If you go to seminary, there are certain tasks you will be asked to do. I don’t have to know which school you’re going to or what classes you’re taking. You’ll be doing these things. Three of them. Promise.
I’ve used pretty much all the major tools out there to do them, and I’m going to show you the best ones—and how to get them for free.
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1. Word studies: the Bible Word Study tool
We discover what biblical words mean the same way we discover the meaning of any word: we read and listen. Usage determines meaning. A responsible word study will include listening carefully to all the uses of a given Greek or Hebrew word in Scripture.
And the best tool for that is not the simple list that any Bible software app can generate. The best tool is one that organizes the data usefully and beautifully. You want the Bible Word Study tool in Logos. It shows you quickly what the major glosses (English translations) for a given word are. Click on one, and you’ll see all the passages in which it appears.
Thankfully, you can do this all for free with the tools and resources included in Logos 8 Academic Basic.
2. Learning Greek and Hebrew letters: Alphabet Tutor
Once you understand how to read and translate the original languages, a whole new world opens up to you. You may not translate every passage you preach throughout your ministry, but even just by learning to read and pronounce the Greek or Hebrew alphabet, commentaries based on the original languages will no longer seem quite so opaque. If you can also learn the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words, technical commentaries that once seemed impenetrable can become an essential part of your Bible study and sermon prep.
The first step is learning letters; and I suggest you use the Greek and Hebrew alphabet tutors in Logos. Working through flashcards to memorize the letters is great, but this tool goes a step further. You won’t just see the letters and their names, you’ll get practice actually writing them (correctly) and pronouncing them (correctly).
I myself missed the first three weeks of beginning Spanish in tenth grade, and to this day I get Thursday (jueves) and Friday (viernes) mixed up—because I missed out on learning the basics. Don’t let this happen to you with Greek and Hebrew letters!
3. Looking things up: Lexham Bible Dictionary
A Bible dictionary is a basic tool for biblical studies. Somebody has already gone to the trouble to locate the city of “Acco” for you, to define “acacia wood,” and give examples of “apostles.” Take advantage of their labors. Look stuff up. You are most definitely not the first person in the history of the world to wonder what you’re wondering about whatever passage you’re studying. Chances are, someone else has already written an answer, and the Lexham Bible Dictionary can either give you that answer or help you find it with its helpful bibliographies.
One major advantage of a digital Bible dictionary—as with all digital reference works—is interconnectedness. Look up “apostle” in Easton’s Bible Dictionary, and with one keystroke (the right arrow) you can see the same entry in the Lexham Bible Dictionary. While reading the “apostle” entry in the LBD, you’ll see that the word “Septuagint” is a link to the “Septuagint” article. Bouncing all over a print book meant to be read from cover to cover is not always the best reading strategy (though sometimes it is!); but bouncing around a reference work is just what you’re supposed to do. Having a library that is hyperlinked to itself is, therefore, invaluable.
It’s all free
Every one of the three tools I’ve listed here is free as part of Logos 8 Academic Basic. And I’m jealous. None of this was available when I started seminary. The basic tasks of studying the Bible don’t change much over time, but the tools used to accomplish those tasks do improve. Get and use the best from the beginning of your education.
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a Logos Pro. His most recent book is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (forthcoming, Lexham Press).