PocketBible 4.14 for iOS 14

Today Apple approved PocketBible 4.14.1 for distribution through the App Store. This version coincides with the release of iOS 14, and while it doesn’t necessarily take advantage of every new feature of this latest version of iOS, it should work better than the previous version did.

iOS 14 adds a number of new features that may or may not make sense for PocketBible to take advantage of, such as widgets and app clips. Because PocketBible needs to continue to work with older versions of iOS (we go back to iOS 12 with this release), it’s not always practical to implement the very latest new features. And we never know what’s going to survive until iOS 15 and what will be dropped. So don’t expect a PocketBible complication for WatchOS or a PocketBible widget for iPhone.

Here’s what’s new in PocketBible 4.14.1:

FEATURES

Saved/named layouts on iPad. (AFS)

If you subscribe to the Advanced Feature Set, you’ll be able to save the current screen layout, which includes the number and position of open panes/tabs, the list of books open in each pane/tab, the position of each of those books, your navigation (back/forward) history, your recent searches, and your recently visited Bible verses (the latter itself being a new feature; see below).

Keyboard shortcut keys (customizable with AFS)

If you have an iPad Pro with an external keyboard, there are now key combinations that can be used to activate frequently used features like searching and navigating to a Bible verse. A list of these keyboard shortcuts can be viewed by pressing and holding the ⌘ (Command) key (this is true for any iOS app, not just PocketBible).

If you subscribe to the Advanced Feature Set, you can customize these commands. You’ll do that by selecting the function (such as “open a book”) then just press the key combination you want to use for that function.

Trackpad and mouse support in book panes

If you have an iPad Pro with an external mouse or keyboard with trackpad, you’ll find that 2-finger trackpad and scroll-wheel scrolling work better in PocketBible’s book panes than they did before.

New long-press functions of back, forward, search, and go-to toolbar buttons

Pressing and holding on the Back button will display the portion of your navigation history that is “behind” you. You can jump back more than one location by selecting an item from this list. If you have gone back at least one step on this list, a long-press on the Forward button will show you the locations that are “ahead” of you.

You’ve always been able to access a list of recent searches by selecting that option from the Search form. Now you can press and hold on the toolbar Search button to see that list.

A frequently requested feature was a modification of Back that would allow you to see a list of recently visited Bible verses so you could quickly jump back to a passage you had been reading. You can now access this list with a long press on the Go To button while a Bible is active.

Sync to current verse

PocketBible has long had the ability to keep all your Bibles and commentaries sync’ed up to the verse you are viewing in the active pane. That’s not always what you want to do, however. But when that feature is turned off, there wasn’t a way to easily sync your other Bibles and commentaries to the verse you’re reading. Now there are two.

When the automatic sync between Bibles and commentaries is turned off, you can choose Sync All to … from the PocketBible menu to cause all Bibles and commentaries to go to the topmost verse in the active pane (assuming the active pane is displaying a Bible).

You can also select a verse via pressing and holding, and choose the Sync button from the Selection tool bar. In that case, your other Bibles and commentaries will sync to the first selected verse.

ENHANCEMENTS

Customizable sorting of list of open books

When viewing the list of open books in the Library window, you can choose the Edit button to drag the books into the order in which you’d prefer to see them. This is a frequently suggested feature that turned out to be a lot easier to implement than we feared, though it has an important caveat.

That is, the order of the books in each pane is saved as a part of recording your navigation history. So if you change the order of books in a pane, then use Back to go back to a time before you re-ordered the books, the order will revert to its earlier state. Going Forward will restore the new order.

In addition, the order of open books is saved when you save a layout using the new Saved Layouts feature on the iPad. So if you change the order of the books in one layout, it will not affect the order of the books in the same pane in another layout.

And more…

Choosing a range of verses for searching requires fewer button presses. Once you’ve selected a range you’re taken right back to the main Search window.

Autostudy Word and Autostudy Verse will start the study when Enter is pressed in
input field (Advanced Feature Set subscription required for Autostudy).

Long-press link preview now works on the asterisks that mark footnotes in books
and Bibles.

FIXES

The correct background color was not being chosen for certain menus.

After closing the current book using Close this Book on the Library screen, the wrong book was marked as being active.

The program was not checking your AFS subscription expiration date often enough, which kept the subscription active well passed its expiration until you performed a particular action that caused it to be checked. The program now checks the expiration date on launch and at convenient intervals while you’re using the program. There is a grace period to allow you time to renew and activate the renewed subscription.

We Reached Our Goal!

Thanks to the kindness of 492 of our closest friends, we were able to reach our goal of raising $50,000 for the development of an all-new version of PocketBible for Windows! The final total came to exactly $53,000.

If you contributed to the project, you’ll get an email from us letting you know how we’re going to keep you updated on our progress. We’ll publish updates here on the blog. Some will be public like this one; others will be for supporters only.

To get things started, I met yesterday with the outside developer responsible mainly for user experience to bring him up to speed. And since the beginning of the crowd-funding campaign I’ve been working with another in-house developer to bring her up to speed on the development tools and the initial tasks we need to work on.

