PocketBible for Android Updated – Version 1.7.14

On Tuesday, August 29, 2023 we uploaded a new version of PocketBible for Android to Google Play (version 1.7.9, build 290). This is the first update in quite a while — we’re a little embarrassed to say it’s been about 5 years. Since the end of August we’ve uploaded several revisions — the latest being 1.7.14.

Because of the issues you’ll read about below, it was necessary to get this update released as soon as we could. As a result of jumping 5 Android versions (from version 8 to 13 — that’s “Oatmeal Cookie” to “Tiramisu” for those of you who follow Google’s cutesy naming system for their operating systems), we knew we would discover little things that would need to be fixed right away and so far that has indeed been the case. Updates are documented near the end of this article under “Phase 1”.


Why So Long?

I don’t want to make any excuses but I also want to be honest about what the situation is. You may know that the development team here is pretty small. We don’t have people assigned to each platform. We move from iOS to Windows to macOS to Android as needed. I originally developed our Android app, but pretty quickly passed it off to a more junior person. When that person left, I hired a replacement. About 5 years ago, that person left, too.

By then, the app was in pretty good shape and didn’t need a lot of updates. It had gotten to where I no longer knew my way around the code. And since I’m not an everyday user of the Android platform in the same way I am iOS, the operating system changed to where I no longer knew it either.

So when the Android app eventually needed updating I went to an Android programmer I knew who worked on it as a side gig for a few months. Eventually he took a different full-time job and couldn’t work on it any longer. So I found a really good contract developer who did a lot of the work to bring it into the 2020’s and get us almost up to Android 12.

And then this Bible thing happened…

Why Update Now?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (that’s about 4 of you I think), you know that earlier this year we discovered a problem in the way Bibles are processed and stored for use in PocketBible. When we first wrote PocketBible, any time a new Bible was released we had to update the code in PocketBible and release a new version. This is because Bibles are very special and form the heart of how PocketBible works. That means any unique aspects of how they interact with other Bibles and with Bible reference books often has to be done directly in the PocketBible code.

So years ago we updated the Bible format PocketBible uses so that these unique aspects could be embedded into the Bible and not require PocketBible itself to be updated each time we released a new Bible. Turns out we didn’t go far enough. We have several new Bibles coming out that are just different enough that they couldn’t be published without updating every version of PocketBible. So we decided to stop what we were doing on the new Windows version of PocketBible and update every other version of the app. Then go back to the Windows version and update it, too, for this new format.

The macOS version with these changes was released a couple months ago. The iOS version is in beta.

And then this Google thing happened…

PocketBible Disabled on Google Play

Google decided late last year that if your app wasn’t built with the latest or next-to-latest version of their SDK, that you couldn’t be on Google Play. (It is more complicated than that, but that’s the net effect.) They said they were going to disable apps starting in May 2023. But they gave us the option to request an extension to August 2023, so we took it.

Then, after acknowledging we had until August, they said they changed their mind and they were going to pull the app in May.

We were right in the middle of macOS and iOS updates at the time and had been planning to get to Android before the end of August, so we have spent about 3 months explaining to people how to side-load PocketBible and bypass Google Play.

This forced us into a two-phase approach to making the Bible-format updates to the Android app. First, we needed to bring it up to date with the latest SDK. Google required version 31 compatibility, but version 33 is the latest so we went all the way to 33. Until that was done, it was pointless to start into the change for Bible files

Phase 1

Version 1.7.10 (September 2, 2023) addressed these issues:

  1. If you were using an SD card to store your books, they seemed to have disappeared. The method of finding your SD card changed in a recent version of Android OS and PocketBible was looking in the wrong place. It should be able to find them now.
  2. When using the dark UI theme, the list of books open in the active pane was displayed with gray text on a gray background. Similarly, the pop-up list of recently visited verses was similarly gray-on-gray.
  3. The dark mode theme was inexplicably using a dark blue color instead of a black color for the top and bottom action bars. Turns out this change was introduced as a debugging tool by a contract developer and we kind of liked it so we left it in. You did not like it. We reverted to black and very dark gray for the action bar, bottom action/tool bar, pane tabs (AFS), and go-to-verse buttons.
  4. An issue with viewing and saving Autostudy reports (AFS) was resolved.
  5. Resolved an issue that caused the app to crash when “Buy/Apply Upgrade” was selected from the navigation menu.
  6. Books that include the Laridian logo on the title page now use our newer blue and orange logo. In the process of doing this we fixed some previously unreported problems with displaying images.
  7. In the process of doing this upgrade, the minimum supported version of Android OS went from 4.1 “Jellybean” up to 4.4 “Kitkat”.

Version 1.7.11 (September 7, 2023) addressed these issues:

  1. We thought we had fixed Strong’s number searches but we hadn’t.
  2. Title page logo image was not being displayed on newly downloaded or moved books.
  3. Splash screen image was too tall on tablets in landscape orientation.
  4. Changed the image on the login screen to the new Laridian logo.
  5. Made internal changes related to how colors and styles are applied in the dark and light UI themes. There could be minor color changes as we seek to better organize the code in this regard.

