Glo: The Bible for a Digital World [review]

A seminary friend on Facebook pointed me in the direction of the Glo: The Bible for a Digital World (website here).   It’s an interactive bible with pictures, video, timelines, articles, and an NIV bible for notes and presentations.  It seemed like a good resource for bible studies of all ages, so I picked it up over the weekend.  If you want a review of its functionality and overview, check out JesusFreakHideout, but as usual I’ll be running it through grueling trials.  Read on…

Why a multimedia bible?  I have only to look at the immediate attention that children and youth give to media and movies to know that Bible teaching may benefit from using media resources to stimulate learning. We know from neurological studies that neurons that fire together, wire together.  So multimedia may be useful for students to fuse bible teaching with everyday discipleship.

My initial enthusiasm was dampened when I saw the publisher: Zondervan, which is not known for having a breadth of theological resources in academic circles.  If it is truly to be a study resource, it ought to have a breadth of theological diversity in its resources, which Zondervan just doesn’t want have.  But let’s not judge them unfairly until I get through the material..

So let’s walk through Joys and Concerns, shall we? And end with case studies of Glo’s treatment of a biblical text and a hot topic.

Joys 

Most of my joys come from the functionality of this powerful program:

  • The sessions manager is awesome.  I love being able to pursue one topic then start a new session to check out a related one, and be able to switch between them.  It makes parallel processing (which is essential for bible study) easy, as well as make it easy to bring up different aspects while in a bible study (such as switching between images, text, and the timeline).  Bravo!
  • The 3D walk-throughs are COOL.  The Sistine Chapel is fascinating…has each painted section as a hotspot to click and learn more.  I lost about 30 minutes of ministry planning today just clicking around it.  I’ve never seen the Sistine Chapel so this is as close as I’ve been!
  • Clicking and searching for ANYTHING is neat.  I can click on a passage and send it to “results” page which searches all the bible, media and articles for the passage referenced.  I wish I had this for all my scholarly books.
  • Neat and intuitive interface.  If you right click, swipe the mouse, or drag and hold, it will interact like an iPhone.  If you can use an iPhone or a Nintendo Wii, you can use this.
Concerns

Most of  my concerns focus on usability and appropriateness for casual usage:

  • No user manual or help.  None.  Zip.  While it may be intuitive, only by being a computer nerd was I able to find my way to some areas.  There are some web videos, apparently, but that’s hardly helpful in the moment.
  • The research is narrow and dated.  All the articles are from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible published in 1976.  All of them.  While the Glo is undoubtedly early in its maturation and will be updated with more resources, I hope better commentaries will be included soon and for free.  As Switched.com remarks:

After looking through Glo’s Web site, we weren’t able to find that list of theologians and ministers that graces the front pages of every Biblical translation. Although the Word itself is that of the standard NIV translation, Glo’s bountiful non-textual addendums do not appear to have been subjected to a panel of religious scholars.

  • Needs a powerhouse computer to run.  Of course mine handles it with no sweat [/nerd], but I doubt the majority of church computers have all the processing power prereqs or 18 gigs of free space. 
Case Study 1: Joseph’s Dreams

Our first case study looks at the media integration within Glo and how they augment the experience.  I took the story I’m teaching the children today in our after-school program (Joseph having dreams and being betrayed by his brothers in Genesis 37).  Along with the textual notes are the following media imagery (all of which are zoomable and high definition…yea!):

  • The Dream of Joseph fresco by Bartolo di Fredi
  • Current-day image of Shechem (where the brothers grazed their flocks)
  • Current-day image of “Flocks near the pit of Joseph” (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Dothan Valley view west from tell (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Beth Shemesh cistern (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Train of camels on the Mount of Olives (Library of Congress)
  • Dothan Valley shepherd and flock (Bibleplaces.com)
  • Joseph is sold by his Brothers ink by Gustave Dore

The interesting part is that all the media marked “Bibleplaces.com” are from 1890s pictures obtained for $20 from BiblePlaces.com.  Quite the bargain for Zondervan!  Ha!

