Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ESV Tools

A couple of posts from the ESV blog, pointing to some cool tools, are worth quoting at length: has created a Topical Bible Mashup of the ESV and Yahoo! web services. It currently has about 4,000 topics based on how people complete the question “What does the Bible say about…?” For example, what does the Bible say about marriage or divorce or sin?

Here’s how it works: they created the topic list with Yahoo’s Related Suggestions API and Firefox’s auto-complete feature. Then they used Yahoo’s Web Search API to find the most-relevant pages for each topic. Then they retrieved those pages and extracted the Bible references mentioned on each one, with the assumption that verses mentioned on several pages are presumably relevant to the topic.

The Topical Bible also lets you vote on which verses you find relevant or irrelevant (hover over the verses)—and suggest new ones. It adds new topics (using the Yahoo! and ESV APIs) as people search for them. Over time it should become more robust and relevant (in theory).

Does it actually work? On many topics, especially, popular ones, it does a pretty good job. It doesn’t work as well on more obscure topics or ones that the Bible really doesn’t have much to say (directly). In some ways it’s disconcerting to scan the topic list and learn what people really want to know about; some topics lay bear the reality of sin.

We should also emphasize the warning on the site that “the Bible isn’t a Magic 8-Ball or a fortune cookie.” You should use this or any topical Bible as only one aspect of your research on a topic. Always look at a verse in context; it might seem to say one thing, while in context it means something different.

Other online topical Bibles include What the Bible Says About… from Logos and the original Nave’s Topical Bible at CCEL.

Crossway staff assisted in the development of this resource, but it’s independent of Crossway.

Chris at Exploring the Mystery has updated the WordPress ESV Plugin, which automatically links Bible references in your blog to the ESV text. An important (but largely transparent) change is the adoption of a Bible-reference microformat to allow search engines and others to understand Bible references more semantically (and automatically).

Separately, Robert at has announced that his daily Bible memory verse email is now free.