Robust biblical studies software can be a hugely helpful tool.1 With just a few clicks, you can use it to pull together information in seconds that would otherwise take hours to compile. Unfortunately, making things easier and faster doesn’t always make them better.
A case in point is reading the Bible in its original languages. Modern Bible software can instantly provide you glosses and parsings for anything you see in a biblical text. But if you rely on this ability, what you’re improving as you look over the biblical text is your ability to use the software, not your ability to read the Bible in its original languages.
If you want to immerse yourself more in those languages, you need to avoid cheating and letting tools do the work for you. You need to do the work of thinking through the text for yourself and working out how to interpret it.
One way to do this is of course to use … a printed Bible. (A novel concept, I know. 🙂 ) You can then use other print tools that don’t allow you to cheat (e.g., not using things like analytical lexicons).
I did this for a while but then gravitated toward reading electronically. A primary reason is what a good job Logos does at keeping track of notes. Recent updates have improved this feature still more and allowed me to rediscover notes I’d made in the past about things I’d seen in the text but had forgotten because I failed to migrate them to a new Bible version when it came out.
So, if you too would like to use Logos to read the Bible in its original languages without cheating, here are 5 steps to help you get up and running.
1. Disable information tool tips.
Whenever I install Logos on a different PC, one of the first things I do is turn off information tool tips. When enabled, these tips allow you to point your mouse to a word in the biblical text and have morphological information instantly appear on the screen.
Of course, this is pretty distracting if you’re wanting to read the Bible without cheating. So it’s best just to disable the feature altogether. Besides, there are other ways of getting this information from the software if you just have to have it at some point.
To disable information tool tips, go to “Tools” > “Utilities” > “Program Settings.” Then, under the first section (“General”), set “Information Tool Tips” to “No.”
2. Create or start a reading plan.
If you wish, use Logos to create your own Bible reading plan. If you’re reading from both testaments, you may want to create one reading plan for the Old Testament and one for the New. That way, you can easily use a Hebrew Bible resource for the one and a Greek New Testament resource for the other.
Alternatively, if you’d like to join my students and me on the reading plan we’re working through, you’re certainly welcome to do that as well.
3. Create your Bible reading layout.
Next, you’ll want to create the layout you’ll use for your Bible reading. You can do this as it’s convenient for you and based on the resources you have in your library.
To give you a place to start, though, the essentials of what I have in my layout are shown below.
In this layout,
- The left-hand pane is a notes window. I use this for both vocabulary notes (as shown) and notes on syntax or other observations.
- In the upper-right pane are two Bible resources, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland. If you used Logos to define your own reading plan in step 2 above, you’ll want to make sure that the Bible resources in your reading layout are the same as the resources you used to create the reading plan.
- In the bottom-right pane are three lexicons. These are the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (DCH, for Hebrew text), the Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (CHALOT, for Aramaic text), and the third edition of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon (BDAG, for Greek text).
Once you have your layout defined, let Logos know you want to use this layout for your Bible reading. To do this, go to “Layouts” > “Home Page Layouts” > “Bible Reading Plan,” and click the drop-down arrow. Then choose the option to “Replace with current layout.”
4. Start reading and making notes.
Once you get this basic setup done, it’s time to dive in and start reading. Make notes as you go along as seems helpful for you. I mention below what I do in case it may be a helpful point of reference for you.
When I come to a word I need to look up, I highlight it, and click the “New note” button in the notes pane. (You can now also add a note from the new text selection menu.) Then, I look up the word in the appropriate electronic lexicon just as I would in a print lexicon.
I save these notes to a “Vocabulary” notebook. But you can simply leave them outside any particular notebook. They’ll still be accessible to you via search in either case.
Inside the note, I then include the lemma, copy the glosses given, add a parenthetical reference to the lexicon section where I found the glosses, and include a link to that section.
Sometimes, I come across a word I think I’ve made a note about before but can’t recall the word’s meaning. In that case, I’ll search my notes by typing the word out in the search bar in Unicode. I’ll then highlight the word in the biblical text and use the “Add anchor” feature to attach my existing note to that word also.
4.b. Syntax and content
If I need to clarify something about the syntax of a text, I’ll follow much the same process described above for vocabulary, but I’ll save this in a “Commentary” notebook. I’ll do the same with any other miscellaneous thoughts I have about a text as I’m working through it.
5. Hide your notes.
Why would you take notes only to hide them? Well, if you’re rereading a text where you’ve already made notes, you might not want to see where those notes are only a click away.
For cases like this, Logos allows you to hide particular notes based on the notebook they’re in. (This is one of the reasons I started segmenting vocabulary notes into their own notebook.)
To hide any notebook’s notes, click the visual filter button on any biblical text resource. Then scroll down to find “Notes and Highlights,” and uncheck the boxes for the notebooks whose notes you don’t want to see.
In the end, technology can make it easier to get information out of the biblical text. But in terms of you getting into the text and its languages, there’s no substitute for learning through the discipline of encountering the text and looking things up for yourself.
Header image provided by Joshua Mann. ↩
I like the suggestions above to improve one’s ability. Another thing I have found helpful is to always be translating a small portion of Greek text. This forces the learner’s mind to make decisions each week, until they become second nature.
That’s a great point, James. Translation does force us to make decisions and also force us to confront when we don’t know what to do with a text. 🙂
Appreciate your thoughts.