Review: Scholar's Library: Gold
By Gerald A. Klingbeil
In an age of multimedia, budding (quality) internet resources and a growing access to huge digital databases (both of texts and images), electronic resources are increasingly important. In the PC market Logos Bible Software (LBS), now in version 3e, has always been a major player, together with the likes of BibleWorks, Gramcord, Bibloi (which used to be Bible Windows up to version 7) or Accordance (limited to the Mac platform). All of these software packages have matured over the last decade and often use the same textual databases. Frequently, their distinctive characteristics concern the user interface and the included databases or other types of resources. As a longtime BibleWorks user (see my reviews of earlier versions in DavarLogos 1 : 99–104; AUSS 35 : 310–12; and Theo 11 : 227–34; cf. also my more general introduction to digital research software in “El escritorio digital: software esencial para el quehacer teológico,” DavarLogos 4 : 65–80) I must confess some hesitation to try a new user interface, but the promise of the unrivalled digital resources available in the Logos format helped me to give LBS 3: Gold a try.
To jump to my conclusions right at the beginning of this review: I was not disappointed, even though I found the learning curve (coming from a different user interface) sometimes challenging. LBS 3: Gold arrived on a DVD and did not include in my particular case any printed documentation, but included another DVD with helpful video tutorials which provided useful introductions (and more specialized examples) to the powerful user interface of LBS 3: Gold.
The list of included books is seemingly endless. I will just mention the highlights distinguishing the software from other programs and focusing specifically on the needs of a graduate level student/faculty in a Seminary or University department. I counted 16 different Greek texts and morphological databases, including also the standard Rahlf’s Septuagint with CCAT tags and two versions of the Nestle-Aland 27th Edition Greek NT (one with Logos tagging and one with the well-respected GramCord tagging). LBS 3: Gold also includes the Greek text of Philo’s complete works, together with morphological tagging, which is a useful tool for students of the intertestamental period and the NT. As a Hebrew Bible scholar I was happy to also see the Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text of the Hebrew Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with WIVU Hebrew Morphology, the Parallel Aligned Hebrew- Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture, edited by E. Tov (and costing US$ 100.00 if bought alone), as well as the more standard Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Westminster 4.2 Morphology, which is also the textual basis of BibleWorks. LBS 3: Gold also includes the Aramaic texts of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon Project, elaborated by a team from Hebrew Union College, several Syriac NT texts (unfortunately no OT texts from the Peshitta Leiden project), and the Clementine Vulgate. Other ancient texts included in the package are the Nag Hammadi texts in English, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in English (by Charles), the three volume Context of Scripture (edited by W. W. Hallo and L. Younger, costing US$ 345.00 if ordered separately), the Amarna Letters (in English, translated by W. Moran), the works of Philo and Josephus in English, as well as the three-volume set of Ancient Egyptian Literature (edited by M. Lichtheim). The package also includes 11 Greek dictionaries and lexica (including the complete Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [by Kittel], the Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint [by Lust], and the two-volume Greek-English Lexicon based on Semantic Domains [by Louw and Nida]). The Hebrew lexica include seven different volumes or sets; even though unfortunately they do not include the (as yet incomplete) Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, or the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. The latter can be bought in addition to the package. LBS 3: Gold also includes 11 original language grammars (including also the new and very helpful Introduction to Aramaic [Greenspoon] from the Society of Biblical Literature, as well as the monumental resource grammar by Gesenius). Other original language tools include vocabulary builders (which are often synced with teaching grammars), as well as syntax analysis software which sets LBS 3: Gold apart from most other Bible Research software packages.
LBS 3: Gold not only excels in the accumulation of helpful original language research tools, but also includes an immense number of commentaries, some of which are useful for the exegetical endeavor. The most helpful (in my humble opinion) include the venerable (but still useful) 10-volume set of the Commentary on the Old Testament (by Keil and Delitzsch), the United Bible Societies Old Testament and New Testament Handbook Series (all in all 41 volumes), the first 12 published volumes of the highly technical New International Greek Testament Commentary (a US$ 660.00 value), and 31 volumes of the New American Commentary (also valued at US$ 660.00). Additionally, the package includes numerous dictionaries, resources for those interested in the geography and archaeology of the Bible lands, applied theology resources, dealing with preaching, illustrations, etc., volumes focusing on ethics, apologetics, leadership, homiletics, illustrations, quotations, small group resources, etc.
