App Review: Accordance Bible Software

At TheoTech, we have three Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that exemplify the need for technology entrepreneurship for the Gospel:

  1. Personal prayer for everyone on earth
  2. Thriving, Ubiquitous Multilingual Churches
  3. Worldwide Biblical Literacy

Each goal stems from a Biblical mandate with a contemporary flair rooted in technology’s leverage and scale. We’re pursuing BHAGs #1 and #2 through Ceaseless and spf.io, but haven’t done as much for #3.

So when my friend David Sanford at Accordance Bible Software gave me a free review copy of their English Learner Collection, I was delighted to give it a try and see what’s already happening in this space.

My Bible Study Background

I got hooked on the Bible as a pre-teen, putting the book on my nightstand to remind me to read a passage before going to bed. In middle school I got a Dell Axim PDA and discovered the useful Pocket e-Sword app. This got me reading on the bus. My favorite feature was seeing different translations like the ESV and The Message in parallel.

During my college days I devoured podcasts from Ravi Zacharias, John Piper, RC Sproul and Chuck Swindoll, listening to their teaching during the long commutes. And as a student leader in Cru at the University of Washington, I often referred to Blue Letter Bible and BibleGateway to prepare Bible studies.

Then came the Bible app. By this time I had switched to an Android phone which didn’t have Pocket e-Sword, so I tried the Bible app and stuck to it for two reasons: 1) my notes were synced to the cloud, 2) the daily reading plans were built-in. To this day, I miss viewing translations in parallel and having quick access to commentary resources. I don’t care much for the activity feed/social features.

Which leads to this review of my first real experience with professional Bible software.

Review: Accordance Bible Software

I have a confession to make: It’s been a long time since I’ve done an in-depth Bible study of a text. Though I read for personal and devotional reasons nearly every day, I rarely need to prepare a Bible study, sermon or paper. Most of my recent talks have been focused on the intersection of God’s Kingdom and technology and hence, I’ve leaned away from word studies to working with passages and themes.
Accordance Bible Software

So without further ado, here’s my experience using Accordance as a complete novice.

Installation

I received a link to download the English Learner Collection, entered my key and was greeted with this installer. 705MB of resources! Not too shabby, but I had to wait awhile before I could start using it.

Installation was simple, but it took awhile to download all the resources.

First Impressions

I looked up Ecclesiastes 4 and researched the word “toil”. The Research panel opened on the right showing me the definition. So many words are hyperlinked, which makes it convenient to look up related materials, but I also found my curiosity taking over and leading me down Wikipedia-like rabbit trails. I suppose getting lost in the Bible isn’t a bad thing :).

Looking up the word “toil”.
Diving into “toil” in the original language.
Worship leaders could find this hymn lyrics search useful.

After poking around for a few minutes, two things came up on my wishlist:

  1. I wish I could hear the original language words spoken in Hebrew/Greek by tapping on it.
  2. I wish I could have this on my mobile phone since that’s where I do most of my Bible study nowadays.

 

Word Study

I decided to dive deep into the word “reward”. First stop, the Hebrew lexicon. First discovery: the name Issachar means “there is reward”.

While taking a screenshot on my mac, I discovered that holding the command key while hovering over a word conveniently shows details in the instant detail view.

I clicked on the scripture reference and the instant detail view gave the context for the use of “Issachar”.

Average hits for the word “reward” in each book of the Bible.

Next I tried the “Simple Construct” workspace and stumbled on an analysis view that gave several visualizations to see where words appear in Scripture.

I was surprised to find that “reward” occurs relatively frequently in 2 John, but it turned out to be an anomaly because the book is so short.

A sophisticated analysis tool, which I need more training to understand how to use.

Parallel View

Next I looked up 1 John 5:6 to see if comparing different translations would shed light on the tricky passage.

Unfortunately, my English Learner Collection didn’t come with the translations I wanted to compare, so this view may not be useful unless you buy additional translations.

Also, the comparison view begins as a diff (showing you what words were added/removed between each translation), which makes it hard to read.

The parallel view was difficult to read by default because it shows the differences between each translation. Unchecking “Compare” makes it more readable.

Readability

Speaking of readability, it turns out that the app has a nifty reading mode (shortcut ^R) which makes the text fill the screen.


