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BookBuilder – Create Your Own PocketBible Books

Posted on: March 12th, 2015 by Craig Rairdin 2 Comments

BookBuilderIcon512Laridian BookBuilder gives PocketBible users the unique ability to convert virtually any electronic text into a book that can be read by PocketBible on any of our supported platforms. Whether you want to have access to any of the tens of thousands of public domain Bible reference texts you an find on the Web or you want to create original reference materials from your own studies of the Bible, BookBuilder gives you the ability to view them side-by-side with your other PocketBible Bibles and books using the same tools we use in-house to create the add-on Bibles and books you can buy at our site.

Laridian has long had a commitment to creating an open ebook ecosystem, starting with our founders’ involvement in the creation of the only industry-wide binary standard for Bible software, the Standard Template for Electronic Publishing (STEP) in 1995, and in the definition of the Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS) in 1999, which later became EPUB. When it became clear that a common binary standard for Christian publishing was politically impossible and that OEBPS/EPUB wasn’t interested in extensions to support Bibles and Bible reference materials, Laridian went in a different direction: Releasing as a commercial product the tools needed to create electronic books for its readers.

While most Bible software companies provide some method for Christian publishers to convert large quantities of text to their proprietary format (often for thousands of dollars per title), Laridian is one of the few (maybe the only) commercial Bible software companies to offer an end-to-end publishing solution for everyone from individual PocketBible users to multinational Christian publishing houses — and to do it for only $49.99.

BookBuilder is available for both Windows (desktop) and now for Mac OS X. The Standard edition ($19.99) contains the ability to convert tagged text to a Laridian Book for personal use. The Professional edition adds two additional tools, DocAnalyzer and VerseLinker, and gives you the option of creating a book that can be sold or given away to other PocketBible users (including hosting your book on our server for easy distribution to users of our iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows Store, and Mac OS X versions of PocketBible who download books from within the program). In addition, the Mac version allows users to launch PocketBible on each successful build of their book for easier proofreading.

User-created books live side-by-side with Laridian PocketBible reference books and have all the same features as the books you purchase from our site. You can do sophisticated word and phrase searches, synchronize your user-created commentary to scroll alongside your Bible, look up words in your own dictionary, link to the Bible or other reference books from within your books, etc.

As an individual user of PocketBible, you might consider these uses for BookBuilder:

  • Convert your PocketBible notes into a commentary. You can log into your account at our website and download a fully tagged version of your Bible notes that is ready to be converted into a commentary for PocketBible. You only need the Standard edition of BookBuilder to do this.
  • Convert reference material you find on the Web into a PocketBible book. This could be anything from your pastor’s sermons to classic Christian reference material that is in the public domain. The Standard edition of BookBuilder will work for this, though the additional tools in the Professional edition come in handy when working with files that you did not originally author using the BookBuilder tagging format.
  • Create books for distribution to others either for free or at a price of your choosing. Unlike other Christian ebook publishing solutions, there is no royalty paid to Laridian on sales or distribution of your books. You’ll need the Professional edition to do this. Note that this doesn’t mean that Laridian will sell your books, but rather that you can sell them. You can host them on our server for easy distribution, but they don’t show up in our catalog.

Books you create for PocketBible have to contain special tags that tell us how to format the book. The basic tags are what you would recognize from HTML: <b>…</b> for bold, <p> and </p> around paragraphs, etc. To those we add some special tags to tell PocketBible what kind of book it is (commentary, dictionary, etc.) and to define the book’s table of contents (which we do using HTML heading tags, not a separate table-of-contents file as you might see in some other electronic publishing formats). You do all this using your own text editor, then run the text through BookBuilder to create a Laridian Book (LBK) file. This file is then copied to the appropriate location on your device or desktop computer so that PocketBible can find it.

If you’re going to distribute your books, you’ll need the Professional version of BookBuilder. Once your book is finished and proofed, you send it to us and we’ll assign it a unique publisher ID and book ID so that it can co-exist with other books in users’ Laridian library without interfering with other books there. We’ll host it on our server and tell you how to authorize other PocketBible users to download it. This authorization is normally done manually (you log into your account and manage your books from there) or it can be automated if you have the ability to write the appropriate script for your website to send us a special command via HTTP POST. It should be noted that most people can’t do this. Generally if you’re not already confident you can do this as you read this, you can’t. But the capability is there if you need it.

