An email came into my inbox the other day from Logos.com, the company that developed the Logos Bible Software. Now, if you follow this blog at all, you know that I’m not really a great admirer of this program, though I do use it as my primary Bible software currently. I would love to use Olivetree or TW5 or some other free or cost effective program, but they just do not have the features that Logos does. Despite this, I don’t think the tool and feature set that Logos does have really justifies the prices they demand.
So, let’s jump in and see if Logos really does provide “bible tools for every budget”….
My Current Setup and What I Paid
Over the last 15-20 years I’ve used The Word Bible Software exclusively. It was a major step up from e-sword at the time, and its major selling point was it had a free module for the Apostolic Bible Polyglot (a Greek NT/OT).
Unfortunately, despite TW5 serving me well all those years for free, with plenty of good commentaries and other study tools that cost me nothing, I did find as I started my Master’s degree and then went on to my Doctorate that TW5 was really not cutting it. It has limited search capabilities compared to what I was needing. I could not easily import existing ebooks that I had and search them as well. Though not a functional issue, the interface was really dated and the formatting of each module was different, leaving search results hit or miss.
I went out searching for a new program, willing for the first time in my life to pay money for a Bible software. The first thing I recognized right off the bat was the commercial programs required large internal hard drives. For whatever (ridiculous) reason, they could not operate or store modules on external flash drives, etc. This required the purchase of a new laptop ($400) and then the purchase of a program. I initially selected Accordance and what a mistake that was. It is a terrible product put out by really unprofessional people. The most oft used phrase I received on the forum or from tech support was, “No, Accordance doesn’t do that.”
Out of desperation, and after spending around $500 for modules, I abandoned ship and started experimenting with Logos’ free version. After a month or so of watching videos on YouTube I had a good idea what I needed and what the program could do. Here is what I finally ended up with concerning software and modules.
1. Software – Academic Essentials
2. English Bibles – NKJV, EOB, NET, NIV, LES, LEB, NLT, KJV, ESV, etc.
3. Greek Bibles – TR, BYZ, LXX, NA28,
4. Hebrew Bibles – Masoretic
5. Commentaries – Faithlife Study Bible, New CommentaryPulpit, UBS Handbooks, Haydock,
6. Tools – ISBE, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, BDB, Thayer, Eerdmans Dictionary
7. Other – Church Fathers 37vol, various ebooks imported
Overall, I’ve spent just shy of $1000 for everything on the Logos platform. Unfortunately, while the desktop version is quite stable and mature, the android version is neither. Last year, when I switched to using my android phone as my main computer with a bluetooth keyboard attached, I quickly discovered that the android Logos app was severely limited and did not work well with the keyboard. Even basic tasks like copy/pasting text was impossible. After struggling to finish my ThD dissertation with the android logos mobile app, out of desperation, I broke down and purchased yet another laptop (MacBook) just to get back to a functional Bible software.
But, at nearly every turn, I have been priced out of modern tools (this might actually be a blessing). I simply refuse to pay $1000 or more for a commentary set. This limitation has given me the time to be able to thoroughly research these titles (like the Word Biblical Commentary) to ultimately discover they are not really very dependable, consistent, or consistent with a straightforward, plain reading of the text.
If I were to do it again, I would skip the UBS Handbooks. Even at the $299 price I paid for them, they are not really the first place I go to find comment on a verse.
The positives, though, do outweigh the often exorbitant and limiting prices. First, the interface and the font/formatting is quite modern and refreshing. There is a reading mode which works well when doing devotionals. In this latest iteration, I have been able to create a layout that really works with my process. I have the main screen all the way over to the left of the screen, with a search window open and filling the remaining space to the right. I have added several tabs to the search window, namely: TSK, Exegetical Guide, Topic Guide, Cited By, NET Bible Notes (with parallels of all commentaries), New Commentary, Pulpit, UBS Handbooks, and then an index for the Church Fathers. All of these are linked together with the main text in the left side window so everything updates as I move from verse to verse. Back in the left window I have the NKJV (with parallels to all English Bibles), the Greek Texts, The Church Fathers. In the informational pane to the right of this main left side window is the Informational pane, Devotional Reading Schedule, English Bible tab, and then various apparatuses.
Having the main screen basically divided in the middle makes it much easier to look at text while also having my Scrivener window open (which is on the right).
It works currently for my post-doc position where I volunteer as a student mentor and am enrolled in a systematic study program of the 66 books of the Bible. And if I were prepping sermons each week I could see the benefit of some of the tools available, such as the cited by tool, the exegetical tool, and the passage tool, but, thankfully, I am not (I guess there is an argument to be made that each one of my blog posts can be likened to a sermon, but I won’t press that argument).
A Free Option?
