Introduction to the Gospels

Posted by on 05/25/2017 in: , ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” —John 20:30–31

The English word “gospel” derives from the Anglo–Saxon word godspell, which can mean either “a story about God,” or “a good story.” The latter meaning is in harmony with the Greek word translated “gospel,” euangellion, which means “good news.” In secular Greek, euangellion referred to a good report about an important event. The four gospels are the good news about the most significant events in all of history—the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense of the word, since they do not intend to present a complete life of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:30; 21:25). Apart from the birth narratives, they give little information about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. While Jesus’ public ministry lasted over three years, the gospels focus much of their attention on the last week of His life (cf. Jn 12–20). Though they are completely accurate historically, and present important biographical details of Jesus’ life, the primary purposes of the gospels are theological and apologetic (Jn 20:31). They provide authoritative answers to questions about Jesus’ life and ministry, and they strengthen believers’ assurance regarding the reality of their faith (Lk 1:4).

Although many spurious gospels were written, the church from earliest times has accepted only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired Scripture. While each Gospel has its unique perspective, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when compared to John, share a common point of view. Because of that, they are known as the synoptic (from a Greek word meaning “to see together,” or “to share a common point of view”) Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, focus on Christ’s Galilean ministry, while John focuses on His ministry in Judea. The synoptic Gospels contain numerous parables, while John records none. John and the synoptic Gospels record only two common events (Jesus’ walking on the water, and the feeding of the 5,000) prior to Passion Week. These differences between John and the synoptic Gospels, however, are not contradictory, but complementary.

Each Gospel writer wrote from a unique perspective, for a different audience. As a result, each Gospel contains distinctive elements. Taken together, the four Gospels weave a complete portrait of the God–Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe.

Learn something new? Share your thoughts!

Excerpted from the Introduction to the Gospels in The MacArthur Study Bible.

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Look Inside: Reformation Study Bible Notes (NKJV)

Posted by on 05/22/2017 in: ,

Just released for Olive Tree’s Bible Study App is the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible Notes. We are excited to be able to partner with Ligonier Ministries to be one of the first to offer this outstanding Bible study resource. The Reformation Study Bible Notes (2015) have been thoroughly revised and carefully crafted under the editorial leadership of R.C. Sproul. Over 1.1 million words of new, expanded, or revised commentary from 75 distinguished theologians, pastors, and scholars from around the world contribute to make this an unparalleled discipleship resource. Includes new award-winning maps, topical articles, concordance, and historical creeds, confessions, and catechisms, and more.  It is a fantastic resource and we want to give you a look inside this new edition of the Reformation Study Bible Notes.

In the screenshot below (taken from an iPad 2) I have my Bible text open in the main window to Acts 19. As I scroll through the Resource Guide in the Split Window I can see all of my enhanced resources that have an entry pertaining to the current text that I’m reading. I notice that the Reformation Study Bible Notes has entries for commentaries, maps, outlines, and introductions. The numbers indicate how many entries are available for each enhanced resource.

The Reformation Study Bible Notes – in the resource guide – shows six entries under the Commentary section for Acts 19:1-10. When I click on the the Reformation Study Bible Notes it then shows me a preview of those six entries.

I can then click on any of those previews to read the full commentary. As I read on in the text, those entries will stay in sync with my passage no matter what translation I have open in the main window.  Any Scripture reference I see becomes a hyperlink that I can tap and read without having to leave my current Bible passage.

Maps in the The Reformation Study Bible Notes can be found in two places in the Resource Guide.  First, under “Place” tap a location you are interested in.  I chose Ephesus in this case. After tapping Ephesus, all of the maps in the The Reformation Study Bible Notes tagged with that location will appear. You can then pinch and zoom the map for a larger view.

The second place is under the “Maps” Section.  Tap the one you want, Tap the “two arrows” button, pinch and zoom for a larger view.

The Reformation Study Bible Notes also includes many theological articles also linked to the Bible text you are reading.  Under Topics, tap a subject you want to learn more about. I choose “Baptism” in this case.

The Reformation Study Bible Notes also gives you book outlines, and book introductions. These are easy to access from the Resource Guide which pulls in entries based on where you’re reading in the main window.

The Reformation Study Bible Notes also includes 10 historical creeds, confessions, and catechisms.  To access them, open The Reformation Study Bible Notes in the Main Window > Tap Go To > Tap the “3 dots/3 lines” icon to Change from Grid View to List View > Tap Back Matter > Tap Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms > Tap the Creed or Confession you want to read.

