as well; look out for a release of a module containing non-biblical texts from Qumran later this summer or fall! Let us know (email@example.com) if you would like to be notified when these texts, which are important both for the study of the Old Testament and the New Testament, become available.