Version 1.7.12 (September 20, 2023) addressed these issues:

  1. Re-architected the process of launching the app to get control over the transition from the onboarding slideshow, registration reminders, and registration/login screens to the main book view.
  2. Addressed a problem where deleting a book would remove it from the list but not actually delete the file.
  3. Added new UI color schemes for AFS subscribers.
  4. Minor changes to the default “Light” and “Dark” UI color schemes to improve general appearance.
  5. Treat the legacy AFS and AFS subscription differently, since features are now different between the two.
  6. Revert to “no AFS” if the user logs out of their account.
  7. Show logged-in customer ID, feature set, and AFS expiration date in About box.
  8. Get rid of boxes around bottom action bar buttons.
  9. Style the audio and autoscroll context menu bars with rounded corners and slightly more transparency.
  10. Added an option to control whether or not pane tabs show the book category (AFS). Only show the category when pane is inactive. Active panes always show abbreviation of active book.
  11. Removed “Exit” from the action bar menu. This is a hold-over from when mobile operating systems did a bad job of managing memory when apps were left running. It’s 2023 and nobody exits apps anymore.
  12. Don’t do the navigation menu animation demo. We all know there’s a slide-out menu on the left side of the app.
  13. Updated Help to describe tabbed panes. Include info on turning on/off categories in pane tabs. Document new AFS features.

Version 1.7.13 (September 25, 2023) addressed these issues:

  1. Restore “Journal” to the navigation menu for Legacy AFS owners. In 1.7.12 it accidentally required an AFS subscription.
  2. Make standard “Dark” and AFS “Black” themes darker based on user feedback.
  3. Adjust splash screen blue to match launch icon blue.
  4. Add an option to disable linked-to verse highlighting.
  5. Fixed some problems running on Android 4.4

Version 1.7.14 (September 28, 2023) addressed these issues:

  1. If the user deletes the Users Guide then selects “Help”, it is automatically reinstalled from the app bundle.
  2. Words of Christ could be unreadable or appear be displayed in the wrong color when certain highlight colors were used and “words of Christ in color” option was turned off.

Coming this week in version 1.7.15:

  1. Resolved an issue where bottom action bar was getting partially hidden under certain circumstances related to pixel density.
  2. Addressed several aesthetic issues when font size was set to its largest and smallest sizes in Android Settings. When completed, this will make the app significantly more compatible with system-wide font size and “make everything bigger/smaller” changes.
    • Pane tabs (AFS).
    • Note title above editor.
    • Go-to-date dialog for devotionals
    • Go-to-verse spinner and book/chapter/verse picker for Bibles.
    • Splash screen
  3. There were cases in which of verses in the side panel could overlap the system navigation bar.

Phase 2

The above just gets us to where we can start doing the work we came here to do. We need to port the C++ code that has already been implemented in PocketBible for macOS and iOS to Java for Android.

Beyond

Once we get this work done, we hope to more actively update the Android app. Admittedly, it has been a bit of a problem child over the years and we’ve let it get away from us. But more importantly, finishing work on this version will let us return our focus to PocketBible 3 for Windows, where we have to do it all again in yet another programming language.

Thanks for your patience.

No Exit

While updating the Android version of PocketBible over the last couple of weeks, we took what we thought would be the non-controversial step of removing Exit from the action bar menu. In the light of some complaints, I thought I’d explain.

History

While the removal of the Exit function from PocketBible for Android seems abrupt and a step backwards in terms of giving users control over what’s going on on their device, the fact is that it’s the presence of the Exit function that is an anomaly.

Back in 1993-94 we experimented with Bible software on the Newton MessagePad. Including an Exit option on that platform was allowed, but the OS did a good job of managing memory without it and it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Introduced in 1996, Palm OS discouraged apps from having a way to exit. It managed apps itself. Users weren’t supposed to think of “apps” so much as accomplishing a task. The idea of “launching” and “closing” were foreign to the “Zen of Palm”.

At about that same time, Windows CE was telling developers that mobile users didn’t need an explicit way to close their apps; the operating system would handle it. The app didn’t ever terminate itself; it was just told when it was about to be terminated, then it was terminated by the operating system.

iOS came along in 2007. Apple strongly discouraged developers from including any kind of exit functionality. Again, the OS managed memory better than the user could. Keeping apps around meant they launched faster.

Including the ability to exit an app was not recommended in Android (2008). Once again, the OS was better able to manage resources than the user.

So we come into last week’s decision to remove Exit from the action bar menu with a 30-year history of mobile operating systems discouraging or disallowing “exit” or “close” functionality in apps.

Benefits

The main advantage to the user of allowing the OS to manage running apps is that frequently used apps are more quickly and easily available.

Android facilitates this behavior by being able to intelligently decide which apps it should terminate to make memory or other resources available for the currently running app. It has ways of controlling how much CPU time is used by background apps so they can continue to work if necessary without affecting the responsiveness of the foreground app. (PocketBible doesn’t do any work when it’s in the background, but many apps do.)

Allowing Android to decide when to load and unload apps lets it more effectively manage battery life by minimizing loading activities and controlling background activities.

Android is able to predict which apps a user is likely to launch and keep them ready in memory as part of reducing launch time as described above. Similarly, it can terminate infrequently used apps when you’re done with them.

The Dark Secret

Don’t tell anyone, but that Exit option didn’t actually terminate PocketBible. What we did was programatically press the “back” button on the bottom of the screen while ignoring our own navigation history. So it was as if you had pressed “back” a dozen times to get past all the verses you had visited, then pressed it one more time to go back to the launch/home screen. We maintain your navigation history for your next session, of course, but internally that’s all we were doing.

Android has a “halt” method we can invoke to force the app to stop, but using it is strongly discouraged. It doesn’t allow for a controlled exit of the program and can cause data loss. So, yeah. Exit didn’t exit.

So How do I Exit the App?