Even though we already have two different Windows versions of PocketBible, this version is going to be implemented a whole new way (more about that later). So we have to treat it as if we’re doing it for a whole new platform. When we launch into PocketBible for a new platform, I like to tackle the hard things first. That is, I try to identify what is going to be a challenge for us and do some prototyping or proof-of-concept tests to make sure we’re going to be able to solve those problems before they become hinderances to the schedule.

What that means is that we’re going to start kind of in the middle of the project, focusing on the note editor and user data synchronization, because those seem to always present problems on every platform. We’ve already done some experimenting with simply displaying and scrolling through text, as that’s another problem area. We’ve actually written and thrown away a few different attempts at some of those problems already.

This approach creates interesting paradoxes. We’ll be able to sync your notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress to and from the server before the program can create or display a note, highlight a verse, or set or go to a bookmark. We’ll be able to scroll through Bible text before we can choose and open a Bible to read. But such is the world of software development, especially with a mature product like PocketBible. Even though the new version of PocketBible for Windows doesn’t exist, PocketBible itself exists both as an abstract concept and in several concrete implementations — not just the existing Android, iOS, and Mac OS apps, but our soon-to-be extinct Windows apps and our already-extinct Windows Mobile Smartphone, Pocket PC, Handheld PC, Palm-size PC, webOS, Blackberry, Palm OS, and browser-based versions. So this new Windows version already exists in our heads. Starting in the middle or at the end or the beginning is all the same to us. 🙂

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Here We Go Again: Are Gay Satanists Rewriting the Bible?

As you know, our English Bible is translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, so even the direct quotes attributed to him in the New Testament were translated into Greek before someone translated them into English. Portions of the King James Version were translated from a Latin translation of the Bible, which itself had been translated from Greek documents that were no longer in existence. The Latin text was translated back into Greek (without reference, obviously, to the missing originals), then the Greek was translated to English. (We’ve since found copies of those missing Greek manuscripts, so modern translations are on a much firmer foundation.)

Translation is an art, not a science. It requires command of both the source and target languages. This is complicated by the fact that biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek are no longer spoken, so there are no native speakers from whom to learn the nuances of the language. Every translator differs in his or her choice of words and phrases to translate the original.

There is a contingent of Christians today who feel the newer translations are being manipulated to promote a particular agenda. These people would never consider that the older Bibles they prefer would have been subject to the same biases, but they were. For example, the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) literally means “to dip or submerge”. But since the English-speaking church was no longer immersing believers in water but rather sprinkling them, the translators were in an awkward position. Rather than point out the error in practice by the church of the day, they invented the English word “baptize”, which is just a transliteration of the Greek word βαπτίζω (that is, it is a made-up English word which, when pronounced, sounds like the original Greek word). Errant sprinklers could claim to be “baptizing”, just like they did in the Bible, without having to explain the change in the mode of baptism compared to the New Testament examples.

It’s pretty easy to get a rise out of Christians who are ignorant of the nature of translating from one language to another by suggesting that nefarious forces (Satan himself being on the top of the list) are working to subvert the work of God by causing the Bible to be mistranslated. The Facebook post below is an example. I first saw a version of this post in 2015. It makes a number of false claims, urges the reader to try to find verses that don’t exist in most Bibles published in the last 40 years, then uses that to “prove” that publishers are actively promoting a gay and satanist agenda by altering the text. Altering it from what the post does not make clear, nor does it explain how Luke’s failure to mention that Pilate had a tradition of releasing a prisoner during the Passover celebration advances the gay or satanist agenda.

The new version of this post I saw today added the ESV to the Bibles owned by HarperCollins (which is false), and unnecessarily took a swipe at the Olive Tree Bible App that wasn’t there last time I saw it. Here’s the post:


VERY CRITICAL ALERT!!!

NIV was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.

  • The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few…
  • The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones especially “OLIVE TREE BIBLE STUDY APP.”
  • Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt
    • Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
    • Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
    • Luke 17:36, 23:17;
    • John 5:4; Acts 8:37.
    …you will not believe your eyes.

Refuse to be blinded by Satan, and do not act like you just don’t care. Let’s not forget what the Lord Jesus said in John 10:10 (King James Version).

There is a crusade geared towards altering the Bible as we know it; NIV, ESV and many more versions are affected.

THE SOLUTION:

If you must use the NIV and ESV, BUY and KEEP AN EARLIER VERSION OF the BIBLE. A Hard Copy cannot be updated. All these changes occur when they ask you to update the app. On your phone or laptop etc.


Laridian’s Response

A PocketBible user sent the above to Tech Support and asked if this horrific news was true. Here’s how we replied:

First, this post is old. It first circulated in 2015. Second, it represents a misunderstanding of everything it reports.

The NIV text was translated and is owned by Biblica (The International Bible Society), not Zondervan. Biblica is a 200-year-old organization that translates the Bible and distributes Bibles to various language groups around the world. The ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which itself is a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV), which is an americanized version of the Revised Version (RV), which was, in the 1880’s, a modern-language revision of the King James Version (KJV). The ESV is owned and distributed by Crossway Bibles, not Zondervan.

The right to publish and sell the NIV in the US is held by Zondervan under license from Biblica. Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are both owned by HarperCollins. HarperCollins is the publisher of a wide variety of books including those mentioned in the post. But neither HarperCollins nor Zondervan are involved in the translation of the NIV. That started over 60 years ago by the New York Bible Society, which became the International Bible Society, then Biblica.

