Tag Archives: research

Times have changed, and so have the tools available for Bible study

Have you ever had to use a concordance to find that Bible verse you wanted to reference? Then, you looked for it but couldn’t find it because your reconstruction of the verse as you recalled it didn’t match the word order or the ‘words’ themselves in the concordance index? Unless you are like my wife who has a nearly photographic memory (she can tell you what I wore at Christmas time in 2002), the answer is yes. Finding your way around the Bible at times can be difficult, and finding a certain verse can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. Enter electronic Bibles and Bible study software.

In today’s era of technological advancement, Bible study and word or verse searching can be done at lightning fast speed. Even if you enter words out of the correct order or you can’t even remember more than one, it’s likely you’ll still find what you are looking for when using software. Although I still read and reference paper-based books, and have no intentions of giving up printed Bibles, I no longer own a printed concordance. In fact, my primary reference tools are digital and the ones I use daily reside right on my computer in my favorite Bible software, Accordance. Accordance is made for the Mac, but it can be run on a Windows platform with a free emulator. And on my iPod touch, I use Bible Reader, by Olivetree, available in several mobile platforms such as Palm Pilot, Blackberry and others. With these applications, I always find what I need and I find it fast.

I have heard some people say that using a computer to study the Bible is cheating. But that is hardly true. If doing things the old-fashioned way means being more spiritual, let’s all go back to clay or stone tablets. Or how about unrolling a scroll at church service to follow along during the message. Or…well, I think you get the point. Perhaps the naysayers are under the impression that you enter a verse and the computer does all the work for you, even generates a sermon. The truth is, Bible study on the computer does nothing more than accelerate the process you would normally employ to study with print books. You still need to think, follow a line of thought, research, read and, we hope, hear from the Lord.  The machine simply makes your tools so accessible that flipping through hundreds of pages for research is no longer necessary. In one word, convenience.

Bible study software for me has not replaced the joy and intimacy of holding and writing in my print Bible, and it never will. I also still love to sit back with a good book in hand. And let’s face it, for extended reading the backlit screen of any electronic reader (other than say, the Kindle or similar device) is rather unfriendly to the eyes. But for shorter sprints of reading and reference work, computer-based Bible study is the way to go. Anyone who owns a computer and enjoys digging into the Scriptures wont regret the digital approach, it can’t be beat

From the new believer to the seasoned saint, there is a world of reference works available at your finger tips. Potentially, you could do such things as simultaneously compare multiple translations of the Bible (NIV, KJV, NASB etc.), look up a word’s definition in English, or consult the biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic). You could reference commentary or get statistical information, such as how many times the word ‘love’ is used in 1, 2 and 3 John. By the way, the answer to that is 42 times. See the screen shot below from my word search in Accordance that took all of about 0.2 seconds. The hits are highlighted in bold red. Click on it to enlarge.

In print, you would have to physically read all three books of 1, 2 and 3 John, and take note of each occurrence. With software, it takes less than a second. If you have maps, you can find any location named in the entire Bible, or even read a dictionary’s article on it. The screen shot here is from my Accordance atlas in which I located Ephesus instantly by just selecting the word in Acts 18:19 and then clicking on the atlas icon. Again, locating this in paper format would require at least a couple of minutes, if not more. Click the image to enlarge it.

The possibilities are endless. Personally, I love to study the Bible and absolutely am thrilled to be able to do it in the way that software allows me to. Any tool that helps you to cover more ground – especially such precious grounds as Scripture – more thoroughly, should be employed.

For ultra portability, I use Bible Reader by Olivetree. It offers its reader for free, along with a few Bible translations and other resources. But they also sell an extensive selection of basic to even the most advanced form of Bible study tools. Having Bible Reader on my iPod is indispensable while away from my Mac and can’t access Accordance. I can do simple to complex word searches, reference commentary, view maps and practice reading the original Greek. Twenty years ago we would have had to carry around a bunch of books. Well, times have changed, and so has the form of tools for Bible study. Whether you go the digital route or not, I just hope you’ll study the Bible. But if you are reading this post it’s likely you own a personal computer of some kind, so why not give the electronic way a try? Imagine, the world of the Bible at your fingertips…what more could you ask for? To see more about approaching Bible study, see “Pad, Pen and Prayer; Slowing Down for Bible Study.