How Can I Put This?

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Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Nov 11 2016 11:58 AM

How Can I Put This?

I’d like a database of biblical issues and stances with faceted browsing and graphical functionality. 

However, I don’t think this is clear enough for adding as a feature on UserVoice (  How can I phrase it better?

Allow me to explain:

Issues: Debated interpretations of scripture and related information (e.g. author of 2 Peter; date of writing of Revelation; whether the dreamers in Jude 8 are “filthy”, revelatory or metaphorical).  The issues are all the debated points discussed in the major commentaries or outlined in works such as SIL’s Exegetical Summaries ( and Lexham Bible Guides (e.g.

Stances: These are the stances for each issue (e.g. author of 2 Peter: Peter, colleague of Peter, later pseudonymous author...; date of Revelation: 41-54, 54-68, 81-96, 98-117 (depending on the emperor) or more specifically 90-95, 95-96 ...; dreamers in Jude: “filthy”, revelatory, metaphorical).

Facets: Country, Date, Denomination and Stream (see, Type of Work (e.g. technical commentary, devotional commentary, academic study, popular paperback, sermon)

Graphical Functionality: This should allow aggregated statistics (e.g. graphs of: stances by different denomination; stances through time; works taking particular stances on multiple issues; percentages of commentaries/works representing a particular stance over time).


Many issues are related.  For example, according to Bateman (, taking one stance on the authorship of Jude affects many other stances, such as recipients and occasion for writing.  A browsable database would display this effectively allowing works to be grouped by author, recipient and occasion, demonstrating the truth or otherwise of this claim, while also highlighting exceptions to the rule, such as works that suggest Jude is written to Jewish Christians in the 80s-160s.

Some stances belong to a particular era.  For example, in the 1991 introduction to the second edition of The Romans Debate (sadly not available in Logos), Donfried argues that there is a growing consensus on a number of issues (pp.lxix-lxx).  A database would quickly show whether he is correct that Romans 16 is now viewed as an integral part of the original letter, for example, as well as demonstrating that scholarship has left behind a whole host of ideas, although some are still promoted in popular works.

Some stances are fairly dependent on the denomination or stream of the author.  For example, in Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Blomberg, Klein and Hubbard state (pp.409-410 – see lengthy quote below) that traditional Catholics, Lutherans, Anabaptists, nineteenth-century liberals, existentialists and dispensationalists take different approaches to understanding Matthew 5:21-48.  A limited study of the command to “love your enemies” that I did for my Masters shows this is basically true, though their “Lutheran” interpretation was difficult to find in scholarly Lutheran literature.  A searchable database could potentially allow this to be checked in seconds.

Similarly, Horton ( lists “Eternal Security” passages and “Arminian” passages.  A database of issues and stances could quickly show to what extent authors (and which authors) that are not heavily committed to the Calvinist and Arminian traditions agree with the various Calvinist and Arminian interpretations, shedding light on the extent to which the tradition is shaping the interpretation.

There is still a tremendous amount of data in Logos that needs to be unpacked before trends can be mapped easily.  Over the last decade or so, Hans Rosling has demonstrated how creating a single database of UN data and applying powerful informational visualisation software can increase understanding quickly and even at a popular level (e.g. see the TED talk at  I would love to see this applied to the Bible, particularly demonstrating how some interpretations are reliant on time, place and traditions or systems of belief.  I know that this would take a great deal of time and energy, but I think that Logos could do this, possibly beginning with the data in the SIL Exegetical Summary series, or even their own Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series.  I believe they have the user base to allow this to be paid for and, if it is requested by enough people, I believe they will do it.

I am imagining a tool that could be used by academic and non-academic alike so, for example, people at my church can check whether the interpretation they have just read on a website or in the latest popular book agrees with what scholars or others in their tradition are currently teaching.  Is it outdated or linked with a particular tradition other than their own?  It should also point to further reading for where they can read arguments for and against.  Surely this is one thing Logos is particularly good for and will encourage further sales for Logos.

