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.
Ask a group of pastors, seminarians, professors, or serious Bible readers, “What one commentary series on the Old Testament would you most recommend?” and you’re likely to hear: “NICOT.” Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the Old Testament blends scholarship with application in a readable and engaging manner. Few, if any, commentary series are consistently this good throughout the series. And I don’t know of any other series that has such broad ecumenical appeal.
NICOT in Olive Tree has 23 volumes, spanning 26 biblical books. The bundle includes the 2010 volume on Hosea. The only volume currently in print that is not here is The Book of Judges, by Barry G. Webb (2012). (Judges is not available in any other Bible software at the moment.)
General editor Robert L. Hubbard Jr. writes of the series:
NICOT delicately balances “criticism” (i. e., the use of standard critical methodologies) with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text. As an evangelical commentary, it pays particular attention to the textʼs literary features, theological themes, and implications for the life of faith today.
As I preached through Isaiah this past Advent, John N. Oswalt’s two volumes on that book were the first commentary I turned to after spending time with the biblical text. While it was always clear that Oswalt knew Isaiah and his milieu well, the author would find himself swept up at times in praise of the God Isaiah preached. On Isaiah 2:2, for instance, he writes:
What Isaiah was asserting was that one day it would become clear that the religion of Israel was the religion; that her God was the God. To say that his mountain would become the highest of all was a way of making that assertion in a figure which would be intelligible to people of that time.
Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion. This does not mean that the Church merely waits for the second coming to look for peace. But neither does it mean that the Church should promote peace talks before it seeks to bring the parties to a point where they will submit their needs to God.
Oswalt is representative of the authors in NICOT, in that he loves the text (and its grammar, history, and background) and loves the God who inspired it.
NICOT in Olive Tree has hyperlinks to biblical references and commentary footnotes, which you can easily and quickly view in the Bible Study (computer) app through the Quick Details corner (by hovering over the hyperlink), or as a pop-up window (which can then also pop out and keep your place in a separate window). It’s just as easy to tap a hyperlink in the mobile app.
There are two ways I’ve used NICOT so far.
1. I use NICOT as my starting point in the main window.
After some time in the biblical text, I have made my way through parts of NICOT by starting from the commentary. I can use hyperlinks to read the verses being commented on, as well as any other references. I can keep a Bible open in the split window and have it follow me along as I read through NICOT.
Using NICOT this way, there are quite a few ways to get around, both by looking up a verse in the commentary, and by navigating its Table of Contents. You only need to use one of these options at a time, but here they all are:
Note that from the Go To drop-down menu, I can keep following the sub-menus till I get to a specific place in the commentary (Introduction to Malachi in the instance above). One could also do this from the Go To item in the toolbar, which allows for both verse searching and Table of Contents navigation.
2. I use the Bible in the main window and NICOT as a supplement in the split window.
This has the advantage of letting me use NICOT as one among multiple resources in the Resource Guide, as shown (in part) here:
In both of the above setups you can take notes in NICOT, highlight, and bookmark your place. You can also do a search on a word or phrase in the commentary, with the results appearing almost instantaneously. One may wish, for example, to find all the times Oswalt refers to the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, which is an easy and fast search to run.
In reviewing Olive Tree I have found it to have the most versatile, smooth, and customizable Bible app I’ve seen on iOS. I write more about the Bible Study iOS app here. The fact that Olive Tree is cross-platform makes it appealing to many. Though the desktop app is well-designed, I would like to see a future update where you can create a saved workspace with multiple resources open in various tabs and windows. That, I think, would take the app to the next level.
But everything is here to help you work through NICOT in a way that you couldn’t in print. There are a couple of options (one free and one paid) for Hebrew Bibles, too, if you want to use NICOT in tandem with the original language. (NICOT uses transliterated Hebrew.)
NICOT volumes consistently top the charts of the Best Commentaries site. Preachers and professors, parishioners and pupils will all find much to mine here, as they seek to better understanding the Old Testament and to more faithfully love the God whose goodness its pages proclaim.
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 New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), given to me for this blog review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review.You can find the product here. For a little while longer, it’s $349.99 for the series, which is 50% off its regular price.
People often ask me “what sets Olive Tree’s Bible Study App apart?” Although it’s hard for me to narrow down, here are my favorite features of The Bible Study App (Screenshots are taken from an iPad 2. Click for a larger view)
1. Split Window
The split window has many functions. While reading in the main window, I can open the Resource Guide (see below), another translation, a study Bible, or even take notes as I read the text. I love being able to take sermon notes while in church on Sunday. I can have my main window open to the passage and take notes in the split window. Before, I had to do a balancing act with my Bible in one hand and my notepad in another, trying to keep everything in place while flipping back and forth in the Bible along with the sermon. Now my Bible and notes are all easily managed in one hand. As a bonus, any Scripture References become hyperlinks that I can tap to pop up that passage.
2. The Resource Guide
By far my favorite and most updated feature in the Bible Study App is the Resource Guide. While I’m reading the Bible, I can open the Resource Guide in the split window to see cross references, study Bible notes, maps, topics and more that are all related to my current reading. As I continue to read, the Resource Guide tracks with me and updates the material to match the Scripture I’m reading.
3. Search Feature
I’m not very good at remembering verse references and often find myself asking things like, “Where is that verse about the mustard seed?” Instead of flipping through the Bible or searching through an index, I can tap the search icon and type in “mustard seed” and find the verse I’m looking for. As an added bonus, I can view the verse in each of the gospel accounts and see other search results related to “mustard seed.”