You can also access all of enhanced content by navigating to the “end matter” in this way.

As you can see, the Reformation Study Bible Notes contain a ton of content that will help you go deeper in your Bible study.

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A Better Understanding of Biblical Joy

Posted by on 05/17/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel. 2 Chronicles 7:10 NKJV

3 Hebrew Word Studies on Joy

Sameach: The joy the people felt was more than just a spontaneous subjective emotion – it was rooted very concretely in all “that the LORD had done for David, Solomon, and for His people Israel.” Indeed, the Feast of Tabernacles was intended as a time of rejoicing for all the ways the Lord had blessed His people (Deut. 16:15). The people were filled with “great joy” at Solomon’s coronation (1 Kin. 1:40). Haman’s joy at his plot to kill Mordecai (Esth. 5:9, 14) backfired when he was executed instead, “and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad” (Esth. 8:15). But more often, joy is connected directly to God: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” (Ps. 126:3).

Simchah: This Hebrew word is one of several frequently occurring Hebrew words that express exceeding gladness of rejoicing. Like its synonyms, this word can apply to a disposition of heart (Prov. 14:10; Jer. 15:16). It is frequently set in a context of feasting (Neh. 8:12) and singing (1 Sam. 18:6; Ps. 137:3), as it is in a prophecy concerning God’s singing over Jerusalem (Zeph. 3:17). The word is also used for the senseless happiness of the enemies of God’s people (Judg. 16:23; Ezek. 35:15; 36:5), of the foolish (Prov. 15:21), of the lazy (Prov. 21:17), and of the hypocrites (Job 20:5). However, joy in the Bible is usually associated with the people of God who celebrate God’s blessing at a number of occasions – feasts, coronations of kings, victories in battle, and the dedication of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem (Num. 10:10; 1 Kin. 1:40; 2 Chr. 20:27; Neh. 12:27). In fact, Moses exhorts the Israelites to serve God with joy, so that they would not lose their blessing (see Deut. 28:47).

Gil: A somewhat rare form that is more familiar to us as rejoice (1 Chr. 16:31, Ps. 2:11; 21:1; 51:8; Prov. 23:24-25). In Isaiah, when the prophet has already declared he will rejoice, but wants to emphasize his response to God, this term offers that direct form of exultation.

Which Hebrew word would you use to describe the joy you feel about the Lord Jesus?

Drawn from word studies in the NKJV Word Study Bible.

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Soil, Seed & Sower – A SOAP Bible Study on Matthew 13:3–8

Posted by on 05/15/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Scripture
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places…Other seed fell among thorns…Still other seed fell on good soil.”
—Matthew 13:3–8, NIV

Observation
Although this is often known as the parable of the sower and the seed, it can also be said this is a parable about the soil. All four types of soil are essentially the same dirt but are in different conditions and respond in different ways to cultivation.

What made one soil more responsive and the other less?

When the New Testament was written, communities were agriculturally based. A family would be appointed a section of land to farm. Every farmer’s plot was adjacent to their neighbor’s. In order to get to the fields, the farmers would walk along the boundaries bordering each field to avoid stepping on the growing plants. The “path” was held in common by all the farmers. Over time, the soil on the path would compact. It was never plowed and never fertilized. In the parable, the seed that is sown on the path is not able to penetrate the ground because of the constant use. The condition of the first soil is hard and impermeable.

The second type of soil mentioned in the parable is the “rocky places” or the shallow soil where the plow didn’t cut deeply enough to break up the shale or hard ground just below the surface. This soil produced only plants with weak, shallow roots.

The third type of soil mentioned is the thorny soil, most likely found in the corners of the field where the plow couldn’t reach; here, weeds overtook what was planted.

All the types of soils mentioned here are actually in the same plot of ground with one major difference: Only one area was fully yielded to cultivation, to being changed and prepared for planting. That area was called the good soil.

The greatest amount of fruit produced was not determined by how rich the soil was, but how yielded to the plow it was. The soil in each condition received seed, but not all produced quality fruit.

Everyone receives seed, the Word of God. Everyone has potential for the harvest, living a fruitful life, but the ones who will produce the most fruit will be the ones most yielded to cultivation.

Application
How I apply this passage is by asking questions: Can I be “cultivated” in my life? How correctable am I? How quickly do I repent? Can I self–correct? The greater my yielding to God’s cultivation the greater the capacity of my fruitfulness in life.

Prayer
Father, create in me a soft heart, an open heart that is readily yielded to your Word and your commands. Make me fruitful, I pray. Amen.

Drawn from a “SOAP” article in the LifeConnect Study Bible Notes.

