Eyes to See, Ears to Hear

Excerpts of 𝘌𝘺𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘚𝘦𝘦, 𝘌𝘢𝘳𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘳: 𝘌𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘔𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘑. 𝘈𝘭𝘢𝘯 𝘎𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘴

“Give us eyes to see Jesus,

ears to hear,

and hearts to understand.”

Al Groves routinely closed his prayers with those words. In fact, we cannot even read them without hearing his voice pleading them to his heavenly Father. With his body in decline from cancer, he closed his charge to the 2006 graduates of Westminster Theological Seminary with those words—a charge those hundred or so men and women, and many of us in attendance, will not forget. Al meant that prayer, and that charge. His life was one pointed to the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and lived with the intention of directing those with whom he came in contact to their own need for new eyes, ears and hearts, coming only as a gift from a loving Father.

The Biblical Theologian

Those words, some may recognize, arise directly from the vision in Isa 6:10, where Isaiah’s call is framed around this difficult-to-understand biblical picture of the prophetic ministry being one of “hardening.” Isaiah undertakes his prophetic ministry lest the people see, hear and understand. The fact that Al would boldly pray that prayer gives us a window into the deep biblical-theological thinking that captured his approach to Scripture. He boldly offered that prayer aware of the human propensity to be blind, deaf and dull, but fully confident that Jesus Christ, by the power of his death and resurrection, offers the gift of new eyes, ears and hearts to the ever-expanding circle of those who follow him, who find life in the Kingdom of God (Acts 28:23-31). Al would only think of praying this way because of his deep convictions about what Jesus Christ had accomplished in the fullness of time.

This foundational interest in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ providing the climax to the grand story of Scripture inspired a generation of Al’s students. The contributors to this volume were deeply influenced by his careful attention to the Hebrew text, his sensitivity to the historical context in which it was written, and his insistence that the Old Testament be understood as ultimately pointing to its climax in Jesus Christ. Along with Tremper Longman III, Al served a co-editor of The Gospel According to the Old Testament series, a theological commentary series devoted to exploring the biblical-theological dimensions of the Old Testament. Due to his untimely death, Al never finished his intended contribution to that series, The Gospel According to Isaiah. His remarkable biblical-theological work on Isaiah, seen, for example, in his article “Atonement in Isaiah 53,”1 and contained in over a decade of students’ notes, will have to wait to see the further light of day as many of us pick up his ideas and explore and expand them in other venues. Likewise, Al’s publication of longer essays on the Deuteronomistic History and the Book of Judges (see the Curriculum Vitae in this volume) are really windows into the depth of his biblical-theological thinking. His students tasted the blessings of his learning and reflection; the wider people of God are the poorer for not having heard more from Al first-hand. But by God’s grace, Al’s “fingerprints” thoroughly cover his students, who take his insights beyond what he was able to do. It is the prayer of the editors and contributors to this volume that Eyes to See, Ears to Hear will play a role in honoring Al, giving thanks to Jesus Christ for the scholarly, pastoral and spiritual mentor he was to so many.

The Pioneer and Co-laborer

Al’s written scholarly output was somewhat limited, because he conceived of his contribution to the academic community as taking place behind the scenes. A consummate team player, Al spent much of his career collaborating with many other scholars to provide electronic data for careful study of the Hebrew Bible. Al took great pleasure in co-laboring with others, working together to ensure the highest quality output for others to use in research. Much of this work was done in the recesses of a computer center, outside the public eye. As Kirk Lowery, the current President and Senior Research Fellow of the J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Research has commented, Al likened his work to an engineer who designs the wings of the airplane so they don’t fall off at 31,000 feet, and not as the welder who assembles the steel, or the pilot who actually flies the plane. This is a wonderful metaphor to understand this important component of Al’s scholarly contribution, and his meticulous attention to detail: the background work and data had better be right, before the plane is built, test-flown and put into service carrying people!

Much of this collaborative work was done in the field of the application of computer technology to the study of the Hebrew Bible, a field in which Al was among the early scholars to recognize the importance of doing sound technological work in order better to understand the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew language. In this scholarly arena, because of Al’s early visionary work, it is not uncommon to hear him referred to as a “pioneer.” For several years he served as co-chair of the Society of Biblical Literature’s “Computer Assisted Research Group,” providing leadership to the scholarly biblical studies community during the critical years when computers moved from behemoths that occupied entire rooms, to boxes that sat atop office desks. This growing access and increased mobility changed the world of computing drastically over Al’s three decade career; he was at the forefront of the leaders bringing this change to bear on biblical studies.

For example, one of Al’s earliest scholarly ventures involved playing a role in the production of an electronic edition of the text of the Hebrew Bible, a project in which he collaborated with scholars from The Hebrew University (Jerusalem), The University of Pennsylvania, and Claremont Graduate Schools. The end result was an electronic text of the Hebrew Bible as close as possible to the important Hebrew Bible manuscript, the Leningrad Codex. The text ultimately produced through this collaboration, known as the Michigan-Claremont-Westminster (MCW) electronic BHS, is currently maintained by the J. Alan Groves Center for Advanced Biblical Studies, and to this day is used for translations and printed editions of the Hebrew Bible, for example, the Hebrew-English Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society, 1999), and the Reader’s Hebrew Bible (Zondervan, 2008). Additionally, the MCW text serves as the Hebrew text for many of the standard Bible programs currently available. This important text exists in its current form, in large part, due to Al’s early labors with other scholars, building on their work and, indeed, even going far beyond them.

