Category: App Tips

Studying Theology Doesn’t Have to be Hard

Posted by on 01/02/2016 in:

Out of all the works that a Christian can read, systematic theologies are some of the most daunting. While some might have a volume or two on their bookshelf just for looks, about the only people you find reading them are pastors and seminary students. Why is that? More often than not, these titles are seen as dense and hard to understand. That is usually reason enough for the average Christian to leave these titles alone. Having read through several sets and volumes, I would argue that all Christians should own a systematic theology or two and reference them often in their studies. Let me share a few reasons why Christians should study theology and why it doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

I will use John Frame’s Systematic Theology for illustration.

Bible+ Makes it Easy

Like commentaries, a systematic theology title can be a big book, or even span multiple volumes. Trying to carry that around with other books can quickly become unwieldy. Bible+ alleviates this problem by allowing you to fit an entire Bible study library in the palm of your hand. This is reason alone to consider buying a systematic theology in Olive Tree.

Portability aside, Bible+ also makes systematic theology titles easy to use. The first way they are made easier to use is by turning Bible references into links. Instead of needing a Bible nearby to lookup references, you can tap on the verse and quickly read it. With the Bible open in a pop-up, you can read the verse referenced, or scroll up/down & get the verse’s surrounding context.

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The same is true for footnotes and end notes. Instead of flipping back and forth or having a page cluttered with footnotes, Bible+ puts all that info out of the way. If all you want to do is read the text, you can do that uninterrupted without breaking the flow of text. Want to read the footnotes? Just tap on them and they instantly appear.

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One final way that systematic theology titles are easier to use in Bible+ is search. Searching a physical book is near impossible. Sure, you may get an index that’ll help you find certain topics or words, but it may not give you everything you’re looking for. In Bible+ you can search for a word or phrase and find every occurrence and do so with ease.

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You Don’t Have to Read it Cover to Cover

One common misconception about systematic theology titles is that you need to read them cover to cover. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are some that you may want to read straight through, but you won’t do that with most of them, even in seminary. Many theology titles are best used as a reference work alongside a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. Let’s say you’re studying a topic like the Trinity. If you consult your Bible dictionary you may only get a few paragraphs or a page or two of information, and maybe a handful of Bible verses. What do you do if you want to dig a little further? This is where a systematic theology can be of huge benefit. All you have to do is open your favorite systematic theology and find its chapter or section on the Trinity and you’ll get any and everything you wanted to know, and nearly (if not every) supporting passage in Scripture. If we look at Frame’s Systematic Theology you’ll see that he dedicates three entire chapters to the subject of the Trinity.

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Systematic theology titles are also useful if you have a friend who has questions about a particular doctrine. Sometimes instead of trying to explain it all myself I’ll have them read a section discussing the topic at hand, and then we can follow up our discussion in a more focused manner. More often than not, the systematic theology will do a better job of explaining things than I ever could & will answer most of their questions.

Great for Small Groups or Sunday School

Finally, systematic theology titles can be great to use for small group or Sunday school curriculum. While many are formatted like textbooks, there are a handful that are written in such a way that they easily lend themselves to this use, Frame’s being one of them & Grudem’s being another. At the end of each chapter in Frame’s Systematic Theology you will find 3 things: key terms discussed in the chapter, study questions, and memory verses. With this information in hand, one could easily put together a lesson and facilitate a discussion on each chapter.

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This type of content is helpful in keeping the reader focused as they’re reading, while also making it less daunting because they can know what to look for ahead of time.

While theology can delve into the deep, it can still be accessible to all, and these types of resources make that possible.

Be sure to check out our top theology titles!

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Look Inside: Thompson Chain Reference System

Posted by on 01/01/2016 in: ,

By Olive Tree Employee: Genny Gager

Bible commentaries and study notes are great tools for understanding what the Bible has to say to us today. Often overlooked, however, is the value that using scripture to understand scripture can bring. God’s inspired word is a complex tapestry of themes all woven together, and the development of those themes can provide us with insight into the relevant message of the Bible for today’s readers.

