The “Bible Scholar” App

The “Bible Scholar” App October 2, 2013

I have mentioned before the need for an app that makes Biblical scholarship available to the general public for free.

A recently-publicized app called “The Bible Scholar” illustrates why it is needed, rather than actually providing what is needed.

The app is the King James Version of the Bible, Matthew Henry's commentary, and many other public domain, out of date, devotional resources that offer nothing remotely akin to Biblical scholarship.

I wouldn't have been quite so disappointed if they had chosen a less misleading name for the app. There isn't even anything new here – all of these resources have been freely available for a long time, and are often bundled in with apps that also allow you to purchase worthwhile scholarly materials as well.


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  • Ian

    When the conversation came up before, I was a bit in the middle of something, so forgive me if I didn’t pay due attention, or if I didn’t follow through on a broad suggestion. I’m aware this is something I’ve advocated, so take this question in that context.

    What do you think should be in a ‘Bible Scholar’ app, and how could that be sourced?

    Putting the SBLGNT+apparatus in would be easy enough (and, unless you say otherwise, my non-professional opinion is that it is good). Something like the NRSV could be licensed. The LXX and the BHS would be far more expensive to license, from what I hear, and possibly fall foul of existing license agreements between the DBG and existing vendors. But what would you envisage as language references / commentaries?

    What I’m trying to get at is, do you see the need primarily for the app itself, or for the creation of suitable resources?

    • Perhaps we need a SBLGOT and SBLHOT.

      • Ian

        That would be *very* cool, yes! And open source Greek and Hebrew lexica too. And a pony. Definitely a pony.

    • It is the resources I’m thinking of, and perhaps having them be add-ons to existing apps would be an advantage.

      There are pretty good resources for reading the Bible in the original languages, both high end scholarly ones that you pay for and free ones with just the basic text. What I’m envisaging is something like a commentary that offers an academic perspective on the text, in the form of an app or a module for an app.

      • Ian

        So there are plenty of scholarly commentaries. Is the core issue that there is a need for a ‘study bible’ style commentary which is scholarly rigorous?

        I’m not being pedantic here, I’m trying to get to the bottom of where you see the issue. My ulterior motive is that I’d be interested in putting some time into building something, but I think building the right thing is *always* the difficult bit, harder than the actual building!

        • My thinking is that as long as there are free materials available in apps or online, people will turn to those more often than they will turn to books or resources they have to pay for. And so I would like to at least have a free scholarly commentary available to them. How many will use it rather than or at least alongside Matthew Henry would be interesting to see.

  • Neo AfroFusion

    I personally do not see anything misleading in the app. Even if it is in the public domain, someone took the time and effort to make it for the various mobile devices and then made it available to the public. Kudos to them!

    • What is misleading is the app’s name, the claim that such outdated public domain resources have something scholarly to offer. Yet the app doesn’t even incorporate scholarship that is in the public domain.

      • Neo AfroFusion

        What is “outdated” for one could be a “treasure” for another. This app has church history, commentaries that many Christians both in the USA and especially overseas could find very helpful.I say this as one who has lived in Africa for 12 years. I see your point about them being old, but that does not discount the usefulness.

        • But they are not scholarly resources. They are an out-of-date English translation with no footnotes to indicate differences in manuscript evidence or anything of that sort, and a devotional commentary. Even if they had been made today in this form, and thus were not out of date, they would still not be scholarly. One can do better by searching selected works pages, the Internet Archive, and JSTOR’s free offerings.

          • Sam

            The Bible Scholar app is a great resource. How can you say it’s outdated? So it is public domain, so what? The developers took the materials and “fashioned” it into an app so it is more readily accessible to more people. –

          • As I said in the comment you responded to, while they are out of date, that isn’t as big a problem as the fact that they are not scholarly resources, even though the app uses “scholar” to describe itself.