“Ignorance of Scripture,” St. Jerome once famously observed, “is ignorance of Christ.”

Although there is a rich body of Catholic writing on the Bible from the fathers, doctors, councils, popes, bishops and saints, there has never been a strong piece of software that allows Catholics to search and study Scripture from within our own tradition.

Protestants have dominated the Bible software market from the beginning. There have been some feeble attempts to create Catholic programs, but none of them equaled the power and scope of high-end software like Bibleworks or Logos.

In the past, publishers have offered a few packages with Catholic resources, but all of these were add-ons to collections that were fundamentally Protestant in outlook. Catholics had to wade through resources that ranged from useless for our needs to the militantly anti-Catholic.

Even introductions to the major patristics collections were heavily colored by anti-Catholic commentary.

“It was largely a market-driven entity,” observes Steven Smith, assistant professor of sacred Scripture at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., “and most of the market was Protestant. Many titles were from and for Protestants, and even their Hebrew and Greek language tools were created with a Protestant mindset.”

That has all changed thanks to Logos, creators of the most powerful Bible software on the market. Although they have offered Catholic additions to their standard packages in the past, they are now producing a unified product line tailored for Catholic needs. The Catholic Scholar’s Library ($670) and the Catholic Scripture Study Library ($416) are the first fruits of a new drive by Logos to court the Catholic market.

The project is being managed by Andrew Jones, a Catholic professor of medieval history who has taught at St. Louis University and Lindenwood University.  As a historian, Jones focused on the ecclesiastical history of the Middle Ages, with an emphasis on the papacy and the French monarchy. This background gave him a keen understanding of the demands of modern scholarship.

“One of the things that historians do is organize vast amounts of information, hundreds or thousands of sources all focused on a single concept or event, and that is precisely what Logos does,” he said. “I fell in love with the software, and I was very fortunate to find a job at Logos helping the company produce Catholic-oriented products.”

‘Rich Catholic Tradition’

Jones led the effort to craft a package to meet the demands of Catholic Scripture study. “The rich Catholic tradition,” Jones observed, “with its intricate interplay of Scripture, liturgy, law and theology, is profoundly suited for study on the Logos platform. As the Second Vatican Council made clear, Catholics understand the Scripture as embedded in a living tradition, its meaning being revealed in history and the life of the Church.”

In order to explore this living tradition, Logos has assembled a package with a healthy selection of Church fathers and doctors, council documents, devotional works and theological works.  At its heart are multiple English language translations, led by the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, the New American Bible and the Douay-Rheims, and supplemented by the King James Bible and other non-Catholic translations. The Biblia Sacra Vulga and Clementine Vulgate are included, as well as numerous English-Greek and English-Hebrew reverse interlinear versions, synopses, parallel Gospels and harmonies.

The first layer of critical material is a selection of commentaries by Father John MacEvilly, Father George Haydock, Father Raymond Brown and Bishop Frederick Justus Knecht, as well as the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Venerable Bede’s commentary on Revelation. The second layer of critical material is comprised of the complete Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, along with the Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologiae (Latin and English, with the option to switch instantly between each), most of the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman, and a good selection of documents of Church councils.

There are also dozens of Catholic theological and historical works, including all four volumes of Father John Meier’s A Marginal Jew, along with works by Joseph Pohle, G.K. Chesterton, Ludwig Ott and others. Dozens of works by and about the saints are included: Sts. Augustine, Thérèse of Lisieux, John of the Cross, Bernard, Teresa of Avila, Francis, Ignatius and others. Almost all of the major devotional works, as well as the complete Butler’s Lives of the Saints, are here.

The Catholic Lectionary is included, as well as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and other, non-Catholic lectionaries. Reference works provide instant access to information, with numerous Bible dictionaries, concordances and historical background material. Not all of these reference works are specifically Catholic.

Big Projects Ahead?

The final and most important element of the package is the vast set of original-language tools, which allow for full analysis of every Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek word with multiple resources. The integration of these tools into the English translations, along with several complete books introducing the original languages, allows even novices to look at the original means of any word or phrase.

All of these items, and more, are part of the most expensive Scholar’s Collection, which includes more than 400 books. The Scripture Study Collection drops the language tools and many of the other titles to provide a slightly more economical package with only 300 books. Both packages come with extensive libraries of art, charts and maps, as well as the powerful Logos 4.0 engine.

The goal of all these tools, said Jones, is to “open up the actual text of Scripture to the specialist and non-specialist alike. The idea is that the whole business of Scripture study, from detailed textual analysis to placing readings within the context of the centuries of tradition, must be covered in the libraries. I think we’ve achieved that — and it’s going to get even better.”

One item is notable by its absence: The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Logos is still negotiating for rights and will include it as a free upgrade once it’s done. As with all texts incorporated into the Logos 4.0 system, the Catechism will provide instant links to the full texts for every footnote, cross-reference and Bible citation.

Indeed, Logos is planning ongoing additions that include, according to Jones, a Doctors of the Church Collection, a St. Thomas Aquinas Collection, the full text of the Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, the Glossa Ordinaria, a massive collection of the papal encyclicals and other papal writings, RSV and Vulgate Reverse Interlinears, the Code of Canon Law, the works of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict, books from Ignatius Press and Scepter, the Navarre Bible, the Sacra Pagina series, a multi-volume commentary on the books of the New Testament, and quite possibly the entire Patrologia Latina, a very large collection of the writings of the Church fathers and other ecclesiastical writers. Between the rights negotiations and the fairly complex production process, these additions will take a considerable amount of time to appear. Latin language tools to match the Greek and Hebrew tools are also planned.

All of these items are being created with a distinctly Catholic understanding of Scripture and Tradition. “Catholic Scripture study requires both serious textual and historical criticism of the biblical text itself,” Jones observed, “and it requires that the insights gained from this study be situated within the Church’s tradition. If we look at Vatican II, John Paul II and Benedict XVI’s treatments of revelation, the common thread is the emphasis on the word of God being conveyed both through the Scripture and the Tradition, as a living unity.

“This conception requires a unique approach to the Bible — an approach that I think has been hindered by the technology of printed books, because print has required that each work be essentially isolated from all others, physically and conceptually. The digital age is changing this. Logos is extremely flexible and adaptable to many styles of Bible study, but it is especially well suited to the Catholic approach, because it allows the biblical text to be studied literally surrounded with the Tradition — really in constant dialogue with the tradition.”

Thomas L. McDonald is a catechist for the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., and frequently writes about technology.