The best apps for reading and studying the Bible

There are dozens of apps for smartphone or tablet users that will help you in your reading and understanding of the Bible. Here, we review some of the best. (Unless noted otherwise, all these apps are available for both iOS and Android devices.)

Best Free App for Reading the Bible

The best free Bible reading app is called simply Bible (published by LifeChurch.TV), but it’s often referred to as YouVersion. It gives you access to all the Bible translations you could want, and you can even listen to the Bible being read. The only downside is that many Bibles can’t be permanently downloaded (although the NKJV, KJV and ESV are exceptions), so you will probably need a constant internet connection. Like nearly all the Bible apps in this roundup, you can take notes, and search the Bible for particular words and phrases. This app is also one of the few that works on Windows Phone, although that version doesn’t allow you to download Bibles.

If you want an even greater choice of Bible translations, you could try Bible Gateway (published by Zondervan). However, most of them can’t be downloaded, making you even more reliant on having a regular internet connection.

Best Free Apps for Studying the Bible

PocketSword Bible Study is a great free app that gives you access to a number of older Bible translations, commentaries and dictionaries, including classics such as Barnes’ notes, Keil and Delitzsch and Matthew Henry. Bibles are available in almost any language (even Welsh, through beibl.net), but the only modern English translation is the ESV. It has a very simple interface, partly because it doesn’t offer advanced features like note-taking. Thankfully though, once you’ve downloaded the books you need, you can access them without an internet connection.

If you use the NKJV or want to take notes, you might consider the Blue Letter Bible as an alternative (iOS only). Like PocketSword, it gives you access to cross references, classic commentaries and even information on Greek/Hebrew words, but it also allows you to read the NKJV. However, it’s severely limited by a poor user interface and its requirement for a permanent internet connection.

A good alternative to both is Faithlife Study Bible. It only includes two study resources – the Faithlife Study Bible itself, and the Lexham Bible Dictionary – but they’re very substantial and up-to-date. The study Bible has more than 2 million words, but you’re not overwhelmed because when you look up a note, you’re first presented with a fairly simple explanation, then you can tap to find out more. There are also links to other good reference books, but you have to purchase these separately. The app allows you to take your own notes, and to create online groups so you can share your notes with friends or others in your church. There’s nothing like the FSB available anywhere for free (and it doesn’t require an internet connection), but there is a drawback. Only one Bible is included – the Lexham English Bible. It’s a modern, fairly literal translation, but most users will want something more familiar and additional versions need to be bought (usually for £6.50 each). FSB is published by Logos Bible Software, so if you already own these Bibles in Logos, you’ll automatically get access to them in FSB.

Best Paid Bible Apps

If you use the Bible reasonably regularly (and hopefully you do!), you’ll probably find it’s worth paying a few pounds to buy an extra Bible for Faithlife Study Bible, or to buy an app that doesn’t require an internet connection and lets you read the translation of your choice.

Olive Tree Software’s Bible Study is a fabulous app. The free version comes with the KJV and ESV, but you can add additional versions for about £6.50 each. A few classic commentaries, dictionaries and other books can be added for free, or you can buy modern equivalents, which you’ll also be able to read on a Mac or Windows PC. The app looks good, is very fast, and the resource guide makes it easy to get more help on any verse.

An equally good alternative is Logos Bible Software’s Bible app. The free version gives you access to a few different Bible translations if you have an internet connection, or you can pay around £6.50 for permanent access that doesn’t require you to be online. Logos offers more features than Olive Tree, but sacrifices some speed and it’s not quite as easy to use. Like OliveTree, anything you buy can also be accessed on your desktop PC/Mac.

If you don’t need the additional free Bible versions, and don’t want to study on your Mac or PC, then Olivetree is probably the best choice for speed and ease of use. But Logos’ desktop app is so much better than OliveTree’s, then go for Logos if you also want to use your desktop computer.

As an alternative, you could also try the NIV Study Bible, published by Zondervan. This app is expensive (£13-14), but includes the 2011 edition of the NIV Bible and the notes from the printed versions of the NIV Study Bible. Like the Faithlife Study Bible, it also includes several colour photos, maps and even a few videos.

Best Devotionals

Most of the apps listed above include some devotional material, but if you want to read the Bible devotionally, there are two more apps to consider.

Explore Bible Devotional (published by The Good Book Company) is free, but additional notes cost £1.49. It contains daily Bible readings with questions to help you engage with the Bible text, comment to get you thinking, and ideas for further reading, prayer and application. It includes the NIV or ESV text for each day.

Fighter Verses (published by Desiring God) costs around £2 and is a Bible memorisation tool, with quizzes you can use to test yourself. You can memorise verses in several different versions, and it’s suitable for children and adults.

Best free apps for theological lectures

Two excellent American seminaries have published apps that allow you to listen to hundreds of their lectures for free. Worldwide Classroom  is from Covenant Theological Seminary, and includes nearly 40 courses (each with several lectures) on everything from Calvin’s Institutes to Youth Ministry. RTS Mobile is very similar, and is produced by Reformed Theological Seminary. It has more than 30 courses from scholars like Simon Kistemaker, Jim Packer, Derek Thomas and John Frame. You might also consider Reasonable Faith, which gives you access to audio and video of apologetics debates and lectures from William Lane Craig.

Best free apps for sermons

Finally, there are literally hundreds of free apps that let you listen to sermons. Most will allow you to download sermons so you can listen even when you don’t have an internet connection. Those that offer audio only include SermonAudio (thousands of preachers, also available on Windows Phone), Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul) and UCCF (various speakers). Those that also offer video include Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll), Truth for Life (Alistair Begg), Grace To You (John MacArthur), The Gospel Coalition (various), Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Timothy Keller), SermonIndex.net Classics (various including A. W. Tozer, iOS only), and Desiring God (John Piper).

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