When you click on the passage and click “Send To” you can send it to many of the other “lenses” (read more about these here)  For instance, sending the text to “Timeline” shows that this story of Joseph is likely between 1696-1695 BCE. I believe that to be accurate and you can show how it relates to the other stories at the same timeframe.

Also, sending it to the “Atlas” yields this neat outline of where the towns mentioned are in relation to where Joseph ended up (click to enlarge):

So for the study I’m giving today, I’ll be using the Atlas image to give the children (1st-5th grades) an idea of how far away Joseph was from his family.  If I really wanted to, I could simply walk through this story clicking the imagery so that people get immersed in what I’m talking about.  Using the sessions manager they would be easily accessible during a study so one doesn’t have to wait.  Very handy.

Given this case study, for a guided bible study, I think Glo is a great resource as it augments and immerses you in the biblical story…which is probably why the Glo designer’s company is Immersion Digital!  Ha!

So, it does well for bible study.  But how about a topical study that might have more of a slant to it?  Let’s find out:

Case Study 2: Homosexuality

Given those concerns about scholarly articles, I wanted to test out how a topic is treated.  To test out a Zondervan NIV resource, the most obvious place to look for bias is its coverage of homosexuality. Searching for homosexuality in the bible lens brings up not seven bible verses, but 13!  Along with the obvious seven are (for no apparent reason, there’s no notes on homosexuality in any of them):

  • 1 John 1:9
  • James 5:16
  • 2 Timothy 2:19
  • Psalms 32:5
  • Proverbs 28:13
  • Isaiah 59:1
There are seven articles that come up from the search in that lens.  Like I said above under “Concerns,” all the articles are from the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 volumes published in 1976.  Since the big Z published Glo, it makes sense that they have the rights to the pictures and articles.  Here’s the topical headings:
  • Homosexuality (which merely says “see SODOM and CRIME/PUNISHMENT”)
  • Sodomite
  • Sex
  • Prostitution
  • Crimes and Punishments
  • Genesis
  • Pentateuch

Interestingly, along with the included articles are links to 8 web articles, all from Lifeway.com.  Here are the titles:

  • Is Homosexuality Compatible With Christianity?
  • Homosexual Theology
  • Paul, Romans and Homosexuality
  • Number 9: Homosexuality [of the Top 10 things facing Christianity]
  • When More Than Prayer Comes…Out of the Closet
  • A Challenge of Courage & Compassion: The Church’s Response to Homosexuality [Albert Mohler]
  • A Matter of Pride? [Mohler]
  • The Challenge of Homosexuality – How Important Is It? [Mohler…again]
And no, there are no pictures (save a bunch of sand representing Sodom?) or videos or 3-D walk-throughs :-)

So if I had to judge, no, this isn’t an unbiased or scholarly source for this topic of homosexuality.  Even if there was a variety of theologies presented, they are all from the same website (Lifeway.com…and remember that Lifeway removed copies of a magazine that had women pastors on the cover), and three are from one dude.

Bad research material if you ask me.  So given those concerns, considering Glo a serious scholarly resource may be setting you up for trouble.

Conclusions

I would recommend Glo for pastors and bible study leaders looking to augment a guided bible study.  Its resources and immersive qualities will make for great bible studies.

I would not recommend Glo for individuals wanting to see a breadth of scholarly teaching on a subject, or for unguided studies on hot topics. 

I would say there’s hope for change, given Glo’s connectedness to the internet.  Adding in a variety of resources would be a welcome addition in the future, but since they are tied to Zondervan, then variety isn’t going to be likely. 

Though I come off as anti-Zondervan, it’s not intentional.  I cannot help but look at my shelves after 7 years of full-time academic study of Scripture, theology, and church history, and having saved almost all my books…and I have zero, zero Zondervan study resources (other than flavors of bibles) and less than 5 books (all on youth ministry or emerging church).  You can either accuse me of a narrow theological education or take it as anecdotal evidence of the weight scholars in my tradition give publications from Zondervan.

