Every December, the ads start arriving, trying to convince you that the best way to show your love to whomever is to buy them a….

Because we exist to provide resources for Christian living and thinking, I’m going to suggest that at least one of your gifts could help your family better study and enjoy the Bible. Here are three categories you could consider:

1) Kids Bibles—we look forward to sharing some recommendations in the future.

2) Study Bibles—there are some great options out there and we’ve reviewed them here.

3) Software—the subject I’d like to take on this week, reviewing Olive Tree, Accordance and Logos.

But I can’t get to that yet. First I want to talk about why to even bother with Bible Software. I’ll start with questions we might naturally ask and then move to some practical ways you can use it.

Why software?

1) Isn’t Bible Software just for pastors, seminarians and theology nerds? 

Like all software, a Bible app is only as good as it is helpful to you. I can think of two kinds of people Bible software won’t be good for. One is the person for whom computers are frustrating. You want your time with Scripture to be a refuge, not an annoyance.

The other kind of person is the opposite—the guy who gets really excited about flashy features. Again, your time with Scripture should be greater focus, not distraction in lots of directions. In reality, many of the flashiest features are things you should learn to live without. Bible software shouldn’t be as visually immersive as a computer game. It ought to disappear and make you forget its even there because you’re so focused on the text.

2) Why buy? There’s free stuff! 

If you need an argument for technology being beneficial, search for Bible apps. Free apps now bring offer translations, basic commentaries, Greek keyword search, easy Bible reading plans and synced audio. It’s incredible.

But I’ve chosen to review three paid platforms. The basic reason is that you get what you pay for. If you want to buy the most helpful Bible resources, making a little investment is totally worth it. Free is great for Bible reading. But you’ll find Bible study easier if you find a good platform and learn it well.
3) Reading the Bible well requires paper glued to leather. 

So I doubt anyone would say it this way. But maybe we have an underlying suspicion of reading the Bible from a glowing screen. I’m not going to deny that there are pros and cons for each. Personally, I do it both ways. But you are pretty much within reach distance of some piece of technology for most moments of your life. So why not have the Bible and a few helpful resources available wherever you are?

So what would I do with it?

I can think of three major things a good Bible platform will do for you.

1) Let you store and sync notes from any device. 

The systems I’ve chosen here are all cross-platform, meaning you use the same program on your computer, phone and tablet. The power of this is that an insight you hear at church goes into your notes and syncs to your computer at home. You won’t keep track of where you wrote a thought down because it doesn’t matter—it’s on all your devices. The same is true of highlights in different colors and underlining.

2) Give you access everywhere to quality resources. 

The same is true with resources. Buy it once and you can use it anywhere. This is a double-edged sword. Having 2,000 books on your phone is only good if they help you understand the text. Generally it just gets people lost.

But if you chose well it is really powerful to be able to quickly check a verse you don’t understand. You can get started with the electronic ESV Study Bible for around $40. Or most Bible readers (i.e., not professional theologian types) could consider buying the Tyndale Commentary set. At $200 it’s an investment, but you’ll love it. It’s eminently readable, conservative, and not at all technical. It will also answer your questions as you read along. Having that a quick swipe away is handy.

3) Let you do quick searches 

At its most basic, the Bible is to be read, not google searched. But searching does often open up insights. Try looking for “sent” or “I am” in the gospel of John. Try “justify / justification” in Romans, “servant” in Isaiah, “overcome” in Revelation or “light” across the entire Bible. Good software makes this easy, letting you easily search for the related words (overcome => overcomes, overcame, overcoming, etc.). If you’re willing to experiment a little, you can even search for the underlying Greek and Hebrew words using the numbers, giving you ways to do even more.

Do you need a Bible software platform to read and study? Of course not. Can it help you? Of course. And investing a little time and money into a good platform will help you do even more so that aren’t distracted with bells, whistles and confusing buttons, but looking right where you should be—the biblical text itself.

Stay tuned for our upcoming posts on Olive Tree, Accordance and Logos!