Logos Free Book of the Month for March 2019 – Leland Ryken, How Bible Stories Work

The Logos Bible Software Free and almost free books of the month are three excellent books by Leland Ryken. Ryken was professor of English at Wheaton College written extensively on classic literature from a Christian perspective, including the The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing and the classic How to Read the Bible as Literature (Zondervan 1984). Ryken served as the “literary stylist” for the English Standard Version (Crossway 2001) and was edited IVP’s Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (1998).

Ryken’s How Bible Stories Work is one of six volumes originally published by weaver but are now part of the Lexham Press catalog. Each are relatively short books (125-135 pages) and well-designed for quick reading.

  1. The Subject of Every Story: The Embodiment of Universal Human Experience
  2. Setting in Bible Stories: Seeing the Particulars
  3. Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 1): How Writers Do It
  4. Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 2): What Readers Need to Do
  5. Plot Structure and Unity: The Beginning, Middle, and Ending of Each Story
  6. Plot Devices: How Storytellers Tell Their Story with Beauty and Skill
  7. Hero Stories: A Neglected but Fruitful Narrative Genre
  8. From Story to Meaning: How to Find Significance in a Narrative Text

Each chapter focuses on specific narratives and include an exercise (“learning by doing”). For example, in the chapter on Hero Stories, Ryken outlines the way hero stories usually work, then reads Daniel 6 as an example of a biblical hero story used to teach moral virtue. Then he suggests Esther as an example of hero story, prints a series of verses from the book and asks the reader to do the literary analysis for themselves. For some readers, describing Daniel 6 or the Book of Esther as “hero stories” sounds like they are “just stories” and not really “true stories.” Ryken acknowledges this objection in the preface to the series:  “the literary approach to the Bible needs to be defended against legitimate fears by evangelical Christians, and through the years I have not scorned to clear the territory of misconceptions as part of my defense of a literary analysis of the Bible.” For Ryken, “a literary approach to the Bible is ready to grant value to the biblical authors’ skill with language and literary technique, seeing these as an added avenue to our enjoyment of the Bible.” But a literary approach to the Bible is not used in isolation, rather it is “takes its humble place alongside the two other main approaches—the theological and the historical.”

In Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels ($1.99 for the month) Ryken first argues the Gospels are narratives and as such, the insights of literary studies are helpful in tracing the themes of the book. In Short Sentences Long Remembered: A Guided Study of Proverbs and Other Wisdom Literature ($2.99 for the month) Ryken examines a different genre of literature, that of proverbial wisdom. The book deals primarily with the Book of Proverbs and describes how short, proverbial sayings function in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, but also in Beatitudes and other contexts (James).

The bottom line is that you can add three excellent, academic books to your Logos Library for about $5. Any of these books are worth the investment at full price, so a big thanks to Lexham and Logos for making them available so inexpensively. As of today, the giveaway is not open, but the Free Books page indicates Logos will do their usual context to give away a 40 volume collection of books published by originally Weaver (which was purchased by Lexham, so maybe this giveaway will be updated soon?)

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos released a major upgrade to their Bible Software. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7 and the upgrade is well worth considering. As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading and there are paths that will require you to mortgage your house. 

Logos Free Book of the Month for February 2019 – Mark Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness

Logos has an excellent book on offer for their Free Book of the Month. All three of the free and “almost free” books are part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology from InterVarsity Press. From the IVP Website, this series “Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprised by New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.”

For the month of February, you can download Mark Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification (IVP Academic, 2000). Seifrid’s work is solid and represents the traditional / reformation perspective on Paul (see my “What was the Old Perspective?”). His published dissertation was Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme (NovT Supp; Leiden: Brill, 1992) and he has contributed numerous essays and articles on Paul’s theology, such as “The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and its Problems,” Themelios 25 (2000): 4–18. He wrote the Pillar Commentary on the New Testament on 2 Corinthians. When I mentioned this book in an article back in 2013, I said “is a brief treatment of the topic but among the very best and most accessible for the layman.” My physical copy of this book is well-read and marked, a sure sign of a stimulating book.

In addition to Seifrid, you can add Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel (IVP Academic, 2004) for $1.99. Bolt “explores why the cross is so prominent in Mark’s Gospel, what Mark’s teaching contributes to our understanding of the atonement, and how it can inform, correct, and enrich our own preaching of the gospel in the contemporary world. He helps us to stand in wonder before God who has come close to us in the cross of Jesus Christ and to live in hope for the better things to come.”

