This is our last regular entry of Dive-In, although I will probably publish additions intermittently. We’ve studied 16 units together and, although there is much more that can be discussed, it’s time to move on.
Today I want to tell you about the computer program I use. There are many other excellent programs and I’m not trying to push this one. But in the telling, I hope you can see some of the benefits of computerized studies.
I use Bible Navigator, which is a first-cousin to Bible Explorer. There are several levels, of course, and I am annoyed with most computer programs because they bundle a lot of things that are outside copyright and therefore free to anyone. The book count is bloated by the old-and-free. Bible Navigator is no exception.
So don’t be blown away by the number of books you get if you choose a particular program. Instead, look carefully at what you will use. You won’t use a lot of the books.
Here’s what I’d suggest:
Have several Bible translations so that you can compare. Right now, when I read, I usually have open three: NIV, NRSV, and NASB. The NASB is open because it is linked to a Strong’s Concordance so I can easily do a word search. But you don’t need 20 obscure translations that you’ll seldom use.
Other Bible translations that are helpful are KJV and NKJV. I also like the NLT and the Message, for a change of pace. The Holman Bible is pretty good, too. You may have translations you use a lot and you’ll want those in your Bible studies package.
Plan on buying a commentary for your computer program. The included commentaries are usually o-l-d and, although somewhat insightful, often inadequate on their own. Don’t rely on Matthew Henry alone. Frequently the old commentaries blended preaching and scholarly work, coming with a bias that suppresses some insights while over-emphasizing others. Some of the old commentaries by Calvin and Luther are helpful.
A newer (and sometimes free) commentary that I like is the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown. But the best are the ones you have to buy. Don’t plan on buying an entire set at once. Buy a single-book commentary on the book you’re studying or teaching right now. Be patient. You’ll build a good library. I wrote about some commentary suggestions a few weeks ago.
Devotionals are often packed into the program package. If it includes one you want to read daily, then grab that. Often they pack in many devotionals that aren’t read. I have Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest in Bible Navigator, but know it’s available in more modern text online. So I wouldn’t pay for that devotional.
Be sure you have a good dictionary and atlas. We discussed those topics recently. Also, a Strong’s Concordance is vital. Usually several word study books are included and you need at least one concordance. Vine’s Expository Dictionaries (both Old Testament and New) are helpful. Get a Nave’s Topical Bible. That will greatly help your studies over the years.
Those are the basics. Often you can pick up literature from online sources and don’t need to buy those for your biblical studies. As you discover a church leader or writer, first check sources online, like CCEL, to see what’s available.
For example, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs can be located on the internet, so don’t spend extra to get that in a computer program.
Those are my basic suggestions. I’d like to hear what program or online resources you use and what you like about them. Do you recommend them? I’d like to know more about you have found and like.