Easy. You can exit PocketBible the same way you exit all your other apps, and with fewer screen taps than you were doing before. Just tap the “Home” button (or perform the “Home” gesture if that’s how you have it configured).

In other words, you could say we didn’t remove Exit, we just moved it to the bottom of the screen and made it look like a little circle. Yeah, that’s what we did — we just moved it to make it more convenient.

You’re welcome! 🙂

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #15

Sometimes the things we think are obvious to the outside world aren’t.

In our last update, we explained in detail a problem we had encountered in the way that we encode Bibles for use in PocketBible. The TL;DR version is that we found it necessary to update every version of PocketBible, plus update the BookBuilder app, in order to accommodate necessary changes to the way we deliver Bibles.

As you know, PocketBible runs on four platforms: iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows. One of our points of pride is that PocketBible is a native app on each of those platforms. That is, we didn’t use a special tool that might allow us to create one app and run it on all platforms — we created separate apps for each. So when something like this comes up, we have to update PocketBible on all 4 platforms, and in this case, we also had to update our BookBuilder app.

We have a very small team of developers. We don’t have people assigned full time to each platform. So to work on one we pretty much have to stop work on others. That has meant that while we’ve been focusing on Windows, we haven’t been able to do much/anything on other platforms. It also means that if we need to work on iOS, macOS, or Android, we aren’t able to do much on Windows.

We kind of thought you guys all understood that, so we’ve been keeping you updated on our progress on the other platforms with the understanding that we would get back to Windows when these were done. Turns out that wasn’t clear. Hopefully now it is. Here’s where we stand on each of the other platforms with respect to this Bible format update.

BookBuilder and PocketBible for macOS

Because BookBuilder needed to be updated (of course) due to the Bible encoding changes, and because BookBuilder and PocketBible for macOS share so much code, we tackled both of these together. We did all the necessary changes to BookBuilder, then tested the output in PocketBible on the Mac.

While we were in the code, we did some necessary bug fixes and a few enhancements. We released PocketBible 1.4.2 on June 7, 2023 and it’s been pretty stable.

We did not release a new version of BookBuilder to the public because it’s possible we’ll discover problems related to the new format while working on all the PocketBible releases, and we’ll want to go back and make changes.

PocketBible for iOS

Version 4.16.0 went to a small group of beta testers about a month ago. Problems have been minimal and I anticipate we’ll approve it for the App Store soon. It incorporates the new Bible encoding changes and has a small number of improvements and quite a few little bug fixes.

PocketBible for Android

Android has been a challenge for a variety of reasons. Google changed the rules on us and required that we rebuild the app with the latest version of their tools for basically no reason. The app was working fine, but after telling us we had until August to upload a new version to Google Play, they decided to invalidate the app in May. This fell right in the middle of what we were working on for the other platforms. We opted to continue on our original plan of updating the Android app by the end of August. In the meantime, Android users were given instructions to side-load the app from our website and that worked fine.

PocketBible for Android has not been updated since 2018 and the changes required to get it compatible with the latest OS have been challenging. We released a build with minimal new features on August 29th and updates to fix some bugs on September 2 and 7. We anticipate at least one more small release to fix some additional issues; probably two more.

Once we get Android up to speed with Google’s new requirements, we’ll need some time to do the Bible encoding changes. This will involve porting a lot of code from the macOS/iOS apps and making sure it works. The Android app handles Bibles slightly differently from the other apps, so it’s not just a line-for-line translation from one language to the other, but rather it’s a concept-by-concept implementation using methods consistent with the way Android does things.

I’d like to tell you how long I think that’s going to take but I know I’ll just be wrong. Shouldn’t be too long, though.

PocketBible for Windows

Remember PocketBible for Windows? This is an article about PocketBible for Windows.

Once we get back to the Windows app I want to do a couple of things. First, I obviously need to port the Bible encoding changes from macOS/iOS into Windows. The JavaScript code in the Windows version follows the way the C++ code in macOS/iOS works pretty closely, so this should be easier than doing it in Android and Java. Second, while we’ve been working on getting the program finished, new versions of both Electron and VueJS have been released. We should refactor the app to use the new code so we’re not starting out already in need of an update.

We’re actually fairly close to having at least the standard features of the Windows app finished once we’re able to get back to it. There are some Advanced Feature Set features that haven’t been touched yet (Autostudy comes to mind).

Moving Forward with the “Native Apps on All Platforms” Plan in 2024

I want to take advantage of the fact that we’ve had to do recent re-releases of PocketBible on every platform and make it a goal to do some kind of small update to PocketBible on each platform every year. It’s easier to keep up with frequent, small changes than to have to absorb a massive number of changes to how to build and release apps when you do it every 4-5 years.

So that’s the status of PocketBible for Windows, told in terms of everything else that’s going on here. Anytime you see a blog article about any of the other platforms, count it as progress on the Windows app. 🙂


Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

Alphabetic Weirdness

I’ve spent the last 45 years manipulating text and creating digital books and Bibles. This has resulted in an interest in (or at least familiarity with) the history of the English language, the English alphabet, the nature and limitations of translating from one language to another, and all manner of other esoteric questions of orthography (spelling), grammar, and vocabulary.

I frequently have to interact with Christians who have deeply held beliefs about the superiority of the 1611 “Authorized Version” of the Bible — otherwise known as the King James Version. I’ve written at length about our history with (and the history of) the KJV text. Today I want to talk about a few oddities you’ll find in the first editions of the KJV. These demonstrate weird aspects in the history of our alphabet — weirdness that we see every day and don’t even think about it.

