Life, Hope & Truth

From the January/February 2014 issue of Discern Magazine

Bible Software: Tools to Maximize Your Study

What can Bible software do that I can’t already do? Why bother learning to use new software? Bible software can be worth the time—and some of it is free!

[From the January/February 2014 issue of Discern.]

A particular Bible passage states, “Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (reference to be given later, emphasis added throughout).

Increased transportation and knowledge are signs of the time of the end.

When the books of the Bible were written, an effective means of transportation was the horse. This remained a preferred mode of transportation for 1,800 years thereafter. However, in the 1900s the automobile came to be the most preferred mode of daily transportation.

People recognized that travel by car was done with more ease, comfort, enjoyment and speed than previous modes of travel.

Similar benefits have been noted in regard to using Bible software. Unlike the automobile, Bible software does not necessarily replace our much-loved Bibles. Instead, it can be a perfect companion to our Bibles. While the increase in knowledge is not always used for the good of mankind, Bible software can greatly improve our studies.

Below are some fundamental benefits of using Bible software, along with some sample Bible studies. At the end is a list of free and other popular Bible software.

Easy word searches

Many times we remember part of a scripture, but can’t remember exactly where it is. For example, where does it say, “Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase”?

Without Bible software, you would have three basic possibilities:

  • Perhaps you would just concentrate, hoping that it would come to you. Of course, God can bring any scripture to our remembrance when He chooses to do so. He also expects us to help ourselves by using the best resources available to us.
  • If you remembered that this passage is located in the book of Daniel, then you might begin skimming through Daniel until you found it (in chapter 12, the last chapter).
  • Or, if you had a concordance in the back of your Bible, then you might look under a key word for this verse (for example, “increase”) and find it listed.

The above options can be a lengthy process, especially when the word or passage is not listed in the small concordance included with many Bibles. Now, let’s see how quickly we might find this passage while using Bible software (specific steps vary with different software packages):

  • You would click on the Search button and type a key word and hit Enter. In a matter of seconds, the software pulls up the verses that contain that key word. You glance through them until you spot the match—Daniel 12:4. That’s it—no wait and no stress. These speeds are common among the various software brands.

Word patterns

From here, we can discover word patterns that can lead to a deeper understanding of Scripture. The following sample research would be very challenging without Bible software.

Let’s explore the usage of a common word, “love,” and its variations in the Gospels. Variations of this word are found 92 times: Matthew (13 times), Mark (6), Luke (16) and John (57).

Interestingly, over half of the occurrences are found in one Gospel—John’s. The apostle John identifies himself a few times as the one “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7). So the abundant references to “love” in John’s Gospel appear to be an expression of his unique relationship with Christ. John’s Gospel also openly declares God’s “love” to all humanity in perhaps the most cited passage today, John 3:16.

Now let’s add another key word and search for verses that contain variations of both “love” and “command”—Matthew (0 verses), Mark (2), Luke (0) and John (7). So John uses these words together more than the others. This holds true for the rest of the New Testament—Romans (1 verse), 2 Corinthians (1), 1 Timothy (1), 1 John (4) and 2 John (2).

Reflecting upon this pattern can unravel an often overlooked fact about love—it goes hand in hand with keeping God’s “commands.” Therefore, it follows that the one who most often mentions “love” would also speak about keeping “commandments” the most. As John 14:15 says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

So, concepts such as “love” and “faith” do not exclude commandment-keeping. John records this in Revelation 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

Without using Bible software, how long might it take someone to notice this frequency and pattern of word usage? It would be very challenging. Yet this basic feature leads to unlimited research and understanding of life-changing biblical truth.

Understanding the meanings of words

After finding words that we search for, we can take our study to the next level—word studies. Let’s pick up where we left off with the words “love” and “command.” Without Bible software, the following steps are common:

  • Look up the word “love” in a concordance, typically Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which shows each place where that word is found and which assigns a number for the corresponding Hebrew or Greek word with its limited definitions.
  • Find the word and number assigned to “love” in John 14:15 (agapao, #25).
  • Flip to the back of the concordance to find the definition for this word.
  • Repeat the above steps for “command” (entole, #1785).

These steps can be exhausting when there are multiple words to look up. Yet many Bible software packages can display the Strong’s number next to each word. And the definition can be seen by simply clicking on the number. Some even allow definitions to pop up on the screen when the cursor just touches the number (no clicking necessary). Then the definition can be copied or printed for easy accessibility later. (Note: More detailed definitions can be found in other resources that are more authoritative than Strong’s.)

Again, this can be done in a matter of seconds—no flipping back and forth in a thick concordance or bookmarking pages or writing out definitions.

Example: Looking up the meanings of love

Next we’ll move to the area of properly citing words and their meanings. Did you know that there are different Greek words for “love” that underscore different facets of this word? The same is true for other English words. Therefore, it would be helpful to be able to distinguish the different Greek words that are used for the same English word.

