Guest Blogger: Ken Daughters, Former President of Emmaus Bible College
I preach two or three times a week and often travel to preach. I used to carry my big Ryrie Study Bible in my carry-on suitcase, but the x-ray image looked sinister to airport security. They asked me to take it out and put it on the belt separately, just as I do my laptop. I thought of carrying a smaller Bible instead, but I enjoyed the outlines and notes in my study Bible. It was at this point I considered just carrying my iPad. The college had purchased an iPad for me to demonstrate our courses on iTunes. I naturally tried every Bible program available for the iPad and picked Olive Tree’s Bible Study App as my favorite.
The big question was whether I could preach from an iPad. Would it be safe? Would the program crash? Would I become confused as I fumbled with the interface? I tested it first in our college’s chapel service. My students are tech-savvy, so I doubted they would be offended. In fact, a number of them followed along on their smart phones. No one blinked an eye. So I started carrying my iPad to our church services. I enjoyed following along with the sermon using the translation the preacher chose and consulting my imbedded commentary if I wanted additional information. I decided to take my iPad preaching on the road. At first I was nervous that the older folks in the meetings would take offense. “How can he preach without a real Bible?” I imagined them asking. In reality, no one took offense, and a number of shy iPad users came out of the woodwork and used them in church meetings as well. It was as if my use of my iPad in public made it culturally acceptable. We would compare which programs we were using and tips in their use.
Which features caused me to pick up The Bible Study App? First, the app was intuitive and easy to use. I have more resources available in some of my other programs, but their interfaces are more difficult to use. With Olive Tree I picked the typeface and font that fit my preaching needs and chose the softer book image background. I use a vertical scroll so I can move the verses from which I’m preaching to the top of the page. All of my resources are downloaded onto my iPad so I am not dependent on Wi-Fi access. I greatly appreciate the cross-references imbedded into the Scripture text as superscripts that lead to pop-up windows. I can still see my original text and the read the cross-reference from the pop-up at the same time.
Using the notes feature, I began to imbed my own cross-references into the text. All I needed was the reference. The Bible Study App recognizes any biblical reference as a hypertext link to jump to the verse immediately in a window. If I planned to spend a lengthy amount of time in another passage, I bookmarked it to I could turn to it quickly. Both techniques are faster and more efficient than using a printed Bible. The “Go To” feature of the verse chooser is also faster than a printed Bible. I can win most Sword Drills. There is a history feature if I want to return to a passage I recently read.
Perhaps the most important feature of using a computer-based Bible text is the ability to search on key words or phrases, turning the program into a computer concordance. The interface of the search feature for Bible+ is the fastest and most straight-forward I have seen!
If all I am packing for research in my suitcase is my iPad, I want to be able to access commentaries and dictionaries. The split screen feature of Bible+ serves me very well. I usually have the Bible Knowledge Commentary in my split window for quick reference I have even experimented with sermon notes as the second window! A number of sources from OliveTree are free, but my first purchase was the NASB that has Strong’s Numbers imbedded in the text. I have seen programs that place the actual numbers interspaced in the text, which is nearly unreadable. I like that I can touch a colored word and the Strong’s number, the original Greek or Hebrew word, and the dictionary definition appear. The greatest advantage of this resource is the ability to search on a Strong’s number, not the word in the English translation. For non-Greek readers, this allows one to get behind the translation and conduct more accurate searches. When I don’t need Strong’s numbers, I use the ordinary NASB text so I can touch the screen without concern. My next purchase will be the Analytical Greek New Testament (AGNT) with Morphology, Lexicon, and UBS4 Critical Apparatus.
