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Mechanics shell out tons of money for high-quality tools like Snap-On wrenches. Engineers use a really expensive computer program called AutoCAD. Graphic designers purchase pricey software like Adobe Creative Suite. What about pastors? What are the tools of the trade? Books. Pastors buy books. However, “books” no longer describes just the bound stacks of glue-and-paper that line our bookshelves. Books are now packaged in bits. They are viewed on Kindles, iPads, and computer screens. They hurtle through cyberspace. They are downloaded in seconds. They are backlit. They are copied/pasted with the click of a mouse. They are digitally highlighted. They are stored on hard drives. They are synced with mobile devices. In a word, books—the pastor’s foremost tools of the trade—are changing.
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Table of Contents: Click links to jump to sections of the article.
Into this rapidly-changing milieu of books, enter Logos Bible Software. Logos is a Bible study software company. But calling Logos a “Bible study software company” is kind of like calling the Versailles a “house.” Logos, with two-decades of technology experience behind them, is responsible for building the largest digital library of Bible research tools—books. Electronic books. The company has big results to show for their twenty years of hard work, outside-the-box thinking, intense collaboration by scholars, and just plain hard work. The results are astounding. Logos is not merely keeping pace with the technological advances in Bible research. No indeed; they are way ahead of the pack.
Following is a review of Logo’s product. The goal of this article is to inform you about a useful tool for pastors, to encourage you to consider Logos for your own use, and to perhaps contribute to the overall effectiveness of pastors and teachers. The kind team at Logos allowed Sharefaith to review their latest product, Logos 4 Mac and the Scholar’s Gold library. Throughout college and seminary I used the whole gamut of Bible software iterations—from the freebie, to the cheapo, to the bigger and better. I had a long relationship with BibleWorks, a stint with Accordance, and a sprinkling of mobile Bible software versions along the way. I entered my two-month review period of Logos 4 with a few questions, a modicum of curiosity, a little bit of planning, and a MacBook Pro.
Windows or Mac? If you’re not a Mac aficionado like I am, don’t be scared away by ‘MacBook Pro’ and the other ‘Mac’ verbiage you just read. Logos is a newcomer to the Mac market; their Windows version was their bread-and-butter product until the recent release of Logos 4 Mac. Logos caters to rabid Mac fans as much as it does to maniacal PC users. If you spurn Macs like Steve Jobs spurns business attire, you’ll be happy to know that you can get the same level of versatility, power, and productivity from Logos using your Windows machine.
PhD? Pastor? or Preteen? Beyond the Mac/Windows divide, there may be other questions regarding who should be using a powerhouse product like Logos. I’m not given to pandering, but Logos is a product that is good for just about anybody who’s interested in Bible study.
Allow me to explain why Logos is useful for PhDs, pastors, and even preteens. First, Logos Bible Software is a library. You’ll find books and collections that are within arms reach of a junior-high reader, and then a whole lot that will stretch the thinking of a PhD scholar. Second, as far as software functionality is concerned, Logos has features that allow for intensive research into the original languages, and then some features that require no more skill than just reading and clicking. Logos has pleased customers among laymen, pastors, stay-at-home moms, and high-powered intellectual moguls.
That being said, the largest group of Logos fans consists of pastors, Bible students, and those with a bit of Bible training under their belt. It only makes sense. To harness the full range of tools, it helps if the user has some Bible knowledge.
Logos and Your Life
In a day of apps, cloud computing, and iPad hysteria, I need to mention a thing or two about how Logos can fit into your mobile world. Three factoids below may be a deciding factor as you ask, “Is Logos for me?”
Mobile device portability. I like Bible apps. Being a mobile-device toting kind of guy, I’m interested in tools that I can hold in the palm of my hand. Logos did not disappoint. Their Bible app, which I regularly use, has features beyond all of the other Bible apps I’ve used (most significantly, my entire Logos library). If mobile is your thing, you’re in good hands. Logos provides iPhone, iPad, and Android (coming soon) apps. Imagine stepping into the pulpit, iPad in hand, wielding more notes, books, Bible, translations, grammar helps, and resources than you ever have before. If you really need to, you can even listen to a pronunciation of “Zurishaddai” before you read Numbers 10:19.