So, in short, if you are a well-read bible study teacher, you can use the media resources and the session manager to put on fresh and interactive bible studies with ease.  Use them as tools to help with instruction.  That’s precisely what I will use it for today.  Otherwise, put on your discerning caps when you do topical studies and know that what you are getting is rather narrow when compared to the breadth of material available on the internet and in academic settings.

Thoughts?  Thanks for reading and welcome to our visitors!

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Comments

  1. Matt Algren says

    Honestly, it sounds like a good first attempt. Love the maps and some of the other resources.

    As you say, the lack of balance in commentary is a major problem. The extra clobber verses are interesting in that they're leading toward in a specific direction about which there is disagreement within the Church (universal).

    As for Albert Mohler, he's president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a major ally of the ex-gay industry. His ongoing commentary is often referenced by people like Peter LaBarbera.

    So yeah, Zondervan is going for an extreme version of ultra-conservative Christianity. And that's unfortunate. If they were to balance the commentary, not just on this issue but on others as well, GLO could mature into a fantastic tool for churches of all stripes.

    Even though it's way too expensive.

  2. Carolyn says

    Why can't more reliable and moderate Christian groups come out with this stuff? It's not fair that the conservatives are the only ones coming out with sweet graphics and user interfaces. What if a project like this was loaded onto the internet and made open-source? That way it wouldn't have to take up hard drive space, and lots of users could contribute to its content. That would solve the diversity problem, although to access it from a church computer might require upgrading browser versions and maybe a new video card.

  3. Rev Al Carlisle says

    Just installed my copy of Glo and found it, thus far, to be helpful and, again so far, not above or below my expectations. The exact use fullness, at least for this pastor, will be determined in time.

    Alas, as with any and all Biblical tools, regardless of the media used, the users own biblical, theological, and doctrinal bias's will determine the products total use fullness, and veracity.

    As to the question of "scholarship", again scholarship lies in the eye of the beholder. For the "serious" Bible "scholar" or the "critical" seminary student who wants every possible theological, and doctrinal scenario covered, especially when it comes to the most controversial of doctrines, will probably find Glo lacking.

    But, for the just as "serious" Layman, the very busy Pastor, Evangelist and Sunday school teacher, I believe they will find this product to be a valued part of their library.

  4. Rev Al Carlisle says

    Will somebody PLEASE, show me in The Bible where a Christian is defined as either a Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative. My Bible says their are only the Spirit filled, the carnal, or the new or (baby) Christians. There are no others, I've searched.

    So now the real problem lies is in the authority of the Bible.

    There are plenty of resources to support all views

  5. Waldo says

    My cheif frustration is that for a software Bible it's not much better than the paper it's written on… you would think that when you see a Scripture reference in the Study Notes, you'd be able to click on it to view the referenced text. No such luck. Even copying and pasting is no good-there's nowhere you can type a reference in to go to it! Great concept, a little hollow when you come to actually using it.

  6. Anonymous says

    I haven't tried it out yet but my ears were perked when I watched the ad for it. Below are two sections from the commercial quoted word for word.

    "Instead of just reading the Bible….you see it…feel it…you get it"

    "God's Word is sacred, and perfect. But with Glo it's amplified. Connections become stronger. Purpose becomes clearer. Your faith grows. Glo makes it possible, even natural."

    I'm sure it's a great reference and it actually looks really cool. It's not a huge deal, but it does bother me that their commercial makes the Holy Spirit out to be obsolete. Studying the Bible takes time and energy on our part for sure, but God does the growing, not Glo! This is just me being opinionated mostly :)

    I recommend reading plenty of other reviews before buying this though. I've seen a number of complaints, including the program wouldn't run. If you do want to buy it go to the Glo website. Currently, they are running a 33% off special for download purchases.

  7. Anonymous says

    For those of you who view "conservative Christianity" as lacking compassion, you're wrong. conservative Christianity is God's Christianity. Period.

