“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
Truth be told, for us bibliophiles, it can be as menacing, as it is rewarding, to “manage” the books that we possess (or have access to through various libraries). Most every professor I know has stacks, and stacks, of commentaries, monographs, and reference works in his office or den, and only the best of us have any real system of organization: Medieval stuff is on that wall, history’s over there, and oh yeah, there’s some new stuff under this pile of junk mail. Even many engaged laymen I know have a similar problem; many books and little time to organize—or even read—them. It is as the sage of Ecclesiastes said.
Enter Verbum from Logos Bible Software. Located in Seattle, Washington, “Logos” is the premier developer of biblical software today. While Logos’ initial offerings were designed and marketed primarily at Protestant preachers and teachers of the Word, today’s Verbum package is a decidedly Catholic approach to studying Sacred Scripture using biblical software. And all of their packages—from the most basic to the most extravagant—are designed to re-energize and further the study of Scripture and Tradition. As noted in a previous review:
Two key reasons why Logos is presently leading the field are as follows. First, the company partners with traditional print publishers (i.e. Ignatius, Intervarsity, Fortress Press). By investing in electronic licensing, Logos now offers thousands of titles. Open to John Chapter 2, for example, and all of the respective commentaries open as well; cross-linked and fully searchable. This creates a virtual library at one’s fingertips.
Second, Logos’ packages are multi-platform, meaning that they will run on both PC and Mac. Once purchased, the software will run or both, Additionally, the latest version (Logos 4) operates on iPad and iPhone at no additional cost (but in a pared-down format). Online video tutorials and generally helpful customer representatives make set-up and trouble-shooting workable.
At the time of my last review, Logos unfortunately was just getting started in developing truly Catholic works and offered something known as the “Catholic Library Builder.” This is now out surpassed by a fully developed and integrated package known as Verbum (Latin: “word”). As with all of their packages, Verbum is cloud-based and cross-platform (PC/MAC, mobile apps, etc.) so you can sync your account—and there’s no fumbling with CDs or DVDs (see: Ecclesiastes 12:12). In addition to offering Greek, Hebrew, and Latin (and other original language) texts, Verbum equips the reader with as virtually all available translations of the Sacred Page: NAB-RE, RSV-CE, KJV, NRSV, New Jerusalem—it’s all here.
But the biblical texts are just the tip of the iceberg. Verbum will plunge you deep into the Tradition: from ancient Jewish sources to Origen and Augustine, to Thomas and Bonaventure, to Balthasar and Ratzinger. My colleague, a systematics professor, was not surprised to learn that Verbum offered a twenty-seven volume “Pope Benedict Bundle”—but he was surprised to learn that a sixteen-volume collection of Balthasar is available, so that he can ponder the Theo-Drama to his heart’s content.
And even the Verbum Basic package ($134.98) includes five English Bibles, the Latin Vulgate, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Catholic Lectionary, thirty nine volumes of the Church Fathers, fifteen commentaries and maps, charts, reference works, and more. Those who are more interested in the study of theology and of spiritual works, rather than biblical study, will be equally encouraged because there are modules of Blessed John Henry Newman, Francis De Sales, St. Theresa, and many others.
I myself am working on an elective called “Death and Resurrection in the Old and New Testament.” In addition to the Scriptures, Catechism, Thomas, and other “go to” resources, I was able, with Verbum, to quickly jump back and forth from the gospels to the Ancient Christian Commentary series, N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God, and even the Babylonian Talmud.
The commitment of Logos to continue to develop more Catholic resources is, also, quite impressive. Virtually all papal encyclicals are now available (or will soon be), as well as the homilies, audiences, and other writings of Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and so on. Astonishingly, Logos is now working to develop Thomas’ Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard—which heretofore, has only been available in Latin. I’ve recently learned that a Pontifical Academy for Life collection is in development, with essays on Evangelium Vitae, human cloning, and the human genome.
One final thought: the varying packages means that there’s “something for everyone.” As a biblical scholar, I use the full-orbed package, and own dozens of full commentary sets and scores of individual books. Yet, not everyone needs to necessarily invest in “the works.” As I tell my seminarians and folks in parishes, “get the package you need.” You can always expand it to include more modules or individual titles as need (or interest) warrant. Now, what to do about organizing my books: double-stacked on shelves, in boxes, and even a few under a pile of mail. I’ll never (not ever) rid myself of such a habit. Oh sage, do you have an app for that?
Dr. Steven Smith is Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.