Finding Similar Wording with Accordance’s INFER Command

What do you do when you want to find passages with similar wording, but your cross references are no help? Accordance’s INFER search is very helpful here. The INFER command is the kind of searching tool behind works like Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Second Temple Jewish Literature, a reference resource that is basically a list of cross-references between Second Temple texts. Being able to use the INFER command yourself is quicker and more powerful. Let me demonstrate.

This post is part of the Accordance Workspaces series. The series focuses on workspaces that will be helpful for those reading the Bible in its ancient versions.

When I want to find direct or indirect references to another passage, I jump to this simple, two-column workspace:

There are two pieces to setup:

  1. The text you have in front of you and want to find in other places. In the screenshot above, this would be the text on the left, Psalm 1:3 in the Septuagint. Here, I’m trying to find another passage I remember that says something like “will be like a tree.”
  2. The text that you want to look through for similar wording. In the screenshot above, this would be the text on the right, the entire Septuagint.

To get setup, here’s what you need to do for the text on the left:

  • Open a search tab with text that includes the passage you want to find in other places.
  • Limit the search range to the particular passage in front of you.
  • With the search range now limited to your particular passage, run a word-search for * — This causes Accordance to recognize every lexical form so that you can search for lexical strings in another place.

Here is what to do with the text on the right:

  • Open a search tab with the text you want to look through for similar wording. In this case, I’m looking for an LXX passage in the LXX.
  • Run the INFER command (⌘+SHIFT+I) and toggle the number to shorten or lengthen the string of words.

This still turns up too many results, over 800 hits. Here, however, I know I’m looking for instances that contain ξύλον (tree) so I can just add that lexical form to the beginning of right search tab and include the <AND> command.

Now I’m searching for 5 word strings, but I’ve told Accordance I only want to see 5 word strings that include the lemma ξύλον. My search results went from 812 to 32 with only one hit in Jeremiah, the book where I thought I had read something similar.

Scrolling down to Jeremiah in my search results, I can now line up the passages side-by-side, both of which read καὶ ἔσται ὡς ξύλον, and he will be like [a] tree. This is what I was looking for. Save your INFER workspace and jump straight to it next time you want to explore similar wording.

Remember, you can do this between any texts of the same language. Years ago, I posted videos of running this search between the Hebrew Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls and between the New Testament and the Didache. Check those out for a couple more examples.