Archive for year 2011

How Olive Tree Changed the Way I Read My Hebrew Bible

Most beginning students of Hebrew are never able to make the jump between studying Hebrew grammar and vocabulary and being able to read and study the Hebrew Bible on their own.  I’ve found this to be true in my own studies, when teaching Hebrew to others, and in talking to other teachers and students of Hebrew.  Many students have similar struggles with Greek, but in my own experience of teaching dozens of Greek classes, I found that the rate of success is significantly higher, and that a fair number of students eventually reach a level of competency at which they can work through most passages in the Greek New Testament.

This pattern was true in my own studies.  I was fortunate enough to begin learning Greek at about fourteen years of age, and by age sixteen, I had read through the Gospels on my own.  Someone had told me early on not to use an analytical lexicon since it could become a sort of crutch, and to parse each word on my own, which I faithfully did.  The result was that after working through the entire New Testament, I had a very thorough understanding of Greek morphology and could parse nearly any noun or verb form with ease.

Imagine my shock then when I tried to make the same transition into reading Hebrew.  There were so many irregular verbs or verbs with disappearing letters!  This didn’t bother me too much at first, since I could generally page through the dictionary and find the root.  What really gave me trouble though were the verbs that dropped the first letter of the root, or even the occasional verb that lost two letters.  How in the world was I supposed to find the root in my lexicon?  I had dealt with irregular verbs in Greek, and my solution was simple and effective:  memorize them all.  I began the same process in Hebrew, but with several times more words to memorize, it was a long and slow process without much immediate payoff.  I finally broke down in frustration and purchased an analytical lexicon.

The analytical lexicon helped me considerably, but still not enough to make the jump to fluent reading.  It allowed me to consistently work through a passage without getting completely stuck, but it was very slow.  Often my progress through a passage was reduced to a crawl.  I eventually made it through the entire book of Genesis after a year of consistent reading.  I was discouraged by this relatively slow pace.  After all, I had made it through John’s Letters, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Matthew, Mark, John, and Revelation in the same period of studying Greek.  I gradually lost interest in Hebrew and spent more time developing my proficiency in Greek and Latin.  I even learned Syriac during that time period and was amazed at how much easier it seemed than Hebrew.

My interest in Hebrew didn’t return until I was asked to tutor some students in it.  I was teaching classics at a small private high school and a couple of seniors asked if I would help them learn Hebrew.  During our first few sessions, I was struck with how much better I understood Greek and Latin, and how shaky my understanding of Hebrew verb forms seemed in comparison.  I chalked it up to the fact that I had never done as much reading in Hebrew.  I knew that if I wanted to help these students reach a point where they could read Hebrew prose that my own reading abilities needed to improve.

Fortunately, there was a new resource available that allowed me to improve my reading skills.  It was A Reader’s Hebrew Bible published by Zondervan.  It had all of the high frequency words in a glossary in the back.  Any words that were not high frequency were listed on the bottom of each page of text.  I already knew all (or nearly all) of the high frequency words, so this allowed me to read quickly over a passage without a separate dictionary.  If I was unsure what the root of a word was, I could just look at the bottom of the page.  I started by rereading the book of Genesis, which took me just over a month (compared to over a year the first time through).  I was worried at first that this was only a crutch and that I wouldn’t actually learn to read Hebrew any better, but was pleased when I began recognizing more and more words that were not in the high frequency lists and was able to identify them without look at the bottom of the page.  This renewed my interest in reading Hebrew, and I revived the practice of reading each day from my Hebrew Bible.  Consequently, my understanding of the language and my ability to teach it increased significantly over the next year or two.