You can also pop out the instant details widget and put it close to the words you are looking up.

Note Taking

The last thing I tried was creating a note based on my study of the text.

This step is where I realized that although jumping from resource to resource satisfied my curiosity, I needed to pause and simply meditate on the text. The application puts a lot of information at your fingertips, but you still need to stop and think to make something of it.

 

Conclusion

After using Accordance for an hour, I noticed that the tool was leading me to pay closer attention to words, to ask questions about syntax and grammar, to explore inter-textual relationships and to probe. I found myself slowing down and trying to pronounce Hebrew words while reading verses in English. And I found the interface to be easy to explore with many features discoverable by simply clicking around.

I think people seeking an intuitive way to explore the Bible in its original languages will find Accordance very accessible and useful.

However, not being a biblical scholar or pastor by profession, I’m not sure how often I would turn to these tools and resources for personal devotions. Oftentimes the rich resources resulted in more questions than I had time to research.

This curiosity-driven exegesis was enjoyable, but I didn’t reach the point where the app helped me interpret the text and synthesize its implications for my life or others. Perhaps I simply need to spend more time learning the relative value of the different resources and how to use them effectively.

With regard to the goal of Worldwide Biblical Literacy, I think the biggest win would be having the Instant Detail View on my phone (Accordance has an iOS app, but I use Android) along with Strong’s numbers linked to foreign language translations.

The ability to tap on a word and study the underlying Greek or Hebrew and see where else it is used can go a long way to understanding the Bible more precisely. Having it widely available for the majority world (in their language!) on mobile devices would be transformative (Note: it seems like Accordance hosted several seminars in Asia in 2011 2016, see links in comments).

Of course, ultimately Biblical literacy means going beyond understanding Scripture accurately to believing and obeying it and for that we must rely on the Holy Spirit :).

You can learn more about Accordance at accordance.bible and thanks to David for the review copy of the software.

2 ways the Seahawks Parade illustrated the Bible

More than 700,000 people welcomed the Seattle Seahawks from their victory at the Super Bowl. I am proud to say I was one of them. While waiting for the parade to start I was reminded of two stories from the Bible: the story of Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) and the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

1. Zaccheus the short fan.

Seahawks Parade Zaccheus was a short, rich tax collector who wanted to see Jesus as he passed through the city of Jericho.  The crowd completely blocks his vertically challenged view so he runs ahead and climbs a tree.

The Seahawks parade was exactly like this. Some folks climbed honey buckets to get a better view. I resigned myself to holding up my smartphone and sneaking closer and closer to the street as the crowd got antsy.

That aside, I realized that winning the SuperBowl was such an amazing collective experience that all 700,000 of us were willing to wait outside in 25 degree weather just to see and celebrate with our championship team. It helped me feel Zaccheus’ excitement over finally getting to see Jesus–he was so eager to scurry ahead and climb a tree just to get a glimpse. Read the rest of passage to see how that glimpse changed his life.

2. The fans who ran out of juice

Sleepy
Sleepy Fans (Image by Lie Shia Ong)

Jesus tells an odd parable about being ready for his return. Ten young women were waiting for a wedding party to get started, which obviously cannot happen until the groom arrives. He takes so long that the women fall asleep. Then suddenly at midnight he shows up, everyone is stirred up, and they wake up. Five of them brought oil to refill their lamps so they can see, but the other five had to go buy fuel. Unfortunately they take too long, miss meeting the groom, and the feast starts without them.

I similarly did not expect the Seahawks parade to be delayed for over an hour. No one in the crowd knew when they would finally show up and we all occupied ourselves with the occasional cheer, random picture taking and browsing the Internet on our smartphones. Someone would call a friend watching TV who would tell them, “The National Guard just put Pete Carroll into a hummer–he should be there in 10 minutes!” and we would all get ready, but 20 minutes later there would be no one would in sight.

Unprepared

Low BatterySoon my phone chirped the dreaded low battery beep and like the young women in the parable, I wasn’t prepared! By the time Marshawn Lynch, Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson came around I had to carefully ration the pictures I took to ensure my phone would last until the next celebrity. In the end I was so anxious about my battery that I didn’t really get to enjoy the parade itself.

