I remember it like it was yesterday. Our budget was shoestring thin, but my wife was willing to let me spend some money. I got in my car and drove to BestBuy. With one hundred dollars spent, I had purchased my first PDA (personal digital assistant), the Palm Z22. It had 32 megabytes of memory, 20 of which were available for me to do whatever I wished. My plan for the device was to always have a Bible in my pocket. I wanted into the world of mobile Bible apps.
The Palm Z22 came recommended by my best friend, Antoine RJ Wright, who ran an online magazine at the time called Mobile Ministry Magazine. He was all about the intersection of faith & technology. As we talked he kept telling me about his Palm Treo and how he could do so many cool things with the Bible on his phone. I wanted in, and this was my most affordable entry point.
When I got home from BestBuy, I immediately installed Palm Bible+ & any free study resources I could find. Within a couple weeks I learned how to build my own Bibles & resources, and I was on my way. Now, wherever I went, I had God’s Word with me. No longer did I need to carry a physical Bible to church or keep one in my car’s glove compartment. I could read my Bible & devotions anywhere! I was liberated by the freedom of mobile Bible apps & haven’t looked back since!
That was 2006. Technology has come a long way since then, but one thing remains the same: the Bible & technology go hand in hand. Since getting that Palm Z22, I’ve read through the entire Bible using a Bible app on an iPod Touch. Even a couple years ago, I prepared and preached a sermon from an iPad Mini using a different Bible app. There is so much power to study God’s Word in handheld devices.
Today, I want us to look at mobile Bible apps. We’ll start with a history of Bible & technology and then look at some reasons why you should use Bible apps. These days, I believe no one should be without a mobile Bible app of some manner.
When we talk about the Bible we have to understand that it’s always been on or near the bleeding edge of technology. At first, the Bible was written on scrolls, which wasn’t very functional, given the large amount of text the Bible contained. Given it’s size, it had to be written on multiple scrolls. Then came the invention of the codex (book), which Christians jumped on fairly quickly as a new means of distributing the text of God’s Word in the late First Century and early Second Century. Then there’s Gutenberg’s printing press, which revolutionized the availability of Scripture! Gutenberg made it possible for the laity to have their own copy of the Bible.
When computers became widely available, what was the first thing Christians (and geeks) wanted to do? Put the Bible on it! Ever since the 1980’s, the digital Bible had primarily been limited to the realm of desktop computing. If you wanted to study the Bible, you had to be one of the lucky few who could afford a computer in your home, and then afford the software (which came on numerous floppy disks). Not too long after, things started going mobile with the popularity of things like the Franklin Pocket Bible, a calculator-like device that displayed the text of a single Bible.
It wasn’t until the rise of PDAs in the 1990’s that digital Bibles began to evolve. With the PDA you had a multi-use device in the palm of your hand. This is when apps like Laridian and Olive Tree came on the scene, as well as open source projects like Palm Bible+. Even still, this was a world limited to those with the financial means to own such devices. In a day when these devices were limited, access was limited to business professionals, pastors with deep pockets, or those on the bleeding edge of technology. As prices for such devices dropped in subsequent years, their popularity rose.
Enter 2007 & 2008, now we have the first iPhone & Android devices. This is when the market shifted dramatically and became what we know today. Nearly everyone has a smartphone, and Bible apps are a dime a dozen. And let’s not forget January 27, 2010 when the first iPad was announced. I remember being on a business trip visiting Olive Tree when this announcement happened. Their developers were so excited that they had a working prototype of their app running on the iPad simulator that afternoon. Needless to say, Bible software has grown tremendously since the launch of those first iDevices.
Now, in 2018, we have Bible apps that can do all sorts of things. There are Bible apps that sync to their desktop equivalents (Accordance, Logos, Olive Tree). We have apps for memorizing Scripture (ScriptureTyper & Verses). There are even apps with the Bible in many different languages (YouVersion). And you can’t forget the apps that are all about making the Bible look beautiful (NeuBible). You get the idea.
Just think, all of this happened because Christians have always been on the bleeding edge of technology, pushing the Bible and Bible study forward into the future. And we live in a world that gets to reap all its benefits.Whether it's the codex or mobile phones, Christians have always used technology to push God's Word forward. Click To Tweet
It’s great to see what Christians are doing with the Bible and technology, but why should does matter to us? Well, I would argue that there are so many benefits to having a mobile Bible app (or two, or three, or four) on your smartphone or tablet. Let’s look at some of the more important reasons.