The right to publish and sell the NIV outside the US is held by Hodder and Stoughton, a secular publisher in the UK. The post doesn’t mention them for some reason, choosing instead to focus on HarperCollins, which it claims owns the NIV, which it does not. And neither company has any rights in the ESV.

Let’s look at the other claims:

The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible. The grammatical error (“has” instead of “have”) resulted from an illiterate person, perhaps the person who forwarded this to you, adding “and ESV” to the original post from 2015. That makes the claim even more questionable, since it would be odd that two entirely different translations had each removed exactly the same number of words. 

What were these words removed from? “The Bible” is not a single document that you can point at or hold in your hands. It is a collection of writings, written over some 4000 years by 40 or more authors, in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. We have multiple copies of portions of it in the original languages, and they differ from each other. This is more true in the New Testament than the Old, but it is true to some degree throughout. The job of Bible translators is to choose the versions of the originals they want to work from or think are authoritative, then translate those into English. In doing so they do not remove words from the original text; they translate from one language to another. Translation is not a word-for-word, mechanical task. Just comparing the number of words used in one translation versus another does not tell us anything about the relative quality of either translation.

The author seems to be suggesting that the newer translations remove words from an older, more authoritative translation. Which one? The post doesn’t say. And why would that fact alone matter? For example, newer translations “remove” a number of words from the King James Version, including thee, thou, ye, comest, goest, conies, kine, and hundreds of others. Most have fallen out of use or changed their meaning over the centuries. This isn’t bad, it’s necessary if we who speak the English language are going to understand it.

The specific words cited as removed are not removed as much as they are replaced. In particular:

  • “Jehovah” is an older (and many argue less accurate) attempt to transliterate the Hebrew word יהוה (often called “the tetragrammaton” — the 4-letter Hebrew spelling of God’s name). Many newer Bibles translate it as “Yahweh”. I believe the NIV and ESV use the convention of translating it as the word “Lord” in all caps or small caps (LORD or Lord).
  • The word “Calvary” as a translation for the place where Jesus was crucified is completely wrong to begin with. The Greek word used in the Gospels is Κρανίον (kranion or “cranium” for the Hebrew golgotha “skull”). “Calvary” is a transliteration of the Latin Calvariae Locus, which is the term used in the Latin Vulgate to translate Κρανίον. To insist that we continue to use a made-up word based on Latin instead of a direct translation of the Greek or Hebrew term would be identical to insisting that we refer to God by the made-up name “El Senior” because it is an English transliteration of the Spanish El Señor, the name commonly used for God in Spanish Bibles.
  • The term “Holy Ghost” is translated “Holy Spirit” in newer Bibles because the meaning of the word “ghost” has shifted over the years.
  • “Omnipotent” is used only once in the KJV, in Revelation 19:6. It is used as a title for God: “…for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” The Greek word is παντοκράτωρ (pantokratoros) which comes from the Greek word for “all” and the Greek word for “strength or might”. The other 9 times this word is used, the KJV translates it “almighty” (which is and adjective meaning “all powerful”). So if the NIV and ESV are wrong for “changing” this word from “omnipotent” to “almighty”, then the KJV is wrong for doing the same thing in 9 different places.

I see they’ve added a mention of the Olive Tree Bible app in this version of the post. Interestingly, Olive Tree is also owned by Zondervan/HarperCollins, which is not mentioned.

The post claims the NIV and ESV have removed 45 complete verses (though it lists only 10). Again I ask, “removed from what?” The post doesn’t say. The specific verses cited are present in some older translations of the Bible because the Greek manuscripts from which they were translated are actually newer (that is, they date from a later time in history) than the more recently discovered and older manuscripts used by the NIV translators. Because the older manuscripts are closer to the originals in time — that is, they went through the copying process fewer times — they are believed by modern translators to be more accurate. So it is not the case that these verses have been removed from newer translations like the NIV, ESV and many others, but rather that they were added by the copyists of the manuscripts upon which older versions, like the KJV and ASV, are based. It could be accurately argued that the “removal” of these 45 (or 10?) verses makes the NIV and ESV more accurate translations than the older ones the author prefers.

The post concludes by recommending that you buy and keep an earlier version of the Bible without saying which one. Most posts like this come from people who prefer the KJV. The KJV can be shown to contain thousands of errors in printing and translation, including one edition that said “thou shalt commit adultery”, and another that transgendered Ruth, referring to her as “he”. The KJV is where we get the phrase “strain at a gnat” where the Greek is more accurately translated “strain out a gnat” (“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”)

There is no perfect translation of the Bible, and there is no single original-language source from which to translate. Posts like this one come from people who are ignorant of the history of transmission of the Bible, the process of translation, and the business of Bible publishing. Please don’t give these people a bigger platform by reposting their nonsense.


The illustration at the top of this article is from a Facebook group called “Satanic/Luciferian Gay Community”. It’s difficult to find an image to illustrate this article that isn’t more offensive than it needs to be. I thought this one looked better than the others I found. Note that the Satanic/Luciferian Gay Community has nothing to do with propagating this story or mistranslating the NIV. I just used an image from their Facebook page.