You can read more about BookBuilder here:

Here’s an introduction to the Mac OS X version of BookBuilder:

I record these videos in my kitchen; hence the folk art painting in the background. :-)

Narrow Your PocketBible Searches With Strong’s Numbers

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 5 Comments

Two of the major features of Strong’s Concordance are that it provides an exhaustive list of the words used in the Bible and it links those words back (via the assigned number) to the original language root. If you add Strong’s Concordance to PocketBible, you can search for occurrences of the root word in the Bible using its Strong’s number. We offer three versions of Strong’s Concordance for use with PocketBible: KJVEC, NASEC and HCSBEC.

What is the benefit of using Strong’s Numbers in my searches?

Some things are not apparent in the English translation.

For example, in John 21, Jesus asks Peter three questions, “son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (v15); “son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (v16); “son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” (v17). While the KJV translates “lovest” the same each time, Strong’s assigns a different root word to Jesus’ first two uses of “lovest.” Strong’s indicates a root word of agapao (which is assigned the number 25) in the first two questions and then phileo ( which is assigned the number 5368) to that last use of “lovest.” When Peter responds to Jesus’ questions, each time he he uses the word phileo (G5368) to convey his feelings for Jesus.

You could look at the definitions for these Strong’s words and find out what others say about the meaning of these two words. But you could also explore these words in context for yourself with PocketBible. How are these two forms of love used elsewhere in the New Testament? How were they used by Jesus and Peter elsewhere? While your dictionaries may cite some verses where these words are used, the PocketBible search feature will provide you with an exhaustive list of usage.

How can I use Strong’s Numbers in my PocketBible searches?

Simply input the Strong’s number (i.e. G25 or H157) into the PocketBible search field to search for occurrences of that word in a Strong’s-numbered Bible.

To continue with our example, let’s use the PocketBible search feature to find out more about the word “lovest.” The search results presented below are from the KJV and the search is limited to the New Testament since we are talking about a Greek word. The bolded text is what is entered in the search field in PocketBible (or the syntax needed to get the results mentioned).

  • lovest – PocketBible reports this specific word form occurs 4 times in the KJV New Testament (KJVNT)
  • lov* – a second search (with a wild card) tell us that there are 202 variations of the word lov* that occur in KJVNT. The asterisk that follows the letters “lov” is a wildcard which tells PocketBible to search for all endings of the word (wildcards are not needed in the Android and Mac versions of PocketBible as they automatically report all word variations).
  • G25 – 109 verses in the KJVNT use this Greek word with the Strong’s number 25 (which we know from our dictionary means agapao).
  • G5368 – 21 verses in the KJVNT use this Greek word with the Strong’s number 5368 (which we know from our dictionary means phileo).

Thus we now know that while a form of the word “love” is used 202 times in the New Testament, only 109 of those times is the root word agapao and 21 times, phileo. That really doesn’t tell us much except to say that G25 is more commonly used in the New Testament. Given that we also want to know context for these words and how Jesus used them, we could re-run our searches and limit them to the Gospels. From there we could browse through the list to consider how these words were used in the reported verses.

For example, PocketBible reports that G5368 is assigned to the word “kiss” in Luke 22:47, referring to Judas kiss. In addition, G5368 is the root used for the word “loveth” in John 5:20 – “For the Father loveth (G5368) the Son…” So phileo is the root word used for Judas kiss and also to describe how the Father loves the Son. Hmm…this is the time I would be checking Vine’s or the Complete Word Study Dictionary to see what they have to say on this.

You can also use PocketBible to find a particular English word only when it’s translated from a specific Greek or Hebrew word. For example, love:G5368 will find all instances of the word “love” where it is translated from the Greek word 5368. To find a particular English word only when it’s not translated from a specific Greek or Hebrew word, using the format, love:-g5368, will find all instances of the word “love” where it is not translated from the Greek word 5368. To find a particular Greek or Hebrew word only when it’s not translated as a particular English word, using the format, -love:g5368, will find all instances of the Greek word number 5368 where it is not translated into English as “love.” This last search should give us Luke 22:47 where g5368 was used for the English word kiss (as we found above).

