Thursday, June 22, 2017

Athens, Greece now in 3D on Google Earth and GE Quiz Maker

There are a number of locations in Google Earth that have received a photo-realistic 3D treatment. Athens recently was given such a treatment. Very nice! You can use the classic desktop version or view it on Chrome in the new Google Earth app. (The screenshot above is from the desktop version.)
As I noted in April, Google is discontinuing support for the desktop version, but the web app still does not have all the capabilities of the desktop version. For example, in the desktop version, you can view 3D reconstructions (not 3D imagery) like this view of Jerusalem.
So if you have not yet done so, get the desktop version.
HT: Google Earth blog

Speaking of Google Earth, you may want to try out the GE Quiz Maker that allows you to create geographic quizzes and fly you around the world. Links on that page will get you to a sample quiz and to the template you can use to create your own quizzes.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Roman Road system portrayed as a subway map

Here's a clever representation of the Roman Road system portrayed in the style of a subway map by Sasha Trubetskoy. It's based on the state of the Roman Empire ca. 125 CE, and he notes:
Creating this required far more research than I had expected—there is not a single consistent source that was particularly good for this. Huge shoutout to: Stanford’s ORBIS model, The Pelagios Project, and the Antonine Itinerary.
That's a great use of those online mapping resources! (You will certainly want to check out both the ORBIS for ancient travel planning and the Pelagios site for a very detailed map.) He had to make a number of compromises, and he did not include sea routes, but it still provides a fun and helpful overview. (The map supplied on the site is quite large, but Trubetskoy can send a more detailed version via a Paypal link.)

I'm mindful of the many limitations that a stylized map like this entails, but as a New Testament scholar, I do have a few quibbles.
  • I'm among those who do not think that the Via Maris referred to the Egypt-Damascus route which is better known as the Great Trunk Road. (Cf. the edits I made to the Via Maris entry on Wikipedia under "Name and Controversy.") Trubetskoy does include a note about the naming in her comments.
  • Technically, Jerusalem was not renamed Aelia Capitolina until 135 CE or so by Hadrian.
  • Pergamum sort of appears on the map as a coastal city though it was ~15 miles / 25 km inland.
  • I believe that Antigonia / Alexandria Troas was an important seaport worth including.
  • I think "Via Cappadociensis" is one of the names he created. At least part of it is what was the ancient Persian Royal Road.
  • No room on the map for Neapolis or Philippi...
  • Thessalonica is displayed quite far inland rather than as a port city.
Again, those are minor quibbles considering the format and limitations of what he intended to accomplish. Quite a fun rendering worth checking out!

HT: Tim Bahula who HTs Open Culture

Bible Mapper Video Tutorials

Bible Mapper 5 remains the only Bible mapping program with which I am familiar that allows users to create their own, copyright free, high-resolution maps. As David P. Barrett, author of the program and also of the maps in the excellent Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, notes:
Bible Mapper is the ideal tool for researching and creating maps of the biblical world. Virtually every known location and geographic feature in the Bible can be displayed and fully customized quickly and easily, making it a snap to create stunning maps adapted to your particular needs.
Version 3 is free to download and is fully functional. To get the improvements in version 5, the cost is $37, though you can download and try it for free (just not save any maps you create).

Some time ago I made some introductory video tutorials, but it was back in the day of WMV files. It was pointed out to me that those don't play well on a Mac, so I've just uploaded them all to YouTube. There are 7 short videos in all you can check out here:
Bible Mapper YouTube Video Tutorials Playlist

If you do purchase Bible Mapper 5, Barrett does provide email support, but you may also want to check out the user wiki I created here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bible Study Resources Listing (Kevin Woodruff)

Kevin Woodruff of Bryan College has shared a long, linked list of Bible Study Resources on this page. It covers Bibles, Theology, Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Online Study Bibles, Research Assistance, Ancient Texts, Graphics, Bible Atlases, and very much more. In addition to links to active web sites, there are hundreds of links to Bible-related resources on Check out his page and bookmark it! Thanks to Kevin for sharing!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Google Earth Web Version Released :(

