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 OpenBible.info 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...)