In the case of the parable, the consequences were more severe–exclusion from the party altogether (I didn’t have tickets to CenturyLink anyway), but missing out on the fun of the parade after waiting over an hour in the cold because I was ill-prepared for the delay is a good way to prod me to be ready for the real event I’m looking forward to.

Thank God we have SuperBowl championship parades to help us relate to and understand the Bible :-).

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)

Are Honor Killings Condoned in the Bible?

A friend of mine asked a really hard question. It seems like honor killings are condoned in the Bible. What does this mean for Christians? Below is the Facebook conversation with my response at the end:

######## (My Friend Posted this Question)
We are horrified by honor killings. How barbaric they seem. How anathema these Middle Eastern customs are to our civilized Western ways.

Deuteronomy 22

20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:

21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

 ·  · 
  • ####### likes this.
    • ####### Oh, so the stoning wasn’t just delivered through Prophet Mohammed, it came from the Bible. Interesting.

    • ###### Although, Jesus Christ did refute this rather directly (“whoever be without sin among you, let him throw the first stone”)… but, yeah.

      Also, honour killings are disgusting, and they don’t just happen in the Middle East / at the hands of Muslims.

    • ####### The relationship between Jesus and OT law is very confusing to me. Does His action mean we only disregard this particular instruction? Ought we disregard all OT laws? Are we to parse His words, in search of its bearing on some specific subset of said laws?

      Tuesday at 10:57pm ·  ·  1
    • ####### Maybe ask Christopher Lim? =D

      Tuesday at 10:59pm ·  ·  1
    • ######### no because “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
      19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

      Wednesday at 8:57pm ·  ·  1
    • So, we should still stone adulterers?

      There’s quite a bit of confusion that must be resolved if you are to give a full answer: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/otlaw.html

      skepticsannotatedbible.com

      Contradictions -By Name -By Number -By Book -A short List -Contradictions Forum -In the Quran -In the Book of Mormon
    • ######## You know, the parsimonious explanation is outrageously obvious: the Bible is inconsistent because it is not divinely inspired, and its major claims are false. But surely this notion is unacceptable to most Americans? How does religion escape that standard criterion (which has proved itself through the whole of human history to be by far the most reliable) for evaluating the plausibility of a claim, parsimony?

    • ########, why don’t you ask your neighbor? 😉
      Here is one reference I would point you to: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/how-christ-fulfilled-and-ended-the-old-testament-regime

      Let’s synthesize the points you guys have laid out:
      1. The law says the penalty for a man who falsely accuses a family of giving him a non-virgin wife is 100 lashes and the penalty for a woman who is misrepresented as a virgin to a man when she has actually already fornicated while under her father’s authority is death by stoning in order to purge the outrageous evil from the community
      2. Jesus Christ fully supports the law, upholding it as just and abiding and explaining that an even greater righteousness than the scrupulous pharisees could keep was required to enter his Kingdom
      3. In at least one account, Jesus Christ declares that the one who is without sin may cast the first stone of judgement against the adulteress. (in this context, Jesus was being put to the test since only the Romans had the authority to execute a person and so Jesus was being tested for his allegiance to the Jewish Law or the Roman Law)

      www.desiringgod.org

      Five statements that summarize the magnificent relationship of Jesus Christ to every part of the Scriptures.
      45 minutes ago ·  
    • ######## ‎4. In our modern society, killing a woman for committing adultery seems outrageous compared with the fact that in the time of Moses (and in many Middle Eastern societies today), a woman committing adultery while under her father’s authority was outrageous. This is interesting because while western society judges Middle Eastern society as cruel and harsh, Middle Eastern society judges Western society as immoral and dishonorable.

      42 minutes ago · 
    • ######## Given these observations, we can see that the modern worldview and value system is inconsistent with the ancient Jewish one, the modern Middle Eastern one, and Jesus’ position. However, we can also see that the use of the law in Jesus’ day (and one might suggest the modern Middle Eastern worldview) is also inconsistent with Jesus’ position (because of the mercy he shows the woman). So let’s get to the main question: how does Jesus use the Old Testament and what are his intentions for the present day? He obviously believes his use of it is correct and that the Jews of his day were misusing it. His use of it includes upholding it at every point while also extending mercy to sinners. So if we take the argument of parsimony, we do not need to apply it to the entire Bible, but only to a single book, a single account of the person and work of Jesus. You are suggesting that Jesus himself is inconsistent. He obviously does not think so.