4. Lookup Feature
Tap and hold a word in the Bible text and an option menu bar will pop up. From here you get the options Copy, Highlight, Note, Bookmark, Share, Define, Lookup, and More. If you tap the “Lookup” button you’ll get “hits” from your resources on just that specific word. Like before, just tap the book cover and you can read the article in the pop-up window, or choose to open in the Main or Split window.
5. Automatic Background Sync
I do my daily Bible Reading in the App and Olive Tree’s Automatic Background Sync takes care of it. This allows me to go into my other devices to access and keep up with my Reading Plan. The Bible is able to sink into my daily life and I can refer back to that morning’s reading from wherever I am – on the go with my phone, on laptop at work, at coffee shops on my iPad, or at home on my desktop. Because of the Bible Study App Sync function, all of my custom highlights, tags, and bookmarks are always readily available. With Olive Tree’s Automatic Background Sync, I don’t have worry about whether or not my notes, highlights, bookmarks, and book ribbons are up to date.
6. Cross Platform Access
Did you know that you can Download The Bible Study App all your devices? I personally have an iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, Windows Laptop, and Windows desktop. The advantage to having the App on your devices is that with an Olive Tree Account (have you created one yet?) you can access your entire library on up to 5 different devices from wherever you study the Bible.
That’s my favorite features, but The Bible Study App can do so much more! What’s yours?
Bible Maps in The Bible Study App work much like other enhanced resources. As you are reading in the main window, the resource guide will look at the maps you have installed and pull up relevant maps that you can easily access.
To zoom in on a PC simply hover over it in the resource guide and use your mouse wheel to zoom in or out.
For Mac you can use a trackpad or magic pad.
On mobile devices pinch to zoom.
Check out the video below that demonstrates the zoom feature on a PC running The Bible Study App.
If you’re new to The Bible Study App, you might be asking yourself “where do I start?” Here’s Nine Quick Tips & Refreshers to get you started in The Bible Study App. (Screenshots taken from an iPad. Please note that icon graphics vary somewhat across devices).
1. The “Library” Button: This is where you can find all of the Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, and other resources you’ve downloaded to your devices. You can choose from All, Recent, or Favorites.
2. “My Stuff” Suitcase Button is the central nervous system of The Bible Study App. Here you can find your notes, bookmarks, highlights, tags, reading plans, and the ever important Sync button at the bottom left. If you haven’t already done so, Click here to create an Olive Tree Account. I can’t go into great detail here, but there are enormous benefits to creating an Olive Tree Account. It’s Free and will only take a minute to set up.
3.“History” Button: Do you ever get three verses into a Bible study and want to refer back to a previous verse? The History Button is the fastest way to refer back to a previous reference. You can view by date or by title.
4. Settings Button is where you can quickly customize the type and size of your font. For a more customized Bible Study App experience, you can then click the “Advanced Settings” for an array of other custom settings (social network, posting, custom iOS gestures, etc) within The Bible Study App.
5. Search Button: Search anything within the resource you are currently studying. In your Bible, you can even limit your search to the Old Testament, New Testament, or create a custom filter or range that you define.
7. The Split Window Button: You don’t have to switch back and forth to view different resources. With the Split Window Button, you can view your Bible and your favorite commentary at the same time. Also, our built in Resource Guide in the split window follows along, looking in your library for any information that is relevant to your reading. As you scroll or change scripture references the Resource Guide will stay in sync looking to all of your study resources making for a powerful and easy to use study tool.
8. The Sync option: I have a terrible memory, but thanks to The Bible Study App, I’m able to overcome it…mostly. I do my daily Bible Reading in the App and Olive Tree’s Automatic Background Sync takes care of it. This allows me to go into my other devices to access and keep up with my Reading Plan. The Bible is able to sink into my daily life and I can refer back to that morning’s reading from wherever I am – on the go with my phone, on laptop at work, at coffee shops on my iPad, or at home on my desktop. Because of the Bible Study App Sync function, all of my custom highlights, tags, and bookmarks are always readily available. With Olive Tree’s Automatic Background Sync, I don’t have worry about whether or not my notes, highlights, bookmarks, and book ribbons are up to date.
9. Download The Bible Study App to every device you own. I personally have an iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, Windows Laptop, and Windows desktop. The advantage to having the App on your devices is that with an Olive Tree Account (have you created one yet?) you can access your entire library from wherever you study the Bible.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of the form and function of the Olive Tree Bible Study App. What are your top features of The Bible Study App? Where would you advise a new user to start? I would love your feedback.
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!
Just because the New Year is already a week old doesn’t mean it’s too late to start a Bible reading plan! It doesn’t even have to be a year long. Plans vary in length from as short as 5 days to as long as a year. You can choose a reading plan on topics such as marriage or forgiveness or that examine books of the Bible or specific people found in scripture.
Here’s how you access them (screenshots on iOS):
Tap on the ‘My Stuff Icon and select Reading Plans.
At the bottom of the pre-installed Reading Plans tap on the ‘Get More Reading Plans’ button (internet connection required). You’ll now see a list of reading plans that are available to download.
Once you tap the install button the reading plan will be available to start. More reading plans will be available in the future so make and sure and check the downloadable reading plans from time to time.