Gospel Desk

The Abstractinator

I am writing software to help compile information for The Gospels, with a Narrative Apparatus.

I hope, under God, to publish a print edition of the Gospels that encodes more information about their narrative structure than standard text layout conventions allow for. By “standard text layout conventions” I’m referring to things like whitespace, punctuation, paragraphing, and sections. I want more! I want to see the frames, scenes, and characters of the story. I’m calling the visual representation of this extra information a “narrative apparatus” (on the pattern of a critical apparatus).

Prototype 1.0

A prototype of The Gospels, with a Narrative Apparatus.

In order to produce this edition, I need to first compile the information I want to include regarding the Gospels’ narrative structure. So far I’ve been using ad-hoc text files and simple scripts for this sort of thing, but to accomplish what I want with the Narrative Apparatus, I need to go deeper, so I have started working on software specifically for this purpose. I’m calling it The Abstractinator.

Decoding Abstractions in Text

The Abstractinator is software to decode all of the textual abstractions in the entire Tri-State Area (that’s a cartoon reference, for my kids 😁).

Maybe some day the scope of The Abstractinator will expand downwards into text criticism, and characters (text characters, as opposed to story characters) will be the atom. For now, words are the atom. The Abstractinator helps me gather words into selections, and those selections into higher-order selections. A hierarchy of selections is a stack, and The Abstractinator lets me attach my own names to each level in each stack. A book in The Abstractinator is the full ordered set of words that are in scope at a given time.

For example, the SBLGNT defines an ordered set of words comprising an edition of the Greek New Testament: a book. They of course gather words into the well-established verse and chapter divisions. This is a stack in Abstractinator terminology, “verse” being the name for a first-order selection of words within this stack, and “chapter” naming a second-order selection of verses. The SBLGNT also gathers words into paragraphs, and paragraphs into sections: a second stack. Interestingly, this second stack intersects with the first, in that chapter breaks always land on paragraph breaks. SBLGNT sections are chapters. I haven’t looked to see whether verses ever cross a paragraph boundary.

SBLGNT sections are chapters

In the SBLGNT, sections are chapters.

In developing my own set of narrative abstractions, I would like to use the SBLGNT, since the Greek is more definitive, but I think I should start with an English translation, to be more accessible. I expect to operate first on the WEB, since that is the version I used for The Gospels, and partnerships for the ALV, ESV, or NIV seem quite remote.

There are lots of interesting challenges here, both technical and in terms of user experience. So far I’ve implemented word selection (as opposed to the standard character-based selection we’re all used to) and it’s enough to get me excited about the possibilities and want to share it with you. I actually started building something like this way back in 2007. Maybe this time it will actually come to fruition.

Stay tuned! 📺

The Abstractinator


Sign up to be notified when I post updates.