Related articles: Accomplishing Word Studies in PocketBible, How can I use Strong’s Concordance in PocketBible? and Shortcuts for turning on/off Strong’s Numbers in PocketBible Bibles.

What Can Cultural Background Add to Your Bible Study?

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

Cultural bias refers to “interpreting and judging phenomena by standards inherent to one’s own culture” (wikipedia). Whether we like it or not. Whether we realize it or not. We see the world through a lens that is colored by where, and with whom, we live. Cultural background is designed to help remove that lens when looking at the Scriptures.

My husband tells a story of meeting with a group of IT contractors who were not from the US and their being asked to put together a ballpark figure of what their services would cost based on the discussion. The lead contractor had never heard that term and showed complete bewilderment as to what that could mean.

It is a reminder that we use words or phrases daily that don’t mean what they literally say (i.e. cold feet, green thumb, backseat driver). And if those of us living in the same era have challenges in communication, we can expect it to be challenging to understand what was written to a specific audience in the past that lived in a culture that is not familiar to most of us.

According to Craig Keener, author of the IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament:

“Knowing ancient culture is critical to understanding the Bible, especially the passages most foreign to us. Our need to recognize the setting of the biblical writers does not deny that biblical passages are valid for all time; the point is that they are not valid for all circumstances. Different texts in the Bible address different situations. (For instance, some texts address how to be saved, some address Christ’s call to missions, some address his concern for the poor, and so on.) Before we can determine the sorts of circumstances to which those passages most directly apply, we need to understand what circumstances they originally addressed.”

Cultural background attempts to put you in the place or time where the text was written. To give you insight as to how the events and words would have been understood by those who were there.

In John 4, Jesus talks to the Samaritan women at the well. We understand this is unusual because it says that right in the text: Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. But with the help of the IVP Bible Background Commentary, our understanding of this can be expanded:

“That this Samaritan woman comes to the well alone rather than in the company of other women (and at the hottest hour of the day, when she would not run into them) probably indicates that the rest of the women of Sychar did not like her, in this case because of her marital history (cf. comment on 4:18). Although many Jewish teachers warned against talking much with women in general, they would have especially avoided Samaritan women, who, they declared, were unclean from birth. Other ancient accounts show that sometimes even asking water of a woman could be interpreted as flirting with her; this might be especially the case if she had come alone at an unusual time. Jesus breaks various conventions of his culture here. In addition, Isaac (through his agent, Ge 24:17), Jacob (Ge 29:10) and Moses (Ex 2:16-21) met their wives at wells; such precedent created the sort of potential ambiguity at this well that religious people wished to avoid.” – comment on John 4:7 (IVP Bible Background Commentary NT)

Compare this to what an expository commentary like Bible Knowledge Commentary has to say on this same verse:

“With His disciples in the city buying food, Jesus did a surprising thing: He spoke to a Samaritan woman, whom He had never met. She was of the region of Samaria, not the town of Samaria. The woman was shocked to hear a Jewish man ask for a drink from her. The normal prejudices of the day prohibited public conversation between men and women, between Jews and Samaritans, and especially between strangers. A Jewish Rabbi would rather go thirsty than violate these proprieties.”

Background commentary is not meant to replace expository or explanatory commentary. Rather, you’ll want to use it in conjunction with your other commentaries so you get the meaning of the Bible text in light of what the original reader would have known or understood. While most commentaries sprinkle background in where needed, a background commentary provides greater depth on culture and history while leaving interpretation and application to the traditional commentaries.

Having this type of background information in a commentary format is especially helpful because you have pertinent information available for the verse or passage as you are studying.

We offer two background commentaries for use with PocketBible:

Another good source of cultural and historical background for the Bible are Bible dictionaries. For more in-depth treatment of the type of information mentioned in background commentaries, consider the following specialized dictionaries:

Finally, another good source for Bible culture is the New Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible.

PocketBible for Android: What Can Advanced Features Do For you?

Posted on: February 13th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 13 Comments

If you are using PocketBible on your Android OS device or Kindle Fire, here are some good reasons to upgrade to the Advanced Features (and how to do it).

