Even in a nation where 1 in 5 people, reportedly, claim no spiritual affiliation whatsoever, the Bible and its words continue to have an impact in the lives of millions — and on the society in which they live.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the digital revolution has been about 30 years' worth of continued development of digital resources for researching and studying the Bible. From the earliest Bible-on-diskette programs through today, access to the sacred text has increased and morphed with technology's growth.
The latest iteration comes from Logos Bible Software of Bellingham, Wash., whose eponymous Logos 5 software is available now. The program integrates what its maker calls better search tools and customizable book collections with cloud-based options that let users share — and access — the thoughts of colleagues and even strangers via shared notes and outlines. You might be alone in a room as you study, but the digital "ivory tower" is a thing of the past, if you want it to be.
Collaboration is nice, but it's not, to me, the essence of what makes Logos 5 a worthwhile investment. Pricing, by the way, starts at $250 for a basic, but rich, collection of 200 Bibles and resources and goes up from there, topping out at just under $4,300 for a "Portfolio" collection of 2,500 books and other items, enough to fill a wall of shelving, at least.
At either end, these are not collections of useless items: Serious students will find dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries and other essential tools of the biblical studies trade. But unlike paper books, opening five or 10 such resources won't crowd out your desk; they can easily be integrated for searching, reading and using.
While the program arranges these resources into a digital "library" for users, a new feature in Logos 5 might be useful to those preaching or teaching: A "Sermon Starter Guide" where a typed-in subject or Bible reference yields a quick, but thorough, search of resources from which you can select to build a message.
This might not seem like much, but for the pastor (or lay member) who suddenly has to come up with a "Saturday-night special," which in religious circles isn't a handgun but rather a sermon-on-the-spot, this kind of resource can be a real lifesaver.
What I particularly liked is that these searches — as well as others in Logos 5 — seemed quite a bit faster than earlier versions, particularly on the Macintosh platform. While Logos has had a Mac version for a while, it could get a bit pokey at times. So far, that's not been a problem with the new release. For that reason alone, I'd say it's worth the upgrade cost.
Using the new program also gives users access to Logos' "Faithlife" community, which centers on an online-and-on-device study Bible that has 2.3 million words of text, notes and references. The company also offers a link between Logos 5 and its "Proclaim" cloud-synchronized software for collaboratively developing worship services, something church leadership teams do regularly.
A comment I've made before about the Logos program bears repeating: All this would not be worth as much as it is without a wide range of resources for users to consult. No other publisher of which I'm aware has matched the number and variety of materials Logos provides, for just about every theological persuasion and Christian or Jewish tradition.
My bottom line: Logos 5, whose depths I plan to plumb regularly, is even more robust and vibrant than its predecessors. If studying the Bible is something of professional or personal interest, there is, right now, nothing else that even comes close. More information can be found online here: http://bit.ly/SzWwP6.
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