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FSBLogos is giving away the NIV Translation with the Faithlife Study Bible until April 8. The Faithlife Study Bible is an online Study Bible with a running commentary and Bible Dictionary, similar to in-print study Bibles such as the ESV Study Bible.  The app is available for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.  I thought that there was a desktop computer app as well, but it is not on this promotional page. I reviewed the Faithlife Study Bible app last June.

The App features include:

  • 400 photos, videos, infographics, and maps
  • Free built-in Bible dictionary
  • Custom highlights and 
  • note-taking
  • Articles from trusted Bible scholars, preachers, and leaders

Faithlife Screen ShotI have used the Logos app on my iPad since it was released and find it to be the best all-around tool for Bible Reading and study of the original languages.  I think that reading books in my Logos Library is a better experience that with the Kindle app, and the fact that Logos includes real page numbers makes the Logos App my first choice for iPad readers.  The Logos app has greatly improved the note-taking feature and syncs with notes made on your desktop version of Logos.

The Faithlife Study Bible is a slimmed down version of Logos which defaults to a dual-pane reader. the Bible is on top, running commentary along the bottom.  The size of the windows is easy to adjust.  In the commentary, links to the Bible Dictionary appear.  The Lexham Bible Dictionary is quite impressive, often competitive with the Anchor Bible Dictionary in quality and depth.  Within the Dictionary there are links to other articles and all scripture is linked to the Bible.  Touch the scripture link and a small, floating window will appear with just the verse and an option to go directly to the context in the Bible pane.  This Dictionary alone is worth using the Faithlife Study Bible!

Touching the illustrations in the commentaries opens a image viewer.  The illustrations are usually “infographic” style.  While they are not as nice as the illustrations in the ESVSB, they are good enough to illustrate the dictionary article.  On the iPad you can zoom in on the picture by pinching (the standard iPad gestures).

Since this is a Free App, there is little downside to the Faithlife Study Bible.  The Free NIV promotion goes away on April 8, but Study Bible itself works with other (free) translations.  Of course, Logos would be glad to sell you hundreds of other useful books for their study system, but the Faithlife system is a great way to get started.  If you are interested in Biblical Languages, you will need to get the full Logos App, but for most people the Faithlife Study Bible will be an excellent companion to reading the Bible.

A new update to Accordance for iOS came out this week.  Some of the updates are cosmetic, the reading experience is improved with a new theme, using “subtle earth tones, new icons and buttons.”  A nine minute video was posted to YouTube highlighting the new features. The video indicates that more people use the iOS version than the desktop version.

Accordance iOSAccordance for iOS now allows you to sync notes, highlights, and User Tools using Dropbox.  This allows you to use sync these items between platforms (desktop version and iOS version, both iPad and iPhone, etc.)  By using Dropbox you can sync your notes without owning the desktop version.  I really like the split screen mode, it works much better than the Logos iOS app.  There is a button with auto-splits the screen.  Another handy button is the “back” arrow, something that was missing in the earlier version. I still prefer to change pages with a right-left swipe, like a book and available in most readers (Kindle, Logos, Vyrso, Google Books, etc.)

The Free version has an ESVi Bible (for iOS), tagged with Strong’s numbers.  Highlight an English word and the  Hebrew or Greek word will appear in a floating window.  You can “amplify” the word, which opens any Bible dictionary tools you have.  The free version opens Easton’s Bible Dictionary.  Selecting a word also allows you to highlight a text with a variety of colors or do a basic search for the word throughout the Bible.  The free version also includes demos of  Hebrew and Greek Bibles.  Highlighting a Greek word opens a floating window with parsing information and lexical form, with a gloss from Mounce’s Greek Dictionary.  The Hebrew works similarly, although it did not identify all the parts of a word (prefixed prepositions, definite articles, etc.)  Only the root is identified and parsed, along with a gloss from the Kohlenberger-Mounce lexicon. One frustration, the floating window goes away after a a short time.  Several times it automatically closed before I was finished.

If you are looking for a free Bible App for your iPad, be sure to check out Accordance.

Logos 3.0 for iOS appeared in the AppStore today, and it is a significant upgrade.  If you already have the App, get the upgrade as soon as possible.  If you have not yet downloaded the free app, now is the time!  I personally use this App and have found it to be the best iPad app for reading (better that Kindle!), and certainly the best for reading Greek and Hebrew.

Downloading books is much easier, whole collections can be selected and moved to your iOS device.  Since I upgraded to a 64MB new iPad, I have plenty of space for key books for reading when I am not in a WiFi zone.  If you do not download a book it is still fully accessible via WiFi.