But if UserVoice is the place for the suggestion, my description of “a database of biblical issues and stances with faceted browsing and graphical functionality” may not be clear enough to attract enough interest.  How can I put it better?

I’d welcome comments.


Long quote from Blomberg, Klein and Hubbard:

Did Jesus seriously expect his followers to view hatred as murder, to view lust as adultery, never to retaliate when abused, and actually to love their enemies (Mt 5:21–48)? We have already noted the traditional Catholic response: only select disciples are expected to follow these more austere rules. Lutherans often viewed Jesus’ ethics as “law” (rather than “gospel”) meant to point out the hopelessness of our sinful condition and drive us to our knees in repentance and faith in Christ. Against both these views note that Jesus addressed his words to all his disciples, as well as to the crowds of would-be followers who flocked to hear him (Mt 5:1). Anabaptists frequently took these commands as seriously applying to public life and to all people on earth, so they renounced all violence and became pacifists. Tolstoy adopted a similar response on a personal level, as do many Mennonites and others today. But Jesus nowhere teaches that his kingdom principles should form the basis for civil law. Nineteenth-century liberals often preached a “social gospel” of human progress and moral evolution apart from the personal transformation of conversion to Christ, but twentieth-century worldwide warfare squelched much of their optimism. Existentialists see in Jesus’ teaching precedent for decisive calls to ethical action without viewing any of his teaching as absolute. Dispensationalists have traditionally reserved Jesus’ kingdom ethic for the millennial age and have not found it directly relevant for Christians now. But this requires a greater disjunction between Israel and the Church than Scripture allows. Jesus’ choice of twelve disciples, for example, almost certainly was deliberate—to match the twelve tribes of Israel and portray the community of his followers as the new locus of God’s saving activity.[1]

PS. If some of this sounds familiar, you may be remembering my comments on Lexham Bible Guides here:  As there have been no new guides produced since my comments nearly four years ago, it's hard to know how much Logos has taken the comments on board.

[1] Klein, W.W., Blomberg, C. & Hubbard, R.L., 2004. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Posts 2103
mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 14 2016 10:31 AM

I see where you are going, but I think you need to come up with some methodology to make it coherent. The only thing I can suggest is that you want some sort of filtering system to apply to your information. FWIW, I'd place church grouping dead last. It's really just a label for the most part after factoring the Reformation. 

The other thing is where you focus. Keep this entirely exegetical because that's where the issues are centered.

The mind of man is the mill of God, not to grind chaff, but wheat. Thomas Manton | Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow. Richard Baxter

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 14 2016 12:58 PM

Thanks for the feedback.  Anyone else?

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 15 2016 9:30 AM

Michael's Carson quote reminded me of Carson's comment on the impossibility of neutrality.  Neither historians, theologians nor Bible scholars can avoid bringing their own presuppositions and prejudices to a text.  The more I understand the authors, the better I can assess what they are trying to say.  Here's Carson:

But if we sometimes read our own theology into the text, the solution is not to retreat to an attempted neutrality, to try to make one’s mind a tabula rasa so we may listen to the text without bias. It cannot be done, and it is a fallacy to think it can be. We must rather discern what our prejudices are and make allowances for them; and meanwhile we should learn all the historical theology we can. One well-known seminary insists that proper exegetical method will guarantee such a high quality of exegesis that historical theology may be safely ignored. I can think of no better way of cultivating the soil that sprouts either heresy or the shallowest sort of traditionalism.[1]

[1] Carson, D.A., 1996. Exegetical fallacies 2nd ed., Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 3:13 AM

I finally added this as a suggestion on UserVoice, linking back to this thread.  In case anyone wants to support it, here's the link: 

Posts 9693
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 7:13 AM

I try to avoid mystery come-on titles, but maybe I shouldn't.   Especially reaching into to back of the frig for a long-forgotten recent thread.

Personally, I think there's two groups that Logos sells to. (1) I made up my mind, don't waste my time, and (2) I like to think I have an open mind, but don't ... sure, waste my time.

