Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bible Versions in Bible Apps

In the previous post, I listed the Bible versions I like to consult when doing textual and translation work. In this post, I want to note the Bible versions that are available in six of the leading mobile Bible apps. 
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Available Bible versions is only one reason whether to choose an app or not. If there is one particular version you must have, then this list may help.
  • I do not do serious exegetical work on my Android smartphone. For a mobile app, I'm more interested in how quickly it works, and whether I can do some quick checking on a translation or the original text. I.e., I do include the availability of Greek and Hebrew texts. Bonus points for those that include Strong's or other tagging which might allow you to connect with a Hebrew/Greek lexicon.
  • If you own desktop versions of any of these programs--especially Accordance, Logos, or Olive Tree--your decision will be easier since most everything you own in the desktop version is available in the app.
  • Also note the costs. I've indicated which versions come with the free Bible app and which are available for purchase.
  • I've also noted where some versions must be streamed and are not able to be downloaded and used offline. (I'm supposing this is due to licensing issues.)
  • This chart is not nearly comprehensive. There are many other English versions available for each program. I've just listed ones in light of my previous post.
  • I also have not included the multitude of non-English versions avaialable, usually for free. BibleGateway, MySword, and YouVersion are especially notable in this regard.
  • I'll say it again: the number of Bible versions is only one aspect of a decision about which app to use. Consider what other aspects are important to you: notetaking, highlighting, parallel texts, text comparison, etc.
click to enlarge or go HERE for full downloadable spreadsheet

What do I recommend?
  • Each one of these apps is capable enough and might serve your needs.
  • Since I have a large Logos library, I'm using the Logos app most frequently. I could do full research if I wanted since I have access to critical editions of texts and the major lexicons and dictionaries like the Anchor Yale one. (I'm guessing Accordance users like their related app, but until an Android version is released I can't say much about it.)
  • If, however, you are just looking for a free Bible app with access to some good Bible versions, I think MySword or YouVersion are probably your best choices.
  • If you want to be able to consult Greek and Hebrew (including the LXX) and perhaps want to see Greek/English in parallel or even have an interlinear Bible, then MySword can do the job.
Note: I gleaned information as best as I could. If there are errors, let me know. OR, I have made an editable version of the spreadsheet on Google Docs. Go ahead and make any corrections or additions as appropriate.

Recommended English Bible Versions to Consult and Compare

I’ve previously reported (2011) my thoughts on English Bible versions that I think are useful to consult, but it’s time for an update. Apparently there is an Italian phrase, “Traduttore, Traditore,” a wordplay that basically means the translator is a traitor. There is no perfect English Bible translation. The multitude of versions is indicative not necessarily of dissatisfaction with other versions but is a recognition that translations are intended for specific contexts. Is it for study or more casual reading? What is the age group? Is it designed to be spoken out loud and heard? Does it want to provide explanatory glosses or use specific theological words?

In general, I encourage my students to compare a range of versions covering literal/formal to dynamic/functional ones. For Greek students, this comparison usually highlights most issues of difficult translations or text critical matters.

I’ve updated a chart of literal/formal to dynamic/functional translations based on a fuller listing of translations by Bruce Terry. Here’s the chart, but if you go to this Google Docs page, you will see additional commentary.

Recommended English Bible Versions to Consult and Compare

click to enlarge
Why do I recommend these? Other than providing a literal to dynamic range of translations, these also cover a range of religious perspectives including Jewish (for the Tanakh and for ecumenical versions), those that are explicitly “conservative/evangelical,” those coming from a Roman Catholic background, and those that are more broadly ecumenical. They display a range of exclusive to inclusive gender language. They also show a range of reading levels which makes for a good exercise in thinking about how we communicate a text.

Further, I am trying to reflect Bible versions that people are actually buying and reading, ones that my students will likely encounter as they lead Bible studies in churches. Here is data on the most recent information I can find:

Top English versions based on units sold
2014 survey)
Most frequently searched
2016 report)
1.       New International Version
2.       The Voice
3.      King James Version
4.      English Standard Version
5.      New King James Version
6.      New Living Translation
7.      Holman Christian Standard Bible
8.      Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish)
9.      Nueva Version Internacional (Spanish)
10.   New International Reader’s Version
1.       King James Version
2.       New International Version
3.      English Standard Version
4.      New King James Version
5.      New Living Translation
6.      The Message
7.      New American Standard Bible
8.      New Revised Standard Bible
9.      Holman Christian Standard Bible

There certainly are other criteria you could use to evaluate versions. I reflect a more liberal, ecumenical approach, but I still think this can be a good start for anyone thinking about the English Bible versions to consult when trying to take the original Greek and Hebrew texts seriously.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mobile Bible Apps - Load Times

I am working towards an updated list of recommended mobile Bible apps, but I'll offer some preliminary parts in separate posts. In this one, I want to look at how fast a few apps are, since one of the things I desire is to get quickly to the text to start reading and be able to change versions even more quickly. I did a more extensive test back in 2012, but I wanted to see how things have changed. The main changes are updates to the apps and an update to my phone. These are all relative times as calculated as well as I could on my Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (This phone is now almost 1.5 years old.)