KJV and Early Modern English vs. Modern English

The KJV was written in Early Modern English (EME), the immediate predecessor to our Modern English. For the most part, EME is very understandable to today’s readers. A couple of the most obvious stumbling blocks one runs into when reading the KJV are semantic shift and non-standard orthography.

  • Semantic Shift: The meaning of many words has shifted over time. Consider “prevent” and “meat” — these originally meant “precede” and “food”, respectively.
  • Flexible Spelling: Writers and printers at the beginning of the 17th century had a general laissez-faire attitude toward consistency of spelling. In Matthew 3:1-3, John the Baptist is “preaching in the wildernesse” in the first part of a sentence, but “crying in the wildernes” at the end of the sentence. Nobody found that odd.
  • Orthographic Expansion: Today’s word “son” might be spelled “sonne” in the KJV, and “he” might be spelled “hee”.
  • Orthographic Variation: “Have” is spelled “haue” (but pronounced just as we do it today), “James” is spelled “Iames” (but again, pronounced “James”), and “eye” is spelled “eie”.

Same Sound Different Letters; Same Letter Different Sounds

The last point is the one I’m interested in today. The letter “U” could function as a vowel in “communication” or as a consonant with the “V” sound in words like “haue”. Similarly, “V” might be a consonant in “vary” but have the “U” sound in “vpon”.

A similar thing is seen with “I” and “J”, but on steroids. In the early 17th century, “J” was “I”. So you said “just” but spelled it “iust”. You said “Jesus” but spelled it “Iesus”. You said “judge” but wrote “iudge”. By the time of Samuel Johnson’s famous English dictionary in 1750, this had changed slightly. “I” and “J” were still the same letter, but when you wanted the consonant sound of “I” (the sound we associate with “J”), you wrote the “I” with a “hook” at the bottom. If you want to look up the word “jabber” in Johnson’s dictionary, you turn to the page with the big “I” at the top. If you try to find “J” you’ll discover that “K” immediately follows “I”. (For a real trip, try to find “ulcer”. Hint: It comes after “vizard” in the “V” section. And there are no words in the English language of 1750 that started with “X”, even though there’s an entry for it.)

Glad That’s Over! Thank You, Modern English!

Our first reaction to this is to think, “I’m so glad we straightened out all that nonsense.” Yes, English spelling is hard to master, but there is a right way to spell each word, even if you don’t know it. “I”, “J”, “U”, and “V” are all their own letters, and we even have some words that start with “X”. Yes, we are the people, and wisdom will die with us (Job 12:2).

But wait. Let’s go back to “I”. An untruth is a “lie”. But when a person is in the act of speaking an untruth, they are “lying”, not “lieing”. At the end of your life, you “die”. The act of doing so is “dying”.

And consider “truly” and “deadly”. When we want the “ee” vowel sound at the end of a word, we use “Y”, not “E” or “I”. And it’s not just at the end of words — sometimes “Y” replaces an “I” in words like “myth” or “system”. So “Y” appears to be a vowel.

Except when it’s not. In “you”, “yawn”, and “yule”, “y” is a consonant. So just like the KJV’s “I” that is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant, our “Y” is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant. It’s “weird” when the KJV does it. It’s everyday English when we do it.


Bonus wisdom: I just figured this out; you probably already know. In Koine Greek, both ο and ω have the close-mid back rounded vowel sound you hear for “o” in a word like “more”. But omicron (ο) is “micro-O” and omega (ω) is “mega-O”. The difference is in how long you voice the vowel. O-micron is “small” and O-mega is “big”. One is short and one is long. And you thought your writing system was weird.

When and How Should We Celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

I realize that to a lot of people, this isn’t a question. The celebration of Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Table, the Lord’s Supper, or whatever you want to call it, is dictated by the rules of one’s church tradition or denomination. The physical and spiritual properties of the elements (bread and wine) are similarly thus defined. But for those of us who try to practice a faith defined by the Bible and specifically the New Testament and who have no higher ecclesiastical authority, such questions are not only appropriate, but necessary to ask.

Jewish Origin of the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper (I’m going to call it that, since that’s the name with which I’m most familiar), originated during Jesus’ last Passover meal with his disciples. The bread used at the Passover meal was unleavened bread, known as matzah in Hebrew. Leaven symbolized corruption or sin, so the absence of leaven in the bread could be seen as a symbol of purity. During the Passover Seder, there are typically three matzot, and the middle one is broken and later consumed as the afikoman. Some see a connection between this practice and what Jesus did at the Last Supper when he broke the bread and said, “This is my body.” The unleavened bread symbolizes Jesus’ sinless nature and the broken bread, his broken body.

Wine is a standard part of the Passover Seder, with four cups being consumed at specific points, each representing different aspects of the Exodus story. The cup that might be most closely associated with the Lord’s Supper is often thought to be the third cup, known as the “Cup of Redemption.” Jesus used the wine to symbolize his blood, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). This can be seen as aligning with the themes of redemption and the establishment of a new covenant.

The Lord’s Supper takes these elements from the Jewish Passover meal and imbues them with new meaning, connecting the story of the Exodus and God’s covenant with Israel to the new covenant in Christ’s blood. The bread and wine thus become symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice, his role as the sinless Messiah, and the redemption offered through his death and resurrection. It’s a powerful linkage of the Old Testament with the teachings of Christ, reflecting a continuity in God’s salvific plan.

