Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stephen Cole on Using Pott's Concordance vs. Electronic Tools for Studying the Heavenly Doctrines

The latest Fun Fact on is about The Swedenborg Concordance. The most interesting part of the article is where Rev. Stephen Cole explains why the Concordance continues to be a valuable resource, despite electronic tools such as
The most obvious [reason]... is that Potts provides us with a keen human intellect, sorting and sifting the references from the Heavenly Doctrine, selecting those which may be most interesting or germane.

I was speaking with a student the other day who was bewildered by the more than 2000 references she got when she queried “soul” in NewSearch. “Look instead at the Concordance,” I told her, “and you will find not only that Potts has winnowed down the choices, but he has also indicated what he considers the more significant passages by quoting larger selections from them.”

Another, but perhaps less obvious advantage of turning to Potts is that the Concordance is actually an index of the Heavenly Doctrine in the original Latin, but translated into English. The importance of this can be illustrated by the experience of a colleague of mine, who was trying to understand what distinction was being made in the Heavenly Doctrine between “breathing” and “respiration,” until he discovered that all the passages he was looking at had the same Latin word: “respiratio.” All these passages are found in the same article in Potts. But there are, in fact, other Latin words for breath.... Each of these gets its own separate article in Potts, as opposed to what happens in NewSearch, which will indiscriminately include many of the passages in these different articles in the same search results.

The electronic search tools are quick and powerful for many purposes, but when one is seeking a careful and thoughtful selection of passages, the Potts Concordance remains unsurpassed.


Anonymous said...

What would be wonderful is if someone made a new concordance, so that we had two intellect looking at the text. This would remind me of the Jewish commentary on the Torah, the Talmud. We must be sure to never confuse the Talmud for the Word, nor the Concordance for the Doctrine.

Anonymous said...

I've been told that the much of the Concordance was put together by Pott's daughters, under their father's supervision. If true, this suggests that there are several human intellects present in the Concordance.