The Bible App: Pros & Cons (So Far)

My Bible Background

I’m on my third reading of the entire Bible, but this time is different.

Illuminated BibleTo begin with, I’m reading it slower than I’ve read it in the past. I’m a voracious and fast reader, so it is not uncommon for me to whiz through a book in a few days. Obviously, the Bible took me a little longer when I read it in the past, but I would say that it didn’t take much longer than a month or so at a steady slog. Consequently, it was easier to see how the pieces fit together, but I’m sure my eyes skimmed over gems that a slower approach would have unearthed. Reading it fast also left little room for reflection. Like other books I’ve read through quickly before, ask me what it was about a year or more later, and I’d be hard-pressed to give you a decent summary.

Tim's bookmarked BibleAnother way in which reading the Bible for the third time is different is that I’m reading it on my Kindle and on my iPhone. When I first got my Kindle, it took a little adjusting to appreciate the reading experience on an electronic device. I’m notorious for dog-earing pages, writing all over the margins, and highlighting with a vengeance. Once I learned that I could do the electronic equivalent of all of those things on the Kindle, the experience was enriched. In fact, I prefer reading on the Kindle now.

Not only is reading the Bible on the Kindle lightweight and portable, but it can accompany me basically anywhere I go. During my previous two experiences reading the Bible, I would wait until the evening before going to bed to read. Traditionally, that is my designated reading time. With the Kindle, however, I can read throughout the day, whenever I get the opportunity.

My Three Bibles
The three Bibles I’ve read all the way through, a size comparison.

As for the physical experience of it, the first Bible I read all the way through was The HarperCollins Study Bible : NRSV, and despite being printed on what would seem to be tissue paper, it is oversized and weighs more than three pounds. (Seriously, I just weighed it.) For just this reason, my second reading of the Bible was with Ignatius Catholic Bible, RSV. It’s much smaller, and weighs a measly 14 ounces; although, it, too, was printed on tissue paper. While this one was small enough to carry around, I never did because I have a fairly strong aversion to appearing overly pious. I brought this Bible with me on vacations, but I wasn’t about to bring it to the dentist’s waiting room. And then along came Kindle. Size-wise, it is somewhere between the other two, but much thinner. Even inside the case I’ve put it in, it weighs only five ounces more than the Ignatius Catholic Bible. In it’s plain brown wrapper (or, black case), I can bring it everywhere without feeling like I’m walking around with ashes on my forward. (Once a year brings me enough humility, thank you very much.) And the iPhone, well that’s even smaller.

The biggest difference in my Bible-reading experience this go-round, though, is that I’m actually reading it with an app. The Bible App is a free application that is available for download on a variety of electronic devices. And so, as I’ve embarked on this new adventure of 21st century religion, I thought I’d take a moment to provide you with the pros and cons of this particular application.

The Bible App: Pros

Like I mentioned earlier, I read quickly — too quickly. The Bible App has a functionality to work on a Bible reading “plan.” To date, there are dozens, if not scores, of plans to choose from. You can choose devotional options like the serious “What’s in the Bible: Comfort” plan, to the silly “No More Unglued Mama Mornings” plan. There are youth plans, family plans, topical plans, partial Bible plans, or whole Bible plans. The plans vary in length from a few days to one year, and the application will remind you (if you’d like) to participate in the plan you chose to read on a daily basis. I picked the “Historical” plan, which covers the entire Bible over the course of one year. This intentionally slows down my reading, giving me time to reflect. (Even though, truth be told, my eyes still glaze over when it comes to long lists of names, or measurements for the Temple.)

The application, as I previously mentioned, is available on a variety of platforms. Currently,  I have it on both my Kindle and my iPhone. And if the wonderful convenience of this is not enough, the plans will sync across all of your devices picking up where you left off on your previous device, as long as you are connected to the Internet. For me, this is essential, and it has worked well for my needs.

The application provides you with a Bible verse of the day and a (apparently) random chapter to read — both optional. I skip these, and go right to my plan. You can bookmark, highlight, and take notes right within the application itself. You can share your favorite verses on Facebook and/or Twitter. And, like the good old-fashioned Bible, you can use it merely as a reference tool, accessing any part of the Bible you’d like, at any given time. The search function is helpful, too, if you’re looking for something specific.

I’m currently a little more than halfway through my one-year, whole-Bible plan using this application. In fact, today is “Day 205” and I’m coming up on the end of the book of Psalms. Today, my assignment are Psalms 140-145. Doable, right? Just enough to give me time to reflect, and not so much that I feel overwhelmed. And if you’re not a terribly fast or voracious reader, maybe this app will help you do what feels impossible: read the entire Bible. The Bible app is good like that.

