One of the joys of my daily life is Accordance, the premier software platform for study of the Bible and ancient religious texts. Accordance offers a vast digital library at your fingertips, with impressive e-book features (video). But Accordance is a remarkably fast and stable platform that goes far beyond an e-reading environment, for at least two chief reasons:
- Bible-focused integration: Accordance integrates all of your modules with biblical texts. The interface is unobtrusive, keeping your focus on the Bible, never distracting from study of the texts. As one reviewer explains, “as we read, we can constantly refer to cross references, parallel passages, maps, timelines, glossaries, background information, charts, relevant commentaries and dictionary entries, lexical aids, and so on, without ever leaving the Bible passage at hand.” Keeping the Bible central is the first principle of Accordance design.
- Tagging, data fields and layered texts: Accordance’s powerful, hidden advantage is what you don’t see when you look at the text display. Each module is so much more than an electronic version of the printed title! Understand text layering and tagging and you’ll appreciate how much work goes into producing Accordance versions of any module. Watch this 2-minute explanation of tagging:
Layering structures entire documents and tagging adds metadata to individual words. Layered texts are the reason why, for example, you can target a search to just dictionary entry headings rather than article content or to just image captions rather than descriptions, cutting right to the chase and avoiding superfluous hits when “searching all dictionaries” or “searching all graphical resources,” etc. The first few minutes of the “Accordance for iOS: Searching” video explains layered texts with two examples, the Hebrew Bible and Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary:
Accordance is not just for scholars: Even before the Mac’s current popularity, many scholars who study biblical or ancient texts in the original languages switched to the Mac just to use Accordance because of Accordance’s integrated searching of lexical forms and other advanced features made possible by their tagged texts. Yet Accordance’s Bible-focused integration, tagged texts, and interactive modules like the Atlas and Timeline also make Accordance ideal for those working in English translations. I use Accordance for tasks as various as scholarly study and general Bible reading. And with Accordance for iOS, my modules are available anywhere anytime.
Tour: Check out the Accordance Advantage page, and take the Features Tour. On the Tour page, don’t miss the brief video demo’s for the Library, Workspaces, Flex Search, Amplify, Instant Details, Interlinear, Notes, Analytics, Help and any others that interest you. If you prefer, these videos are joined together in the podcast episode One Sweet Suite, a 17-minute overview of the Accordance interface:
Blog: Follow the informative and practical Accordance blog maintained by Accordance developer David Lang and customer support expert Helen Brown. The regular tips on the blog offer an easy way to add incrementally to one’s working knowledge of Accordance. As you interact with Accordance staff like David and Helen, you’ll be amazed at their scholarly expertise. Browse the blog archives, or check out the Accordance User forums for a convenient collation of past tips.
Podcast: Take advantage of hours and hours of easy-going instructional training through the video podcast Lighting the Lamp; subscribe to it at iTunes or browse it on youTube. Episodes for this engaging and insightful video training series are produced by Timothy P. Jenney (aka “Dr. J”). Check out the podcast table of contents and a “Recommended sequence for the new user.” Think of them as a tuition-free Bible study class, and watch them all!
Seminars: See if one of Accordance’s free, hands-on training seminars is coming to a metropolitan area near you! It’s a wonderful opportunity to gain valuable hands-on training, to get to know other Accordance users and to personally meet the friendly people behind the software.
Cost: Accordance will cost from $50 up to several thousands of dollars, depending on the tools and texts you need. The most efficient way to get started with Accordance is to purchase one of the major “Collections” combining many different modules; consider this side-by-side comparison and this video overview. Sooner or later, you’ll probably want no less than the Essential Collection ($500), but there’s no rush. Take your time and invest in the resources you need over several years (see “upgrade path,” below).
Start by downloading a free trial version.
