What’s gone wrong with the Digital Karl Barth Library?

As I slowly make progress on my dissertation (“Scriptural but Not Religious: Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and a Biblical Critique of Religion”), I’m longing for the day when:

  • Karl Barth’s Gesamtausgabe (Collected Edition) is finished.
  • They are translated into a critical English edition.
  • They are available within the same database/framework as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Works in English and German (DBWE and DBW).

In the meantime, the Digital Karl Barth Library, provided by Alexander Street Press is the best resource out there for searching the text of Barth’s works.

However, it appears that the Digital Karl Barth Library [DKBL] has recently updated/changed its search software. I’m now having a very difficult time searching for biblical citations in the database, whereas this used to be very straightforward.

According to the current help page (which appears to be obsolete since the search software change):

3.2.2 Biblical Citation

Description: This field enables the user to locate all instances where Barth refers to a book, chapter, or verse of the Bible. Since citations in the source edition may be formatted in a variety of ways (consider “Genesis 3,” “Gen. III,” and “the third chapter of the first book of Moses”), we have inserted uniform tags around each citation. From the user’s standpoint, this value-added tagging effectively eliminates the variations in spelling and format, and allows one to return a comprehensive and accurate set of results for any biblical citation.

How to use this field: Use this field to search for citations of a book, chapter, or verse of the Bible.

Practical Example: Show all instances where Barth cites Romans 8:28.

  • Go to the Biblical Citation field on the Advanced Search page.
  • Select “Romans” from the drop-down list in the Book box.
  • Enter the number “8” into the Chapter box.
  • Enter the number “28” into the Verse box.
  • Click on the Search button.
  • The system responds with a list of all instances where Barth cites Romans 8:28.

However, there is no longer a “Biblical Citation” search field. Instead, there is a main search terms box with expandable “Search Options.”

Promisingly, these “Search Options” include fields for “Book,” “Book2,” “From Chapter,” “To Chapter,” “From Verse,” and “To Verse.”

And yet, using “Exodus 32” as an example (which I know occurs as “Ex. 32” on page 328 of Church Dogmatics III/1), I can’t get the search results to produce anything!

At least the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works and Werke have thorough Scripture indexes for the entire series. There is no such index for the as-yet-incomplete Gesamtausgabe, so the DKBL’s Biblical Citation search function used to be a great and much-needed tool!

Perhaps I’m missing something about how the new DKBL search software works. Or maybe there’s another, better tool out there to perform Scripture searches in Barth’s works. If you know anything, please advise in the comments below!

By joshuapsteele

The Rev. Dev. I solve problems with a pastor's heart for people and a programmer's eye for detail. Learn more at https://steele.omg.lol/

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