Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Remember the 1990s? They brought forth a variety of PC versions of the Bible. Back in the day, they were stunning; although admittedly, these first-generation programs were clunky, and little more than electronic texts of the Bible, marketed to the busy pastor or motivated Bible student. Gradually, speedier processors allowed for more features, including word study, and some graphics, such as maps of biblical lands, etc.

Today, the situation is remarkably different. Virtually none of the earlier pioneer companies survived and there are only several major developers of biblical software. Gone are the “mom and pop” companies, which, in the early days of Bible software, offered rudimentary, reasonably priced programs. In their place today are several big developers which produce smooth-running, lightning fast programs. One of the predominant software developers today is Logos Bible Software, Inc.

Logos programs run on desktop or laptop as well as iPhone and iPad, and are immeasurably more advanced than previous generations of biblical software. Today’s software opens the biblical world as never before, with dozens of languages and hundreds of features. One of my own favorite features is the “word wheel,” which allows one to study the meaning, for example, of the Hebrew term for Pharaoh, complete with multi-dimensional graphics. In just a few clicks, one can view all of its 268 occurrences in the OT, along with a boatload of textual data.

In order to enjoy such goodies, one must purchase a base package, which ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Those looking for more in-depth study will want to consider the “Original Languages Library” ($415.95) or the “Scholars Library” ($629.95). The latter contains 47 bibles, over 50 Greek and Hebrew resources, 90 commentaries and reference works, biblical maps, photos, etc.

There are two reasons why Logos is currently leading the field. 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.

Until quite recently, Logos’ marketing efforts were clearly aimed at a decidedly Protestant clientele. This was evident not only in the scores of Protestant titles included in all of the base packages (e.g. Protestant Bible translations, sermon-building resources, Evangelical commentaries and resources). The company seemed to ignore”or at least overlook the needs and interests of Catholic customers. As a Catholic seminary professor, I carried my cross and accepted their rather meager efforts to satisfy those to us on the other side of the Tiber.

Fortunately, this “Catholic blind spot” is no more: Cor ad cor loquitur , or at least, to the pocketbook. Logos has crossed the Tiber. Sort of. They’ve recently hired a Catholic resource specialist. After a few conversations with Mr. Andrew Jones, it is clear that Logos is getting the message. Jones informed me that Logos will offer a Catholic base package in the near future, and is working on other vital licenses, such as the Catechism. In the meantime, the Catholic user can purchase what is being called the “Catholic Library Builder.” Over 230 volumes are included in the package, aimed at the Catholic priest, teacher/student or layperson, including:

Catholic Bible Translations: Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition; New American Bible-Revised Edition, Douay-Rheims). The Nova Vulgata and other Vulgate resources are also included.

Early Church Fathers- Catholic Edition : Extensive collection (14 vols.) of the Ante-Nicene and Nicene fathers. (Note: The “Catholic edition” is simply devoid of some of the polemical rhetoric and commentary of Philip Schaff, the nineteenth century Swiss protestant who translated the classic works, but hey”who’s complaining?)

St. Thomas Aquinas : Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles in Latin and English. Also included is Thomas’ masterful Catena Aurea (patristic commentary on the Four Gospels).

Blessed John Henry Newman Collection . Appears to be his complete works ( Apologia Pro Vita Sua , Collected Essays , etc.

Numerous Other Catholic Resources: St. Augustine’s Confessions, Butler’s Lives of the Saints , Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, and numerous spiritual masterpieces by St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales, Thérèse of Lisieux, etc.

Modern Catholic Scholars: Additionally, several volumes by Raymond Brown and John Meier’s Marginal Jew series are included, as well as Scott Hahn’s Kinship by Covenant.

At present, only one-fourth of the “Catholic Builder Library” is available; the remaining licensed titles will be updated and added once they become available. Elsewhere on the Logos website, a “Ratzinger Collection” is being developed (fifteen volumes including both volumes of the Holy Father’s Jesus of Nazareth series plus thirteen other works, to retail for just over $130). It’s disappointing that these works were not included in the Catholic Builder Library; likewise, the much revered Ancient Christian Commentary series would have been an excellent addition”although both collections are or will soon be available as separate purchases.)

Certainly, one can immerse oneself in serious bible study without such technology. And in today’s economy, many may opt to study Scripture the way it’s been done historically”by flipping pages. I for one will always treasure my dog-earred books! Yet for those with the means, such developments are welcome”as is the new Catholic emphasis”better late than never. Scientia cum religion , especially for those that can afford it.

Dr. Steven Smith is Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He is also a popular presenter on a number of topics including: the Four Gospels, the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Catholic Biblical interpretation. Next year, Dr. Smith’s first book, (tentatively titled) God’s Holy Word: A Handbook for Today’s Catholic will be released by Our Sunday Visitor Press . He and his family live in Emmitsburg, Maryland.


Catholic Library Builder

Become a fan of First Things on Facebook , subscribe to First Things via RSS , and follow First Things on Twitter .

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles