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Bible Software No Theological Student Should Graduate Without

Bible software is too limiting a term for the tools now available. One of your graduates could be serving in the most remote location, and have a complete library plus advanced tools to make use of it. To prepare our graduates for the next 40 years of ministry, instead of the last 40, they should all have this tool.

Bible software is too limiting a term for the amazing and powerful tools that are available today.  If we are equipping students to minister over the next 40 years, instead of over the last 40, robust theological software is a must while in school.  Through use in class projects, they will learn to use it well and have it when they graduate.

Will these tools remain at their fingertips after they finish school, or will they become dust collectors like old textbooks?  If assignments in a few carefully-chosen classes require students to use the software, they will be able to master it and keep using it.

But, how do students afford an extra $300 or even $800 purchase?  It would be feasible if five classes replace their textbooks with a $300 software package.  And if students are on a payment plan, this could be more convenient and cheaper than buying textbooks for those classes.

Accordance and Logos are the two main Bible software providers, each with different advantages.  I was given a full-featured copy of Accordance and asked to write a review.  Earlier, I had been given a package of Logos.  I played with it a little, did not go through the tutorials, and put it aside.  It is not so intuitive that I was able to just open the program and start making good use of it.  Since I did go through the Accordance tutorials, I am more familiar with this product.  However, I will give some of my impressions of both.

Key features of Bible software

Both companies offer a range of products and prices.  All products include many Bible translations, Greek and Hebrew tools, commentaries, classic Christian works, and various useful tools.  Of course, cheaper packages are loaded with publications that are no longer under copyright.  The buyer will occasionally receive marketing emails offering other books that can be added to the buyer’s package.

The Accordance website explains this as follows:

Accordance equips you with cutting-edge original language tools, interactive 3D maps, a dynamic interlinear, drag-and-drop graphical searching [tool], and a host of other tools designed to take your Bible study to the next level. All of these tools come packaged in a clean and simple interface that can be customized to complement your Bible study objectives.  (http://www.accordancebible.com/Advantage)

Taking a hardback concordance off the shelf and thumbing through pages would not faster than a speeding bullet.  At this moment, I have my Accordance program open.  The translation I have chosen is NIV with Greek Numbers.  As I hover over a word, I see the Greek, a transliteration of the Greek, and the parsing of word.  At the same time, I see thumbnails of nine commentaries.  If I click on one, I go to the passage where that verse is discussed.  If I scroll down in the pane that has the commentaries, I can choose cross references, topics (e.g., atlas, person, place…), study Bibles, or grammars.

The Accordance website further boasts that

Accordance is designed to keep the Bible at the center of your study. In order to facilitate this, many of the features and tools in Accordance have been directly integrated into the text of the Bible itself. For example, you can run a search, look up a definition, open a map, view a Timeline, find parsing information, or hear an audible pronunciation simply by selecting a portion of Bible text and then choosing the respective icon in the toolbar. This in-depth feature integration helps you stay focused on the Bible as you explore other tools.

Appraisal of Advantages

Both Accordance and Logos are excellent tools, each with their own advantages.

Accordance Advantages

The biggest advantage of Accordance is it seems easier to learn and use.  In their philosophy of the product, the first item they list is that Accordance should be “easy to use: quick, reliable & intuitive.”

Consistent with this philosophy is their commitment to their award-wining online help, which received the following honors in the industry:

Distinguished Technical Communication Award from the West Michigan Shores – Society for Technical Community. The Help system was subsequently submitted to the Society of Technical Communications’s [sic] International Summit and has received an Award of Excellence (www.accordancebible.com/news/help-wins-int-award).

A class of students may have quite a range of technical abilities from digital natives (like many young adults) to the digitally-challenged to “I-hate-learning-complex-software,” digital phobics (like many older adults), ease of use may be an extremely important factor.

The ability to get up and running with such software was a major factor for me.  Intermittently, I tried fooling around with Logos for two or three weeks and gave up.  As I have already admitted, I did not avail myself of their many, many tutorials.  Perhaps my problem was my own laziness, but it looked like it would take more time to learn than I had in that season.

Accordance also has advantages pertaining to their graphics and search engines.  With founders who have spent years in Israeli, it is no surprise that their photo library is incredible. Loading and searches on Accordance tend to be faster than on Logos as well.

Accordance agrees that Logos has significantly more titles.  But, the Accordance company believes that people prefer to read a books, especially textbook, as hard copies.  A study they cite supports that view.

Accordance, instead, majors on theological reference works.  Thus, a school might use the Accordance software as the “textbook” for such classes as Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, book studies (e.g., Romans), and Hermeneutics.  If a school wants at least 25 copies of a book outside their library (e.g., as a text for counseling or evangelism), Accordance will try to add it to their package for $10 – $79 per book to that package.

Also, Accordance states it has greater depth in formatting by having more.  Having more tags means their resources can be searched in greater depth.