Rome in Google Earth Web
Google recently announced a new version of a web-based Google Earth. For now, it only runs in the Chrome desktop browser or as an Android app. It won't replace the full desktop version of Google Earth, and it isn't much different than using the Satellite view in Google Maps. It does have some nice features including enhanced 3D imagery in some locations. (e.g., Paris, NYC, or Rome as seen in the graphic.) The user has some control over the display and how much information is visible. When you go to a place, helpful 'cards' will pop up offering more information and interesting sites nearby. 
As noted, it doesn't replace the full downloadable version of Google Earth which apparently is being phased out as an old version, but Google is promising updates to the new version. Use of KML files is only partially implemented, nor are tools like image history, measurements, tours, etc. available. At this point, I do not find this to be a very helpful release. I fear that this may mark the end of the classic version (much like Google did with Panoramio and Picasa), so for now, I'd say grab the download before it's gone. For more info, read HERE and HERE.

Biblical Studies in the Digital Age: Know your MSI from your RTI

Views of an inscription from Amman in flat light > Reflectance Transformation Imaging; diffuse gain > Specular enhancement
There's a free article available at Bible History Daily summarizing an article in the latest Biblical Archaeology Review on "Biblical Studies in the Digital Age." The new imaging technologies like Multspectral Imaging (MSI) and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) are both making it possible to discern previously hard to discern texts and inscriptions and are also preserving those images to aid in further study. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

BibleWorks 10 Update: Free Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible

BibleWorks is known for its biblical text-centric approach, but both casual and serious readers often appreciate having a quick reference handy for a person, place, or other topics mentioned in the text. In the past, BW10 users could right-click on an English word and look it up in one of the dictionaries included in the base package: Faussett's Bible Dictionary of 1888, Easton's Illustrated Bible Dictionary of 1897, or The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia of 1939. While such works are not useless, they are significantly dated. 

BibleWorks has just announced a free update for BW10 users to add Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (EDB, 2000) to their BW library. Further, they added a new Dictionary tab in the Analysis Window so that as you move your mouse over English text, if there is a matching entry in the dictionary, it will immediately appear. 
Here you can see how the Dictionary tab works as you mouse over a word in an English version text. Do note that the linking is a bit indiscriminate. Mousing over "not" in an English text will bring up the entry for "Not my people"
The EDB is a well respected one-volume dictionary that sells for $40US on Amazon, so it is remarkable that BW is offering it for free to existing BW10 users.

As for the dictionary, it features (from its own description):
  • Nearly 5,000 entries explain every book, person, place, significant event, and distinctive term or expression found in the Bible
  • Written by nearly 600 respected authorities in the field of biblical scholarship
  • Includes 112 informative charts and photos and a 12-page section of color maps
  • Supplementary aids include lists of abbreviations, pronunciation guide, transliteration key, and concise bibliographies to guide further research
  • Entries cover the Deuterocanonicals as well as the Hebrew and New Testament scriptures
  • Based on the New Revised Standard version of the Bible, with attention given to alternate readings in other major translations
HERE is the official BW announcement with further instructions. Users need to update to the latest executable, then download the EDB, then (if necessary) enable the Dictionary tab.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Updates at NT Apocrypha & New Bibliographical System has been a leading online site for Syriac resources, and they just announced two improvements to the site. From their announcement:
First, we are excited to introduce a new page at devoted to the study of the New Testament Apocrypha which can be found at This is a companion page to the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha page we announced several weeks ago. Hundreds of ancient documents have been have been classified over time under the rubric of 'New Testament Apocrypha' (or sometimes 'New Testament Pseudegpigrapha') — not even including the number of works found in the Nag Hammadi codices. These apocyrphal texts were produced over centuries and by diverse communities. The tenuous connections between them, as a genre or corpus, are either their attribution to apostlic authors or, in terms of content, the 'hidden' stories they reveal about Jesus, the Apostles, Mary, and other New Testement figures. These works, ranging from the 2nd century CE (Protoevangelium of James) to the Islamic period (Gospel of the 12 Apostles), represent both the inventiveness of late antique Christian writers and the popularity of such stories among their readers. Originally written for the most part in Greek or Latin, they were soon translated into Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, etc., but many original compositions of Christian apocrypha, or variants on older stories, also originated in these languages. Later Syriac writers (such as Mor Jacob of Sarug among others) were not only familiar with the traditions found in these books, but the apocryphal stories inform the exegetical worldview of several different works in Syriac.
We based the page on the masterful research of M. Geerard, *Clavis Apocryphorum Novi Testamenti* (Turnhout: Brepols, 1992). The page provides information about all published resources on New Testament Apocrypha in Syriac, Arabic, and Garshuni. Many of the resources collected by Geerard are available in the public domain. Thus, we have expanded his work by giving hyperlinks directly to the pages of those resources which are publicly available.