I eventually left my position at the school and started working for Olive Tree Bible Software.  I was immediately amazed with Olive Tree’s parsed text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.  It allowed me to look up the parsing for any word in the Hebrew text by simply tapping on it.  As much as I liked my Reader’s Hebrew Bible, this was even better!  I could access not only the root and definition, but also the full parsing with a simple tap of the screen.  I could even open up a commentary, an English Bible, or the Septuagint in a split window and set it up to follow along with the Hebrew text.  As was the case with the analytical lexicon and the Reader’s Hebrew Bible, I was afraid that this would only be a crutch.  Once again, I was pleased to discover that the more I used the parsed BHS with Olive Tree’s Bible Study app, the more my ability to parse Hebrew texts on my own increased.

BHS and parallel text for Septuagint

Looking back, I would say that discovering Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible and Olive Tree Bible Software’s parsed text of the BHS were both key turning points in my efforts to become fluent in reading Hebrew.  After first finding each of these resources, the amount that I read from my Hebrew Bible increased dramatically.  After using each of these resources, I found that my ability to read Hebrew without a dictionary had increased drastically.  If someone asked me for a good print resource to break into reading the Hebrew Bible, I would highly recommend A Reader’s Hebrew Bible.  If the same person had an iPad, iPhone, or Android device, I would recommend even more strongly that he or she purchase OIive Tree Bible Software’s parsed BHS.  After all, it provides not only the root and definition, but the parsing information as well.  The price may seem a little high at first, but is really not much if you consider what it would cost to purchase and carry around printed copies of each of the three resources it contains.

Breaking into reading my Hebrew Bible on my own on a regular basis was a huge challenge.  I started out completely unassisted and wasn’t able to make a lot of progress.  Even when using an analytical lexicon, I wasn’t able to get very far.  When I use Olive Tree’s parsed Hebrew text, I’m amazed at the beauty of the Hebrew text and incredible functionality that it provides. I often think about how much time I could have saved and how much frustration I could have avoided if I had a resource like this when I was first learning Hebrew.  I’m glad that students today have such a great resource available and am proud to be part of the company that provides it.

Matt J


Matt works as a Digital Content Engineer, producing the resources we are proud to offer within the Bible Study app.

The product details for our parsed BHS text can be found here.

Society of Biblical Literature

When you think of San Francisco many things might spring to mind. The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, Tony Bennett, earthquakes, The Giants,.other things……

I bet you’re not thinking about what are probably the greatest thinkers among Biblical scholars. But that’s who is gathering to the city by the bay in the coming weeks.

Why all the Biblical discussion? It’s time for the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) and the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) annual brouhahas.

At SBL you’ll find out about the latest in Biblical research. There will be books and digital resources and of course, that’s where we come in with Olive Tree Bible Software.

If you’re around on Sunday, November 20 be sure and check out the Bible software shootout. Along with Accordance and Logos Bible Software we’ll be demonstrating the usefulness of our software in the classroom with a 35 minute presentation followed by questions. The goal is to demonstrate how easily software can be used in the classroom for English Bible classes and/or original languages. Why not plan on attending the Shoot Out and stopping by our booth to see Daniel, or one of our other fine representatives?

The MacInites, the PCites, Tabletites, and Phone-ites discuss Bible software platforms

We’ll also be proudly displaying our digital prowess at ETS. “Founded in 1949, the Evangelical Theological Society is a group of scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others dedicated to the oral exchange and written expression of theological thought and research.” Their theme this year is “No Other Name,” and promises to have presentations that will definitely challenge your thinking in this complex world. So if you’re headed to ETS definitely come by and see us.

The New Norwegian Bible

I know what most of you are saying: “Finally!”

Well, if you’re from Norway, this is actually a really big deal. Olive Tree Bible Software is the first to offer the Bibelen 2011 for mobile devices!

Out of necessity, most translations of God’s Word in Norwegian have been idiomatic to a greater or lesser extent.

On the other hand, “Bibel 2011″ is based rather upon a concordant translation principle, where the translators aim to reproduce the Biblical texts as close to the original as possible.

The language used is good and makes biblical text understandable for today’s people. This version comes in two dialects: The Bokmål and the Nynorsk. We also have the Bibelen 1978/85 Bokmål.