Finding our way around these themes can be a daunting task, especially given the variety of subjects covered in the Bible. A word search can be helpful, but it can give an incomplete picture due to the complexity of language and the context in which words are used. The great news is that Olive Tree offers the Thompson Chain Reference System, which links various themes together as they are touched upon and developed throughout Scripture. The very heart of this product is the thematic chains that number in the thousands, and people at all stages of learning about the Bible have used it in the 100 years since its initial release. The Thompson Chain resource is also a great study Bible, offering cross references, book outlines, book introductions, maps, and harmonies to aid us in our study.

We’ve put quite a bit of attention into converting the rich topical content so it can be used in the Bible Study app. Our goal was to make navigating the famous topical chains easy and intuitive and to allow quick access to the additional materials as well.

We’re going to walk through a quick example of how the Bible Study App can make navigating the Thompson Chain Reference System enjoyable and easy. The example uses and refers to the iPad version of our software. We’ve designed this resource to work seamlessly with the built-in resource guide, so if you don’t already know how to open it, read this article to open it in the split window, and have your Bible of choice open in the main window of your app.  Although we’ll be relying on the iPad version in our example, other versions of our app will have similar functionality.

If you want to follow along with the example, bring 1 Samuel chapter 17 up in your Bible. With everything set up, the screen will look similar to this (your screen may look a little different depending on what resources you have and how you have your resource guide set up):

To activate the chains, tap the name of the Thompson Chain under the commentaries section of your resource guide. Your split-window view will change to a listing of verses directly related to your location: (more…)

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Using Gospel Harmonies

Posted by on 12/31/2015 in:

A Gospel Harmony seeks to take the Four Gospels and put them in a Chronological order so that you can compare how the Gospel writers address events in Jesus’ life.  We wanted to show you how to use this Bible study tool. (screeshots are taken from an iPad Mini 4. Click the image for a larger view)

When Jesus goes to Pilate in Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; John 18:28 – you can read the interactions between Jesus and Pilate in all four Gospels without having to navigate back and forth.  Because of this unique layout, the screen will default to vertical “flick” scrolling for a better viewing experience. On a larger device like a tablet you can view all (4) columns side-by-side. The side-by-side view scales down two a two or single column view as the horizontal viewable area gets smaller, or when Resource Guide is opened.

All of the Scripture references are hyperlinked, so you can tap on the headers to see that one reference in a popup.

Here’s where the Harmony of the Gospels is also very helpful. You can see that John goes into much more detail about the conversation between Jesus and Pilate than the other three Gospels.  You can also see you see that only Luke records that Jesus went before Herod, but all four Gospels record further interactions between Jesus and Pilate.

Olive Tree’s Harmony of the Gospels are divided into over 250 events in the life of Christ. The chronology is primarily ordered based on Mark and Luke’s gospels with Matthew and John’s accounts harmonizing with them, creating a seamless reading experience. A full index of the titles and passages is included. To access the full index, Tap Go To > End Matter > Go

In the index you can view all 250 events and quickly see how many Gospels address that event.  You can even tap on the Event to go straight to the event. All of the verse references are hyperlinked so you can see each passage in a popup window.

The Olive Tree Harmony of the Gospels is currently available in the following translations: New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), KIng James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and Byzantine Greek New Testament.

All available Harmony of the Gospels and other Bible Study tools are on sale now. Go HERE to see them.

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How to Use Dictionaries in Bible+

Posted by on 12/30/2015 in:

Here are three ways you can use dictionaries & lexicons in Bible+. To illustrate we will use the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.

The first way is through the Split Window and Resource Guide.  Open your favorite Bible translation in the main window and the Resource Guide in the Split Window.  As you read through your Bible text, the Resource Guide searches through all the downloaded resources in your library to find related Bible study content.

You’ll notice that the Resource Guide pulls related content from all of your downloaded resources.  If you scroll down the Resource Guide results, you will see the section headings “People,” “Places,” and “Topics.”  These headings give you the results of articles based on your downloaded resources.

Tap or click on the person/place/topic you want to learn more about. I chose “Nebo” in this example.  Bible+ then brings you results from within the resources you have on your device.  This is where you will find the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD) within the Resource Guide.