I'm in group (1). Churchmen don't know the when, who, why, or how of the sacred writings; only the arguments. Ergo denomination as the major cut, linked to denomination denominated Logos versions. That is where the money ultimatedly resides.

Posts 917
Matthew | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 7:58 AM

Andrew, I like the idea as a concept, but if I am understanding what you are requesting, this would be an absolutely massive undertaking, much of which would have to be done manually. It sounds like the request is essentially for a master database of every position on every theological/interpretive issue by every author (or at least those whose works are available in Logos). If I had to guess, the closest Faithlife will be coming to this anytime soon is the Lexham Bible Guides, a series which seems to be very slow to develop. If your proposed database could be crowdsourced, that would significantly reduce the cost, but even then it would likely take years and years for a relatively complete version to be released. Even then, it would never truly be complete, as new books would constantly have to be added. Again, I like the idea, but its sheer scope may make it difficult to bring to market.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 8:43 AM

Agreed, Matthew.  It's a sizeable undertaking, but I think a worthwhile one.  The problem is if we try to aim for completeness which, as you say could never really be achieved.  However, the trick is to start with an achievable step, and then keep expanding.  The SIL Exegetical Summaries (SILES) series could provide the initial base data, and the list of commentaries could be limited to, say, the top 20 commentaries on that are available in Logos, for each book of the Bible.  The exact number isn't important.  Probably the best commentaries to include first are those that are systematically referneced by the top commentaries.  If the SILES data is used, then the first stage could be largely automated.

My feeling is that if you decide your initial questions/issues, such as in SILES, then it doesn't take as long as you'd think to skim commentaries and match them against the questions.  In time, the list of questions could expand (e.g. which are the focus of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentaries, as they're written, or better still those treated at length in the major commentary series, such as the Word Biblical Commentaries, the recent International Critical Commentary Series, Anchor Yale, NIGTC, NICNT and BECNT).

Perhaps one reason that the Lexham Bible Guides have been slow to develop is that I wrote a fairly negative review of them early on, putting some people off (,  I illustrated that the first one wasn't very comprehensive, so a lot of money was being asked for not much, in my opinion.  The first Genesis volume was a lot more comprehensive, but it was then unclear just where the guides were being targeted.  SILES was much more comprehensive and a lot cheaper per volume.

I was told that the Theology/Denominations tagging project couldn't be done and was too large a project.  But a few spare hours here and there has hopefully demonstrated that the initial aim wasn't altogether unattainable ( though it will never be complete if the aim is to categorise all Logos authors.  I see this as having been the first stage, and perhaps the hardest stage, in the bigger project.

Many thanks for your comments and engagement.

Posts 732
David A Egolf | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 9:47 AM

I wouldn't want the database filled in with data.  That would be too subjective. 

What I would want would be a database capable of holding such data.  In many instances, the data will be interrelated. I would also like to be able to collaborate with others in the endeavor of "filling in the blanks".  Being able to look at the maps of others or a map distributed by Logos would be interesting, but I would want to build my own from scratch.

Two structures come to mind.  The first database I saw capable of this was a product called HyperCard which was available on Macintosh computers in the 1980's.  Data was held in searchable "stacks" of cards.  Fields on the cards could refer to other cards and other stacks.  It was the first implementation of hyperlinks that I had ever seen since it predated the web and http. 

Using HyperCard, I would organize each major issue in it's own stack.  The cards would hold information about the issue and links back to resources in your Logos library.

The second, and more modern, of the databases which could hold such data would be a mind map.  The issues could be the major nodes of the map.  The links would be far more visual. 

There have been other threads discussing how mind maps could be integrated into Logos.

Posts 917
Matthew | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Feb 1 2017 11:12 AM

One additional thought. If this dataset is ever created, and if the first books to be included in it are in fact commentaries, then it would be reasonable to hold out hope that the same dataset might also make it possible to run a commentary search whose results are automatically sorted by religious perspective. It would be really helpful to enter a passage and have the commentaries sorted into Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc. With no additional tagging, collections, etc. needing to be created by the user.