The Christian Agape Feast

The book of Acts describes how the church quickly spread beyond the borders of Judea and into the Roman world, especially through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. By the time he writes to the church in Corinth, Christians are celebrating the Lord’s Supper as part of a communal meal as described in 1 Corinthians 11 (and perhaps mentioned in Jude 12). For these Gentiles, the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup that memorialized the Lord’s death was still part of a bigger meal, but was separate from the annual Jewish Passover. These meals appear to have have been frequent — perhaps as often as daily (Acts 2:43-47), or at least weekly (Acts 20:7).

Timing of the Agape Feast or Lord’s Supper Through History

We tend to think of Sunday as a “holiday”, like the Jewish Sabbath day, and unless we think about it, assume that first-century Christians met on Sunday morning like we do. But Sunday was a work day for Jews and Gentiles alike. If the church met “on the first day of the week”, it would have been early in the morning or late in the evening (when parishioners were likely to fall asleep and fall out the window — Acts 20:9).

In AD 112, Pliny the Younger describes Christians meeting for a communal meal before dawn, but does not specifically mention any celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Chapter 14 of the Didache (late 1st or early 2nd century AD) discusses gathering on the Lord’s Day to break bread and give thanks, but the text itself does not explicitly define whether this refers to the Lord’s Supper or a more general meal.

By the 4th century, the communal meal and Lord’s Supper celebrations have been separated, and for the most part, this practice continued to the present.

The Nature of the Elements

From about the 9th to 13th centuries, there is debate about the nature of Christ’s presence in the elements, and the doctrine of transubstantiation is formally defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.

In the 16th century, Martin Luther emphasized the real presence of Christ “in, with, and under” the elements, rejecting the philosophical explanations of transubstantiation but still affirming Christ’s real presence.

Those of us outside the Catholic and Protestant traditions, meanwhile, continue to see only a symbolic presentation of Christ in the elements, rejecting any suggestion that it is necessary to re-sacrifice Jesus by breaking his body and spilling his blood.

Conclusion

To me this very interestingly breaks down into a question of where in church history you draw the line on the “evolution” of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Those of us who reject any form of transubstantiation still practice the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper separate from any larger meal and with a great deal of solemnity and introspection. This places us somewhere between about the 5th and 8th centuries of Christian tradition.

To be completely honest, I’d like to see a return to the local church sharing a weekly, communal meal (a good old fashioned church potluck) during which their comes a point where unleavened bread is broken and shared, followed by a glass of wine (though I personally would prefer either unfermented grape juice or wine that has been diluted with water to reduce its intoxicating effect). This part of the meal could be preceded by and concluded with a prayer before the meal continues. I believe something like that might be more consistent with early church practice, and moves the line further back toward the original practice of the church.

Feel free to comment below. I’m more interested in why you practice the Lord’s Supper the way you do than what your particular flavor of Christianity dictates that you do.


Portions generated or verified by ChatGPT 4 by OpenAI.
Photo by Rey Proenza on Unsplash

God as Friend: The Use of Pronouns in the King James Version

As a young Christian, I spent hours listening to and reading from the King James Version. The archaisms and semantically shifted words that confuse modern readers became normal for me. So when God told Adam he had given him herbs and trees for *meat*, I understood without thinking about it that Adam wasn’t using them to make veggie burgers, but rather he had plants and fruit for food.

But it’s easy to get the wrong idea about how the English language was used by the KJV translators and as a result, come to wrong conclusions about the nature of the Bible and how it speaks about God.

-Eth Endings

For example, by the early 1600’s when the KJV was published, people were saying “walks”, “runs”, and “falls” for “walketh”, “runneth”, and “falleth”. The translators weren’t using the -eth forms of verbs to make them sound more stuffy and formal (the way we hear them today), but were rather borrowing the language of older English translations in order to make the text seem more familiar and traditional.

For example, the Tyndale Bible from 1525 (about 85 years before the KJV) had this for Matthew 17:15:

“Lord have mercy on my son, for he is frantic: and is sore vexed. And oft times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.”

The KJV of 1611 reads:

“Lord, haue mercie on my sonne, for he is lunatike, and sore vexed: for oft times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.”

The KJV retains the -eth ending as a callback to the Tyndale Bible.

Orthography

The other thing we obviously see is what appears to be a step backwards in spelling. The KJV spells “have” as “haue” and “mercy” as “mercie”. Most people don’t understand the degree to which English was in flux at the time. Spelling was definitely not standardized, though efforts were being made in that direction. People tended to spell as they spoke, so spelling might reflect a regional dialect or accent.

The problem comes when we try to cite the KJV as authoritative in one of these areas. We might make an uneducated assertion that “mercie” was the correct spelling or even preferred spelling on the basis of it being used instead of “mercy”. In reality, it’s hard to justify that position.

If this verse were written in the vernacular of 1611 (at least the vernacular of some of the people of that day), it would not be out of line to say it might read:

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he’s mad and deeply troubled: for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.”

This is much closer to the way we might write it today. Here it is from the ESV:

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.”

Second Person Pronouns — Thou vs. You

Another mistake we might make from the language of the KJV is to believe that God is being addressed with great respect through the use of “thee” and “thy” instead of “you” and “your”. Consider this passage from Psalm 25:

4Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

5Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

6Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

7Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.

