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.

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Moltmann's Masterpiece [Book Week]
  • 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).

    http://www.sagu.edu/news/academic-news/intercultural-studies-missions-news/2492-sagu-alumnus-develops-pentecostal-line-for-logos-software

  • http://about.me/revchadbrooks 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.

  • http://morechrist.blogspot.com 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.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com/ Gregg L. DesElms

    FROM THE ARTICLE: ..when I told my contact at Logos about this complaint, he said that they’d look into it as they continue to improve the product.

    MY RESPONSE: Do not be fooled. That is the standard response that *all* Logos reps are told to say whenever an inquiry about more liberal/progressive content is made…

    …sorta’ like all the astronauts’ wives in the ’60s were told, by NASA, to always respond to press questions about how they feel with that they’re “thrilled and happy,” followed by a faked smile intended to cover the wive’s abject terror.

    Logos has no intention — and I mean *NO* intention… ever — of adding liberal/progressive content. Ever! Period.

    I’ve multiple times inquired, every one of them having been initially met with that classic response about how they’ll look-into it as they “continue to improve the product;” and I’ve even escalated it up to directors and vice presidents. I once even spent a half hour explaining to an assistant to a VP about the possibility of a national church organization OEMing the Logos software pre-configured with liberal/progressive content in the foreground; and even specifying what said content would be; and even arranging for the copyright agreements…

    …and even that offer, and the additional sales it would bring to Logos was not enough to pique the interest of anyone at Logos. In fact, the very vice president whom the assistant promised would get back to me simply responded by telling me where on the website I can make suggestions. There was no question that he understood the inquiry, and the business potential, and so his response was, in light of that, almost clinically passive aggressive.

    Logos is an intentionally-conservative Bible software company which sees as part of its mission not distributing what it considers heresy; and liberal/progressive works are most definitely heresy to Logos.

    Logos will deny this, of course; and it will point to things like that it offers the NRSV, when its management clearly prefers such as the NIV; or that it offers a few works that even liberal/progressive consider to be liberal/progressive…

    …but trust me when I tell you that that’s all just a smoke screen. Those are token offerings… in the NRSV’s case, because even Logos knows that for it to not offer that would be just going too far in the company’s right-leaning and conservative zeal. Remember, also, that no one at Logos — at least no one in power — fully grasps that the company is conservative. They think they’re mainstream, and that we’re all the equivalent of a buncha’ communists to need not be taken seriously.

    It’s a shame, but also something of a blessing, if you think about it. The truth is that there are some fine Bible software products out there — some of which are even free — which can be configured with nearly all the important liberal/progressive content out there, as long is willing to dig sufficiently deeply; and is also willing to learn about how to convert between the various bible software packages out there.

    Of course, there’s an even bigger problem, and that’s that getting any group of liberal/progressives to even agree on what content should be included is a little bit like herding cats. One thing about those on the right: they know how to close ranks around doctrine, and tow the company line. liberal/progressive Christians, on the other hand, can’t even agree on what liberal/progressive Christianity is. When you live the mysteries instead of the absolutes, things, when it comes to standardizing on such as Bible software, can be a challenge.

    ________________________________
    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • kent sanner

      Hi Gregg,

      I’m a member of the marketing team at Logos—in fact the one
      who gave Tony the response to his complaint.

      I promise you, I’ve never been asked, told, or encouraged to
      relay anything but the truth to customers (or anyone) about the intentions of Logos.

      This year alone, Logos has released 3,323 new books with
      thousands more to come by the end of the year. We will continue to transcribe as many resources as we can into our format for years to come.

      I assure you, Logos has no agenda to spread one
      denominational belief over another. I encourage you to read what our CEO has to say on the subject: http://community.logos.com/forums/p/35460/266673.aspx

      In an effort to meet the needs of various denominations, we’ve
      launched a number of new base packages specifically equipped with denominationally relevant materials. We’ve launched 4 sets of denominational base packages including
      Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, and SDA with more in the works. We’re also expanding into foreign languages including Spanish, German, and French with more on the
      way.

      I apologize for any inconvenience and miscommunications between
      you and Logos reps in the past. We do appreciate constructive feedback, it’s one of the main reason we provide copies of Logos for review.

      Thanks for your time, I hope I’ve shed some light on Logos
      stance here. If you have further questions, our customer service department is well equipped to discuss this with you. You can find all of their contact information here: https://www.logos.com/contact

      I hope you have a great rest of the week

      -Kent Sanner

    • kent sanner

      Hi Gregg,

      I’m a member of the marketing team at Logos—in fact the one who gave Tony the response to his complaint.

      I promise you, I’ve never been asked, told, or encouraged to relay anything but the truth to customers (or anyone) about the intentions of Logos.

      This year alone, Logos has released 3,323 new books with thousands more to come by the end of the year. We will continue to transcribe as many resources as we can into our format for years to come.

      I assure you, Logos has no agenda to spread one denominational belief over another. I encourage you to read what our CEO has to say on the subject: http://community.logos.com/forums/p/35460/266673.aspx

      In an effort to meet the needs of various denominations, we’ve launched a number of new base packages specifically equipped with denominationally relevant materials. We’ve launched 4 sets of denominational base packages including Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, and SDA with more in the works. We’re also expanding into foreign languages including Spanish, German, and French with more on the way.

      I apologize for any inconvenience and miscommunications between you and Logos reps in the past. We do appreciate constructive feedback, it’s one of the main reason we provide copies of Logos for review.

      Thanks for your time, I hope I’ve shed some light on Logos stance here. If you have further questions, our customer service department is well equipped to discuss this with you. You can find all of their contact information here: https://www.logos.com/contact

      I hope you have a great rest of the week

      -Kent Sanner


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