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Bible software developer plays part in new Broadman & Holman translation

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Anyone who believes computer programming and passion don’t mix should meet Roy Brown. This is a guy who’s spent the past eight years of his life developing Bible software — in his spare time.

Tousled hair and bearded, Brown’s sea-blue eyes dance like animated computer pages when he answers questions about the Bible software he built solely for the Macintosh computer.

“We know people who have bought Macs just so they could use our software,” Brown beams.

In fact, the Dallas-based team of editors working on the new Holman Christian Standard Bible translation for Broadman & Holman did just that.

They began using Brown’s Accordance Bible Software because Brown and the first general editor of the new translation, the late Art Farstad, were old friends.

Farstad began the Bible translation project in 1984 and worked on it until his death in September 1998. That’s when Ed Blum, assistant editor of the project, took over as general editor.

“I knew Dr. Farstad for almost 30 years before he passed away. I met him when I was living and working in Dallas. I showed him the software, and he liked it and recommended it to the people at Broadman & Holman [a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention]. Fortunately, they were already sympathetic to the Mac.”

Blum, who wasn’t a Mac user, liked the software, too, Brown said, and is now using it as his primary translation tool.

“The kind of detailed study we do on every verse might take 100 years if we were comparing everything by hand,” Blum said. “Obviously, the computer [software] doesn’t make decisions for us, but it helps us make informed decisions by letting us assemble information more accurately and faster than any other translators have ever been able to do.”

Brown, a consultant in electrical engineering and scientific software development, and his wife, Helen, an anesthesiologist, are an intellectual team. They huddle in a large, book-stuffed study in the back of their Orlando, Fla., home, Macintosh-adorned desks facing each other.

In her spare time, Helen markets, builds the website, serves as technical support and writes the manuals for Accordance Bible Software. Roy creates the programs and demonstrates the software intricacies to visitors and anyone else who might be interested.

“We’ve been working on this software program for eight years. It gets really tiring and you can really stress out, but now we’ve addressed most of what people want in Bible software, and we can slow down our rate of development,” Brown said.

With three degrees from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, the final one a Ph.D in physics, Brown is an intense man who feels very strongly about his Bible software.

“Accordance is the main [Bible software] product used by people with Macintoshes. Even if you say Macs are only 10 to 15 percent of the computer market, we have much of that market. If we went into a Windows-based software, we would have 40 competitors [in the Bible software field].”

But lack of competition is not why Brown chose to use a Mac engine to fire his Bible software application. Ease of use is.

“Our goal is not to reach the broadest audience. My goal is to make the best, easiest-to-use software for biblical studies that I could.”

When Brown first introduced Accordance software in 1994, it was purely for scholars.

“We started out at the high end with the three basics, the Greek New Testament, the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint, which was the first translation of the Bible ever, by the way, from Hebrew to Greek.”

Recently, he and a small team in Orlando have developed additional software at introductory levels.

“We started out offering it on a floppy disk, and now Accordance comes on seven different CD ROMs.” (For more information on Accordance software, visit the website at www.oaksoft.com.)

Brown said Accordance Bible software can be purchased on several study levels, from scholarly to novice.

“It’s an a la carte deal. You buy what you want. Nobody buys all of it. It’s too diverse and too big for just one person. If I were to show you every feature, it would take me at least a day.”

Any person interested in studying the Bible, including students, pastors and Bible scholars, can use the software, he said.

Brown is using it to translate chapters in the Book of Joshua for the Holman Bible project.

“It was Art’s idea to have me translate. I lived in Israel for a few years, and I know Hebrew fairly well and I know the geography. I enjoyed [translating] it a lot better than I thought I would. In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing some more.”

Holding up a copy of the gospel version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, “Experiencing the Word through the Gospels,” released earlier this year, Brown said he was “quite impressed” with the translation so far.

“I did Joshua and I saw the problems the other translations had. I really liked this book [Experiencing the Word], and I don’t say that very easily. It was much more readable than some translations, but it didn’t gloss over as much as others.

“When I did Joshua, I nearly cringed when I saw how some versions either left out words or took a Hebrew dictionary and just plugged in words, making it too wooden and literal. But I think this (Holman Christian Standard Bible) is an excellent translation. You know they are trying to keep the balance between readability and accuracy, and some translations go too far one way and some go too far the other way.”

More than 80 scholars, translators and editors representing 20 Protestant denominations and several nondenominational churches from around the world are working on the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. The New Testament is expected to be released in 2001, with the full Bible due out in 2004.

Additional (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library. Photo title: SOFTWARE DEVELOPER.

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  • Terri Lackey