Review Of Logos 6: A Powerful And Challenging Resource

Logos Reformed Announcement
I’m not a Luddite. I bought my first computer, an Atari ST, in 1985. I began using email (CompuServe) before the internet was made available to the public. It was very exciting when CompuServe and AOL users could email to each other. At Oxford the IT Dept. invited grad students to sit in a dark room and they showed us pictures of this thing called the Internet, wherein we could click on hyperlinks. The first attachment I sent with an email took about 30 minutes of coding on the university’s mainframe but it saved about 2 weeks time. Nevertheless, when digital books first appeared I was skeptical and resistant. Initially the screen resolution was too low. More fundamentally I worried about the way people relate to digital texts. I still worry about it. We tend to read on-screen texts (e.g., text messages, emails) with less care than we read words printed on paper. Things are changing rapidly, however. Screen resolution and the potential for reading on-screen texts interactively has improved dramatically in recent years. Print media for ephemeral text is all but extinct. When was the last time, outside of a physician’s office, you actually read a print magazine or a newspaper? I’ve not had to wash newsprint from my fingers for years.

Google Books,, the Post-Reformation Digital Library, Early English Books Online, and the Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts, to name but a few resources are revolutionizing the way books are accessed and read. Only a few years ago, in order to see some classic Reformed texts one might have to make a plane trip and spend hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars. Today, however, a large and growing number of texts are as near as one’s computer. My students, who hardly remember when there was no internet, take it for granted that this is the way it has always been but it has not.

Logos 6vos-reformed-dogmatics3 is an important and remarkable addition to these resources. It is one facet of a parent company, Faithlife, which also includes the print publisher Lexham Press. Reformed readers will want to know that Lexham is the print publisher of Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics. I was able to pick up the first two volumes in the series at the recent ETS meeting in San Diego and Lexham has done an outstanding job with them.

Logos is the digital publishing arm and it seems to be the core around which everything else is built. The Logos platform is so large and multifaceted that it is difficult to describe in a single post but it is a software package to be installed on one’s computer that allows one to access, search, read, and analyze texts. Like purchasing a car, Logos comes in different packages. Let’s concentrate on the Reformed series, the starter package for which starts at $249.95 From there it goes to bronze ($629.95), silver ($999.95), gold ($1549.95), and platinum ($2149.95). Each of them is a remarkable library. The starter package contains Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Calvin’s Institutes, the ESV and several other English Bible translations, Interlinear Bibles, harmonies, the Reformation Study Bible, the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, works on Bible backgrounds, Bible atlases, Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines, Schaff’s The Creeds of Christendom, just to mention a few. In the abstract these packages might seem expensive but over the last 34 years—don’t tell Mrs Heidelblog—I’ve spent several thousands of dollars on used and new books and these libraries are proportionally richer and more affordable than the libraries I’ve bought and sold over the years.

I’ve been using Logos for several months. I attended a helpful Logos seminar last year but I’ve been waiting to write this review until I had more experience using the product. Where, in the beginning, I used it only occasionally now I find myself using it daily. I use it for Bible study, sermon preparation, for research, and writing (academic and popular). I was supposed to write something when Logos 6 was first announced but the truth is that at first I was overwhelmed. I was intimidated by all the features. Upon opening the program the home screen populates with a lot of stuff. It turns out that, in preferences (I’m using a Mac), I can adjust how much stuff appears on the home screen. I’ve simplified mine greatly.

After the home screen comes my favorite place: the library. A click on the book icon allows me to browse the library or search for particular books by particular authors. More than once I’ve found titles that I did not know about. Once I find a title I want to read or search I open it and the rest is fairly intuitive. A few months ago I wrote an introduction to Herman Witsius (1636–1708). Logos allowed me to read the primary texts again, compare them side-by-side, search, and quote them easily. When I copy and paste a passage of any text (e.g., Scripture, Institutes, a Reformed confession) into a text editor Logos provides the footnote material properly formatted. If you’re a regular reader of the HB (and why wouldn’t you be?) you’ve seen the regular daily Heidelquotes feature. For the last few months most of them have come from texts using Logos.

