Translating German Texts with Logos: Searching for Definitions

searching for definitions using Logos Bible software

While digital resources can certainly be read from “cover to cover”—and should be—one of the things that I have found most exciting about Logos Bible Software as a digital library platform is the way it has reimagined what we can do with books and the way we approach their contents, particularly when searching for definitions.

by Jacob Cerone

Digital resources provide users with millions of searchable data points and interconnected webs of information that can be leveraged to one’s advantage in sometimes unexpected ways.

In what follows, I will share one unexpected way I have used Logos for a task it was not explicitly made to accomplish: translate modern texts related to biblical/theological studies.

In my previous post, I wrote about how a having access to a diversified library could help a translator become better acquainted with the subject matter in her source text. Such familiarity is at times essential to rendering accurate, readable translations. But there are often times when that’s not enough, when a better familiarity with the context and subject matter are insufficient, and when dictionaries, lexicons, linguee, dict.cc, Google Translate, Deepl, and a gamut of other resources fail. When this happens, I look for help elsewhere.

German Terms in English Resources

The world of biblical studies is large, and scholars must often learn multiple languages in order to efficiently, effectively, and responsibly conduct their work. Accordingly, many of the scholarly English works in my library interact with German sources, concepts, and terminology. Searching for definitions in my entire library for the one single word I’m struggling to define often produces results in the footnote of an English commentary that discusses that term.

In one essay, I encountered the clause, “wie der anschließende, aus Jes 6,9f. zitierte sog. Verstockungsauftrag explizit formuliert.” When searching for definitions, I could not find a one for “Verstockungsauftrag” anywhere. The standard German dictionaries did not have an entry, and both Google Translate and Deepl were beyond helpless:

searching for definitions google translate

But searching for this compound word returned results from TDOT, where the discussion centered specifically on Isaiah’s commission to harden the hearts of his audience: they will reject the message he brings, and he knows that before he even begins.

Instead of leaving the term untranslated (like Google) or providing a nonsensical translation (like Deepl), I was able to make sense of the passage: “as the subsequent citation of the so-called ‘hardening commission’ from Isa 6:9f. explicitly formulates.”

Defining Terminology in “Diglot” Resources

Admittedly, relying on English resources that fortuitously discuss German terminology is unreliable. The sample size is minimal and limited. But since Logos is a multilingual platform, which offers hundreds of essential or classical German works that have been translated into English, the sample size can be expanded substantially.

One such example is the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, better known in the English-speaking world as the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Having these volumes in both English and German means that I have a massive work which functions much like a diglot.

Let me give you an example. Some time ago, I was translating the following passage:

Nach seiner Interpretation der Grabungsbefunde ist die Anlage von Qumran insgesamt das Zentrum einer hochgradig organisierten religiösen ‚Sekte‘, der Essener, deren Mitglieder nicht nur dort, sondern auch verstreut in der Umgebung lebten und in der Anlage zu gemeinschaftlichen Begängnissen zusammenkamen, in den Werkstätten in Qumran oder der Landwirtschaft in ῾Ein Feshkha arbeiteten und schließlich auf den sehr großen Friedhöfen begraben wurden. (J. Frey, “Qumran und die Archäologie,” 3)

I couldn’t find the word “Begängnissen” in my German-English dictionary, my Langenscheidt’s DaF dictionary, on https://dict.tu-chemnitz.de, and the definition of “celebrations” from linguee.de didn’t quite seem right. However, a search in THWAT (TDOT) produced two results:

searching for definitions basic everything

Clicking on the word opened the resource to the right page. Then opening TDOT from my library took me to the correct article.

hebrew searching for definitions

All I needed to do from here was to navigate to the proper section in TDOT to discover that the translator uses the word “procedures” for Begängnissen.

Repeating this process for the second result, I found that the phrase “kultischen Begängnissen” was translated as “cultic rites,” an expression that correlates nicely to the “cultic” or “sectarian” environment addressed in the passage I’m translating.

While neither of the uses of the word in these results dictates that it will be the same usage/nuance in my passage, it gives me a much better idea of the word’s meaning and allows me to make a better decision about how to translate it.

Defining Terms with the Software Features

This principle also works with the various tools Logos itself provides. For example, I found the weights and measurements tool to be helpful in providing the correct English translations/transliterations for terms such as “Bat(h),” “Xesten,” “Qab,” and “Sea.”

weights and measures searching for definitions

With this, translating Strack and Billerbeck’s comments on Mark 7:4 B was much easier:

ξέστης = sextarius, im Rabbinischen קִיסְטָא, קִסִטְ auch כְּסִיסְטָא, bezeichnet zunächst ein Maß für trockne u. flüssige Dinge (1 Bath = 72 Xesten, 1 Qab = 4 Xesten) u. sodann ein Gefäß (Becher, Krug), das etwa 1 Xestes halten mochte.

Ξέστης = sextarius, in rabbinical Hebrew קִיסְטָא, קִסִטְ also כְּסִיסְטָא primarily describes a measure for dry and liquid substances (1 bath = 72 xestai, 1 kab = 4 xestai) and thus a vessel (cup, jug), which could hold about 1 xestes.

Conclusion

Logos’ narrow focus on acquiring resources pertaining to biblical and theological studies as well as its multilingual vision has enabled me to leverage my library as a translation tool. My ability to speed up searching for definitions has been improved! I can search for and connect data points, not to mention the ability to create diglot texts “on the fly” has been and will continue to be an invaluable tool in my work and in my studies for years to come.

Post-Script: Logos Resources with German Originals and English Translations

    • Hegel (Only Phänomenologie des Geistes; The Phenomenology of Mind, vols. 1 & 2)

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searching for definitions logos bible software

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Written by
Jacob Cerone
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5 comments
  • Great article Jacob.

    Do you know why there are not that many journals / magazines in the German base packages?

  • Is there an English-German Theological lexicon available? If not, you should create one for Logos! Looks like you’ve already got a headstart with your google doc.

  • I have long urged Logos in its German version to think of theological students rather than just native Germans. As such, they need to publish some good German-English dictionaries. I suggested Murat-Sanders above all. Looking up Verstockungsauftrag was a piece of cake.

    As long as I’m here, I’ve been suggesting too for a long time that they should focus more on German resources that will never be translated into English rather than German translations of popular English titles that probably most of Logos German users can read in both languages. Logos has a bundle of what is possibly the leading Biblical/theological journal sitting in Community Pricing. Zeitschrift fuer die neutestamentiliche Wissenschaft They should publish this and make if part of one of their Logos packages.

Written by Jacob Cerone
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