Review of Scholar’s Library (Logos Bible Software)

Installing a new software package on your computer is rarely an interesting or pleasurable experience. The longer it takes, the more irritating it becomes. Strangely, however, I found that installing the Scholar’s Library from Logos Bible Software flouted this principle. Even though it takes a good while to install, I didn’t resent the wait, because the installation process itself makes clear just why it takes the time it does. As all of the electronic books in the library are copied from the DVD to your hard drive, thumbnail images of their covers are displayed on the screen like playing cards dealt face-up on a table. And believe me, there are a lot of cards to be dealt!

The particular Logos collection I installed contains more than 330 books, which according to the publisher would be worth over $6,100 in print editions. (The advertised retail price of the Logos collection is but a tenth of that — and if you keep reading, you’ll discover a way to get it for even less.) The collection includes 20 English translations of the Bible, including the New International Version (NIV), the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). In addition to the standard Hebrew (BHS) and Greek (NA27) critical texts, complete with morphology tags, the library offers several interlinear versions, including the wonderful ESV Reverse Interlinear OT and NT. (At the time of writing, only the NT volume is available in print, whereas both are available in Logos format.) It also includes many other original language tools, including alternative texts and morphologies, numerous lexicons, grammars, glossaries, and sentence analyses.

For those who want to engage with the original biblical languages, at any level of competence, these resources are an absolute feast. To have these multifarious texts and reference works in print would be great; to have them accessible at two clicks of a mouse button, with all the portability of a laptop computer, is frankly mind-blowing. (Can you even imagine what Calvin would have made of it?)

The usefulness of the Scholar’s Library extends well beyond original-language study. The collection also includes dozens upon dozens of Bible commentaries, dictionaries, concordances, word studies, maps, and theology references. Pastors will also be thrilled to find many other resources and guides for sermon preparation, pastoral ministry, and leadership training. It would be tedious to go into further detail as to the precise contents of the library (and redundant given that a full list is provided on the Logos website). All I will add is that I was delighted to discover the collection includes John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (Beveridge translation), Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, The Works of Josephus (Whiston translation), and four of Alfred Edersheim’s classic works. (The curious should go here for a side-by-side comparison of the standard version of Scholar’s Library with other Logos collections.)

Of course, content isn’t the be-all and end-all. The Scholar’s Library may have content by the truck-load, but what about the interface? Is it easy enough to navigate and to put all that content to good use without suffering “computer rage” in the process? Yes, it certainly is. The Libronix interface, while clearly powerful when used to its full potential, is pleasingly uncluttered and relatively straightforward to use. It took me some time to find my way around, but the learning curve was flattened somewhat with the help of the video tutorials provided along with the software. (I’ve since discovered that dozens of additional video tutorials are available online.)

Now, all this is wonderful; but the Logos Bible Software System has more tricks up its sleeve. To appreciate its power, imagine that you want to conduct an in-depth study of a passage of Scripture, perhaps as the groundwork for a sermon or an exegetical paper. Luckily, you have a personal assistant in your office to help you with the process. You tell him which passage you want to study, and he immediately searches through all of the books in your office library — lexicons, grammars, commentaries, dictionaries, systematic theologies, sermon illustration collections, devotionals, etc. — and pulls down from the shelves every volume that contains any reference at all to the passage in question. He then lays them all out on your desk, with sticky notes attached to every relevant page in each volume for easy access. Next he locates your favourite Bible translations, opens each one at the right place, and lays them out in parallel alongside the original-language text. To save you time, he annotates each word in the Hebrew or Greek text with its lexical definition and grammatical form. Not satisfied with his work thus far, he then proceeds to draw you some helpful diagrams: a family tree for each person mentioned in the passage; a chart showing how much your chosen translations differ from one another (and at what points); a map of the area where the events in the passage took place; and a colourful graph showing at a glance how frequently the key words in the passage appear in the other books in the Bible. Finally, try to imagine that he does all this for you in a matter of seconds — and without leaving a huge pile of books on your desk that you’ll have to re-shelve at the end of the day.

Sound appealing? Well, the Logos Bible Software System is that personal assistant — and more besides. It’s considerably cheaper, faster, and slicker than any human you might hire to the same job. In fact, if the Logos developers could just figure out a way for it to bring you a cup of coffee and a doughnut, it would be practically perfect.

For the sake of balance, I should mention some minor gripes. One is that it took me a while to figure out how to search within one individual book. (The answer, which I couldn’t find in the Libronix help documentation, is that you need to open the book before selecting ‘Search’; the book is then available in the drop-down menu. Alternatively, right-click on the book in the ‘My Library’ window and select ‘Search This Resource’.) Another is that when a Hebrew or Greek text is included in the ‘Parallel Versions’ window, the morphology tags aren’t displayed when the mouse point hovers over a word (as they are when viewing the text in a window on its own). A third grumble is that Libronix doesn’t easily let you print out an entire book chapter or journal article in one go, although this limitation is probably due to the contracts Logos has negotiated with the publishers of the print versions of the electronic books, so I guess it’s a price worth paying. (There is a workaround for this issue, which can be uncovered with a bit of imagination and experimentation.)

