Online Bible Study Platforms: Biblia.com
Biblia.com is Logos Bible Software’s free online Bible study environment. It comes with a good variety of Bible translations and resources, but a distinguishing feature of Biblia is that it can be augmented with digital versions of books purchased from Logos.com and Vyrso.com. The interface is functional if not as elegant as Lumina.org’s.
Logos Bible Software is one of the premier Bible study software applications on the market today, and Biblia.com is Logos’ free web-based Bible study environment. That connection makes Biblia.com expandable and useful in a way that a lot of online Bible study environments aren’t. If you either (1) don’t have the money to spend on Logos Bible Software, or (2) don’t compute on Windows or Mac (both apply to me – lack of money is part of the reason I use Linux; the other part is that Linux is simply a superior OS), then Biblia.com is a way you can take advantage of much of Logos’ library of digital Bible study resources.
Included Resources and Upgrade Opportunities
The Bibles that are included default include a surprising number of English Bible translations. These include: KJV, Douay-Rheims, ESV, God’s Word, NASB, NCV, NIrV, NLT, GNT, HCSB, Lexham English Bible (a project of Logos Bible Software), the Message, NET, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV, and Young’s Literal Translation. In addition, it also has Bibles in numerous other modern languages (sometimes multiple translations per language), including: Italian, French, Spanish, German, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, and Arabic. This certainly expands its usability for European users. As for original languages and ancient translations, by default Biblia.com includes a Latin Vulgate (OT and NT) and multiple Greek NTs (including the SBL Greek New Testament).
With registration, a number of other resources become available. The free books include several common public domain works (Easton’s Bible Dictionary, The Imitation of Christ, Strong’s Systematic Theology, Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, etc.) as well as some items that are unique to Logos’s parent company, Faithlife (the Faithlife Study Bible, the Lexham Bible Dictionary, and Connect the Testaments: A One Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan).
If you already have a Logos account with books purchased on it, you just sign in with that. This is actually one Biblia.com’s coolest features, because when you sign in with a Logos account, it automatically syncs up with any resources you may have purchased through that account. So if you’ve purchased Logos Bible Software at some point in the past, while you may not be able to enjoy the innovative search features of Logos software through Biblia.com, you can, at least, get access to your books. On the other hand, if you have never owned Logos Bible Software but have purchased individual digital resources from Logos (as I did with some credit I earned for doing some work several years back), Biblia.com is one of the places you can access those resources for free. In other words, Biblia.com makes it possible for you to enjoy Logos Bible Software’s tremendous library resources in an a la carte manner without the necessity of buying the software itself. Logos also has a free mobile app that lets you access the resources you have purchased.
It is even possible to gradually grow your library on the cheap by taking advantage of Logos.com’s free book of the month. Every month Logos makes a different book available for free (usually a slightly older book by a well known contemporary Bible scholar or theologian). This month (December 2016), for example, is How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman, III. This is a major perk of using Biblia.com.
Where the Hebrew at, yo?
A glaring omission is the lack of any kind of Hebrew Bible or Greek OT (the Septuagint). I know there are copyright problems in digital Hebrew Bibles, but it seems like the least one could do is include a purely consonantal version of the Leningrad Codex. Surely the vowel markings are not copyrighted by Deutsche Bibelgesellchaft (the publisher of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia)? Biblegateway.com, a product of Harper Collins, includes a digital version of the vowel pointed text of the Leningrad Codex (admittedly, it may be paying a licensing fee for that). Lumina.org at least includes the consonantal text, and I find it highly unlikely that anyone could claim to own the copyright on the consonantal text of the Leningrad Codex.
It is true that you can purchase a Hebrew Bible from Logos.com, but the least expensive one they have is $49.99, which has morphological tags (either the Biblia Hebraica Westmonasteriensis or Logos’ own Hebrew OT project). Morphological tags are built in parsing metadata – the root, form, and meaning of each word is embedded in the digital coding of the word itself. But while a morphologically tagged digital Hebrew Bible may be useful for many, I, personally, neither need nor want morphological tags if that is what is keeping a Hebrew Bible from being included by default on Biblia.com.
Perhaps this omission bothers me more than it ought to, seeing as I did a PhD in Hebrew Bible that was motivated in part by my feeling that the Church neglects the Old Testament. I just find it difficult to justify including six different Greek New Testaments (nine, if you count morphologically tagged duplicates) and not a single Hebrew Bible or Septuagint. Regardless of my personal pet peeves, objectively it is arguable that the lack of any kind of Hebrew Bible limits the usefulness of Biblia.com as a free online Bible study environment.
