The Master's Seminary Journal 18:2 (Fall 2007): 258-61
Logos Bible Software 3. Libronix Digital Library System. 2000-2006. (Various levels of pricing).
Reviewed by William Varner, Professor of Biblical Studies, The Master's College.
The following review of Logos Bible Software 3, the latest version of the most widely used computer Bible program, expresses the view of this reviewer and is not an official viewpoint of The Master's Seminary.
The reviewer remembers well the day that a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk arrived with the beta version of the very first Bible program designed for the Windows operating system. He has observed over nearly twenty years as the Logos program has developed into what it is today—the largest available digital library of biblical literature in the world. In its early days, Logos did not attempt to keep up with some of its more scholarly competitors, but sought to include various biblical works and sets and entire libraries that could serve the study needs of as wide an audience as possible. They succeeded in doing that and continue to publish an enormous library of digitized works for all levels of scholarly abilities.
However, creative people at Logos heard and responded to the requests of those interested in more serious original-language-based, scholarly works. They hired appropriate people and improved and expanded their scholarly resources with each upgrade to their Libronix system. Now Logos 3 reflects their commitment to serve both the scholarly community as well as the broader Christian community. With this version, Logos in some ways has positioned itself as the leader in computer Bible programs. Some programs may still be their equal in scholarly texts, but Logos 3 undoubtedly is the leader in all-round programs that include features that can serve every level of those engaged in biblical studies.
I have used Logos 3—Scholars Library: Gold for nearly ten months in preparation for classes, in preparing sermons, in personal study, and also in focused research for an academic commentary on James. Having migrated years ago to another Bible program, I wondered if Logos could measure up on the scholarly level. I am pleased to conclude that in this version it has not only measured up to the competition, but has surpassed it in many ways.
For those already familiar with the Windows interface of Logos, the friendly drop down menus are still there, with all the many standard works available in the program under the "My Library" tab. Also, the sizable windows holding the various Bible versions and texts can still be viewed and compared either horizontally, vertically (my favorite), cascading, or arranged according to one's preference.
Why do people use computer Bible programs? Some use them to compare different versions of a passage, perhaps with a commentary alongside. Logos still fulfills that function well, with dozens of English Bible versions included as well as a growing number of commentaries and study Bible notes. I was very pleased that the Gold version includes the entire New International Greek Testament Commentary—enough to make the upgrade to the Gold version more than worth the additional cost. Some use the versions to do simple word searches as one would do in a Cruden's, Young's, or Strong's concordance. Logos does that type of search very well. What Logos adds to English Bible searches is the ability to search all of its many other resources for places where that word is also discussed. For example, if you search for the word redemption, Logos will not only find all the times it appears in a Bible version, but will direct you to the entry for redemption in the New Bible Dictionary and in many other study resources. This is a very helpful and timesaving function, especially when doing a topical study. That type of search through all the available resources in a program is, to my knowledge, a function unique with Logos. The sheer number of resources available in Logos, compared to some other Bible programs, makes it an excellent choice for those who desire those types of extensive researches.
Such are functions that can be performed with paper books also, but Logos helps do them with blazing speed and directs to resources about which one may be unaware. It also provides so many of the resources that laymen, and even many pastors, do not always have on hand. One imagines a Saturday evening in a pastor's home, a distance from his study at the church, when he needs to confer with some resource that he does not have at home. With that and many other resources avaliable at the click of a mouse, no problem! Furthermore, the more complex the search becomes, the more likely one is not to perform that search in books because of time constraints. Logos saves time, not to encourage laziness, but so that time can be used in reflecting on the text rather than in data gathering.
For those who use the biblical languages, computer Bible programs have been a special boon. They can have the Masoretic Hebrew text, the Septuagint Greek translation, and an English Bible text all in parallel columns, with each linked and scrolling through the passage simultaneously. Searches can be done on both the form of the original word in the text and also on its lemma or lexical form. All original language texts are morphologically tagged, so a window with the parsing of each word opens with the mouse. Though we who teach the biblical languages are not excited about beginning students using such helps as crutches, busy pastors, whose language abilities are sometimes rusty, can again use those languages in sermon preparation. The frustration of figuring out the form of an irregular verb, for example, can be relieved by looking up that verb in a lexicon and discovering its various usages in the immediate context and also in its wider usage. Inclusion of the valuable Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Balz-Schneider) is another advantage of the Gold Version.
Such lexical and morphological searches have been available in Bible programs for years. When one wants to go beyond that function and desires to find a certain form of the Greek word and not just its lemma (for example, all third person singular forms of λέγω), computer Bible programs start to show their value. That type of search can be done very easily and results in more accurate observations by the exegete. Again, this could be done with a good hard-back Greek concordance, but who will take the time to look up every third person singular form in the Moulton and Geden Concordance entry for λέγω?
Other programs can do this as well, so this discussion could apply to them. What does Logos offer uniquely in its new versions for more complex Greek and Hebrew searches? Research in this area of language study has been extensive in recent years. For example, OpenText.org has prepared an extensive syntactical analysis of the entire NT that is available Online. The various functions of words and phrases in the clause and sentence are identified and are fully searchable. Knowledgeable exegetes recognize that the value of word-based study for interpretation is enhanced when the words are studied, not in isolation, but as the basic components of larger phrases, clauses, and sentences. In addition to having the entire OpenText database, Logos 3 now includes another valuable database—the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament—which draws more on traditonal terminology used in Greek grammars to analyze NT syntax. The results of these syntactical analyses are presented in an attractive graphical format that will prove to be immensely helpful to the student/professor/pastor who wants to study more than just the individual words of their Greek NT.
In any case, one should already be doing this type of study as part of an analysis of any passage. Professors have taught exegesis students for years that they cannot stop at the word level, but must move on to view all the passage being studied at the clause, sentence, and paragraph levels. Some teachers call this a sentence flow analysis. Now searches can be done for entire syntactical constructions-not just for morphological forms. Furthermore, for those who prefer the traditional line diagramming approach to a passage, Logos provides that as well.
Finding something substantial to criticize in Logos 3 is hard. Perhaps its syntactical search engine could be more intuitive, but Logos has anticipated a learning curve and provided a step by step video instruction to help those at any level of language and computer ability. I also found a shortcut for doing a complex linguistic search apart from the command driven or the graphical search engine. Just placing the cursor on a Greek or Hebrew word, right clicking, choosing Bible Study, in a few seconds yields more information on that single word than one ever dreamed existed! Here the lexical and grammatical databases yield their best results by organizing the resulting information into simple categories.
My long experience in observing closely the development of nearly all the computer Bible programs and all their upgrades, as described above, permits me to respond to my students who constantly ask what program(s) I recommend. Some programs I recommend for those who want help only in scholarly language study. Some also are very versatile for those using the Mac environment. But, in this reviewer's opinion, if one is looking for the best all-round computer Bible program for both general and scholarly help, the new version of Logos is the one for an individual, and also for those in his church. Furthermore, as evidence of their responsiveness to user requests, Logos is also developing a version for the Mac operating system. They have excellent pricing plans for the various levels of programs they offer also. I recommend at least the Scholars Library as a starter for serious study. Whatever level one chooses, looking at such a purchase as an investment for the future is wisest—and also one that can be enlarged since Logos will continue adding valuable resources in the years ahead.