Christians often encourage each other to read the bible regularly, diligently, like taking their medicine. But the bible is a book, right? To actually read the bible in the morning and at night and moments in between, you have to go find it, turn pages in it, and so on. You have to have a bible, and you have to understand it's technology, it's architecture. For some of us, that is a considerable barrier. We know how to navigate a web page better than how to navigate a bible.
There are plenty of resources for reading Scripture on-line, but in my experience, although we have begun to inhabit many other practices of on-line life as natives, reading of Scripture is not one of them. It's such an ancient book, it's so holy, we can't read from an iPad as the lector, can we? Can I just read a couple of sentences of a daily devotion web site before checking my e-mail? Is that enough? Is that even prayer?
Enough of the rhetorical questions. I think the point is clear. So far although the bible has indeed migrated wholesale to the digital world and is fully mediated here, we still haven't tapped into that mediated reality as fully as some others. So this post serves as a "best of" list to help all of us make the move.
Don't read the bible. Browse it.
- Just the Bible in English The bible is available for free on-line in many forms. The best option for a totally free study bible is probably the Net Bible, http://bible.org/netbible/ . This is a new translation, translated specifically to be a net based bible. It has plenty of study resources and is an excellent (if moderately conservative) translation. For those looking for other options, the Oremus Bible Browser, http://bible.oremus.org , allows you to browse many of the most popular English translations.
- Praying the Bible However, sometimes reading the bible "straight" isn't the best approach. Scripture is scripture because of its devotional import. It is for worship and prayer. One of the best ways to browse Scripture is to browse it embedded in the daily prayer offices of the church. And here internet resources shine. Typically, in order to pray the daily prayer office, you need at least two or maybe even three books. You need a hymnal for hymns and prayers. You need a bible for the scripture lessons. And you need the daily office guide itself, which then points to these other resources. The Lutheran Church of Honolulu, on the other hand, has a webmaster who has designed a Pages for the offices that are produced dynamically every time they are accessed. No matter what day of the week it is, simply navigate to http://www.lchwelcome.org/spirit/office/office.php, then click on the prayer office you wish to pray, and the entire service is right there in front of you, inclusive of prayers, scripture, and more.
- Study Resources On the other hand, many people simply want to study the bible. For this purpose, there are many dynamic study resources. One of the best is hosted at Luther Seminary, http://www.enterthebible.org . This site is a guide to the bible but also a study tool. You can create study plans, take notes, and join the conversation. In addition, many clergy find sermon prep web sites helpful for studying the lectionary text for the week (lectionary being a fancy word for the schedule of readings for Sunday worship). Two of the best are www.workingpreacher.org and The Hardest Question,http://thq.wearesparkhouse.org . The most comprehensive is www.textweek.com
- In the Original Languages Finally, it may interest you to do a little research into the original languages. There is a wiki lexicon and concordance for New Testament Greek at http://lexicon.katabiblon.com and the full Greek Bible at http://www.greekbible.com . And for a resource that has Hebrew, Greek, study, interlinear, and even flash card resources, check out http://biblewebapp.com/study/ .
There are oodles of other digital bibles out there, bibles you can download to your e-reader, and much more. Many you need to purchase. I've tried to stick to what is free and easily accessible from any browser. These sites should provide more than ample proof that the web is equipped, more than equipped, to help all of us integrate bible browsing into our daily browsing. Bookmark items above you find helpful, and add comments below for additional resources (I'm sure I've overlooked great material, and would love to discover new links to state-of-the-art bible resources on-line).
p.s. The photo at the top of the page is from Accordance, hands down the best bible study tool on the market. It's a Mac product, although they've now migrated to many different platforms. To check out this immensely rich option, visit http://www.accordancebible.com