So, I conducted an unscientific test to see how long it takes to:

  • Tap the app to launch it and start reading the text. For BibleGateway and YouVersion, the app starts at a home screen, and it takes another touch to get to the Bible text.
  • Exit (but leaving it in memory) and immediately relaunch the app
  • Switch to a new passage
  • Switch to another version (one that's been previously downloaded)
  • Switch back to the previous version.
I tried to make sure that nothing else was going on with the phone, and I ran the tests twice. The averages do basically confirm how it feels in real practice.

Here are my results, but the main number to look at is the combined average in the last column. This gives an idea of the relative time it took to accomplish the 5 tasks listed.
When I ran the test in 2012, MySword was notably faster than most, and it remains the fastest here. Both Logos and YouVersion, however, have considerably sped up their app responsiveness. In actual practice, the difference in speed is not really noticeable with any of the apps, so a decision on the best app should be based on other factors. (Which I will get to in upcoming posts...)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Free Bible Software and Trial Versions

There are many good online Bible software resources available, but when you need something on a non-web device, you'll want a downloadable program. Depending on the kinds of work you plan to do and the resources you want, there are many options.
The main ones for extensive original language research are Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos. If you want to get a taste of what the program is like before making a financial commitment, there are free trial versions you can download.
Accordance offers a Lite version you can try for free. (It's a little hard to find on their site.) It includes the ESV and KJV and some other texts to get you started. Features are limited, but it gives a good idea of what Accordance can do. Windows or Mac capable.
If you want to see how the full version works, Accordance offers a 30-day refund option for two packages. (a Starter for $60 and an Original Languages for $100)

BibleWorks is a bit different than the others because you are purchasing a whole package, not a program to which you add various libraries and resources. As such, they cannot offer a free trial version, but they do have a 30-day return policy.

Logos offers a free Basic version that includes some very helpful resources. In addition to the KJV, they include their own Lexham English Bible and a number of good resources, most notably, the Faithlife Study Bible notes and the Lexham Bible Dictionary. If you own a previous version of Logos, this is an easy way to update to Logos 7 and keep your resources. For Windows and Mac. Logos does also offer a 30-day return policy.

Though not as oriented toward original language work, two other programs are worth considering.

The Word is one of the first I recommend to people not planning to invest in one of the programs above. This is a rather full featured program, and it’s free.  Includes Greek / Hebrew. You can always buy some modules, e.g., NRSV, to expand its versatility. Only runs on Windows or under Mac emulation.

WORDsearch 11 offers a free Basic version. There are more than enough resources to get you started, and they have a large collection of resources for purchase to expand your work.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future

 Came across this as I'm wandering the web...  According to the publisher's website:
Mobilizing the Past is a collection of 20 articles that explore the use and impact of mobile digital technology in archaeological field practice. The detailed case studies present in this volume range from drones in the Andes to iPads at Pompeii, digital workflows in the American Southwest, and examples of how bespoke, DIY, and commercial software provide solutions and craft novel challenges for field archaeologists. The range of projects and contexts ensures that Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future is far more than a state-of-the-field manual or technical handbook. Instead, the contributors embrace the growing spirit of critique present in digital archaeology. This critical edge, backed by real projects, systems, and experiences, gives the book lasting value as both a glimpse into present practices as well as the anxieties and enthusiasm associated with the most recent generation of mobile digital tools.
You can buy the book for $20 at Amazon, but why not just download the book or selected chapters for free? Go to the website, where there is a Table of Contents with each downloadable chapter including some supplementary resources. (E.g., videos of presentations.) Nothing specifically biblical, but chapters on Cyprus and Caesarea Maritima. Really remarkable advances in imaging and data collection.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ancient Near Eastern Cross-Cultural Time Line

Here's a fine Ancient Near Eastern Cross-Cultural Time Line from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. It covers Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Levant/Megiddo, Egypt, Nubia, and Persia from 10,000 BCE to 1000 CE. It zooms up well enough to see everything clearly. It's a free download, but, if used in a presentation or publication, please credit "Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago."
[HT: BiblePlaces Blog]

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sefaria: A Living Library of Jewish Texts

Thanks to a notice on the BiblePlaces blog, I spent some time looking around the Sefaria site. It is pretty amazing, and it's free. You can see in the graphic above a glimpse of the immense amount of works included on the site that are available in Hebrew and English. (A recent Times of Israel article notes the inclusion of the Steinsaltz Talmud.)

One thing that particularly interests me is that I can view the biblical text in parallel Hebrew and English and have a whole host of "connections" available in a parallel column that mention that verse. Mishnah, Midrash, Talmud, and so much more, even including Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews. According to their stats, almost 94 million words in this library!

There are ways to customize the interface (fonts, language, columns), create your own notes, share in community observations, run searches for most anything, etc. Truly remarkable.  I wish this had been available when I was writing my dissertation on Psalm 22 and the Crucifixion of Jesus where I conducting a history of interpretation including Jewish readings of Psalm 22. Then again, there is so much here, it might have added to my work! 

But wait, there's more! There is also an app available for both Android and iOS.
And... be sure to check out the Visualization and interactive data. I recommend playing with this "Jerusalem" one. References are tagged and sorted by date, location, etc.
In any case, Sefaria is definitely worth checking.