Americans Lack Basic Understanding of the God of the Bible

The Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University released a study last week showing that Americans demonstrate an increasing ignorance of God and in some cases hold self-contradicting views of God’s attributes and actions.

The survey of 2000 adults was conducted in January, 2020 to determine the percentage of the country that holds a biblical worldview. It found that only 51% of Americans believe that God is the “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.” This is down from 73% who agreed with that statement in 1991.

The largest drops are among the youngest (under 30) and the oldest (over 75) among us. There is also a clear divide along political lines, with self-described liberals and Democrats holding the least biblical worldview and conservatives/Republicans, the most. Agnostic (“there may be a God, but we can’t know for sure”) and atheistic (“there is no God”) views have grown substantially in the last 30 year.s

Some contradictory views also come out in the survey. 45% who claim God exists also say they can’t be sure. This would actually seem to be more consistent with an agnostic view. One-third of those who old a biblical view of God way that he has no reason behind what he causes or allows to happen to them. One could argue that an irrational God is little better than (and certainly more frightening than) no God at all. Only 1/3 of those who believe in the God of the Bible say that he is involved in their lives. Again, a God who doesn’t care about us seems little better than no God at all.

Slightly more people believe in the biblical person of Satan than in the biblical person of God. Think about that for a while.


PocketBible can’t fix a person’s ignorance of God or of God’s character on its own, but it can give you the tools you need to repair your own understanding of God and help you share a biblical worldview with the people you live and work with. And this survey reflects only the opinions of Americans, where Christianity allegedly has its best foothold. There is no lack of work to be done, starting here and throughout the world.

To What Are You Blind?

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

I used to spend two or three days per week working from various coffee shops around town. Most of them open at 6AM. I’d be there right as the doors open and stay through the entire day. It wasn’t unusual to have to wait in line at 6AM as everyone stopped by to get a coffee and pastry on their way to work.

There’s a coffee shop right next door to my office. It opens at 7AM. I asked the owner why she didn’t open earlier. After all, her competitors are already open. She’s giving up a lot of business. “I don’t want to get up that early,” she said. One time I asked if they had anything for lunch. She said they do lunch but only on Thursdays. She makes some quiche and when it runs out, there’s no more lunch until next Thursday.

There’s another coffee shop farther away that opens at 6AM according to their sign, but when I showed up early one day I was surprised to find the lights on and the door open. The owner told me, “I get here about 4:45 and the first thing I do is unlock the door and put coffee on. So if you get here early and the doors are open, you’ll probably be able to get a cup.”

I looked around and noticed there was nothing for lunch. I asked if they served sandwiches. He pointed to the door on the wall across from the counter and said, “That door takes you to the restaurant next door. You can get food there and bring it here, or take your coffee with you over there when you want some lunch.”

I would argue that the lazy lady next door doesn’t know what business she’s in nor who her customers are. The guy who opens early and sends people to the restaurant next door has transcended the coffee shop business and is operating at a state of consciousness that the lady next door can’t even imagine, let alone perceive.

We have a publisher with whom we’d like to do business. They have a Bible translation that we get a lot of requests for. They refuse to license it because they want to protect their own internal sales. They don’t have a software version of this Bible; they just have print. But they worry that an electronic version will cannibalize their print sales.

Electronic publishing costs traditional print publishers nothing. It only generates royalty revenue. It is money applied directly to the bottom line. People purchase electronic books that they would never buy in print, and people who are still buying print in 2020 are not buying electronic Bibles. There are exceptions and the two worlds definitely intersect, but it’s difficult to argue that one robs from the other when you’re looking at a particular title. I would argue that in an effort not to lose the revenue stream with which they are familiar, this publisher is blind to no-cost, revenue-only opportunities. These opportunities are knocking directly on his door, coming to him. He doesn’t even have to work hard to take advantage of them.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m blind to in my business. The coffee shop next door doesn’t realize they’re a coffee shop, and that people want a cup of coffee on their way to work. They aren’t going to her shop. They didn’t realize that serving lunch only one day a week is like not serving lunch. Publishers come out of marketing and sales meetings where they struggle with how to increase revenue, then tell a no-cost revenue stream that they’re not interested in taking money from them. I worry that I’m doing some outrageously silly thing. Other than wasting my time writing blog articles that no one will read, what am I blind to?

Laridian and COVID-19

We don’t think it’s necessary for Laridian to add to the noise regarding the Chinese Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19, so we’re not sending out one of those annoying emails that you’re getting from everyone from your bank to your plumber. And we’re not going to preach to you or send you an ad for our products thinly disguised as “spiritual encouragement in these challenging times” as our competitors are doing. But I would like you to know how we’re dealing with this crisis.

I like to say we’ve been practicing social distancing professionally since 1998. Laridian began its life that year as a purely virtual corporation. We had no brick-and-mortar location. While we have an office now, overlooking the downtown city park in historic Marion, IA, our work-from-home roots are part of our DNA. Our employees and contractors regularly work at home or offsite. There is no physical object, service, or capability at our office that is critical to our functioning. I’ve asked everyone to work from home for a bit while I continue to work from the office. (My wife, who works as a legal assistant and has also been asked to work from home, is joining me at the office for a change of scenery.) So in short, you’re right to not be worried about us.