English used to have “formal” and “informal” pronouns for “you”. This is comparable to “tu” (informal) and “usted” (formal) in Spanish. When speaking to a superior, one would say “You are correct; your will be done.” But when speaking to a child or a close friend, you would use the more intimate “thou” and “thy”. These informal forms sound exactly the opposite to us today. They sound stuffy and formal. But consider Shakespeare — throughout Romeo and Juliet, the various noblemen of Verona refer to each other as “you”. But when Juliet speaks of (actually, unbeknownst to her, to) Romeo, she uses more intimate pronouns:

O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

Denie thy Father and refuse thy name:

Or if thou wilt not, be but sworne my Loue, And Ile no longer be a Capulet.

A better example comes a couple centuries earlier in The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Chaucer wrote in the Middle English Period (late 14th century). In The Miller’s Tale, there’s a scene between the characters Nicholas and Absolon:

Absolon: “Speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.” (This line uses “thou,” the informal singular pronoun.)

Nicholas (pretending not to recognize him and using the formal): “Who is it that calls thus? Who is it? You?”

In this brief exchange, Absolon uses “thou” in an intimate, playful manner, while Nicholas responds formally with “you,” establishing a social distance.

What’s Going On?

I believe the KJV transators intentionally refer to God using informal pronouns to make Yahweh seem more personal and accessible. I can’t prove it, but I would observe that Greek has different pronouns for “you” (the one person reading this blog article) and “you all” (all of you who read it over time). It doesn’t have “formal” and “informal” forms of second person pronouns. So the use of “thou” for God and “you” in many other cases isn’t necessarily following the original languages.

Further, as pointed out above, by 1611 “thou” forms had fallen out of popular use, so whatever was going on in the KJV was not following that trend.

Practical Steps for Effective Bible Study

Studying the Bible can be a deeply rewarding process, but it can also feel overwhelming due to the length and complexity of the text. Here’s a simple process that you might find helpful:

Pray: Start with a prayer for understanding and wisdom. This sets the tone and prepares your heart and mind for learning.

Select a Passage: If you’re new to the Bible, it’s easiest to start with the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, before moving onto the Old Testament. If you’re a seasoned Bible reader, a topical study might be interesting.

Read: Read the passage slowly and carefully. Consider reading aloud or listening to an audio version. Reading a passage more than once can also be beneficial.

Observe: As you read, note down what stands out. Who are the main characters? What events are taking place? What are the key themes or ideas?

Interpret: Try to understand the meaning of the passage. What is the author trying to communicate? How would the original audience have understood it?

Consult Additional Resources: Use study Bibles, commentaries, or Bible dictionaries for more insights and historical/cultural context. Bible study guides or a trusted spiritual leader can also provide guidance.

Reflect: Think about how the passage applies to your life today. What lessons can you take from it? How can it influence your thoughts, actions, and attitudes?

Journal: Write down your insights, reflections, and any questions that arose during your study. This not only helps you remember what you learned, but allows you to track your spiritual growth over time.

Pray: End your study time with a prayer. You can thank God for His word and ask for help in applying what you have learned.

Share: If possible, discuss what you’ve learned with others. This could be in a Bible study group or with a mentor or friend. They can offer valuable perspectives and insights.

Remember, studying the Bible is not about how quickly you can get through it, but rather about deepening your understanding and relationship with God. Take your time, be consistent, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t understand everything right away.


I’ve been exploring how ChatGPT can help me study the Bible. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI. It uses machine learning techniques to generate human-like text based on the input it receives. It’s trained on a diverse range of internet text, but it doesn’t know specific documents or sources used in its training. As a language model, it generates responses to prompts and doesn’t have beliefs, opinions, or consciousness. It’s designed to assist with a wide variety of tasks, such as answering questions, writing essays, tutoring in various subjects, translating languages, simulating characters for video games, and much more. (It wrote this description of itself.)

I asked ChatGPT how to study the Bible and it produced this article. I made only two edits — adding the bit about choosing a topical study and moving “Journal” above the second “Pray” step. I continue to be impressed with what ChatGPT can do. The topic of this particular article is simple, but it wrote it without intermingling negative comments or opinions. It even acknowledged the importance of prayer.

The image at the top of this article was generated by DALL•E 2, another artificial intelligence program developed by OpenAI. While GPT-4, the technology behind ChatGPT, is focused on understanding and generating text, DALL-E is designed to generate images from textual descriptions.

From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Life of Jesus and Our Role as Believers

Following up on our last post, I asked ChatGPT 4 to summarize the life of Jesus as presented in the Gospels, then explain what the New Testament says our response to his life, teachings, ministry, and example should be. It generated a dozen titles for this article and I asked it to pick the best one. It picked the one you see above.

I then asked DALL•E to create an image that depicts an event in the life of Christ in a “realistic, Renaissance style” to use with this article. It seems to have depicted Jesus’ birth going on in his tomb while he teaches at some kind of a dog fight and a two lame men crawl to him to be healed. DALL•E has a ways to go, in my opinion.

The Life of Jesus

The life of Jesus Christ, as depicted in the New Testament’s four gospels, begins with His miraculous birth in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph. This event, heralded by angels and later celebrated by the visit of the Magi, confirms the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah.

As an adult, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, marking the beginning of His divine mission. This event is immediately followed by a forty-day period of temptation by Satan in the desert, which Jesus resists. He then commences His ministry in Galilee, recruiting His first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

Among the most significant events during Jesus’s ministry is the Sermon on the Mount, where He delivers profound spiritual truths and moral guidelines, including the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’s time on Earth is also marked by numerous miracles, demonstrating His divine power through acts such as healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding a multitude, and walking on water. He conveys His teachings through parables, offering lessons about the Kingdom of God, forgiveness, and love.

