which may be good for discipleship, but not necessarily for Bible study
Spoiler alert! Since it may be a while before the next Rapture, you may need to study harder than I thought last week. Logos Bible Software’s Bible + app will require just that. But taking full advantage will require more work and far more money than you may have counted on. I finally gave it three stars, but that may be too kind.
Well, the Rapture happened Saturday and we’re still here. That means nobody I know made the cut. Carol and I had already volunteered to stay behind and help the people who would find themselves in need with their support groups gone. Of course, this means the Republicans are still here too, and I was kind of hoping Jesus would take them off our hands.
God always answers prayer, but this time the answer was “no.”
This may also mean Jesus couldn’t find enough Christians worth rapturing, so he postponed his trip. Personally, this wouldn’t surprise me a bit since none of us can get our acts together. So maybe everyone needs to study their Bibles a little harder to see what we missed the last time.
I overlooked Bible + in my pre-Rapture reviews because I honestly think the other two (Crossway ESV and Just 1 Word) are better tools for less experienced readers. Bible + tends to lean too much toward overkill and commentary. As I explained last week, I think new readers are better off focusing on the books that are easier to understand, and avoid agenda-loaded commentary that can come with other Bible study courses.
This isn’t because I’m a Maverick shooting Bible bullets from the hip. Martin Luther thought the Bible was accessible to everyone and shouldn’t be buried under commentary and homilies. He felt that keeping the scripture out of reader’s reach led to some really strange practices, such as indulgences, which allowed people to by their way into heaven with cold hard cash.
So Luther went ahead and opened the Bible to everybody, and we no longer have a single Catholic (or united) church, but so many denominations with so many interpretations that there may eventually be as many churches as there are believers. And his movement succeeded in ending indulgences, leading to open access to scripture for anyone who could read.
So now we are no longer stuck with the Catholic church’s interpretation of the Bible; we have hundreds of Bibles and millions of interpretations. Like the one that suggested Jesus was coming to collect the good Christians last weekend.
There have been many others, one of my favorites being the Jesus Pyramid: for every dollar you give to Jesus he gives ten back to you. Another one was that every word you uttered would change the world for good or bad. If you said, “I will be rich,” you would be. Or, I suppose, if you stubbed your toe and said, “Oh shit,” you would have more fertilizer for your garden.
So maybe checking a little commentary isn’t completely bad, as long as you remember that the commentary isn’t necessarily any more correct than the science books that drew pictures of atoms as though they were tiny little solar systems.
Bible + also provides “comprehensive” commentary of biblical passages. This will be spun from the theological leanings of Logos Bible Software, and I find some of it more dense than the most dense Bible passage. But every commentary is slanted, so if this helps it’s there.
Bible +, like Just 1 Word which I reviewed Thursday, is primarily online, and you really need a wireless, not a 3G, connection. Any materials you want to access when you don’t have a connection will cost. Bible + offers a lot more tools, however, an almost bewildering abundance of tools and books and resources.
Bible + excels in the available text and translations, including access to the complete Catholic Bible (which is way longer than the Protestant one). Now Protestants would argue those books don’t belong in the Bible, an issue the religious right is willing to let slide until they’ve vanquished the liberals and Democrats. Books Baptist Preacher’s Kids (BPKs) like me never heard of, like the Macabees and Ezdras and the Wisdom of Solomon.
Or so I thought because they showed up in the contents. When I tried to access them, Bible + drew a blank, so I suppose those are only available in books I have to pay for (even if I want online access).
But there are other cool features that do work in the free online version. If you want to do a head by head comparison of the same verse in multiple translations, you can. You can even filter which versions are included in the comparison.
The head-to-head translation feature is one of the really cool features of the app. It even provides Young’s Literal Translation for a baseline comparison. Of course, the assumption that Young’s should be the baseline is debatable, but you can’t have everything. Notice that Bible + offers the complete Apocrypha as well, although I suspect you have to pay more to read it.
You can study word use, although this was another perplexing feature. The words I could follow were limited to about a dozen, and when I tried to track more I came up with a blank. There also seems to be a pie chart involved, but I couldn’t figure out what it meant, even with the legend. I think it was a chart showing how often the word occurred in comparison to other words.
The Word Use feature looks cool until you look closely. I’m assuming that once you pay for one of the translations, you get to study more words. If not, it still looks cool.
Accessing commentary and cross-references is far easier. The passage guide feature offers summaries and links to available resources.
For all of its power and flexibility, the app seemed bewildering and unwieldy. I looked for a help feature and finally found links buried in the “about” section in the “more…” button. The links take you to even more bewildering links which fortunately include an app demo.
I want to like Bible + more, but I just have a hard time warming up to it. It was so easy to navigate the Crossway ESV and Just 1 Word apps that I found myself frustrated when a feature came up blank.
As a consequence, I finally decided to give priority to the app’s competitors. But I didn’t make the final decision until I decided to see what it would take to download the resources for offline viewing. If you want to download (and often even view online) the actual Bibles and commentaries, you have to pony up serious money.
For instance, many of the translations are bundled in expensive packages that run from $60 to $250. To actually purchase the ESV bible for offline reading, Logos charges $40 ($60 if you want the study version with additional resources). To me this was like attending revival and sitting through three offerings and then the special missions offering at the end.
No, more like, if your first (ex) wife talks you into joining Amway. One week your distributor convinces you to sign up for the local rally (for $25 apiece) while you’re writing the check for your products. At the rally they take an offering, and on the way out they hand you six books and twelve tapes and ask for a check for those. Then when you’ve written that check, they remind you that the regional rally is next month, which is $200 in advance. Apiece.
Then after all that, you try the liquid soap to get out the brown shoe polish stain on your new shirt and you discover why they tell you to only demonstrate with black shoe polish.
By comparison, the ESV offline is free with the Crossway app, and the study version is only $15. Even the translations available for download in Just 1 Word are much cheaper, running from four to seven dollars.
Bible + is an app for serious students, not beginning or casual readers who want to study the Bible beyond the surface. But if you’re that serious, you may find it cheaper to take a class. The class will be slanted too, but that’s easily fixed.
Do what I did. If you take a classes from the Baptists, take communicant classes from the Catholic and Episcopal churches too. And then try the Methodists and Presbyterians. Maybe even study with some Jews, reformed and Orthodox.
Jenny Manytoes rates Bible +
Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Bible +, but only because the tools that do work can be pretty useful. Once you need a resource that isn’t available for free online, however, you may wish I had rated it lower.