Multi-platform usability. Logos can be installed anywhere you have a computer, without having to pay a cent more for a new version of the program. The company sells user licenses, not device licenses. If you have an office at the church and at your home, you may have experienced the inconvenience of having two computers and unsynced files. You’ll never experience this kind of frustration with your Logos library. Using Logos’s multi-platform model, all your resources will stay in sync from device to device. From a late-night study session using your Mac at home, you can cruise into your church office PC and see all the same stuff, then catch a few more minutes on your iPhone in the hospital waiting room. Oh, and if you suffer the event of a computer crash, theft, or upgrade, don’t worry—you can get everything back for free. (The program that is, not your computer.)
Mobile web accessibility. It gets better. What if you find yourself without any of your familiar computers at hand? You’re staying at your uncle’s house for the holidays; he’s asked you to preach at his church tomorrow morning; you don’t have your laptop with you. Not to fear. Here’s where the value of Logos’s mobile web version comes into play. Using the site biblia.com, you can remotely access the bulk of your library even without using an installed Logos platform. Web access is all you need, and presto, there are your materials, available for you to study. (Hey, Google isn’t the only company that uses cloud computing.)
Logos and Packages.
To further help you decide if Logos is or isn’t for you, it helps to know how the product is marketed. The Logos product is designed around packages. There are nine different packages. Each contains the base software, which is unchanged throughout all the packages. The differences between the packages are due to the amount of data (i.e., books) that they contain. At the low end of the price continuum is the “home” edition. At $149, Logos Home edition contains nearly 100 books and electronic resources. At the other end of the spectrum is something large and ominous called the “Portfolio Edition,” which costs over $4,000 and contains over 1,700 books. The middle ground is divided up into the following collections: “Bible Study,” “Leader’s Library,” “Original Languages,” “Scholars Library,” “Scholar’s Silver,” “Scholar’s Gold,” and “Scholar’s Platinum.” With a little bit of investigation, you can find a package that matches your budget and interest level.
These are called “base packages,” because they get you started with a nice collection of books. As an electronic library system, however, Logos is ready to receive whatever other collections, books, and resources you may wish to add. Thousands of additional titles are available for purchase. The base package gets you started, and there is often no need (or obligation) to buy more. However, the Logos store provides as much variety and selection as you could possibly want.
Now for some sort of disclaimers.
It’s Not Free. We need to talk about cash. Logos costs money. If it’s just an electronic Bible you’re after and you don’t have any money, you can download free Bible software from the Internet—like Logos. Logos is a major player in the free Bible software market. You can create an account at Biblia and receive more than thirty free Bible study resources.
It’s Not Paper. Second, Logos is a digital library. If you are disinclined to peruse books electronically, Logos won’t be your go-to choice for a cozy evening of reading books by the fire. But Logos isn’t just a recreational reading tool. It’s a high-octane research machine. Even if you’re not yet an electronic-reading junkie, you will benefit from the max-out research capabilities that Logos provides.
In the following review, we are using Logos Scholar’s Gold. Most of the remarks we make will apply to any of the Logos packages.
One great feature about Logos is that you can download the software, rather than go through the DVD-install route. This is helpful for speed and convenience. The download process went smoothly for me. If you opt for the download route, you’ll want to make sure that you leave a lot of time for the program to download. A fast Internet connection will help, too. Downloading several gigabytes of data is going to take a while.
Your First Few Minutes with Logos
Logos Home Screen. After the download was complete, I was eager to get rolling with my shiny new software. I was pleased to find that the program was very Mac-esque, which was helpful for me as a Mac user. Furthermore, the home screen of the software was nice, kind of reminding me of a newspaper layout or a customized Google home page. The home screen presents a potpourri of book selections, interesting articles, Logos news, Bible passages, and other information. It was, I’ll admit, a bit distracting when I just wanted to beeline for a Bible research project.
