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The original review can be viewed on the author's blog.

Review of Scholar’s Library (Logos Bible Software)

By James Anderson

Scholar's LibraryInstalling a new software package on your computer is rarely an interesting or pleasurable experience. The longer it takes, the more irritating it becomes. Strangely, however, I found that installing the Scholar’s Library from Logos Bible Software flouted this principle. Even though it takes a good while to install, I didn’t resent the wait, because the installation process itself makes clear just why it takes the time it does. As all of the electronic books in the library are copied from the DVD to your hard drive, thumbnail images of their covers are displayed on the screen like playing cards dealt face-up on a table. And believe me, there are a lot of cards to be dealt!

The particular Logos collection I installed contains more than 330 books, which according to the publisher would be worth over $6,100 in print editions. (The advertised retail price of the Logos collection is but a tenth of that—and if you keep reading, you’ll discover a way to get it for even less.) The collection includes 20 English translations of the Bible, including the New International Version (NIV), the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). In addition to the standard Hebrew (BHS) and Greek (NA27) critical texts, complete with morphology tags, the library offers several interlinear versions, including the wonderful ESV Reverse Interlinear OT and NT. (At the time of writing, only the NT volume is available in print, whereas both are available in Logos format.) It also includes many other original language tools, including alternative texts and morphologies, numerous lexicons, grammars, glossaries, and sentence analyses.

For those who want to engage with the original biblical languages, at any level of competence, these resources are an absolute feast. To have these multifarious texts and reference works in print would be great; to have them accessible at two clicks of a mouse button, with all the portability of a laptop computer, is frankly mind-blowing. (Can you even imagine what Calvin would have made of it?)

The usefulness of the Scholar’s Library extends well beyond original-language study. The collection also includes dozens upon dozens of Bible commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, word studies, maps, and theology references. Pastors will also be thrilled to find many other resources and guides for sermon preparation, pastoral ministry, and leadership training. It would be tedious to go into further detail as to the precise contents of the library (and redundant given that a full list is provided on the Logos website). All I will add is that I was delighted to discover the collection includes John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Beveridge translation), Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, The Works of Josephus (Whiston translation), and four of Alfred Edersheim’s classic works. (The curious should go here for a side-by-side comparison of the standard version of Scholar’s Library with other Logos collections.)

Of course, content isn’t the be-all and end-all. The Scholar’s Library may have content by the truck-load, but what about the interface? Is it easy enough to navigate and to put all that content to good use without suffering “computer rage” in the process? Yes, it certainly is. The Libronix interface, while clearly powerful when used to its full potential, is pleasingly uncluttered and relatively straightforward to use. It took me some time to find my way around, but the learning curve was flattened somewhat with the help of the video tutorials provided along with the software. (I’ve since discovered that dozens of additional video tutorials are available online.)

Now, all this is wonderful; but the Logos Bible Software System has more tricks up its sleeve. To appreciate its power, imagine that you want to conduct an in-depth study of a passage of Scripture, perhaps as the groundwork for a sermon or an exegetical paper. Luckily, you have a personal assistant in your office to help you with the process. You tell him which passage you want to study, and he immediately searches through all of the books in your office library — lexicons, grammars, commentaries, dictionaries, systematic theologies, sermon illustration collections, devotionals, etc. — and pulls down from the shelves every volume that contains any reference at all to the passage in question. He then lays them all out on your desk, with sticky notes attached to every relevant page in each volume for easy access. Next he locates your favourite Bible translations, opens each one at the right place, and lays them out in parallel alongside the original-language text. To save you time, he annotates each word in the Hebrew or Greek text with its lexical definition and grammatical form. Not satisfied with his work thus far, he then proceeds to draw you some helpful diagrams: a family tree for each person mentioned in the passage; a chart showing how much your chosen translations differ from one another (and at what points); a map of the area where the events in the passage took place; and a colourful graph showing at a glance how frequently the key words in the passage appear in the other books in the Bible. Finally, try to imagine that he does all this for you in a matter of seconds — and without leaving a huge pile of books on your desk that you’ll have to re-shelve at the end of the day.

Sound appealing? Well, the Logos Bible Software System is that personal assistant — and more besides. It’s considerably cheaper, faster, and slicker than any human you might hire to the same job. In fact, if the Logos developers could just figure out a way for it to bring you a cup of coffee and a doughnut, it would be practically perfect.

For the sake of balance, I should mention some minor gripes. One is that it took me a while to figure out how to search within one individual book. (The answer, which I couldn’t find in the Libronix help documentation, is that you need to open the book before selecting ‘Search’; the book is then available in the drop-down menu. Alternatively, right-click on the book in the ‘My Library’ window and select ‘Search This Resource’.) Another is that when a Hebrew or Greek text is included in the ‘Parallel Versions’ window, the morphology tags aren’t displayed when the mouse point hovers over a word (as they are when viewing the text in a window on its own). A third grumble is that Libronix doesn’t easily let you print out an entire book chapter or journal article in one go, although this limitation is probably due to the contracts Logos has negotiated with the publishers of the print versions of the electronic books, so I guess it’s a price worth paying.

© 2009. Used by permission.