By Gary W. Derickson, Ph.D.
In this world with a plethora of biblical resources, which Bibles and Bible software programs are the best now, and which will prove the most helpful in the future? We’ll begin by looking at Bibles, and then discuss what many consider to be the best choice in Bible study software.
Good Bible translations are still important
Though the King James Version has been the most popular Bible in many parts of the English-speaking world, much more recent translations have competed for second place. In my college days, it seemed that the New American Standard (NASB) would dominate, only to be eclipsed by the New International Version (NIV). More recently, the NIV’s market share has been cut into the New King James (NKJV), New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), and Holman Christian Standard Bibles (HCSB), just to name a few.
Every pastor has a favorite Bible translation from which he or she preaches. A majority, if not most, members of the congregation tend to adopt the pastor’s preaching text. Of course, now they can read along on their favorite electronic device. They also can text message, tweet or post their comments and questions about your message “live” as you go along. I’m no longer surprised when my students post comments about what I’m saying in class on Facebook or Twitter right in the middle of class while pretending to take notes. We can embrace it. It’s the new way to listen!
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If you haven’t come across it, I recommend that you explore the NET Bible (New English Translation) at Bible.org. It’s possibly the best online resource for pastors, teachers and lay people who are serious students of the Scriptures. The NET Bible has been an ongoing project of biblical scholars and contains thousands of translation notes. It makes a great resource and study tool. It may be purchased as a hard copy, or accessed online to see the most recent discussions by its contributors.
Then again, this is just one of many electronic tools now available to the pastor and other serious students of the Scriptures.
The best Bible software is the most powerful digital library
In recent years, we have seen a wave of electronic study tools arrive. Some have flourished, others have failed, and more are on the way. So, which is the tool of the future?
In recent years, Corban University’s School of Ministry faculty has evaluated whether or not to continue to require textbooks. We found that, for about the same cost, we could give our students a tool they could take with them and use effectively for the rest of their lives. Now, every undergraduate student receives Logos Bible software. This also is true for students entering Mars Hill’s Bible Certificate program in Seattle this fall (2014).
Not surprisingly, I regularly recommend that every pastor seriously investigate and invest in the Logos digital library. All Corban’s School of Ministry faculty members have the Logos 5 program on their campus computers. I don’t go a day without using it, whether for personal devotions, study, classroom, sermon or Sunday school preparation. With little effort, I can carry around more than 2,900 volumes of books and journals on my laptop.
We also believe the Logos library will be the tool of the future for pastors. Yes, we’ve reviewed other Bible study programs, and they also have valuable resources. I know people who swear by them and love them as much as I do my Logos library.
However, none can compare to the vast volume of material now available and being added daily. Ditto on the ease of access to all that valuable data. The search functions and interconnectedness of every resource makes this the pastor’s dream study tool. What used to take a pastor days of thumbing through volumes and reading page after page to find specific information, now takes only seconds.
Most important, though, the greatest strength of the Logos library is its interconnectedness. Every resource comes to you fully searchable by word, phrase, topic, verse or a plethora of other ways. The Logos tagging system integrates each new resource within the search engine. The result is weeks of work compressed into mere minutes. True, it can become overwhelming at times. For the pastor who can focus and whose time is precious, however, this tool can help you maximize your study — and both you and your congregation will benefit.
So, welcome to the electronic age of biblical exegesis! It’s not the future.
It’s the past and present. It’s also worth embracing.
Gary W. Derickson, Ph.D., serves as Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek, and as Chair of the Bible and Theology Department at Corban University’s School of Ministry.