I heard recently of a conversation between a seminary professor and a colleague of his. Their discussion revolved around the popularity of online publications. Because of current technological advancements, the professor’s friend predicted that within ten years we would no longer be publishing books in print. The professor’s response to his colleague’s premonition was: “If that were to happen, then I’ll be laying down my pen.”
His preference is the good-old-fashioned book, with pages you can feel and book shelf space you can fill. And I’d have to agree with him to an extent. I enjoy taking trips to the local bookstore and cafe, perusing the isles for the latest book on a given subject, grabbing it off the shelf, carrying it over to a little table and flipping through pages while sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
However, (and allow me to stress the “however”) when I sit in my office at home to prepare for a sermon or Bible study, I love the convenience of having thousands of pages of resource material only a click away.
I’d fill my desk and most of my floor with the amount of books I can display on just one computer monitor. And talk about saving time! With the continued development of search capabilities, I not only keep myself out of trouble with my wife by not cluttering up my study, but I have more time to spend with her (and with my golf clubs!).
Though I don’t think the physical book will ever be replaced by published works on-line or in software, I do think digital media is going to continue to bring information to us in convenient manner at an affordable price. And as we all know, these qualities are extremely beneficial in a ministry setting.
This year’s review contains several items that you will want to get your hands on. The trouble won’t be trying to decide which one to get, but how to stay under budget.
BIBLE STUDY SOFTWARE
BibleWorks 5
I have never seen a more powerful Bible study tool than BibleWorks 5. If your desire is to dig deep, then this program will give you the tools neces-sary to surface exegetical gems. There are absolutely too many resources to list (Last year’s review highlights many of the resources that are carried over from the previous version.), so I’ll just focus on a few updates that stood out to me.
First of all, the people at Hermeneutica have made a significant improvement over the previous version’s interface. Version 5 offers a graded interface that is accessible as soon as you begin using the program. A menu is displayed offering the three most commonly used interfaces: the Beginner Mode, the Standard Command Line Mode and the Power User Command Line Mode. And, if you’ve been using BibleWorks since its conception, the Power User Command Line Mode features the same interface that you’re used to with a few extras, so there won’t be wasted time relearning the upgrade.
Often software as complex as BibleWorks can be quite intimidating to the average user. Offering interfaces based on ability level as well as providing an online help system should deflate any fears you might have of using software of this magnitude. In addition, there’s a video library that will take you step by step through the many tools and resources BibleWorks 5 has to offer.
There are also several new databases and Bible versions available in version 5: the complete unabridged Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; The complete 2000 edition of the Friberg Greek Lexicon of the NT including the analytical portions along with definitions; the full unabridged BDB Hebrew Lexicon; the Fausset Bible Dictionary; the Jewish Publication Society OT (1917); the completed BibleWorks LXX/BNT Morphology; the Salkinson-Ginsburg Hebrew NT; the translated BHT Hebrew OT; the Modern Greek New Testament; and new Bulgarian, Danish, German, Romanian and Swedish translations.
In addition there is even more flexibility allowed for text copy to external word processors. This is a great feature for transforming the data you collect into a manuscript you can use.
Finally, for those of you who have put years of study into the original languages, you can compile your own translation into BibleWorks 5 with full searchable capabilities.
HERMENEUTIKA Computer Bible Research Software, P.O. Box 2200, Big Fork, MT 59911-2200; 800-74 BIBLE; sales@bibleworks.com; www.bibleworks.com.
Power Bible CD 3.1
Version 2.4 was reviewed last year, and I just received the latest version, 3.1 a few weeks ago. As mentioned in last year’s survey, if you’re looking for an affordable Bible study software, Power Bible CD is the way to go. For only $19 (and you can purchase up to 3 more for just $7 each), you can receive a storehouse of resources. If you’re not very familiar with Bible study software, or a bit skeptical, Power Bible CD would be an excellent introduction.
