Posted on March 15th, 2013
A seminary student recently asked me about Bible software. He indicated that his seminary is pressuring him to get Logos, since it’s the only company Concordia Publishing House will work with. This is for him, posted here for you to listen in and/or argue with me.
I first had the precursor to Logos, the Libronix system, when I bought Luther’s Works. I later bought an expensive package with BibleWorks, which was a great program on PC. But I kept being enticed by Logos because of the dream of having Lutheran resources available electronically. I eventually bought a package. At this point, I think I had purchased expensive resources like BDB (Hebrew Lexicon) and BDAG (Greek Lexicon) each three times: paper copy, BibleWorks, and Logos. But I became increasingly frustrated by working with Windows. So after I switched to Apple I asked my Mac friends what to do. Accordance was the resounding answer.
It’s easy to see why, once you’ve worked with both. Accordance not only works “Mac-like” (which is to say, intuitively), but it is fast. Blazingly so. It is a Ferrari compared to a scooter. It is a Major League ace’s fastball compared to church-league slow-pitch softball. There really is no competition in the programs themselves: Accordance is the clear winner. (I don’t know anything about programming, but Logos should fire their guys and hire the Accordance engineers. And give free upgrades for life to the users like me they’ve snookered out of hundreds, no thousands of dollars. I am not kidding.)
But Logos has more resources. LOTS more resources. Including the seemingly all-important Lutheran resources from CPH. And then, Logos came to Mac. The allurement returned. “Maybe I can really have it all: the speed and ease of a Mac, all the resources of Logos, especially the Lutheran ones. Imagine what I can do!” It was a false, misleading dream. The program was terrible – worse than terrible. I’m told they have yet another version out. But there is no way I’m going to give them another dime in hopes they’ve finally provided what should have been there in the first place.
So your question is really: Will I use those resources? And here’s where it doesn’t really matter what platform you’re using or even if you decide to go with Logos despite my warnings. You must ask the question, “What do I really need to do?”
- As a pastor, your tasks that you need the software to help with are primarily two: preaching, and teaching Bible classes.
- What do you need for that? The Bible. So, you want a couple of good English translations available electronically. You can get that for free online, but it’s better on your desktop. Get the ESV and NKJ. You won’t use eleven or twenty or thirty translations. That’s just a waste of space.
- But you learned those original languages for a reason, right? So get the Hebrew and Greek texts. If you’re weird like me, you’ll also get the Byzantine textform on top of the standard NA/UBS text.
- You’ll need lexicons. Get HALOT (or BDB if you can’t afford it) and BDAG (or Liddell-Scott if you can afford it).
- Then, if you still have money (or later when you get an honorarium for a funeral or wedding), get some deeper resources for original language study. I recommend Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, and Harris/Archer/Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
You now have enough to keep you busy for years.
But then, you’ll get the itch again. Your sermons and classes are getting stale. You’ve gone over the same ground repeatedly. And you think, “If I just buy some more computer stuff, everything will get better.” That’s mostly a lie. And you’ll waste your money. Trust me. But there are a few more things you can use:
- Face it. Your Hebrew really isn’t that good. But you still know some Greek, right? So get the Septuagint (LXX). Put that bad boy on the screen right next to the Hebrew. When the Hebrew confuses you, instead of cheating by looking at the lexicon or (gasp) the English translation, take a peek at the LXX. Try to puzzle it out from there. You’ll gain surprising insights into the Gospel texts this way.
- Get the Catena Aurea. It’s a collection of patristic quotations on the Gospel texts compiled by Aquinas. This will give you all kinds of preaching ideas.
- The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture would do the same thing, but for the whole Bible. I purchased the paper volumes by subscription when they were coming out, so I haven’t used it electronically. I’d love to have it on my computer, but there’s no way I’m spending the money again to buy something I already have. So I am compelled to leg the three feet over to my bookshelf and consult them the old fashioned way.
- Some good dictionaries, like the Anchor Bible Dictionary or the various resources from IVP.
And that’s really it for software. You don’t need anything else on your computer. It’s a waste of money. And don’t be a dummy like me and waste your money repeatedly. Just don’t tell my wife. (Oops. Hi, Kassie. Love you!)
Also, every program I’ve tried is really, really bad at the execution of notes. So you’ll have to take your notes elsewhere, either on paper, in a word processor, or a program like Evernote.
So now, you should feel free to evaluate the various programs on your platform of choice free from the delusion that more resources means better program. The resources you actually need are available on all the programs. So evaluate the programs based on how you work, keeping the Bible first and foremost in your thinking. Every other tool you buy should have one purpose: How will this help me understand the Scriptures better? You’re probably not going to be a professor or work in a publishing house. You’re going to seminary to be a pastor and dish out to people the Word of God. Keep that at the forefront of your thinking. If even an angel from heaven tells you otherwise, pay no heed.
Also of interest: