The iPad assists mobile Bible study thanks to a lot of iPad Bible Study apps. But which one should you use? How good are they and what can a person do with them. Let’s look at the best iPad Bible Study apps to help preachers, teachers and Christians study the Bible.
iPad Bible Study Must Haves…
Recently we differentiated between mobile Bible Study apps and Devotional or Bible reading apps. Please see that post to understand the difference. The apps below fit in the more advanced Bible Study Apps sector. Users can use them for Bible reading and devotional Bible reading as well, but they are more than that. Here’s what I think every good Bible Study app should include that might not show up in a simple devotional or Bible reading app.
Original language tools
References like commentaries, Bible dictionaries, atlases and more
Dual pane view showing the Bible in one and a reference or language study tool in the other panes or showing two or more translations on the screen at once
Feature-rich note taking within the app
The apps below all give us more than the four features above, but these are the bare minimum. I think they should also be good at helping you do your Bible reading. No one should have to install two Bible apps on a phone, tablet or Chromebook.
UPDATE: Note that the screenshots and descriptions are of the latest beta of Logos Bible for iPad that will hopefully get released soon. Read more about it in the Logos forums and if you have an Android device you can actually sign up for access to the beta and download it now.
The Logos Bible app is unique compared to the other apps in this roundup. It offers a Home page that shows a ton of content by default. I actually turn off much of this. Here’s what you get right after installing the app.
Featured Bibles – top Bibles that Logos thinks you’ll like and want to use.
Group Invites – Logos has the Faithlife community a kind of Christian social network that focuses on their products. You get invitations to join certain groups and they show up here.
Today’s Readings – reading plans for Bible readings, book readings, etc. Tap on them to see the most recent reading for that plan.
Reading Plan Invitations – like the group invites, these offer potential reading plans like a Gospels in 90 days or Read Mark in a month.
Verse of the Day – a graphical representation of a new verse of Scripture each day that you can quickly share online.
Faithlife Today – the news about Faithlife, their products or interviews and skills development videos all focused on Bible study.
News – text-based news links to the Logos blog.
In addition to the Home screen, we also get other tabs (buttons across the bottom of the app’s screen). These show your Library, Bible, Work Spaces, and a Plus button to add a new work space/tab. The Library button opens your list of books in the library so you can open them. Each book opens in a new Work Space screen. The Bible button opens a list of Bibles so you can add one to a new Work Space. The Work Spaces shrinks each work space and you can swipe between them. This screen also lets users sync the various screens. If you have a copy of the Bible on one Work Space and a copy of your favorite commentary on another, you can sync them so that as you navigate through the Bible from book to book or passage to passage, then the commentary will follow and keep up. Move from Matthew 18 to John 10 in the Bible and a synced commentary or Bible will also move there.
The app lets users tap and hold on a word and a context menu opens. Here’s what the context menu will show you.
Copy – copy the selected text
Look up – do some language study or look up in a dictionary
Search – search your library, the Bible or book for selected text
Share – post to social media or send to friends via a text message or an email
Highlight – just like you would some text in your paper Bible with a highlighter
Note – add a digital margin note like you might in your paper Bible
Clipping – collect content in a clipping document while researching a topic or passage
Visual Copy – creates an image of the text to share online or save for presentations
In the upper right corner there’s a menu button (three vertical dots) that give options for the more powerful features like:
Change Resource – replace the current book with another
Search – search the Bible or open books and the entire library
Passage Guide – research tool finding your text in reference tools like commentaries and more
Make a Note – adds a note to the current passage or part of the book
Add to Favorites – like a bookmark feature
Text Comparison – shows the text in multiple translations all on-screen at the same time
Make a Clipping – collect content just like you do with the button in the context menu above
Exegetical Guide – runs an original language research of the present passage
Visual Copy – same as the context menu above
Share – like the context menu above share content with others
Book Info – shows the front of the book info like publisher, author, etc.
View Settings – change things like text size, font etc.
The iPad in recent versions of iOS offer a kind of widgets that Android users enjoyed for a long time. In iOS you find these on the iPad when you swipe down from the top of the screen and then swipe right to show the list of Notification Widgets. Logos has a widget that displays their Verse of the Day image that you’d also see on the app Home screen. Tap it to launch the Logos app and it opens to that verse in your currently open Bible.
The Logos Notification Widget doesn’t do as much as the Accordance widget. I wish it had a version chooser or let you open recent books read like the Accordance widget.
Users can get the app free, but it works best if you own a library of book from Logos.com. Get one of their Logos Base Packages to bundle a library of books and save money versus buying each book individually.
Bible by Olive Tree
While Logos may offer more complex features, Olive Tree offers a simpler app with a great set of tools for doing advanced Bible study on a mobile device. In fact the Resource Guide might offer the simplest method of accessing all the content in the library related to a given passage on any of the mobile apps in this roundup.
The Bible shows up in the left side with the Study Tools on the right. Inside Study Tools you’ll find the Resource Guide along with a library button, a notes button, and the Lookup button, which lets you look up words in word search in dictionaries, the Bible and your notes.
The Resource Guide is one of the Study Tools and it will arrange your library content by category. All the Related Verses, Commentaries, other Bibles, People, Topics, Maps, Charts, Introductions and more will show up in lists one after another. Each list will show your books ready to open to the content related to the passage or subject found in the verse showing in the left hand window. Tap them to see the content.
On the top left there’s a menu button to show…
Suggested Resources – an ad for a book Olive Tree’s pushing at that time
Store – link to buy new books from within the app
Messages – content from the blog often written by our own Theotek contributor LaRosa Johnson
Reading History – the list of texts you’ve read in the Bible
Notes – Shows your user notes
Highlights – show your user highlights
Book Ribbons – shows your user book ribbons which are like favorites
Saved Passage – similar to Book Ribbons with a list of passages you’ve saved as bookmarks
Tags – a list of all the tags you’ve created so you can make your own topical Bible
Sync – lets you sync your app notes, ribbons, etc. with Olive Tree’s servers
Help – the Olive Tree help system
Across the top of the Bible Screen we see two toolbars. The topmost toolbar has the following:
Library – opens your library
Reading Plan – opens the reading plan screen with suggested reading plans you can add or your own reading plans
Store – opens the store to buy more books
Quick Settings – change things like font, screen color (low light verse regular) and others
Search – search the Bible
Ribbon – add a ribbon to the current top most verse
Below the top-level toolbar you’ll see a second toolbar that shows two buttons, the Select Verse button that opens a Book/Chapter/Verse style navigation tool and a lock button that keeps the toolbar from disappearing. I prefer this and I’m glad Olive Tree added this button for use on the iPad. The iPhone version is best without the toolbar showing so you don’t cover up too much of the text on the smaller screen.
The strength of Olive Tree’s Bible is the simplicity and great library available. It also has the best notes feature available in these three. However, the weakness comes from the desktop app. The Accordance and Logos desktop/laptop apps offer far more than Olive Tree’s.
Download the app for free and get some free books to try it out. Then check out their store for more tools. They don’t focus as much on bundled libraries of books, although they do offer them. I like this because you buy only what you want or need.
Bible Study With Accordance Mobile
At first look, the Accordance Mobile app seems like little more than a basic Bible and book reader tool with split-screen display options. Admittedly, I’m not a frequent user of Accordance Mobile. However, as I dig deeper and take time to discover the features, I realize they a user can do a lot with what looks like very little at first.
The Accordance user-interface opens, after you’ve downloaded books, to show a Bible. There’s a handle on the right side that opens a second window with another book. Tap the title of the book to bring up the library list of books. The left window library lists shows a list of the installed Bible Texts while the right shows Texts, Reference Tools like Commentaries or Study Bibles, and your Notes files.
