First we looked at the Blue Letter Bible (version 1.0.3). The BLB is free and available at the iTunes store here.
Let’s recall my criteria. My ideal iPhone Bible app would:
- have NASB, ESV, HCSB, NKJV, NET, and NIV versions (preferred in that order)
- have all of the above available offline (without 3G, Wi-fi, etc.)
- allow split screen viewing for continuous translation comparison and/or study notes
- have awesome study notes for at least one of the better translations (ideally, these notes would be usable on all translations)
- allow me to bookmark/highlight verses (ideally with multiple different colors to indicate different concepts/subjects, and even better if it allows me to highlight specific text less than or more than a discrete verse)
- allow me to attach notes to each verse (ideally would allow me to attach rich text, html, and/or other media, and even better if it would allow me to attach note to specific text less than or more than a discrete verse)
- allow me easily to email and post verses and a related note (e.g., on twitter)
- be free
How the BLB Stacks Up
- has NASB, ESV, NKJV, NET, and NIV versions (and others).
- has only the NET Bible available offline (of the translations listed above).
- allows split screen viewing.
- does not appear to have awesome study notes for any of the above mentioned translations (although it has other similar resources, which are listed below).
- does allow me to highlight verses (with 1 of 7 different colors) and allows me to bookmark a chapter (but not a verse). It does not allow me to highlight more or less than a discrete verse.
- does not allow me to attach notes to each verse but does allow me to attach notes to a chapter.
- allows me to copy the verse to the clipboard easily and email chapter notes easily.
- appears to be 100% free.
The BLB has some other interesting features, like:
- a one-click version comparison for a verse (click the verse, then click Version Comparison, and a comparison of all the available BLB translations for that verse appear, not just the one or two versions you were reviewing).
- a Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (TSK)–which does not require an internet connection, so it can be viewed offline–and entries for Commentaries, Dictionaries, and Concordance/Interlinear, which do require an internet connection. (You should check out this content on your own to see if it’s valuable to you.) The Concordance/Interlinear option provides each word in its original language with correct fonts and the respective word’s potential meanings, links to other instances of the word in the text, and identifies the frequency and number of different ways the word has been translated throughout the text, among other information. There looks to be a lot of good information here, although you may have to hunt for some of it.
From a usability standpoint, I thought the BLB was fine. You can’t customize the size of the split screen windows, which is a bummer and seems like an easy improvement, but you can customize the colors, font sizes, etc. of the text. I didn’t have any real complaints with the interface, although I wish you could use a dark background (bright iPhone screens can distract others in a dimly lit church).
The BLB is excellent on most counts but misses on three critical points for me:
- First, the BLB does not provide two of my preferred translations offline, and I don’t feel comfortable relying on the NET version of the Bible as my sole translation.
- Second, it does not allow you to use any study Bible with a unified set of study notes. The supplemental content attached to each verse (TSK, Commentaries, and the rest) seems designed to fill the gap, but it requires quite a bit of effort to review (at least two clicks for each verse) and appears of inconsistent value or quality.
- Third, the BLB does not allow you to attach notes to specific verses. To be useful, I feel my notes need to be able to target verses, not simply chapters.
I would love the BLB if:
- I relied on the NET Bible translation primarily or exclusively and/or always had a free internet connection AND
- I did not need or want a unified set of easy-to-access study notes (or used the alternative BLB resources and/or other resources instead) AND
- I did not need to track notes on a verse-by-verse basis.
As it stands, I think the Blue Letter Bible is a great resource for comparing the raw text of different translations when you have an internet connection. It’s also a great value.
Feel free to share your opinions of–or questions about–the Blue Letter Bible below.