A Review of Bibleworks 10
Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research
Ervin Starwalt, PhD
GIALens, Volume 10, No. 1, August 2016
Bibleworks (BW) is an outstanding tool for researching in the original biblical languages. It operates on PCs, and for Macs it can operate natively, virtually, or with a dual boot. BW has been designed so that those who wish to use the English Bible can access the tools and do research without needing to know Greek or Hebrew. In addition to Greek and Hebrew texts, it contains many English translations and more than forty other language versions. Still, in my estimation, the original biblical language tools are the most powerful and direct way to research the biblical text. However, it should be noted that the multitude of translations have a use even for those who can handle the original languages. It is always helpful to be able to see how others have translated this hard word or that sticky passage.
I have been a user of BW for about the previous three generations of the software program. So the program has held my interest enough for me to keep buying the next installment (BW gave me a review copy of BW10). BW10 came out this past year, 2015. Promotional highlights list some nineteen changes in the base package features. There are at least six updates to the base package databases plus over twenty additional new versions and texts. Add to that the fact that they are continually updating the program, it is likely by the time this review is published new material or updates will have been added. BW is a powerful program; one that I have underutilized in the past. But I am without excuse; BW provides workshops and YouTube videos (see https://www.youtube.com/c/BibleWorksVideos) for its users. The YouTube site has almost forty videos introducing BW10 and showcasing how to use the features of the program. BW is continually updating this site. In addition there are other video collections, each devoted to a certain aspect of the program.
It is impossible to overview BW10 without leaving something out, something that someone will likely think important. I cannot cover all the new features, so this review will focus mostly on features that I use or would use. For example, though there is a lot that can be done with English translations, I will not specifically discuss their use in the program, focusing rather on features concerning the Greek text, since that is where my primary interest lies. No examples are given concerning the analyses of the Hebrew, since I rarely work with the Hebrew text. But it should be noted that what can be done with the Greek can also be done with the Hebrew.
Now for some of the new features. A few of the new features concern program presentation: a new screen theme and a new tool bar. Then there is the old but yet new: the four window/column layout of the screen has been kept, but the user can now collapse the top portion of the window to create a less cluttered look. For those not familiar with BW, there is the leftmost window for searching, the center window for the text (called the browser window) and two windows to the right for analysis, each of which can have a separate analysis tool opened in it for a side by side view. The right most analysis window can be closed if not needed. In fact all the windows except for the browsing (text) window can be closed to hide things not needed for the current task.
Now back to the new: Teachers who want to use a projector and also those who use tablets will like the scalable screen which allows BW to be adjusted for use on different devices. Next the new morphology coding tool is useful for highlighting the text at the morphological level. If one wants to analyze verbs for example, all aorist verbs in a passage can be colored red, imperfects purple, present tenses orange, and so on. Mood, voice, person, and number as well as verbals can be added to the mix. Once selected, the color coding is automatic since these categories are already coded in the text. No tedious searching for every instance of the form you want colored; the computer does the laborious work for you. Think color coding for discourse or aids for teaching biblical languages.
Also new to the program is the Forms Tab. This tab displays all the different forms or parsings of a lexeme (word) that occur in the NT, LXX or OT. It gives the number of times each form occurs for a lexeme. In addition, clicking on a certain form or parsing in the analysis window will bring up all the verses in which that form occurs. Then if more context for a verse is needed, just a click on it brings up the passage in which it is found. This feature also functions for other texts within the program. For example, clicking on a word in the Greek text of 1 Clement and going to the Forms Tab allows the user to see all the different forms of that word occur elsewhere in 1 Clement and the Apostolic Fathers.
Another new feature helpful for those wishing to keep learning Greek or Hebrew, or to keep the language they studied alive, is the resident sound files for both Greek and Hebrew. The user can read along in the text while listening to the recording, listening being an important key to really getting the language inside of you. There is also a search verse history button where the most recent verses looked at are displayed. By default all verses looked at for at least five seconds are saved, but the time can be adjusted as desired. Another new feature is the user lexicon. Here users can keep personal notes on words studied. Then for those who like e-books there is an EPUB reader. An e-book can be opened in each of the analysis windows. Note that the e-texts do not have to be from BW. Next there is a Holy Land Picture Database to enrich one’s study, in addition to the already extensive collections of maps. And another feature for those who like to look at manuscripts is the Leningradensis Images which are tagged for verse numbers. This manuscript is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.
These are just some of the new database features. In addition, there are also some new add-on databases, which are available for an additional fee. To name just some of those new to the program, there are the Stuttgart Original Languages Packages (Old and New Testament), Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and the ESV Bible Atlas. All in all, there are over twenty add-ons, most of which are not new to the program.
Those involved in translation work may find it of interest that BW can send and receive data from Paratext. Users can change verses in BW or Paratext or both and the one program will synchronize with the other and scroll along with verse changes in the other program. However, some settings in both programs need to be adjusted for them to work in parallel fashion.
For looking into hard-to-understand grammatical issues, there is a New Testament database where every sentence in the NT is diagrammed. The diagraming follows the Reed-Kellogg method which many of us learned or at least were exposed to in school. It analyzes grammatical relationships, so linear order is not necessarily maintained. If users wish to do the diagramming themselves, the program allows for that, and any method can be chosen for this purpose.
One feature that I really like is the parallel versions feature. For example a Hebrew text can be put beside a text from the LXX which is next to an English or French or some other language text. The text can be scrolled through with the verses synchronized, a handy tool for making comparisons.
As I think of how I use BW, one of the features I like and use is the concordance feature. With a click I can bring up every occurrence of a lexeme in the NT and/or the LXX. In less than a second, I am looking at a list that I can scroll through to see how a word is used. If I need more context, a click on the verse takes me to the word’s context where I can get the broader picture. I find this important since words have meaning in their contexts. If I am looking at a grammatical problem, Wallace’s intermediate grammar can be consulted. Waltke-O’Conner is there for those doing Hebrew grammar. I also use it when grading students’ word studies. I can quickly check their data and look at relevant lexicons. It greatly reduces the amount of time spent marking such papers.
Finally, some may be wondering about how BW compares to other biblical research programs, such as Logos. I own and use both programs for my personal study and for the classroom. I use both programs almost daily, but for different purposes. They have complementary strengths. Logos’ library is without peer and has some analytical tools that BW does not have, such as the OT and NT marked for discourse features. But BW can’t be beat for its speed in concordancing and word analysis. For me, BW is an excellent program, especially considering its reasonable price.
Dr. Ervin Starwalt is an assistant professor at Graduate Institute of Applied Lingusitics.