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Woodside News, March 2007, Bible & Science column
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Computer Bibles

BY William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
Bible-Science Columnist, The Woodside News
Troy, Michigan

Can a computer make you a better Christian? Yes and No. Computers tremendously enhance Bible study, so if you apply what you learn, then Yes—otherwise, No.

I’ve used Bible software for 15 years. I take my computer to church. It’s like having a giant desk in the sanctuary with all my Bibles and reference books spread out for use while listening.

What is Bible Software?

Bible software consists of computer programs for studying the Bible. At the most basic level it is an electronic concordance which quickly searches electronic Bibles to find passages.

Many programs do version comparisons plus word and topic studies. Some contain searchable reference works hyperlinked to Bibles and other works. Some include extensive Hebrew and Greek tools for scholarly linguistic research.

The market is fairly evenly divided among laymen, pastors, and scholars. Ease-of-use, scope (devotional to pastoral to scholarly), resource content and integration, features, and price are the five primary drivers for Bible software purchases.

Scores of products are available in varied combinations of these drivers. Over the years I’ve used 16 different Bible software products. Quality and function vary greatly, though any product is better than none. Here's my head-to-head review of the best Windows programs for serious Bible study, BibleWorks7 and Logos 3.

These are much more than computerized concordances for looking up verses. Both are highly sophisticated Bible research tools with a vast range of capabilities—far more than can be surveyed here.

Both programs have user-friendly interfaces with easily accessible Bible reference books. If authors cite verse references, mousing over them automatically displays the Scripture in popup windows. Mousing over Greek or Hebrew words pops-up meanings and parsings.

Both programs save workspace configurations for later re-opening. When you need to work on another project, just save one workspace and start another. Imagine having a dozen large desks in the sanctuary with a different collection of books spread out on each without crowding anyone.

Logos and BibleWorks have excellent tutorials for beginners through veterans. Both provide training videos, extensive online help, and training workshops.

Electronic Libraries

What are the advantages of ebooks? Time, money, space, integration, portability, format.

Electronic reference books save getting up, going to bookshelves, finding books, looking up subjects. Instead of searching books one at a time, digging through indexes, or locating bookmarks, I can quickly search an electronic library of hundreds of books for all references to a specific verse, word, or topic—jumping quickly from place to place.

Rapid searching and accurate information retrieval is a huge advantage of electronic libraries over traditional ones. In e-books, subjects are linked to relevant topics both inside and outside the book, making it easy to traverse entire libraries to locate information. This function is not available in print books. Moreover, e-books generally cost less than print editions.

Entire bookshelves fit on your hard drive. Your library goes wherever you go—church, plane, car, vacation, bedroom, backyard, mission field. It’s far easier and cheaper to ship an elibrary than a print library. A library requiring 100 feet of shelf space (height of a 10-story building) and weighing 1,500 pounds fits easily on a single DVD.

In Logos 3, e-book display can be custom-tailored; printed books cannot. For example, Bibles are viewable in verse-by-verse or paragraph styles, with different fonts and type sizes. Bible Harmonies appear in any version. Turn "Words of Christ in Red" on or off. Notes, highlighting, mark-ups are easy to add or remove.

BibleWorks suggests buying print editions first and only purchasing electronic editions for heavily-used books. Will today’s e-books still be usable in 10 years? Print editions will be.

Yet printed books can be lost, stolen, or damaged. Logos guarantees free replacements and unlimited upgrades for e-books and software. You pay once for new e-books or tools—never twice.

This highlights an important philosophical difference. Logos emphasizes e-books. BibleWorks emphasizes Scripture analysis tools and does not intend to be a theological e-library.

Logos

Logos3...locates, organizes, and presents Biblical information from electronic resources. Students of Scripture from beginners to experienced academic researchers use Logos.

Logos offers 7 packages ranging from $150 (Christian Home Library—CHL) to $1380 (Scholar’s Library: Gold—SLG). Packages differ only in resources; all have the same software engine. CHL contains 68 Bibles and reference books worth nearly $1,200. SLG contains 700+ titles worth over $11,700. All libraries contain multiple Bible versions, commentaries, dictionaries, maps, Hebrew and Greek tools. The various libraries are designed for different uses—devotional study, teaching preparation, or scholarly original-language research. Available for additional purchase are 7,000+ electronic reference books from over 100 publishers.

All 7 libraries ought to include a modern 4-volume Bible encyclopedia. However, only the most expensive SLG package contains one. This is a serious deficiency for any theological library.

Logos3 is easy to begin using. Type a reference and Logos opens to the Bible passage, linking all pertinent resources: commentaries, Bible dictionaries, parallel passages, cross references, maps, music. Just a mouse-click away is much more information including version comparisons and indepth Hebrew/Greek analysis. Type a word or topic and get a full list of relevant resources. Children can use Logos. Yet the product is sophisticated enough to delight erudite scholars.

Notes can be added to any verse; they then appear in all Bible versions and commentaries. Notes added to words or topics likewise appear in all similar resources. It’s easy to add, modify, delete, or hide notes. Commentaries can be synchronized with Bibles, so that as you move around in either, the other moves to that place too. You can add custom toolbars.

Bible version comparisons are easy! Color coding shows which words were added and which left out compared to a base version—no more looking back and forth between multiple Bibles.

BibleWorks

BibleWorks7...focuses on analyzing Scripture in Hebrew and Greek. It also turbocharges English Bible study.