The App now has a navigation pane which slides out like other iPad apps, giving access to your library.  This works even better in split screen mode. This is a huge improvement since the earlier version required a return to the home screen to find resources.  As far as I can tell, language tools (word study tools) are unchanged.  I am still frustrated that the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) is still unavailable, but that is the fault of the publisher, not Logos.  The Third edition of Bauer (BDAG) looks great, although I wish it could be accessed more directly from the Greek Bible (it is a two-step process at this point).

Notes can be created on the iPad itself rather than only on the desktop.  I created a new note set (Thessalonians) and it appeared on my desktop version a few moments later. I find this helpful for working “out of the office,” I add a series of notes on a text as I read from several resources then pull that text into my regular word processor for full editing later.  Logos has an excellent collection of annotation tools, going far beyond the usual set of highlighters.  Readers who use various inductive study methods will find most of the colors / symbols they need.

The Logos App is now fully integrated into the FaithLife Study Bible system, so that yo can create and share notes with others using FaithLife.  This study Bible is available through the AppStore and includes an excellent collection of notes and study materials. (I reviewed the initial release of the Faithlife Study Bible here, the App is currently free in the AppStore.)

Here is a video explaining the benefits of Logos 3.0 for iOS, visit the AppStore for the free Logos App and start reading today.  According to the Logos website, you get 41 books with the free app (including the SBL Greek New Testament and apparatus), and another 26 after you create a Logos account.  It is worth creating an account since they give you Strong’s Systematic Theology and the New Nave’s Topical Dictionary, among other out-of-print books.

Jim Barr from BibleWorks sent me an email point out that their big contest:  In celebration of their 20th anniversary as a company, BibleWorks is giving away two full copies of their software.

The format of the contest is interesting:  you must submit a twenty word reason why you need to win the software.  “Winners will be selected based on humor, wit, and verve,” which might exclude a few pastors, it is well worth the effort to win this rather generous prize.

BibleWorks 9 has some excellent tools for working with Greek Manuscripts, including a Greek Manuscript tool which allows the user not simply to see the evidence for a variant, but to examine the actual manuscript.  Several key manuscripts are available, including Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, and Washingtonianus.  You can see the Manuscript tool in the picture to the left.

You can enter on their Facebook page as well,  but all entries must be in by June 15.  Good luck!

The International Critical Commentary (ICC) is one of the most important commentary series of the twentieth century.   I was quite pleased to find that volumes which have gone out of copyright are available through Google Books for free.  When I was in college I used to be able to buy volumes of the ICC for about $10, so most of these I own.  Several are very nice, well preserved books which I treasure.  I will always opt for the “real book” whenever possible, but thanks to Google these excellent commentaries are free to download.  The ICC is one of the truly great commentary series, preserving some of the best scholarship over the last 125 years.  Even thought many of the volumes have been replaced by more recent scholars, the original commentaries are worth having.

Many of the early volumes are still available used, although they are not particularly cheap.  W. R. Harper on Amos and Hosea is listed on Amazon in Hardback for $49.50, the “inexpensive” paperback reprint is available new for $43.  This reprint is printed on-demand from the same scan which appears on Google books at no cost.  Some of the less popular volumes can be found used for less that $20, but many are becoming quite rare.

There are several volumes which are essential commentaries to own.  Alfred Plummer on Luke is classic commentary everyone should have on their shelf (virtual or otherwise).  Volume one of R. H. Charles’ classic two-volume commentary on Revelation is available, although I cannot find volume two.  Sanday and Hendlam on Romans is another excellent commentary, although the author is listed as S. R. Driver, the editor of the series.  Ernest Burton on Galatians is still consulted by anyone working in Galatians.

A few of the volumes are interesting, although after 100 years, they are not particularly cutting edge.  Most commentary series have some volumes which are not as good as others, the ICC is no exception.  Toy on Ecclesiastes and Paton on Esther are worth reading, but they represent scholarly opinion which has in many ways been abandoned.    Likewise, while Driver’s commentaries on Genesis and Deuteronomy are pillars of the Documentary Hypothesis, they may very well boggle the mind today.  Yet, in my opinion, every volume in the series is worth owning (especially since they are free through Google Books).

There are some drawbacks to Google Books, however.  Even though there are four pages of books listed under International Critical Commentary, many are repeats with incorrect names.  For example, J. Skinner is listed as the author of the International Critical Commentary, but when you examine the book, it is actually Plummer’s Luke commentary.  Skinner did write the Genesis commentary in the ICC, and for some reason he is listed as the author on about a dozen volumes.  Because of the nature of the scans, these volumes cannot be searched, nor can you cut and paste text from the books.  The books are page scans, so you are viewing a graphic of the page, not text.  If you need search capabilities, Logos sells the entire collection in their searchable, indexed format.  This collection includes more recent volumes which are still under copyright.

