A Review of BibleWorks 6
by Andrew McClurg
Midwestern Journal of
A Review of BibleWorks 6.0
I have been using Bible software - mainly an old version of Logos - for almost 10 years and I have become used to the convenience of navigating quickly through the Bible and associated reference works. Being satisfied with what I had, I had never bothered to check out advances in Bible software, particularly since the number of programs on the market - and their claims to be the "latest and greatest" - have seemingly multiplied. Thus, when I began using BibleWorks 5.0 in a seminary library and version 6.0 at home, I was literally astonished at the power it brought to bear on Bible research. In general, the appropriate Bible software obviously depends on an individual's needs, but for serious Bible study in the original languages with sophisticated search capabilities, BibleWorks is a clear leader.
Rather than catalogue the large number of databases and features in BibleWorks 6.0 - many have been added since version 5.0, and these can be referenced at www.bibleworks.com - I will briefly describe what I think is particularly useful for research, teaching and preaching. First, the search capabilities of BibleWorks in both English versions and the original languages are extremely powerful, flexible and quick. One can search on phrases, words or parts of words, or for the presence of two or more words in a verse or even across verses. For example, I can easily find all places where any form of "love" (loves, loving, etc.) and "God" appear within 4 words of each other. I can also find all places in the Greek New Testament (or the Septuagint, or the Works of Josephus for that matter) where any form of the Greek verb "agapao" appears. If a form of the word is already being displayed, then a search on that word (or its lemma) can be accomplished with a right click. When I was doing a research project on uses of the Aramaic verb, I was able to do scores of searches on particular verb classes and forms and quickly see their surrounding verses and contexts. I cannot imagine having completed this research without BibleWorks.
If one is not familiar with Greek or Hebrew but knows how to use a Strong's concordance, then he can perform searches using a Strong's number. For example, a pastor may have heard the oft quoted "fact" that the Greek word "agapao" refers to God's love but that the word "phileo" refers to brotherly love. BibleWorks automatically gives the Strong's number when the cursor is passed over a word. By searching on all forms of the word "love" associated with the Strong's number for "phileo" (5368) one finds that the word can also be used for God the Father's love for the Son (John 5:20) and God's love for his people (John 16:27).
Searches can also be done of reference works. So if I want to find all places in Bauer's Lexicon (BDAG) where military terms are associated with the book of Philippians, I can construct a relatively easy search command to do this (although I may have to sort through some extraneous entries). Space does not allow further examples, including the added power of the Advanced Search Engine (ASE) which uses a graphic interface to allow searches that are truly mind-boggling.
At about $300, BibleWorks 6.0 comes with a large number of resources built in, including the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon and the Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew lexicon. Two add-on modules that are valuable for the language scholar are BDAG and the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) - a combined package of the two is available for about $200, which is cheaper than copies of the books separately. For serious study, Bible students should have hard copies of these works, but I appreciate the convenience of seeing a reference instantly and of searching the available lexicons. One particularly useful feature is the ability with a right click, when viewing a word in a particular verse, to search for that word in a lexicon, and then when the entry appears, to have the current verse highlighted wherever it appears in the lexicon entry. Those who have struggled through paragraphs or columns of small print in a lexicon straining to find a verse reference will be tempted to cheer the first time they use this feature.
At first sight, the user interface to BibleWorks - with a large number of buttons and abbreviations - can seem a bit intimidating. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of having a large number of features and options. The three user modes - beginner, intermediate and power user - can soften the learning curve, and allow a person to get useful results quickly. However, to employ the full power of BibleWorks, one should learn how to navigate the tool and particularly, to enter search commands. I found the command line relatively straightforward, particularly since it has context sensitive help at each step (however, I was a computer programmer for seven years, dealing with exotic computer languages and interfaces, so perhaps I am not the most objective judge). However, the user manual is excellent as is the online "Help" facility. In addition the BibleWorks package comes with a built-in and catalogued library of "User Demo" videos.
How does BibleWorks compare with other Bible software, particularly the latest version of the Libronix based Logos? I am not an expert judge of this, as my version of Logos is pre-Libronix. A good comparison of BibleWorks 5.0 with Logos has been published by H. Van Dyke Parunak ("Bible Study Software 2004," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society JETS 48:2 : 366-368. A copy of this is available online at: http://www.bibleworks.com/downloads/LibBwkDec2004.pdf.
My experience with more recent versions of Logos is that searches and lexicon lookups are more cumbersome than with BibleWorks. Logos has more extra-biblical resource works available, but often at a price. BibleWorks continues to add other reference works, but as they themselves state, they have tried to stay out of the "module frenzy," particularly because no electronic publishing standard yet exists, and so these reference works could become obsolete (BibleWorks 6 User Manual, 5). One nice feature of BibleWorks for research in Greek is the ability to link automatically to the Perseus Digital Library (at www.perseus.org) which has a library of hundreds of Greek works. In summary, for the scholar, pastor, teacher or student who wants learn what is in the Bible, BibleWorks is an excellent tool.
Andrew McClurg is an Adjunct Instructor of Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.