Verbum Search through Tip of the Day #16

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Wed, Sep 16 2020 3:56 PM

Tip 16: Factbook Biblical Person: Dictionaries

Please be generous with your additional details, corrections, suggestions, and other feedback. This is being built in a .docx file for a PBB which will be shared periodically.

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In comparison to the Biblical Events section, the Dictionaries portion of Factbook on a Biblical Person is straightforward. From Verbum Help:

Dictionaries — Links to relevant articles in dictionaries that have been topically aligned.[1]

Note the phrase “topically aligned” – this is a curated set of results not a simple match on headwords of certain resource types.

The results in the Dictionary section are dependent upon the resources available in your library. The sequence of the results is dependent upon your prioritization of the resources and the Faithlife default priorities for those you have not prioritized.

The Dictionary entries (1) are shown by resource in priority order. The resource entry can be expanded to show a brief preview of the article or articles (2), Only the top 5 resources are shown. One must click on the “More” to see the remaining entries.

Mouse over the resource title line brings up a resource preview drawn from the information panel:

Mouse over on article title within a resource brings up a preview of the article:

Clicking on the article name opens the resource to the article:

Note that in the preview of the article some words are blue indicating a link. A mouse-over on the link brings up a preview of the article for that link. Using “patriarchs” as the example:

Again, clicking on the link will open the resource to that article:

Because some entries are found in many resources, I found it useful to prioritize all my dictionaries (type:encyclopedia) so that I can quickly find specific dictionaries. My order is:

  • The Lexham Bible Dictionary – so that I can find and report errors
  • My top 4 favorite Bible Dictionaries
  • Other Bible Dictionaries in alphabetical order
  • Archaeology and antiquities
  • Literary (imagery, fable. . .)
  • Theology and hermeneutics
  • Church history
  • Denominational history
  • Historical biography
  • Bible biography
  • A Spanish resource to mark the end of priority list … and resources after this need to be added to my priority list

The size of your collection and the types of dictionaries you wish to be able to pick out of the list will determine the right prioritization for you.

Searching dictionaries

In your library you may have books that are eBooks (type:monograph) and therefore lack the tagging necessary to appear in the Dictionaries section: Examples:

  • Long, Siobhán Dowling, and John F. A. Sawyer. 2015. The Bible in Music: A Dictionary of Songs, Works, and More. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Meyers, Carol, Toni Craven, and Ross S. Kraemer. 2000. Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/deuterocanonical Books and the New Testament. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Gabra, Gawdat. 2009. The a to Z of the Coptic Church. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
  • Pei, Mario, and Frank Gaynor. 1954. Dictionary of Linguistics. Lanham, MD: Philosophical Library.

Other resources may simply not yet be “topically aligned”. To see what your dictionary results might be i.e. to verify the results you are seeing, try the following searches:

Step 1: Open the Search panel

Step 2: Select Basic as the Search type

Step 3: Since we are looking for dictionary entries, limit the search text to Heading Text and Large Text.

Step 4: Set range to All Passages

Step 5: Set resources to be searched to “type:encyclopedia, title:dictionary” or you can create a collection that is more precise in the resources you wish to search. This quick and dirty solution searches encyclopedia which is basically what Verbum uses, but is not limited to aligned resources; title:dictionary will pick up many of the eBook resources.

Step 6: Search for Abraham (the text term). Ignore the suggestion to search for <Person Abraham> instead – dictionaries are not tagged for Biblical persons so it yields no results. This Also means that there is no way to limit our results to the Biblical person. Because of these limitations, one goes this route when there are no or few results in the Dictionary section making additional entries valuable.

Reviewing the first few results:

  • 20th Century Jewish Religious Thought – has entries for multiple people with Abraham as a first name
  • All the People in the Bible – in the Factbook Dictionary section
  • The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary – in the Factbook Dictionary section
  • Augustine through the Ages – a new article with a different perspective

In real life you may wish to maintain a collection of reference works not aligned by Faithlife to work in the Dictionary section. For dictionaries that are aligned, the results given in this section will consistently be better than any Search.


[1] Verbum Help (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2018).

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