Once past the home screen, you enter the main Logos work center. This is the place to roll up your sleeves and get going on your Bible research. But here you’ll need to pause for a very important time out. Here’s why…
Learning As You Go
Logos, like any other piece of software, takes some for getting accustomed to. If you’ve been using Microsoft Word for a while, you’ve probably become pretty handy at performing your regular functions, whether it’s setting margins, changing the font, or copying and pasting material. If you were to use a new program, however, you wouldn’t feel as familiar. For me, Logos was a brand new experience. Thus, I had a lot of learning to do before I was able to use the program.
The best way to bring myself up to speed was to watch a few videos. Logos’s online collection of training videos was eminently helpful for calming my new-user jitters and providing me with some things to try. After a couple of videos, I was able to take some baby steps and get a feel for the program’s power.
What I discovered amazed me. After a well-spent hour of video initiation, I was able to grab the clutch and accelerate. No, I did not yet qualify as a Pro User, but what I learned from the videos enabled me to cruise at a research speed heretofore unknown.
One of the first ways that I put Logos to the test was to use it for a research paper in a seminary class I was taking. My customary horse-and-buggy method of research consisted of going to the library, roaming the stacks, unshelving several dozen books, and setting up camp at a large table to thumb through the dusty tomes. Sure, I felt scholarly, but it was tedious, painful, laborious, and asthma inducing.
That was about to change. Instead of my conventional library pilgrimage, I opened up Logos in the comfort and safety of my home office. Within sixty seconds, I had five times as many resources at my electronic fingertips than I had ever had during my erstwhile library safaris. I was thrilled. (I actually literally laughed out loud.)
One Stop Shop
Logos allows you to access hundreds or thousands of resources instantly. Herein is one of its most important features, not a feature that is unique to Logos of course, but one that has been refined in the Logos product line. I was able to view my preferred Bible translations, the text in the original language, lexicon definitions and parsing, several commentaries, and more all on one screen. A few clicks provided even more resources—a nearly endless supply of materials for research and study.
I have no idea how to estimate the time that Logos saved me during the research process as I wrote my paper. Perhaps the issue is superfluous, because it wasn’t so much that I took less time on the product. Instead, I was able to invest my time better, since Logos streamlined and deepened my research.
After you spend time with a paper book, it kind of becomes your own. You put creases in it, you make notes in the margin, you fold in some page corners, and you make the highlights. Software doesn’t do folded page corners very well, but Logos can be customized to the point where it definitely feels like it’s your own. The Notes feature gives you complete flexibility to write your own stuff. This is a handy tool for writing a sermon or doing some research. Clippings, another user input feature, also takes personalization to a comfortable new level. Logos even has a full array of Bible reading plans, a prayer list, and custom layouts. After spending a while in Logos, you will grow familiar with its intuitive interface and feel right at home.
The Logos designers must have engineered the program in a room where “SEARCHABILITY” was written on the walls, on their computer screens, and tattooed onto the backs of their hands. The program is all about searching.
I’ll explain. As I glance around my office right now, my eyes scan hundreds of paper books. To find the topic of “suffering” in all of these books would take the better part of a week. To do the same search in my Logos library takes virtually no time at all. During the course of this review, my study took me to Philippians 1, where I electronically opened up a book of Bible illustrations for an illustration of suffering. When I opened a new tab for exploring another book or two, Logos had already picked up on the fact that I was interested in “suffering,” and it presented me with sixteen new options for researching suffering. Voila! “Resources for Suffering,” it read at the top of the list. All it took was two clicks to read a lengthy article on suffering in the New Bible Dictionary. The article itself was full of hyperlinks explaining abbreviations, leading to Bible references, and giving me an even fuller research experience.
Let me refer back to the paper books in my office: My books are only valuable for research insofar as I can either recall their content from memory or find their content quickly. Thus, many of the books on my bookshelf are of limited use when compared to Logos. Even well organized reference books or books with indices take time to plow through in order to find the topic or passage under consideration. Logos, however, makes the research process lighting-fast through its überpowerful searchability.
