Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's the point of Bible software?

I did a presentation on Bible software yesterday for our first year students. We really encourage them to buy Accordance, BibleWorks, or Logos if possible. After seeing some of the nifty things one can do with the software, one of my students emailed me regarding Bible software in general:

Primarily, although they each seem to do very cool things with word stats, etc., I'm curious how applicable anything beyond basic original source exegesis would be in a congregational setting? I guess I came away with the feeling that its great to have those resources, particularly if one plans to do any scholarly research, writing or education, but a typical congregation may not been interested in all of the additional data, nor would the congregational setting afford the time for such extensive work. Perhaps I'm being too narrow-minded?
Here was my quick reply:
While you are at seminary, you are going to need Bible software (or else a library of Bible reference works) to conduct the kind of research we will require of you. We require this research, because we think it is indispensable for coming to understand and engage the biblical text. Every translation is interpretation, and we believe that it is important for you to struggle with the interpretation and not simply leave it up to others.

Yes, the statistical stuff is pretty esoteric on its own, but it is important because it provides one glimpse into various authors concerns, interests, vocabulary, theological emphasis, etc. The better you see how an author works at the grammatical/lexical level, the better you will understand the author’s narrative and theology. And the better you understand how the biblical authors were working in their settings, hopefully the better equipped you will be to express the faith in your own congregational setting.

Further, as you said, this stuff would be great for anyone planning on doing “scholarly research, writing, or education.” Working in a congregational setting, you are indeed going to be expected to write and educate, and hopefully you will be able to do it with integrity based on your understanding of the text. As for time to do this? A major benefit of Bible software is that it can help you make more efficient use of your time in the text and make it possible for you to do this as part of your weekly routine. I think every church professional should be spending regular time in Scripture as part of your standard care and feeding of the spirit! Congregations have the right to expect that their leaders are faithful interpreters of the text and not simply sharing what they think apart from any Scriptural/theological reflection.
What else would you say to respond to my student's question?

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