How To Take E-Notes

We’ve been highlighting features for digitally studying Bibles and in this post I wanted to touch on note-taking. Admittedly, everyone has their own method of taking notes. I personally love outlines. Others need to record jottings of whatever stood out to them. Yet others need to record entire messages as mp3’s and use those as their go-to-guide. I’ve been highlighting tools that can be used for bible study and I wanted to list a few for taking notes during the entire process.

Basically all you’re doing is storing the information you’re discovering in a format that is easy to come back to at a later date. You’ll want that information to be accessible wherever you need it and that means preferably using some form of cloud storage. And yet, you want to be able to take robust notes without sacrificing quality just so that you can save online.

  • Online: A rough and dirty tool is your email program. If you’re using something like Gmail you can just open up an email and send it to yourself. But if you’re already using Gmail, just launch Google Docs which is pretty fantastic. It has the ability to do word processing, spreadsheets, and even presentations all for free. I don’t like how it is super easy to get disorganized so you have to make sure you’re using the folders feature, but even then, it’s just a laundry list of folders. I guess it doesn’t matter since it’s all backed with the power of Google’s search engine to find your file. Microsoft also has their SkyDrive, which is also free. Microsoft has freely downloadable tools that you can put on your computer for saving to the SkyDrive; with Google you’ll have to change a setting that lets you access Docs offline.
  • Freeish: There’s actually some great outright free tools that you can use for note taking and cloud storage so that you can access the things all the time. OpenOffice is a fantastic suite of office applications that can be used on multiple platforms AND it can read Microsoft files. Did I mention it’s free? You can also download something like or Dropbox so that you can back up your notes to the web for accessing wherever you may be at a later point.
  • Not-Free: Apple has their iLife suite which is pretty nice and Windows 7 usually ships with the Windows Live software which integrates with that Live Documents thing I mentioned above but both of these are outshined by the sheer power that is Microsoft Office. It is frankly unsurprising that this is the go-to tool for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. If you’re going to pay for any type of word processor, this should be it.

Cross-posted at Digital Sojourner

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How To Do A Parallel Bible Reading

We’re talking about using some digital tools for Bible study with emphasis on highlighting general pros and cons to each tool. If you recall, our text is John 1 but we left off still in the reading stage. This post is also going to be about reading but instead on a focus on parallel reading. (Note, to ward off any Evil Eyes: I intentionally changed the order of the Greek to visually correspond with the English so (1) I don’t want to hear the complaint and (2) it doesn’t matter because the subject is still essentially grammatically underscored. There, bases covered.)

Parallel reading in Bible Study has a somewhat different meaning, even if connected idea, with schooling.

In schooling, it’s when you have a student and a teacher (or a reader and a more proficient reader, or a parent and a child) read the same text, makes notes on it, and talk about it. We get to see how one reader interpreted a specific text versus another reader. As an example, get kids to read Animal Farm and then get them to read it in High School with their teacher.

Dual-language speakers know that all translation is interpretation. In other words, to get the words in the original language to mean something to the person reading in their own (and different) language, you have to do interpreting: be it words, idioms, or ideas.

So parallel reading in a Bible study is when you have two (or more) versions up against each other. Here’s our key text in a couple of different versions.

  • Online: All the online sites let you do parallel reading. Some (like Bible Study Tools) put the verse on one line which makes comparative reading simple. Few (like Bible Gateway) allow a comparison of more than two texts in the same window.  Others (like NET) just have the parallel in a tab listing the other versions—feels kind of clunky to me. Most of them do a horrendously poor job comparing with original languages either relegating the feature to the Interlinear Bible or not helping out the reader see where the words coincide. Even a reader of Greek might want to quickly see the textual comparison without hunting and gathering what the English translating committee finally settled on. The NET does the best job by highlighting the corresponding translated word as well as where the word is used in the same chapter. Also, the NET’s translation notes returns dividends for anyone who invests time with them. Anyone doing parallel reading online might have to use multiple tools.
  • Freeish: The Freeish downloaded tools usually have the ability to compare about 4 versions simultaneously. Of course you’re still limited to the versions you have a license for which means that it might not be as free as you first thought. The one to one comparison of the English and Greek text is usually not the greatest so you might find yourself falling back on the Online tools like the NET’s comparison tool.
  • Not-Free: Not all paid-for tools are created equal so you’ll find that some do a better job with the parallel reading feature than others. Logos gives you a ton of material to work with and uses a lot of tabs and windows (which can be daunting) but also has a handy translation river tool that visually shows you the variation from a particular version. Bibleworks does a fantastic job of comparing original language to a given translation and it’s really intuitive. I haven’t checked out Accordance in years so I can’t really comment on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is just as good as the other paid-for products.

What we’re doing here, if we don’t know the original languages, is understand what the original language is saying and consulting different versions, and the scholarship behind them, helps that. We’re not trying to pick which translation sounds the best.
Crossposted at The Bible Archive.

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How To Read A Bible Outside Your Comfort Zone

We started this bit on studying the Bible using different tools to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. In this post I want to shed some light on reading in different versions.

Reading in your known version should take under five minutes, possibly even a minute. Your mind is putting the sentences together quicker than your eyes see them.

What you want to do while studying is read the entire book again, but this time we’ll jump outside of the comfort zone of our translation’s methodological sphere. Confused? Let me explain.

Each version has a methodology to how they translate the original language.

Some translations try to convey the words and structure of the original language in the receptor (that is, the translated to) language. Those translations are trying to employ a methodology called formal equivalence.

Other translations try to convey what the original language is trying to get across the original readers. The words are doing something and these methodologies want to translate what those words are doing into the receptor language. The translations are using functional equivalence.

The thing is, all versions are essentially on a line that approaches the original language. The only way you can have a one-to-one form and function correspondence is if you have the original language. (Read a great book by Gordon Fee on this subject or a great article about different versions by Wallace.)

So what I’m really saying is that one should read outside of the sphere of what we’re used to so that we can really read the text. My personal preference picks from three points on the line, bolding what I think are absolutely the best options: [NASBESV]-[NIVHCSBNET]-[NLTMSG]. The MSG is by far the least preferable on this list since it doesn’t have group scholarship behind it, but it’s still good just for letting us see what the text says.

  • Online: On Bible Gateway, pick a different version on the pull down and read. This is available on almost every online site so don’t feel restricted to Bible Gateway.
  • Freeish: Pick a different available version from the tabs.
  • Not-Free: You should have a library or catalog within the program that should let you pick a different version. Some might already have five versions pre-picked on different tabs in the background.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner.

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