Why upgrade?

The Advanced Features available for PocketBible on Android smartphones and tablets offers some handy additions to the basic features of PocketBible.

You can watch an overview of the Advanced Feature Set below:

Autostudy – Verse, Word or Today

Autostudy makes it easy to pull information out of your library on a specific verse or passage. Choose a verse and AutoStudy will put together information about that verse from your PocketBible Bibles, commentaries, cross-references, etc. on one page. It can even give you a definition from your installed dictionaries for every word in the verse. You can get more details on this feature in our article: Have you discovered Autostudy? You can also do a today Autostudy that puts all your Bible and devotional reading for “today” on one page.

Autoscroll

Autoscroll will scroll the text of a Bible or book for you for easier reading. You can adjust the speed at which the text moves along. This feature is great for public or devotional reading.

Listen to the Bible

Would you like to have PocketBible read the Bible to you? The Advanced Feature Set adds the ability to do this using the text-to-speech voice already installed to your Android device. These voices are synthesized which means they are electronic and therefore not always perfect in pronunciation or inflection. However, they don’t take up as much space on your device as an “audio Bible”. There are many benefits to listening to the Bible. I have found this feature extremely handy for keeping up with my Bible reading in the car, as I clean the house, on a run — time that might otherwise be wasted can be reclaimed for a good purpose.

Journal Notes

Even if you are not a prolific note-taker, you will enjoy the new Journal feature. PocketBible already lets you add a note to any Bible verse or book passage. Now you can create multiple free-form notes not attached to any book, that can be used for any purpose you’d like.

Customize your colors

New color options include the ability to rename your highlight colors. For example, you could change the label for salmon to love and use your highlights to collect and categorize specific verses (see video of this). We’ve also added an option you can use to create your own personalized color scheme for the app (see video of this).

How to upgrade

If you are already using PocketBible 1.4.0 or later:

  1. Purchase the Advanced Feature Set at our web site for $9.99 (it is also available in-app – choose Buy/Apply upgrade from the menu).
  2. Open PocketBible on your Android device and the Advanced Features should be automatically applied – a quick message will flash across letting you know this. If you miss the message, you can double-check on the menu | About PocketBible. It will say it is using the “Advanced Feature Set” there if it is installed.

If you are still using PocketBible 1.3.0 (or earlier) for Android, you can update by visiting our Google Play Store page or following the instructions for installing from our website for Kindle Fire and other devices not connected to Google Play.

Have You Discovered Autostudy?

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 14 Comments

Sometimes a verse hits you right between the eyes and you want to know everything there is to know about it. That is what Autostudy does for you. It tells you everything there is to know about a verse (or word) in your PocketBible library…in just a few seconds.

What do you need to accomplish an Autostudy?

This feature is available exclusively for those using PocketBible on an iDevice (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch), Android smartphone or tablet or a Mac. It also requires that you own Advanced Features for the specific operating system as well (Advanced Features are sold separately for each OS).

How do you produce an Autostudy?

AutoStudy makes studying simpler. Choose a verse and choose Autostudy from the menu. Select which books or type of information you want to see on your AutoStudy report and choose to view.

What does Autostudy give you?

Autostudy tells you everything there is to know about a verse or word based on your personal PocketBible library. When you pick a verse to Autostudy, PocketBible will provide information regarding that verse from Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, etc. that you have installed. You can choose to see everything in your library or just items of a specific category (i.e. Other Translations, Exhaustive Concordances, Commentary). You can choose to exclude specific Bibles or books from results.

For example, if you chose to Autostudy John 3:16 and chose Other Translations in the options, you would see how John 3:16 reads in all your Bible translations.

The differences between the two types of Autostudy options – word or verse – is based on the type of information you are requesting. If you are doing a verse Autostudy, you will get information from books that are indexed by verse. This includes commentaries, cross-references, Exhaustive Concordances and other translations. It can also include definitions for every word in the verse. A word Autostudy will provide information from word-based books, primarily dictionaries.

You can keep your Autostudy results by copying them to another program, saving for later or printing (requires compatible printer).

