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Quality Free Online Bible Study - It is Possible

Quality Free Online Bible Study - It is Possible

Kenneth Gilmore

If you want to do serious Bible study, then computer Bible study options are fast becoming the only real option, if only because you can have thousands of books and journals on a single computer which would require significantly more storage space than most houses have. Couple that with the speed with which complex searches across multiple volumes can be performed, along with the ability to access external resources via the internet, and it's easy to see why people such as myself regard 'dead tree' media as a thing of the past.

This of course costs money. No avoiding that. For some, even $20-$30 per month on a payment plan may be stretching a tight budget. There are however options available which while not perfect do allow you to access quality resources for only the cost of an internet connection.

Biblia, a web application from Logos Bible Software, not only allows users to access most of their library via a browser interface from any computer, but makes freely available a number of Bibles such as:
  • 1881 Westcott-Hort Greek NT
  • Elzevir TR
  • American Standard Version
  • Authorised Version
  • English Standard Version
  • NET Bible
  • NASB 1995
  • NIV Reader's Bible
  • New Century Version
  • RSV
  • NRSV
  • NIV
  • Revised Authorised Version
  • Lexham English Bible
  • SBL Greek NT with apparatus
Searching is nowhere near the level you get in the main package, but you do get access to the text of the major English language Bibles, as well as the Vulgate and some of the older Greek texts. This alone will save you a considerable amount of money if all you want to do is read the text, and do basic non-morphological searching.

One hidden treasure is the German Bible Society, which offers free access and searching (after free registration) of the NA27 Greek NT, the BHS Hebrew OT, Rahlfs Greek OT and the Vulgate. In addition, you get either the AV or Luther's German Bible. Having free access to the texts of the standard Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible is quite useful if you're literate in these languages, but admittedly this does tend to exclude most casual readers.

Great Treasures allows you not only to read up to five Bibles and Greek texts in parallel, but allows you to search in either English or Greek, select words and get their lexical definitions. The interface is frankly ghastly on small screens (1074x768) but on larger screens, this should not be as large a problem. Once again, free registration is required.

If you're after a Greek and Hebrew interlinear Bible, then BibleStudyTools is reasonably useful. Apart from displaying the texts (AV / NASB and Gk/Heb) in parallel, it allows you to click on the words and get lexical definitions, and a breadown of where they occur in the Bible. The Greek lexicon is an eclectic mix of Thayers and others, though it is keyed to Kittel and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The Hebrew is based on BDB / Gesenius, and is keyed to the Theological Dictionary of the OT

The Perseus Classics Library is definitely one to add for the sheer variety of texts freely available, coupled with the ability to search them and the availability of the respected Liddle Scott Jones lexicon. The Greek text available is the venerable Westcott-Hort, but given the power of the Perseus Library, the restriction is perhaps forgiveable.

As mentioned before, one thing that you won't be able to get is access to the full text of the major commentaries and reference texts. However, material which can read scholarly-level quality is available. One all-in-one site is Bookmarks in Biblical Studies. Caveat emptor, but remember your investment is restricted solely to your time and the cost of your internet access.

I did say that you can't get access to the full text of major recent commentaries. However, Google has digitised a considerable amount of scholarly books. If you're lucky, up to 70% or more of these books can be found via Google Books. Examples include:

The Lost World of Genesis One
Genesis (Commentary by James McKeown)
Inspiration and Incarnation
New American Commentary: Isaiah 40-66
The Theology of Paul the Apostle - James Dunn

Some theological journals are freely available, though often behind a moving time wall, which means the latest year is not available. Two examples include the Tyndale Journal and Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.

There are libraries of scholarly journals available - while these are limited to what the scholar running the site has included, given the iniquitous price of journal articles (up to $35 per article if you buy it through the official journal site) anything freely available is always welcome. One good example is Theodore Hildebrandt's site, which has many classic journal articles available.

Finally, don't overlook the value of blogs. While these are not peer-reviewed resources, what you do get here is informed commentary on current issues related to Biblical studies, and that's not to be scorned. It helps to select across the theological spectrum in order to avoid getting one view. Blogs that I constantly refer to include:

Evangelical Textual Criticism
Exploring Our Matrix
Earliest Christianity
Biblical and Early Christian Studies
Larry Hurtado's Blog
The Naked Bible
The ASOR Blog
Ritmeyer Archaeological Design
Faith and Theology
Peter Enns - Rethinking Biblical Christianity

Again, these are not peer-reviewed articles, but blog posts. However, informal commentary from theologians biblical scholars, archaeologists and other related professionals is of no little use, particularly if you've heard something sensational from the mainstream media (as theologically illiterate as it is scientifically), so they're a good reference if you've heard something which proves/disproves the Bible, or whatever.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the single best site for freely-available Christadelphian books which is maintained by Joshua Carmody - Christadelphian Books Online.

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