Logos Advantages

The biggest advantage of Logos is the vastness of their resources.  This includes their library.  While Accordance has more of a reference library, the Logos library is much more comprehensive.  Logos has such a wide-ranging theological library that it would be easy to use as the textbook for classes in most areas of practical theology, systematic theology, Biblical studies, etc.  This ability to replace textbooks in so many classes could make Logos very affordable to students in the long run.

Logos also has a more extensive and ever-growing set of tools.  For example, one can create a concordance for any book in their library.  Sermon Builder easily creates slides and handouts from the sermon.  Graduates serving in churches might be interested in the Church Products Department. These sets of software serve an increasing variety of needs for churches (e.g., Faithlife Proclaim, Faithlife groups, Faithlife Ebooks, Logos Bible Software, Faithlife Sites, Faithlife Sermons, Mobile Ed, Faithlife TV, Church Database Management, etc..).

Packages and Prices

Typically, a person would start with a package costing in the range of $200 to $300, though some might start with an $800 package.  But, a school can buy a deeply discounted set of licenses and sell them to students.  In such a case, Accordance will give schools a 50% discount off most collections.  The school might arrange for students to make regular payments to the school to pay off this account.  Or, the school might charge a software/textbook fee when students register.

Two of the most popular Accordance packages sell at a standard price of $199.  A school would be able to purchase either of these at the 50% discount for as little as $99.50.

  • Greek and Hebrew Learner includes Greek and Hebrew Bibles, lexicons, and grammars. It also includes several Bible translations, several Bible dictionaries, a few commentaries, an atlas, timeline parallel Bibles, and other resources.
  • English Learner includes a number of biblical studies tools, preaching helps, devotionals, dictionaries (e.g., Bible dictionaries, Early Christian Biography, Hymn Writers, IVP series of “pocket” books on ethics, Hebrew, apologetics, theological terms, etc.), commentaries (including the 49 Tyndale volumes on the Old and New Testaments), supplemental historical works and a number of other writings.

At a discounted price of $259, the Triple Learner package includes the two above packages plus a very good graphics package.  It also includes an interactive Bible atlas and timeline and a photo library of biblical sites throughout the near east.

With the 50% discounted price of $449.50, the Triple Discover package includes all of the above plus a significant number of additional works in each category.

 

COMPARISON OF ACCORDANCE PACKAGES

PD=Public Domain Greek/Hebrew Learner $199 List English Learner

$199 List

Triple Learner

$399 List

Triple Discoverer
$899 List
Commentary Titles
Total Volumes

Newer Volumes

Older PD Volumes

Self-Published

4

12

1

11

0

8

62

52

10

0

10

72

52

20

0

27

173

86

87

0

Study Bibles 0 0 0 2
Original-Language Tools & Resources 11 6 12 31 (including Apostolic Fathers)
Theology 0 2 2 7
History 0 4 4 6
Writings 0 15 15 22
English Dictionaries and Encyclopedias 4 18 18 24
Bibles:  Total
English

Greek/Hebrew
International

19

8

3

8

24

15

1

8

24

15

3

8

48

30

8

10

Bible Notes and Cross References 6 10 10 22
Biblical Studies 7 12 12 15
Graphic Resources 3 3 11 (including Interactive Atlas and Timeline) 17 (including Interactive Atlas and Timeline)
Devotionals 2 19 19 23
Other: General Tools, Preaching Helps, Practical, and Parallels 8 13 13 16

 

Accordance will give schools a limited-time trial copy of their software.  If at least 10 students purchase a package, the instructor gets a free copy.

Logos offers some absolutely free samples (e.g., Greek 101), but their standard starter package runs $294.99.  The next level up, Bronze, is $629.00.  The most expensive of their eight packages is $10,799.99.  So, they have packages that far exceed the needs of students.  If a class requires students to purchase Logos, there is a 30% discount.  Otherwise, individual students can take advantage of a 20% discount.  (Logos has also prepared some special packages for members of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.)

COMPARISON OF LOGOS PACKAGES

  Starter

$174.99

Bronze

$440.99

Silver

$699.99

Commentaries 5 25 77
Original-Language Tools & Resources 0 9 32
Theology 8 8 13
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias 12 12 17
Courses 1 2 3
Church Fathers 1 4 51

Note that the prices reflect a 30% discount for when teachers require Logos.  If Logos is not a class requirement, a student can still get a 20% discount off the standard price.  Deeper volume-based discounts are available when schools purchase in bulk.

 

Choose one

Choose one:  Accordance or Logos.  Do not choose none.  Do not tell students to choose either one.

Theological students need a Bible software program.  Not choosing one would make them less equipped for ministry over the next forty years.  On the other hand, some schools make the mistake of telling students they can choose either company.  This makes it harder for a school to give assignments over a range of classes and to teach students how to use their own particular package as well.

Thus, choose one.

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