Bible Software and Bible Exposition

This is the golden age of computer software which is useful to the Bible expositor. With tools like BibleWorks 7.0, Logos 3 (Libronix), and Grammcord/Accordance (for Macs) there are resources that will satisfy almost any preference when it comes to serious Bible study. I started using BibleWorks around 4.0 and Logos on and off for about the last 9 years. I have friends who swear by Grammcord (but of course all Mac guys are that way). With a little help, I believe these programs can trim time off the study process (primarily through search abilities) and allow for more time in thoughtful study and reflection over the text. Starting in March I will do a regular update on various features and functions related to these Bible software programs. My goal will be to help expositors who own these programs make better use of what they have at their fingertips. I’m no expert but I have taught BibleWorks and have learned Logos from some of the best. I will also be attending a BibleWorks training seminar next month in Birmingham and then a Logos training seminar this summer. I will try to relay what I learn here and pass on items that are useful to expositors (please feel free to share your ideas here as well).

Getting started

For my tastes, Logos has only recently come into a realm that is helpful for doing real exegetical work. I know Logos aficionados will disagree but much of what has been called “exegetical tools” in Logos has really been subpar compared to more powerful exegetical programs. The strength of Logos is that it is a library tool where you can store hundreds of helpful reference works from dictionaries to commentaries. These can be interlinked and are easily searchable (more about all that in a future post). But I thought there were thousands of titles in Logos? There are, but the majority of the titles that come with the various packages (or add-ons) are worthless when it comes to exposition of Scripture (however everyone has their own likes/dislikes). Logos does seem to be working hard in their software development but it’s not as intuitive as some would have you believe. I do think it is an amazingly strong product but when it comes to the languages, BibleWorks does everything but polish the pulpit. BibleWorks 7.0 is a vast improvement over earlier versions and is the best for Greek/Hebrew language work (in Windows). It’s not perfect but it is way up there when it comes to exegetical research capabilities. I use both programs but I’m also one of those types who refuses to become a slave to the computer.

All of this means I want to spend my time making it all work for me and my purposes and not be wowed by the pretty colors and PR campaigns coming out of various companies. Those who work for the software companies will tell you that their product is the best but the benefit of having competition is that you don’t have to take their word for it. Every preacher has to decide what works best for him in the style that he has developed in the study. So the first lesson is don’t let someone else’s methods of software use dictate how you study and even more don’t let someone who is paid by a particular company tell you what you need (we usually call that “conflict of interest”). I will be writing more about this soon. Stay tuned.

Further reading:

“Doing Good Digital Exegesis”

Dan Phillips reviews BibleWorks 7.0 and here

Tim Challies reviews Logos Bible Software

Andreas J. Köstenberger reviews Accordance

Andrew D. Naselli reviews Logos Scholar’s Library: Gold

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12 responses to this post.

  1. I personally like e-Sword (www.e-Sword.net) mostly because it is free :P But it also does have a pretty good library of resources including bible versions, commentary’s, dictionary’s and old school books

  2. “The majority of the titles that come with the various [Logos] packages (or add-ons) are worthless when it comes to exposition of Scripture.”

    Hmm. Worthless? The majority? Slightly overstated, don’t you think? Logos does have non-academic titles included, but how this is a negative as so many seem to think I still haven’t been able to figure out. There is value in a title with which you may not agree or which may not be academically erudite. There’s even expositional value in a popular title inasmuch as it aids in the history of the interpretation of a passage and provides an illustration of poor handling of a passage. Don’t get me wrong–I own BibleWorks 7 and commend it to others as a great tool, but asserting that the inclusion of non-academic titles in Logos diminishes its value strains logic.

  3. Philip,

    Maybe you missed the first three words of the paragraph that started, “For my tastes…” If you read more carefully then you will see that I made no less than three references to doing exegesis which is specialized study. I agree with the bulk of what you stated in your comment but you’re answering objections I didn’t raise. The majority of the titles are worthless for exegesis of the text. I should have made this more clear. I also made no reference to “diminished value”. I think Logos is a wonderful program and does things that BW makes no pretensions of accomplishing.I’m thankful that both companies are committed to making a fine product and continue to listen to those of us who use their tools every day.

    Blessings to you

  4. A few thoughts:

    1. I used to think very highly about BW and relatively negatively about Logos with reference to exegetical features, but my opinion has changed. I don’t think less of BW, but I do think much more highly of Logos. For example, I’m currently working on a project that involves a rather complex grammatical construction, and only Logos is syntactically tagged to locate all its occurrences in the GNT.

