Expository Times, March 2004, Vol 115 (6), p. 202-203

Review Article – Scholar’s Library

Scholar’s Library. Logos Bible Software Series X. Libronix Digital Library System.
Logos Research Systems, Bellingham, Washington, USA. Web address: http://www.logos.com/scholars. $599.95 (£499.95).

UNTIL recently the notion of a scholar’s library might conjure up images of a room whose shelves are yawning wide, stuffed full as they are with offprints, monographs, lexica, facsimiles of manuscripts and other weighty tomes. This image is now complemented by, if not giving way to, a paper-less, virtual library that appears on the screen and is controlled by the keyboard and mouse.

The Scholar’s Library is Logos Research Systems’ recent product that allows the scholar or minister to write his book or sermon without needing to physically open a book. This product has two basic components, the system that manages the electronic books and the books themselves. Known as the Libronix Digital Library System (DLS), this is an advanced technology that simplifies the task of research and study by automating the need to flip the pages of a Bible or to search a particular reference in a commentary or scholarly monograph.

The programme is easy to install on any PC using Microsoft Windows 98 or later, including XP, and requires the minimum processor speed of Pentium 133 MHz (300 MHz recommended), memory of 64 MB, 6o MB of hard drive space and a screen resolution of 8oo x 6oo. For those connected to the internet, online registration is straightforward and allows Logos Research Systems to send news and updates directly to the desktop. The online license also allows the user to build up the library by ‘unlocking’ a resource or title, a euphemism for buying a book. British and European customers can purchase the product from Sunrise Software (http://www.sunrise-software.com) and information on international distributors can be found on Logos’ web site (http://www.logos.com/about/international).

The Scholar’s Library is an impressive software that presents a customizable interface like a web page, though without the ‘back’ button. One can begin research directly at the ‘Home’ page by typing in a biblical passage or topic. Thus, say, if one were to key-in Genesis 1:1 and choose the ‘Passage Guide’, then Scholar’s Library would not only open a box with the correct verse in the English translation (or another modern one) of choice, but also a list of commentaries, biblical cross-references, comparison of versions, selection of hymns, and topics (e.g., creation, earth, God). Not everyone will find all the features handy or desirable, but the system is very flexible and can be adapted to one’s need.

For those who are able to read the original languages with facility, clicking on the option ‘Exegetical Guide’ will bring up the standard, critical Hebrew text (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Westminster 3:5 Morphology) with a word-by-word exegetical guide, keyed to the enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, New American Standard Hebrew—Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, and The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. And for the advanced student, a Biblical Languages Supplement (BLS), costing an extra $159.95, will enhance the study with a fairly arbitrary selection of other Greek New Testament versions, grammars, ancient Egyptian literature (ed. M. Lichtheim), synopses, Peshitta, and Old Syriac. The minister who has little time to spare in keeping up his languages will also be well served by Scholar’s Library as the ‘Word Study Guide’ option will allow him to search the significance of an important word via the ‘Englishman’s concordance’ and the Enhanced Strong’s concordance.

The option ‘Bible and Commentary’ is potentially the most valuable for research and study. In its basic package and default setting, hitting ‘Go’ will bring up not just the passage of Genesis 1:1, but also an explication of the passage. Presumably if one ‘unlocks’ some of the other commentaries, among the 3,000 plus titles available in the Scholar’s Library, the commentary of choice can be selected. Other tools include the ability to present the same biblical passage in parallel versions, in modern translations or ancient originals and versions, and to search the entire virtual library that one owns for the relevant verse.

Another way of using Scholar’s Library is to type in a topic or subject. For example, entering ‘Golgotha’ will bring up entries in New Nave’s Topical Bible, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary and a further option to search the entire library. Following the links of this option one can find maps, where available, and illustrations. One of the features that I like best is the way that a biblical verse appears instantly in a bubble when the cursor is placed over a reference to it. This will save time and effort.

For those who like doing things on screen, there is also a ‘Devotions’ option that will allow the user to customize a plan, according to the books of the Old and/or New Testament read over weeks, months and year. One limitation is that the plan will not allow one to customize the reading of only the Pentateuch or the Torah, as say in Jewish tradition. Clearly, Scholar’s Library is aimed at the potential Christian market, but it would be easy to adapt it, in an updated version, to become more ‘ecumenically friendly’.

It could be improved in other ways to avoid locking the user into a conservative, Christian perspective. For example, Christian or not, many Old Testament scholars want to read the Hebrew Bible on its own terms. Old Testament courses in seminaries up and down the country teach, say, Second Isaiah for the message that it proclaims to the post-exilic Judean community and not because the ‘suffering servant’ is mentioned there. Of course, the study of the Old Testament in the New Testament is an important topic, but it is unnecessary and somewhat annoying to have New Testament references at the heading of the Scholar’s Library version of the NRSV.1.

Another feature that could be improved is the presentation of the Hebrew and Greek fonts in default setting. In parallel version, the Hebrew texts are legible, but could be made larger and thus more clearly presented. The Greek fonts of the Septuagint and Nestle-Aland New Testament are unevenly shaded (e.g., alpha, eta, capital iota). .2.

Scholar’s Library is easy to use. There is an accompanying video tutorial and another one available online. I have not had recourse to the customer support, but I presume that it would be highly efficient, professional and responsive. The ‘bundled’ titles, some 230 plus, are inexpensive when compared to their equivalent cost in print and calculated by the basic price of Scholar’s Library. In deciding value-for-money, however, a scholar should estimate what he considers a good resource against the costs. Even with that more critical counting, I believe that it is good value.

Not everyone will want to have a virtual library. Some like the clutter on their desk and around their chair, while others even like the smell of old tomes. For most scholars and ministers, however, it would seem that the combination of both the physical and electronic book will become the norm. Beside the well-thumbed Authorized Version is a computer screen. The DLS system is an advanced electronic library system that will un-clutter the physical desktop as important commentary series and standard monographs are added. It is not yet there, but it has the potential to revolutionize the way we work.

TIMOTHY H. LIM
University of Edinburgh

© 2004 by Expository Times. Used by permission.

 

[Logos note] 1. The reviewer here is referring to a section or pericope heading for Isaiah 52:13 in the NRSV ("The Suffering Servant"). In fact, this heading comes directly from the printed version on which the electronic edition was based, edited by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.. Logos did not alter the text in any way.

[Logos note] 2. Logos recognizes that legibility of fonts will depend on screen size and resolution, not to mention the user's vision. For that reason, text size can be instantly changed in our system by using the Zoom feature to increase or decrease the size of text in a particular window. The user can also change the size of Hebrew, Greek, and Syriac text wherever they appear in a report by specifying a system-wide Zoom level for each of these languages (Tools | Options | Bible Tools | Biblical Languages). This flexibility is one of the key benefits of electronic books, and even enables them to be read by users with limited vision.