Perhaps most exciting to me, Craig Blomberg’s Contagious Holiness:Jesus’ Meals with Sinners (IVP Academic, 2005) for $2.99. This book came out about the time I started by PhD work, and I did not discover the book until I was well into my dissertation research. Reading the book was a bit depressing since Blomberg was doing the very thing I wanted to do in my dissertation (and doing it better than I would)! The thesis of his book: “In sharing food and drink with His companions, He invited them to share in the grace of God. He revealed His redemptive mission while eating with sinners, repentant and unrepentant alike. Jesus’ “table fellowship” with sinners in the Gospels has been widely agreed to be historically reliable.” I ended up with some of the historical Jesus material, but focused on table fellowship as an anticipation of the messianic banquet (which Blomberg includes briefly).

The bottom line is that you can add three excellent, academic books to your Logos Library for about $5. Any of these books are worth the investment at full price, so a big thanks to IVP Academic and Logos for making them available so inexpensively.You can also enter to win a 22 volume set of “The Bible Speaks Today: New Testament.”

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. Through February 7, You can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

Logos “Free Book of the Month” for January 2019 – John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone

Logos Bible Software is starting 2019 off right by offering a copy of Isaiah for Everyone by John Goldingay for free in January. From the blurb, “In this volume on Isaiah, John Goldingay explores the first of the great prophetic books. Isaiah is a compilation of the prophetic messages of several prophets. Their messages to the people of Judah and Jerusalem included a call for injustice to be recognized, a message of liberation and hope from the oppressors of the people, and a message of the coming day of judgment.” Goldingay is always a good read, and I have used his The Theology of the Book of Isaiah as a textbook in a grad class on Isaiah several times.

Seriously, all you need to know is it is a free copy of a commentary on Isaiah by John Goldingay. If you are a Logos used, then you should get this book!

Since Logos is partnering with Westminster John Knox for the give away this month, they are also offering two excellent books as “almost free” add-ons. First, for only $1.99 you can add Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis (Fourth Edition): A Handbook for Students and Pastors, and for $2.99 more you can add Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (Third Edition): A Handbook for Students and Pastors. I have used the Fee book as a textbook in a NT Exegesis class for years, it is very good introduction to NT exegetical method. I was assigned Studart’s book in a PhD seminary on Hebrew Exegesis and used it the last time I taught a Hebrew exegesis course

You can also enter to win the Westminster John Knox Theology Collection (6 vols.; $180 value). The set includes The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer and there are several ways to enter.

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. You can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

Logos “Free Book of the Month” for December 2018 – John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him

For the  month of December Logos users can download John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Crossway, 2001) for free, Graham Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit for $2.99 and Bruce Demerast, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation for $4.99.

These three books are part of The Foundations of Evangelical Theology from Crossway. In Feinberg’s general introduction to the series, he indicates the intention of the series is “to address all areas of evangelical theology with a special emphasis on key issues in each area. While other series may be more like a history of doctrine, this series purposes to incorporate insights from Scripture, historical theology, philosophy, etc., in order to produce an up-to-date work in systematic theology. Though all contributors to the series are thoroughly evangelical in their theology, embracing the historical orthodox doctrines of the church, the series as a whole is not meant to be slanted in the direction of one form of evangelical theology. Nonetheless, most of the writers come from a Reformed perspective. Alternate evangelical and non-evangelical options, however, are discussed.”

You can also enter the Logos giveaway for the Crossway Studies on the Bible (8 Vol. set).

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. You can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

Head on over to the Logos Free Book page and get yourself a nice Christmas present (or two).

Logos Free Book – Aída Besançon Spencer, 2 Timothy and Titus

Logos Bible Software has another very good “Free book of the Month” for November. Partnering with Cascade Books, Logos is offering a copy of New Covenant Commentary on 2 Timothy and Titus (2014) by for free, Nijay Gupta’s 1 & 2 Thessalonians (2016) for only 99 cents, and Michael Bird’s Colossians and Philemon (2009) for only $1.99. That is three good commentaries for your Logos library for a mere $3, less than a cup of that fancy coffee you like so much. As I was purchasing these commentaries I noticed Aída Spencer’s 1 Timothy commentary is only $4.99, if you want to complete your set of commentaries on the Pastoral Epistles in the New Covenant series. In fact, all the volumes of the New Covenant series available in the Logos Library are $4.99 right now.

Commenting on Spencer’s commentary, Eckhard Schnabel said “By explaining lexical, grammatical, historical, and theological matters, and by focusing consistently on canonical connections and pastoral application, Aida Spencer has written a lucid commentary that will prove helpful for general readers, students, and pastors alike.” Spencer is professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has published many other books including Global Voices on Biblical Equality: Women and Men Ministering Together in the Church (W&S, 2008).

I have used Gordon Fee’s Revelation (click for a six-year old review) and Craig Keener’s Romans commentaries and found them very helpful. Although they are brief compared to other recent commentaries, these commentaries target a general audience and will be very useful for the pastor preparing a sermon or a layperson working through a book in a Bible Study.

