Here’s how to get the most out of The Bible Study App by learning about its powerful features and how they can work for you.
Have you ever thought about preaching or leading a Bible study from your iPad or mobile device? What about preparing a study on that same device? If the answer is yes, then this is a video you’ll want to watch.
In this video Olive Tree employee LaRosa Johnson shows you how to use the Olive Tree Bible Study app to do, what he likes to call, advanced Bible study. LaRosa will walk you through the steps of studying the Bible and taking notes using the same steps that he uses when he is getting ready to preach a sermon. After watching this video you’ll be equipped with the tools you need to do in-depth Bible study using the Bible Study app, whether you’re preaching or doing it for personal study.
Guest Review: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones
An underrated but really good Bible dictionary is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIDB). Published by Abingdon, the five-volume set is edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and includes contributions of nearly 1,000 scholars.
For a short time the dictionary set is $99.99 in Olive Tree Bible software. Below I offer–from my perspective as a preaching pastor and Bible reader–my take on the set, with a focus on Olive Tree’s iOS Bible Study App.
What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me
There are more than 7,000 articles in NIDB. The contributing scholars are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and denominational background–a refreshing mix of voices. The dictionary balances reverence for the biblical text with rigorous scholarship–though the dictionary is rarely arcane.
The NIDB has been eminently useful to me in my weekly sermon preparation. Last fall, for example, when preaching through Genesis, I knew I’d have to make sense somehow of the “subdue” command that God gives the first humans regarding their relationship to the earth. The dictionary’s “Image of God” entry helpfully clarifies:
While the verb may involve coercive activities in interhuman relationships (see Num. 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here–and this is the only context in which the verb applies to nonhuman creatures.
The same article puts nicely the implications of humanity’s creation in God’s image: the “image of God entails a democratization of human beings–all human hierarchies are set aside.”
This sort of blend between technical detail and pastoral application is present throughout the dictionary.
I’ve also found useful background for my Greek reading. This year, for example, I’m reading through the Psalms in Greek with a group of folks (see here). In the “Septuagint” entry in NIDB I find this:
The 4th-cent. CE “Codex Vaticanus” contains all of the books of the Hebrew Scripture or Protestant OT, and the following material that is today classified as deuterocanonical: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Ps 151, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, the additions to Esther (several of which were originally composed in a Semitic language; others of which are original Greek compositions), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Daniel (Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon).
The entry goes on to describe other Septuagint manuscripts, with hyperlinks in Olive Tree to related entries.
iOS Features in Olive Tree
Olive Tree is as cross-platform as a Bible study app gets: it runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Mac, Windows, and Android. The app itself is free, and you can get some good texts free, too, so you can preview the app before you buy any resources in it.
I’ve got the Olive Tree app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad Mini. It’s one of the best-executed iOS Bible study apps I’ve seen. It is visually appealing, highly customizable (especially with gestures and swipes), and easy to learn.
When reading the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (or anything else), here are a few features that have impressed me:
You can navigate with “flick scrolling” (how iBooks is set up) or “page scrolling” (like Kindle). This will make just about any user feel at home in the app. Flick scrolling (how you’d navigate a Web page) feels more natural to me, so I use that.
Dictionary entries are easy to get to. You can simply tap on “Go To” and type in the entry you’re looking for. The auto-complete feature saves having to type very much on the iPhone’s small keyboard:
You can search the entire contents of NIDB by word. If I wanted to see not just the entry for “Septuagint,” but every time the NIDB mentions the Septuagint, I would simply type that word in to the search entry bar:
Then I can select a result and read the given entry.
The full-color photos are zoomable. The NIDB contains full-color photographs that help visualize various entries. You can select the photograph and pinch-zoom for more detail.
I’ve noted this before–there is a great deal of customizable “Gestures/Shortcuts” preferences in the “Advanced Settings” menu. Olive Tree is the most versatile Bible study app in this sense. For example:
- Two-finger swipe left and right takes you through your history within the app. I can swipe between NIDB, and the last NIV Old Testament passage I was reading, and a commentary, and…. No need to go through menus.
- Two-finger tap gets you from any screen to your library; right away you can get at your other resources.
Concluding Assessment and How to Buy
One of my favorite features of Olive Tree’s apps is that you can view two resources at once that aren’t tied together by Bible verse. It’s like having split windows on an iPad. So you can have the NIDB open in the top half of your screen, and a Bible text or other resource open in the bottom half–even to unrelated topics if you want.