Copies of the ICC can also be found at the Internet Archive in a variety of formats, but not all are very useful.  For example, I downloaded T. K. Abbott’s Commentary on Ephesians and Colossians in the Kindle / mobi format, and frankly the conversion was terrible.  Greek characters are not recognized and unreadable, many English characters are mis-read.  I tried the epub version, using Stanza on my iPad and found the text to be the same unreadable mess.  I was able to download the PDF file and read the scans, and the Internet Archive’s online reader displays the pages correctly.

I use Google Reader on my iPad and find the text quite readable, although I wish that the Google Reader app was a bit more intelligent.  For example, since the books are so badly tagged, I would like an easy way to change the way the book is indexed.  The author’s name occasionally wrong, I need to be able to fix this if the book is to be found in my growing collection of books.  In addition, Google Reader needs to have a way to create subgroups (OT Commentaries, NT Commentaries, sort by topic instead of author).  I expect the app to improve, but these seem like simple additions which ought to be made sooner rather than later.

I would recommend downloading all volumes of the ICC from Google Books, there is a wealth of scholarship waiting for you to use.

In the last two parts of this series I said that to use Logos, Accordance, or Olive Tree to their full potential, you have to spend some money to buy quality books.  For some people that is enough to turn the off of these Apps.  I have students tell me how impoverished they are and that they could not possibly buy a Logos collection or an Accordance bundle (usually while texting someone on their iPhone).  Maybe you are just out for a bargain (I haunt used book stores hoping to find a treasure in the stacks!)  Perhaps you are like me and cannot resist the lure of an old book but get frustrated with the high prices on “collectible” books.

For these reasons I will finish out this series on using the iPad for biblical studies with a look at free books.  Free books are often worth what you pay for them, but there are some real gems available for free.  Many of these books cannot be purchased  or are very expensive.  Most libraries do not see the value in shelving 125 year old journals, so the only chance to see some of these books is via Google or some similar source.  For example, I have enjoyed reading early numbers in the Palestine Exploration Society’s Quarterly Report. These descriptions of the state of archaeology in Palestine and Jerusalem in the late nineteenth century are fascinating!

Google Books.  Google Books is a free App which is a front-end for the Google Books Store.  There are commercial books in the Good Book Store, but it is worth poking around for the out-of-print free books.  Unfortunately the tagging of free books is terrible.  For example, search on “Jesus and the Gospels,” change the price to “free” and several hundred titles will appear.  Some of these make sense (Jesus and the Gospels by James Denney, Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), but Bibliotheca Sacra 30 (1873) and Calvin’s Institutes also appear in the list.  Still, there are some classics available for free:  David Strauss’s A New Life Of Jesus (1865) is there as is Ernst Renan’s The Life of Jesus (1866), Plummer’s Commentary on John (1896), and Godet’s Commentary on Luke (1881).  I happened to choose Jesus and the Gospels, any topic will yield hundreds of books.  It might be better to search on an author’s name.  For example, Albert Schweitzer yields several pages of books, but by clicking on the name reduces the list to 18 items, including both English and German versions of The Quest.

You can read these books with the free Google Books app.  I have had no problem reading, although there is no way to search the older books since they are page-scans.  There is no note-taking feature, but I can switch to a notebook program fairly quickly.  I would like the option to leave books “in the cloud” since I tend to binge on free old books and fill up my iPad quickly.   You can shop the Google Book Store on your desktop computer, whatever you “purchase” will appear in the Google Books App.

Kindle. If you have an iPad, you need to get the free Kindle App.  The Kindle Store is a part of Amazon, so if you can find books on Amazon, you can find them at the Kindle store.  There are some deals to be had in the Kindle store, but not as many free books as Google.  For example, The Quest for the Historical Jesus is free at Google, but at the Kindle store only modern reprints are available.  Ernst Renen’s Life of Jesus is a free download, but neither the Plummer or Godet commentary found on Google books appears in the Kindle Store.  More often than not, older books appear in the Kindle store at a small price.  I noticed Alfred Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah for 99 cents.  Most of Edersheim’s works are on Kindle for the same price, yet they also appear on the Internet Archive in Kindle format for free.  Most (if not all) of Edersheim’s books are in the Google Bookstore for free. There are several “publishers” who appear to be converting public domain PDF files into Kindle books and selling them very cheap on Amazon.  A few are described as “enhanced” since a table of contents has been added to aid navigation, but otherwise the text is identical.  Given the phone-book size of Edersheim’s books, it might be worth a few dollars to have the index.

