Look Inside

Look Inside: Thompson Chain Reference System

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…)

Look Inside: NIV Application Commentaries (NIVAC)

The NIV Application Commentaries (NIVAC) merge the original, ancient context with right now, showing us both how ancient readers would have read the Bible and how we can connect to this living word of God from a modern context. Most importantly, however, it helps us begin the life-changing process of true application, showing how God’s word can continue to have a powerful voice in our lives today.

The NIV Application Commentaries use a highly accessible, three-tiered method of bringing readers to a fuller understanding of each Biblical book.

Original Meaning will explore a book’s meaning in light of its historical and cultural context.
(click images for bigger view)

Android                              iOS                                       Windows Desktop

originalmeaning-android      originalmeaning-ios     originalmeaning-win

Bridging Contexts, as its name implies, will help the reader link the text’s original meaning to its Contemporary Significance

Android                              iOS                                       Windows Desktop

bridgingcontexts-android      bridgingcontexts-ios     bridgingcontexts-win

Contemporary Significance—the final tier that helps you apply the Bible to everyday life.

Android                              iOS                                       Windows Desktop

signficance-android      signficance-ios     signficance-win

The Bible Study App makes the NIV Application Commentaries even more powerful and accessible.  Verse references become hyperlinks, the split window allows you to read the Bible side-by-side with the commentary, and you can easily take notes and highlights within the text. Enhanced for use in the Resource Guide, read YOUR CHOICE of Bible translations while the commentaries keep track of where you are in the scriptures

If you don’t have the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) Series, we’re offering all NIVAC individual volumes at only $7.99! Save on the Sets too! Hurry, this offer ends May 9, 2015!

Look Inside: Reformation Study Bible Notes (2015)

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.


The Reformation Study Bible Notes includes a concordance that can be found under People, Places, Topics in The Bible Study App’s Resource Guide when relevant content from your Bible text is in the Main Window.  In this case, “Apollos” shows up in the passage I’m reading.  when I tap “Apollos” under the People section, I see the concordance reference for “Apollos” and read that reference.

IMG_1573 IMG_1574

Since the concordance from the Reformation Study Bible Notes is linked, I can also use The Bible Study App’s Lookup feature in the Main Window for easy and quick access. Tap and hold a word, then tap “Lookup”. The reference will show up and you can tap then read the article like you would in the Resource Guide option above.

IMG_1575 IMG_1577

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.

IMG_1580 IMG_1581

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.

IMG_1582 reformationfullcolormap

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.

IMG_1584 IMG_1586

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.

IMG_1588 IMG_1589

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.

IMG_1591 IMG_1592

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.


Three Ways to use the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity

encylopedia of ancientWe are thrilled to announce that Olive Tree is the first to release the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity in digital format!

This three-volume encyclopedia offers unparalleled, comprehensive coverage of the people, places and ideas of ancient Christianity. With Olive Tree’s Bible Study App you can access eight Centuries of the Christian church in just three taps!

Here’s three ways to use the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity in Olive Tree’s Bible Study App! (Screenshots are taken from an iPad 2 – click for a larger view)

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 “Anointing” in this example.  The Bible Study App then brings you results from within the resources you have on your device.  This is where you will find the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity within the Resource Guide.


You’ll notice that the resource has the words “Article on Anointing” underneath the book cover.  Tap/Click on the book cover and The Bible Study App will take you directly to the article within the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity. 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 the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity is as a traditional dictionary in The Bible Study App.  Open the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity in the main window, and then just tap the “Go-To” button and scroll through this awesome resource as you would a hard-copy dictionary.  For faster results, tap “Browse Dictionary” and enter the term you are looking for in the search bar.


The third way is to use the Bible Study App’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.

IMG_1562 IMG_1563

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.


The Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity covers eight centuries of the Christian church and comprises 3,220 entries by a team of 266 scholars.  Using the Bible Study App’s lookup feature makes the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity great companion tool for many other resources.

Use the lookup feature when you’ve got the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture in the split window:


Taking a Church History course and want to learn more about the Council of Nicaea?


Reading a biography of St. Augustine and want to know more about the city of Carthage?


Any resource you have in The Bible Study can utilize the content in the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity! As you can see, the Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity is an extremely helpful resource for studying the Bible and ancient Christianity.  Right now you can get this amazing resource for only $149.99.  That’s $150 off the regular price!  Hurry because this is a limited time offer!

Look Inside: Expositors Bible Commentary

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary is a 12 volume commentary set with scholarship from 78 different contributors. Here’s a brief look at how it works in The Bible Study App.



The Expositors Bible Commentary is on sale this week. See it here!

What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me

Guest ReviewAbram Kielsmeier-Jones

NIDB Olive TreeAn 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 logo


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:


NIDB Search


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.

Go to Top