After you’ve installed Logos you can upgrade from one package to another or add individual titles such as Kim Riddlebarger’s forthcoming volume on B. B. Warfield. They’ve bundled an interesting group of 32 19th-century titles on the Westminster Assembly ($99.00), the 20 vol. Warfield Collection ($274.95)—I’ve never regretted reading Warfield—Calvin’s commentaries (46 vols. $149.95). They’re even doing a new translation of Owen’s Theologouema Pantadapa along with hitherto untranslated Latin works.

One of the most powerful features is the general search feature that allows me to type in search terms (e.g., pactum salutis) which then searches the entire library. This is the equivalent of standing in my office/study for a few days, pulling volumes off the shelf, searching the index of each volume, and noting the results). Not only does it produce the results but it provides direct links to each of them. This search produced 358 results from journal articles (e.g., Themelios), to Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, Ussher,  Owen, Berkouwer, and Berkhof. Berkouwer is still wrong about the pactum salutis, by the way, but I digress. Logos also allows the user to create powerpoint type slides and artwork, some of which I’ve used recently on the HB.

The heart of Logos, however, is it’s presentation of Scripture for study and meditation. I confess that I have not yet quite mastered this monster. When I type in a passage (e.g., John 1) it brings up a veritable panoply in three columns. In the left column:

  1. A passage guide that links to commentaries, handbooks, textual notes and more
  2. An exegetical guide that shows textual variants, the apparatus for various editions of the Greek NT, grammars, and parsing for individual words,
  3. Custom spaces for notes and “my content” (I haven’t begun using this yet)
  4. Cross references
  5. References to the passage in ancient literature
  6. Allusions to the passage in the Apostolic Fathers and Ancient Church
  7. References to the Dead Sea Scrolls, NT Apocrypha
  8. OT parallels
  9. A synopsis of the gospels
  10. Literary typing (to what genre does the passage belong)
  11. Cultural concepts

In the center column:

  1. The text of Scripture in my chosen English Bible translation next to which are a series of parallel resources including the NA28 and more English Bible translations. This allows me toggle between the ESV and the NA28 easily
  2. Below the ESV are Greek notes which disappear when I select the NA28
  3. A panel with the Pillar NT Commentary

I haven’t figured out why the Pillar NT Commentary appears but, with no reflection on the Pillar NTC, I usually close it and that allows the Scripture to fill the center column.

In the right column:

  1. Information about the Scripture text in the center panel that changes as I move the cursor
  2. Text comparison that shows the ESV when I have the NA28 open in the center column

There are commands to close everything but Scripture but I’ve not learned it yet so I close them all manually as needed. Frequently I close everything but the Scripture panel and then stretch it so that it fills the screen. That action like many others (e.g., increasing the font size on the screen) was intuitive.

Logos allows the user to perform a remarkable number of searches. Just now I right-clicked on θεὸς (God) in John 1. That opens up the option to copy the text (which I did above) and to perform several kinds of searches. “Look up” produces information from Louw and Nida about the usage of θεὸς. “Power lookup” creates a column which reports results from Louw and Nida, the Lexham Theological Wordbook, the TDNT (Theological Dictionary of the NT), the Exegetical Dictionary of the NT, Liddell and Scott’s Intermediate Lexicon, and several other resources. “Search” creates a variety of options and results. I can search the root or the dictionary form (lemma). A search for the root produces 1331 results in about a second and a half. In the search results I can sort in a variety of ways. When I right-click on θεὸς one of the options is to “ask the author.” I confess that I have not had the nerve to click on that one yet.

