Despite claims that the World Wide Web will make it as obsolete as vinyl records and 8-track tapes, CD-ROM technology still has a long and useful life ahead of it. This is especially true of CD-ROM programs for Bible study. These programs enable users to study various Bible translations, perform lightning-fast word searches (even in Greek and Hebrew), consult myriad reference works and take notes—without picking up a single book. And the number of texts offered by the various software packages has multiplied. Today there are hundreds—not just numerous versions of the Bible, but also dictionaries, reference works, historical documents and theological treatises.
Here we evaluate six of the leading Bible study programs, five of which run on Microsoft Windows and one Mac-based program. All are readily available in stores.
Bible Explorer 3: Premium Edition
Bible Explorer 3 is probably the most user-friendly of the five software programs. It’s easy to load from the installation CD-ROMs, and the window that appears on the screen is well organized. Browsing through books is easy, too. Like all the programs under review here, Bible Explorer 3 includes several modern English Bible translations (including the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version and the Bible in Basic English) as well as commentaries, dictionaries, devotionals and word study tools.
The program has some appealing “extras” such as engravings by Gustave Doré, photographs of Israel and an atlas. It’s not suitable for multilingual research, however—it does not include any foreign language translations or original Greek or Hebrew texts. Furthermore, buyers should be aware that the program seems to be aimed at an evangelical Christian audience. A final note: Bible Explorer 3 is best used in conjunction with the Internet. If you’re not connected to the Web, you’ll miss out on some of the fun.
Phone: (408) 251–9788
Approximate cost: $299.97
System requirements: PC with Windows 98+,
32 MB RAM, 40 MB HD
English Bible translations: 17
Original language texts: 0
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: 11+
To the novice user, BibleWorks 5 may seem a little daunting. The box declares, “Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research”—clearly, this program was designed with serious scholars in mind. BibleWorks 5 allows users to customize their searches and do in-depth linguistic study. It offers dozens of important translations of the Bible, in German, Italian, even Russian. The secondary literature is “no frills”: It includes tools for linguistic study but no maps or photographs. Also, the program eats up a lot of hard-drive space. But for people who want a program that’s not faith-oriented, this may be the right choice.
Phone: (888) 747–8200
Approximate cost: $299.95
System requirements: PC with Windows 95+, 32 MB RAM, up to 1.4 GB HD
English Bible translations: 19
Original language texts: 15+
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: 23
Logos Bible Series X: Scholar’s Library
Of all the Bible study programs currently available, Logos has the most extensive library of resources, with more than 2,500 texts available on CD-ROM or through the Web—and the list is growing. The program is not always easy to use, however, and it takes time to set up. The Logos Scholar’s Library is also somewhat unstructured, compared to other programs—the resources are not so closely interlinked. But if you want to conduct more open-ended research, this program might offer the flexibility you want.
Phone: (800) 87-LOGOS
Approximate cost: $599.95
System requirements: Pentium PC with
Windows 98, 64 MB RAM, 60+ MB HD
English Bible translations: 16
Original language texts: 7
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: numerous
PC Study Bible
PC Study Bible kept me engaged longer than any of the other programs because it’s so straightforward to use. Several on-screen menus will help you perform searches, browse through texts and take notes. There’s a handy timeline that pops 055up, and plenty of links to reference works. PC Study Bible includes Greek and Hebrew study tools, but these probably aren’t adequate for the needs of scholars, since much of the Greek and Hebrew is transliterated. The package also includes the high-quality Moody Atlas and Timeline and lots of photographs. I’d recommend PC Study Bible to anyone who wants a user-friendly program and doesn’t need to conduct original research. Like Bible Explorer 3, however, PC Study Bible seems to assume that the Bible is literally true, and that the Hebrew Bible anticipates the coming of Jesus.
Phone: (800) 877–0778
Approximate cost: $399.97
System requirements: PC with Windows 95+
English Bible translations: 10
Original language texts: 2
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: 13+
WORDsearch and BART
WORDsearch and BART (The Biblical Analysis Research Tool) are two parts of a three-part Bible study package produced by WORDsearch Bible (the third component, LessonMaker, is an aid for planning Bible lessons or writing sermons; I won’t discuss it here). While the other products I’ve reviewed here share many common features, WORDsearch and BART are distinctive. One of the things I liked best about WORDsearch and BART is that they’re compatible with Microsoft Word, so you can paste your notes into Word documents without having to convert them into another format.
Something else that’s different about WORDsearch: You have to use specific “Find” commands to search texts. This is awkward at first, but I got used to it quickly. Numerous maps and background materials—again, mostly targeted at a Christian audience—come with the WORDsearch package. I do have one complaint about WORDsearch: The software hasn’t been updated to make full use of the Web or the newer features of Windows. However, if you have an older computer with limited hard-drive space, that may not matter.
Although WORDsearch can’t be used for multilingual research, its sister program, the Biblical Analysis Research Tool (BART), can. With BART, you can translate a page, or half a line, of Greek, and parse Hebrew words. Although BART’s search tools are strong enough for scholars, lay people will find that BART can help them study Greek and Hebrew texts in the original languages.
Phone: (800) 888–9898
Approximate cost: $399.95
System requirements: PC with Windows 95+,
32 MB RAM
English Bible translations: 21
Original language texts: 3
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: 15+
Let’s face it, Oaktree software’s Accordance is the only Macintosh OS (operating system) Bible study software on the market. So, if you want to use your Mac, this is the program to use. Accordance depicts its software as an amazing product, and I was expecting quite a lot. The installation process was cumbersome: The installation of the Bible Atlas crashed my computer and had to be replaced. And you have to fill in an individual serial number for each product. The maps and photos were not as impressive as I expected. But Accordance is a solid program, whose searching, displaying and multilingual capabilities are superb. Equally important, Accordance carries books that are geared to those interested in biblical archaeology. For example, they have materials from Qumran (including the texts in Hebrew), the Mishnah, a nondenominational Bible atlas, and many lexicons and dictionaries.
Phone: (877) 339–5855
Approximate cost: $59 and up
System requirements: Macintosh OS 7.1+,
16 MB RAM
English Bible translations: 20
Original language texts: 12
Concordances, dictionaries, reference works: 112
And the Winner Is…
All of these programs have strengths and weaknesses, so making a final recommendation is difficult. For academics, I would recommend BibleWorks 5 because of its powerful search engine. The Logos Scholar’s Library is probably the best package for general readers who want access to a wide range of texts and multimedia aids. It’s not the easiest to use, but it has a huge library and many study tools and makes better use of the Internet than the other programs. Whichever you decide on, your knowledge of the Bible will be vastly increased. Make your choice and start exploring!
Despite claims that the World Wide Web will make it as obsolete as vinyl records and 8-track tapes, CD-ROM technology still has a long and useful life ahead of it. This is especially true of CD-ROM programs for Bible study. These programs enable users to study various Bible translations, perform lightning-fast word searches (even in Greek and Hebrew), consult myriad reference works and take notes—without picking up a single book. And the number of texts offered by the various software packages has multiplied. Today there are hundreds—not just numerous versions of the Bible, but also dictionaries, reference works, historical […]