This might sound obvious to say, but it’s so true. Most of us are never outside an arm’s reach of our phone. Why not make sure our Bible is just as close? I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve needed to look up something in the Bible, but I didn’t have one nearby. I mean, there are just some times when it’s not convenient to carry a Bible around with you. Instead of panicking, I pulled out my phone, found what I needed and didn’t miss a beat.
There have also been plenty of times where I’ve been waiting somewhere and I just wanted to read my Bible. Having the Bible on my phone has been there to bail me out every single time.
Remember, this was the reason I had my Palm Z22, and even then I was carrying two devices (it and my phone). Now all I need to carry is my iPhone.The Bible: Never leave home without it! Click To Tweet
If you own a lot of Bible study resources, there are only so many you can carry around with you. I mean, let’s be honest, even if all you carried with you was a study Bible, they are unwieldy enough that they can become a burden to carry. Yet, with a mobile Bible app can literally carry an entire theological library in your pocket without even so much as straining. You can even balance it on the tip of your finger if you wanted to.
While I do keep a personal size Bible in my bag, I have everything I need to study God’s Word on my iPad. In my app of choice I have downloaded: multiple Bibles, Greek & Hebrew Bibles, several study Bibles, multiple commentary sets, dictionaries, maps, sermons, my personal notes, as well as several trade books for reading & study. Even on my phone I keep my favorite handful of resources downloaded so I’m never without them. Not to mention, any notes I take on my iPad are synced to my phone, and vice versa.Why carry stacks of books when you can carry an entire seminary library in the palm of your hands? Click To Tweet
I love this video below from Olive Tree promoting their Mac app because it illustrates this point perfectly. In this video you’ll see someone studying and then trying to fit everything into their backpack. You then witness the benefit of having everything digitally.
You might not believe me, but mobile Bible apps are more powerful than their print counterparts. Just imagine you need to search the topic of grace. In a physical book you have to search the index or flip until you find what you’re looking for. Then you have to repeat this with every book you want to search. With an app like Logos or Olive Tree everything is only a search away. Or, if you’re studying a passage, it’ll present you with all of your relevant resources, no searching required. Not to mention, you can copy & paste snippets into notes, make highlights (and remove them), and have it all backed up safely in the cloud. You can’t do any of that in a physical book, except for highlighting.
And don’t forget how fast digital is. Most things can be done so fast digitally that it takes magnitudes of time longer to complete the same process with a physical book. About the only thing I think I can do faster with a physical resource is open my Bible to any given verse or opening a book to an exact page.Anything a print Bible can do, a digital Bible can do better and faster! Click To Tweet
As I’ve already mentioned, physical books take up a lot of space. Depending on the kind of study you’re doing, you will need a very large table (and long arms) to have all of your books open. Yet, with a mobile Bible app, you can read or study anything anywhere. With your library stored on your phone or tablet, you can study from your favorite coffee shop, read your daily devotional while riding the bus, or journal your thoughts on a passage while waiting in the doctor’s office.
As this video below from Olive Tree shows, the possibilities for where you study are endless. You can start your study at home, pick it up on your phone later in the day, and so on. And yes, that’s me in the video.
One of the big advantages of mobile Bible apps is the ease with which you can share God’s Word with others. With a couple taps you can share a verse or image to social media or text it to a friend. With apps like YouVersion you can even read the Bible with friends (like what we’re doing in the 2018 Bible Challenge).
For as much as Bible study is an individual activity, it is also one to be done in community. And mobile Bible apps make it easy for us to live in community with one another and converse over God’s Word, even from opposite sides of the world. You certainly can’t do that with a physical Bible!
With mobile Bible apps you don’t have to limit your Bible study. Keep God’s Word and your study tools with you at all times so you’re always ready to dig out the truth of Scripture. If anything, mobile Bible apps will enhance your Bible study and make it easier.
So, if you don’t already have a Bible app on your phone or tablet, download one today. I recommend starting with either YouVersion or Olive Tree. Leave a comment below or send me an email with your favorite Bible app and let me know how you use it to better understand the Word of God.
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages: