Journal of Religious & Theological Information, Vol 6 (No. 3/4), 2004, pp141-46
Logos Bible Software Series X - Scholar's Library (QB). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2004, $599.95, CDROM or DVD.
Fifteen years ago, the very existence of computerized Bibles was enough to satisfy the cutting-edge Christian. This writer can remember the wonder of performing keyword searches through the Old and New Testaments and connecting the underlying Greek and Hebrew words using Strong’s numbers using a DOS-based Bible program. Since that time, Bible software programs have grown and evolved into robust theological research systems which are used for academic research, original language translation, sermon preparation, or just personal devotions. The latest products to integrate contemporary technology with ancient texts are the Logos Bible Software Series X libraries, six products which range from the $149.95 Christian Home Library for basic personal use to the $999.95 Scholar’s Library Silver Edition for theologians and academics. The underlying program is the same regardless of library selection; the primary difference is the number and selection of electronic books included with the product bundle. This review covers the Scholar’s Library (QB) version released in March 2004 by Logos Research Systems.
Logos Series X programs represent a philosophical shift from early Bible software programs. Originally, computerized Bibles were built around the Bible text itself with additional resources such as cross-referencing, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and commentaries interconnected with the Scriptural text. In many respects, such programs were the electronic equivalent of a quality study Bible—a number of resources integrated with the Biblical text to support effective exegetical study. With Logos Series X, the metaphor changes from a study Bible to a library. In fact, the line of Logos Series X Bible collections reflect this shift, as each product is built upon the foundation of the Libronix Digital Library System and then includes various Bibles, commentaries, language resources, and other texts comprising a collection of reference works. Accordingly, comparing the different Logos Bible packages is akin to comparing the bookshelves of different pastors—each has a slightly different collection of Christian resources which best serve their spiritual needs.
The Scholar’s Library contains every resource from the four lower collections (Christian Home Library, Bible Study Library, Pastor’s Library, Original Languages Library) and is generally designed to be the standard high-end academic collection, only exceeded by the new Scholar’s Library Silver Edition. The Scholar’s Library contains more than 250 Bibles and Bible reference texts which Logos claims would cost over $5700 if purchased in their print editions. Among these resources are 14 complete English Bible translations including the New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version, The Message, plus the Apocrypha and Wuest’s Expanded New Testament. Original language resources include eight Greek texts including Nestle-Aland with McRevnolds English Interlinear and GRAMCORD™ Greek New Testament Alpha Morphological Database, Westcott-Hort, Scrivener’s Textus Receptus, Stephen’s Textus Receptus, the Byzantine Majority Textform (each with morphology), the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia with Groves-Wheeler Westminster 4.0 Hebrew morphology, seven Greek lexicons, five Hebrew/Aramaic lexicons, and five Greek and Hebrew grammars. The Silver Edition adds Syriac and Latin texts, including the Vulgate, and additional lexicons and grammars. Scholar’s Library contains multiple commentaries including the Bible Knowledge Commentary, Bible Exposition Commentary, IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Matthew Henry’s commentary, Teacher’s Commentary, Tvndale Concise Bible Commentary, and Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” Series. The Silver Edition adds some multi-volume commentaries including Keil & Delitzsch 10-volume Old Testament commentary, the 31-volume New American Commentary, the 24-volume Old Testament Daily Study Series, and the 17-volume Barclay’s Daily Study Series: New Testament. Additional Bible study resources include two topical Bibles, nine Bible outline books, six Bible dictionaries, four word study texts, ten history books—including those by Philo, Josephus, and Edersheim, and a Bible map set. Furthermore, the Scholar’s Library includes multiple books on theology, preaching, hermeneutics, leadership, prayer, evangelism, church life, worship, personal and corporate growth, and Christian living. It even includes seven devotionals including My Utmost for His Highest and Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.
The Scholar’s Library ships on seven CDs or one DVD. As with many contemporary Windows programs, installation from multiple CDs can be cumbersome and so the DVD version is recommended. The product comes with minimal print documentation, choosing instead to include a series of help manuals as electronic books alongside the other library resources, but the installation is automated and begins once the CD/DVD is placed in the drive. Other than some minor glitches associated with uninstalling an older version of Logos, installation was straightforward but time-consuming. For optimal use, each book should be copied from the CD/DVD to the hard drive. This one-time step takes awhile but increases the speed of day-to-day use. In addition, Logos uses an electronic licensing system to determine which books are unlocked and available for your library. This requires activating materials online or via a toll-free telephone number.
Despite the extensive collection of books included in Scholar’s Library, the Logos Series X interface is surprisingly simple. In addition to the usual placement of Windows-style menus and toolbars, the left side of the screen contains a customizable window which can include a greeting, current news, daily Bible reading (from the translation of your choosing), devotional, prayer list, and highlights from your electronic library. The right-hand side of the screen is blank since this is where your books will open, each in their own window. Beginning your Bible study is as simple as typing a passage into the Passage Study box on the left-hand side of the screen. Immediately, the Scriptural passage in your preferred translation opens in a window on the right-hand side of the screen, while the left side window begins listing the resources in your library which relate to the passage at-hand. Any commentary, cross-reference, topical study, hymn, or other resource which relates to your selected verse is immediately available and linked for review. Similarly, you can request an exegetical guide for your verse which lists each word in the original language along with the root word, definition, morphology, and links to each relevant language resource such as lexicons or dictionaries. This is in addition to the extensive searching capacities which include searching by verse, topic, keyword, phrases, Boolean expressions, proximity, and natural language searches. You can also vary the scope of your search from individual texts, texts currently open, predefined collections of texts, your entire library, or even any Logos library resource, regardless of whether you actually own the license.
