True Neighbors

May 17, 2006 | 10 comments
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Suppose that you splurged for the $6 version of the Church’s scriptures on CDROM. It has various ancient language toys that I am in no position to evaluate but am happy to play with. It also has a fun little tool such that when you do a search, you can click on a tab “Sort by Neighbors”. Ever wonder what that did?

Clicking that button sends your wiz-bang processor searching for all the words that occur near your search word. Then it ranks them, keeping in mind that having “a” or “the” near your term is no feat at all. Thus it calculates how often the two words would be close together just at random, and then it compares this “expected frequency” to what actually happens. When the actual hits (“Sample Frequency) are way higher than the expected hits, you’ve got yourself a pair of related terms.

Example:

The word “true” appears 231 times in the standard works (I’ve excluded word variations like “truly” and “truth”). Of those, the “Sort by neighbors” tab shows that 4 of 6 uses of the word “believer” are next to the word true. Which seems reasonable but not too exciting. Then follows some words that only get used once, but that one use is with the word true. These are not very interesting to me because they only come up once. So buzz down the list a little to see that the word “true” likes to hang out with:

record
living
know
just
faithful
witness

These connections would each be worth studying. The scriptures like the phrase “true and faithful”. This brings to mind both the idea of being true to one’s covenants and the oft-derided “faithful history” (faithful truth). “Just” is a synonym for righteous, and so it has a similar feel to it. See here for an example.

On the other hand, truth is associated with “witness”, suggesting that truth in the scriptures is about things that actually happened, not simply with things that are moral truths (examples here or here). What about “living”? True and living church, of course. But almost always it refers to the true and living God. It is interesting that God used the phrase “true and living” to refer to his Church, when otherwise it is pretty much only applied to Him.

It’s a neat tool for introducing you to new thoughts– to be researched more carefully by looking at the context. Nothing like a little data mining to jump start one’s scripture study.

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10 Responses to True Neighbors

  1. Julie M. Smith on May 17, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Is this working with the Gk or Heb words or just with the English? Because if it is just working in English, there is potential for the results to be somewhat misrepresentative, no?

  2. Frank McIntyre on May 17, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    That’s a good point. Obviously only the modern languages will work across all the standard works.

    But one can search the Greek neighbors in the NT, for example, using the Greek translation in the program. Double clicking on a word does a search on it.

    So, for example, it turns out that “witness� and “record� are both coming from the Greek “martyria�, which is a near neighbor to “alethes� (true).

  3. John T. on May 17, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    It seems that data mining is all the rage right now…

    It would be interesting to search the collected media of Mormondom juxtaposing “true scholarship” with “faithful scholarship”. I’d wager that “scholarship” few “true” friends. :)

  4. Frank McIntyre on May 17, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    John,

    You can do this kind of search online across the whole LDS Gospel Library as an advanced option. Looking for articles with the two words within ten words, there are two hits for faithful scholarship (one is repeated)– one by Dan Peterson and the other by President Bateman.

    True scholarship has eight hits, by Elder Oaks, Maxwell, Scott, Holland, and others. So they don’t appear to shy away from the connection.

  5. Ben S. on May 17, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    This is called a KWIC index- Key Word in Context.

    You can do it based on form or lemma for Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic with Bibleworks. (See picture here, the third “New Feature.”)

  6. Adam Greenwood on May 17, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Is it too late to take John T. up on his wager?
    (emoticon)

  7. John T. on May 17, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    You win the big bag of Ore-Ida tater tots! let me know where to send them, and I’ll deliver them to a neighbor within 10 houses of yours.

  8. Mark Butler on May 18, 2006 at 12:00 am

    True faithful scholarship is not about modifying your destination, it is about modifying your starting point. We will all do just fine if we start with a foundation of faith and work from there. It is starting in never never land that leads to problems.

  9. Frank McIntyre on May 18, 2006 at 11:17 am

    good point, Mark.

  10. Steve Jones on June 3, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Mr. MCINTYRE, FRANK S,

    Forgive me if I am mistaken. I am searching for my mentor and freind of many years who is named MCINTYRE, FRANK. Having been my inspiration and role model in my artistic ventures, I am searching to thank him for all his uplifting advice and encouragement in my own now successful artistic career. Please forgive if you are not him, but if you are, I would cherish the opportunity to communicate with you at your convinence. Thank you in advance.
    R/Y Steve

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