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.
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.
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.
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:
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
- Homosexuality (which merely says “see SODOM and CRIME/PUNISHMENT”)
- Crimes and Punishments
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]
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.
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!