Those of us who minister to others face some unique challenges during this time. Laridian isn’t in a position to solve any of those problems, but we can help a little bit by continuing to find new resources for PocketBible to aid in your ministry, and looking even harder for opportunities to save you money.

That’s what we’re doing, and what we’re going to continue to do despite the pandemic.

Craig's Signature
Craig Rairdin
President/Founder

Laridian Account Security Updates

We don’t talk much about security issues at our website for obvious reasons – any information we provide could inform a hacker and provide them a shortcut to circumventing security on our site. We’ve recently made some changes that we want you to be aware of for a couple of reasons: First, the changes are comprehensive and as a result, could affect you in ways we haven’t anticipated. Second, we want to reassure you that your information is and always has been secure.

Let’s take that last point first: Laridian doesn’t store your PayPal username or password, nor do we store your credit card number on our servers. When you make a payment, you are interacting directly with either PayPal or our payment processor, Authorize.Net. Your financial information does not even pass through our server on its way to those companies. So we have no opportunity to store it even if we wanted to.

This is important. It means that your financial information isn’t here, even if someone did break in looking for it. It is being handled by companies that are significantly more sophisticated and more security-conscious than we are. The data breaches you read about don’t generally happen at banks and credit card processors. They are almost always the result of a retail store or online shopping site with lax security. Laridian avoids these attacks by simply not being in possession of any of that information.

The first point, that the changes are extensive and at least in some small degree affect all users, is addressed below.

What Changed

The changes we’ve made are fairly comprehensive and as a result it’s possible that you’ll have trouble signing into your account if you have inadvertently been taking advantage of a shortcoming in our previous account security methods.

Prior to about January 4, 2020, your Laridian account password was stored in our database in plain text. That’s a little unusual (and arguably unsafe), but it’s the result of the fact that our original website and database implementation was done by an outside company over 20 years ago when security standards for the Internet were very different. While standards have changed, making changes to security protocols while allowing thousands of users acquired over more than 20 years to continue to access their accounts is very challenging. So addressing this issue is something we have avoided for a long time.

Even though passwords were stored in plain text, they were (and are) encrypted when transmitted from PocketBible, and the database itself is behind a firewall. The encryption makes it unlikely that someone could grab your password by monitoring your Internet traffic, and the firewall isolates the database from the Web. Both the database and the server it is hosted on require secure account login, so it would be relatively difficult for someone to access it and view user passwords. Since we weren’t protecting any financial information, we weren’t strongly motivated to make this change.

There were three main problems in the old implementation:

  1. Passwords used to be case insensitive. If your password was PASSword, you could log in with password, Password, or PaSsWoRd. This was apparently caused by the original programmer not understanding that the database was configured to do case-insensitive searches. When we discovered it later, we already had users who were inadvertently taking advantage of this misbehavior, so it became at least difficult, if not impossible, to easily change.
  2. We used to truncate all passwords to 10 characters even if you entered more than that. If your password was password1234, you could log in with password12, password12#$, or password1234567890. The original programmer allowed for longer passwords in the database and in his code, but accidentally limited the length of password fields by the way pages on our website were written. Again, once we figured this out we already had thousands of users who were taking advantage of this without realizing it, so we couldn’t easily change it.
  3. As mentioned before, passwords were stored in plain text in the database. This was the result of the naïve belief by the original implementor that password-protecting the database and the server was sufficient to secure this information. This turned out to be true, but we felt we could do better.

The new method addresses all of the above issues:

  1. Passwords are now case sensitive. If your password is PASSword, then you must enter PASSword or you don’t get in.
  2. The new method does not put a practical limit on the length of passwords. There is a limit, but you won’t encounter it unless you want to type for a long, long time. You could create a 1,000,000-character password if you want. It just wouldn’t be practical.
  3. Your password isn’t stored anywhere.

Wait, what? If the password isn’t stored, how are you able to log in?

The way the new system works is that your password is run through what’s called a hash algorithm. This algorithm calculates a unique value that represents your password. So even if a hacker were able to gain access to the database, they would only have indecipherable numbers, not your password.

The has algorithm is one-way. That is, it’s trivial to calculate the hash value from your password, but it is theoretically impossible to generate your password given the hash value. Again, if our theoretical hacker had a list of hash values, they could not reverse-engineer those values and figure out the passwords that generated them.

When you log into your account, we run the password you give us through the same algorithm to produce a hash value, then we compare that number to the number in the database. If they match, you get in. If not, you don’t.

How You Are Affected

Because of the way we phased in the changes, you shouldn’t notice anything different unless you were accidentally using upper/lower case in a way that didn’t match your original password. If your password is longer than 10 characters, we’ll still use just the first 10 characters to log you in. If you create a new password that is longer than 10 characters, we’ll use the full password.

As mentioned before, changing the way passwords are stored and used on our site and in our apps affects virtually everything we do:

  • Obviously, logging into your account on our website is affected.
  • Viewing the list of books you own from inside one of our apps depends on PocketBible being able to log into your account.
  • Synchronizing your notes/highlights/bookmarks with the Laridian Cloud depends on PocketBible being able to log into your account.
  • PocketBible for Windows Desktop uses an older version of synchronization with our iPocketBible.com server, which is different than the other apps use and takes a different path to log into your account.
  • Requesting a password-reset link from our site works the same way as before but internally is significantly different.