Internet Archive.  I almost put this resource first since it is perhaps the largest collection of free texts on the Internet.  Most texts are available in PDF and Kindle format as well as several other e-reader formats.  I recommend you use DropBox, copy the PDF files there and then read them in CloudReader (Free, App Store) or Good Reader ($4.99, App Store).   There are some real gems on the Internet Archive.  For example, Mark Goodacre’s The Synoptic Problem is a first rate book, published in 2001 and recent released to the Internet Archive for free download in PDF or Kindle format.  (You should go and download this book regardless of the platform you use to read it!)  Notice that there is a topic link for synoptic problem and Q hypothesis. Click the “synoptic problem” to find 10 other books, including Ernest DeWitt Burton’s Some Principles of Literary Criticism (1903). Search for the Journal of Biblical Literature, quite a few of the earliest numbers are available.

The Internet Archive is not a reader, you will need to know how to move the files to a place where your iPad can read them, and then have the right app to read the file.  Occasionally a PDF will not display on my iPad because of the way it was created.  If it loads on your desktop, you need to re-save it with Acrobat and make sure the JPEG 2000 option is not selected.  Another drawback is sheer wealth of material.  Some items are scanned well, others are shoddy.  Since the Internet Archive is an open-source and supports the creative commons, there are some oddities.  I have found that occasionally books are linked to the Google Store, but this is not really a problem.

The bottom line is that you can fill your iPod (Android, Kindle) with hundreds of books, many of which are classics of scholarship albeit from a previous dispensation.  I have found many books which I have never read simply because I could not find an affordable copy – that can no longer be an excuse!  Since it is a great deal of fun poking around and finding rare books in these collections, I think that I will add a semi-regular feature on this blog highlighting the best “finds” in the online archives.

Today I want to focus on tools for the iPad to for reading Greek and Hebrew.  As with the previous two parts of this series, Bible apps offer a number of free resources and hope to get you to upgrade to better resources for a price.  To me, the free resources are barely adequate for the layman and completely useless for the professional. The reason a book is free is that it is out of print.  While there are a number of books which are old that I find very valuable, this is simply not the case for Greek and Hebrew tools.  What is missing in free Greek and Hebrew apps is morphological tagging – parsing Greek and Hebrew words. While there are some publicly available texts, to get this capability in an iPad app will cost money.

I really believe that the person who is serious about studying the Bible in the original languages needs to be willing to purchase the right tools for the job.  I cannot imagine a mechanic who stocks his garage with tools he has collected free from thrift stores, yet it seems to me that too many people collect free books for the computer and consider then adequate for serious study of the Bible.  I am quite disturbed to think there are pastors out there who use nothing more than the Strong’s lexicon because it was included in their free Bible Software and they can click on the numbers.  This is not “correctly handling the Word of Truth”!

If you want good tools, you have to pay for them.  I recommend looking closely at the websites of each of the publishers below for collections , bundles or base packages which meet your needs.  This is the best way to get a Greek or Hebrew Bible with tagging, a good lexicon or two, and the ability to search in these resources.  What are you going to need in a Bible Software Collection?

A Greek Bible.  There are free Greek Bibles, but the Nestle-Aland 27 (NA27) with morphological tagging is worth the money.  Logos sells the UBS 4, which is the exact same text as the NA27, the main difference is the textual critical information included.

A Hebrew Bible.  The BHS with Westminster 4.2 morphological tagging is really the best Hebrew text for study and is included in many base packages.

Greek Lexicons. The best possible Greek lexicon is the BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition).  It is unfortunately very expensive, so try to get the Second Edition (BAGD).  Louw & Nida’s Lexicon Based on Semantic Domains is commonly included in bundles and is quite useful.  Logos includes James Swanson’s  Dictionary of Biblical Languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic volumes).  This resource provides little more than a gloss for each word, but includes links to Lour and Nida,  BAGD, and TDNT.

Hebrew Lexicons. The best lexicon for the Hebrew Bible is the Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), but like BDAG, it is very expensive and rarely included in a bundle.  In addition, the Logos App will not access HALOT even if you own a license.  Hopefully this can be corrected.  The

Greek Word Studies.  There are several major resources for digging a bit deeper into the background of a word.  Most publishers now offer the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT, often described simply as “Kittel”) or the Abridged TDNT (dubbed “little Kittel”).  I also find the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (TLNT) and Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (TLOT) helpful and a bit more up-to-date than Kittel.  The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament is also good.  For the

Hebrew Word Studies.  There are fewer tools for Hebrew word studies available.  The classic Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) is commonly found in collections.  Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (TLOT) an excellent text as well.