Aside from the outstanding price, this software boasts a very user-friendly interface. With just a few uses, you can figure out the majority of the features offered.
An excellent addition since version 2.4 is the MyNotes Editor. After each verse there’s a link to MyNotes that opens a separate page for you to write your own commentary. MyNotes saves the information you type for future reference.
Other notable additions since version 2.4 are: Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew; Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible Commentary; Word English Bible updated to February 2001 text; Textus Receptus Greek New Testament (Stephens TR. with Scrivener variants as footnotes); and the rebuilt People’s New Testament Commentary which adds the missing portions left out in earlier editions.
ONLINE PUBLISHING, INC. P.O. Box 21, Bronson, MI 49028; 800-243-7124; bible@mail.com; biblecd.com.
The Online Bible, Millennium Edition 1.03
Updated versions of the Online Bible continue to find a spot in our annual software reviews because of their product excellence, mission and affordability. Their desire is to make God’s Word known to everyone, and they specifically state that all the material on the Online Bible may be freely shared with others (as long as it isn’t copyrighted by another party).
There is over $1000 worth of materials packed into this little CD including: 25 English versions, over 50 versions in other languages (an excellent resource for missionaries!), 4 Greek and 2 Hebrew texts, 20 commentaries and 70 books and maps sets. You’ll even find sections on Archaeology, Creation and Science and Home School Material in the Library. You can even use the Online Bible with Song Show Plus and the Audio Bible.
In addition, this version comes with a physical user’s guide. This is a very handy tool since using the table of contents in the help index takes up a significant amount of on-screen space. Every function is listed right in the table of contents, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out the software’s features.
For more information, or to order the Online Bible call By The Book at 800-554-9116 or visit their web site: www.bythebook.com
PREACHING
How to Preach a Sermon
Did you ever wish you could take a homiletics class with one of the best? Well, with this software you can take it with six! There are video features of Haddon Robinson, Bryan Chapell, D. Stuart Briscoe, Joseph Stowell, Bob Smith and Harry Shields.
Not only do I recommend this as a great refresher course for the seasoned veteran, but as an excellent tool that you can share with parishioners who sense a call to preach. And it will serve as a beneficial supplement for students currently enrolled in homiletics courses.
The subtitle of this software is “An Electric Guide from Formation to Delivery,” and it is just as it states. How to Preach a Sermon utilizes principles from two best-selling homiletics texts, Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson and Christ-centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. Preaching has featured interviews with both Robinson and Chapell this year, and their books continue to gain popularity as texts for seminary homiletics classes.
The contents of the program are broken down into six major sections: Formulating the Big Idea, Framing the Outline, Applying the Text, Illustrating the Sermon, Beginning and Ending and The Delivery. You can read along as you listen to the audio clips in each section, utilizing two senses for better comprehension and retention. Keywords are even highlighted and linked so that you can review suggested readings. After each major section there is a pop quiz that helps to re-emphasize major principles (and it’ll make you feel like you’re in the classroom again!).
One more plus of How to Preach a Sermon is the price. This software retails for $24.99, and I don’t know of a homiletics course anywhere that is more affordable.
Baker Bytes, a division of Baker Book House Company, Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516; www.bakerbooks.com.
The Olford Expository Preaching CD
This software comes from one of the premier teachers of expository preaching, Stephen Olford. Olford, who is a Senior Consulting Editor of Preaching, has devoted much of his life to equipping preachers at his Center for Biblical Preaching. With this software you can learn and utilize many of the principles and tools you would gain by attending the Center.
The Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching has teamed up with iExalt’s Bible study software, WORDsearch, to bring you this expository preaching CD. There is a five-minute video introduction given by Olford as well as five of his audio sermons from the “Meet These Men Series.” In addition there are seven complete volumes of expository preaching outlines as well as three of Olford’s books: Heart Cry for Revival, Inviting People to Christ and Proclaiming the Good News.