The Series X interface feels familiar to active users of the World Wide Web, as the resources are essentially connected via hypertext links. As with surfing the Web, it can get overwhelming when too many windows are opened for review; this reviewer often wished for a bigger monitor to better be able to spread out the texts. In addition to the extensive interconnection of resources, Logos has given attention to little details to make the navigation easier. For example, whenever you open a new book, either by selecting it manually or following a link, a small starburst graphic appears briefly at the beginning of the passage. While this may sound like a mere flourish, it’s remarkably helpful to direct your eye to the newly opened passage and make it easier to begin reading. The Series X software also makes extensive use of mouseover pop-ups, meaning that when you move the pointer over selected words, a window pops-up containing additional information and then disappears when you remove the mouse pointer. In-text Biblical references, textual footnotes, abbreviations, linked lexicon entries, and cross-references are examples of the material which can be viewed using the pop-ups, rather than having to open a dedicated window just for a quick glance at a reference. Right-clicking on a word opens up a context-sensitive menu which provides options for copying, searching, adding notes, or looking up lexical information (where available). There’s even a Home button on the toolbar to bring the main navigation window back to the front-left of the screen.
Scholar’s Library QB adds a number of new language resources which significantly improve the product’s use for original language work, such as sentence diagramming, morphological filter, verb and version rivers, Bible clusters report, and a graphical query editor. The sentence diagramming feature enables you to diagram biblical sentences in Hebrew, Greek, or English. Because you have to run the sentence diagramming function from the menu rather than from within a Bible text, this feature is less integrated than some others but the tool itself is powerful and intuitive. Each word is treated as an object, as are lines, angles, and other diagramming graphics, and each object can be arranged and placed anywhere on the diagramming screen. The morphological visual filter enables you to assign different color schemes to different word constructs and have the text displayed accordingly. The verb and version river tools are big-picture resources which display a river-like graphic to highlight trends within the text. For example, the verb river tool provides a colorful river graphic displaying the occurrences of various verbal characteristics (e.g., tense, voice, mood, person, number), which is particularly helpful to highlight shifts such as when the writer changes from indicative to imperative statements. Similarly, the Bible version river tool uses the same graphical imagery to track word choice differences between various Bible translations word-by-word over the course of a passage. Alternatively, total relative variance between versions for a given passage can be viewed using the Bible clusters report which plots differences on an X-Y axis. The graphical query editor is a powerful tool which enables you to perform complex morphological searches using a graphical (rather than Boolean textual) interface. Such tools may be useful to pastors and students, but will likely prove invaluable to academics, theologians, and textual scholars.
The underlying library model is particularly relevant to the readers of this journal. Like all of the Logos Bible products, Scholar’s Library is built upon the Libronix Digital Library System which serves as the framework for the electronic books. At any time you can examine your library by author, title, or subject and browse or search through your book collection. Although the transition to the electronic library has been more readily accepted by academics searching through electronic journal collections than the average reader curling up with e-books, the Libronix system represents a significant improvement over both models. Unlike most electronic library databases which are limited to browsing and keyword searches, the Libronix system enables the publisher to more thoroughly interconnect resources such that the links are embedded within the text rather than the reader having to rely on brute force searches. Furthermore, the integrated note-taking features enable you to highlight and annotate any text within your library, write and organize detailed notes, save them for later review, and even share your notes with others. The standard Ctrl-F “find” feature allows you to find a word or simple phrase in your notes, which makes them far more accessible than traditional notebooks.
In general, the Libronix Digital Library System as evidenced by the Scholar’s Library is a cut above most other digital library options available today. Since over 100 publishers have collaborated with Logos to produce almost 4000 Libronix-compatible resources (some in other Logos Library collections, most available for individual purchase or bundled in publisher-specific collections), it appears that the Christian publishing market agrees. While different people may have different wishes for texts which they believe should be included in a bundle like Scholar’s Library, the most notable omission lies within the Libronix system itself and not the Logos Library contents. The mainstreaming of the Internet has opened up low-cost publishing opportunities for unprecedented numbers. In addition to publishing personal Web pages, individuals can create and share content using Microsoft Word, Adobe’s Portable Document Format, blogs, syndication, e-books, and even print-on-demand publishing. Unfortunately, the proprietary nature of the Libronix publishing standard and the lack of personal publishing tools means that interested users are not able to create and share their own Libronix-compatible content. This is a significant limitation in light of the myriad of publishing opportunities otherwise available online. The potential for individual and church-based content development and sharing, and even the emergence of micropublishing businesses around the Libronix system, would appear to be immense particularly in the Christian culture. It appears that Logos is currently gauging interest in a Personal Book Builder product which would permit users to create Libronix-compatible books based on XML/HTML source. This reviewer has some concerns about the proposed subscription model but is encouraged that such a project is on the drawing board. [Personal book publishing for Libronix is now possible using the Personal Book Builder -- Logos]
Logos Bible Software Series X - Scholar’s Library (QB) is an excellent product and is well worth the purchase price, as are the other five collections. The minimum system requirements are a 350MHz Pentium 11(700MHz Pentium III recommended), 64MB RAM (128MB recommended), Microsoft Windows 98 or later, a CD or DVD drive, and 800x600 display (1024x768 recommended). As with most Windows-compatible programs, the more powerful your system is, the better this product will run.
Jason D. Baker
Associate Professor of Education
© 2005 by Journal of Religious and Theological Information. Used by permission.