But, the question remains, does Logos provide a Bible Tool for every budget? Let me run a few hypotheticals:
First off, the very fact that I had to upgrade by just under $1000 is an indication that Logos does not provide Bible Tools for the poor or moderately income levels. The free version of Logos Academic Basic:
1. KJV, LEB, LES,
2. Lex Heb, SBL
3. A Few Bible Dictionaries
4. New Commentary
This package would give you the KJV, which is fine but ridiculously obsolete when it comes to readability (in my opinion). I base this on sitting in a pew as a new believer with an NIV in my hand and every time an obsolete word came up the pastor would take a moment to explain it. It was already corrected in the NIV. Now, I do not recommend anyone use the NIV as their primary Bible, though I did use it for the first year I was a believer and it served me well. But, it’s basic fault is it contains the critical text in the actual text while relegating the majority and textus receptus to the footnotes. You can have the reverse by using the NKJV.
There is provided here, though, the Lexham English Bible which is the equivalent of a modern English translation, though it does not follow the MT, but the critical just like the NIV. So, while, technically, the free package does provide an English translation, they could have thrown a few more in the mix to ease translation pain, or at least add a modern version of the TR English (such as the NKJV).
It does provide more than one Bible dictionary, which are fine. I would prefer the ISBE, but it cost me an additional $17.99 to purchase. In my opinion it is important to have older resources or, at least, have both so you can better gauge the critical creep that most modern commentaries contain.
There is included also a New Testament Greek Apparatus, which is helpful for sorting through the textual variants. And, while it does provide some basic language texts (Hebrew/Greek) it only provides the SBL GNT which is a critical text. Again, they could have included a TR or Majority text as well. With the additional lexicons provided it is possible that the original languages are covered to a point (not the Textus Receipts). A few of these are interlinears or reverse interlinears (which are great since you don’t have to leave your preferred English translation to get at the original languages).
Overall, I think the free program with the free tools is a pricing stunt and cannot actually be recommended as a genuine group of study tools for today. Yes, you can pay a little extra and get a few additions to your lineup (such as a few more English translations to balance the textual issues), but unless you’re willing to spend a few hundred dollars, you will not have any kind of comprehensive references to check in with when you need to.
The reality is, Logos is executing a pricing strategy in both their marketing and operations. They do not genuinely provide a valid group of bible study tools for every budget because their pricing strategy actually zeros out those who have less money in favor of their target customer: wealthy or affluent professing Christians who have a larger disposable income and professional ministry or para-ministry workers who have a large budget to work with. Example: someone I once became acquainted with had spent $32,000 on Logos resources. Yes. I said $32,000. That’s not a typo. That’s almost what my house cost me when I bought at the bottom of the market. I can live on that amount for several years. It’s kind of gross just thinking about it, if I’m honest. But, this is the target customer Logos is looking at attracting.
One way they illustrate this is by how they price their commentaries. Most range between $500 and $1000 with a few at $2000 or more. I, personally, think buying commentaries that are not a complete set are a waste of time and this factor has actually left me rather soured by modern commentary sets. It’s the first thing people say when asking for opinions about a particular set like the New International Commentary or the Word Biblical Commentary, “It’s not consistent. This book is good but that one is not.”
Additional issues with commentary sets with Logos is lack of consistency with complete sets. I purchased the UBS Handbooks because they were highly praised by a few people I was influenced by, and the price surprising dropped down to my “buy” number ($299). After purchasing, though, I discovered at least one book was not included in the series. The book was in print elsewhere, but oddly not included. Nothing was mentioned in the notes about this missing book in the sales copy. The only way I would have know is if I had compared the list included with a list from the Bible (which I now do). But, it just seems a little unethical in my view.
Theoretically, any budget can take advantage of Logos software. Even free of charge. But, while technically correct, practicality would conclude that the person using the free version will have some gaps in their resources, making things more difficult. So, really, the email I received the other day claiming, “Bible Tools on any Budget” is really disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst. I would argue Logos purposefully makes the free version of their product just uncomfortable enough to encourage users to upgrade. It is a marketing gimmick if nothing else and is akin to purposefully building a failure rate into a product so the customer has to buy a new one down the road.
No Different than any Other Business, But…
But, what might surprise people, Logos or Faithlife (the company behind the program) is actually NOT a ministry at all. They are not a non-profit ministry. Their purpose is not to serve the body of Christ at all, but to bring a product to a particular customer and maximize profit.
Now, there is a lot of talk on the forums and around the Christian community as users makes quick excuses for Logos with things like, “Well, everything is a business” or “They have to pay their bills, too.” The error here does not lie on Logos doing something wrong, but on modern, western Christianity and especially evangelicalism which is a kind of hybrid quasi-religious version of Christianity that has so commingled itself with capitalism that it can no longer tell the difference between the two. And this Logos is counting on. It counts on Christians to think and behave like capitalists, like consumers, and not like biblical Christians.