As can be easily deduced from the above mentioned (incomplete) list, LBS 3: Gold is a tremendous resource for those working in Biblical Studies and interested in all aspects of biblical and theological research. However, the litmus test of a huge digital collection (as represented by LBS 3: Gold) is not only the number of volumes included, but also how these volumes can be searched and accessed. I am happy to report that both research specialists as well as lay users will benefit from the excellent user interface. One particular advance in the Logos Bible software interface (and which was not always present as I observed in a review of the Anchor Bible Dictionary in an earlier iteration of the interface, cf. Review of Biblical Literature in 2002) is the fact that the new user interface indicates the exact page number that a particular search hit can be found on. This makes the use of LBS 3: Gold as a replacement of paper copies much more likely and represents a clear improvement. The main user interface (which can be customized) welcomes the user with six different categories, including the Bible Study Starter, Devotions, Prayer, My Library, News, and Blogs. Because of the close integration of LBS 3: Gold with the internet (one often needs a live internet connection to make use of all the included resources), some of these categories interact with data not available on the host computer. For example, the Blog category links to a Logos blog which often contains future helpful resources and new volumes appearing in the Logos format. The same is also true for the News category. My Library highlights books that are part of the collection and optionally shows all the unlocked (i.e., purchased) books that are part of the package according to subject, title or author. The Prayer category introduces the user to various volumes contained in LBS 3: Gold that deal with prayer and also provides the option to include a personal prayer list. Further up the tabs, the Devotions category suggests inspirational readings. However, while all these categories are useful the heart of the program is undoubtedly the Bible Study Starter category which subdivides into three main subcategories: Study a Passage, Study a Word (or theological concept), and Study a Topic. There is also the option to include a personal Bible Reading plan, which is useful when keeping track of personal Scripture readings.
All of these categories are powerful search engines which provide hyperlinks to numerous resources. For example, the Study a Passage category searches for relevant data in commentaries, cross references tools, it diagrams the relationship of biblical people (useful especially in narrative texts to keep up with important links between people and people groups), it also includes information about literary types, key words of a particular verse, and compares the translations of different English versions. The last item is quite helpful for both preachers and interpreters since it gives the capacity to choose a base translation and the program will then indicate percentage of variations in the translation.
In the Study a Word category LBS 3: Gold will generate an (English) definition of a particular word (as, for example, the term “prophet”), will provide key links to secondary publications, a graphic diagram of both Greek and Hebrew root words (which can easily be accessed by just clicking on the desired Greek or Hebrew term), and finally includes the concordance data for the key root words.
The Study a Topic category searches primarily reference works (dictionaries, lexica, topical study tools) about a particular item.
More advanced users (esp. those interested in the Hebrew Bible) will enjoy the syntax diagramming based on Andersen and Forbes database, which, together with the Stuttgarter Elektronische Studienbibel version 2 (also using the Logos format), is the only tool that provides some basic linguistic (i.e., syntactic) search functions for the text of the Hebrew Bible. Obviously, syntax databases are not as clear-cut as morphological databases and require significantly more interpretation than other form-based databases. However, the very existence of such a tool provides a very helpful point of departure and the included glossary is a good starting point for this kind of analysis.
As I already indicated in my opening remarks LBS 3: Gold is a powerful research tool with an ever-increasing treasure-chest of texts, having become the de-facto standard of electronic publishing in biblical and theological studies. Currently, Logos is working on including the Anchor Bible commentary set in its offerings, having already completed the digital versions of the Hermeneia and the International Critical Commentary series. Their inclusion of basic linguistic research capabilities is a marked plus over other comparative products which focus more on morphological analysis and semantic interpretation. While the price of US$ 1,379.95 is steep (esp. for those of us living in economically disadvantaged regions of the world) the value in terms of quantity and quality is enormous. Also, Logos normally offers a significant discount during the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature conventions which may be the kairos to invest in these helpful tools.© 2008. Used by permission.