    And for those of you who consider that view outdated… consider this. Merriam Webster defines conservatism as 3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : [traditional].

    Your attempts to conform to the world view has swept you away from God's way like a strong undercurrent. It is the cowardly Christian who panders to the masses in attempt to avoid persecution or slander for His sake. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. God doesn't need you to apologize for Him.
    Be strong in the faith and proclaim boldly the Truths of our Lord and He will bless you for it. Sure, you'll lose some friends along the way… but He will bless you for your courage!

  8. Anonymous says

    Glo Bible is by design oriented around folks who prefer viewing images and media rather than actually reading. When trying to do traditional search and query in this tool, Glo has made that aspect much more difficult than existing solutions available. Glo assumes you want to answer questions about life and find what the Bible says on the subject (which is OK) but you are subjected to the designer being in between you and the raw data of Bible information on a topic.

    Users of Glo must re-orient themselves as to what Glo is designed to provide. Advertising and marketing give the impression it is a “find anything you want” kind of tool, when in reality it is a “find what we think you will want to see” kind of tool. And in many cases, the decisions about what is shown seem to be the personal preferences of the designers rather than an appeal to biblical scholarship and the historic church.

    This is most apparent in the Topical pathway (lens). Scripture in addition to other media are only available in Topical under pre-defined application contexts. If you want to see verses about marriage in other contexts not provided you will have to use another product altogether.

    Not knowing how to use the tool and having no or little internal help makes learning rather frustrating. Glo seems to have counted on the intuitive design making up for skipping a user guide, but it actually doesn’t make up for not having one.

    When using Topical, you have to be very careful when highlighting items found and shown. If an item is grey or but shown you may think it belongs to the context you are viewing, but you are actually getting a hidden context that requires you to dial into the current topic deeper.

    Example:
    If you navigate into Life With Others, you see the word Love as a greyed-out color. If you highlight it and send it to the Bible lens you get one verse in one chapter in one book for the entire Bible – Galatians 5:22 – where love is mentioned as one of the fruits of the spirit. You completely miss the verses all through I John, and the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, because the system understands the Love item you chose as belonging to the context “Fruit of the Spirit” which you can’t see at present.

    Even still, this approach by topic will not eventually get you to all the verses where love is mentioned in Scripture. It will yield pre-defined sub-topics related to love, several of which may not use the word love at all.

    So the idea that the topics are systematically derived from some sort of unbiased, exhaustive indexing of all Scripture is a misnomer.

    Of course, you can always use the Bible pathway in a global search. But there, the results are not terribly useful, since they are presented in a completely random, unorganized manner (you won’t see love references in I John grouped together).

    When you choose to view an item shown in Scripture results, you won’t see the word love highlighted throughout the text, but instead a chosen verse that the designer believes explains love for that reference.

    Also, many perfectly reasonable topics have not been mapped in Glo. For example, wisdom, is not a mapped topic in Glo. So you must find the Scripture references to wisdom by using the global search feature. You can’t further qualify these according a book of the Bible. If there are 132 references, you can’t send all of them to the Bible lens where they can be organized by book. Instead, you are stuck browsing the Scripture results by trying to find references to books 132 unorganized hits.

    Worse still, you can’t use a feature like Find Next to sequentially locate a keyword in currently displayed text, as you can on a web page or in MS Word.

    So in general, students need to accept the fact that Glo can’t be used as a concordance-style search tool in any efficiently useful meaning of the term.

  9. says

    Does ‘GLO’ in the title ‘GLO Bible” stand for “Gay Lesbian Organization” ? I don’t trust the material published by Zondervan. The multi-colored GLO Bible Logo is also suspect and reminds me of the rainbow flags and banners used by the Gay Community. Maybe this is some more of that subliminal Illuminati stuff I keep hearing about. I will stay with the “YouVersion” Bible App ( https://www.bible.com/100million ) I noticed there was no mention of Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 (I thank my Friend, the Holy Spirit for discernment!) hallelujah!

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