In the interests of full disclosure, I should confess that my copy of the Scholar’s Library was sent to me the generous folk at Logos for review, so I didn’t pay a single cent for it. You will therefore have to take me on my word when I say that I would pay for it if I didn’t already have it, given how thoroughly impressed I am after using it for several months. You’ll also have to take me on my word when I promise to salve my conscience by using the money I’ve saved to purchase the second and third volumes of The Collected Works of John M. Frame. In any case, any lingering resentment toward your humble reviewer must surely be assuaged by the knowledge that you can obtain a whopping 25% discount simply by entering the coupon code ‘PROGINOSKO’ when you order the Scholar’s Library from the Logos website.

3 Responses to Review of Scholar’s Library (Logos Bible Software)

  1. Pingback: ‘To have these multifarious texts and reference works in print would be great; to have them accessible at two clicks of a mouse button, with all the portability of a laptop computer, is frankly mind-blowing’ : Church Leader Links

  2. Also try SwordBible at
    http://www.swordwarrior.net

  3. David McKay

    G’day James

    Speaking of John Frame, he has fairly recently joined the facebook community, and recently shared some fascinating tidpits about himself.

    25 Random Things

    1. Around age 4, when my Dad took me to smoky Pittsburgh, I couldn’t see all the way across the street.

    2. My Mom taught me to read before I went to Kindergarten.

    3. I was always the last guy chosen for sports teams, and with good reason.

    4. We listened faithfully to Pittsburgh Pirate games from 1950-56, when the team had the worst record in baseball.

    5. In high school (1955-57), I preferred listening to Sinatra, Como, Peggy Lee, Les Paul, et al to Elvis and the new rock.

    6. The Beatles first sounded to me like a lot of noise, until I heard their songs played by schmalz orchestras like 101 Strings and Mantovani. Then I went back to the original arrangements and thought they were extraordinary beautiful.

    7. In Junior High I was the only boy in my church choir.

    8. As treasurer in our youth group, I used to harangue the kids every week to bring a quarter for the offering.

    9. In high school I was mainly known as a satirical writer, doing parodies of English classics like Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.

    10. The height of my piano study was Grieg’s piano concerto. On the organ I played over half the organ works of Bach.

    11. During my high school years, I was on the verge of accepting an organ position at a Christian Science church, but chose instead a similar job at a Presbyterian USA.

    12. Senior year of HS, I had a written theological debate with a Roman Catholic friend. We passed it back and forth, wrote in it when the classes got boring. It totaled 80 handwritten pages. Summer after graduation, my Roman Catholic friend told me that he was persuaded of Protestant theology. He went to a liberal seminary, however, and became somewhat liberal in theology.

    13. In late HS years, I too was somewhat liberal theologically, inclined to answer every question with “well, it’s only symbolic, after all.”

    14. In the summer after graduation, I traveled with some friends. We attended church only twice, and those out of sightseeing interests. But when I entered college that fall I became deeply hungry for church fellowship.

    15. I became a fundamentalist at Princeton, and more or less, remain so. When I am called that, I’m not embarrassed at all.

    16. At seminary I took long walks to memorize John Murray’s lecture outlines.

    17. My first paper for Cornelius Van Til was 125 pages. People had told me that CVT graded by weight. So I added 75 pp. to some material from my Princeton thesis. He gave me an A, and that is what brought me to the attention of the WTS faculty.

    18. My priorities for ministry were (a) missions, (b) pastorate, (c) academic theology. A visit to mission fields in 1960 ruled out (a). A year and two summers of pastoral experience ruled out (b). So I embraced (c) by default, as God’s calling.

    19. At Yale, I was bored to death by modern theologians. Still am.

    20. In my early career, I felt a strong tension between my interests and my abilities. The former were focused in practical ministry; the latter were almost completely academic. God has helped me to resolve the tension by writing up academic theological theories that glorify practical ministry.

    21. Norman Shepherd was the man who first hired me to teach systematic theology at Westminster Seminary.

    22. The board of the Trinity Christian School of Pittsburgh hired me to go to the National Association of Christian Schools Convention at Langley, British Columbia, to oppose a motion to remove the Reformed Creeds from their constitution. I did, and the motion failed.

    23. I did not marry until 45. God was preparing someone special.

    24. In 1999, I led a worship team of myself, a saxophonist, and a trombonist. The other two musicians were in their late-70s, but we really rocked.

    25. I wrote a number of silly songs as child-rearing devices. One praised applesauce, one Kamut. One went “Up the stairs and down the stairs to make Johnny get up.” And the ever-popular Reggae, “Don’t Drop De Cellphone in De Tropical Smoothie.”