With WORDsearch you’ll get four English translations of the Bible and one Spanish translation, two commentaries, two Bible dictionaries, two Greek and Hebrew helps, a Bible reading plan, photo library and 200 maps from the Life Application Bible, WORDsearch Bible Outlines, NASB Outlines, and LBLA Outlines, four cross reference works, Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s and Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.
WORDsearch has been covered in past reviews, so I won’t spend a lot of time going over the many features available, but I would like to reiterate some of the outstanding ones. First, since this is a digital library, there are numerous publications that can be purchased and unlocked. This is a real plus for sermon preparation; you can simply choose from a multitude of books, commentaries, etc. and unlock and add them as you go.
Second, WORDsearch has one of the most user-friendly interfaces I’ve worked with. Third, the search capabilities are exceptional — both thorough and precise, finding specifics from all the resources available. Finally, the resources are easily viewed at the top of your screen and can be categorized to best meet your needs.
The content in the Olford Expository Preaching CD without WORDsearch would stand as a valuable resource for the expository preacher, but together they will meet and exceed your expectations for a preaching help.
Olford Ministries International, P.O. Box 757800, Memphis, TN 38175-7800; 901-757-7977; www.Olford.org. & iExalt Publications, 12000 Aerospace Ave., Suite 375, Houston, TX 77034-5576; 281-464-8400; www.iexalt.com.
REFERENCE TOOLS
Bible Maps
Here’s a resource that will serve as a helpful visual aid both from the pulpit and in a classroom setting. There are over 150 full-color maps of the Bible lands with city and feature “pop-up” information, Bible concordance and search, chronologies, genealogies, information on over 500 cities, over 3,000 searchable items, and over 200 full-color photos.
In a culture of visual learners, these aids will enhance your sermon or lesson. And the great feature of Bible Maps is the ease of transferring images over to a Powerpoint presentation. You can also produce full-screen projections right from the software simply by changing the settings of your display in your control panel.
If you would rather print a handout, then simply use the EPS files on the Bible Maps CD to insert images into printing applications.
This software is published by MANNA; for more information contact By The Book at 800-554-9116 or visit: www.bythebook.com.
Bible Biographical Index
This is a verse-by-verse index to the people of the Bible by noun, personal pronoun and proper name. Also on this CD is The Connection which helps to make all those lists of genealogies clear, and Growing In The Lord, a tool for new and growing Christians. The real plus of this software is its ease of use, and I would recommend it to anyone doing serious Bible study. It’s difficult to keep track of names and genealogies, and this resource will significantly reduce the amount of time that you would normally spend researching. The biographical index also comes in book form.
This CD requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or later, and the PC version of Acrobat Reader comes with the CD. You can also visit Adobe’s web site and download it for free at www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html.
Published by Charles E. Williams, Publisher, Box 5848, Reno, NV 89513.
R.C. Sproul Digital Library
This software package will be especially interesting to preachers in the Reformed tradition. Sproul’s library features the Logos Library System and contains over $500 worth of material in corresponding print editions. Along with over 25 of Sproul’s books (8 of which must be unlocked) there are chapters from symposium volumes, articles from his Tabletalk magazine, audio and video messages by Sproul. Also in included: the Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 4 English translations of the Bible (only the KJV comes unlocked), and the Baker Digital Reference Library containing over 18 volumes on a number of topics (this, too, must be unlocked).
Baker Bytes, a division of Baker Book House Company, Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516; www.bakerbooks.com.
New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis
I received this five-volume work at the last minute and wanted to mention it briefly. The NIDOTTE, edited by William Vangemeren, features a guide to Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, a lexical dictionary, a topical dictionary and thousands of cross-references. Again, the beauty of having the software versions of these resources is their convenience and ease of use. And you can’t get hypertexted Bible references in the print version!
With over 200 contributors from more than 100 academic institutions, this is a set you’ll definitely want to add to your virtual library.
Zondervan Interactive, 5300 Patterson, Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530; (800) 925-0316; www.zondervan.com.

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