Church Executive, July 2005
Theological library at your fingertips
By Maria Jolly
Bible software programs offer in-depth study and sermon preparation tools that save pastors valuable time
Dr. Michael J. Easley, president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and former pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, remembers a time when it used to take him hours to research a sermon topic and translate words from Greek and Hebrew into English. When Bible study software started becoming available more than 10 years ago, he jumped at the chance to learn about a new way to read and study the Bible.
He says the software he currently uses from Logos Bible Software/Libronix Digital Library System makes it easier for him to research the Bible and it gives him the flexibility to be on the move and not chained to an office.
According to Logos, the Scholar's Library edition contains 250 Bibles and Bible reference books. Easley uses Bible study software for research, sermon preparation, and for speeches when he represents Moody on the road. When he was a pastor at Immanuel Bible Church, it also helped him to respond to e-mail questions from his congregants. He says until Bible study software became available it was not un-common for him to spend 20 minutes to an hour to develop a response to a single e-mailed question. Now, he can sit at his laptop and quickly research Scripture verses. No more flipping through various references that eat up a lot of his time. He says it's like having an entire theological library at his fingertips.
Deciphering Greek and Hebrew
Easley says one challenge many pastors and Bible scholars encounter is language translation. It is a problem for most pastors, he says, to remember their two to four years of Greek or Hebrew studies. He says there are several vital tools in studying Greek a pastor must use, such as a Greek Lexicon and a New Testament Dictionary.
A standard Greek-English Lexicon known by most New Testament students is compiled by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker (also known as "BAGD"). However, to use it takes a lot of time, says Easley. "To find a word in BAGD, you first start with yet another supplement book called Index to the Revised Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon by John R. Alsop, affectionately dubbed "Alsop."
"So, you have your New Testament open, and maybe your Greek New Testament. You get Alsop off the shelf, find the Greek word in Alsop that directs you to a page and quadrant number in BAGD. Then you open BAGD to that page and read until you find the word and Scripture reference you are studying," Easley says. He explains that it can take at least two to four minutes just for one word!With the Logos software, however, Easley says it takes literally one mouse click and BAGD opens to the precise location. The second Greek resource he depends on is Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, which is edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich and comes in 10 massive volumes.
"In Logos/ Libronix, I only have to right click on the Greek word and instantly a window opens to the precise location of that word and saves hours in sermon preparation," he says.
Report builder and electronic office
Easley says the Bible study software makes sermon preparation easy. "On any given passage, I can define what commentaries, theology books, journals, and even atlases and maps to use, click the "go" button and the system runs through all my predefined books, and within a couple of minutes presents me with a report and instant links," he says.
Another advantage to using the Bible study software, says Easley, is that it is like having several offices or desks where all the books stay open at a particular page/place and are ready to use again the next day.
Easley says to envision on your computer screen three open windows: one with your preferred English Bible, one with a commentary, and one with a Hebrew text. You can "link" each of these resources so when you move in any of the books, all three windows move, too. With these three windows open, Easley says it's then easy to see how other English versions rendered the translation.
Built into Logos is a feature to customize your own parallel Bible. Easley says if you like one version more than the others, you can make that your "preferred Bible" then select as many Bibles as you have in your package and generate a window showing each version side by side with color-coded variances. Cut and paste - Copy Bible verses, formatted almost any way imaginable, into your PowerPoint, Word document, charts, etc. Any resource from which you cut and paste will automatically include the footnotes, says Easley.
Instant cross references
A simple but very helpful feature is what Logos/ Libronix calls a "hover" link. If you are reading a commentary or journal or any book in Libronix and there is a Scripture reference or a list of references, you can read each cross reference. "When you move the cursor over any Scripture reference in any Logos/ Libronix book, it pops open a small window so you can read that reference," he says.
Bible software for "dummies."
The "Passage Guide" allows you to open this window, enter a passage and click the mouse and it runs to all the books in a predefined range which you can customize to your heart's content.
Easley says searching by topic is easy to do as the search engine is capable of searching title headings (such as in an encyclopedia with the bold face titles above each article) and it then builds a report in seconds.
Equipping your church staff and students
Easley says he was not the only individual at his church using the software. He says there are probably more than 100 people using Logos /Libronix within Immanuel. In fact, he says, the software is also a great tool with Bible study groups. He says the pastor of adult education at Immanuel has helped dozens of Sunday School leaders and other Bible Study leaders get started with a Libronix-based package called the "eBible."
Easley says he further believes seminary students would benefit greatly by coming to school prepared with a computer and the Scholar's Edition from Logos.
Recently, Moody's Distance Learning Center released the AM Bible Courseware - the Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone, Moody - which includes the curriculum for 32 of MDLC's Independent Studies courses in an electronic form powered by the Libronix Digital Library System. The courseware provides digital research and study resources as well as quizzes and exams to gauge learning and comprehension.
Easley says once people learn how to navigate the tools on Bible study software "it's hard to go back to only using books off the shelf."
© 2005 by Church Executive and Power Trade Media, LLC. Used by permission.