You’ll notice that the resource has the words “Article to Nebo” underneath the book cover.  Tap/Click on the book cover and Bible+ will take you directly to the article within the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIBD). As you are reading the article, any Scripture references become hyperlinks that you can tap/click to view as a pop-out window:

The second way you can utilize a Bible dictionary is as a traditional dictionary in Bible+.  Just Tap/Click the book title and scroll through this awesome resource as you would a hard-copy dictionary.

The third way is to use the Bible+’s Lookup Feature. Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up.  If you tap the “Lookup” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific word. From here you can follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option above.

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If you’re on an iOS device, you can also tap the verse number and a menu bar will appear.  Tap “Guide” and you will get hits from your resources on that specific verse.  Then just follow the same steps as you would in the resource guide option.

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As you can see, Bible dictionaries are extremely helpful resources for studying the Bible.  Check out our list of great Bible dictionaries here.

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Make the Most of Bible Handbooks

Posted by on 12/29/2015 in:

Bible Handbooks and Quick References are great resources that help you go deeper in your Bible study.

Here’s how we’ve enhanced these resources:

Bring up your preferred Bible translation in the main window. Then open the split window.

Adjust the split window to your desired size. Next, make sure the Resource Guide is open. Please note that the split window opens to the last place that you had viewed, so if you were last in the library, the screen will default back to the library.

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The Resource Guide keeps up with me as I scroll through the Bible text and searches through the books in my library for content related to the Scripture passage in the main window.

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Scroll down to view “Places,” “Maps,” “Outlines,” and “Introductions.” All quick reference content will be displayed in these sections. In our example, after clicking “Rome” under “Places,” the resource guide shows me that I have several images and maps available in my library. I can click these images to see a larger view or even view them within the resource from which the content is found.

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I can also see that there are Outlines and Introductions available in MacArthur’s Quick Reference Guide to the Bible and other resources that have related content.

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By clicking the book covers for these resources, I can see all of the results within that resource for the Bible passage. In this example, I can see that there are three entries under introductions in MacArthur’s Quick Reference Guide to the Bible. Click the article or reference and I can read the content in the resource. Again, any Scripture verse becomes a hyperlink that I can view within the resource guide.

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View today’s special on Quick References & Bible Handbooks here!

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Kickstart Your Bible Reading in 2016

Posted by on 12/28/2015 in:

Every new year thousands of Christians start a new Bible reading plan with the hope of reading through the entire Bible in a year. A few weeks into January or February and most have already abandoned those plans. I readily admit that I used to be one of those people. Let’s be honest, after getting through the familiar & event packed books of Genesis & Exodus things start to slow down and get boring. This is particularly true once you get to Leviticus and all the talk about being clean or unclean.

In 2016 I want to encourage you to start a new reading plan and provide some tips that will keep you reading throughout the year.

Bible Reading Tips

Here are a few tips that I have found helpful over the years, and I hope they encourage you as we enter the new year:

  • Start Small. If you’ve never read through large portions of Scripture before, don’t try to start with a plan that looks insurmountable. That’s like someone new to the gym thinking they can lift the same weights as a power lifter. It’s not a good idea and can be a setup for failure. Instead of a year long reading plan, start with something that’s 2 weeks or 30 days. Once you finish that, try another 30 day plan, and gradually lengthen your plan.
  • Pick a Time & Place. One of the easiest ways to maintain success in your Bible reading is by making it routine. Try to read at the same time everyday, and preferably in the same place. This will create a routine that you’ll get used to and put you in the right mindset. Also, I suggest doing it at a time of day when you’re most alert. There’s nothing worse than reading the Bible when you’re tired or sleepy.
  • Don’t Give Up. This one is the most important. There will be times when you want to give up, but push through it and keep at it. You’ll hit difficult passages and sometimes you may not understand what you just read, and that’s okay. Just keep at it and ask God to help you understand what you’re reading. Over time God will make it clear to you. When you hit those difficult spots, remember to make use of the tools available to you. And, inevitably, you may fall off the wagon and stop reading altogether for a season. Don’t get discouraged, just start again.