We hope that this page will be a valuable resource for those seeking authoritative publications on NT Apocrypha in Syriac and Arabic. Furthermore, we hope that can encourage new research on this rich literary tradition and foster fruitful dialogue between scholars working on Judaism, Biblical Studies, Quranic Studies, and the Syriac and Arabic literary traditions.
Second, we have developed a site-wide Bibliography, which can be found at We are steadily converting all of our pages to this new system. Eventually, all of the individual citations we make throughout the site will have a place in the the site-wide bibliography. The goal is that the user not only has access to important resources on individual pages, but now can also easily access the full bibliographic record for the same important resources. Each bibliographic entry is able
to be recombinable in meaningful ways (e.g. the Works Cited list on the NT Apocrypha page). The site-wide bibliography is able to be searched, filtered, and sorted by multiple keywords. ...
The pages that have been converted to the new system are fully Zotero-aware, as are the individual bibliographical entries in the site-wide bibliography. If you use Zotero, you can now easily “suck down” any of the references we cite into your own Zotero library. Each entry can also be downloaded as a BibTex, RIS, or MARC file type. Several pages already make use of the new bibliographical system ... soon all the pages on the site
will make use of the new system and their citations will be added to the site-wide bibliography.

We think the new Bibliography offers a major new increase in functionality for users of the site. The Bibliography is not designed to replace the immense work done at the Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity, but has been built to present all materials cited on As always, we have tried to preserve the immediacy of links to publicly available works available on, which has been a hallmark of the site since the beginning. is a great resource and reference, and these new enhancements only enhance its offering. I'm a big fan of Zotero, and the new Zotero-aware entries are appreciated.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Blended Digital Gospel Harmony of Palm Sunday Account at

Blog article link
Stephen Smith at has posted an interesting proof of concept tool showing what a blended digital gospel harmony might look like. As he notes, gospel harmonies have appeared in print either as parallel accounts (think Aland's Synopsis or Throckmorton's Gospel Parallels) or as blended harmonies of which Tatian's Diatessaron is the earliest known one.

Smith notes the limitations of print harmonies and has produced a digital one that is interactive and gives readers greater clarity regarding where material is being derived. It also lets readers choose to prioritize one gospel if they choose.

In his initial work, Smith shows what the Palm Sunday / Entry into Jerusalem text might look like. The reader has the option of picking one of the four Gospels as the base which is highlighted in red. He notes that it was surprisingly time-consuming to construct a single passage like this, so don't expect a full Gospel any time soon.

I think the most helpful thing about such a tool is that a person can more quickly compare two Gospels and simply note what turns to red or black. One can quickly see that differences, at least in this account, are minimal between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but switching to John as the base makes a considerable difference.