One additional Autostudy option, available on Android and Mac, is a Today Autostudy. This is especially handy if you are reading multiple devotionals or a Bible reading plan that includes verses from different places in the Bible (i.e. OT/NT). Choose to Autostudy today, choose your reading plans or devotionals and PocketBible will present you with all your readings for that day on one page.

See an AutoStudy in action! Choose your platform below to see a short video of an AutoStudy (links to video on youtube):

90 Days Thru the Bible (From a Bird’s-Eye View)

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

90 Days thru the Bible

When you first read the title of this book, you may think, “Oh, another plan to read through the Bible in 90 days.” But there’s more to this book than meets the eye.

90 Days Thru the Bible is a different thing altogether. It’s a devotional. About the Bible.

It is 90 days of looking at the big picture of the Bible. Walking through the events and stories and thinking about what they mean. What is God saying to us through the people He chose? Through the interactions He had with these people? What is He saying about Himself? What response does He want from us?

The author, Chris Tiegreen, explains it well in the preface:

…the purpose of this book is to draw the major themes out of each book of Scripture and to meditate on how each one contributes to God’s great story. At one level, it’s an overview, but it’s designed to go much deeper than that–more like admiring the beauty of each piece of a puzzle and contemplating how it contributes to the whole picture. In the process, we will encounter the major characters, events, and themes of the Bible and discover a divine flow that connects them all. We will see how God unveiled Himself and His purposes over diverse centuries and through diverse people. The majesty of Scripture will inspire us more deeply and enhance our appreciation of the heart of God.

I love the idea of a devotional about God’s Word. And the fact that it takes you through the Bible in order. And that it lets you step back from the detail of the text to think about the big picture. As such, you can enjoy this devotional in a variety of ways:

  1. If you have already started a Bible reading plan, use the book as a companion to your daily Bible reading (as I mention below)
  2. If you’ve recently finished a Bible reading plan, it would be an excellent way to revisit what you’ve just read without starting a new plan.
  3. If you are not currently using a plan to read through the Bible (because of time constraints, etc.), this will keep you in the Word and you can read the Bible text as you have time.

Currently, I am using this devotional as a companion to the Old Testament in One Year reading plan for PocketBible. The devotional prepares me for reading the text. However, I don’t have to read a devotional every day with my reading plan because it usually covers a bigger passage than my daily assigned reading. For example, Day 7 of the devotional talks about Exodus chapters 1 through 7. My reading plan took 3 days to read through the specific Bible text for those chapters.

Could you use this devotional to read through the Bible in 90 days? Yes. There is a section of Bible text covered with each day’s devotional and you can link to the assigned reading with PocketBible. However, since the book was primarily written to be a devotional journey through the Bible, the amount of Bible text covered each day can vary. A true Bible reading plan will try to keep your assigned reading for each day fairly even. In this book, you might see something like Day 13 which covers the entire book of Deuteronomy. That’s a lot of reading for one day. But if you can devote that amount of time to daily Bible reading, then yes, you could use this devotional to read through the Bible in 90 days.

The author, Chris Tiegreen, is currently an editor for Walk Thru the Bible and has published a number of devotionals, two which we offer for use with PocketBible: One Year Walk with God and One Year Wonder of the Cross Devotional.

Not sure if this book is for you? Check out our new Book Preview on the product page for this book (lower right corner).

PocketBible 1.4.0: The Advanced Feature Set is Here!

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 16 Comments

PocketBible for Android version 1.4.0 has been released to the Google Play Store. If you downloaded the app from Google Play, you should be automatically updated. If you are using a Kindle Fire (or other non-Google Play device), you can download the latest version by browsing to http://lpb.cc/android while on your device.

This update provides the capability to add notes to non-Bibles and supports the newly released Advanced Feature Set for PocketBible for Android. The Advanced Feature Set can be purchased from within the app (Dove menu | Buy/Apply Upgrade ) or via our website for $9.99. If you purchase in-app, the Advanced Features will be applied automatically. Otherwise, choose Buy/Apply Upgrade from the menu and it will be applied.

