Proposal: A Bible App That Starts from the Commentary Out

Last night, I attended a Bible study where the pastor/teacher had his congregation study the text beforehand, and then come to the study being able to respond with cross-referenced verses to the primary passage. Really excellent seeing the engagement of the entire community to study the text and be able to respond intelligently to some of the questions.

However, there was some issue with cross-referencing while respecting cultural or literal context with some of the additional Scriptures. And while that’s certainly something worth finding out if it is something addressed for that kind of study, it got me thinking about the structure of Bible applications and how switching the primary interaction.

Since the dawn of digital Bibles, the emphasis has been on reading and seeking. We have a library of Bibles and commentaries, but the start of anything that we do is with the text. This works out for many types of interactions, as in many cases, the place of a mobile device is usually within a context where you are looking up a passage or a bookmarked entry.

But, what if we turned that model around a bit. What if the Bible application only stored our notes, dictionaries, and commentaries? What if that same application was intelligent enough to stitch our notes and the Scripture references that we used to online Bible services such as a YouVersion or Biblia? And it would also be able to – by a metadata driven index – be able to link our notes to similar phrases and indices within those dictionaries and commentaries? What would that do for a study like the one that I described able, where the point is to make the connections within Scripture to common concepts, while forcing the reader to literally meditate on the Scripture to know that those threads exist?

Example and Description

Proverbs 28:9
Note(s): is the position of your life and heart in right relation to God and His instructions
– (XR) Isaiah 1:15 (hands full of blood) – JH Commentary, MH Commentary – 50% Relevant to Source Scripture (History of Isaiah book, book #2…)
– (XR) John 9:31 (God doesn’t hear sinners) – MH Commentary, JMA Commentary – debatable relevance because of context of the speaker and the lesson that was being taught
Search for more (XR)

So, here we have a person that’s got a source piece of text, and a note attached to it. The note is scanned for all possible search matches (word, phrase, etc.) and the next button asks if the user wants to search all available library material (local and connected dictionaries, commentaries, Wikipedia, etc.) for cross-references (XR). After the search is completed, the user taps on the verse and gets what was cross-referenced (the word or phrase) and those associated resources which speak more on that specific XR. It then gives a percentage of the relevance of that XR to the note and primary Scripture based on some algorithm that weighs the primary Scripture, then the associated resource, then the user’s note content.

Thinking about it like this, the person is essentially having a near-real-time query of every statement they make in their notes run up against all available materials, without storing the Biblical text itself on the device. Ideally, one would use a API call in this app to link the Scripture to whatever Bible of choice the user wants – but this app keeps the focus on the notes and the ability of the user to constantly make connections which have higher relevance ratings.

Potential Benefits
There are several good things which would then come from this: we’d have people who become used to search as a means to relate applicable concepts to literal Scripture and already existing commentary (filling a gap where education might not be attainable); we’d have people who are made more aware (or at least more quickly aware) of their inconsistencies in reading or understanding Scripture against already established memes; it will expose people to the wealth of content that folks like Logos have turned digital in an amazing amount of time; and it would further push this idea of getting content in the open where publishers can better see who digests it, possibly making for them another means to make good where print/legacy study interactions might be failing because of the switch to digital content streams.

I will admit, this is about as rough as ideas get here; but something that would be worth exploring by a developer/publisher who is looking to sow some kind of application into the digital ether, but wants to do something that’s not as “me-too” as the hundreds of Bible apps and reading plans already available.

Your Comments
So let’s hear from you. If you are a pastor/teacher, would this kind of application be a help to you personally or for a Bible study such as what’s described above? If you are a developer, what are some of the good points of this idea? What are some of the issues you can see? Is anything in this idea impossible, or improbable? Let’s discuss 🙂

  • jj

    not seeing the benefit. I can already attach notes and xr to bible passages.

  • You are starting from the wrong end; start from the behavior of writing notes; instead of linking your notes to the passage, you are the passages (commentaries, etc.) are automatically linking to your notes as a background process (??) scans your notes as you type them against the library of resources you have locally, or have setup as preferred connections. Normally speaking, outside of the person speaking and more studious folks, people start with their notes and then branch out to the text, not the other way around. This idea is based off of that. Hope that makes a bit more sense.

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