“Investing In Bible-Research Software is Great Stewardship”, says Nick B. Nicholaou in a short article posted on the Church Business website.Comment
Contributed by guest blogger Ken Ristau
Helen Brown of OakTree Software reports:
OakTree Software Inc. announces the release Accordance Version 6.6 with beautiful smooth Quartz drawing of the text and the graphics (in OS X), as well as a few new features. The drawing of the layers on the Atlas is really lovely with true transparency for the regions. The appearance of Greek and Hebrew text is greatly enhanced. This is yet another free upgrade for users with any version of 6.
This article illustrates the improvement in appearance of the text and maps.
A total of 6,024 people have participated so far in the Bible Software Survey 2005 as I write this. Even though not all Bible software companies have encouraged their users to participate, I think the number is
sufficiently representative to show general trends, and to merit some general comments. ([Ed.] Results have been updated with data from more than 9,000 respondents).
After some thought, I have decided to post the original statistical results. Graphs are much nicer, of course, but since many of the questions have a lot of different choices, they would probably become more confusing than helpful in this particular case. Besides, I don’t have the time right now to do anything fancy If somebody with some free time to spare and artistic abilities wants to design some graphs, just let me know When you look at the results summary, keep in mind the famous saying (attributed to Sir Winston Churchill), “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” No survey is absolutely objective or accurate, but it does help us see some general trends.
Judging by the answers found in the first section (User Background – Questions 1-7), we might be led into thinking that the majority of Bible software users are male Bible Study leaders, aged 46-55, with a Bachelor’s degree, who have never attended Bible College or Seminary, have no formal knowledge of the biblical languages and visit a Christian bookstore once a month or so. But looking at it more closely, we would find out that a good number of them are in fact “professionals” (pastors, missionaries, professors, and scholars) and “would-be professionals” (students).
Much more reliable seem to be the questions that have to do with technology (11-14). Most users work with a desktop system, but the number of notebooks and handhelds is significant. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for people to have desktops and notebooks or/and PDAs (more Palm devices than Pocket PCs, by the way). Window users with a DSL Internet connection abound, but the Macintosh market share is a lot larger than usually granted. This could explain the recent move of a few companies to release Mac products in the coming months.
Questions 15-18 deal with the general use of Bible software. Many people use these programs for topical research (60.1%), followed very closely by personal study (55.8%), but exegetical work takes the lead if we add Passage-by-Passage exegesis (50.3%) and Original language word study (48.7%). Obviously, respondents use the same software for various purposes, as most choices here are not of the and/or type. What I find interesting and stimulating is the fact that quite a few of them state that they use Bible software everyday, spend an average of 4-6 hours a week studying the Bible, and perform most of their study with the help of electronic resources. On top of that, the majority consider themselves to have passed the “basic user” stage. Maybe too good to be true? I don’t really know.
The “thornier” part of the survey has to do with assessing the different Bible software products available. For one thing, I don’t think it is fair to ask someone to evaluate a product he/she doesn’t know anything about and/or has never used. Having said that, the results are not a big surprise. According to the survey, Libronix DLS and Accordance lead the field on the Windows and Macintosh platforms, respectively. Runner ups on the Windows side are Biblesoft, which has quite a following, and BibleWorks, which is perceived as being particularly good for scholarly Bible study.
e-Sword is ahead of Online Bible in the Freeware/Shareware section, while Laridian (MyBible and PocketBible) beat Olive Tree (BibleReader) by a mere 2%. Finally, BibleGateway.com is the most widely used Bible study website.
We’ll probably have more to say on these results, but for the time being you can check them out for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Of course, one of the most interesting parts for me is the last question (i.e., suggestions for Bible software developers, requests, etc). But I will need some more time to review them in some detail and give you a summary of the most recurrent issues.Comment
There are some helpful online Bible search and study tools out there, and today I’d like to mention one of them: The Blue Letter Bible.
It is based on the KJV, but it can also display other versions, like NKJV, NLT, NASB, Webster’s, Young’s, Darby’s, ASV, HNV, RSV, Vulgate, and Greek NT. The Greek text is Stephen’s TR (1550), with no accents, breathings, diacritics, or punctuation. There is another Greek text available — also unaccented — that combines the text of Wescott-Hort (1881) with NA variants. Besides, all verses can be listened to online in any of the three audio Bibles available (KJV, NKJV, and NLT). In the KJV, chapters, verses and words are heavily linked to a whole slew of study helps and reference materials, which can be accessed right from the Bible text by clicking on the buttons displayed to the left of the verse reference. The K button is used for cross-references (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge), the C button for Concordance/Lexicon information, and the D button for Bible dictionaries (Naves Topical Bible, Torrey’s, Easton’s). There are other buttons for multimedia helps (audio/video commentaries, study tools and text commentaries), images and maps, hymns, and other translations. Hymns are in MIDI format, and the different audio files in Real Audio. When a number of resources are available, a drop-down menu lets us select the one we want to jump to
(as shown below).
All the information and hyperlinks are clearly displayed in tabular form, so that we can conveniently take the course of study we prefer.
Clicking on a Strong’s number opens a new window with the usual information found in Strong’s dictionary.
But it goes one step further by adding Thayer’s Lexicon entry and a KJV English Concordance listing all the verses that contain that number.
A blue down-facing arrow indicates that the English translation contains two or more words, and that the next one is further below. Conversely, a blue up-facing arrow indicates that the English translation contains two or more words, and that the previous one is found above.
By clicking on Tense we can access the full Tense/Stem information of a verb, whereas clicking on PHR. automatically performs a phrase search. Searching is pretty basic but effective. AND and OR searches are easy to run, and an asterisk (*) can be used as a wild card suffix if need be. It is also possible to search for Strong’s numbers. An explanation of the different word and phrase search options can be found here.
Finally, all online Scripture references in a website can be linked back to the Blue Letter Bible. Thus, if you click on John 1:1, you’ll be taken to that particular verse in the KJV.
All in all an excellent resource, although you really need a broadband connection to make the most out of it.
UPDATE (June 17): In his blog, Brandon Wason, one of the programmers for the Blue Letter Bible, points out one feature that I missed. The LexiConc is a wonderful little tool that lets you type any English word and finds the related Hebrew and Greek terms. I tried it with the word “love” (yes, I know, not very original…), and it immediately returned the results shown below:
All I can say is that this one feature greatly adds to the usefulness of BLB, and that I missed it because it is probably a little bit too buried under the Search main menu option. It surely deserves to have a more prominent place, if I may say so. Anyway, thanks for the heads up!Comment
Contributed by guest blogger Ken Ristau
I’m honored to report that my article, “E-Search the Scriptures: Online resources and Bible software bring a scholar’s library into any home or office,” recently took third place in the Service Journalism (Open) category at the Canadian Church Press Awards. I had no idea it was even nominated so I was pretty shocked when Bill Fledderus, editor at FaithToday, informed me of the honor.
The article was first published in the May/June 2004 issue of Faith Today and has been subsequently reprinted online at Christianity.ca and ForMinistry.com. Links to the Faith Today article are also available from my bible software page and Bible Software Review.Comment