Sunday, March 10, 2013

In Search of Good Bible Software

Years ago, even though I was not then a Christian, I bought a cheap Bible software and installed it on my computer. The cool thing about it was that I could search for any word and it would come out with a list of verses where that word was found. Bible scholars would use this to study topics such as circumcision or salvation, I used it to look up words like 'wizard' and 'dragon', just for fun.

Nowadays I am not only back to being a Christian, but I am a Catholic. And I have just begun on a non-fiction writing project which requires me to dive into the study of the Bible. Now, I took a lot of theology courses in college, and spent lots of my free time immersed in the theology section of the library. But that was many years ago, and I spent the intervening years without much of the Bible in my life.

I decided I needed to beef up my tiny theological library. I looked at Dave Armstrong's blog to see if he had anything in the way of a list of recommended theological books. Dave is a convert to Catholicism who was previously a Protestant campus missionary, so I thought anything he'd use would be just about right for me as well.

What I found on his page was a link to Verbum, the new Catholic Bible software from the makers of Logos, the premiere Protestant Bible software maker.  Verbum is cool, it's an entire theological library for your computer--- but the cost of the cheapest version is $270.

I could look up some of the commentaries and such and see if I can find them for free online. You see, the theological libraries in software like this is mostly old, classic works that are now in the public domain.

I still wanted a Bible software package I could use now, so I searched for free Bible software. I found e-Sword, which is evidently a Protestant operation, though they didn't feel the need to mention that at their web site. I am downloading that software and will report back on how useful it is.

Some of my readers may wonder why anyone needs special Bible software. Can't they just read a Bible for that information?

The problem is that the Bible is not just some simplistic little book. It is a wide variety of ancient text, written in three languages--- Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic--- and from historical eras quite distant from our own. To really be knowledgeable about any given Bible text, you either have to go to a seminary for years to learn the original languages and the historic context, or you have to use books that can give you a similar amount of knowledge.

Bible software can simplify that process. In my old Bible software, I could go from any given Bible verse to the things that different Bible scholars had written about that verse in commentaries. They were, of course, all Protestant Bible scholars, and that software did not at all include the entire Catholic Bible, but omitted certain books of the Old Testament of the Bible that most Protestants have rejected. (Some Protestant groups still keep these books in their Bibles, but put them in a 'neutral zone' between the Old and New Testaments.)

Even if you are a non-Christian writer--- heck, even if you have an anti-Christian bias--- Bible software can be very useful in coming up with a Bible verse for your characters to quote or misquote. That's what I bought my old Bible software for, after all. I had most firmly rejected Christianity and had no intention of ever going back to that misguided point-of-view.


Stanley Loper said...

I've been using various free Bible software for years Nissa. E-sword is the best one as far as I'm concerned. I don't use much in the way of theology modules, though there are some modules available for those of my faith. What you may want to do is to contact Rick Myers directly and see if he knows about anybody who is making Topic modules, etc., with Catholics in mind. He may be able to steer you toward somebody.

In the classes I attend my strength is my knowledge of Bible Languages and how they bear on the topics we consider. So I've structured my e-sword installation accordingly.

nissa_loves_cats said...

Thanks! I really like the software so far. I downloaded the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, and the original King James Version with 'Apocrypha', and found you can do word searches which include those books. I found a verse in Wisdom which relates to something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount doing that.

I love using the Strong's numbers to look up words and just wish that extended to the 'Apocrypha' of the Catholic Bible as sometimes it really helps to find the original word.

Stanley Loper said...

I contacted Mr. Meyers and he suggested trying this link:

He says there is plenty of free modules there you should be able to use. I checked it and it is a Catholic oreinted site.

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