New Accordance Reference Tools
by Robert Velarde (Posted: 1/2/04)
More than a decade later, the face of Bible software has changed dramatically. Computers have gotten much faster and hard drives have provided whopping amounts of storage capacity. Bible software programs now offer a wide variety of features, along with collections of Bibles and Bible study aids taking up many megabytes worth of space.
One such collection is the The Essential IVP Reference Collection (hereafter referred to as EIVPRC or “the collection”), which includes most of InterVarsity Press’ Bible reference materials on CD-ROM. This collection, which has been available for the PC for some time now, has recently become available for the Mac through Accordance Bible Software.
THE ESSENTIAL IVP REFERENCE COLLECTION
InterVarsity Press has been around a long time (before the start of World War II) and began as a branch of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Several quality books have been published by IVP over the years, including resources by Francis Schaeffer (The God Who is There), Paul Little (How to Give Away Your Faith) and, more recently, a series of books by Phillip E. Johnson (Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, The Wedge of Truth, etc.). In general, IVP publishes quality Christian books from a conservative perspective. Their reference resources are particularly well researched.
It should be noted that InterVarsity Press has offered a Windows version of the EIVPRC for some time. The latest Windows version, however, includes an updated interface and the addition of four books in their “pocket dictionary” series. The Mac edition includes the same seventeen resources. The following IVP works are included on the CD:
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
WHAT YOU GET ...
According to the promotional copy, the EIVPRC includes “the equivalent of over $450 worth of printed books” for $180. For $270 less than the printed copies the user gains the ability of closely integrating these works with Bible study software (Logos/Libronix on Windows or Accordance 6 on the Mac). Perhaps the greatest advantage over purchasing printed copies of the included works (aside from the financial savings) is the ability to search all of the resources for key phrases and terms. Ideally, I’d like to have hard copies of the resources as well. Electronic texts have yet to match the experience of sitting comfortably and holding an actual book. Additionally, a well-crafted book will last a lifetime and beyond, but what is the shelf life of software?
Although I will not get into the details of the value of each of the resources included as part of the collection (see the hyperlinks above for more information about each reference work), I would like to highlight some of the resources and make some observations. First, I am pleased to see that InterVarsity Press has added some of the excellent resources in their pocket dictionary series. However, I am disappointed that this did not include their Pocket Dictionary of New Religious Movements or the more recently released Pocket Dictionary of Ethics. Students of Hebrew will also note the absence of the Pocket Dictionary for the Study of Biblical Hebrew. Nevertheless, the four included pocket dictionaries are handy tools for pastors, ministry workers and students.
Being a graduate student in philosophy of religion, I’ve found the Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion by C. Stephen Evans especially useful. A typical definition, such as the following for the term “philosophy of religion,” offers both brevity and clarity: “The branch of philosophy that seeks to understand and critically evaluate the beliefs and practices of religions. Philosophers of religion debate the existence of God, the nature of religion, the possibility of life after death (and specific views about life after death such as reincarnation and resurrection) and many other questions raised by the great world religions.” The Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms has also been of great value, particularly when a brief and to the point definition is in order.
The collection also includes several quality reference works such as the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (1992, retail price $50). The list of contributors to the dictionary include scholars such as Craig Blomberg, Colin Brown, F.F. Bruce, R.T. France, Douglas Moo, Leon Morris, and several others. Hard Sayings of the Bible is another welcome component of the collection. In addition to dealing with difficult passages in specific books of the Bible, Hard Sayings also addresses common questions such as “How Do We Know Who Wrote the Bible?”, “Can We Believe in Bible Miracles?”, “Does Archeology Support Bible History?” and “Why Are There Four Different Gospels?”. A few of the other resources I’ve found particularly helpful include the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (billed as “An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible”) and The IVP Bible Background commentaries on the Old and New Testaments. In my assessment, each of the resources in the collection has proven useful. Although there is some expected redundancy in the resources, it is often beneficial for students and scholars to read entries from various perspectives.
ACCORDANCE GETS A FACE-LIFT
As mentioned, the EIVPRC includes the recently released version 6 of Accordance Bible Software. For users new to Accordance, the collection includes the King James Version of the Bible, and can be run as a stand-alone or in conjunction with other Accordance modules and collections. While it is beyond the scope of this article to provide a detailed review of Accordance 6, I’d like to at least mention some of the highlights and discuss how the software integrates with the EIVPRC.
I installed the EIVPRC as an upgrade to my 5.x version of Accordance. Installation was fairly straightforward and the new IVP modules appeared in their appropriate locations on the new “Resource palette.” The resource palette has simplified the use of Accordance by essentially combining the two palettes found in previous versions (the New Window and Amplify palettes ), thus providing quick access to a variety of study tools in one location.