It would be one thing if Logos (Faithlife) claimed to be doing a ministry service for the Church. But, even if they did that they would still find good company in the plethora of “ministries” that operate no different than a secular corporation. Most modern Churches today are not biblical but corporate entities with the expressed mission of reaching the world but practicality would say their real goal is to gather, sate, and extract from the middle class. Yes, yes. I hear all the protesting. We need a place to meet. Pastors need to feed their families. How can we give if we don’t combine our resources? I’ve heard all the excuses. The problem is “pastor” is not an actual biblical term (it’s only used once in the Bible in Ephesians 4:11, but it’s for the Greek word for elder or shepherd). Rid the pastor parasite from the fellowship and you free up 60% sometimes 80-90% of the churches ongoing resources. Light a match to that godawful “meeting room” and you now really have something to “use for the poor.”
But, the Angel in Revelation is pretty clear, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still” (Re 22:11).
Best Overall Commentary on Logos
I did want to mention, as I do frequently, that I did find a serendipitous surprise shortly after switching over to Logos from TW5. In that previous program I was able to take advantage of Lange’s Commentary, JFB Commentary, and a few others like the Cambridge Commentary and the Cambridge Greek NT and Meyer’s Exegetical Commentary on the NT. When I switched over to Logos, though, these commentaries were quite expensive (sounds familiar). While Meyer’s and the Cambridge GNT was affordable, the others were hovering around $250 – $300. That’s just too much for any one commentary in my view. Plus, by this point, I’d had a few years with each of these titles and knew their weaknesses quite well.
In the process of the first few months of using Logos and filling in the holes, I stumbled onto the Pulpit commentary. To my surprise, it was quite affordable (I think $79) and it is one of the few commentaries to be verse by verse, book by book, does not seem to squeeze a preconceived agenda, is not hamstring by critical interpretive techniques, and actually covers all 66 books in a rather consistent way.
Over the first year of using it, I was shocked to find its depth was truly outstanding. It deals with the original languages when it needs to, exceptionally so, and does not use unnecessary academic jargon to make it feel important. I’ve found pairing the Pulpit Commentary with the UBS Handbooks and the other free single volume commentaries from Logos (especially the Faithlife Study Bible Notes and the NET Bible Notes) and then also maximizing utility of all my resources (including imported titles which I have quite a few) by using the Cite By tool (especially helpful getting as much out of a huge library like the 37 vol of the Church Fathers allows me to get an overview of any verse or passage in the Bible from my entire library almost instantaneously. Additionally, having the ability to do a deep dive into any resource with the Reading Mode is quite nice. I can also make extensive use of the advanced search capabilities of Logos (one of the main reasons I bought a MacBook and went back to the desktop version) and the system is quite universal and uniform in its presentation of those texts. I actually used this feature extensively during my ThD dissertation and found I could look up a word, phrase, or execute relational searches between keywords in a variety of configurations and the flexibility of the system allowed me to open all of these search results (the ones I manually selected) into a separate floating window that could be full-screened for further exploration.
But, hands down, the greatest tool so far that I’ve been able to take advantage of since switching to Logos has been the Pulpit Commentary. Personally, I do wish the Word Bible Software developers had plans to modernize their product and add some uniformity to the module displays and add some advanced search capabilities. If they did I would stay with them the rest of my life. But, when it became apparent that TW5 had no plans of new iterations in the future, Logos became my next best option.
Logos is certainly no prize when it comes to it’s business tactics, its unethical marketing strategies, or it’s claims to be “serving” the Church when in fact it is operating no different than any other for-profit organization on the planet. But, because it is not a ministry and is just a secular corporation, it really needs to be examined based on that criteria, not a ministry one. It has a product. It costs a certain amount. There are many different options and does cater to a wide spectrum of people on the economic class scale. But, it certainly does not provide Bible tools for every budget. But, then again, maybe I’m an outlier. I am in most other respects so why not here too.
If someone is doing basic searches, basic reading, and has no need for importing titles they already own, you actually will do much better with a free program like TW5. You can get quite a balanced set of tools that will allow you to dig into the text like you can’t with paper tools (even if you drag around a duffel bag on wheels full of books like I used to in my 20’s). But, if you needs something more advanced, like you are a pastor (I would rethink that occupation if I were you), or a professor, or you teach in your church, or you are a seminary student getting your MTS, ThM, PhD, or ThD, I would recommend Logos and an eclectic base package + add ons that costs no more than $1000 (actually you can spend as much as you want, I’m not your mother). Like I said above, I would avoid the newer, flashier (and ridiculously expensive) commentaries available, or at least combine them with older commentary sets for comparison. There is a whole lot of twisting of the Scriptures going on today, so you really need to be careful what well you draw from. And, for heaven’s sake, I do not recommend you even try Accordance. It is a pitiful program put out by a company with terrible customer service. Save yourself 6 months of aggravation and just use Logos or TW5.
Until my next post….
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!