At one point, Jesus is transfigured on a mountaintop before Peter, James, and John, where He converses with Moses and Elijah, further affirming His divine nature. Eventually, He journeys to Jerusalem, resurrecting Lazarus from the dead along the way. His triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, marked by crowds greeting Him with palm branches, signals His role as the prophesied King.

During His final week in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the Temple and engages in heated debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He foretells His death and resurrection and, at the Last Supper, establishes the practice of sharing bread and wine as symbols of His body and blood.

The climax of Jesus’s life story unfolds with His betrayal by Judas, subsequent arrest, trial, and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. However, death does not claim Him; on the third day, He rises from the grave, first appearing to Mary Magdalene, then to His disciples. After spending forty days further instructing His followers, Jesus ascends to heaven.

Although the Apostle Paul does not contribute directly to the gospel narratives, his epistles provide profound insights into Jesus’s teachings and their implications. Paul emphasizes Jesus’s role as the Messiah, advocating for justification through faith in Christ, the transcendence of the law by God’s grace, and the concept of the Church as the body of Christ. His teachings illuminate the transformative power of God’s love in Christ, the reconciliation between God and humanity through Jesus’s sacrifice, and the hope of eternal life offered by His resurrection.

Our Response to Jesus’ Life

In response to Jesus’ life, ministry, teachings, and example as depicted in the New Testament, there are several fundamental actions that individuals are encouraged to take.

The cornerstone of this response is faith, a deep-rooted trust in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and acceptance of His sacrifice for humanity’s sins. This faith goes beyond intellectual agreement, involving an inner commitment to Jesus as one’s savior, leading to salvation and eternal life.

Repentance is another pivotal aspect. It means turning away from sin, acknowledging our shortcomings, and striving to change our ways to align our lives more fully with God’s will. It’s an ongoing process of spiritual growth and moral improvement that Jesus’ teachings continually emphasize.

Love, as taught by Jesus, is central to the Christian response. This involves the Greatest Commandment: loving God wholeheartedly and loving our neighbors as ourselves. It means embracing kindness, compassion, and justice, reaching out to others in empathy and understanding.

Obeying Jesus’ teachings and commandments is another vital response. Adherence to His guidance involves ethical and moral conduct such as honesty, forgiveness, humility, and non-retaliation. It’s about living out the principles laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, embodying the values Jesus championed.

Jesus also calls for followership, a commitment to follow His example of humility, service, and sacrificial love. This means willingly bearing individual crosses, forsaking selfish desires, and potentially suffering for Christ.

Finally, Christians are charged with spreading the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all people. Jesus commissioned His followers to share His message, to engage in evangelism and discipleship, leading others to faith and supporting them in their spiritual journey.

Overall, the New Testament presents a transformative response to Jesus’ life and teachings, calling for personal faith, repentance, love, obedience, followership, and commitment to sharing the gospel.

How Did it Do?

ChatGPT 4 did a good job summarizing the life of Christ and teachings of the New Testament, without adding a bunch of expected disclaimers about how opinions vary and that the authenticity of the accounts should be questioned. It also taught me and my spell-checker a new word, “followership”, which is the capacity or willingness to follow a leader.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

PocketBible 1.4.x for macOS Released

This is the original 1.4.0 announcement updated to mention features in 1.4.1 (released on May 26) and 1.4.2 (June 6). Updates are highlighted. If you downloaded 1.4.0 immediately after release, you’ll want to select Check for Updates from the PocketBible menu and follow the instructions to update.

As mentioned a while back, we had to make some changes to our Bible format that required PocketBible on all platforms to be updated. The macOS version is the first of these, mainly since it shares a lot of code with the macOS version of BookBuilder, which also had to be updated, and was the easiest version of PocketBible to test the BookBuilder changes with.

While we were editing the code, we took a look at the to-do list and made a number of other changes. Here’s what’s new.

Bug Fixes

When macOS is updated, there are inevitable little changes to various behaviors that affect apps in unexpected ways. We resolved some unintended horizontal scrolling in Study Panel, Open Book, and Cloud Library lists and adjusted the height of some message windows to accommodate text that was being drawn a little differently and getting cut off. We also made some changes to a toolbar button that wasn’t being drawn correctly. These still may be problematic in macOS 10, but they work a lot better in macOS 13.

When right-clicking on a Bible link, the Autostudy option on the context menu would sometimes do a word autostudy rather than a verse autostudy. We were able to fix that.

The third-party automatic update component we were using to install updates has always been flaky. We took this opportunity to remove it and replace it something simpler. Now you’ll be informed when an update is available and given the opportunity to download it, but you’ll have to exit PocketBible and complete the installation yourself. This amounts to opening the update and dragging an icon about 3 inches into your Applications folder. Much more reliable. It was only working about half the time before.

Enhancements

A few features were enhanced. The toolbar will look a little different due to changes in the way macOS handles toolbars. Because of those changes, 1.4.2 added an option (Settings > General) to control whether you’d like to adopt the new “unified” toolbar or stick with the “expanded” view from earlier versions. If you’re still using macOS X (version 10), you won’t see this option since the unified view isn’t available in that version of macOS.

Link preview pop-ups now use the same text size as your books, which will make them easier for some users to read. In version 1.4.2 we added a small gap to the right of the link, between the link and the pop-up, to make it easier to move off the link and dismiss the pop-up.

We also built this version as a “Universal App” to support both Intel- and Apple Silicon-based Macs. Newer Macs may notice a performance improvement.

New Features

We didn’t tackle anything huge because we have a lot of work to do on all the various versions of PocketBible, but we managed to squeeze in some new features.