Open the Notes file and you’ll see your notes. To add a note, select a word or verse and a menu pops up above it. Tap on Note and screen offers to add the note to one of your Notes files. Start typing inside that pop up box. It has a button to change the font, size, color and make the font Bold, Italics or Underlined. Sadly, even though you can see your notes on the right, you can edit them in place. To edit a note, select it and it offers to let you edit the note with a full-screen editor. This covers up the text. I like to make observations about the text in my notes and I can’t see the text in Accordance. That’s the same problem you have with Logos. At least in Logos you can open the Note file and edit in place. It’s hard if you have a lot of notes in your file.
Unfortunately, I experienced a problem with Notes Sync via Dropbox. They don’t use their own servers and rely on Dropbox to sync between the desktop and mobile app. ON the desktop it’s automatic, but not on mobile. That’s a huge weakness of Accordance if you’re a heavy notes user like me.
If you open a book with Strong’s Numbers tagging attached to the text, like the ESV or HCSB or KJV, then you can select a word and a box will pop up showing the original language information. You get the English word, Strong’s number and the Greek word. Then it shows your favorite Greek word dictionary. OT shows Hebrew. Then tap on Search at the bottom of the pop up and it finds that word through the NT. The Amplify will let you search by word or the key number.
The Library button lets you download your books over the Internet. You can also sync those if you have both the desktop and the iPad connected to the same Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t work if your desktop isn’t connected via Ethernet.
The second button from the left lets you sync via Dropbox or via Wi-Fi. Notes and user tools sync via Dropbox while the syncing directly over Wi-Fi syncs your books from the desktop to the iPad.
Accordance users will get a number of free books. However, it will work better if you buy a package to use on your iPad. The free Accordance Lite includes some good tools like ESV with Strong’s plus some public domain books. To add books you can buy books or get a Collection. They start with the free Lite package and go up to more advanced sets like the Pro sets in English, Hebrew or Greek that each cost $999. If you want all three you can get what they call the “Triple” package in the Learner or Discoverer levels. There’s also a graphics-focused set of tools called the Graphics Learner, Discoverer or Master.
PocketBible Bible Study
I love PocketBible from Laridian because it’s the first mobile Bible study app I ever used on my PocketPC a long time ago. Then I moved to Palm and there it was. I went to iPhone and then iPad and it was still available. On Android, eventually it came along for the ride.
When you first install the app it offers a great help screen that shows you how to use the app from the get go. It’s the best on-boarding experience for a new user. Then you’ll get a single window, but no Bibles yet. Open the button at the bottom of the toolbar on the right. Find the Add/Remove books and download all of your books. If you’re not registered, you can do that in the tutorial that opens when you first install.
After you get some books installed open a book using the top button on the toolbar. You can use the Settings (third from the bottom) to add a second window. The rest of the buttons on the toolbar include:
Navigate to passage
Calendar for Bible reading plan
Button to open the toolbox pane (more on that below)
Panes chooser lets you pick how many window panes to open at a time
Reading controls for books with audio included
Menu where you can add/remove books, change other app settings and control books
The toolbox holds another toolbar with six icons as follows (see the right most box in the image above):
Select a word, phrase or more and a menu pops up above it with buttons as follows:
Copy – copy the selected text
Share – post to Facebook or send it over text or email to name a few
Find – search the selected text
Look Up – search your favorite dictionary
More… – opens another menu with a number of other tools, functions and book controls
Laridian offers a number of books to buy. They offer PocketBible Library Collections ranging from $60 on up to $380. You can also buy books or commentary sets.
PocketBible isn’t as polished as some of the other tools. However, it’s one of the easiest to learn and costs less for collections than some of the above options.
Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop
This last option’s not a Bible app at all, but rather a utility that lets you connect to a desktop. Install the Splashtop Streamer utility on your Mac or PC and let it run automatically. Download the app for iPad and run it. After you log in you’ll see all of your computers running the Streamer listed. Tap the one you want to log into. It opens the computer and shows the screen.
Now you can control anything on the computer including a full desktop class Bible software program. Above you’ll see it running with Bibleworks 10 showing on the screen.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.