One such source is Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Granted, this title is a mouthful, but the content is very user-friendly. Here, two Greek verbs for “love” are listed, agapao (#25) and phileo (#5368). Most are more familiar with the latter word, phileo, and its affiliation with “Philadelphia,” the city of “brotherly love.” Phileo often conveys the idea of cherishing someone or an affection resulting from a gratifying interpersonal association.

However, the first word, agapao, emphasizes a serving type of love, regardless of the existence of a close relationship. This word is used in John 14:15 and is discussed at length in Vine’s:

Are you taking advantage of these learning tools? Never before has so much biblical material been so easily accessible and affordable. The Bible is an annual best seller, but it’s the least understood book. Too often, it’s a book that is purchased but left dormant on a table or shelf. Yet the use of Bible software can, in turn, motivate us to “blow the dust off” of our hard-copy Bibles.“Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; 1 John 2:5; 5:3; 2 John 6. Selfwill, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all.”

Agapao love is driven by God, the primary object as well as the source of a Christian’s obedience to His commandments. There’s nothing legalistic about this required expression of love (agape) toward God and humanity. John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (agapao) in unconditional service (John 13:23) and “whom Jesus loved” (phileo) with brotherly affection as, perhaps, His closest friend (John 20:2).

Example: the meaning of commandments

Now we’ll look at the Greek word for “commandments” (entole, #1785). Does this only refer to keeping charges that are explicitly spoken by Jesus Christ in John 14 and elsewhere? Consider Luke 23:56: “Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment [entole].” This is in step with what Christ taught and the example He left for His followers. After all, He is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

This is applicable to the rest of the 10 Commandments, as well as the one that summarizes the last six: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:16-19; Romans 13:9).

The 10 Commandments are considered binding and important for everyone, as compared to circumcision, which is not required for salvation. Notice how Paul distinguishes such commandments from one another, “Circumcision is nothing … but keeping the commandments [entole] of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19).

Enrich your library, saving space and often money

So we’ve seen how helpful Bible software can be. But there are other advantages.

A small bookcase in one’s office might hold around 25 books on each shelf. Let’s say that the top shelf is reserved for Bibles, lexicons, commentaries and other Bible resources. At a very modest estimate of $20 per book (though a Bible can cost $75), the resources on this shelf alone would cost $500.

Free software

As for Bible software, one of the most popular packages, called e-Sword, is completely free. It offers 25 versions of the Bible, including notable translations such the King James Version, King James Version (with Strong’s Numbers), Modern King James Version, English Standard Version, Lexham English Bible, English Majority Text and Young’s Literal Translation.

E-Sword also has 13 free Bible dictionaries, including Strong’s, Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Additionally, there are 18 free commentaries, such as Adam Clarke’s; Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown; and Albert Barnes’ Notes. Other books, such as the New King James Version can be purchased at discounted prices, often around $15. See e-sword.net.

Other ways to access Bibles, dictionaries and commentaries for free include visiting websites such as blueletterbible.org, biblegateway.com and biblehub.com.

More powerful purchased software

If, or when, you’re interested in purchasing a fully loaded package, you might want to consider the Logos Bible Software. Logos has a starter package for over $200 that includes 191 resources (a print value of $3,500). From here, you can work your way up to larger libraries, if you prefer to do so. See logos.com.

Other popular packages are BibleWorks, QuickVerse and PC Study Bible. All of these packages are space-efficient, as they can be downloaded or stored on a CD.

(Note: We hope these recommendations are helpful, but they are not exhaustive, so you may want to do additional research, especially before spending money. We are not connected with any of these software makers or websites, and we receive no benefits for recommending them.)

Knowledge, indeed, has increased

Are you taking advantage of these learning tools? Never before has so much biblical material been so easily accessible and affordable. The Bible is an annual best seller, but it’s the least understood book. Too often, it’s a book that is purchased but left dormant on a table or shelf. Yet the use of Bible software can, in turn, motivate us to “blow the dust off” of our hard-copy Bibles.

Nevertheless, using Bible software should not be driven by intellectual vanity. The apostle Paul warned about such ineffective pursuits of knowledge, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

Instead, let’s study with the goal of repentance and changing our lives. Therefore, the proper motive for obtaining Bible software is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

For more about getting the most out of Bible study, see “How to Study the Bible” and “Bible Study Tools: Where to Start” on the LifeHopeandTruth.com website.

About the Author

Kevin Epps

Kevin Epps

Kevin Epps lives in Somerset, New Jersey, with his wife, Belinda, and daughter, Kayla. He enjoys his current opportunity to pastor three congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association—Central New Jersey; Queens, New York; and Quakertown, Pennsylvania. He’s been in the ministry for more than 20 years, serving several congregations on the U.S. east coast and in Texas.

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