A Practical and Powerful Bible Tool For Every Christian With a Smartphone

There are certain tools and resources that have passed the longevity test. These tools have proven useful, not just for a season, but for the long-term. I want to recommend just such a tool today.

The Compare feature on Youversion’s Bible app is the kind of tool I have used countless times over the last seven years in order to read scripture side by side with speakers of other languages. This Bible app doesn’t just provide scripture free of charge in 1,950 languages (Which is a stunning thing in itself. Can you imagine Tyndale’s reaction if he knew we had Bible access like this?) But it allows a reader to work through an entire passage in multiple languages side by side, with the texts parallel to one another on the screen of your smart phone or tablet. In our multilingual world, this is an extremely practical tool for Christians eager to share the truth of Scripture.

You can use this feature if you are sharing the gospel with someone from another ethnic or language background and want to make sure the individual verses you are sharing are clear. Instead of only showing your friend a verse in English, you can at the same time be showing it to them in their mother tongue (And in this way also know that you are indeed showing them the verse you mean to). Or, you can use this tool in a Bible study with others as you work through a broader passage, one parallel verse at a time, again, having two or more languages in front of you on your phones’ screens for the sake of clarity and understanding – both yours and theirs.

I have also used this feature to continue growing in my knowledge of other languages. Since I’m very familiar with the text of the Bible in English, it’s an easy way to learn new vocab and grammar in another language. And I’ve recommended this practice to many of my English students as a way to expose them to the Bible while they strengthen their English skills, one parallel verse or passage at a time.

This kind of practice not only helps with language acquisition, but also with language retention. Like our physical muscles, our languages need a little bit of regular exercise in order to not atrophy. A few Bible verses a day keeps that language’s part of the brain online in a surprising way. In this vein, whenever I listen to a sermon I have the Bible app’s Compare feature open in front of me for this very purpose. I’ve found the act of code-switching between Bible languages during a sermon helpful both for the insights as well as the questions that emerge.

What if you are aware of a Bible translation that exists, but it’s not included in the 1,950 languages currently on the app? Youversion provides a form for it to be added (Click My Language is Not Listed on the drop down menu and they’ll get back to you). Several years ago I filled out the request form, asking that the trade language translation I grew up with in Melanesia be added to the app. To my surprise, after a few months, there it was. I could now read the Bible in English, my Melanesian trade language, and my focus Central Asian language side by side. This is a true gift because it means that even if I’m the only one in Central Asia who speaks that particular Melanesian tongue, I can not only keep my knowledge of it alive, but even be edified by the Word while doing so.

I was recently speaking with a missionary friend who didn’t know of this tool, so I wanted to put it out there in case it might serve others who are involved in sharing truth across language barriers. For so many, the realities of immigration now mean that even without leaving our home nations we have neighbors, community businessmen, and fellow classmates from other nations. Few immigrants and refugees ever have anyone from their host nation ask genuine questions about the language they spoke growing up. And many speakers of other languages have no idea that the Bible has been translated into their language. This then can be a great way to invite someone into reading God’s word. Ask about their mother tongue, show them that you have a Bible in their language on your phone, ask them if they’d like to have it on their phone also, then invite them if they’d like to meet up another time for coffee or tea to read some together.

Our team in Central Asia has been able to “distribute” dozens upon dozens of Bibles in this way, with some of them being downloaded the very first time we meet someone and get into a spiritual conversation with them. For long-term or short-term teams, or for any Christian eager to share the Bible with others, this really is a tremendous tool for getting scripture into people’s hands, and for reading it side-by-side.

If you want to use this Compare feature, here are the steps:

  1. Dowload the Youversion Bible app from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Set up a free account on the app.
  3. Click the Bible button on the menu at the bottom of the screen.
  4. At the top of the screen, choose the passage and English translation. This version will be your default until you change it.
  5. Tap on a verse to select it.
  6. Click on the Compare button from the menu that will pop up when you tap on the verse.
  7. At this point, only the selected English verse will appear on the screen. Click on the Add Version button at the bottom of the screen.
  8. Click on the Language button at the top of the screen in order to select versions in other languages.
  9. Click the magnifying glass button at the top of the screen to search the 1,950 languages.
  10. Tap the language you want.
  11. On the next screen, tap on that language a second time in order to add it to the Compare page.
  12. You should now see the verse you selected in your chosen languages side by side on the screen. Click on the Next Verse or Previous Verse buttons to navigate through the chapter.

I hope you find this tool as practical and powerful as I have. And to the team at Youversion, my sincerest thanks.

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