As a result, there could be problems in some remote corner of one of our apps or on our website that we haven’t discovered yet. If you run into any problems, contact us at support@laridian.com.

Reading Through the Bible in 2020

Every year, our church encourages members to start a program of Bible reading with the goal of reading the entire Bible by the end of the year. Each month we all exchange emails with progress reports and are encouraged to keep going. Despite the planning, the encouragement, and the reminders, about half of those who start don’t finish.

The NIV Bible contains 753,429 words. Divided into 365 equal readings, that would be 2064 words per day. The average person reads at a rate of 200-300 words per minute. If you’re a college graduate, you probably read around 450 words per minute. So reading through the entire Bible can be easily done by most people in 4-1/2 to 8-1/2 minutes per day. Certainly less than 10 minutes.

So why do so many people fail at keeping this goal? The time itself is not the problem; we all have 5-10 minutes sometime in our day to read the Bible. Here are some suggestions on how to get through the Bible this year.

Make it a part of your morning ritual.

We all have a list of things we do like clockwork every day. Wake up. Shower. Shave. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Have breakfast or at least a cup of coffee. Check email and social media. Go to work. The next day it repeats. Maybe on the weekend it happens later in the morning, but it happens.

Put your Bible reading on that list. In my case, I make a cup of coffee and sit down to make my first pass through email, Facebook, and moderation of my church’s email prayer/announcements list. It was easy to add 5 minutes of Bible reading to that schedule.

For you it might be 5 minutes before you even get out of bed. Or while you eat breakfast. The important thing is to find it a place in your morning ritual so that it becomes habitual.

Use PocketBible on your phone or tablet.

You might think this goes without saying, since it’s coming from Laridian, but it’s a valuable point to make. Laridian offers a number of free and low-cost Bible reading plans and devotionals for PocketBible and makes it easy to access each day’s reading and keep track of your progress. Simply tracking your progress by marking each reading as complete will motivate you to keep going and help you catch up if you get behind.

In addition, for most of us, our phone or tablet is with us all day. This makes it easier to take advantage of break-time, commute-time, standing-in-line-time, and other moments in our day to do our Bible reading. Instead of Candy Crush or Facebook, spend those minutes getting your Bible reading done.

Be realistic.

Figure out how much time you want to devote to the Bible and schedule your reading appropriately. 5-10 minutes will get you through the Bible in a year. 10-15 minutes will get you there in 6 months. Don’t set out to get through the whole thing in a month unless you have an hour each day to set aside for Bible reading.

Try a different translation of the Bible.

Because PocketBible reading plans are not tied to any one translation of the Bible, you’re free to experiment with something different. My previous reads through the Bible have always been in the KJV or NIV. So last year I tried the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). This year I’m using the World English Bible (WEB). (Note that neither the CSB nor WEB are compatible with the Windows versions of PocketBible, but work fine in the Android, iOS and Mac OS versions.)

I think the unfamiliar wording of familiar verses helps me comprehend the passage better. For example, the WEB uses “Yahweh” where the KJV, NASB, and NIV all use LORD. Encountering “Yahweh” in the text seems to make God more personal to me – as if he’s more of a character in the story with his own plans, motivations, and ways of interacting with the people I’m reading about. When I just see LORD in the text, he seems to just blend in and is more of a nameless force or entity in the background. It’s a subtle but important difference in the way I’m perceiving the text.

Last year I ran into the phrase “half the tribe of Mannaseh” (vs. the more familiar – to me – “half-tribe of Mannaseh”). I found this confusing, since I had always assumed the “half tribe” title was because Mannaseh and his brother Ephraim shared the inheritance of their father Joseph (each was half the tribe of Joseph). Running into this wording in verses such as Deuteronomy 3:13 caused me to realize the title is based on the fact Moses gave land on the east side of the Jordan to half the tribe of Manasseh and land on the west side to the other half. The important point here being that running into an unfamiliar phrase caused me to stop, ask the question, and go looking for an answer.

Don’t tell anyone, but it’s OK to skim some passages.

I had a person tell me that they were doing fine reading through the Bible until they got to “the part with all the ‘begots'”. To be honest there aren’t that many of these, but they are mind-numbing. Come back some time and look at the names in those lists and try to learn more about them, but if those lists are what’s keeping you from getting through the rest of the text, just scan ahead to where the story picks up and keep reading from there.

You may run into other places you just can’t get through. I get bogged down in the various sacrifices, dimensions of buildings, descriptions of furniture and draperies, and quantities of items plundered in battles. It’s ok to skip ahead a few verses. None of these are that long. Don’t let a verbal description of an architectural diagram keep you from finishing your reading.

Read it in a different order.

The order in which the books of the Bible appear isn’t ideal for reading through from start to finish. The Old Testament is ordered by genre – first the books of Moses (the Pentateuch), then history, wisdom/poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets. The New Testament follows a similar model, but more by author – first are the gospels; then history; letters from Paul (kind of in order by length, longest to shortest); the letter to the Hebrews (which some argue was written by Paul, but the author is generally considered to be unknown); letters by the apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude; and finally the New Testament’s only book of prophecy.