How has God “cultivated” your life or someone you know? Do you see how that caused a more fruitful life? Post a comment below!

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Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Posted by on 05/08/2017 in: ,

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us]. And lead us not into temptation [but rescue us from evil].’” Luke 11:2-4 AMP

The Lord’s prayer illustrates the variety of requests that one can and should make to God, as well as displaying the humble attitude that should accompany prayer. The use of the plural pronoun us throughout the prayer shows that it is not just the prayer of one person for his or her own personal needs, but a community prayer.

Your Kingdom come: The references here is to God’s program and promise. This is more affirmation that request, highlighting the petitioner’s submission to God’s will and the desire to see God’s work come to pass.

For we ourselves also forgive: The petitioner recognizes that if mercy is to be sought from God, then mercy must be shown to others. We need to adopt the same standard that we expect others to follow.

Lead us not into temptation: This remark is often misunderstood as suggesting that perhaps God can lead us into sin. The point is that if one is to avoid sin, one must follow where God leads. In short, the petitioner asks God for the spiritual protection necessary to avoid falling into sin.

Which part of the Lord’s prayer resonates most with you?

Find more content like this in the Amplified Study Bible. Add it to your Olive Tree library today.

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

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Look Inside: Understanding the Bible Commentary Series

Posted by on 05/05/2017 in:

The Understanding The Bible Commentary Series is a 36 volume commentary spanning the entire Old Testament and New Testament.

Each volume in the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series breaks down the barriers between the ancient and modern worlds so that the power and meaning of the biblical texts become transparent to contemporary readers. They present a careful section-by-section exposition of the biblical books. To make the commentary easier to use key terms and phrases are highlighted, and all Greek & Hebrew has been transliterated. (Screenshots are from an 9.7″ iPad Pro)

Notes at the close of each chapter provide additional textual and technical comments for those who want to dig deeper. A bibliography as well as Scripture and subject indexes are also included. Pastors, students, and Bible teachers will find in this series a commitment to accessibility without sacrificing serious scholarship.

Get the entire Understanding The Bible Commentary Series here!

Watch the video below to hear more about The Understanding The Bible Commentary series.

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8 Marks of Authentic Faith

Posted by on 05/04/2017 in: ,

Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.

Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” But not even then did their testimony agree.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing.

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
— Mark 14:55–64, NKJV

Israel’s religious and political leaders wanted to rid themselves of Jesus, so they tried every means possible to convict Him of a crime. They paid an informant from among Jesus’ own followers, but he returned their money and declared the Lord innocent (Mark 14:43–46; Matthew 27:3–5). They orchestrated an armed mob to intimidate Jesus, but He kept His cool and restrained His followers (Matthew 26:51–54.). The leaders even presented witnesses to testify against Him, but the witnesses perjured themselves and contradicted each other (Mark 14:55, 56).

People tried to convict Jesus of a crime for which they lacked a shred of evidence. They failed because Jesus lived His life in plain sight. For every false accusation lodged against Him, there were countless examples of His love and moral perfection.

What signs of authentic faith do people see when they scrutinize our lives? Is it enough evidence to prove that our trust in God is real? The Bible suggests eight outward marks of authentic faith:

  1. We display the Beatitudes that Jesus described in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–16).
  2. We think with a transformed mind, we express genuine love, and we respect authority (Romans 12:1,2; 13:1–7).
  3. We overflow with love actions (1 Corinthians 13).
  4. We display the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22–26).
  5. We imitate Christ’s humility and look out for others’ interests (Philippians 2:1–4).
  6. We pray without ceasing, and in everything we give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
  7. We carry out works of faith and compassion (James 2:14–17), we control our tongues (3:1–11), and we speak wisdom (3:13).
  8. We hold to the truth about Jesus (2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4) and defend it (Jude 3).

As others study our lives for evidence that we are followers of Christ, how many of these marks do they see?

Drawn from the Apply the Word Study Bible Notes. Click here to add it to your library.

What challenges and successes have you encountered as you seek to pursue faith that is transformative and authentic?
Join the conversation below!

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

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Prayer Journaling with the Bible App

Posted by on 05/01/2017 in: ,

Everyone knows that the Olive Tree Bible App is great for reading and studying the Bible. But, did you know that it can help you with other areas of your spiritual life? With the National Day of Prayer approaching, I want to show you how you can transform your Bible App into a tool for journaling and keeping track of your prayers.

What is Journaling?