Advanced Features

  • Automatic verse studies. Select a verse and PocketBible presents the following to you. (See video of this).
    • The text of the selected verse from all your Bibles (you choose which ones)
    • The text of the selected verse with Strong’s numbers (if you own one of our Bibles with Strong’s numbers)
    • The definition of each English word in the verse from all of your dictionaries (you choose which ones)
    • The definition of each Strong’s word number from your Strong’s dictionaries (you choose which ones)
    • Commentary on the verse from all your commentaries (you choose which ones)
    • Cross references from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (if you have it installed)
  • Automatic word studies. Select a word and PocketBible presents information from your library about the selected word including:
    • Definition of the selected word from all of your dictionaries (you choose which ones)
    • A summary of search results from selected Bibles (you choose which ones)
    • A list of related Strong’s numbers (original language words translated to the selected word)
    • Definitions of the related Strong’s word numbers (you select which Strong’s dictionaries)
  • Automatic today studies. Select a date and choose your Bible reading plan and Bible translation. PocketBible will give you today’s (or any day you select) Bible verses to read in a convenient one-page format. You can also have it put together all the readings from your devotionals for a specific day.
  • Listen to the Bible. Let PocketBible read the Bible or any book to you with its text-to-speech capability. (this feature only requires Android OS 4.1 or later)
  • Auto-Scroll text . Set a book to auto-scroll for easier reading. Increase or decrease the speed of scrolling to match your reading speed. Great for public or devotional reading.
  • Journal. Create notes which are not attached to any verse or book.
  • Customize Color Schemes. Specify colors for text, background, etc. exactly how you like it. See video of this.
  • Rename Highlight Colors. Name your highlight colors to something meaningful to you and categorize by name and color. See video of this.

Does It Matter Where Your Bible App Comes From?

Posted on: February 5th, 2015 by Craig Rairdin 12 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.08.58 PMTrevor McKendrick is an atheist who wrote one of the top-selling Bible apps for iOS. A former Mormon, McKendrick saw an unserved niche market on the App Store and created a Spanish audio Bible to fill it. Now he’s banking over $100,000 per year selling the app. He compares the Bible to Harry Potter and describes Christians as people who learn the spells in the book and try to use them to heal their children. He compares them to people who teach The Lord of the Rings as real history.

Does it make any difference whether or not the people who create the products you use for Bible study agree with the materials they publish?

When I started writing Bible software in 1988 there were very few other products on the market. I purchased the King James Bible from Public Brand Software, a distributor of freeware and shareware programs for MS-DOS. While browsing their catalog (paper catalog — this was before the Web) I saw a Bible program called WordWorker and picked up a copy of that, too.

WordWorker was pretty impressive compared to other programs available at the time. My problem with it was that the programmer who wrote it was associated with The Way International, which denies key teachings of historic Christianity and adds a few of their own. They encourage severing ties with family and friends and living with other “believers” instead, which many argue qualifies them as a “cult”.

Coincidentally I had been unsuccessfully recruited by a member of The Way while in college. Noticing a strange-looking guy observing me playing pinball at the student union, I struck up a conversation and bought him a couple games (he had never played pinball). He invited me to join his “twig fellowship”. As a brand new Christian with very little foundation in the Bible, I struggled with figuring out if this was God’s direction or not. Fortunately I dodged that bullet, and got involved with a local church that had a strong emphasis on the Bible and Bible study, which is what eventually led me into developing Bible software.

It was difficult to get excited about using WordWorker because I felt like I was supporting a cult. Even if it coincidentally met my needs, it was hard to recommend to others or even use enthusiastically because I knew where it came from. One benefit of using Bible software that comes from a person with whom you share a common faith is that you don’t have to feel guilty about supporting something with which you disagree. You and I may not agree on every fine point of doctrine, and we may not share a common worship style preference, but I bet we’re closer to agreeing with each other on the fundamentals of the faith than you would be with an atheist.

I originally wrote my Bible study software as a tool for myself to use. Its features were designed to meet my needs, which I obviously knew well. I didn’t have to do any research to figure out what people who read the Bible wanted; I wrote what I wanted.

I took my Bible program (QuickVerse) to Parsons Technology in 1988, where, over the next ten years, I employed a couple dozen different programmers. Not all of them were practicing Christians, but they were good programmers. Jeff Wheeler (who would later leave Parsons with me to start Laridian) and I led the development of the program. Both of us were Bible-believing Christians who were not just developers, but users of the program.

