Top iPad Apps for Bible Study (Part Five) – Free Books!

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.

Top iPad Apps for Bible Study (Part Three) – Biblical Languages

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.

Top iPad Apps for Bible Study (Part Two): Bible Atlases

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.