Oct 4, 2010 David Lang

Is Bible Software Primarily About the Library?

In preparation for a comparative review, a Mac reviewer recently asked users of another Bible program how they thought it compares with Accordance. The answers were all interesting, but one of the more notable responses came from one of that developer's former marketing employees. He wrote, in part, that "both programs are, in essence, about accessing information in a library." He then went on to say that because the other program has a larger overall library, it is the better Bible software choice. He continued: "That's a big point for those wanting to do Biblical studies. A big library is important."

Is Accordance primarily "about accessing information in a library"? Well, we certainly offer a massive library of material, including many resources which no one else has. We have always led the field in offering resources for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinics, textual criticism, Septuagint studies, early Christian literature, ancient inscriptions, and the like. We have also long offered popular resources like Zondervan books and commentaries, the ESV Study Bible, the Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible, Hendrikson books and commentaries, and more which other developers either do not have or have only recently acquired. Finally, our Atlas, Timeline, and Bible Lands PhotoGuide remain the most powerful, flexible, and thorough resources for studying the history and geography of the Bible. We are continually working to expand our library of materials and offer the most complete library we can.

Yet while we recognize the importance of offering a large library, we would never say that library access is the primary function of Bible study software. Bible study software should be, "in essence," about offering tools for studying the Bible, and only secondarily about accessing a large number of secondary resources. It is this clear sense of priority which drives us to make interaction with the Biblical text primary in the Accordance user experience.

I was actually thinking about this last week, when I taught an all-day Accordance training seminar at Dallas Theological Seminary. I spent almost the entire day showing how to use Accordance's powerful feature set to exegete a passage of Scripture, and really only mentioned commentaries and other secondary literature in passing. Yes, I showed off the revamped Search All and how it lets you search your entire library in seconds, and I showed how you can view commentaries in a parallel pane which will scroll alongside the text. But I think all of the attendees will testify that I focused more on Bible study methods than on library science.

From a purely mercenary standpoint, our focus on the Bible is admittedly counter-productive. The Bible texts and Bible study tools I emphasized tend not to be the most expensive things we sell. There's money to be made in high-priced commentary sets, yet I spend most of my time trying to encourage people not to rely too heavily on commentaries. It's not that commentaries and other secondary literature don't have their place; it's just that their place is in the back seat rather than the driver's seat.

Interestingly, I see a strong focus on the Bible among our users as well. A while back, the person who runs our official Twitter feed asked people to list the Accordance modules they use most. Nearly everyone who responded mentioned favorite translations, original language texts, and tools for original language study. There was very little emphasis on secondary literature. In the same way, I recently started a forum thread asking pastors how Accordance helps them in their sermon prep. While they mentioned the convenience and portability of having an electronic library of materials, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they focused on the task of Biblical exegesis. For those Accordance-using pastors, understanding what the Bible says is far more important than mining a stack of books for information about what the Bible says.

Now, am I implying that we value the Bible more than other software developers? Not at all. Am I implying that Accordance users value the Bible more than those who choose to use other programs? Certainly not. I'm simply saying that we don't get up every morning excited to help people "access information in a library." On the contrary, our mission is, "in essence," to equip you to study the Bible more effectively. Every feature we add, every aspect of our program interface, and yes, every book we license for inclusion in your Accordance library, is directed toward that singular goal.

Bookmark and Share

Archived Comments

Robb B

October 04, 2010 11:54 AM

David, this is what initially attracted me to the Accordance platform and what I think is still it's strongest point. It is simply the best tool available for studying the Bible, and, in my opinion, is still way ahead of the competition.

That being said, how do you think the mobile device category will impact this? On the desktop/laptop, exegesis and in-depth study of biblical texts is going to be the primary things people do with Bible software. But what about on devices like the iPad? It's more of an e-Reader, so does the library become more important in this space?

As an iPad owner, I would not envision myself doing the same kinds of study or tasks on the iPad that I do in Accordance on my iMac. But, I don't have Accordance on my iPad yet, so maybe that will change. Any thoughts?

Tom Childers

October 04, 2010 12:20 PM

Excellent! Well said, David.

R. Mansfield

October 04, 2010 1:02 PM

Accordance users can now answer the "Mac Reviewer" who has posted a similar question in the Accordance forums that he asked in the Logos forums.


David Lang

October 04, 2010 3:26 PM

Robb, That's an interesting question. I think it warrants a separate post of its own.


October 04, 2010 5:10 PM

I fully agree with you David. The HOLY BIBLE itself should, and does for me, come FIRST & FOREMOST in all studying, research, in accordance to the first-person eyewitness accounts of the actual events that they themselves experienced in the record of permeance. 

Could't have said it better...

Dr. J

October 05, 2010 8:53 AM

I agree, David. It's what brought me to Accordance as a user 15 years ago—and what keeps me as an employee today. I don't want LOTS of books, I want QUALITY books, something I also tell my students when asked for advice about writing their papers. I think the "wheat to chaff" ratio is much higher in Accordance than many other software programs.

James Tucker

October 05, 2010 11:51 PM


Great post and excellent line of argumentation on the use of software programs. To be honest, I am skeptical of those who aver that a plethora of resources is essential for biblical study, and I think this bespeaks to a somewhat rudimentary view of exegesis by those who pontificate such a premise. In other words, we often overlook the significance of spending time in the primary text of Scripture, and more importantly we overlook the importance of secondary literature of the ancient world, so as to broaden our horizon.

I own several good commentaries, but truth be told, I spend much more time reading the ancient documents, both the Scripture and Sectarian. 

A Big Accordance Fan

October 26, 2010 1:55 PM

OK, I am a big fan of Accordance... and I also own the software of 'that developer''.  Sometimes I get annoyed with both companies making indirect references to each other.  Would you guys get over it please? If you want to name the other product, then lets get it out in the open as this is a silly game which everyone sees through. Sorry, I have to say my kids are just as bad.

Now to your point... tongue in cheeck if I could convince some of my profs that all I need for my studies is on Accordance then I could save a lot of money on books!

The truth of the matter is if you guys don't have a book, Logos Bible Software does. My only other option is to buy paper books and that would be counter productive in this age of electronic research.

That brings us to the strength of each product. I slightly prefer exegetical studies with Accordance and I slightly prefer research with Logos. I can use both to do the other task effective and BOTH do effective Bible study.  I am thankful for your emphasis and I am thankful for theirs, because without both available to me there would be big gaps in my Bible software computing needs.

Good job on version 9. I'm looking forward to any new tricks you have with version 10.

David Lang

October 26, 2010 2:34 PM

Big Accordance Fan, I agree that the veiled references sometimes border on the ridiculous, and of course most of the time you know who is being referred to. Then again, you don't get some of the e-mails I do. :-)

For my part, my veiled references to other products are not meant to be a "silly game." The point of this post was not meant to criticize anybody else, but to focus on our central motivation for doing what we do. So I said all I needed to in order to set the context for the discussion, and then focused on Accordance. If your kids do that, they must be wise and diplomatic beyond their years! ;-)