Posts 506
John Kaess | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 3 2017 10:58 AM


I've been pondering your request and I'm wondering if you've looked at any of the Lexham Bible Guides? They seem to do a good bit of what you are looking for other than graphs. They seem to be hand crafted from Logos resources by knowledgable people and seem very thorough. The downside is they are pricey, and not available yet for all the books in the Bible, though i suspect Logos is working toward that end.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 4:51 AM

Thanks, John.  I commented on the Lexham Bible Guides in my last post above, referring to my earlier review. [Apologies for the delay in replying.]

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 4:58 AM

Thanks, Matthew.  I think that once Logos have adopted the data from the Denomination/Theology project ( or created their own), there should be no reason this can't be done simply.  There is an increasing amount of data becoming available, and as we find better ways to link it up, it will make it much easier to find what we're looking for.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 5:03 AM

Thanks, David, but I'm not sure you've understood this.  The idea is that it will be objectively recording and allowing a quick and simple analysis of what others have said.  It shouldn't be impossible to create your own database, and it may be possible to have user-created entries in the system I'm suggesting.  It would largely be equivalent to adding a line of data to the spreadsheet I'm about to post, although I'm not suggesting that the data would actually be held in a spreadsheet, or that it would be as cumbersome to manipulate.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 5:17 AM

In an earlier post, mab suggested I come up with a methodology for this proposal.  It's not clear whether he meant for collecting the data, for storing the data, for presenting the data, or what.

My proposal is that Logos automate the collection of data from the SIL Exegetical Summaries series, and then add in data from the major commentaries, including their own Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series, as it is produced.  If the product is well-utilised, data from other commentaries and studies can be added later.

The data would be stored in their SQL database.  This could be done fairly simply by starting with a spreadsheet and then importing the data into the database, or using a simple data entry programme created for this purpose.

The data could be presented in the forms of charts and summary data.  A tree structure should allow the mapping of different issues and stances, as held in different traditions and/or over time.  I think that this may be the hardest to imagine, so I have had a play with doing this using a spreadsheet.  The advantage of the spreadsheet is that it is simpler for others to use.  However, I'm aware that it appears large and cumbersome.  Data is usually hidden.  See the following post.

Posts 572
Andrew Baguley | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 5:31 AM

I've had a play with the Book of Jude to show how this could be done.  I used a spreadsheet for the sake of transparency, though the final product would be a lot more straightforward to use.

Here are samples of the graphs that could be produced: 1768.Jude Graphs.pdf.  I hope each tells its own story.

Here is a short analysis showing how the data could be used: 1447.Jude Analysis.docx.  The tables of summary data would be automatically generated.

Here is the data that these are based on: 6116.Jude Issues and Stances - For Sharing.xlsx.  I've created it to allow easy filtering of the data by stances.  This should also be possible in the final product.

If you would like to see these features available in Logos, please vote for them on UserVoice (


Posts 1392
James Taylor | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 6:58 AM

Andrew Baguley:
I've had a play with the Book of Jude to show how this could be done.

Absolutely facinating! You should get a free collectors edition for these ideas :-)

Logos 8  | Dell Inspiron 7373 | Windows 10 Pro 64, i7, 16GB, SSD | iPhone X | iMac 27" i7, 16GB, SSD | OS 10.13

Posts 9693
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 8:04 AM

Gee, Andrew, your graphs are really depressing!  It's like graphing out some boyscouts lost in the Grand Canyon, and their guesswork.

The bigger irony is the early church fathers vociferously arguing, just a few generations from literal witnesses.

Posts 1826
Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 9:51 AM

Interesting.  The idea is great.  It is, however, a massive undertaking as someone else has stated.  Worth purchasing if it were completed.

Posts 527
Jesse Blevins | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 25 2017 11:16 AM

This looks great imho! 

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