      36 minutes ago · 
    • ######### There are many views on this, so let me simply summarize my understanding. How can Jesus uphold the law while forgiving sinners? Is he inconsistent? First, we have to realize that he really does uphold the law, if we disagree with him, there is an inconsistency between us and him. Second, we have to realize that he really does forgive sinners (which the Jews of his day found blasphemous) and if we disagree with him, there is another inconsistency between us and him. He does not condone adultery, but he does forgive adulterers.

      I believe that he is able to do this because he has the authority to do this–he is God, the one who gave the law in the first place and created humanity. But as it says in Romans 3, it seems that if God forgives sinners than he is unjust and inconsistent! Not quite. Jesus himself fulfills the law on every point and exchanges his righteousness for the sins of everyone who trusts in him. Then because he has their sins, he can suffer the just penalty of the law in their place and because they have his righteousness, they can be forgiven and live and receive his rewards. So Jesus can uphold the law and forgive the adulteress by being “stoned” for the outrage she committed and giving her his righteousness. Note that those who believe in Jesus do not simply engage in a transaction (trade sins for righteousness), but they are united to Christ so that when he dies on the Cross, they are in him and die with him and their sins are judged in him and so that when he raises from the dead they are raised with him and his eternal life is effected in them.

      So what does this imply for moral norms in the present day?

      According to the website Igor pointed out Deuteronomy 4 itself proclaims the laws of Israel as wise and good and this is reaffirmed throughout the entire Scriptures. A society that seeks to be just and good could adopt the principles and precepts of the law given to Israel (many of the ordinances were also very specific to the agrarian ancient culture, like rules about farm animals, but the New Testament writers like Paul’s use the principles of the law in teaching for example that preachers of the gospel should be paid for their work).

      20 minutes ago · 
    • ######### Even so, the it is not necessary to create a theocratic system of government. The whole new testament is full of the story of how the Kingdom and Government of God is to dwell in and coexist with the Kingdom and Governments of this present world order. And it quite clearly is not by theocratic rule. Jesus came to establish his Kingdom and he fully believed that one day he would return to judge the Kingdom of this World, but he did not give that judgment to his people yet. Rather, his people are to submit to the governing authorities as submitting to him until he returns and fix their hope fully on the grace they will receive when he returns (1 Peter) (all this to say that Jesus did not send his disciples on a quest to make every government follow the laws of Israel)

      However, within the church should we follow the laws of Israel? Not quite. Jesus has fulfilled the law and set us free from being under the law (Romans 3-6). He establishes a royal law of love (Love your neighbor as you love yourself). Since he has done away with sins and paid the penalty for them once and for all, the Christian community (church) no longer stones adulteresses. The state has that power, but the church is about proclaiming to sinners that they can be forgiven by God through faith in Jesus Christ. The church proclaims that the day of judgment is coming when everyone will be “stoned” because they have all sinned against God either in the adulteress’ way of immorality or in the pharisee’s way of self-righteous pride, but that God is calling all people everywhere of any background to repent (change their mind and their ways) and trust in Christ for salvation from this judgment, for citizenship in God’s kingdom where righteousness and peace dwell.

      So what happens when people in the church break God’s law? They are disciplined, but not punished. The discipline is intended to restore them, so that they will not be swept away on the judgment day, but to bring them to remember God’s kindness so that they will repent, and delight once more in God instead of falling away.

      What happens when people outside the church break God’s law? We have our civil authorities and our democratic political systems by which we as a community decide on our laws. Christians are just one group of citizens at the table who influence the process. Can they promote ancient Jewish laws? Yes it is permissible. Should they? Maybe not (for many different reasons, some of which I hope emerge from the writings above). Christians should certainly embody and promote the royal law of love instituted by Christ (love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself), which is the fundamental principle behind the entire old testament law. In a sense, the whole OT Law is an expression and explication of it in one particular cultural context.

      3 minutes ago ·