Sunday, November 08, 2009

Glo

Glo claims to be the next big thing in Bible study. It's a computer programme; it's quite expensive, but I got given a free copy with all the functionality and a fair bit of the content, so I thought I should probably review it.

The first thing to say is that it is a biiig programme. Like 18GB of hard drive, and needs a machine that can cope with Vista easily. I've got a fairly new computer with 3GB of RAM and an Intel T1600 Dual-Core processor, and Glo was pretty slow on it.

The interface does look very nice and kind of funky. It's clean and modern and looks good - the promotional video is just about right for that, except you probably need a very top-end computer to get that kind of performance. But I've seen websites with that kind of functionality which work much quicker, probably because they are using the greater power of servers. Which makes me wonder - wouldn't "the Bible for the digital age" be better working off some very fast servers somewhere? Kind of like BibleGateway, but maybe looking a bit funkier?

Glo seems to come with the KJV, NIV and CEV. But the search tools are fairly basic, and there doesn't seem to be any facility for using original languages or anything. And that's important because I was doing that stuff even before I went to theological college, thanks to e-sword, which is free, has Hebrew and Greek, and integrates Strong's numbers, unlike Glo, which is quite expensive.

Some of the resources that come with it are quite nice. Little video tours of places in Israel and so on. Study notes of a fairly comparable level to the NIV study Bible. A zoomable map interface that is very clearly based on Google Earth.

But Glo seems to be "all fur coat and no knickers" as the saying goes. The map interface doesn't seem to be searchable at all, and neither does the timeline (which I'd been hoping would be useful for teaching a Bible overview - nope). There's a basic search for the Bible text, but it's only a basic search. I tried searching for "Chronicles" in the search box, and it didn't even tell me there were two books of the Bible called "Chronicles". And the level of scholarship that has gone into this is pretty shoddy.

Don't get me wrong - I'm an evangelical who believes that Scripture (as originally given) is perfect, and I think that theological study is good and important when done rightly but all too often it's done badly. So let me give an example.

There's a video about Jesus' birth on Glo. And they visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. They seem to have only been there on a pretty crowded day - it was rammed with people - whereas when I went there it wasn't too full at all. There's a bit of film in the grotto under the church where Jesus was quite possibly born. But then they point out (rightly) that it wouldn't have been like that then, so the rest of the film is in a free-standing stable. Which misses something quite big. All the early post-Biblical accounts point to Jesus being born in a cave. The grotto under the Church of the Nativity is a cave. Archaeology tells us that Bethlehem had a fair few caves, and a lot of them had a little shelter built onto the front and were used either as houses or as barns. So Jesus was probably born in a cave which had been partly converted into a barn or something like that. The idea of Jesus being born in a free-standing stable just doesn't seem to exist for centuries afterwards. And yet they blithely go along with it. The message of the video - that Jesus went all the way to the bottom to get us - was pretty good though. It's just a shame they messed it up with poor scholarship.

Or take the Bible timeline. OK, so they don't give a date for Adam and Eve (though their position on the timeline does make it look like 4000BC). But they very clearly put the Exodus at 1400BC, and try treating the Judges as sequential. Now the only way of getting the Exodus to 1400BC is if we take 1 Kings 6:1 absolutely literally. But 1 Kings 6:1 says a certain period of time was 480 years, and 40 and 12 are both clearly symbolic in Israelite thought. The archaeology suggests 1200BC as a much better date for the Exodus. The Judges shouldn't be sequential for the following reasons:
1) almost all of them only seem to operate in a small area, and the areas mostly don't overlap.
2) if you add up the total time the Judges ruled for and the times of oppression between judges, you get some very big number which doesn't fit into any Biblical chronology
But Glo just seems to ignore all of this. It's as if they've taken a lot of their intellectual content from someone who thinks that academic study of the Bible is a bad thing.

To summarise, I'd recommend Glo for someone who has a very fast computer and wants stuff to look pretty. Or if you want a series of video clips of Americans looking around sites that come up in the Bible. Or if you want an electronic Bible that has notes at the level of a basic study Bible, but costs three times as much. But not if you want Bible study software.

It's a shame really, because this could have been so much better. Like by giving BibleGateway a new interface, putting a load of videos up of Israel and so on, done by someone who knows what they are talking about, and releasing a patch for Google Earth that displays Biblical locations while being searchable.

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