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CTS Library

General Overview

Many free Bible study tools are now available on the Internet. Some are freeware or open-source programs you can download and install. Others are online tools you can access through a browser. With the help of Dr. Rick Lowery, Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at CTS, I have evaluated 13 tools with respect to (1) features, (2) ease of use, and (3) scholarly authority.

Caveat: Rick asked me to note that the Biblical commentary resources provided by many of these tools are of rather poor quality (e.g., they are outdated, are theologically problematic, have weak scholarly credentials, etc.). As with any information resource, you should evaluate what you find with a critical mindset. Quality obviously varies, but even with their weaknesses all of these tools have their uses as Bible study tools. Tools that are very weak in some respects are sometimes very good in others.

Free Digital Bible Study Tools

  1. Bible Odysseywww.bibleodyssey.org (online)
  2. theWord – www.theword.net (freeware; PC and Mac)
    • Along with e-Sword (below), this is the closest thing to a professional Bible study software suite that you can get for free.
    • It comes with a powerful, full-text search engine and a highly customizable interface.
    • There are hundreds of add-on modules that you can selectively import, including well over 100 searchable Bible versions in many different languages including ancient Hebrew and Greek, dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries, theological and devotional literature, maps, and illustrations. Most modules are free, but some of the best ones cost money.
    • It includes features for highlighting, bookmarking, adding your own notes, and printing.
    • It is portable – you can put the program on a USB drive and take you notes, etc. with you.
    • It includes a clipboard monitor. When the program is running in the background, it will automatically provide the verse text for any verse reference that you copy onto the clipboard.
  3. e-Swordwww.e-sword.net (freeware; PC and Mac)
    • Very comparable to theWord. It’s a full-featured Bible study suite, with thousands of optional modules (available from www.biblesupport.com and www.estudysource.com). As with theWord, some of the best modules cost money.
    • Overall, the interface seems to be a bit less customizable and flexible than theWord, but more add-on modules are available, and there are also mobile versions for the iPhone and iPad.
  4. The Bible Toolwww.crosswire.org/study (online)
    • A joint project of the CrossWire Bible Society, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the American Bible Society, The Bible Tool contains a large number of Biblical texts, commentaries, dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons and word study tools.
    • The main interface is, unfortunately, not user-friendly.
    • The parallel presets for OT Scholar and NT Scholar are, however, very cool. Clicking on any term automatically highlights similar terms and brings up detailed lexical, morphological, and even digital images of manuscript evidence! Clicking on any left- or right-hand-side module will add or remove it from the parallel view.
  1. The SWORD – www.crosswire.org/applications (open source; PC, Mac, and Linux)
    • Contains several Bible study software applications all based on the open source SWORD engine.
    • These applications are similar to theWord and e-Sword (two of the "top-tier" tools), but not as feature-rich, and thus maybe a little easier to use. Xiphos looks to be the most up-to-date and sophisticated of the lot.
  2. Lumina – lumina.bible.org (online)
    • Includes 7 Bible versions with notes. Commentary resources aren’t very good, but the Greek and Hebrew parallel views are quite nice. Clicking on any Greek or Hebrew term automatically highlights all occurrences on the screen and displays lexical information from Strong’s. The parallel views are better visually than in The Bible Tool, but don’t provide nearly as much textual information.
    • Includes features for highlighting, bookmarking, and adding your own notes. You can print to PDF, but only one chapter at a time.
  3. StudyLightwww.studylight.org (online)
    • The site is not the easiest to use and the commentary resources are not very good, but it provides full-text and keyword searching of 103 different Bible versions, including 12 ancient language versions, 44 English versions, and versions in 26 other modern languages. None include the Apocrypha.
    • Allows collective full-text searching of all versions in language groups containing more than 2 versions.
    • The interlinear display is especially nice. Clicking on a term brings up fairly detailed information from Strong’s and Brown-Drivers-Briggs’ as well as word frequency statistics.
  4. BibleGatewaywww.biblegateway.com (online)
    • The is probably the single largest collection of searchable Bible versions on the Internet.
    • The site is very easy-to-use. It allows full-text and keyword searching of 198 different Bible versions, including 52 English versions and versions in 70 other modern languages. Some versions are available only in audio or PDF formats. Some only include the New Testament. 10 versions include the Apocrypha.
    • The site, however, contains no original language or textual study tools (e.g., interlinears or lexicons) and you can only search one version at a time.

The tools in this group are still very useful for certain purposes, but offer little functionality and content that you can’t get at least as easily, and often in better quality, from the top- and middle-tier tools.

  1. BibleStudyTools.comwww.biblestudytools.com (online)
    • This site is not very easy to use, but it does allow full-text searching of 44 different Bible versions, 13 of which are non-English and 7 of which include an option to search the Apocrypha.
    • Includes searchable commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, Greek (Thayer and Smith’s) and Hebrew (Brown-Driver-Briggs) lexicons, and various theological classics.
  2. Blue Letter Bible – www.blueletterbible.org (online)
    • This site allows full-text searching of 15 modern Bible versions (mostly English) and 5 older versions, including the Vulgate, Septuagint, and Textus Receptus.
    • Study resources include 10 Bible dictionaries; a harmony of the gospels; introductions to Biblical books; a couple topical indexes; and various charts, outlines, timelines, and maps.
  3. Bible Hubwww.biblehub.com (online)
    • This site contains very good Greek and Hebrew resources, but there are display and usability problems. The menu system is non-intuitive and confusing.
  4. The Unbound Biblewww.unbound.biola.edu (online)
    • Developed by Biola University, this tool contains many Bible versions and is useful for comparing versions in parallel with each other or with the Greek or Hebrew text, but it’s not very user-friendly and the Greek and Hebrew aren’t linked to any lexicons or textual study aids.
  5. eBiblewww.ebible.com (online)
    • This site allows full-text searching of 45 modern Bible versions in both English and 21 other languages. None of the versions include the Apocrypha.
    • You can do English-language searching of Strong’s but, alas, you can’t search by Strong’s numbers.

Contact Information

Alan R. Rhoda, Ph.D.
Systems & Academic Technology Librarian
Christian Theological Seminary
(317) 931-2362

arhoda@cts.edu

Comments welcome. If you discover a new Bible study tool that you think should be added to this list, please let me know!

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