The Interface is Functional But Not Exciting
Coming from Lumina.org’s elegant interface design, and having used Logos Bible Software a bit on Windows, the interface of Biblia.com is a little underwhelming. The basic interface consists of a left sidebar with four tabs (Home, Library, Search, and Notes), and two windows for the texts of the Bibles and books in your library. For the most part, though the interface is plain, it is functional, albeit with one minor but nevertheless annoying awkwardness.
Under the “Home” tab, the left sidebar can be augmented with a number of widgets (edited through your Faithlife profile) that can enhance your Bible study environment with reading plans and daily prayers, which is a nice feature, though I’ve never actually used it. It also has a search bar used for topics or verse references. Clicking on the “Library” tab lets you search through your available resources more effectively than the dropdown menus at the top of the main text windows. Clicking on the “Search” tab changes the search bar into more of a concordance for whatever book or Bible you have open on the left window. I, personally, prefer Biblia’s separation of “topic” searches from “word” searches to Lumina’s combo search window (though the more I have used Lumina’s search, the more I can understand its usefulness). And the “Notes” tab is a place for you to store your own notes and, if you want, make them available to the public, meaning you will also see other users notes here, if you so desire. I think this is a pretty cool feature.
On the main part of the screen, the two windows can be synchronized so that you have two parallel Bibles displaying (or a Bible and a commentary) that will scroll together, or not synchronized so you can have two passages open at the same time that scroll independently of one another. The font sizes of the two windows can be adjusted independently, as well. If you want, you can expand one of the two windows to take up both columns, or you can even go full screen. This could be very useful if you need very large print. The text is laid out pleasantly with readable default fonts. As far as I can tell, there is no way to make bookmarks in the Bibles or books, which would be helpful.
A Strange Awkwardness
The aforementioned awkwardness has to do with selecting resources in the dropdown selector at the top of both of the main text windows. The problem is that once you have selected a Bible in this dropdown selector, you will no longer be able to select anything other than Bibles (your books will stop appearing there) unless you go to the Library tab and select it there. At that point, you now will be able to select books and Bibles … until, that is, you select a Bible again. Then the dropdown goes back to Bibles-only mode. I cannot understand why the dropdown selector works this way.
A second part of this awkwardness is that whatever I select in the Library tab only goes to the left window, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to duplicate or move what is in the left window to the right window. I know this is super nitpicky, but what I would really like is to have my Bible text in the left window and another book in the right window. While I could do that at first, I no longer can because at some point I chose to have a Bible in the right window, and now I cannot open a book in that window, because I cannot select anything other than Bibles in the right window dropdown and because books that I open in the library tab only go to the left window.
A third part of this awkwardness occurs when you start accumulating a large number of resources. I have 57 Bibles, but I also have nearly 1200 books (most of them I got for free and include classic works in Latin and Greek). When 63 of them start with the Latin word “Ab”, you can forget scrolling or browsing. You’d better just know what you have in your library and search for it. Having some way to organize my library in the dropdown (by topic, by language, by author) would be really helpful and make it browsable. There is an included search bar in the dropdown selector, which helps, but my experience with it has been that its accuracy is mixed (a search for “proverbs” brings up The Message Bible and a commentary on Jeremiah, in addition to the book I was looking for).
In the end, Biblia.com’s main appeal is its synchronization with your Logos.com account. No other free online Bible study environment has the ability to expand the way Biblia does. There is a slight awkwardness in the way you access non-Bible resources, an awkwardness which is exacerbated the more resources you accumulate. Moreover, the lack of any kind of Hebrew Bible is a serious gap that limits its usefulness (for me, at least). However, I find myself coming back to Biblia.com over and over because of the free books, and maybe someday I’ll go ahead and fork over the $50 to get a Hebrew Bible.
- Ability to expand available resources in an a la carte manner by purchasing from Logos.com is a huge plus and probably the main appeal of Biblia.com.
- Lots of Bibles available by default, including six Greek New Testaments.
- Interface is functional and pleasant if not exciting or elegant.
- “Community notes” is a cool feature that lets users of Faithlife’s suite of sites make a corporate study Bible, so to speak.
- No Hebrew Bible included of any sort.
- Specific books become difficult to find when you have a lot of resources. Many of the books included by default are books I will never read, so they just clutter my library and make it harder to find what I want.
- For some reason, books cannot be chosen in the dropdown selector (only Bibles) until one has been chosen in the “Library” tab. Once a Bible is selected in the dropdown, though, it reverts back to “Bibles” only.
- Cannot make bookmarks (at least as far as I can tell).