Starting a Plan in Bible+

One of the great things about doing a reading plan in Bible+ is that it syncs across all your devices. You can read on your computer one day, and then read it on your phone or tablet the next day when you’re on the go. Here’s how to start a new reading plan in Bible+.

Open Reading Plans from the Menu

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Select a Plan

Choose from one of the pre-installed plans or select “Get More Reading Plans” and download a new one

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Label & Start the Plan

Give your reading plan a name and set it as the default plan (this is helpful if you have several), and then select “Start Reading Plan” to get it started.

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Check out the reading plans in our app, and also be sure to check out other devotional titles that we have on sale that can enhance your daily Bible reading in the new year.

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Using Commentaries in Bible+

Posted by on 12/27/2015 in:

One of the key components to any digital Bible study library is a commentary. Study Bibles are great for getting quick information about a passage but when you want to investigate a passage further you’ll turn to a commentary. Today I want to show you how most commentaries work in Bible+.

Using a Commentary

Like many resources in Bible+, the best way to get the most out of your library is by using the Resource Guide; commentaries are no exception. To illustrate, let’s use the Moody Bible Commentary & assume we’re starting to read Mark’s gospel.

Introductions

When beginning a study on a new book of the Bible, one of the first things you want to do is get some background information. Resource Guide makes this easy. Simply scroll down to the “Introductions” section, where we find a hit for our commentary.

Here we find information about the gospel, it’s author, date, audience, purpose, and other issues worth keeping in mind.

Outlines

Next, you’ll want to get a feel for how the book is laid out, so let’s find an outline. Again, the Resource Guide shows us that Moody Bible Commentary has an outline for our book, and we see that it is quite extensive. One thing worth noting is a commentary’s outline often serves as its layout. This helps you see how a handful of verses relate to their larger context. Personally, I refer to the outline often throughout the course of studying a book of the Bible, as it keeps the big picture in view.

Commentary Text

Finally, when it’s time to dive into the commentary text, the Resource Guide is again our friend. Instead of hunting down the commentary on your passage, let Resource Guide do the heavy lifting. Find the Moody Bible Commentary in the commentaries section, find your passage, and commence reading. This saves you both time and effort while studying, which is useful with our busy lives.

Alternatively, you can leave your commentary open in your split window and it’ll always be at the right location when you need it. This will save you even more time if you don’t plan on consulting other resources.

Finally, there are some people who like to read through commentaries like a book. This is possible in Bible+ as well. Just open the commentary in the main window and commence reading.

Upgrade Your Library Today

No matter who you are we have a commentary that will suit your needs. Check out the commentaries we currently have on sale and add some new titles to your library.

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Get the Most out of your Strong’s Tagged Bible

Posted by on 12/26/2015 in: ,

By Olive Tree Employee: David Mikucki

The great part about Strong’s Tagged Bibles is that anyone can use them. You don’t need to be seminary trained or have years of experience. You can just tap and read. The tool is powerful and practical enough to be useful even for personal study.

As with many powerful tools, these resources can do more if you know how to use them. They can also be somewhat dangerous if you don’t know how to use them. We don’t just want to provide you with the resource; we want to help you get the most out of it and avoid the dangers of misinterpretation. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic features of Strong’s Tagged Bibles and about how to get the most out of each of them.

Tap to See Greek/Hebrew Word

The first feature is the most obvious. As soon as you tap, you can see what Greek or Hebrew word is behind it. This is the first thing you’ll see when you tap on a word. It’s probably most helpful for people who know Greek or Hebrew.

Now, if you tap on a darker word and it doesn’t open to do anything, that means that the word isn’t explicitly in the Greek or Hebrew text. The word was added by the translators in order to help the sentence make sense. We do this all the time in English, leaving out words because they’re assumed. Of course, the words left out in Greek aren’t necessarily the words we can leave out in English. Different languages have different rules for what’s important and what can be left out.

