The Best Bible Software

So, here’s the story. I can’t really even remember how it began, but I posted somewhere that I was looking for an online, interlinear version of the Septuagint for a word I was researching for my next book. Pretty obscure, I know. Well, I heard from the people at Logos that they, indeed, had such a thing.

I’d had Logos back in the day. It was an early version, back when I was on a church staff and had a budget for such things. It came on CD-ROMs, and they’d mail updates every once in a while. But I hadn’t used Logos in many years.

The folks at Logos offered to give me the latest version if I’d review it. I told them that my review would be honest, and they were cool with that (I’m not being compensated for this review, and the embedded links are not part of a commissioned sale). So off I went. And here’s what I think:

In brief, I think that Logos is the best Bible software available. Honestly, the amount of material is overwhelming — thankfully, they’ve produced a bunch of video tutorials that can walk you through just about anything. For the average preacher, a base package is probably enough; for the serious student of the Bible, I can’t imagine a better resource than one of the higher-level packages.

Like many, my biblical languages have gotten a bit rusty since I graduated from seminary in 1993. I can pick my way through Greek, but Hebrew is Greek to me! ;-) Logos has gotten me right back into my Greek and Hebrew, and it’s even got the Latin Vulgate, so I’ve been back into reading the language that we’ll all be speaking in Heaven.

And, yes, they’ve got the Septuagint in a Greek-English interlinear.

These days, Logos doesn’t come on a CD-ROM. Instead, I downloaded their apps onto my Mac and iPhone. Then, depending on what package you buy, the system automatically populates your dashboard with the content that is applicable to you. Of course, you do a bit of set-up to get it when you’re getting started. The dashboard is complex, but fairly intuitive. Here’s a screengrab of mine:

I could go on and on telling you what you can learn about a Greek word from the text simply by hovering over it, but then it would sound like I’m gushing. Well, I’m kind of gushing, cuz I think it’s great.

But I’ve got one caveat. Logos has clearly been designed by people on the more conservative side, or at least with those people in mind. I’ve known this since I first used it years ago, and it seems to still be true. For example, the default versions of the Bible in your dashboard upon launching Logos for the first time are the ESV — the version of the Bible favored and endorsed by John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Francis Chan, and Mark Driscoll — and, of all things the New King James Version. Yuck. I quickly replaced those with the NRSV and the NLT.

Also, users from my theological persuasion will quickly notice that most of the ancillary resources — commentaries, sermon helps, books in various packages — also come from that same conservative, Reformed perspective. At least those are the ones that are highlighted in the dashboard. When I dug a bit deeper, I found, for example, the entire corpus of Jürgen Moltmann available for download. But, like I said, you’ve got to dig for those — they’re not the default.

I don’t know if this is a function of the clientele of Logos. Maybe conservative pastors are more into serious biblical exegesis than progressives — in fact, that’s surely the case, broadly speaking. And that’s a shame.

But a lot of us progressives are used to this. Many church resources cater to conservative evangelicals, and we’ve got to retrofit those tools to meet our needs. I’m fine with that — it’s no more than a minor annoyance when using Logos. And, when I told the my contact at Logos about this complaint, he said that they’d look into it as they continue to improve the product.

So, the long and short of it is this: I like Logos. It’s solid, and I encourage you to try it. In fact, according to the website, Logos 5 is on sale now through the end of September, so it’s a good time to try it out.

  • Chris Baca

    This is kind of an obscure article, but an alumnus from the university I work at is actually working with Logos on creating a Pentecostal line for the software. In the following article, they also reference that there will be other lines made available in 2014 (Lutheran, Orthodox, and more).

  • chadbrooks

    Tony-great review. I am an accordance guy, but I think my software is really important and crucial to my ministry.

    What I really liked is how you called out the conservative bent by these guys. I have done a little affiliate work for Logos back in the day and I noticed it then. Accordance tends to have some of the same identity, but it is less. As a UM pastor I kinda live in this middle ground.

    I really appreciated you calling out my two favorite translations to use NRSV and NLT. I really see the NLT being the best congregational translation out there and have to defend that choice to people.

    As far as content, I know accordance has a user module forum and anyone can submit to it. It takes alot of work to make a really well functioning module. Does logos have this option.

    Anyway all bible nerd stuff aside. Thanks for a great article and your passion for everyone to be deep into scripture and the necessity for its study.

  • NateW

    Hey Tony, have you tried Olive Tree Bible Reader? I’ve enjoyed it so far on my phone/ipad an am curious how it stacks up to Logos.

    I read both the NRSV and the ESV at times and find that they are almost entirely the same, often word for word. Any particular reason you dislike the ESV besides those who like it?

  • Jason Rea

    Tony, I use Logos and think it works well, but just as you have stated it does have a theological bent – in the base packages especially. Before investing in a massive base package, make sure to read through what you actually get. For myself getting a smaller base package and then populating Logos with resources and commentaries I actually use is/was a better way to go. Many of the base package books are older and most likely out of copyright which is why they can offer so many books. Unfortunately doing it this way costs money as buying books and commentary packages a la carte gets expensive. But, to Logos’s credit they do offer a wide variety of theologically diverse material and are always offering pre-pub offers to get more books into the format. Thanks for the honest review.

  • K.W. Leslie

    I’m an Accordance fan myself. It has a lot more resources outside the conservative/Reformed spectrum. Thus far it’s only been for Mac users, but a Windows version is due for release this month.