Logos Version 5
A Denver Journal Review by Denver Seminary Professor William Klein
Logos Version 5. Logos Bible Software. 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham WA 98225-4307. Version 5 was released in late 2012. Interim updates occur frequently when connected online.
It’s hard to imagine life as a Bible student without Logos. Indeed, this robust product serves the full range of students of the Bible—lay person, Bible student or teacher, pastor, and college or seminary professor. No one who wants to study the Bible and use the resources available that illuminate the biblical text will be disappointed with Logos.
Admittedly, any Bible software product has limitations. Only those resources loaded onto the platform will be available. Most of us have purchased books over the years—many of which are not (yet?) in electronic form. For this reason a digital resource will have only a selection of sources any reader or researcher might want to consult. But with that caveat, no product makes available a wider range or more comprehensive number of resources for a student of the Bible than Logos. Chances are that if you need to secure a major resource for your study of the Bible you can now purchase it as a print volume or in electronic form. And increasingly the major publishers of religious books are porting their products onto the Logos platform, among others. What is more, Logos engages in an ongoing effort to scan and make available valuable older sources, as well as the latest offerings of a considerable range of publishers. A welcome feature of Logos is the ability of users to access the full range of their libraries on smart phones and tablets, Kindle, as well as Windows and Mac computers. One need never be away from his or her library—at least, your Logos library.
Recently Logos released a major upgrade: Logos 5. Prior versions of Logos included so many features that I wondered what they could do to improve version 4. Yet v. 5 has some incremental improvements of some of its best features in addition to adding new bells and whistles that will entice those who have been waiting to secure Logos or upgrade from a previous version. Let me highlight only a few of these. By the way, Logos 5 itself as well as the Logos.com site provides very helpful videos that explain step-by-step how to invoke and use the many features that might seem unduly complex without help. And forgetful users of certain features, like me, will be grateful for these reminders of how to do important tasks.
One neat feature that pastors or teachers will love is The Sermon Starter Guide, useful when you want a sermon or lesson on a particular theme or topic. The Theme section shows a definition of the topic and links to similar topics. Click the “Notes” tab, if you’d like to add your own thoughts on the Theme. The Passages section displays Bible references that are most relevant or important to the topic. A sub-section provides relevant Bible stories. Logos will select Preaching Resources from your library because they discuss the specific topic you’ve searched. The Thematic Outlines section instantly creates a list of example outlines, based on your search. You can also copy directly to Proclaim & Power Point, or a Passage List.
A helpful feature, Clause Search, enables a search for specific phrases or clauses. You can search for “person: Jesus” or “place: Jerusalem” and Logos will locate those in your desired Bible versions even when “Jesus” or “Jerusalem” occur in texts as personal pronouns or other locutions. So, putting both of those in a search would discover Matthew 4:5 [“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple”; NIV], among other hits. It found “him” (Jesus) and “holy city” (Jerusalem). Very cool!
Bible Facts allows one to enter the Person, Place, Event or Object you’re interested in, and it will return all the useful elements in your library that pertain. Logos 5 includes a useful Timeline feature. Simply enter the date or date range you want to explore, and it will display significant biblical events within that range—great for getting an orientation to something that you’re studying. There’s a tool to help you Memorize biblical passages; another to set up a reading schedule so that you can read a certain amount of text with a prescribed period of time—any of your Bible versions. This is a great tool to help you keep up your Greek or Hebrew language skills that you so painstakingly learned in school. Set the range of books and the range of time in a specific version (e.g., the Gospels in six months in the Greek NT), and Logos will tell you each day how much you need to read, and keep track as you make progress.
There’s an extremely powerful Topic Tool. Enter a topic for study. The Definition section defines the topic from different Dictionaries and Encyclopedias in your library. Click on an entry to open the related article. It points out Related Verses where you’ll find Bible references related to your topic. Click a reference to open your Bible to that location. The Related Topics section will suggest searches and topic guides, based on your current guide, for further study. The Illustrations section lists stories and sermon illustrations from your library, as they relate to your topic. Finally, a box opens in which you will find images from your library, related to your topic. If you’ve searched an object, like the Temple, you’ll find encyclopedia images of the Temple from your library here.
Another powerful feature in Logos 5 is its ability to suggest searches. These will help you perform complicated searches without needing to know a lot of commands and modifiers. For students writing papers Logos 5 has a utility for creating bibliographies of sources you’ve used and for exporting them to Word or another text editor.
These are a few of the newer features, but they only scratch the surface of this program’s capabilities. There is no substitute to going to the Logos.com web site and doing some clicking and viewing and evaluating whether it can be useful for your needs. The search feature alone saves me hundreds of hours—in locating terms, topics, ideas, and biblical texts within a restricted corpus or over the entire body of sources on my computer. As with all such products, a potential owner buys a “base package” (my advice is to buy the highest one you can afford) to which you can add now or later literally hundreds of additional resources as time and finances allow. And as with similar products you will probably own numerous resources that you will never access. I have literally hundreds of volumes of various vintages on my version of Logos—some of which I may consult only once, rarely, or never. Logos includes many sources over many topics that I have no interest in or need to use. Some of them are old sources that Logos no doubt copied because they are out of copyright and with no royalties to pay. Many of these are historically important sources, formerly available only within a well-equipped theological library.
On the other hand, many old sources have been eclipsed by recent and superior ones—that you will have to pay to secure if they are not included in the base package you purchase. But it is always preferable to use the best sources. Simply because a source is free on Logos or on the internet is no reason to use it when better, current sources are available. My advice to anyone serious about Bible study: always use the best and most reputable sources, not the cheapest or the ones easiest to access! Inferior sources are inferior no matter how cheap or accessible you find them. Bible study deserves our best efforts and our use of the best resources. So much is at stake; why settle for just getting by or, worse, risk being misled by an old source that has been shown to be inaccurate?
Are there downsides to Logos? Compared to competing products, it’s the best. But part of being the best is that it very complex and has so many features, some of which can be very difficult to use until one is accustomed to them. And if you don’t use a feature for some time, you may need to go back to the Help feature or one of the online videos to reacquaint yourself with it.
In my work, Logos 5 is a necessary complement to BibleWorks (now in its 9th version). [See my review of BW9 in the 2012 volume of the Denver Journal.] Whereas BW excels in texts in multiple versions and languages, Logos excels in bringing multiple resources together to study the texts. Fortunate are those students of Scripture who can afford both.
William W. Klein, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament