For years I have been the unofficial liaison in a local church between our older members and the technology that makes life easier and richer as a congregation. By liaison I mean that I am the guy who started the church website, installed the wifi, created the email prayer notification list, etc., etc.
As such, I am also frequently charged with the task of explaining how to use “virtual” things to folks who grew up in a non-tech world filled with lots of printed paper, vinyl records, typewriters, corded telephones and face-to-face conversations. I am the guy who bridges the gap, because I also grew up while all those “physical” things were all we had, yet I have always had the hunger for knowledge about newer technologies as they came along and became the norm. I was an early adopter of personal computers, the Internet, cell phones, smartphones, cloud computing, streaming television and whatever comes along next. Jesus uses all of it in all its various forms to speak to us.
The case in point here is that the software on my smartphone that has become my primary bible. There is no tattered leather cover or notes lovingly scribbled in the margins during a long-ago bible study here. Yet when the preacher preaches, I have access to the same inspired words my grandmother read before I was born. And it has become an instant companion, always at the ready. Yes, I can type notes into it which are stored in “the cloud” until I need to read them later, but without the warmth of those scribbled on a tattered paper page.
Instead, I have traded this nostalgia for the ability to send those scriptures and notes to my Christian brother or sister at home caring for their terminally ill spouse on Sunday morning before the sermon is over. That communication ability is simply built in on my modern smartphone/bible/email/text device.
Neither the leather covered bible nor the smartphone/bible/email/text device is the “Right Idea” here. They are simply the tools the Lord provided to each of us in our circumstance of experience and inclination. I believe both of them are tools of understanding provided by a loving God to his flock.
This blog is not the place to discuss the unending supply of conventionally printed books and bibles available both in your local store and online. But we must acknowledge that they exist and are still preferred over their electronic counterparts by many folks who still value the tactile experience of turning physical pages, dog-earing pages for bookmarks and hand writing notes in the margins. But I have explored the variety of electronic bibles available and have some opinions on how they operate in this real world of sermons on Sunday, bible study at home, “cloud” based bibles and such.
If you want to get started exploring virtual bibles on your smartphone now, I have a couple of suggestions for you. Tecarta bible, BibleGateway and YouVersion are free apps you can download from either Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. All come with free access to the public domain King James version of the bible and have other translations available either for a small purchase price or entirely free after the app itself is installed. You’ll want to create an account on any of these so that any highlighted passages or note you take are preserved any time you are signed on to their system.
I’m partial to Tecarta, but that’s probably because I started using it first and find the verse lookup suits me quite well. BibleGateway has been online with a website with tons of translations and resources and is a solid choice. Just remember that an online connection is required for most things with BibleGateway, where Tecarta is designed to be used by downloading bibles to the phone itself so, once you have a translation downloaded, you can use your bible without an Internet connection. YouVersion is a more social approach which encourages frequent interaction with other users.
Use these links to get the apps for each of the “virtual bibles” listed here:
- Tecarta (get the app here)
Tecarta is yet to make their bible(s) directly online through a browser for use directly from your computer, so it is only usable from your mobile device for reading the bible
- BibleGateway (get the app here)
BibleGateway is one of the best online bible websites available (BibleGateway.com) with a dizzying array of resources and features available directly from your web browser on any computer of any screen size as well as the dedicated app for your mobile device.
- YouVersion (get the app here)
YouVersion.com is the browser version of the app and is actually more of an online bible-centric community of Christians who are actively involved in spreading the Gospel and connecting Christian organizations and groups.
After you’ve tried out either Tecarta, BibleGateway or YouVersion you’ll probably know whether you want to pursue this any further, so I have prepared a few considerations for you before you take the plunge into the future.
- What kind of device will you want to use for your virtual bible?
- Desktop or laptop computer
- External display for other folks to follow along
- Android Tablet or iPad
- All of the above?
- Do you have a solid Internet connection there?
- Is there usually a lot of ambient light there?
- Are you planning to look up many different passages in one session?
- Are you willing to pay for software or extra features?
- Is it a natural thing for you to read on a phone, tablet or computer screen?
- Do you need to have large type because of vision problems?
- Do you highlight a lot of scripture or take notes for future reference?
- Will you want to share bible passages or thoughts with others?
- Do you want to make your bible experience a “social” one inviting others to join in with online discussion?