The Bible App: Cons

While users of the app are free to select from any of 38 versions of the Bible to read using the application, the only Catholic version is the CPDV, which is the Catholic Public Domain Version. While it beats a lot of the versions available as far as readability goes (not to King James-ish, not too hip and modern), it definitely lacks a certain poetry that is nice in the more contemporary versions available to Catholics.

Another downside to this application is what happens when you follow the app down the rabbit hole and see who created it and who they are affiliated with. The Bible app is available from YouVersion. When you go to their website and scroll to the bottom, you see that it is copyrighted to LifeChurch.tv, which I’ve honestly never heard of but sounds about as Protestant as you can get. (Disclosure: I have no problems with Protestants. I’m just not one of them.) Turning (or clicking) then to the website for LifeChurch.tv, you are presented with a nicely polished interface that tells you very little about the organization itself. In fact, even the “About” and “Who We Are” sections of their site are unhelpful. Fortunately, they have a link called “Beliefs.” This is where we learn that LifeChurch.tv is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.

To learn more about them, please feel free to do your own research. I stopped when I saw a picture of a man with a Madonna-esque microphone coming out of the side of his head while he preached to what I presume to be a stadium full of evangelicals. At any rate, my point here is not to find fault with the ECC, LifeChurch.tv, or YouVersion. I’m just presenting what I found in case these things are important to you. (These are also the folks behind the recent “The Bible” television miniseries, which I had some real issues with. But you may have liked it.) The other reason I bring up these things is that in order to participate in any of the plans, you must create a YouVersion account that either links to your Facebook profile, or is created when you provide them with your email address. (I chose the latter option, giving them the same generic email address I give anyone I suspect may spam me in the future, and which I never check. So far, so good.)

The Bottom Line

I’ve really enjoyed using the Bible app over the past 205 days. For me, it has slowed my reading pace giving me time to savor the best parts, and reflect on the parts that grab my attention for good or for ill. Personally, I use the app’s reminder system to remind me to open the app and read my chapters each day, but I probably don’t have to. The system has become ingrained and I almost never miss a day. (If you do miss a day, it’s as simple as clicking “back” and catching yourself up.) Reading the Bible for the third time, and in this new way, has been a wonderful experience. While I can still get glassy-eyed or skim over long lists of names and measurements, I haven’t. I’m taking it all in.

Ultimately, whether or not you should utilize this application is up to you and your personal preferences. I’d encourage you to give it a shot and see if you like it. After all, it’s free, and you can’t beat that. (You can download the app for free from Amazon by clicking on the image below.)

810GA8hhQAL._SL160_Have you ever read the entire Bible? How did you do it? Straight through, or in sections? Have you tried the Bible app, or have you used another app you would recommend instead? Let me know in the comments section below.

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2 Replies to “The Bible App: Pros & Cons (So Far)”

  1. I’ve been using The Bible App as well. It took me a little time, to feel OK with this use of technology. It does feel funny to use these technological wonders for spiritual pursuits. After considering 1. The New Testament was most certainly an oral tradition for decades after the Jesus Ascension, and 2. It’s not like I can get my hands on papyrus or sheep skin scrolls…. I came to grips with whatever means I have at my disposal… reading scripture is GOOD! So I removed my dualistic thinking and now find it to be very comforting to know that the word of God is right there ready in my back pocket!

    In reading the Bible, my first attempt was to plow straight through. It hurt. I was struggling through the lineages of the Pentateuch… when a miracle occurred. OK, that’s a bit much… but of all places, I was coming back from South Bend, IN. Yes, I thank the Blessed Mother, because we did pray at the Grotto of U of Notre Dame; but of all places, after paying my bill at an Amish Buffet, sitting on the corner of the cash register were a bunch of tri-fold brochures entitled “Read the Bible in One Year. Broken down in four streams, so you would get something from the front of the OT, something from the back starting at Psalms, then a Gospel reading and then a section starting with Acts. It was the answer to my prayers! I did have to take some time to read the books that our Amish Brothers and Sisters don’t include… but I am grateful for their interdenominational help!

  2. That was nice of them! I’ve of like mind that technology should only be turned to when papyrus and scrolls are unavailable. 🙂 Yes, the genealogies are rough, but I struggled more with the measurements of the temple… and the measurements of basically everything else. All the same, good for you for getting in to Scripture via technology. Have you worked on any of the plans that are offered? I picked the “Historical” plan which, if memory serves, was supposed to organize the texts into some sort of chronological order through history, but so far I haven’t been able to detect any difference between the Historical plan and reading straight through. It’s all good, though. I’m a pretty lineal thinker, although I have to make an extra effort not to be a slave to it.

    I recently received (shortly after publication of this article) an email from my dad who recommends “Jeff Cavin’s Bible Timeline,” which is a a series of 24 sessions on video that explains how all the different books of the Bible are connected. My dad ran a small church group (if 200 people is small) that went through this series, and it was very popular. I haven’t seen it myself. Have you? Any thoughts?