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is about as good a Bible dictionary as you’ll find. If you can use it to complement the Anchor Bible Dictionary (also available in OT), you’d be very well set with Bible dictionaries.
Olive Tree has done a great job, especially with its iOS apps. As much as I loved my print copy of NIDB, I unloaded it not long ago since I can essentially carry it around with me now. And getting at its contents is even easier with the enhancements Olive Tree provides.
Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.
Thanks to Olive Tree for the NIDB for the purposes of this review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review. You can find the product here, where it is currently on sale for $99.99.
One of the most powerful tools in The Bible Study App is the resource guide found in the right reading pane. A great free addition to your resource guide and your study is Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary contains almost 4,000 Bible words with a complete explanation of its Biblical meaning. It is the work of M.G. Easton, and was published in 1897. Its definitions have stood the test of time for their solid Biblical basis, clarity and conciseness. This dictionary is an invaluable addition to your Olive Tree library.
Find this great resource in the Bible Study in-app store or go HERE for install instructions.
Please note than a Free Olive Tree account is required to access this Free Download.
Study Bible Notes are a great resource for those wanting to go deeper in their study of the Bible. Here’s 3 Ways to use them and get more out of your quiet time. (screenshots are taken from an iPad 2. Click for a larger view)
1. Resource Guide
In your Main Window, open the Bible translation of your choice. (I have the NIV translation open in this example). Then tap, hold and pull the split window handle bar at the bottom of the screen. Tap Open > Resource Guide.
You’ll see relevant “hits” in the resource guide from all of the resources you have downloaded to your device.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 Bible notes sync to exactly where you are in your reading. You’ll save an enormous amount of time with this feature alone.
As I scroll through the Resource Guide I can see all of my enhanced resources that have an entry pertaining to the current text that I’m reading. I notice that my NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes has entries for commentaries, outlines, introductions, and maps. The numbers indicate how many entries are available for each enhanced resource.
The NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes in the resource guide shows two entries under the Commentary section for Romans 1:1-10. When you tap on the NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes it then shows me a preview of those entries and I can click again to read the full commentary. As you read on in the text, those entries will stay in sync with your passage no matter what translation I have open in the main window.
The NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes also include articles under the headings of People, Places, and Topics. As with the commentary section of the Study Bible notes, I can tap to read the articles without having to lose your place in your Bible reading.
2. Split Window – Specific Resource
Go to the main Split Window, Tap Open and you will see the navigation menu again. Here you can choose Recently Opened, Library Favorites, My Notes, My Highlights, and My Bookmarks. At the bottom of that screen tap Open Full Library. This will open your Library navigation. Scroll down the list and find the NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes (or the study notes of your choice). Tap to open it.
As with the resource guide, The Bible Study App’s sync scrolling will keep track of where you are in the Bible text regardless of what translation you have open. This is a great way to study if you just want to focus on one resource in your library.
3. Resource Guide on a Verse
An additional iOS option is looking up additional information on just one verse. Tap a verse number in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up. From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, add a Note, Bookmark, 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 NIV First-Century Study Bible Notes in the main or split window.
This is helpful if you want to read through your Bible “full screen” and refer to the study notes when you want to see what it says about a specific verse.
As you can see, study Bibles notes in The Bible Study App can save you a lot of time and will help you get more of of your quiet time.
Bible reading plans in The Bible Study App are easy to use and they sync between any device that has the App. Watch this video to see how!
Sync is only possible with a free Olive Tree account. If you don’t have one sign up for one here!
Bible Commentaries can be an extremely valuable study tool. Many commentaries include historical and culture context, theological interpretation, and other resources like timelines and charts. The resource guide of The Bible Study App makes using commentaries a seamless part of your study.
In the below screenshot (click to enlarge) I have my Bible opened to Daniel chapter 1. The commentary section of the resource guide then shows me which of my commentaries have related entries to this text.
The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary indicates seven entries so I’ll click on that commentary to see a preview of the those entries.
Since this chapter talks about Daniel and his friends being placed in a Babylonian learning environment, I’m interested in learning more about what that may have looked like. I then click on the third entry that talks about the language and literature of the Babylonians.
I can then read a fascinating article about historical Babylonian education that Daniel and his friends would have been exposed to. Thanks to enhanced commentaries like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary I can easily gain some amazing insight that helps me view the Biblical text in new ways.