Having real Christians write your Bible study app guarantees that it is designed to meet the needs of someone who really studies the Bible.

Parsons Technology was not a “Christian company”. It was a plain-old software company that happened to have a Church Software Division that published church management and Bible study software. Parsons was eventually purchased by Intuit (1994), which sold us to Broderbund (1997), which was purchased by The Learning Company (1998), which was purchased by Mattel (1999), which sold the Church Software Division to a dormant company that was rumored to have previously been a booking agency for Las Vegas acts (2000). During those years we were faced with a number of demands from our pagan overlords that compromised the quality of QuickVerse. They saw “unserved niches” on store shelves and wanted us to create products that were just old versions of QuickVerse with a new cover. They weren’t interested in meeting needs, but in making money.

This was the final straw for me. When it got to where creating Bible software was about duping people into buying old versions of our program at a cheap price because BestBuy or Costco was looking for 25-cent CD-ROMs to fill an end-cap, I bailed out and started Laridian in 1998.

Our goal has always been to focus on our customers and our product, not on creating a company to sell to the highest bidder. The features and reference materials you see in PocketBible come from customer feedback (and from our own needs as our product’s first customers). We bristle at doing things like renaming our product “@Bible” so that it pops up first in alphabetic search results on the App Store, or calling our program “Bible App” to cause it to come up first when you do a generic search for a Bible app, or seeding the store with identical products, all with different names, so it appears more often in your search results. This is what marketeers do to trick people into buying shoddy products. We aim for letting the quality and usability of our apps speak for themselves.

So another benefit of having real Christians write your Bible study app is that they’re not just seeing you as a rube who will spend their hard-earned money on a quickly thrown-together, shallow product, but rather they are committed to creating not just one download but an ecosystem of products that will meet your Bible study needs not only today, but for years to come.

I don’t have a doctrinal test for people with whom I do business, but I expect my Bible study materials to come from people who are as firmly committed to the Bible as I am. It’s not that they’re the only ones who I can trust to create useful products, but it is at least more likely that they’re doing a better job.

Bible Study Basics: Start with the 4 C’s

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 3 Comments

Bible study doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult.

When you want to explore a verse or passage in the Bible for deeper understanding, use the 4 C’s of Bible Study: Context, Comparison, Cross-Reference, Commentary.

Context

Start with the basics and read the verse and its preceding and following verses. In PocketBible, you can easily go to any verse to read it in context. If you have time, read the whole chapter or even better, the entire book!

You could also benefit from reading an introduction to the book from which the verse is excerpted so you know the audience, purpose, etc. for the book. Most Study Bibles, Commentaries and even Bible dictionaries available for PocketBible offer book introductions.

Comparison

Reading the verse or passage in multiple translations of the Bible can also shed light on the meaning of a verse. Alternative translations can give you insight into what the author is trying to say. Try translations like:

  • The Amplified Bible which includes synonyms and definitions to both explain and expand the meaning of words in the text
  • NET Bible which includes detailed information as to why verses were translated as they were
  • The Message which is a paraphrase but written in today’s language.

You can open multiple translations in PocketBible at once and tap on the title bar to switch between them (if they are all open in one pane). Or you can create your own parallel Bible by opening multiple panes with different translations.

Cross-References

Cross-references are designed to lead you to related verses. It is a way to interpret Scripture with Scripture and even show you where items are predicted or mentioned in other places in the Bible. If you take the time to review related verses, you’ll find that the Bible supports and sheds light on itself.

The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is a free PocketBible book that offers an exhaustive collection of cross-references. You’ll also find cross-references included with PocketBible Study Bibles and Commentaries.

Commentary

While commentaries provide other people’s opinion about a verse, they are usually learned or scholarly opinions. Similar to Bible translations, you can use PocketBible to consult multiple commentaries to get differing thoughts on the meaning of a passage (depending on what is in your library). Knowing how to manage your books in PocketBible makes this easy to do.

AutoStudy puts the 4 C’s together for you!