Additionally, the new “workspace with tabs” option provides a simple but powerful way of managing many open resources, as is clear in the screenshot (for those who do not like tabs, this feature may be turned on or off). The tabbed feature will be familiar to those who take advantage of this concept as implemented in various web browsers including Apple’s Safari. It’s easy to set up custom workspaces in Accordance and save them for future use. For instance, I created a workspace called “IVP_ref_collection.” It would be nice to have a “recent workspaces” option on the file menu, though.
The “amplify” feature of Accordance is particularly useful. Simply highlight a key word or phrase (such as “Areopagus” from Acts 17, for instance) and then select a resource to find more information about the selected word or phrase. Using the “Areopagus” example, the user could select a resource from the Resource palette and Accordance would then take the user to an appropriate entry on that topic. Highlighting “Areopagus” then selecting the New Bible Commentary will open a window featuring commentary on Acts 17. Selecting Dictionary of Paul and His Letters will bring up the hyperlink entry “AREOPAGUS. See ATHENS, PAUL AT.” While the “amplify” feature is not exactly intuitive, it is easy to learn and provides a powerful method for getting the most out of the EIVPRC or other Accordance modules. A number of other changes and improvements have been made in Accordance 6. See this page for an overview or download a PDF featuring a more detailed presentation of the changes.
Incidentally, after noticing that OakTree Software recommends TorahResource.com for using Accordance in emulation mode on Windows-based systems, I obtained a copy of the Mac emulation CD. I tested the emulation software on two Windows-based PCs. The first was an old emachines etower 533id running Windows 2000. The second was a fairly new Dell laptop running Windows XP Home Edition. Both systems ran the emulator well. Naturally, as a Mac user I’d recommend running Accordance and modules such as those on the IVP collection natively on a Macintosh-based system, but for Windows users who’d like to take advantage of the powerful features in Accordance (or for Mac users who may at times use a PC), I’m pleased to report that the emulation software worked very well. Installation was fairly straightforward and within minutes I was running Mac OS 7.5.5 on a Windows computer. Just for kicks I even installed the emulator within Windows 2000 running on Virtual PC on my TiBook running OS X 10.3 Panther!
Speaking of Windows, as mentioned previously the EIVPRC has been available for Windows-based systems for awhile. However, IVP has recently upgraded the package (billing it as “Version 2.0”). Other than the addition of the included “pocket dictionaries” mentioned above, the package is identical in content to the previous version. The major change is that the collection now runs under the Libronix Digital Library System, the latest incarnation of Logos Research Systems’ Bible Study/Digital Library Software. I found the Libronix interface cluttered, cumbersome and awkward to use, particularly in comparison to Accordance 6.
PHILOSOPHY AND SOFTWARE
As a Christian philosopher I’d like to take this opportunity to make some observations and present some cautions regarding the use of Bible software. In his book The Soul in Cyberspace, philosopher Douglas Groothuis observes, “The answer to the epidemic of biblical illiteracy and theological ignorance is not the availability of more information. Rather the answer comes in the shaping of our sensibilities such that an understanding of biblical truth becomes consequential and foundational in our lives” (p. 147). The ability to study the Bible electronically with all the associated bells and whistles that software provides should not detract from a heartfelt pursuit for truth and devotion to God. While the capabilities of Bible software such as Accordance and the EIVPRC are truly a blessing, Christians must be careful not to become overwhelmed or overawed by technology to the point that they lose sight of what is truly important.
I provide these comments only as a caution. Bible software certainly has the potential to be a great benefit to those who utilize it wisely, but as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker (aka Spiderman), “With great power comes great responsibility.” Blaise Pascal warns that even seemingly worthy scholarly pursuits can become detrimental diversions: “Likewise others sweat away in their studies to prove to scholars that they have solved some hitherto insoluble problem in algebra ... Then there are others who exhaust themselves observing all these things, not in order to become wiser, but just to show they know them ...” (see Pascal’s Pensées fragment 136 on diversion, A.J. Krailsheimer translation).
[Ed: For more on these issues, see the CMUG article entitled The Dangers of Bible Software]
A WELL-ROUNDED PACKAGE
Despite my philosophical concerns regarding the use of Bible software, the EIVPRC provides a well-rounded package of reference tools at a reasonable price. Integration with Accordance 6, which in turn provides some welcome changes, is seamless and an added bonus. I highly recommend the EIVPRC for pastors, students, serious scholars or anyone interested in studying the Bible. Yes, Bible software has come a long way and both OakTree Software and IVP have provided some great tools to help us “examine everything carefully” and “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:21, NASB).
Robert Velarde, co-author of Examining Alternative Medicine (InterVarsity Press), is a writer and editor. He has published articles on topics such as theology, philosophy, alternative medicine, and technology and is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy of religion at Denver Seminary. A long-time DOS and Windows user following his Atari computing days, he switched to Macs early in 2002