It’s not only about rote searching with Logos. It’s more than that. Word searches are more than word searches as Logos branches out to search on concepts. For example, let’s say you want to do a study on “Lord’s Supper.” Easy enough, but some authors use the term “Eucharist,” “communion,” or “last supper.” Logos knows that, so it will bring results using these terms, too.
Logos has a feature called “guides.” This is code word for A-Really-Powerful-Tool-That-Basically-Does-All-Your-Research-Really-Quickly-Leaving-You-Gaping-in-Shock-and-Joy.
An explanation is in order. While working through a study on Philippians 1, I opened up the Exegetical Guide. Instantly, I was staring at the full text of Philippians 1, three textual apparatuses, six Greek grammar entries, a sentence analysis, clause analysis, two syntax graphs, and eleven lexical resources on every single word in the passage. Plus, just a click away were word studies, cross references, pie charts, bar charts, graphical analysis and a host of other tools. See what I mean by “gaping-in-shock-and-joy”? It was a Greek geek’s paradise.
This is also what I mean by “intuitive.” Logos was designed for Bible students by Bible students. Thus, rather than expect the time-strapped, hard working pastor to perform intricate programming meanuevers or complex commands (like some Bible programs I’ve used), the software is intuitive enough to do a whole lot for you.
Money matters when it comes to pastor’s tools. Some churches furnish their pastors with a book fund, but most of the time, pastors have to afford their tools on a modest salary (if they even get a salary). Logos may not seem cheap, but when you consider it comparatively, Logos is actually a steal. (Please don’t worry. “Steal” is just an expression.) For example, I own the Scholar’s Library Gold, which retails for $1,379.95. Expensive? Oh yeah, especially when that sum is about 30% of a pastor’s annual salary, or something like that. However, the same resources in print would cost around $15,000.00. Now do you see the kind of comparative savings that Logos provides? When grappling with the filthy lucre issue, also bear in mind that the Logos library is a library. (Library, noun: a building or room containing collections of books.) You aren’t just buying a book or a piece of software. You’re buying an electronic building or room containing collections of books. The sticker shock begins to wear off when you visualize a high-quality seminary library taking the form of a computer program sitting on your desk.
But take a moment to set aside the whole “sticker” issue (if you can). The upside of a digital library isn’t just the cost slash. The upside of a digital library is that you also get free librarians and research assistants—in their digital personas, of course. It’s impossible to place a dollar value on this kind of convenience, versatility, speed, and capability. Such functionality—especially Logos-style functionality—is priceless.
If you would like to purchase Logos Bible software, enter the coupon code SHAREFAITH15 at checkout and SAVE 15%!
What you’ve read in this review merely scratches the proverbial surface of Logos’s power and prowess. Many of my friends who possess intellectual hardware far more capable than my own (with academic degrees to prove it), use the program to write scholarly books, to compile esoteric linguistic journal articles, and to perform mighty exegetical deeds. Others of my friends—pastors or Bible study group leaders—use Logos to give a Bible lesson or to prepare their Sunday sermon.
Logos will do for you what you want it to do. Then, it will help you to do it better. As you continue to grow in your personal knowledge of the Bible and biblical studies, your ability to use Logos more effectively will increase. You can also enhance your own library with custom databases and original resources. Logos grows with you.
Be warned that purchasing a product like Logos is like saying “yes” to more stewardship. Technology brings dangers, but it also brings gigantic blessings. Logos is one of those gigantic blessings. It’s not just about buying cool techno stuff. It’s about using your time wisely, using your resources carefully, and better understanding, proclaiming, and applying the truth of God’s Word.
Logos is graciously offering Sharefaith readers a 15% discount on any Logos base package purchase. If you would like to purchase Logos Bible software, enter the coupon code SHAREFAITH1 at checkout.
Disclosure of Material: Sharefaith received a complimentary review copy of Logos Bible software from the Logos Bible software company. There was no obligation, understanding, or request for a positive review. The opinions expressed here are solely the opinions of the author. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”