HERE is the blog article and HERE is a page where you can play with the blended digital Gospel harmony yourself.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Free e-book: Passover as Jesus Knew It
With Passover coming soon, you may be interested in this e-book, Passover as Jesus Knew It. Published in 2014, The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) offers it for free (email needed to get on ASOR list) as a 15 page e-book. Articles include:
  • "Jesus' Passover" by James F. Strange
  • "Passover as Jesus Knew It" by Helen K. Bond
  • "The Last Passover of Jesus" by James H. Charlesworth
  • "The Passover and Jesus" by Adela Yarbo Collins
  • "Did Jesus Celebrate Passover in Sepphoris" by Eric M. Meyers
HERE is the link, but you may also wish to check out the other free e-books they offer with compilations of articles from the ASOR journal, The Ancient Near East Today.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bible Versions in Bible Apps

In the previous post, I listed the Bible versions I like to consult when doing textual and translation work. In this post, I want to note the Bible versions that are available in six of the leading mobile Bible apps. 
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Available Bible versions is only one reason whether to choose an app or not. If there is one particular version you must have, then this list may help.
  • I do not do serious exegetical work on my Android smartphone. For a mobile app, I'm more interested in how quickly it works, and whether I can do some quick checking on a translation or the original text. I.e., I do include the availability of Greek and Hebrew texts. Bonus points for those that include Strong's or other tagging which might allow you to connect with a Hebrew/Greek lexicon.
  • If you own desktop versions of any of these programs--especially Accordance, Logos, or Olive Tree--your decision will be easier since most everything you own in the desktop version is available in the app.
  • Also note the costs. I've indicated which versions come with the free Bible app and which are available for purchase.
  • I've also noted where some versions must be streamed and are not able to be downloaded and used offline. (I'm supposing this is due to licensing issues.)
  • This chart is not nearly comprehensive. There are many other English versions available for each program. I've just listed ones in light of my previous post.
  • I also have not included the multitude of non-English versions avaialable, usually for free. BibleGateway, MySword, and YouVersion are especially notable in this regard.
  • I'll say it again: the number of Bible versions is only one aspect of a decision about which app to use. Consider what other aspects are important to you: notetaking, highlighting, parallel texts, text comparison, etc.
click to enlarge or go HERE for full downloadable spreadsheet

What do I recommend?
  • Each one of these apps is capable enough and might serve your needs.
  • Since I have a large Logos library, I'm using the Logos app most frequently. I could do full research if I wanted since I have access to critical editions of texts and the major lexicons and dictionaries like the Anchor Yale one. (I'm guessing Accordance users like their related app, but until an Android version is released I can't say much about it.)
  • If, however, you are just looking for a free Bible app with access to some good Bible versions, I think MySword or YouVersion are probably your best choices.
  • If you want to be able to consult Greek and Hebrew (including the LXX) and perhaps want to see Greek/English in parallel or even have an interlinear Bible, then MySword can do the job.
Note: I gleaned information as best as I could. If there are errors, let me know. OR, I have made an editable version of the spreadsheet on Google Docs. Go ahead and make any corrections or additions as appropriate.

Recommended English Bible Versions to Consult and Compare

I’ve previously reported (2011) my thoughts on English Bible versions that I think are useful to consult, but it’s time for an update. Apparently there is an Italian phrase, “Traduttore, Traditore,” a wordplay that basically means the translator is a traitor. There is no perfect English Bible translation. The multitude of versions is indicative not necessarily of dissatisfaction with other versions but is a recognition that translations are intended for specific contexts. Is it for study or more casual reading? What is the age group? Is it designed to be spoken out loud and heard? Does it want to provide explanatory glosses or use specific theological words?

In general, I encourage my students to compare a range of versions covering literal/formal to dynamic/functional ones. For Greek students, this comparison usually highlights most issues of difficult translations or text critical matters.

I’ve updated a chart of literal/formal to dynamic/functional translations based on a fuller listing of translations by Bruce Terry. Here’s the chart, but if you go to this Google Docs page, you will see additional commentary.

Recommended English Bible Versions to Consult and Compare

click to enlarge
Why do I recommend these? Other than providing a literal to dynamic range of translations, these also cover a range of religious perspectives including Jewish (for the Tanakh and for ecumenical versions), those that are explicitly “conservative/evangelical,” those coming from a Roman Catholic background, and those that are more broadly ecumenical. They display a range of exclusive to inclusive gender language. They also show a range of reading levels which makes for a good exercise in thinking about how we communicate a text.