The takeaway here is that, while a word might not be in the original Greek or Hebrew, that doesn’t mean the word isn’t implied by other words. Sometimes the Bible translators add those words so that we English readers won’t be left scratching our heads.

Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary

The Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary is what appears when you tap a word that does have a Greek or Hebrew word behind it. This is a really handy tool because it will show you all the ways that the word gets translated throughout the Bible and give you an idea of how common each translation is. This can give you a fuller idea of what the word meant in the original language.

The thing to keep in mind here is something that all languages share in common: just because a word can mean something in one place, doesn’t mean it means that thing everywhere else. How and where a word is used in a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book is a critical part of understanding what the word means.

Many words in English have several diverse meanings. For example, the word “dodge” can mean to get out of the way of something. It can also mean to lighten part of an image or photo (like the “dodge brush” in image editing programs). If you were to simply look up the dictionary definition and pick the first one, you could find yourself very confused. Another example is the English word “love.” When someone says “I love ice cream,” he means something very different from when he says “I love my wife” (or at least he ought to).

The point here is that we want to let the dictionary help us get an idea of what the word can mean, then let the context of the passage determine what the word does mean. If we’re in a class on photography, “dodge” probably doesn’t mean “get out of the way.” It probably means “lighten.” But we wouldn’t want to make that assumption in gym class.

View All Occurrences

This is probably my favorite feature in The Bible Study App for word studies. It’s the button that says “Search for g5457” (or some other number). This feature allows you to search for everywhere in the Bible where that particular Greek or Hebrew word is used. Since a translation might translate one word twelve different ways, it’s hard to know when that word is being used. But this feature can help.

The best way to use this feature is to start with where the word is used closest to the verse you’re studying, then work outward from there. Look in the verse, then the chapter, then the book, then other books the author has written, then in the whole Bible.

In this way you can get a sense for how a certain author used a particular word in its context, in all his writings, and how the word gets used throughout the whole Bible. While this doesn’t necessarily result in the same mastery of the word that a scholar might have, it certainly does help us to better understand the word and the passage we found it in.

Generally speaking, this isn’t going to completely change the way you read a passage of Scripture. The translators know the languages a lot better than most of us, so most often we’ll end up agreeing. But doing a word study can help us discover a richness to the word that we otherwise might not have seen. It can also help us to connect things in Scripture that we otherwise might not have thought to connect.

Look Up Word in Dictionaries

The Look Up feature allows you to look up a word in any Greek/Hebrew dictionaries that you might have. There are a lot of really helpful dictionaries out there by scholars who have already done the work of a detailed word study. They may also include information about where the word came from and how it was used in books outside the Bible. These can be extremely helpful to supplement the word studies that you’re already doing with the ESV with Strong’s. Here are a few you might find helpful:

Conclusion

Tools like Strong’s Tagged Bibles and Bible dictionaries can be really helpful in understanding what God has to say. We should pray that, in our study, we will allow God to correct us with what we learn about the words of Scripture. This is very different from using the tools to bend God’s words to mean what we want them to. Humility and openness to correction are important here.

If we come to the Scriptures with our tools, ready to be taught by the Scriptures, then we will be in the right place to see God’s love for us in Christ and how we are to live in light of that love. We hope these tools prove helpful in your studies.

Psalm 119:130 (ESV)

The unfolding of your words gives light;

it imparts understanding to the simple

David is a front end web developer at Olive Tree. He also writes on his personal blog, And the Rest of It.

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How to Use a Study Bible in Bible+

Posted by on 12/25/2015 in:

Study Bibles are an essential part of any Bible study library. Study Bibles provide quick access to understanding passages and getting a general overview of the Bible. Today we want to highlight Study Bibles by showing you what kind of content you can expect to find and how to use them.

Screenshots are from an iPad Mini 4 and using the NIV Zondervan Study Bible for illustration.

Book and Section Introductions

Most Study Bibles offer section introductions to the Bible’s literary genres, such as the Pentateuch and the Historical Books. In the book introductions, you will find everything from the author’s purpose in writing, the book’s theme, a full outline, and relevant photos. They leave no stone unturned. These introductions cover the essentials of what you need to know before studying any book of the Bible.