This year I’m reading through the Bible in chronological order using The Harmony Bible. The author of The Harmony Bible has rearranged the text so that you read about events in the order they occurred, not the somewhat random order that they appear in the Bible. So Job is inserted into the Genesis narrative. David’s psalms are inserted into the stories of his life. The prophets are inserted into the historical narratives, primarily in the books of Kings and Chronicles. In the New Testament, letters to the churches are intermingled in the book of Acts.

Other alternatives include reading a little from the Old and New Testament each day, which is what I did last year.

Some of the devotional books for PocketBible include short commentary or homiletic passages for each day. These can provide context for the passage and help you find application for what you’re reading in your daily life.

Be accountable.

I have really benefited from my email group that is made up of people who are all reading through the Bible at the same time. Find some other people in your church who want to read through the Bible. Meet together or at least exchange emails throughout the year to discuss what you’re reading. Encourage each other to keep reading. Ask your partner what was in those passages you only skimmed. 🙂

Don’t stop.

If you miss a day, keep reading the next day. PocketBible lets you adjust your reading schedule to account for missed days. If it ends up taking you an extra couple of days or weeks to get through the whole thing, that’s fine. Nobody’s keeping score. Don’t let a missed day derail your entire year. Just keep going.

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

Make Your Daily Bible Reading More Pleasant with “Autostudy Today”

I have used the devotional features of PocketBible off and on over the last 20 years in my personal Bible reading. This year I’m using our free Old Testament in a Year and New Testament in a Year reading plans simultaneously to create a custom plan that will give me readings from both the Old and New Testaments each day.

One of the challenges of this approach is that I have to open the Old Testament plan, select the link to the passage, read the passage in the Bible (which may or may not default to the version I want to read from, depending on what else I’ve been doing in PocketBible since I last did my reading), then open the New Testament plan, select the link for the day’s reading, then read the New Testament passage from my preferred Bible. That’s a lot of jumping around just to read 3-4 chapters.

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to it to make the viewing of the text more pleasant and to make it easier to simply read the OT and NT passages without any jumping back and forth between the two devotionals and my Bible. I’ll have two-click access to each day’s text in my desired Bible regardless of what Bibles are open or active in PocketBible at the time. To accomplish this, I’m taking advantage of the “Autostudy Today” feature of the Advanced Feature Set.

Autostudy Today lets you collect the Bible passages and devotional passages you want to read for the day in an HTML or PDF file that can be viewed either within PocketBible or externally. It also lets you customize the styles that are used in the Autostudy output according to your preferences. Most people don’t bother with this, but I’m not most people. 🙂

If you don’t already own the Advanced Feature Set, it can be purchased as a subscription for $9.99/year. This particular feature is only available in the iOS, Android, and Mac OS versions of PocketBible. I’ll be using the Mac OS version to read from and to demonstrate these features, but the iOS and Android versions are similar.

To make it easier to do this every day, I right-click on the toolbar, choose Customize Toolbar, then drag the Today Study button onto the toolbar. That will give me one-touch access to my reading each day.

Drag Today Study to the toolbar.

On the Autostudy Today screen I can select which books to include in the Autostudy report each day. Since the particular devotional book I’m using is just a reading plan and doesn’t itself contain any text I need to read, I’m going to un-check the Devotionals checkbox and make sure Bibles is checked.

Deselect Devotionals; select Bibles.

Then I click on Devotionals (not the checkbox, but on the word “Devotionals” so that it is selected. This causes a list of all my installed devotionals to be displayed on the right. I choose the None button under that list to deselect all the devotionals, then find my Old Testament in 1 Year and New Testament in 1 Year reading plans and select their check boxes to include them in the Autostudy output.

Since I want my Old Testament reading to come first each day, I drag the Old Testement in 1 Year plan up above the New Testament in 1 Year plan. It doesn’t matter if there are other books in between, since they won’t be included. I just want to make sure the OT comes before the NT.

Drag the Old Testament devotional to a position above the New Testament devotional.

Now I select Bibles from the list on the left, causing my list of installed Bibles to be displayed on the right. Again I choose None to deselect all Bibles, then find the Bible I want to read from and select its checkbox. I’ll be reading from the Christian Standard Bible this year, so I select that one.

Select the Bible from which you want to read and deselect all others.

At this point I can test my output by selecting View. I’ll get the scheduled readings for whatever day happened to be selected on the calendar. The output looks just as I would expect, but I’m not entirely happy with it. I’m going to make a few changes to enhance the appearance of the text.

Take a look at the output so far: Autostudy January 1, 2019

Back on the Autostudy Today screen, I have an option to edit the “style sheet” for the Autostudy report. Don’t be embarrassed if this looks intimidating. Most people don’t know anything about editing Cascading Style Sheets. At the same time,  don’t be afraid to try this at home. You can always reset it to defaults and start over if you mess something up.

The style sheet controls how every element of the Autostudy report is formatted. I want to make a number of changes to what my text looks like:

  • Change the color of the Bible reference headings above each passage, and put them on a line of their own above the text instead of inline with the text.
  • Add some additional leading between the lines of text.
  • Make adjustments to how poetry is displayed.
  • Suppress verse numbers in the Bible text.

