BibleWorks, Version 6.0
Daniel M. Gurtner
Ashland Theological Journal
Bible Works 6.0 (BW) is a powerful research tool accessible to students, pastors, and scholars alike who are in need of doing serious research efficiently. With all the databases within BW, it is possible to conduct a seemingly endless list of different kinds of searches and to dump the results – references, texts, etc. – into any document in which you are working. BW 6.0’s new features include: a Diagramming Tool to create grammatical diagrams of text, including Greek and Hebrew; Flash cards to build personal flashcard sets (print or electronic) and quiz yourself; Greek/Hebrew paradigms; Auto-complete morphologies that provide available options in an automatic popup list; Popup gloss and definitions that open a mini-window showing the gloss for Greek and Hebrew words to appear as your mouse passes over tagged words; Lexical/Grammatical Helps Window that displays a color-coded list of all lexical and grammatical references, including the introductory line from each reference as you move the mouse over tagged text; text coloring that allows you to highlight text by hand or highlight search results with various colors and formattings; a text comparison tool that allows you to compare multiple Bible versions at once; a series of editable outlines of biblical texts; a clone window that opens an identical copy of your BW window in which you are working, and new Greek and Hebrew fonts that allow you to share documents in HTML, Word, Outlook, and many other applications.
Shall I go on? Okay. There are new databases as well. These include Tichendorf’s Greek NT with complete apparatus; the complete works of Josephus, parsed and lemmatized, with Whiston’s 1828 English translation; WTM Groves-Wheeler Westminster Hebrew OT Morphology database v.4.0 with two accent tagging systems and editorial comments; the Aramaic New Testament (Peshitta; viewable in Estangela or Hebrew letter script) with the Murdock English translation; the Targumim, parsed, lemmatized, and tied to entries in the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon; Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar; Moods and Tenses of NT Greek, by Burton; Basic Hebrew for Bible Study, by Futato; Matthew Henry's Commentary -- complete and linked to BW; Apostolic Fathers (Greek); and a few translations, including the Bishops’ Bible (1595), Tyndale’s New Testament (1534), and the NET Bible with notes and maps.
Had enough? Well, there’s more. BW 6.0 has new modules available. The following tools are also available for unlocking: Beginning Biblical Hebrew (full text), by Futato ($25), Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, by Wallace ($25); Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, by Waltke and O'Connor; and The Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts with morphological tags ($80). Also available are BDAG (3rd edition, $125) and HALOT (4th edition, $159), or both together (BDAG and HALOT, $197). Apologies to those who bought Brill’s two-volume concordance to the non-biblical texts of the DSS ($299.00). Upgrades are available from BW 4 ($150) and BW 5 ($125). Information for this and system requirements are available on the BW website.
Nothing is perfect, and the improvements BW has made over the years are indicative of their constant effort to improve their product. Having Josephus in Greek is priceless (apologies to those who bought Brill’s [now two-volume] concordance to Josephus [$349]) though Whiston’s translation is less reliable than that in the Loeb volumes. Perhaps BW will soon include the works of Philo (with Yonge’s translation). Translations for the Apostolic Fathers and the Targumim would be helpful. The Peshitta of the OT would be most welcome, as well as a parsed text of the NT. There are much better Syriac fonts available than that used in BW, which seems to be a BW creation (BWHeba). Some accents on LSJ lexicon do show up in the display garbled. The same is true for the UBS dictionary, some of Louw-Nida, and Thayer’s dictionary. It is unfortunate that you cannot display or output other Greek fonts, such as SBL’s SPIonic, without remapping fonts from BW’s BWgkl.
It is amazing what you can do with this product! Having BDB full and abridged and Bible dictionaries (including ISBE!) is very helpful. There’s even a key to LSJ’s abbreviations (I’ve always wanted one!). The flashcard component is great for those keeping up on language skills. There are even parsing cards for Hebrew and Greek. Vocabulary can be set by frequency, by book, or by frequency within a book, etc., though it does not seem set to the LXX, only NT Greek. With a few clicks of a button, you can use this feature to see that Jude has 226 different words, 16 of which are hapaxes. This is excellent for someone studying the text of a particular book. Moreover, the vocabulary flashcards are expandable and one can create databases for Aramaic, Latin, German, and French. Hopefully these will appear in future upgrades.
While this tool may be a bit too much horsepower for many, it can be very useful for students serious about keeping up language skills, pastors who want an efficient way to work in primary sources, and Bible translators who will find the original language tools essential and perhaps the scores of various Bible translations to be a helpful resource. More than once I’ve found myself punching the air in triumph and exclaiming my joy at the depth of work I can accomplish with a few buttons that used to take me hours. Though the price can be a bit offsetting, BW does offer discounts for those buying in bulk, and will take about 10% off at ETS and SBL conferences. Considering all the books you do not have to buy if you have BW, the cost is easily justifiable to the nervous spouse concerned about the cost of books. This review is by no means complete. Fuller reviews are written by Moisés Silva in WTJ 66.2 (2004) 449-54 and a full article comparing Bible Software packages by H. Van Dyke Parunak, “Windows Software for Bible Study,” JETS 46.3 (2003): 465-95 (comparing BW version 5).
Daniel M. Gurtner is an Assistant Professor at Bethel Seminary, St Paul, MN.