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SBL Biblical Languages Fonts

January 12, 2012

For many years I (with many others) used the old Scholars’ Press fonts for Greek, Hebrew and other languages, but the problem was that these were not “unicode” fonts.  So, they often didn’t transfer well from one computing platform to another.  Then a few years ago, the Society of Biblical Literature (working with a number of other bodies) brought out new unicode fonts for Greek and Hebrew:

I’ve now pretty much moved over to these fonts, having used them in several essays written during 2011.  But I have to say that one complication is getting used to the keyboard.  With the old SP fonts, I found the keyboard fairly intuitive.  But for the new unicode fonts, I have to keep to hand printed sheets reminding me how to get accents and breathing marks in Greek.  And I find the Hebrew keyboard even more difficult to figure out.

The Greek keyboard I chose is this one:

For Hebrew, I downloaded the “SIL” keyboard, link here:

If others have any advice, tricks, simplications, let the rest of us know!

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  1. Justin J. Evans permalink

    I used to use the SBL fonts, but would occasionally have compatibility issues. I also found that I had problems with line spacing, since part of the document was written in an English (usually Times New Roman or Garamond), and part was written in Hebrew. Now, I just use Times New Roman for both English and Hebrew. Since I still use the SIL keyboard layout, I have easy access to the full range of vowels and accents. I find this to be a more seamless transition between the two languages. (I set Ctrl + Shift as the keyboard shortcut to toggle between English and Hebrew). For Greek I use the Bibleworks fonts, and am generally happy with it.

  2. I’ve now figured out how to activate the Tyndale House keyboards, and given them a couple of short tries. They do seem considerably more intuitively set up than some others. Indeed, there is a strong resemblance to the keyboards for the old, familiar SP fonts.

  3. W. Andrew Smith permalink

    I use the Greek Polytonic keyboard for the PC (Windows 7) and it did take a while to get used to where the accents were for unicode characters; but it comes with time. I also find it occasionally frustrating to then do a search in something like Bibleworks, and go back to using an older keyboard scheme (where, for example, θ is mapped to the Q key rather than the U key).

    The SBL fonts are great, but I wish they would update their uncial font. SP Doric is pretty clunky (non-aesthetic), does not handle supralinear marks well, and could use an extended character set. The Greek Font Society has some reasonable uncial fonts (I prefer GFS Jackson), which at least solves the aesthetic problem.

    And while support for unicode is fine in programs like MS Word, manipulating unicode data in other environments (even DOS) can be pretty horrific.

    • W. Andrew Smith permalink

      Oh, I forgot to mention the interwebs! If you are familiar at all with HTML, using the font tag can help your Greek/Hebrew language display greatly. I can’t recall if WordPress allows HTML in replies (I assume not, so the raw HTML should appear below) but I know it does in original posts.

      Greek isn’t so bad as-is (Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος is pretty readable), but Hebrew can look miserable in many browsers (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד). Adding the font tag and setting the face (=”times”) and size (=”3″) features can help a lot ( שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד).

      • W. Andrew Smith permalink

        It looks like WordPress interprets the tags but the CSS for the website overrules the font settings here. Ah, well.

    • Do I take it correctly that the Greek Font Society fonts aren’t unicode?

  4. On the Mac, I simply use the Greek Polytonic unicode keyboard. For example, see here for Greek For Hebrew, I use the Tyndale keyboard.

  5. Ben permalink

    I’ll add another vote for the Tyndale House keyboards developed by David Instone-Brewer.

    • I’m a user of computers, not an expert on them. So help appreciated: I downloaded and thought I’d installed the Tyndale House fonts & keyboards. But they don’t seem to have supplanted the earlier ones I’ve been using. There must be some further step.

  6. Amen to Nick Norelli’s comment – as a Mac user!

  7. The Tyndale House Unicode keyboards are very intuitive.

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