New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, $99 in Olive Tree

NIDB Olive TreeAn underrated but really good Bible dictionary is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIDB). Published by Abingdon, the five-volume set is edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and includes contributions of nearly 1,000 scholars.

For a short time the dictionary set is $99.99 in Olive Tree Bible software. Below I offer–from my perspective as a preaching pastor and Bible reader–my take on the set, with a focus on Olive Tree’s iOS Bible Study App.

 

What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me

 

There are more than 7,000 articles in NIDB. The contributing scholars are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and denominational background–a refreshing mix of voices. The dictionary balances reverence for the biblical text with rigorous scholarship–though the dictionary is rarely arcane.

The NIDB has been eminently useful to me in my weekly sermon preparation. Last fall, for example, when preaching through Genesis, I knew I’d have to make sense somehow of the “subdue” command that God gives the first humans regarding their relationship to the earth. The dictionary’s “Image of God” entry helpfully clarifies:

While the verb may involve coercive activities in interhuman relationships (see Num. 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here–and this is the only context in which the verb applies to nonhuman creatures.

The same article puts nicely the implications of humanity’s creation in God’s image: the “image of God entails a democratization of human beings–all human hierarchies are set aside.”

This sort of blend between technical detail and pastoral application is present throughout the dictionary.

I’ve also found useful background for my Greek reading. This year, for example, I’m reading through the Psalms in Greek with a group of folks (see here). In the “Septuagint” entry in NIDB I find this:

The 4th-cent. CE “Codex Vaticanus” contains all of the books of the Hebrew Scripture or Protestant OT, and the following material that is today classified as deuterocanonical: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Ps 151, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, the additions to Esther (several of which were originally composed in a Semitic language; others of which are original Greek compositions), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Daniel (Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon).

The entry goes on to describe other Septuagint manuscripts, with hyperlinks in Olive Tree to related entries.

 

iOS Features in Olive Tree

 

Olive Tree logo

 

Olive Tree is as cross-platform as a Bible study app gets: it runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Mac, Windows, and Android. The app itself is free, and you can get some good texts free, too, so you can preview the app before you buy any resources in it.

I’ve got the Olive Tree app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad Mini. It’s one of the best-executed iOS Bible study apps I’ve seen. It is visually appealing, highly customizable (especially with gestures and swipes), and easy to learn.

When reading the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (or anything else), here are a few features that have impressed me:

You can navigate with “flick scrolling” (how iBooks is set up) or “page scrolling” (like Kindle). This will make just about any user feel at home in the app. Flick scrolling (how you’d navigate a Web page) feels more natural to me, so I use that.

Dictionary entries are easy to get to. You can simply tap on “Go To” and type in the entry you’re looking for. The auto-complete feature saves having to type very much on the iPhone’s small keyboard:

 

NIDB Go To

 

You can search the entire contents of NIDB by word. If I wanted to see not just the entry for “Septuagint,” but every time the NIDB mentions the Septuagint, I would simply type that word in to the search entry bar:

 

NIDB Search

 

Then I can select a result and read the given entry.

The full-color photos are zoomable. The NIDB contains full-color photographs that help visualize various entries. You can select the photograph and pinch-zoom for more detail.

 

NIDB iPad

 

I’ve noted this before–there is a great deal of customizable “Gestures/Shortcuts” preferences in the “Advanced Settings” menu. Olive Tree is the most versatile Bible study app in this sense. For example:

  • Two-finger swipe left and right takes you through your history within the app. I can swipe between NIDB, and the last NIV Old Testament passage I was reading, and a commentary, and…. No need to go through menus.
  • Two-finger tap gets you from any screen to your library; right away you can get at your other resources.

 

Concluding Assessment and How to Buy

 

One of my favorite features of Olive Tree’s apps is that you can view two resources at once that aren’t tied together by Bible verse. It’s like having split windows on an iPad. So you can have the NIDB open in the top half of your screen, and a Bible text or other resource open in the bottom half–even to unrelated topics if you want.