In addition to playing a significant role in establishing the MCW text, Al was also highly involved collaboratively with the production of a morphology of the Hebrew Bible. This painstaking task involves labeling every part of speech of every word in the Hebrew Bible according to its grammatical part of speech, and even, at times, its grammatical function. For readers who have not studied Hebrew, imagine going through your English Bible and having your eighth-grade grammar teacher ask you to explain every part of speech, word by word! Painstaking indeed! Those who have studied Hebrew and use Hebrew databases in Bible software are very likely using and benefitting from Al’s work, using data that he had a large part in producing and correcting.

Al’s technical expertise continues to benefit the field of biblical studies to the present time. His tireless labor behind the scenes to provide other scholars with tools and data for their work can also be seen in his role as Consultant in Information Systems to the Biblia Hebraica Quinta project, one of the last projects to which Al was able to contribute. This important project will provide scholars and pastors with a fifth modern edition of the Hebrew Bible. In the introduction to the first released volume, the Editorial Committee comments that the project

benefited from the flexibility and control of a new computerized production method in which all data to be included in the edition are entered into a database, which can then be converted into a variety of electronic and printed forms. This approach would not have been possible without the guidance and assistance of the project’s Consultant in Information Systems, Alan Groves of Westminster Theological Seminary…2

This preface is intended to give some indication of the important role Alan Groves played in the field of biblical studies, admittedly much of it outside the public eye. We have devoted chapter 12 of this festschrift to a fuller treatment of his ground-breaking work, “The Legacy of J. Alan Groves: An Oral History.” Kirk Lowery, the author of that chapter, concludes his article with these words:

Prof. Groves’s death prevented him from accomplishing all that he envisioned. Nevertheless, his vision continues to inspire us. The Hebrew syntax database he spoke of is now nearing completion, and plans are already underway for new possibilities, including other ancient Near Eastern languages and texts. The pyramid, the foundations of which he laid, is growing. Tens of thousands of users of all descriptions are making use of the text and data that he created. Unlike ordinary academic publications, Prof. Groves’s databases are not static, but are living, growing collections of knowledge and experience in understanding the text and message of the Hebrew Bible. Since Prof. Groves’ work forms the foundation of the Hebrew Bible digital pyramid of knowledge, it is difficult to overstate the significance and impact of his legacy for the next century of biblical studies.

It is not difficult to conceive of Al’s contribution to computing and Biblical Studies. This festschrift in part wants to honor his scholarly contributions, and it is fitting to do so. The contributors to this volume include Al’s former colleagues and students at Westminster Theological Seminary. The colleagues represented are Tremper Longman, Bruce Waltke, Douglas Green, Peter Enns and Michael Kelly, who (along with the late Raymond Dillard) comprised the Old Testament department in the years of Al’s service, current faculty moderator, Bill Edgar (with whom Al team-taught a course on a Christian approach to film – another of Al’s passions) and Kirk Lowery, Al’s co-laborer and successor as Director (and now President) of the J. Alan Groves Institute for Advanced Biblical Studies.

Because Al’s greatest legacy is found in the students he taught and mentored, we chose to include essays from former students from the three decades in which he taught: Green and Enns from the 1980’s, Karen Jobes, Kelly and Adrian Smith (who completed his Th.M. in Old Testament under Al) from the early 1990’s, and three younger scholars who were among his final group of students from late 1990’s and early 2000’s: Chris Fantuzzo, Brad Gregory and Sam Boyd.

As our final act of honoring our mentor and colleague, we have included Al’s lecture on the occasion of his inauguration as Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. Like other essays in this volume, we hope this gives a sampling of the type of redemptive-historical Old Testament scholarship that came to flower during Al’s time on the faculty at the seminary.

But Al’s life and legacy go far beyond scholarly contributions. As Moises Silva brings out in the Forward, Al had a profound spiritual impact on those around him. The faculty and staff of the seminary enjoyed Al’s profound pastoral attention during his time as Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2005-2006. So we also offer these essays to honor Al as a brother in Christ, a mentor to his students, a pastor to his colleagues, and one whose life was pointed to the One who gave him life, and who lived his life in the service of others.

Al’s prayer has now been answered. He now sees, hears, and knows fully (1 Cor 13:12). He has now joined the company of disciples. As our Lord says in Luke 10:23-24, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

And for those of us who wait, labor and serve, grateful and changed by our friendship with Al, we continue to pray this prayer—for eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand.

1 In Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James, eds., The Glory of the Atonement (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 61-89.

2 General Introduction and Megilloth (Biblia Hebraica Quinta, Fascicle 18; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2004), xxv. Several other scholars from around the world fill out that paragraph, another indication of Al’s regular and welcomed role as a co-laborer with others.

Taken from Eyes to See, Ears to Hear: Essays in Memory of J. Alan Groves.  ISBN 978-1-59638-122-3,  preface pages xiii-xviii, used with permission from P&R Publishing P O Box 817, Phillipsburg, N J 08865  www.prpbooks.com

J. Alan Groves

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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


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


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.