We live in an incredible age for the Bible. Before Gutenberg invented the printing press (ca. 1440), only the very rich owned a copy of the Bible because the entire book had to be copied by hand, an expensive and time consuming process! Over the next 500 years, however, Gutenberg’s press literally changed the world. More and more people learned to read as books became more accessible and less expensive. Soon, virtually everyone had at least one copy of the Bible to call their own.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone a decade ago, it was (and is) equally as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s press. Smartphones have all but eradicated their “dumb” counterparts, and with this new technology has come a new way to access God’s Word–Bible apps. Now your Bible can always be with you, just a tap and a swipe away. Now you’re no longer limited to one translation of the Bible in paper, but you can have multiple translations right in the palm of your hand. Digital media is transforming the way we read and study the Scriptures, and below I have reviewed a few of the best Bible apps available.
One caveat: I am not a professional tech reviewer… If you want a more in-depth review that includes more apps that what I reviewed below, check out this excellent post on The Sweet Setup. As a pastor, not a tech critic, I don’t have a massive budget to review every app on every device. I have an iPhone 6S, an aging iPad, and a MacBook Pro. So, the reviews below are based on my use of these apps on the iOS platform. I assume the apps would be equally as functional (if not more so) on the Android platform as well, but I don’t have firsthand knowledge of that!
The Most Powerful
The very best Bible app I’ve seen, and the one I use most often, is the Logos Bible app. It has a companion desktop version, and between the computer, the phone, and the tablet, I use Logos to do virtually all of my Bible reading and study. Besides being a Bible, the beauty of Logos is that it has a massive digital library of commentaries, study guides, books, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, and original language tools to study in Greek and Hebrew. For instance, right now my Logos library as 2,841 books in it, most of which are accessible via my phone or iPad! That might sound a little overwhelming, and it is. Logos is to Bible study what Photoshop is to graphic design. But, Logos is also fairly accessible to the average user. That’s one of the things I love most about Logos–it helps bring solid biblical scholarship into the realm of the average Christian, so that everyone can benefit from it, not just the “pros.”
The app itself is free, and comes with a few free English Bibles and commentaries. You can purchase more translations and as many commentaries and study aids as your heart desires and your wallet can support! It also offers Bible reading plans, journaling and note taking, highlighting, social media sharing, and even prayer request lists… and so much more!
Logos’s Little Brother
If you want something a little more stripped down than Logos, the same company, Faithlife, has published a digital Faithlife Study Bible (FSB). It can be accessed via an app for mobile devices, as well as through a web app (in your Internet browser) on your computer. FSB comes with the Lexham English Bible, a recent translation that I really like, as well as the option to purchase other versions of the Bible such as the ESV or NIV. The FSB comes with excellent commentary that includes videos and pictures as well as text from some of the leading Bible scholars of our time. And… it’s FREE! Like it’s big brother, Logos, Faithlife offers Bible journaling, highlighting, your own personal notes, and it gives you an opportunity to connect with a growing social network of people who enjoy studying the Bible–from the average Christian sitting in church, to Bible study leaders, pastors, seminary professors, and scholars. Faithlife.com is quickly becoming the “Facebook” of Bible study. Whether you’re into that or not, the bottom line is the Faithlife Study Bible is a great app that is easy to use, has excellent study notes, and many great features.
The Most Popular
At over 250 million downloads, YouVersion is by far the most popular Bible app out there! Offered in over 1,000 languages, this is a world-changing app. It is incredibly easy to use and has dozens of Bible translations for free–including audio Bibles you can listen to. They also offer a growing library of videos explaining various biblical themes. Built-in Bible reading plans and Verse of the Day Bible art help remind you to stay in God’s Word. And, with 250 million downloads, it is very likely that some of your friends are also using YouVersion. You can connect with them right through the app and share verses, notes, and highlights. One thing it lacks–commentaries and study aids. There are no study Bible notes or books you can add to your library. But, hey, it’s FREE! And you get an impressive selection of Bibles and other features at no cost. That’s a pretty sweet deal! It’s easy to see why YouVersion is the most popular Bible-in-your-pocket available.
The Unsung Hero
Bible Gateway was really one of the first companies to make digital Bibles accessible to the masses online. At least, they were one of the first to do it well. Bible Gateway has been around almost as long as the Internet has been a thing, but they’re not just online in your browser. They also offer a fully-orbed Bible app that has many of the same features and functionality as the apps above, including notes, highlighting, multiple translations of the Bible for free, audio Bibles, reading plans, and social media sharing. One thing Bible Gateway has that YouVersion doesn’t, is access to commentaries, including one of my favorites for devotional reading: Warren Wiersbe’s BE series. Bible Gateway isn’t as powerful as Logos, as easy to use as Faithlife, or as flashy as YouVersion. But, it is a solid Bible app with a stellar companion website, and one that I would recommend.
I hope this little overview has been helpful to you! Whether you prefer to read the Bible the “old fashioned” way, holding a printed book, or whether you like carrying an entire theological library around in your pocket, at the end of the day it’s important to read God’s Word. God reveals who he is in the pages of his Book, and to truly know him, we must meet him there. A great place to start is by utilizing one of the Bible reading plans available in all of the apps I’ve mentioned here. They will help you develop the habit of spending a few minutes in the Bible every day. You can even listen, if you don’t like to read!