The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is about as good a Bible dictionary as you’ll find. If you can use it to complement the Anchor Bible Dictionary (also available in OT), you’d be very well set with Bible dictionaries.

Olive Tree has done a great job, especially with its iOS apps. As much as I loved my print copy of NIDB, I unloaded it not long ago since I can essentially carry it around with me now. And getting at its contents is even easier with the enhancements Olive Tree provides.

 

Thanks to Olive Tree for the NIDB for the purposes of this review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review. You can find the product here, where it is currently on sale for $99.99.

Calendars 5: A Better Calendar App for iPhone and iPad

Calendars 5At first I scoffed a bit at the idea of another calendar app for iOS. What’s wrong with Apple’s native “Calendar” app?

Well, it’s a fine app, and it gets the job done. You can sync your schedule across multiple devices–it’s how my family keeps our days and weeks organized. I add an event and it populates in any other place that my wife or I would check it.

Its interface feels a little less streamlined or smooth than one would like, but a calendar app is a calendar app, right?

Well, yes, for the most part. But Readdle’s Calendars 5 app is even better than the Calendar app that comes pre-installed on every iPhone and iPad. Look at this:

 

IMG_2039
Calendars 5 in iPhone

 

(Independence? We celebrate it twice around here.)

If I had a lot more events on June 28, I would simply swipe right gently to reveal them, while the whole rest of the screen/week would stay in place. This is the Week view, the one I use most often. There are also Tasks, List, Day, and Month views. You can easily tap (or just drag and drop) your way into creating new items or making schedule changes.

What is the Tasks view, you ask? It’s anything in your Reminders app! So from your calendar app (without switching to another app), you can see your tasks. (Integrated work flow is the only way to really get stuff done effectively, I think.)

You can even see on June 28 above: Calendars 5 combines appointments and tasks into each day, so you can easily keep track of everywhere you have to be and everything you have to do.

Once you set up sync (also very easy), anything that you change in Calendars 5 also updates in your iCal/Calendar app (and vice versa), and any task you add here updates in your Reminders app (and vice versa). This means you can say, “Siri, remind me tomorrow to…,” and if you it synced, the reminder shows up in your calendar view right in Calendars 5.

It never occurred to me that I’d have less mental clutter by using a single mechanism (app) to track appointments and tasks. Maybe I sound overly ebullient, but… this is a really sweet app. You should get it if you can.

Thanks to the folks at Readdle for the gratis download codes for the review, given with no expectation as to what I’d write. Though now that I’ve used Calendars 5, I’d pay for it if I had to. It’s been that helpful to me–and it looks really good, too.

You can get Calendars 5 here. $6.99 may feel like a lot for an app, but you get it on both iPad and iPhone (and they sync), so if you rock both devices, it’s like two-for-the-price-of-one.

Calendars 5 is also part of Readdle’s Ultimate Productivity Bundle, which includes PDF Expert 5 (I like that app, too–see my video review here). The Bundle comes with the elegant Scanner Pro and Printer Pro, that lets you print wirelessly from your iOS devices. See the discounted Bundle in action here, and check out purchase information here.

Video Review of PDF Expert 5 on iOS8

PDF Expert 5 icon Having a good way to keep track of and annotate PDFs across multiple devices is important to me. PDF Expert 5 makes it easy, with a quick, high-powered, and intuitive app. It works great in iOS 8 already. The book I use in the video review below is a good one in its own right. It’s called Learning from Life: Turning Life’s Lessons into Leadership Experience, by Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott. You can find it at the Center for Creative Leadership here or here, as part of CCL’s Ideas into Action Guidebook series. Here’s PDF Expert 5 on an iPhone (make sure you use the settings gear in the embedded video to watch in HD; you can also view full screen):  

 

 

Here are a couple of shots of what it looks like on an iPad.  

 

Documents Screen  

 

Especially useful on iPad is the ability to have multiple documents open at once as tabs:  

 

Reading Screen  

 

Thanks to the folks at Readdle for the chance to review! Learn more about PDF Expert here. (P.S. I made the video above using the handy Reflector app. Reflector mirrors your iOS device to a computer, from which you can record your screen.)