In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos Bible Software released a major upgrade last week. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7. You can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

Logos also has a giveaway each month, for November 2018 they are giving away a set of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (31 volumes, a $299). Scroll past the free books to the contest section, there four ways to enter. So in the spirit of the election season, enter early and often to have the best chance to win this valuable resource. I wonder what Karl Barth would think of his magnum opus being a prize in a raffle.

Introducing Logos 8

I have been a Logos user since the middle 1990s. My first purchase was shipped on four floppy discs and I have continued to upgrade and add on to my Logos Library over the years. I appreciate the good folks in Logos Marketing sending me a copy of Logos 8 early to use for this review. In addition, you can save 25% on any upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books when you upgrade to Logos 8. Follow the link and used the code READINGACTS8.

To be honest, it was not early enough! There are so many new and important features in the new version it would take several weeks of dedicated time to explore them completely. Consider this review my “first impressions.”

The first thing I notice when launching the new Logos 8 is improved speed. The new fonts are sharp and readable, windows seemed to open quickly. There are some speed claims on the Logos website, I have no way to verify them other than the eye-test. Compared to Logos 7, this new version is lightning fast!

The Logos homepage has been completely revamped. I must admit I rarely used the homepage in previous versions of Logos, preferring to launch to my personalized layout of books. The new homepage has a customizable dashboard allowing the user to add content from their library such as devotional material, reading plans, Logos educational courses, lectionaries and prayer lists. As with previous verses, there are a number of items pushed into a section called “explore.” These might be hints as trying out some feature of Logos (“try a work flow….start now!), a sample from a book you already own, links to Logos Bible Study blog, training videos, etc. But there also a number of temptations to purchase additional books for your library. These are links to community pricing resources (usually a good deal if you participate early) or new books in the Logos Library.

One of the coolest new features is called Workflow. When you launch a new Workflow, you will be prompted to select a text or topic to study. There are different flows for different types of study. There are Bible passage and exegesis workflows, but also people, places, and theology topics. The Workflow tab will walk you through a series of steps in a personal study of the passage, making notes for each step in the process. Each step utilizes various tools of the Logos library. For example, the first step is to read the passage marking the text with highlighters and making notes. The second step is to read the passage in other translations using the Translation Comparison tool. The third step is to identify the people in the passage. I chose Exodus 16, so this step contained links to Moses, Aaron and the Israelites in various resources. This will be a very attractive feature for people who want to do personal Bible study but need some guiding questions to focus their study.

Logos Notes have also been upgraded in this new version. I will confess I have not used the Notes feature, primarily because I did not care for how the notes were stored. I rarely was able to find what I wanted to find later. Notes are now stored in an Evernote-like collection. For example, all my notes on Galatians are collected into one directory. One thing which surprised me was a notebook with 1000+ highlights I have made in books over the years. All my old notes were converted without any trouble, including notes I made 7 years ago when I was reviewing Logos 4.5.

Logos 8 Notes

Logos 8 Notes

Notes can be filtered by several categories. For example, all the highlights and notes I made while reading the Pillar New Testament Commentary on Thessalonians are filed together under resource>Thessalonians (PNTC), but also under Bible Book>1 Thessalonians or 2 Thessalonians. If I make highlights and notes in several resources on 1 Thessalonians, these will be gathered in one place. The filters can be stacked, so Bible Book>1 Thessalonians>resource lets me see all the notes and highlights I made from individual commentaries. All notes and highlights can be quickly searched. If you take notes as you read a book, considered tagging the notes with topics to make better use of the search feature.

For me, I prefer to read books through the Logos app on my iPad. Notes and highlights I make there are stored in the same notes system the desktop version of Logos 8. This means if I am sitting in a coffee shop reading and making notes on my iPad, those notes will be organized and ready form me when I return to my office. One feature I would like Logos to consider is exporting a Notes collection to a Word file. For example, I might use the filter tool to narrow notes to the book of John, search the topic of festivals, and end up with a series of notes drawn from various resources. If those notes could be combined and exported to a Word file for editing, the Notes tool would be even more valuable. (Maybe that feature is already there and I am missing it.)

Canvas is a new feature which reminds me of a large cork board for organizing notes. Think about just about any detective show, the detective collects pictures and notes and makes connections between various clues. Canvas is a way to take information from various tools within the Logos eco-system and lay them out into a visual diagram. To be honest, this looks like an excellent tool for visual learners and has so many complicated features I have not had time to explore it sufficiently for this review.

The Library Tool has been updated. I usually find my books by hitting ctrl-L and opening a floating window, entering the name of the book in the search line. The new Library window has a filter in the sidebar. This is the same system used to filter notes, although there are more categories available. Maybe the filter was always there and I never noticed it, but the Logos 8 library window now sorts by subject, topic and author, but also series. I can now sort out all the Library of New Testament Studies volumes. These filters can be stacked, Library of New Testament Studies and Paul, or Hermenia and Q theory. One serious frustration is the sub-categories are not alphabetical and I do not see an easy way to scan through the categories to find what I want. The new filter sidebar has a “new today,” “new last seven days,” etc. This replaces the update notice on the home page in Logos 7.