I like to mark up my paper Bibles with color coding and write notes in the margins, but I hesitate to do so because of the permanence of the markings. I even printed out passages or photocopied pages so that I could mark them up to my heart’s content without regret. Now with the ease of the color coding available to me with The Bible Study App, I mark up the text constantly, and if I change my mind, I just redo it. I even created my own custom color. I have begun to copy and paste specific sermon or interpretive notes into the text, so I am ready to preach or teach on a moment’s notice. The notes are always there. I use Evernote to back them up or import long sets of notes. One of the best features of OliveTree is that my purchases and notes are available across all of my mobile platforms. I need to buy a resource only once. I keep each device updated by syncing. When I upgrade my iPhone, I download the resources I have in the cloud to be available wherever I am 24/7, even better than the old vest pocket New Testament! My Bible is always with me! (And so is a commentary!) OliveTree gives me the software upgrades for free, instead of trying to sell me an entire new program.
It may seem strange, but I have my devotions on my iPad using The Bible Study App. My daughter does as well. We like to share the verses that were especially meaningful to us. The copy and paste feature is particularly useful for this. I find myself sending verses not just to her, but to a number of family members and friends.
I recently stepped down from my role as president of the college. The iPad belonged to them. The device had become more than just a hyper-portable computer. It had become my Bible. I asked if I could keep it. I told them it was my Bible. Thankfully, they graciously said “Yes!”
If you’re like me, when I get a new app or piece of technology I don’t always read the manuals or follow the tutorials. I typically figure out how to use the main features and stop there. Because of this I sometimes miss out on some of the lesser known things that are actually pretty cool. The Bible Study App has a lot of different features, some that are different depending on the device capability, but many that are similar.
If you click or tap on this icon you’ll get to a simple screen that allows you to adjust the font used in The Bible Study App. But what if you go a bit deeper? Again, depending on your device, the options may vary but if you click on More Options/Advanced Settings this is where it gets fun. You can customize color and display settings and on mobile devices even customize gestures and scroll settings. There are all sorts of other options as well. If you haven’t yet checked out some of these settings don’t be afraid to experiment. You’ll find that there may be some things you wish you could do…that you actually can.
If there are things you’ve customized that have been useful please share them in the comments. If there are features you’d love to see in an upcoming release let us know. We love to hear from people who are using The Bible Study App and our development teams are always working on adding great new features.
Using technology to study the Bible is not a new idea to me. As a part time techy and full time pastor I’ve been using various Bible resources on my laptop for years now. Just recently though I’ve begun to use Olive Tree’s Bible+ on my laptop and iPad and while I’m still learning all it has to offer I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve really loved about it.
It’s free and not internet dependent. I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal but there are tons of free Bible reading programs and apps out there that almost all depend on an internet connection to work properly. I don’t know about you but sometimes my favorite place to read and study doesn’t have a wifi connection. Because Olive Tree’s Bible Study App actually lives on my device it works everywhere.
Notes and highlights! I have a distinct memory of looking at my Dad’s Bible as a kid and thinking it looked like a coloring book. There were these crazy colorful highlights and long underlines throughout his Bible. For me one of the major tensions in the transition to all things digital, especially as it relates to the Bible, is the familiarity of the worn book in my hands with my own notes and observations from past years. The BibleReader allows for this and more. I can easily color code verses and record far longer notes and observations than I ever could before. Over time The Bible Study App will contain years of valuable notes and study thoughts.
It’s multi-platform and it syncs with my other devices. I’ve been a PC guy since my family got our first computer over 20 years ago but earlier this year I was given an ipad and I love it. Because of the sync feature I’m able to take notes or highlight things on my iPad and later, if I’m preparing for a sermon or other study on my laptop, I can use the sync option and the notes I took on my iPad will be on my laptop also. So no matter what device I use my highlights, notes, and even the last place I left off reading goes with me and that saves me a lot of time and also gives me the security of knowing they won’t be lost.
Double pane is the way to go. Whether it’s for sermon prep, a small group bible study, or just my own reading I love the double pane. It allows me to compare Bible versions, easily make notes, or pull up helpful commentaries. The ability to do this easily and again without an internet connection even is a huge reason I think Olive Tree’s Bible Study App is the way to go. The Bible Study App can be as simple or as deep as you want it to be and I’m finding it to be the best resource for studying God’s word yet.