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Verse-by-Verse Notes

After reading through the book and section introductions, you’re ready to dive into the study notes. The notes will help you understand each passage in its context and show you how it relates to the overall message of the Bible.

You can access the study notes in conjunction with your Bible by opening them in a split window or through the Commentaries section of the Resource Guide.

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Articles

One valuable feature of many modern Study Bibles is their library of theological articles. Scholars and leaders address theological topics aimed at helping you understand some of the bigger topics contained in the Bible. Some Study Bibles, like the Reformation Heritage Study Bible also include historic creeds and catechisms.

The simplest way to find the articles is by changing the Verse Chooser to list view and navigating the table of contents. This will display the articles for quick access. Depending on the passage you’re in, these articles may also appear in the Resource Guide under their respective topics.

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Photos, Maps, & Charts

Study Bibles also include photos, maps, and charts to help you understand the biblical narrative. You’ll find incredible photos of biblical artifacts and locations placed within the study notes. Maps near their relevant Scripture passages help you know where key Bible events happened. Charts summarize information and concepts encountered throughout the Bible. Many of these images will also appear in the Resource Guide under their respective sections.

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Add Them to Your Library Today

Check out our great Study Bibles and add them to your library today!

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Read Bibles Side-by-Side in Bible+

Posted by on 12/24/2015 in:

We all have our favorite Bible translation that we like to use and read from. Right now, for me, it’s the English Standard Version (ESV). When it comes to looking up a passage or doing my daily Bible reading it’s the Bible I go to by default. But when I’m studying or preparing a sermon I reference multiple Bible translations so that I can gain a fuller understanding of the passage. Today I want to show you why owning multiple Bible translations is a good idea and how to use them side by side in Bible+.

The screenshots below are from an iPad Mini 4, but the process works identically on Android devices. The methods described below require the split window to be open and assume a Bible is already open in the main window.

Method #1: Library View

The first way to create a parallel Bible is through the library view. If your split window is currently open to Resource Guide or Notes you can return to the library view by tapping the top left icon in the split window. This will open a list of your resources.

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If you have a large library, you may want to filter this view to only show your Bibles. Do this by selecting “Browse by Category” and tapping “Bibles.” Then choose the translation you want to read in parallel. In this screenshot we have chosen to open the New King James Version.

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With both Bibles now open, you can read the Bible in your main window while your secondary Bible follows along.

Method #2: Resource Guide

If you’re someone who frequently uses Resource Guide, this second method will work better for you. With Resource Guide open, scroll to your Bibles section. Here you are presented with a list of all the Bibles in your library that contain the passage you currently have open in the main window. Select the Bible you want to read and it opens to the same location as the main window. Like in the first method, this Bible will stay in sync as you scroll through the Bible in the main window.

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Bonus Method: Multiple Bibles on Desktop

Do you use our Windows desktop or Mac app? If so, we have a bonus method that allows you to open multiple parallel Bibles simultaneously. First, access your first parallel Bible by using one of the methods outlined above. Once you have your Bible open in the split window, you can then click the Popout Window button. This will open a copy of the Bible (or any resource) in a popout window that you can resize and move anywhere on the screen.

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Now go back to the split window and choose a different Bible. At this point you will have three different Bibles open to the same location that sync with the main window. Repeat these steps to open up as many translations as you would like. Below is a screenshot with four different translations open.

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Why Multiple Translations?

Now that you know how to create a parallel Bible in Bible+, why would you want to use one? Here are some ideas:

  • Read a more literal translation (KJV, ESV, NASB) alongside a more dynamic one (NLT, Message, TLB) to get a better idea of what the text says
  • Have an English translation open alongside the original language text
  • Compare commentaries or dictionaries by having those resources open instead of a Bible

A parallel Bible can also be used to check out newer Bible translations to see how they compare to your translation of choice. An example of this would be reading the newly released Modern English Version as a part of your daily reading or Bible study. This allows you to experience the Bible in a new way without giving up your preferred translation.

Our Bibles are currently on sale, so add a few to your library today and use them as a parallel Bible!

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