At the dawn of the Information Age J. Alan Groves, Dartmouth engineering graduate, realized that computers could not only crunch numbers, but also crunch text. He envisioned a database of the Hebrew Bible, in which every word was linguistically described. But this was the era of the mainframe, with punch cards and computer tape for storage. What was needed was an electronic representation or mirror image of the Hebrew Bible. Then the word-by-word analysis could be semi-automated using computer programs. In 1987, the first version of what would eventually be called “The Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC)” was released. In 1991, version 1.0 of “The Westminster Hebrew Morphology (WHM)” completed Prof. Groves’ initial goals. This electronic text and database went on to be used all over the globe, one of the first to be used in the infant Bible software industry.
Prof Groves served as the Technical Editor for Biblia Hebraica Quinta, a new text-critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. A multinational team of text-critical scholars is producing a new critical edition of the Hebrew Bible to replace the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Prof Groves’ role was to develop data-entry and verification tools for the project and to re-examine the most recent photo-facsimiles of the Codex Leningradensis in order to verify the accuracy of the electronic text. The German Bible Society (the publisher) anticipates both hard copy and electronic publication sometime after 2010. The first fascicle (the Megilloth consisting of the books of Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes) was published in the fall of 2004.
The Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible is a linguistic database of the Hebrew Bible prepared by Professor Eep Talstra of the Free University of Amsterdam. The pioneering task of encoding an electronic text of the Hebrew Bible with syntactical data was begun in 1977 by Professor Eep Talstra at the Free University, Amsterdam. Professor Groves participated in this project since 1988, helping with the production and verification of the data. The SESB program was publically released in 2004, marking the first completion of the first phase of the project. The University of Greifswald (Germany) is also a partner in this project, as well as the German Bible Society.
Twenty-five years later…
The Groves Center continues to maintain the WLC, now arguably the most accurate representation of the Leningrad Codex of the Hebrew Bible in existence. Groves Center Research Fellow, Stephen Salisbury, is not only responsible for the WLC, but is also editor of the WHM database.
Dr. Kirk Lowery, Senior Research Fellow of the Center, continues the original vision of Prof Groves, exploring the ever developing tools of computational linguistics and information technology to extend the work of the Center into new areas: a partnership with the Asia Bible Society to create a syntax database of the Hebrew Bible to be used in “next generation” translation software; the creation of new databases, e.g., a syntax database of the Greek New Testament; the adaptation of “data mining” techniques (like those used by Google and other Internet search engines) and data visualization tools to explore these databases in new ways.
Professor Groves passed away after a year-long struggle with cancer in February, 2007. He was 54.
Kirk Lowery’s graduate studies began in the late 1970s correcting hard copy printout of a Syriac chrestomathy stored on punch cards. His graduate work at the University of California, Los Angeles (MA, PhD) included proofreading of the book of Judges for the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) effort to create the electronic version of Biblia Hebraica Stuttargtensia under the direction of H. Van Parunak. It was this involvement that led to his first contact with Prof Groves in 1982.
His dissertation, Toward a Discourse Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (1985), includes the first published algorithm for the determination of clause boundaries in Hebrew and raises the question of the adequacy of traditional Hebrew grammatical categories and notions in a computational world. It was also among the first to be printed at UCLA by a room-sized laser printer, using bitmaps of Hebrew characters created in consultation with the Department of Computer Science.
Kirk spent 15 years in Europe teaching pastors and church leaders in the then Communist bloc of Eastern Europe. After the fall of Communism, he became Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Budapest. He is fluent in German and Hungarian as well as in various biblical and ancient languages.
Kirk succeeded Prof Groves as Director in 2002. In 2009 the Groves Center was incorporated as an independent non-profit company with the generous support of Westminster Theological Seminary. Kirk was appointed President as well as Senior Research Fellow. He also continues as Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Westminster, is the former Chair of the Computer Assisted Research Group (CARG) of the Society of Biblical Literature, and is one of the moderators of the B-Hebrew Internet discussion forum.
Stephen Salisbury received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Purdue University with a major in computer science, followed by two additional years of graduate work in the same field at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His graduate work in computer science was supported by a National Science Foundation graduate study fellowship. After various summer jobs with high technology firms during his undergraduate and graduate years, Stephen’s first full-time employment was as a software design engineer at Microsoft Corporation in the Seattle suburbs.
He began as a part of the team that developed the first version of the OS/2 operating system. Most of his time at Microsoft was spent working on software tools (“C” and “C++” languages) used by programmers both inside and outside Microsoft to create their applications, first for OS/2 and later for the Microsoft Windows operating system (Windows 95, Windows NT, etc.)
After nearly a dozen years at Microsoft, Stephen decided to pursue a seminary degree with the goal of combining his background in computer science with his interest in biblical languages. When he began considering seminary studies he was drawn to Westminster both because of its confessional stance and its emphasis on the study of the Bible in the original languages.
Meeting Alan Groves and learning about his work with the Westminster Hebrew Morphology cemented Stephen’s decision to move to the Philadelphia area to attend Westminster. He earned a Master of Arts in Religion degree in 2002 and a Master of Divinity in 2009.
He began working with Alan Groves and Kirk Lowery part-time in 2001 and became assistant director of the Groves Center in 2004. After the retirement of Kirk Lowery in November 2015, Stephen was appointed the Executive Director of the Groves Center.
Besides studying Hebrew and Greek, Stephen began learning French in high school and spent a semester in southern France as an undergraduate and also took a semester of German for reading knowledge while in graduate school.