To change the color of the Bible reference headings, I need to locate the line that looks like this:

div.bibleref {margin:0px 1em 0px 0px; padding:0; display:inline; float:left; color:#00c; font-weight:bold; font-size:100%;}

This line controls the Bible reference headings. By default, the text in a div element appears on its own line. PocketBible overrides this behavior by including display:inline in the style definition for Bible references. So I want to delete display:inline and the semicolon that follows it. I also delete float:left and the semicolon that follows that.

I’m not fond of the light shade of blue that PocketBible uses for Bible reference headings, so I change color:00c to color:008. This is a slightly darker shade of blue. I could instead change it to color:000 (or remove the color:00c attribute entirely) to make it black.

Next, I want to add some additional space between the lines (sometimes referred to as line leading). This is done by editing the entry that looks like this:

p {margin:0px 0px 0.5em 0px}

CSS style sheets use the line-height attribute to control line leading. A value of 100% is supposed to be “normal height”, and back in 2003 when I wrote my own HTML rendering engine, I made it work that way. But because the programmers who created the Web are not as smart as I, you actually need to set it to about 120% to get natural spacing for most fonts. I want a little extra space, so I’m going to set it to 150% by changing this line to read as follows:

p {margin:0px 0px 0.5em 0px; line-height:150%}

The p element is used for normal paragraphs in the Bible text. We also have poetry sections, for which PocketBible (arguably incorrectly) uses the blockquote tag to create extra margin on the left and right. There is no style specified for the blockquote tag in the default Autostudy style sheet (don’t ask me why; I don’t have an answer), so we just add the following line anywhere in the style sheet. I added it below the line for the p element, above.

blockquote {margin:0.5em 1em 1em 2em; line-height:120%}

This tightens up the line spacing a little bit in the poetry sections, and indents it a little more than normal paragraphs (about the width of one character).

Finally, we want to suppress verse numbers in the text. I happen to know that PocketBible uses the sup and small tags to superscript the verse numbers. Adding the following line to the CSS file (I added it below blockquote) causes superscripted text to be ignored:

sup {display:none}

That’s it! Once I save my changes to the CSS I’m ready to view the output.

Take a look at the final output: Autostudy January 1, 2019 – Formatted

All I need to do each day is choose the Today Study button from the toolbar, then press View to view my text for the day. I like to choose Print, then PDF, then Open in Preview to get a full-screen, PDF view of the text to read.

When I’m done reading, I mark today’s reading as complete in each of the OT and NT devotional books in PocketBible.

 

Let’s Keep the “X” in “Xmas”

This morning a customer wrote to complain about our use of XMAS in a promotional priority code in one of our marketing emails, prompting this article.

Christians and Christian values are under attack in America today. Nothing like elsewhere in the world, of course, where Christians are being killed or imprisoned for simply thinking a certain way about God. But given that this country was founded on biblical principles by people who held Christian beliefs, it is especially troubling to see those principles and beliefs under direct attack from those who benefit from them but neither understand nor appreciate them.

Because of the constant bullying we all face from “open minded” people who “respect differences”, we are sometimes quick to see offense where none really exists. The concern that some Christians have over the use of the abbreviation Xmas for Christmas is one such situation.

The X in Christmas is actually the Greek letter chi, which is the first letter in the Greek word Χριστος, from which we get “Christ”. Its English counterpart (X) has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for centuries — by some accounts, about 1000 years. The abbreviation X for Christ, and variations such as Xt and Xr, can be found in texts from the 1700’s. In no case is it used to “remove Christ” from the text, but rather as a simple shorthand or perhaps as a recognition of the sacred nature of the name — in the same way that speaking the name of God was prohibited among the Jews, resulting in the unpronounceable 4-letter name (יהוה) that we sometimes see as YHWH in English. The substitution of chi for “Christ” was never meant as an insult but was used by Christians as a way of writing Jesus’ name.

Christianity is full of symbols. The cross in its various forms (the simple ✞ and many variations, including ⳩ and ⳨). The dove that we use in our PocketBible icon. The “fish” symbol. None of these are intended to denigrate the name of Jesus or to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Instead, they serve as powerful shorthand for the great concepts they represent. The cross isn’t just two intersecting lines; it reminds us of Jesus’ substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. It is empty, reminding us of his resurrection. It connects heaven and earth. It spans the gulf between God and humans.

When an unbeliever writes “Xmas” to avoid using the name of Christ, he or she is actually honoring Jesus. To the Christian, the X or chi in Xmas honors Jesus. And it connects us across the centuries to our ancient brothers and sisters in Christ. It is the “secret handshake” that communicates deep spiritual truths that are evident to the believer but hidden from the world. So well hidden, in fact, that some well-meaning believers actually resist its use, arguing that it removes “Christ” from “Christmas”. But they are ignorant of the long history of Christian symbolism. “Xmas” is a Christian term, invented by Christians, with a long history of use in Christian literature, based on the ancient practice of abbreviating the title “Christ” with the Greek letter ​chi​. It is not the invention of political progressives to remove Jesus from the name of the holiday that celebrates his birth.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the animosity that exists in our society between Christians and non-Christians. But the use of Xmas as shorthand for Christmas is not one of them.