    2. Logos has hundreds of exegetically sound resources. Regarding the others, I still find it helpful to have non-academic resources on my hard-drive. (1) I’d much rather have them there rather than taking up bookshelf space. (2) And I’d much rather have them than not have them at all.

  5. Thank you Andy for chiming-in. Be sure to see Andy’s review of Logos that I linked to above.

  6. Paul,

    I will be very interested in hearing (reading) your further comments.

    I find myself discussing the value and use of various Bible Software programs quite regularly.

    Of course, it isn’t long into any conversation and a question about the uses and differences between Logos and BibleWorks comes up.

    People often ask something like, “Which one do I need?”

    I often answer them, “That is like asking, ‘which do I need a refrigerator or a car?’ it depends on what you are doing. If you need to get to work on time a refrigerator won’t do you much good, but if you need to keep you milk, meet, cheese and butter all cold, your car won’t help a whole lot.”

    You need both.

    I agree Logos has made strides and in the area of syntactically tagged databases can do things BibleWorks currently cannot. (Although I would argue those are things most pastors are not in need of very often.)

    However, I am still convinced for original language exegesis – BibleWorks is the tool of choice. For referencing secondary resources, especially commentaries, ANE aids, and journals – Logos is the tool.

  7. Paul,

    Thanks for the follow-up. I realized you were stating your opinion, but I still think opinions can be challenged. :)

    You said, “If you read more carefully then you will see that I made no less than three references to doing exegesis which is specialized study.”

    I see your references to exegesis. The part I quote said, “The majority of the titles that come with the various [Logos] packages (or add-ons) are worthless when it comes to exposition of Scripture.” Maybe you are using exegesis and exposition synonymously.

    In my view, historical theology plays an important role in exposition. Many of the older sources that some consider worthless provide a helpful understanding of how passages were handled by different traditions at different times in the church’s history. For this reason I challenge your statement about their being worthless for exposition. But again, maybe you are using exposition and exegesis synonymously, in which case I’ll let it go. :)

    I interpreted your remarks about the majority of Logos titles being “worthless for exposition” to be a negative, rather than a positive. The jump from there to “diminished value” was in reference to others who have often said as much. I should not have assumed that you were in agreement with them. I’m glad to hear that you are not. This is a common criticism that I’ve heard, and I must admit I’m still baffled by it.

    If you do a comparison of the contents of Logos Gold and BibleWorks 7, I think you’ll find the former has far more resources for doing exegetical work that the latter, though that is to be expected because of the price differences. If someone has only $350 to spend, then surely BibleWorks is the better choice.

    In terms of exegetically valuable resources, there’s not really much at all that BW has that Logos doesn’t. But the opposite is not true. Logos wins hands down in terms of the quality of their ebook format and breadth and number of helpful resources. BibleWorks wins hands down in terms of its speed of searching and accessing data. I still plan to continue to own both.

    Blessings,

    Phil

  8. Thank you for your comments Phil. I did not intend this to become a Logos vs. BW forum since I tend to agree with what Joe (#6) stated. I was careful to note that this was my opinion since these things are highly subjective depending on one’s method of study. Blessings.

  9. Posted by Caleb on February 27, 2007 at 1:36 am

    Paul,

    Thanks for this posting and all your links as well. How much is the upgrade from BW6 to BW7?

    Blessings,

    Caleb

  10. Caleb,

    The full version of BW7 is $349. and to upgrade from BW6 is $150.

  11. Logos Library Bargain!

    A large library of modern reference works for Libronix is available for about $15 in Nelson’s “Ultimate Bible Reference” library (eBible). However, there are multiple packages or editions called by that or similar names. The number of unlocked titles range from 60-115 and have a print value of about $1500. One edition includes only one disk…tisk, tisk. The editions that come with 2 disks include better or more unlocked books, like the essential “Believer’s Bible Commentary” by William MacDonald and “Thru The Bible” commentaries by J Vernon McGee. To find one of the superior 2 diskers, google “ultimate bible reference” and look for the above features. Unlike BibleWorks and QuickVerse software, Libronix updates are free. So you will always be up to date.

  12. […] Bible Software and Bible Exposition by Paul Lamey I post some thoughts there in the comments. […]

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