World Wide Word: Bible study tools on the internet

I remember being envious once, in pre-Web days, of a pastor friend who was showing me the Bible software he had just purchased. He could look up any passage in an instant, search for multiple uses of a particular word, even pull up two different Bible translations side by side on his computer. The tables were turned recently when I told him of two popular websites that offered all those Bible study tools and more—for free.

http://bible.gospelcom.net

The Bible Gateway (http://bible.gospelcom.net) is a tool for reading Scripture online. Type in the passage you want (John 15-17) or look up a particular keyword (“vine”).You can restrict these sorts of searches to a particular book (Isaiah) or to a cluster of books (Gospels, Wisdom literature).

These features are a boon to worship planners of all stripes. A pastor researching a sermon can find all references to vines and grapes in the whole Bible or cut and paste passages to construct a communion litany. She can grab a section of scriptural dialogue and edit out the he saids to make a reader’s theatre script. A worship leader can find all references in the book of Psalms to the phrase “Shout to the Lord” in order to use that passage in a song introduction. A church secretary can find a Scripture passage formatted and ready for printing in the bulletin.

The Bible Gateway is speedy, powerful, and easy to use. But most amazing is the variety of Bibles available for searching and reading. As you might expect—it is, after all, on the world wide web—the world’s languages are represented: French, German, Italian, Latin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Arabic, and Dutch—with more languages being offered all the time. Of course, if English is what you’re looking for, there are nine translations to choose from. If you prefer the New International Version, you’ll find it. If you need to look up something in the King James Version or the New American Standard Version, those are there too. Alas, the New Revised Standard Version, often my translation of choice, is not available at this site.

http://bible.crosswalk.com
http://biblestudytools.net

But while looking for the NRSV I discovered the whole cluster of Bible study tools at Crosswalk.com. This site—http://bible.crosswalk.com or http://biblestudytools.net—also offers the Bible online. It has a search engine and a host of English translations—including the NRSV. But there is much, much more. All the standard “pastor’s library” items are here: a parallel Bible feature, a handful of concordances, Bible dictionaries, an encyclopedia, even a few popular commentaries (Darby’s Synopsis, the Geneva Study Bible, the Matthew Henry set, Scofield reference notes, and more). Greek and Hebrew lexicons (including links to the fonts to make them work) are included, and best of all, an interlinear for the pastor who wants to keep Greek and Hebrew from becoming altogether foreign languages again.

Most of these tools I have in one form or another already on my shelf, but here they’re all available at the click of a mouse, making sermon preparation and worship planning easier. And there’s still more. A section of sermon helps offers full text sermons to read through and a handy “Auto-Illustrator,” searchable by topic. A history section provides links to Josephus, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, The Early Church Fathers, even a number of creeds and confessions.

Keep in mind, though, that on a site with so much to offer, you can’t expect everything to be of equal value. For instance, I suspect I’ll never use the Jack Van Impe Dictionary of Prophecy Terms. And because Crosswalk.com is a commercial site, it includes mildly annoying ads along the top of the screen and in other strategic locations. Even so, both Crosswalk.com and Bible Gateway offer a wealth of Word-related resources for pastors and worship planners. Both are worth a bookmark in your favorite browser.

Ron Rienstra is associate professor of preaching and worship arts at Western Theological Seminary and co-author of Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry (Baker Academic, 2009).