Further, I am trying to reflect Bible versions that people are actually buying and reading, ones that my students will likely encounter as they lead Bible studies in churches. Here is data on the most recent information I can find:

Top English versions based on units sold
2014 survey)
Most frequently searched
2016 report)
1.       New International Version
2.       The Voice
3.      King James Version
4.      English Standard Version
5.      New King James Version
6.      New Living Translation
7.      Holman Christian Standard Bible
8.      Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish)
9.      Nueva Version Internacional (Spanish)
10.   New International Reader’s Version
1.       King James Version
2.       New International Version
3.      English Standard Version
4.      New King James Version
5.      New Living Translation
6.      The Message
7.      New American Standard Bible
8.      New Revised Standard Bible
9.      Holman Christian Standard Bible

There certainly are other criteria you could use to evaluate versions. I reflect a more liberal, ecumenical approach, but I still think this can be a good start for anyone thinking about the English Bible versions to consult when trying to take the original Greek and Hebrew texts seriously.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mobile Bible Apps - Load Times

I am working towards an updated list of recommended mobile Bible apps, but I'll offer some preliminary parts in separate posts. In this one, I want to look at how fast a few apps are, since one of the things I desire is to get quickly to the text to start reading and be able to change versions even more quickly. I did a more extensive test back in 2012, but I wanted to see how things have changed. The main changes are updates to the apps and an update to my phone. These are all relative times as calculated as well as I could on my Samsung Galaxy Note 5. (This phone is now almost 1.5 years old.)

So, I conducted an unscientific test to see how long it takes to:

  • Tap the app to launch it and start reading the text. For BibleGateway and YouVersion, the app starts at a home screen, and it takes another touch to get to the Bible text.
  • Exit (but leaving it in memory) and immediately relaunch the app
  • Switch to a new passage
  • Switch to another version (one that's been previously downloaded)
  • Switch back to the previous version.
I tried to make sure that nothing else was going on with the phone, and I ran the tests twice. The averages do basically confirm how it feels in real practice.

Here are my results, but the main number to look at is the combined average in the last column. This gives an idea of the relative time it took to accomplish the 5 tasks listed.
When I ran the test in 2012, MySword was notably faster than most, and it remains the fastest here. Both Logos and YouVersion, however, have considerably sped up their app responsiveness. In actual practice, the difference in speed is not really noticeable with any of the apps, so a decision on the best app should be based on other factors. (Which I will get to in upcoming posts...)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Free Bible Software and Trial Versions

There are many good online Bible software resources available, but when you need something on a non-web device, you'll want a downloadable program. Depending on the kinds of work you plan to do and the resources you want, there are many options.
The main ones for extensive original language research are Accordance, BibleWorks, and Logos. If you want to get a taste of what the program is like before making a financial commitment, there are free trial versions you can download.
Accordance offers a Lite version you can try for free. (It's a little hard to find on their site.) It includes the ESV and KJV and some other texts to get you started. Features are limited, but it gives a good idea of what Accordance can do. Windows or Mac capable.
If you want to see how the full version works, Accordance offers a 30-day refund option for two packages. (a Starter for $60 and an Original Languages for $100)

BibleWorks is a bit different than the others because you are purchasing a whole package, not a program to which you add various libraries and resources. As such, they cannot offer a free trial version, but they do have a 30-day return policy.

Logos offers a free Basic version that includes some very helpful resources. In addition to the KJV, they include their own Lexham English Bible and a number of good resources, most notably, the Faithlife Study Bible notes and the Lexham Bible Dictionary. If you own a previous version of Logos, this is an easy way to update to Logos 7 and keep your resources. For Windows and Mac. Logos does also offer a 30-day return policy.

Though not as oriented toward original language work, two other programs are worth considering.

The Word is one of the first I recommend to people not planning to invest in one of the programs above. This is a rather full featured program, and it’s free.  Includes Greek / Hebrew. You can always buy some modules, e.g., NRSV, to expand its versatility. Only runs on Windows or under Mac emulation.

WORDsearch 11 offers a free Basic version. There are more than enough resources to get you started, and they have a large collection of resources for purchase to expand your work.