The Advanced Feature Sets available for PocketBible on iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, Mac OS X and Android offer a unique ability to bring all this together for you in one step. AutoStudy the verse and tell PocketBible what you want to include from your installed books. You can include any or all of the elements mentioned above – Bible translations, cross-references, commentaries – and PocketBible will produce the comparison for you in one document that you can study or even print and save for later. (Advanced Features vary and are sold separately for each platform).

Catechisms, Confessions and the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

What is the chief end of man?

I can attest that knowing the answer to this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism has benefited me more than once over the past 20 years or so since I first learned it. The fact that my chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” realigns my thinking to see my life as God does. It is an unchanging truth based on biblical text that I have been able to stand on.

For all that benefit, I never took the time to learn any further points in the Westminster Catechism. Studying confessions and catechisms isn’t trendy in our churches today. I think that is to our detriment.

Perhaps it is too much work to wade through dry statements of belief or memorize them (as was done by previous generations). Or perhaps anything outside of the Bible text is of questionable value. However, our forefathers thought it worthwhile to formulate these various creeds and confessions for the purpose of outlining and passing on the faith. As such, their study is worth considering, especially if you are in the Reformed tradition.

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (SOTR) brings life to the study of these historical documents in two very helpful ways. First, by including the full text of several early confessions and catechisms: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Secondly, it ties the confessions and catechisms to the Bible text providing easy reference between the two and an alternative way to learn and use these documents of faith.

In the SOTR, the Bible text and the documents of faith are fully cross-referenced and the links are easy to use in PocketBible. The catechisms and confessions are published with references to the Bible verses in the footnotes. The direct biblical correlation is easy to cross-check. Even more valuable is the fact that the study notes include references back to related statements in the catechisms and confessions.

For example, as you are reading 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” the study note points you back to the question on “the chief end of man” in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Instead of wading through confessions and catechisms, you have the tenet as you are reading the applicable Scripture. You also see where the same issue is addressed in multiple documents. 1 Cor. 10:31 is cross-referenced to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism. The integration of the two provides an easier and perhaps more memorable way to become familiar with these important documents.

The spirit behind the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (SOTR) is a major revision and expansion of an earlier publication titled the New Geneva Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995). That study Bible was based on the NKJV text. The SOTR is based on the New International Version text.

Like its precursor, the SOTR’s study notes and theological articles are built on the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which affirms the unquestionable authority of the infallible and inerrant Old and New Testament Scriptures as originally given by divine inspiration.

The notes and articles included in the study Bible remain faithful to the system of theology represented in the historical confessions and catechisms. However, the authors recognize that the Holy Spirit has continued to bring reformation to the church. Through the Spirit’s illumination many helpful insights into Scripture have come to be widely endorsed by those who have remained faithful to the central doctrinal perspectives of Reformed theology. In line with the claim that “the Reformed church is always reforming,” this study Bible reflects these developments where appropriate.

Like most study Bibles, each book of the Bible has an introduction with an outline of the book and information on author, dates of writing, etc. Each book also includes an article called Purposes and Distinctives that illuminates historical background, major theological themes and literary qualities.  Another unique feature for the Old Testament books is the “Christ in _________” section included in the introduction which explains how the person and/or work of Christ is anticipated in the book.

Over 100 theological articles are included with the applicable Bible book. For example, you’ll find an article on Major Covenants in the Bible with Genesis, The Glory of God: Who gets the Glory? with Ezekiel and Christian Liberty: How Free am I? with Romans.

The extensive study notes provided by the SOTR (over 20,000) offer comments on Scripture from a Reformed perspective along with the already mentioned links to the Confessions/Catechisms.

The editors and contributors for the study Bible reads like a “Who’s Who of Reformed Theology.” The General Editor is Richard L. Pratt, Jr. Th.D. (Reformed Theological Seminary). Theological editors were John M. Frame, M.Phil. (Reformed Theological Seminary) and J.I. Packer, D.Phil. (Regent College). Contributors include Tremper Longman III, Sinclair Ferguson, Wayne Grudem, Graeme Goldsworthy and many more.

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible is available for use with PocketBible on your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac. The list price is $14.99. The New International Bible version text is sold separately for $9.99.

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