Archives For Bible Study

I get asked quite often how much money one should spend on building a personal library, and about what sort of books should be in that library. My answer usually directs them to some good reference tools, such as commentaries and Bible dictionaries, or other Main Carouselresources that they will return to often. But my answer has recently changed. If you want to get a resource that will be with you the rest of your life, I would recommend a Bible software program. And if you want a Bible software program, I’d highly recommend Accordance.

Let me give you a quick back-story so you can learn from my mistake. When I was doing my master’s degree, I kept eying all the Bible programs out there (Gramcord, Logos, Bible Works, and Accordance), but I never ended up buying any of them. They can be expensive, especially for a seminary student living on Ramen noodles. So I kept buying books and more books, and at the end of my degree, I could have easily afforded a Bible program for half the price of what I spent on books (granted, some of the books were necessary).

When I started my Ph.D., I had my heart set on getting a Bible program and I had my eye on Accordance, which my friends all said was the most highly acclaimed program for high-level study. But then I started hanging out with some super smart (like, creepy smart) professors, who mocked the idea of Bible programs. “If you want to know how many times a Greek word is found in the New Testament, just read the Greek New Testament.”

Yes, thank you, I thought. But how about the rest of us who don’t have an encyclopedic memory of all the words in the Greek New Testament?

In any case, I continued to flip vocab cards and write down word occurrences, and never actually bought a Bible program. And that was a mistake. I could have saved a ton of time and not a few tears if I had just bit the financial bullet and purchased Accordance.

This is why I am so thankful that as of Summer 2014, I am a proud owner of Accordance! And it has revolutionized my study.

For those of you who don’t know, Accordance (like other programs) gives you a wealth of sources, such as books, commentaries, atlases, reference tools, translations (tons of translations); but it also allows you to search for words, phrases, Greek and Hebrew constructions, and other such functions to enable you to dig deep into the text. I won’t go into detail about how to do this—Accordance has many tutorials and videos to guide you through this. But I do want you to know that it is much easier than I thought.

For instance, if you wanted to see how many times the Greek word agape occurs in the New Testament, you can do this with one click. But this is only the beginning of a whole new world. With a few more clicks, you can see which books or which authors use the Accordance 10 screenshotword, in which form (future, past, present), how many times the noun form is used (agape) along with the verb (agapao), along with the adjective, adverb, and other words with the same root. You can search the Greek translation of the Old Testament, other commentaries and dictionaries that use the word, and this is still only the beginning. With just a few simple clicks, you can have a screen full of definitions, stats, articles, and parallels that will keep you busy for hours.

But Accordance isn’t just for language study. A lot of you probably don’t know Greek and probably never will. If you’re wondering if Accordance is just for the ivory tower or those climbing it, then you may be interested in one of the lower level packages, such as the Bible Study Collection or even the Starter version. Even these will give you access not only to a bunch of English resources (including several translations and dictionaries), but will also link up all the English words with the Greek word in Strong’s Concordance, which you may be familiar with.

Another thing I like about Accordance is that the different packages (there are 6 levels in all) don’t bog you down with too many resources that you will never use. I haven’t done a thorough search through all the other Bible programs out there, but some of the ones I’ve looked at seemed to have tons of sources that I would never read and would never recommend my students reading (outdated commentaries from 100 years ago or books written by people that will only lower your grade if you cite them on a research paper—at least in my class). Now, there are still some books in Accordance that I will probably never use, but the list seems smaller than other programs.

But if you’re thinking about buying a Bible program, I’d definitely recommend doing your own research on them all before you do. While I’m extremely happy with Accordance, I would make sure it’s the right fit for you. I would recommend spending an hour touring through some of the videos on the Accordance Vimeo page, or some of the tutorials they have online, to see if it’s the type of program that will help you in your studies. And if you do end up getting Accordance, I would highly recommend putting it into your mind that you will take the time to watch even more videos to learn how to use it. Accordance is the Photoshop of Bible Software; you can do some basic stuff right away but will need to invest some time learning all of its endless capabilities.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Holyfield Phil 4;13On the night that Evander Holyfield defeated Mike Tyson to win his third heavyweight championship, he entered the arena with “Philippians 4:13” embroidered on his robe and shorts. The verse reads: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What an amazing verse! We would do well to take it to heart. It’s one of the first verse that I memorized, and it has been a constant reminder to me that no situation is too difficult for God, no trial is without hope. Perhaps if Christians took this promise from God seriously, we would undertake more on his behalf than sitting in a church service an hour each week.

But as important as Philippians 4:13 is, it is also one of the most misused verses in all of Scripture. Holyfield is an excellent example of this. Presumably, he put the reference on his shorts because he believed that he could beat the tar out of Mike Tyson through Christ who strengthened him. He said as much in an interview: “With God on your side, the things you choose to do, you can do.”

It’s a blank check promise, then. Create your own goal, then invoke Philippians 4:13 and God will make it happen. How very Walt Disney: “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true through him who strengthens you” (Phil. 4:13, New Disney Translation).

Or perhaps Paul had something different in mind when he wrote those important words. The context provides some important clues.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)

What exactly is it that Paul can do through Christ who strengthens him? He says it clearly. He has learned to be content in every situation. He knows how to endure without having anything. He knows how to be in need. He knows how to go hungry. God has taught him to be content in that. God has strengthened him through it. And on the flipside, God has strengthened him through those times when he has “abounded,” when he has had plenty. It’s not about the situation. It’s about the God who empowered him to be content in every situation.

Philippians 4:13, then, is not about getting God to bankroll your ambitions. It’s about God’s strength enabling us to live in contentment in whatever situation he sets before us.

Evander Holyfield would have made better use of the verse if he believed that entering that ring would mean enduring the beating of a lifetime: “I can be content with getting the tar beat out of me by Mike Tyson through him who strengthens me.”

Marytrs in the ColosseumIn terms of Church History, this is exactly what many Christians have meant as they clung to the truth of Philippians 4:13. Christians have been thrown to lions, lit on fire, beheaded, crucified, disemboweled, and ruthlessly beaten for the sake of Christ. And as they have done so, they have clung to the promise that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.

So let’s quote Philippians 4:13 often, but as we do, let’s be sure that we’re quoting Paul’s version rather than Evander Holyfield’s.