BibleWorks offers a single package for $350, featuring 112 Bible versions in 30 languages (including 37 English Bibles and 26 modern foreign language Bibles), 14 original language texts with 18 morphology databases, 12 Greek and 5 Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries, and 30 reference works (dictionaries, commentaries, grammars, maps, timelines). BibleWorks sells 20 add-on reference works.

For in-depth original language study, BibleWorks is the most cost-effective package. Logos packages with comparable functionality cost more.

BibleWorks uses Search, Browse, and Analysis windows arranged left to right corresponding to natural work flow. The always-open Search window is a convenience not present in Logos. The Browse window displays Bible texts and version comparisons. As you mouse over words in the Browse window, the Analysis window shows notes, cross-references, Greek/Hebrew word meanings, and parsings. It provides access to pertinent reference books.

BibleWorks button icons are not intuitively obvious, but mouse-over tips help.

BibleWorks includes a full-featured text editor that supports right-to-left Hebrew, Greek, and hypertext links. The Logos editor is more rudimentary, but a fancy editor is not essential in Bible software.

Users can create and distribute ebooks which fully integrate with BibleWorks search and analysis tools. Bible teachers can create commentaries, devotionals, and reference works which function just as BW’s own reference books do. Translators and missionaries can distribute new translations. Anyone can convert public domain texts into BW e-books.

The analogous tool for Logos costs $250 and requires yearly $25 license renewal fees. This is a big negative for those who want to create and distribute their own commentaries, translations, or study notes. Logos policy is short-sighted. It would be to their benefit to encourage users to develop and distribute materials in the Logos format. Their hefty license fees discourage this.

Morphology & Syntax

Bible study mines the meaning intended by the original authors. Scripture was originally written primarily in Hebrew and Greek. Ideally everyone would know Hebrew and Greek. Till that day comes we need help. Translations express the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words. Morphology and syntax bring deeper understanding.

Word studies involve morphology. Morphology entails parts-of-speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) and word form (mood, tense, voice, person, number, gender, case). Both Logos and BibleWorks include morphology.

Serious Bible students will be elated to learn that Logos3 also includes syntactically tagged Bibles—the first Bible software to do so. Syntax means the way words relate to each other.

Syntax searches are searches for word relationships—pivotal at Woodside where “relationships are everything.” For example, syntax searches discriminate between actions done to or by a subject. Using an interlinear Bible, Logos makes syntax searches easy even for English Bible studies.

The study of syntax can clarify Hebrew and Greek grammatical principles and possibly reveal new ones. For example, using BibleWorks, recent morphological studies of verb tenses have shown that the Genesis Creation and Flood accounts are definitely narrative and not poetic, debunking claims of liberal interpreters. Extending this work with syntax studies could even more clearly demonstrate the historical character of Scripture.

Logos provides reverse interlinear Bibles featuring the Hebrew and Greek text in English word order. This helps English-only readers access Logos’ wealth of original language resources. BW does not include interlinear Bibles.

Searches

Both products have powerful search capabilities. Practically any imaginable search can be done, even across multiple versions and languages. For example, you could find all verses containing certain Hebrew words with specified Greek translations in the Septuagint and particular English translations in the NASB.

For search queries, BibleWorks uses non-intuitive, non-standard command line syntax which requires time to learn. Logos uses menus to specify searches without having to learn search commands.

However, BibleWorks searches are about ten times faster than Logos. A search for all Hebrew verbs in Proverbs took 0.6 seconds in BW. Logos took 9 seconds. A search for all imperative, active voice, present tense verbs in Paul’s epistles took 0.55 sec in BW. Logos took 4 seconds. This becomes significant when a complex search takes 2 minutes for BibleWorks versus 20 minutes for Logos.

Both products have powerful graphical search engines. Complex searches can be formulated much more easily graphically than by command line queries. Logos3 and BibleWorks7 are superb products which will delight any user. I enthusiastically recommend both. 

Recommendations & Ratings

You cannot go wrong with either BibleWorks7 or Logos3. Here are my bottom-line evaluations of 5 key drivers.

  • EASE-OF-USE: Neither is difficult, but Logos seems more intuitive and simpler for beginners.
  • SCOPE: Both cover the layman-to-pastor-to-scholar range well. For laymen, Logos is better. If you only need a concordance, use www.biblegateway. com or freeware Bible programs.
  • RESOURCES: Each has important scholarly references unique to it. Far more are available in Logos, and they are better integrated. If you want a strong integrated electronic theological library, get the biggest Logos library you can afford. If you prefer paper books, choose BibleWorks. If you need many modern foreign language Bibles, get BibleWorks which includes 26. Logos sells 16, most for $15-$20 each. Both have good maps, although I prefer BW maps.
  • FEATURES: Both are packed with outstanding features. Most of what can be done in one, can be done in the other, except only Logos has syntax tags. Only BibleWorks has user generation of e-books in the base product. BibleWorks runs faster. In comparison Logos seemed sluggish, not snappy.
  • PRICE: For scholarly Hebrew/Greek tools and for creating and distributing Bible translations or commentaries, BibleWorks is cheaper. If these functions are not needed, Logos has cheaper packages.

Here are my ratings of 7 key factors on a scale of 1 (poor) to 10 (outstanding).

Logos 3 BibleWorks7
Ease-of-use 8 6
Scope (lay to scholar) 9 8
Resource Content & Integration 9 6
Features   9 9
Price  6 6
Speed  5 8
Help files & Training aids  10 10
Total  56 53
Average Rating 8.0 7.6

Dr. Pelletier may be contacted by email at BillPelletier@TheWoodsideNews.com

© 2007 by Dr. William T. Pelletier. Used by permission.