I’ve been using the online Bible study tools at blueletterbible.org for years now. Speaking as a web designer, it’s not a very well designed site; but speaking as a student of the Bible, it’s a very useful site. I primarily use the concordance and dictionary features when I want help understanding a word or phrase in the English translation I happen to be reading. Sometimes, we all need a little help. After all, when was the last time you used the word “propitiation”, or “covenant”, in a sentence? – Like, “I saw on Sports Center that the MLB owners are drawing up a covenant offering propitiation to players caught up in the PED scandal.”
Right – that’s just meaningless on a lot of levels.
But, you get the point. Bible study tools are helpful; “free” and “online” just raises the value into bonus territory.
So, when I found out that BLB launched a free iPhone application, I was eager to try it out. Currently, I use YouVersion for iPhone, which has an easy-to-use interface, but it’s wonky search function and absent study tools make it just “good enough until something better comes along.” Blue Letter Bible’s new app just might be it. Here’s a short summary of what I found…
Not So Good News…
- Just like BLB’s web version, the app’s overall design isn’t very appealing and appears a bit dated.
- Just like the web version, there are lots of non-obvious looking icons you have to learn in order to navigate and use the tools. This lengthens the learning curve and makes getting around the app a little slow at first.
- Some of the included Commentaries just aren’t very good, insightful, or helpful.
- They created an auto-scrolling function. Cute, but what’s the point of that on an iPhone? Scrolling is the main way to use an iPhone.
- I didn’t see any way to look up a simple introduction to a Bible book, for example an introduction to the Gospel of John.
- You can totally personalize the interface (font size and types, background colors, line spacing, etc) to make it more readable and appealing to your aesthetic senses. See the screen shot at the bottom of this post.
- The app comes with three English translations installed on your iPhone, with lots more available (but not down-loadable) for free via the web.
- It has all of BLB’s web tools so it’s EXTREMELY useful. You have easy access to:
- Multiple commentaries including good ones like Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Fausset & Brown;
- Bible Dictionaries and lexicons including Vine’s;
- Greek and Hebrew texts;
- Strong’s Concordance with a great interlinear view of transliterated Greek with English;
- Split screen comparison view of two versions.
- Create notes, create your own color-coded highlights, bookmark, organize folders of passages, view history.
The Best News…
The best news is that unlike the web version, the BLB for iPhone was created to be useful for daily Bible reading. So, you can use this app to read through Romans 3 before work, look up “propitiation” in Strong’s on your lunch break, and read Matthew Henry’s commentary on it before bed. Pretty handy.
The new BLB for iPhone App has lots of value as a daily Bible reader and study assistant once you learn the navigation and icon system. It falls a little short as a “Study Bible” since it lacks the useful book introductions typically contained in one. It’s not perfect, but for now it’s the most useful FREE Bible app I’ve found. If you want to try it yourself, you can find it at blueletterbible.org/iphone.