Fun with Logos

I just got a hold of Logos 6… As I mentioned briefly at the end of the last podcast, I’ve been using Logos software to do biblical work since my last couple years of college which are now 20 years ago (!). Back then, it was one of the few software packages to actually offer Greek and Hebrew texts. Clearly, that’s still a huge bonus for me.

In seminary we used to have a reading group where some of the senior MDivs, some of the graduate students and a couple of professors would get together over lunch and read through Genesis in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. It was a fascinating exercise to see how the translation choices were made in the Septuagint and the Vulgate; frequently you could see where the Latin text was definitely being done with one eye on the Hebrew, the other on the Greek. With Logos, this was an easy thing to do—I’d just call up three panes and link them together and they’d move as I scrolled. Too when I was having difficulty parsing the Hebrew, a discrete mouse-over would help me out… (My Hebrew has always been the weakest of the three!)

I haven’t used it as much over the years, since so much of my work has taken me in medieval directions, but returning again to Logos I’m very impressed by the feature set. Basically, I see this system as two tools in one.

First, it is a fully featured biblical analysis tool. I’ve got my key biblical texts in the original languages and in my favorite translations (ancient and modern). Basic search and concordance functions are built in, and they’ve added a large array of tools and guides to make word study, grammatical help, and other forms of textual analysis easier. There’s plenty of interlinear support in the Greek and Hebrew for those who use that. (There isn’t currently interlinear support for the Vulgate, but I understand that may be in the works…)

Second, it is a library system in that it can give you access to a wide variety of secondary sources—commentaries, sermons, doctrinal works, patristic texts, classical texts, etc. There are a lot of these. Do keep a careful eye out here. The easiest way to make a lot of material available electronically is to use texts that have fallen out of copyright and are now in the public domain. This is a tactic that I saw across the religious software market back in the late ’90s and early ’00s when several players decided to get into the game. They would include lots of Bibles and lots of devotional texts, but they tended to be 19th century translations or materials frequently incorporating dubious theology. Too, much of the biblical reference material was sadly out of date.

Now—I have a couple of gigabytes of public domain PDFs on my hard drive, most relating to either medieval or early Anglican liturgical and doctrinal material. Just because a text is old doesn’t mean it’s not worth using (obviously!!). However, I know what the good stuff is, and how I intend to use it. Logos also clued in to this! They now offer denominationally based packages that are curated by people in those various traditions, and who have a sense of what is useful for people in those traditions rather than stuffing the box with material that is theologically at odds with it just because they can. Thus, I’ve got the Anglican package. I’m happy to say, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the material I’ve already collected on PDFs, and what I now have access to in Logos plus a whole pile of material I wouldn’t have otherwise acquired. The advantage of having the material within this system is that, unlike most PDFs, I can search it and locate things easier than before.

As a student of the history of interpretation, though, what I’m really enjoying is the integration between the biblical tools and the denominational material. When I’m in the biblical text, one of the options is the “Passage Guide” which will—by means of cross-references—pull up references to how that passage was used in other texts within your library. When it comes to looking at how patristic and medieval authors used a given text, this feature is invaluable! It’ll pop up a results box identifying specific sermon or commentary references where various writers quoted or alluded to the text being studied. Hence, if you want to look at how a given text was used across a field—say, the Latin Fathers or the monastic tradition—this tool makes it much faster and easier to identify who, what, and where.

The other thing I want to say about it at the moment is that the cross-platform functionality is great; the app version I have on my Kindle and phone syncs with what I have on my desktop. For instance, I’ve been working through VgPs 17 this morning, and when I pull up the app on my Kindle and switch it to the Vulgate, it pulls up VgPs 17:14 which is just where I stopped on my desktop!

(There do seem to be some bugs to work out on the Kindle version, though… My current pain is that I’ve downloaded Cassiodorus’s psalm commentary onto the Kindle, but every time I try to open it the app crashes. Not sure what’s going on there.)

Too, many of the same biblical language features available on the desktop are operative on the Kindle meaning that I can do the same sort of word studies/concordance work when I’m hanging out at ballet on chauffeur duty for the elder daughter.

Since I just got it, I’m still playing with it and am figuring out what all it can do and how to set it up best to help me with my research and writing. What I can say right off, is that I can see some immediate applications for its toolset to improve both the psalmcast and the Cassiodorus book that the psalmcast is supporting. I’m seeing that there are some “community” features that could be interesting in terms of collaborative study; I don’t have much of a sense of these yet, but there could be some interesting directions there too!

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