Logos6reformedLineUpI am still a novice. Even so, I’ve found the Bible search and analysis functions very helpful. In the seminar we had on campus last year we were shown how to perform more complex searches (e.g., preposition + case). I began digital bible study with BibleWorks and then moved on to Accordance when I switched to the Mac. Some of what I learned in using Accordance is portable to Logos. At first, I used Logos for other sorts of work and kept using Accordance for Bible study. Now, however, I find myself using Logos almost exclusively. One place where Logos surpasses Accordance is in the annotation function. I sat through a day-long Accordance seminar several years ago chiefly to learn how to make annotations. Before the seminar ended I forgot (or couldn’t find my notes). Suffice it to say it wasn’t simple. I couldn’t do it today in Accordance if my life depended on it but I just did it in Logos and it was intuitive. Just now I have only one panel open displaying John 1:1–23. It has highlighted the prologue to signal that I have annotations (the beginnings of a future sermon) and as the cursor moves over the text it displays the parsing and basic lexical information. To be sure, no software, no matter how powerful, should replace personal, serious study of the original languages. It’s unwise in the extreme for someone who does not know a language to try to use software to replace actual learning. For those, however, who have learned their biblical languages, Logos speeds up certain processes as you translate your passage and outline it along the way toward preparing the sermon.

Are there problems? A few. It’s a large piece of software and it has crashed a time or two but most of the time it has performed well. It updates frequently and the software wants to index everything for searching. Indexing takes a lot of computer power so I’ve set it to happen at night. I’ve already noted along the way the challenge presented by the number of options Logos presents when one begins to study a passage. That is probably a function of the learning curve. I prefer to learn slowly over time. Logos does offer training seminars and they provide training videos and online courses. I have been picking away at some of them as time allows but most of the time I’ve been able to figure out how to do what I want without going through an entire course. It would be helpful if there was a place to ask direct, simple questions: “How do I customize x?” without going through an entire course.

One might also criticize some of the authors included in some of the Reformed packages. For example, I was disappointed to see the leading proponent of the so-called, self-described Federal Vision theology included among Reformed resources. This will be confusing to newcomers or researchers, who might not be aware of how errant and controversial the FV theology is. The FV is not Reformed and has been rejected categorically by the confessional Reformed churches. One might also complain about the inclusion of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, since Barth denied a great deal of Reformed theology including its doctrine of Scripture, its soteriology, and its doctrine of the sacraments to name just a few loci. What exactly did Barth actually like about what the Reformed churches confess? Should one object that the proponents of the FV and Barth are or were Reformed ministers I reply by noting that so was Jacob Arminus but his works, which are also available via Logos, are not included in the Reformed package. So, as always, caveat lector (let the reader beware).

These criticisms, however, should not discourage you from investigating and using Logos.

On-screen texts are here to stay. Logos has become the leader in providing these texts, including Scripture, using a powerful platform. By using a type of crowdfunding, they are also revolutionizing publishing. They’re bringing to market English translations (e.g., Vos and Owen) and new texts never before available and thus making and important contribution to this new phase of the study of Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

Here’s their FAQ page.

Yes, they did supply me with a review copy of Logos and no, it did not unduly influence the content of the review.

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  1. Does it have all the functionality of BibleWorks, e.g., Smith’s morphemic analysis of the Hebrew?

    • BW had the functionality I’m talking about 20 years ago. And I’ve just remembered that Smith’s first name was Stephen or Steven – if I’ve remembered it correctly!?!?! He’d done the Hebrew morphemic analysis for a doctorate at Dallas, and he hadn’t been associated with JAARS, although that was also in the Dallas area.

  2. Scott, I’m currently debating whether to upgrade to a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro. AND, I’ll probably be breaking down and purchasing Logos (after not owning Bible software ever… ).

    What kind of Mac are you running it on? And giving your warnings about indexing, etc., would the desire to run Logos push you in the direction of the Pro vs. the Air? (Air is 1.7 Ghz, vs. 2.4 or 2.6 and up for the Pro)

    • Hi Brian,

      I’m running it on a MacBook Air. It runs well. The memory on the Pro is better. Perhaps the speed is better.

      I wouldn’t let Logos be the deciding factor.


    • I am running Logos 6 Silver on a 3.5 year old Macbook Air, with 4GB of ram. It runs great. I bought Logos 4 about 4 years ago on my old Macbook laptop and it ran really slow. The difference was the solid state drive, not so much the RAM. So I am assuming a newer Macbook Air will run it much faster.

  3. “When was the last time, outside of a physician’s office, you actually read a print magazine or a newspaper?”

    Er, near enough every day. What a baffling world-of-the-future California must be.

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