Logos 8 Workflow

Logos 8 Workflow

The Passage and Exegetical guides are excellent tools to jumpstart a Bible study. Select the tool from the guides menu and enter a passage. This can be a single verse or a section. This will generate a tab with links to all the resources you own on that particular verse, including commentaries, journal articles, parallel passages, and cross-reference tools. Logos 8 now generates a list of “important passages” and “important words” for your passage. For example, I entered John 3:16 and the guide identifies all the nouns and verbs as important, but did not list any of the words which are not very important for exegesis (and, but, the, etc.). The guide also includes links to various media you may have in your library, such as graphs and timelines. One extremely valuable tool in the passage guide is a list of allusions in other ancient literature. If you have the apostolic or church fathers installed, the guide generates links to the books which quote or allude to your verse. I was quite surprised to see links to New Testament apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, and the Nag Hammadi literature. The passage guide concludes with allusions to the verse in systematic theologies and confessional documents as well as sermons in your collection (as well as those shared in the Faithlife by contemporary pastors). This guide will even find hymns that relate to your passage!

The Word Study Guide has been the main tool I use when preparing lessons. Right click on a Greek or Hebrew, make sure the lemma is selected and then pick the Word Study Guide. This will generate a tab with links to any lexicons and word study books you own. There is a helpful section listing words with similar roots. I ran a Word Study Guide on δοῦλος, root section included the verb δουλεύω and the noun σύνδουλος along with several other less frequent words lexically related words. These words are clickable and a Word Study tab will for the new word. The guide also generates a chart detailing the way that particular word is rendered in your preferred translation. If you are working on a Greek work the Word Study tool will generate a chart of how the Hebrew words translated with your word in the LXX. Although the Word Study Guide does not create a concordance style list, it will offer a few example uses of the word in different grammatical uses (subject, object, etc.). The new Word Study guide also generates “clause participation” in the preferred translation, although I am not sure this is useful information. The final section of the Word Study is one of the more important. The Guide will search for your word in the LXX, apostolic fathers, New Testament apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo and Greek Classics (if you have the Greek versions in your library).

New in Logos 8 is a Theology Guide. Launch the guide from the Guides menu and enter a theological topic. I entered justification, and a tab was generated including the Lexham Survey of Theology, This resource includes charts, key New Testament text on justification and several shorter articles on the Nature of Justification and the timing of Justification, etc. Each article has a Recommended Resources section with clickable links; if the resources is unlocked you will be taken to that resource, otherwise Logos will offer a chance to purchase the book. In this case, I owned Berkof’s Systematic Theology so clicking the guide took me right to his discussion of justification. But when I clicked on the recommended Perspectives Old and New on Paul by Stephen Westerholm I was given the opportunity to buy the resource.

In most of the guides and workflows Logos will suggest “Important Words” or “Important passages.” It is not clear now these texts are generated, but at first glance they seem to be useful lists of actually important words and passages. Sometimes automatically generated lists include less that helpful suggestions, this is not the case with this new tool.

Conclusion. There is plenty more to explore in Logos 8. This new version of Logos is a major upgrade, if you are using an older version this is a great time to considered upgrading. Use the code READINGACTS8 at checkout to save 25% on upgrades to Logos 8 and pick five free books.


Logos Free Book of the Month – Walter Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching the Last Things

Preaching and Teaching the Last ThingsLogos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for September 2018 is Walt Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church (Baker Academic 2011). Walter C. Kaiser Jr. is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Kaiser has contributed more than 40 books on both Old and New Testament exegesis and theology, including standard textbooks on OT Introduction, OT Theology and OT Ethics. He has been a prolific writer and speaker, check out the list of his publications.

Darrell Bock blurbed this book saying, “What can we know about eschatology from Scripture, especially the Old Testament? Walter Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching the Last Things shows us that we can know quite a lot. This is a helpful work for those who wonder how to preach or teach about the end with balance and clarity.

Logos usually offers one or two similar books “almost free” books in the same series as the free book of the month. This month you can add Kaiser’s Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church for only $2.99 and his Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching for another $3.99. That’s a mere $7 for three excellent books on teaching and preaching by one of the most influential scholars of the last fifty years. I would much prefer to have the physical copy of a book, but the Logos system makes these books easy to read, the iOS app is easily the best reading app available. Any notes or highlights made while reading in the app appear in the desktop version and vice versa.

Logos is also running a giveaway during the month of September: Baker Academic Theological Interpretation Collection (18 volumes, $399 value). There are several ways to enter the giveaway, so enter early and often.

This offer is for September 2018 only, so get the free (and almost free) books for your Logos Library before the end of the month.