—–Choosing where to jump in——–
Here are three ways to get started with Accordance for (1) General Bible study; (2) General Bible study with a little Greek; and (3) Scholarly study in the original languages:
1. General Bible study
For English-based Bible study, the Bible Study Collection ($200) will get you off to a great start. Add a study Bible if you like, such as the ESV Study Bible. Perhaps the most useful tool for Bible study is a Bible dictionary, and the Bible Study Collection includes two very good ones: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. You’ll also want a good commentary series, and the Bible Study Collection includes the excellent Tyndale Bible Commentaries, one of my favorites. As you use these resources, you’ll see how Accordance powerfully integrates all of your commentaries, dictionaries and other modules with your biblical texts, keeping the texts primary as your central focus rather than taking you away from them. Consider adding How to Read the Bible Book by Book. You might wish to individually add additional commentary sets such as the Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary (not in any Collection, podcast demo). Commentary sets like Tyndale and the Revised EBC make the scriptures more meaningful and are written in a style that is accessible to anyone.
You won’t want to miss Lighting the Lamp podcast episodes like How to Read the Bible Better, Devotional Bible Study, How to Study a Place, How to Study a Person, Bible Dictionaries, Inductive Bible Study, parallel Bible passages, Search All Techniques, part 1 and part 2, and other “Bible Study” episodes. For a demo of the power of tagging, watch the Dynamic Interlinear episode. Episodes devoted to particular modules, including the Archaeological Study Bible, the Tyndale commentaries and the IVP Reference Collection demonstrate the added value Accordance brings to these resources. See also the episodes listed under “How to Study the Bible” on the Lighting the Lamp index page.
Assume that at some point you will upgrade to the Essential Collection or the Advanced Collection, so plan your purchases so that you don’t prematurely acquire modules separately that are already included in a larger Collection. For example, I highly recommend the Graphics bundle, which consists of the interactive Atlas, a customizable Timeline, and a beautiful PhotoGuide ($169 sold separately, but included in the Essential Collection). The Graphics Bundle by itself justifies the jump to the Essential Collection as soon as possible. When you are able, upgrade to the Essential Collection. Similarly, the excellent IVP Reference Collection, which includes the New Bible Commentary and the IVP Bible Background Commentaries, is included in the Advanced Collection, so it makes sense to defer acquiring it separately and instead apply its cost toward an upgrade to the Advanced Collection. (Watch for sales or attend a seminar and get the seminar discount.)
2. Learn Accordance and “a little Greek” together
A combination of the Accordance Starter Collection ($50) and the Mounce Greek Study System ($160) will be ideal for many first-time Accordance users who want to go deeper into the Bible with Greek word studies.
First, you’ll want your own copy of Accordance, perhaps the Starter Collection ($50), which includes three excellent tools for basic Bible study: a tagged ESV Bible, Eerdmans Bible Dictionary and the IVP New Bible Commentary. Later, when you’re ready to upgrade, the $50 cost of the Starter Collection can be applied toward any other Collection, from Bible Study to Ultimate.
Then the William Mounce bundle offers a great way to plunge deeper into general Bible study while learning Accordance at the same time. The Greek Study System bundle includes a tagged Greek New Testament (GNT-T), Mounce’s Reverse-Interlinear New Testament and Dictionary, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, and the “Foundational Greek” 9-hour video series (formerly called the “Biblical Greek Primer” video series). Used in conjunction with the Lighting the Lamp podcast, Mounce’s Greek Study System offers a very relaxed approach to becoming familiar with Accordance’s Greek Bible study tools, without requiring the labors of traditional language study. This 3-minute intro explains how the System works:
The tagged Accordance modules (Mounce’s Reverse-Interlinear New Testament and Dictionary and Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) are greatly enhanced over the print titles by the same names. The video series includes Accordance screencasts to follow along for interactive learning, practice and review. Perfect for a Sunday School Class or homeschool Bible and language study.
Interested? Check out Mounce’s 14-minute orientation to the Greek Study System, and the accompanying screencast.
- Ready to purchase? Mounce Greek Study System and Accordance Starter Collection.