What did I miss?  Any other suggestions from readers for the basic “minimum” tools for the study of the Biblical languages?  In part four, I will cover how the various apps function for reading Greek or Hebrew and how they work with these basic resources.

Bible Atlas for the iPad

I reviewed several new Bible Atlases last summer (see my conclusions here).  Several of these are available for Kindle (Holman, Oxford), but the IVP and ESV Bible Atlases are not.  Books in the Kindle format read like any other Kindle book.  On the iPad you can zoom in on maps and pictures, but the resolution is not particularly high.  I purchased the Oxford Bible Atlas (fourth edition) for Kindle and was very disappointed. The maps are not really readable, and it is useless to zoom in.  Even if I simply fill the screen with the map it is too pixelated to be of use.  In fact, I am a disappointed with all the Bible Atlases on the iPad.  There is no single app which satisfies my need for quality maps on the iPad.  here is what I am looking for:

  • High Resolution Maps. I want to be able to zoom in close and not have a pixelated mess.
  • Detailed Information, clickable links.  I want to link to a dictionary style entry which gives me a brief overview of the history and geography of the location with the possibility of linking to a serious encyclopedia entry.
  • Current Information.  I do not really want a link to an old Bible Dictionary, I want the latest scholarship on the location.
  • Zoom on Rotation. Many maps are better viewed in landscape rather than portrait orientation.  It should not be difficult for an app to sense rotation and fill the screen.

There is really no iPad Bible Atlas App which comes close to this, here are a few comments on the “best” Atlases for the iPad.

Logos Bible Software.  (Free, App Store).  The free Logos App does not come with any Bible Atlas, but I own the Holman Bible Atlas ($29.95, but included in several of the Logos collections).  There are remarkably few Bible Atlases in the Logos collection, which I find surprising.  The The Holman Atlas has a nice collection of sidebars and charts along with 132 maps and a nicely written history of the Bible. The maps in the Holman Bible Atlas are reasonably clear, but I cannot zoom in to see the details on the map.  There is text on the map giving details for locations which is unreadable on the iPad.  This is a problem with the Logos App not the Atlas itself.   The Logos Deluxe Map Set edited by Thaine Norris ($29.95, included in all Logos collections) are not particularly useful in the iPad either since they cannot zoom nor do the expand when the iPad is rotated.

Carta Compact Atlas HD ($4.99, App Store) and Biblical Jerusalem – A Carta Atlas ($7.99, App Store).  These apps are essentially collections  of scans from Carta Atlases.  This is not bad, but there is not a lot of detail beyond the maps.  The Compact Bible Atlas has no search capability, and the maps are more or less the type you find in a good Study Bible.   Biblical Jerusalem is a bit better with respect to maps, but the app itself is little more than an index to the maps.

Big Bible Maps (Version 1.8, $2.99, App Store).  BibleStudyPro has a host of iPad apps, including several map collections.  For the most part, everything on this site is public domain, which limits the usefulness of the apps.  This is especially true for maps, since a free Atlas from 1850 is not particularly useful. BibleStudyPro apps are inexpensive, all are priced at $2.99.  A few Android versions of their apps have appeared, I expect all to be ported eventually.  The best of the apps from BibleStudyPro is Big Bible Maps.  The app tags satellite maps from Google Earth with biblical places.  Since the images are from Google, you can zoom in extremely close for amazing detail.  The obvious problem is that Google Maps are modern maps!  Once on the map, you must touch a pushpin to identify the location. The location flag will appear, and if there is an arrow you can open a description of the location.  The text is drawn from the original International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, although this is not identified in the software as far as I could see.

The opening screen offers three options.  First, locations are arranged by chapter and book.  If I select Joshua 4, I am taken to a Google Earth map with push-pins at locations for that chapter (Jericho, Gilgal, the Jordan River, and oddly enough, Israel).  I could not find all the locations in a book, a chapter must always be specified.  Only chapters with locations appear on the menu, so Matt 6 does not appear, but Matt 4 does.  Second, you can select locations from a list (Jerusalem and Jericho appear at the top, otherwise it is alphabetical). Third, you can search by typing the name of the location.

This app is mystery to me since Google Earth is already a free app and the ISBE is freely available on Google books.  What is more, Google Earth links locations to Wikipedia and Flickr, providing (in some cases) better information than ISBE.  There is some value to having this information in a single place, so this app may satisfy a need.

The bottom line is that a good Bible Atlas has yet to arrive for the iPad.

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