There are numerous ways to define journaling. In a spiritual sense, journaling involves writing out your thoughts and prayers as you study the Bible. Some people write with pen or pencil in a physical notebook, while others type them out in a journaling app or word processor. Just about anything that falls within those parameters can qualify as journaling.

Now, let me show you how you can start journaling within the Bible Study App because it’s easy!

Praying with the Bible App

Instead of showing you different methods for journaling, I want to show you how to do it in the Bible App.

To begin journaling in the Bible App, you don’t need to do anything more than create a note. If your note is based on a specific passage or verse, it’s best to make a verse or word based note.

To create a note tied to a verse, tap the verse number and select “Note.” Otherwise, if you want it based on a word or phrase, select your text and then tap “Note.”

Alternatively, you can also create a standalone note by opening the Split Window to the “My Notes” screen. At this screen tap the “Add Note” button and begin writing your note.

Organizing Your Notes

If you’re going to regularly pray and journal with the Bible App, keeping your notes organized is important. The easiest way to keep your journal organized is to use categories. I like to start by creating a top level category called “Prayer Journal.” To create this folder have the “My Notes” screen open and tap “Add Category” at the bottom. You can then further refine your categories for greater organization. For example, you can create subcategories for each year. Once the categories are created to your liking, you can then start placing your notes in each category.

Adding Tags

Tags are another great way to organize your prayer journal. As you write in your journal, you can add tags to your notes to help you find them later. You can create your own tags, or you can use the preexisting tags. The nice thing about using the preexisting tags is that they are tied to the Resource Guide. With the Resource Guide integration, your journal notes will appear under your tagged topics in Resource Guide when you are in a relevant Bible passage. This is a great way to keep old notes in front of you, while also using them as a part of your Bible study.

Try It Today

If you’ve been an Olive Tree user for any length of time, I haven’t shown you anything that you didn’t already know how to do. You know how to makes notes within the app. But, I hope I broadened your thinking about how to use notes within the Olive Tree Bible App. If you’re already using the Bible App to take notes, then start adding your prayers as well. If you haven’t made any notes, today is a great day to get started!

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Introducing Touch Bar Support!

Posted by on 05/01/2017 in: , , ,

This past fall, Apple announced an overhaul of their MacBook Pro line of laptop computers. The overhaul included the usual faster-thinner-lighter mantra that we have all grown accustomed to with new hardware upgrades. They even dumped the glowing Apple logo on the back of the clam-shell lid and replaced it with a shiny version similar to what Apple puts on their iPads and iPhones.

The highlight from the list of improvements was the introduction of what Apple is calling the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is a long and thin digital screen that runs along the top of the keyboard and replaces the traditional row of F keys (function keys) that typically use this space on a keyboard. The genius of this screen is that it is touch sensitive and operates like the F keys.

Even more exciting are the infinite tasks this glowing strip of glass is ready to take on. For example, when playing a video, the Touch Bar can jump to any position in the video without needing to toggle the controls on the screen, move the mouse to the tracking bar, seek the new location and toggle the controls back off. With the Touch Bar, just drag the control to any position to instantly change the position in your video.

One of the strengths of the new Touch Bar is that Apple leaves it up to the app developer to decide what shows on this mini touch screen. Unleashing the power of the Touch Bar requires app updates to make use of the functionality with this new feature. We are excited to announce that the latest version of the Mac Olive Tree Bible App now has support for the Touch Bar. We thoughtfully considered what functionality on the Touch Bar would increase productivity and added it.

Touch Bar support for the Mac Olive Tree Bible App!

Bible Study Touch Bar controls

The main Touch Bar controls for the Olive Tree Bible App

The figure above shows the buttons we added to the top level Touch Bar. From left to right on the Touch bar, we added this functionality: history back, history forward, Go To, Search, increase font size, decrease font size and margin control.

There are other areas of the app that use the Touch Bar as well. For example, you can use this bar to add a note or highlight to selected text. When editing a note, you will find some useful actions on the Touch Bar such as changing the note’s category or adding a tag.

If you have one of the new MacBook Pros, be sure to try the new features, and let us know what you think. We are always open to suggestions and feedback.

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Look Inside: Reformation Commentary on Scripture Series

Posted by on 04/28/2017 in: , , ,

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) provides a crucial link between the contemporary church and the great cloud of witnesses that is the historical church. The biblical insights and rhetorical power of the tradition of the Reformation are here made available as a powerful tool for the church of the twenty-first century. Like never before, believers can feel they are a part of a genuine tradition of renewal as they faithfully approach the Scriptures.

