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Dr. Constable's Bible Study Notes Review

by Tim Drenk
Posted 1/13/02

Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Th.D., the Department Chairman and Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, has written more than 7000 pages of commentaries and study notes on the Bible over the past 20 years. Dr. Constable says, "[These are] notes that I have prepared from my own study of the Scriptures. I distribute them to my students in my Bible classes at Dallas Theological Seminary and have done so for many years. I have also made some of them available to the people in my church. They provide more information than a study Bible, but they are less technical than many commentariesÉI offer these notes to anyone who is interested in understanding the Bible better. They are not perfect, as I am not. They reflect my present level of understanding." Through Sonic Light, these notes are available to everyone in several different formats.

These Bible Study Notes reflect a conservative evangelical view of Scripture (You can read Sonic Light's statement of faith here and Dallas Theological Seminary's here). The notes are very in depth (for example, Dr. Constable's notes on the book of Romans is 181 pages long) without being difficult to understand. To give you an idea of Dr. Constable's style, here are the notes on Romans 8:38-39

8:38 God will continue to love us when we die, and He will continue to love us whatever may befall us now. He loves us on both sides of the grave. Helpful or hostile angelic beings cannot change God's commitment to us. Nothing that the present or future may hold can do so either. No force of any kind can remove us from His loving care.
8:39 Space cannot separate us from His loving care either. Finally nothing in all creation can drive a wedge between the loving God and His redeemed people. That must include the behavior and belief of His own children as well. Not even the redeemed can remove themselves from God's love in Christ Jesus!

The notes are available as Acrobat PDF files and as MP3 files (an audio format), both are free and downloadable from Sonic Light's web site. The version for handheld devices is in iSilo format and has to be purchased. Using iSilo is fairly easy. You can scroll up and down or tap on a link to jump to that location. You can also use the page icon at the bottom of the screen to move to a specific passage. Dr. Constable's notes in the iSilo format are, however, not cheap. Study notes for each book of the Bible range from $1.00 to $3.50 per book. While that doesn't initially sound expensive, the cost will add up quickly for more than three or four books. There is a bundle of all the New Testament books for $55.50 and bundle of all the Old Testament books for $76.50. The only advantage the iSilo version has over the PDF version is that the notes have links in them and predefined bookmarks. You can jump from the table of contents to the text to the endnotes and back or move to a specific passage. I realize the work that it takes to create the links (as I have done it in a variety of programs for handheld devices), but given that the notes can be downloaded for free, $150.00 for all the study notes seems to be exceedingly high.


Dr. Constable's Study Notes in iSilo



I find it unfortunate that Sonic Light choose iSilo as the format for the notes. iSilo does have some nice features, like links, images, and tables, and it's available for the Palm OS, Pocket PCs, and Windows. iSilo costs $17.50 for each version. There is a free version, however the free version strips out all those features making it nothing more than a very basic doc reader. So in addition to the $1.00 to $3.50 per book, figure in $17.50 for iSilo when you are looking at your final cost. A better format choice would have been Palm Reader. Palm Reader has all the advanced features of iSilo and more, it's free, and it's available for the Palm OS, Pocket PCs, Windows, and Macintosh.

Fortunately, there is another option for getting the notes on your handheld. The notes are free as PDF files and Adobe makes the Acrobat Reader for the Palm OS, Pocket PCs, and the Symbian OS, which you can download for free here. With the download comes Adobe's tool for sending a PDF file to your device. It took me about 10-15 minutes to download, install the reader, and install several PDF files to my Palm OS device. Using Acrobat Reader is pretty straight forward. Scrolling up and down will display one page in the PDF and tapping on the right or left arrow will move to the next or previous page. Acrobat Reader will display a Table of Contents page by tapping on the up/down arrows in the lower left. Once at the Table of Contents, tapping on a line will move you to that page (you may have to scroll down the page to find the section you are looking for). A third option for getting the notes on your handheld is to buy the Constable Expository Notes CD from Sonic Light for $40.00 with the notes in Microsoft Word documents which can also be installed on a handheld device. The two downsides to these options are the notes have no links so navigating to end notes is more time consuming and the files sizes are several times bigger. However, despite these downsides, I have a hard time believing the convenience of links to the end notes is worth $150.00. For that price, I can buy a 256MB Secure Digital memory card, store the PDF files for all 66 books, and still have two thirds of the storage for other programs and documents plus money left over.


Dr. Constable's Study Notes in Acrobat Reader



As mentioned earlier, Sonic Light also has Dr. Constable's notes and lessons in audio format as MP3 files, a very common audio format. You can either purchase CDs containing MP3s (in order to play the CDs you will need to use your computer or a very recent CD player) or download them. The difference between the MP3 files on the CD and the MP3 files that are downloadable is the downloadable files has reduced audio quality to make the files smaller for downloading. I would highly recommend downloading the MP3 files from the web site since audio quality is not as important for spoken word. My guess is most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the quality of files on the CD verses what you can download. If you plan on playing them on your handheld or portable MP3 player, I would suggest reducing the quality a little more to save storage space. If you plan on buying the CDs, be prepared to spend $30.00 per CD or $510.00 to get all 17 CDs ($426 if you buy them all at the same time). Again, given that the audio lessons can be downloaded for free, the cost seems exceedingly high. For the price of all 17 CDs, I can buy an external DVD-R/CD-RW drive, a large stack of recordable CDs, and cover the cost of several months of high speed internet access to download and burn my own CDs.


Conclusion

I would encourage anyone interested in an easy to read commentary to download Dr. Constable's Bible Study Notes as PDF files. The notes certainly make an excellent resource for any study of the Bible. It's unfortunate that Sonic Light choose iSilo and charges so much for that format. If you are looking to get all the notes or are on a tight budget, stick to the PDF files and use Acrobat Reader. If you want Dr. Constable's notes for few books, spending $30 isn't terrible to get links and smaller files.



Price: $1.00 to $3.50 for each book, $17.50 for iSilo, $30.00 for each MP3 CD

Pros:
-Very Indepth and easy to read
-Covers all 66 books
-Can be downloaded for free
-PDF files can be read on handheld devices
Cons:
-iSilo format and MP3 CDs are exceedingly expensive
-Uses iSilo
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