Book Reviews,  Theology/Bible

Olive Tree: The Best Bible App on the Market

I have been using Olive Tree’s BibleReader app on my iPhone since 2009. But the small size of the iPhone screen meant that I really only used it in a pinch. For regular Bible reading, I have preferred either a physical book or at least a larger screen. About a month ago, I purchased my first iPad. Since then, I’ve been using the Olive Tree reader on a daily basis. It’s clean interface and easy usability makes it my favorite Bible app for mobile devices—even more so for the iPad. For what I use it for, it simply has better features than any of its competitors. So here are my seven reasons for commending to you the Olive Tree BibleReader.

1. Texts: The baseline requirement for a Bible app is that it have all the texts that I need. I don’t need ten different English translations on a mobile app. It would be impractical to access them even if I did. What I need is access to the Greek New Testament, the Hebrew Old Testament, and one or two good English translations. For me, the two that I need most are the standard scholarly editions of the original language texts: the Nestle-Aland text (Greek) and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Hebrew).

Last Spring, Olive Tree became the first company to offer the 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland text. This text is not only the new scholarly standard, it also comes loaded with the entire critical apparatus. For the first time, readers will now be able to do text criticism right from their mobile app! The text critical symbols are hypelinked to the appropriate section of the apparatus which opens up simply by touching the symbols. See below a screenshot of Ephesians 1:1 and the well-known problem of EN EPHESO.

The text is morphologically tagged so that simply touching a word will bring up a definition of the word and its parsing. This is an invaluable resource and a must-have for those working with the original languages.

On my iPad, I have the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Rahlf’s LXX, the NASB and the ESV Study Bible (along with a handful of other freebies). Other resources are listed on the website, and they include study biblesstudy toolsacademic resourceseBooks, and more. One of the items on my wish list is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. You can buy it in the Olive Tree store for $39.96, and it comes bundled with the ESV. You can download the free Olive Tree BibleReader now on and iTunes, and you can try it out with the assortment of texts that are available for free (e.g., KJV, NET Bible, HCSB, Calvin’s Institutes, Augustine’s Confessions, and many more).

2. Lexicons: Olive Tree also offers the two standard lexicons for the Greek and Hebrew Bibles: BDAG and HALOT. Like the print versions of these two books, this version is a little pricey ($299 for the bundle). Nevertheless, to have these two resources at your fingertips is an invaluable tool for Bible Study. Also, it is very easy to look up words. It’s a matter simply of touching the word you want defined and then touching the lexicon that you want to look it up in. Almost instantly, the appropriate entry from BDAG or HALOT appears, and you are on your way. If I could only have one other resource besides the biblical texts themselves, it would be this one—the BDAG/HALOT bundle. See below a screenshot of Genesis 15 and the HALOT entry for “Yahweh.”

3. Speed: One of the best features of the Olive Tree reader is that it stores all of your texts on your mobile device. Other Bible apps store the resources on their servers, and then you retrieve the data via the internet every time you open a new book. Not so with Olive Tree. I have all my texts available on my device whether or not I am online. Because of this, the browsing is much quicker than other apps that make you download content one page at a time.

4. Tagged Morphology: Olive Tree offers morphologically tagged texts of NA28, BHS, and Rahlf’s LXX. Every word of both the Greek and Hebrew texts is hyperlinked to its own parsing and definition. All you have to do is touch the word. This is a wonderful feature for when you get stuck puzzling over a form. Also, the parsing window allows you to link through to that word’s entry in any lexicon in your library.

5. Searching: With the morphologically tagged texts, there comes the possibility of morphologically complex searches. You can look up not only certain words, but certain forms of words. For instance, I can look up every use of the word logos in the New Testament. Or if I needed to, I could look up every instance of logos that is genitive, masculine, plural. It’s really unbelievable what kind of search capability you hold in the palm of your hand with Olive Tree.

6. Interface: The app is really easy to use. Whether toggling between translations or doing searches, it’s a clean user-friendly interface. One of the best features is the split screen, which allows you to have two texts open at once. I use the split screen feature every time I use the app. For me, I will have the Greek or Hebrew text open in the top window and an English translation open in the bottom window. When scrolling through one text, the text on the other side of the split screen scrolls along to the same verse.

7. Platforms: You don’t have to have an iPhone or iPad to use the Olive Tree BibleReader. It is available on numerous platforms, and the website has a section listing which devices are compatible with this app. You can view the list here.

When I need to do morphologically complex searches or consult multiple versions at one time. BibleWorks 9 is still my go-to program. But BibleWorks is not available for iPad or iPhone. As far as I can see, the Olive Tree Reader is the only app that is comparable to the bigger programs like BibleWorks that are designed for PC’s. If you love the Bible and are using an iPad or smartphone, I highly recommend that you buy the Olive Tree BibleReader. You will be glad that you did.

[Below is a screenshot of the Hebrew text with the ESV Study Bible opened beneath it.]

[Disclosure: I purchased the Greek and Hebrew texts, the ESV Study Bible, and the NASB. I received free copies of BDAG, HALOT, and the morphology texts for review purposes. I am not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.]


  • mvpcworshipblog

    Thank you for the review.

    One Question: Are you able to increase the size of the Greek and Hebrew fonts? For some reason, many books published with Greek and Hebrew fonts only use real fonts for the English text so the Greek and Hebrew cannot be enlarged on the iPad.

    Thank you!

    David A Booth

  • Ryan Szrama

    I’ve used Olive Tree for a long time now thanks to the recommendation of Bill Mounce (and some freebies – he worked with them for a while : ). I make extensive use of split screen viewing, even on the phone but mostly on the Nook Tablet, and I love being able to take sermon notes and sync them between devices. The only thing that can be awkward in my experience is textual search, but since I’ve memorized most of the Bible by now it’s becoming less and less a problem…

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