Hear from landmark figures such as Luther and Calvin, as well as lesser-known commentators such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Oecolampadius, Martin Bucer, Johannes Brenz, Caspar Cruciger, Giovanni Diodati, and Kaspar Olevianus. The series introduces you to the great diversity that constituted the Reformation, with commentary from Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Anabaptist and even reform-minded Catholic thinkers, who all shared a commitment to the faithful exposition of Scripture.

Many of these texts are being published in English for the first time, and volumes also contain biographies of figures from the Reformation era, adding an essential reference for students of church history.

Several features have been incorporated into the design of this commentary and we wanted to show you just a few.  (Screenshots are from an iPad Pro.  Click on images for a larger view)

Pericopes of Scripture

The scriptural text has been divided into pericopes, or passages, usually several verses in length. Each of these pericopes is given a heading, which appears at the beginning of the pericope. For example, the first pericope in the commentary on Galatians is “1:1-5 Greetings and Blessings.”

Overviews

Following each pericope of text is an overview of the Reformation authors’ comments on that pericope. The format of this overview varies among the volumes of this series, depending on the requirements of the specific book of Scripture.

(see screenshot above)

Topical Headings

An abundance of varied Reformation-era comment is available for each pericope. For this reason we have broken the pericopes into two levels. First is the verse with its topical heading. The reformers’ comments are then focused on aspects of each verse, with topical headings summarizing the essence of the individual comment by evoking a key phrase, metaphor or idea. This feature provides a bridge by which modern readers can enter into the heart of the Reformation-era comment.

Identifying the Reformation-era Texts

Following the topical heading of each section of comment, the name of the Reformation commentator is given. An English translation (where needed) of the reformer’s comment is then provided. This is immediately followed by the title of the original work rendered in English. Tap on the name to read a brief biographical sketch of the Reformation commentator.

The Footnotes

Readers who wish to pursue a deeper investigation of the Reformation works cited in this commentary will find the footnotes especially valuable. Tapping on a footnote number will cause a box to pop up on the screen, where in addition to other notations (clarifications or biblical cross references) one will find information on English translations (where available) and standard original language editions of the work cited.

The Bible Study App makes the Reformation Commentary on Scripture even more powerful!

Here’s how.

Resource Guide

Open your preferred Bible translation in the main window and have the Resource Guide open in the Split Window.  You’ll see relevant commentary “hits” from the Reformation Commentary on Scripture  in the split window.

The Bible Study App also keeps up with the scripture passage you’re reading in the main window with sync scrolling.  This means that as you move along in the Bible text, the commentary syncs to exactly where you are in your study.  No more flipping pages back and forth.  No more holding the commentary text open on your desk in one spot, reading through your Bible text, and having to go back and find your place in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture. You’ll save an enormous amount of time with this feature alone.

Linked Reference Pop ups

One of my greatest frustrations in the hard copy world of biblical commentaries are the other biblical references within the commentary. With a hard copy, I have to open a different Bible and find each and every reference to read how the verse relates to what I am currently studying.  This is time consuming, slows down my study momentum, and requires me to keep all of my study materials out and open, spread out over a large desk space. With the Bible Study App, the scripture references are hyperlinked within the commentary text.  All I have to do is tap the scripture reference to read it instantly.

Copy/Paste into Notes

Commentaries are full of great content.  I often find myself reading a passage, going deeper with the commentary and finding that “perfect quote” that sums up what I was thinking but didn’t know how to express it in written form.  However, in the world of hard copy commentaries, I have to re-type it into my personal study notes.  With the Bible Study App, all I have to do is highlight the text I want, copy it and paste it into my notes.  This feature saves me a ton of time, not to mention the wear and tear on my fingers!

Integrated Dictionary (iOS Extra)

In the iOS app, you have additional options.  Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options to Copy, Highlight, Note, Bookmark, Share, Define, Lookup and More.

If you tap “Define” you will get the integrated iOS dictionary pop-up.  This is extremely helpful when you run across a word in the commentaries or even the Bible text that you do not know.

Resource Guide on One Verse (iOS Extra)

Another iOS option is looking up additional information on just one verse.  Tap on a verse number and an option menu bar will pop up.  From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, add a Note, Save, Share, Guide, and More.

If you tap the “Guide” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific verse. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.  You can even choose to open the commentary in the main or split window.

This is helpful if you want to read through your Bible “full screen” and refer to the commentary when you want to see what it says about a particular verse.

As you can see, the within the Olive Tree Bible App give you the best content, while saving you valuable study time and tremendous effort.

Click here to learn more about The Reformation Commentary on Scripture.

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