Obviously, we implemented book reader engine 1.078 to support newer Bibles. You won’t see any benefit from that for a while, but it’s in there.

We expanded the types of links that will show a preview when hovering in both books and user notes. Previously, you would only see a link preview when hovering over a linked Bible reference. Now more types of links, including footnote links, will show pop-up previews. In 1.4.2 we added a half-second delay before popping up these previews so that you wouldn’t be inundated by pop-ups as you move your mouse across the screen.

Added menu items and toolbar buttons to toggle the “Sync Bibles/Commentaries” feature and to do a one-time sync to the current verse in the active Bible. This allows you to assign a short-cut key to that function and turn off the automatic feature so that you have the flexibility to scroll your Bibles independently but to sync them all up when you want to. We also added that one-time sync feature to the right-click context menu when you click on a verse.

We added the ability to hide the “Note” link that appears at the start of a verse that has a note. You can also turn off your highlights, or only highlight the verse number. This is similar to how the iOS version currently works.

Many users are confused by the way PocketBible applies a light highlight to a verse or passage that is the target of a hyperlink. You now have the option of turning that feature off. (You might find it unnecessary now that the hover feature works on more types of links.)

Links to document fragments were added to notes. If you know what you’re doing, you can add a tag of the form <a href="#name">see name</a> to link to a tag with its id value set to “name”. This is only implemented in the Mac version, so the links won’t do anything in the other versions of PocketBible until/unless it gets implemented there, too.

Controlling Location Sync

This is perhaps the biggest change, and was rolled out in 1.4.2. Users who have an active Advanced Feature Set subscription will have the option to control which of their Bibles and commentaries respond to changes in the active Bible. This will let you keep your commentary on the primary passage while exploring other passages with other Bibles.

Devotionals participate in a slightly different form of location sync. It’s always been the case that when you tell any one devotional to go to today’s reading that you can have all your other devotionals do the same. 1.4.2 added “first unread reading” to “today’s reading” with respect to this behavior. If you ask any one devotional to go to its first unread reading, you can ask other devotionals to follow. This is handy if you’re reading from more than one devotional book or reading plan each day. And if you have an active AFS subscription, you can control this on a pane or book level.

Dictionary sync didn’t change, but 1.4.2 added the option to exclude particular panes or dictionaries from normal dictionary sync. Again, you need an active AFS subscription to take advantage of this feature.

Advanced Feature Set Enhancement

The changes to location sync, described above, apply if you own the AFS subscription. This is the first new feature we’ve added to the AFS since it switched to a subscription, so if you own the “permanent subscription to the legacy AFS” you will not be able to take advantage of this feature. You need a subscription to do that.

How to Upgrade

If you’re running a version before 1.4.0, select Check for Updates in the PocketBible menu and choose the option to install and relaunch. If you have trouble with that, just go here and select the Download button. Download the file, find it in your Downloads folder, open it, and drag PocketBible into your Applications folder.

If you’ve already downloaded 1.4.0 or 1.4.1, select Check for Updates in the PocketBible menu and follow the instructions.

        

The Story of the Old Testament, by ChatGPT

I asked ChatGPT to recount the history of the Old Testament, without getting bogged down in the details — just focusing on the significant parts of the narrative. I then asked it for a creative but appropriate title for its work. I have to say, it pretty much nailed the assignment.

DALL•E kind of punted on generating an appropriate image, but hey; it’s just an AI so cut it some slack.

From Creation to Covenant: Unveiling the Tapestry of Ancient Israel

In the beginning, according to the Old Testament, God created the heavens and the earth, forming the world and everything in it. Adam and Eve, the first humans, were placed in the Garden of Eden but disobeyed God’s command and were banished from paradise.

The narrative then moves to the story of Noah and the Great Flood. God saw the wickedness of humanity and decided to cleanse the earth. Noah, a righteous man, built an ark and saved his family and pairs of animals from the floodwaters.

Next, the focus shifts to Abraham, who is considered the father of many nations. God made a covenant with Abraham, promising him descendants as numerous as the stars. Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob continued the lineage.

Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel, and his son Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers but rose to power in Egypt. Through a series of events, Joseph eventually saved his family and brought them to Egypt during a severe famine.

Generations later, the Israelites became enslaved in Egypt. God raised up Moses as their leader and used him to deliver the people from bondage. Through miraculous signs and wonders, God brought about the Exodus, leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness.

In the wilderness, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and established a covenant with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Moses led them on a journey towards the Promised Land, but due to disobedience and lack of faith, they wandered for forty years.

Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader, and under his command, the Israelites conquered the land of Canaan. They established themselves as a nation and settled in the Promised Land.

The Israelites went through a cycle of obedience and disobedience to God, with various judges rising to lead them during times of crisis. Eventually, they desired a king, and God anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. However, due to Saul’s disobedience, God chose David as his replacement.

David, a renowned king, established Jerusalem as the capital and desired to build a permanent dwelling place for God, but it was his son, Solomon, who built the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem.

After Solomon’s reign, the kingdom split into two: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The prophets played a crucial role during this time, calling the people to repentance and warning of the consequences of their actions.

The kingdoms faced threats from various empires, leading to the exile of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians. The people were taken captive to Babylon.

After seventy years, the Persians conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple under the leadership of figures like Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Old Testament concludes with prophecies of a coming Messiah who would bring salvation and establish an eternal kingdom. These prophecies set the stage for the events of the New Testament and the birth of Jesus Christ.