Another thing we, at Olive Tree are excited about is that since the translation is based on the oldest manuscripts it’s very reliable.

To view all Norwegian Bibles Click HERE.

Olive Tree Brings in Christian Publishing Veteran

One of the new faces here at Olive Tree Bible Software is John Cruz.  John has many years in the Christian publishing industry, and joins us as the Vice President for Publisher Relations.  Bringing John on board is part of our commitment here at Olive Tree to bring you the very best Christian content available.

John’s excitement about Olive Tree is infectious. Over the years he has witnessed how technology has helped make God’s Word even more available, however the explosive potential of mobile and desktop software astounds him with its possibilities:  “We can reach more people in the most remote places now with Smartphones,” John says. This means that those who couldn’t be reached before might at last be able to have the Word.

Our CEO, Drew Haninger said of John:”With over 14 years of various executive positions at the International Bible Society, Mr. Cruz will bring a wealth of talent and experience to the Olive Tree staff.  We’re excited about the contribution he will bring in the area of publisher relationships.”

This week, John will be representing us at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the annual meeting place of experts in publishing, booksellers, film producers, agents, or authors.

Largest Book Fair in the World

You probably can't see John in this shot

“I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces from around the world I’ve worked with for many years. I’m thrilled to be part of a company that has generated so much excitement around the growth of unique and innovative software solutions for the casual Bible reader and serious Bible student,” John says regarding his new position, “Es una alegría ser parte de Árbol Olive!”

John is married to Kristine, and has three sons in college.



How Steve Jobs Helped Me With The Great Commission

How Steve Jobs Helped Me to get God’s Word Out “unto all the nations…”

Drew Haninger, President, Olive Tree Bible Software:

By the Lord’s leading, I’ve used my abilities as a software designer to make God’s Word accessible to computer users since 1984.  There was a lot going on in 1984.  January of that year Hitachi announced it had developed the first memory chip capable of holding 1 MB!  Also in that year about 25-percent of workers used a computer at their jobs.

And, in 1984, Steve Jobs’ now famous Super Bowl ad ran, introducing the Apple Macintosh.

Mobile Technology was still in its infancy.  Today, the industry is growing so fast the stats can’t keep up.  Cell phone subscribers worldwide have reached over 5 billion—and Smartphones have become an ever larger and more important part of that figure.  That’s billions of souls with the potential of carrying around a Bible or Olive Tree’s whole Bible study library in their hand.  Talk about the potential of following Christ’s command to get the Word out!

Steve Jobs was in many ways at the center of Smartphone development as we know it today.  Whether he knew it or not, the technology he helped develop has been used by God to enable us to preach the good news of Christ’s redeeming love.  People download worship music on their iPods, they read the Bible on their iPhones, and can even lead a Bible Study in the middle of the Sudan using their iPads.  Apple technology is a beautiful thing that we hope and pray it is being used in God’s cause to make all things beautiful in His time.

The business principles Steve applied have inspired an industry.  His encouragement was to keep innovating. He said, “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle,” which echo our Lord’s encouragement to, “ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

He instructed his company members to, “Be passionate about every product you work on.”  And we, as Christians in the business community, are held to no less a standard, for, “if anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:11).”  Of course the highest standard we must follow is always to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds.

Our hearts go out to the family members of an industry pioneer. His vision created platforms that help enable us to “strain toward what lies ahead and press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call.”

Thanks, Desiring God!

We had a fantastic time connecting with people at the Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis last week. Around 3500 people attended. Ian Fallon and Daniel Scott were Olive Tree’s representatives. “We talked to so many people that first day we could feel a soreness in our throats even before the day was done,” commented Daniel. “It is exciting to share about Olive Tree with a crowd that loves to study the Bible.” This year’s theme was “Finish the Mission” and plenary speakers came from a wide variety of mission backgrounds.

Below is a picture of Ian and Daniel in action with an Olive Tree enthusiast.

Ian & Daniel action

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