Deus in Machina: Reading (and Studying) the Old, Old Story on your Tablet

(Part 1 of 2)

by Kevin Hester

As a non-digital native, whenever I think of Scripture I envision my first “real” Bible. It was a red-letter, leather-bound, Old Scofield Reference Bible. I still have it and I still use it from time to time though its condition is in need of an update. Since then, I have added concordances, commentaries, lexicons and other translations. All of these things are necessary for any serious student of God’s Word.

When personal computers became commercially available, it wasn’t long until technologically savvy Christians began to see the potential of these machines for making such tools of Biblical study readily available. Early versions offered little more than a searchable digital text, but it still proved helpful. Soon thereafter, however, there was an explosion of digital software and programs to aid in exegesis and study. I missed most of this. I was in seminary and a graduate program at the time. Surrounded by libraries that had all the familiar study tools to which I had grown accustomed, and being a bit of a Luddite, I contented myself with playing along the shores of what was becoming a vast ocean.

When I became a professor at Welch College I was often asked about the best Biblical study tools. I was comfortable talking about the bound volumes I had grown to love, but when they asked, “what about for my computer?” I was unable to offer any advice. I began to look into what was available, but quickly became overwhelmed. There were so many unfamiliar terms, price packages, and statements related to system requirements that I had almost decided that if parchment was good enough for Paul, it was likely good enough for me.

This is why I was so excited when Mr. Allan Crowson, Welch College’s Director of Online and Adult Studies, showed me his paper entitled, “Some Thoughts on Scripture Study Software.” I had never seen such a simple presentation of these terms, packages, and their capabilities before. I also knew that he wasn’t trying to sell me anything.

While I am sure that most of you who are reading this know more than I do about what is available in the market, I am sure that some of you are also like I was. You see the potential, but you don’t know where to begin. Mr. Crowson has happily given me permission to share his article with you. I would suggest that you begin here.



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