- Optional module: Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary (included with the Mounce Greek Study System) automatically links into the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Abridged, an excellent optional purchase ($40, not in any Collection).
- Other Mounce resources for Accordance.
- My separate post on Mounce’s primer.
- Beginner’s orientation to Hebrew.
3. Scholarly study
I recommend that graduate students and those with an interest in Greek and/or Hebrew begin with the Original Languages Collection ($300) or the Essential Collection ($500); cf. the Collections Comparison chart. The Essential Collection combines the Original Languages Collection, the Bible Study Collection and the Graphics Bundle (Timeline, Atlas and PhotoGuide) at a cost equivalent to buying the first two separately and getting the Graphics bundle free. Resist temptation and defer BDAG and HALOT, the Apostolic and Nicene fathers, the Hebrew and Greek syntax modules and other titles included in the Ultimate Collection until you can acquire them all at once much more economically (see “upgrade path” below). Then, over time, add reference works such as the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, and New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis which are not in any Collection. Add any additional biblical texts not included in any Collection, and the CNTTS Apparatus. Over time, add your favorite commentary sets not included in any Collection (e.g., Word, Hermeneia, Ancient Christian Commentary, New International Commentary, and others). Most of these resources are demonstrated in episodes of Lighting the Lamp linked to from their product pages. See also the other episodes on the Lighting the Lamp index page listed under “Original Languages,” “How to Search,” and “Resources (Modules).”
In contrast to someone who has purchased a hodgepodge of individual modules, beginning users may purchase Collections at substantial savings. Watch the video overview and examine the Collection Comparison chart, paying special attention to the Essential, Advanced and Ultimate Collections. Make it a priority to upgrade on the Collection level instead of purchasing separately any modules included in a Collection. Begin with whichever Collection you can afford, and then over time prioritize upgrading from one Collection to the next, separately acquiring only those modules which are not in any Collection. Attend a seminar if it is at all possible; in addition to the other benefits, you may pick up most modules and buy or upgrade a Collection at a discount.
- Starter Collection: $50.
- Bible Study Collection: $200, $150 upgrade from Starter.
- Original Languages Collection: $300, $250 upgrade from Starter.
- Essential Collection: $500. $450 upgrade from Starter; $400 upgrade from Bible Study; $300 upgrade from Original Languages.
- Advanced Collection: $1,000; $600 upgrade from Essential.
- Ultimate Collection: $2,000; $1,200 upgrade from Advanced. The total cost of upgrading step by step from Starter to Ultimate is $2,400; so you can save $400 by making the Ultimate Collection your initial investment (about enough to cover the cost of the Mounce Greek Study System and the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary).
In an ideal world the best buy, if you could afford it and if a seminar might be scheduled nearby, would be to get the Starter Collection now (perhaps with the Mounce Greek Study System, as in Option #2 above) and then as soon as opportunity allows purchase the Ultimate Collection with a seminar discount. But no matter where you start, there’s a clear upgrade path and no hurry as you grow into the resources offered with each Collection along the way. Then, over time, add modules not contained in any Collection as they go on sale. Patience will be rewarded.
Accordance is easy to learn (especially if you follow the blog and the podcast), but it’s rich and powerful enough that you’ll never outgrow it.
Not sure? No worries. There’s a toll-free number at the bottom of every page on the Accordance website. Give them a call – the kind and helpful people who answer the phone are not marketers – they are experienced Accordance users willing to share their thorough knowledge of the entire range of Accordance modules and will give you sound advice, based on your needs, rather than trying to sell you something you’ll end up not using.
See also my separate post on Accordance for iOS.
Disclaimer: I have never received any financial benefits or complimentary resources from Accordance and do not know any Accordance personnel on a personal level. This page is written not as an advertisement, but because I find myself wanting to explain the same things to friends who become interested in Accordance. The claims and advice offered here are my own and have no sanction from Accordance; take them fwiw.