Software Review: BibleWorks 9
BibleWorks is a fast, powerful and reliable program for researching Biblical texts, particularly in their original languages.
However the purchase cost is considerable. Will I find it worth almost $360?
What resources do I get?
The software contains all the main resources required for textual analysis.
11 Spanish Bible versions, including
Original and ancient language versions of the Bible
Important ancient writings (in English)
Other translations of the Bible:
Grammars and lexicons:
Fig. 1. A small selection of the resources available in BibleWorks
How easy will I find the software to use?
The program itself is fairly simple to use with its 3 main windows.
1. Command or Search window. The Command line is where words and phrases can be entered and a corresponding search activated. There are a variety of options in searching: for instance if you want to see where the Bible tells us not to fear it is possible to request the words 'no or not' and 'fear'. In addition a Graphical Search provides for complex searches.
The Command line is provided with insertion buttons for the various types search required.
2. Browser window. The Browser area enables Bible text in multiple versions or chapters in a single version to be shown. So for instance the Spanish LBLA, NIV and RV along with the underlying Greek or Hebrew can be displayed simultaneously.
3. Analysis window. The Analysis area provides information on individual words according to the lexica, dictionaries or grammars installed, as well as relevant sections in other publications such as the critical apparatus and the Church Fathers. In addition there are cross-references, statistics and word frequency tables. A text editor and a note adding facility are provided.
The Analysis window has 13 main tabs to it, but this can be divided into two windows, and the location of the tabs readjusted according to a users' preference. The Editor panel is detachable which is useful if notes are being taken while reference works are being consulted.
The user interface is intuitive with the progression of windows and simple to use with the icons.
Pop-up windows are used to provide information on words, for instance the Hebrew or Greek is translated, parsed and further grammatical details given. Bible references in dictionaries have pop-ups with the entire verse.
For the program's use in the academic world, BibleWorks also provides the correct bibliographical citation.
Fig.2 Four main windows of BibleWorks
Will I notice any improvements to the program?
In comparison with earlier versions of BibleWorks 9 shows the following improvements:
· Resources expanded. These enhance studies of the text by giving access to ancient codices, a substantial critical apparatus (CNTTS), connection of the early church fathers to the Biblical text, and extensive map collections with overlay facilities.
· Improved features. For example, the X-Refs and Use tabs provide an increased understanding of the way the vocabulary in a text is interrelated with other passages either in that particular book or in the entire Bible.
· Interface is more intuitive. This reduces the user's learning curve for the software. Reading the setup guide takes about an hour (in English, although there is a Spanish translation of BibleWorks 8 start up guide). Overall the program is easier to use with its icons and pop-up boxes.
· Increased flexibility of use. The detachable Editor window, extra Analysis window, custom tab names all make the program more adjustable according to the users need.
Fig.3 Mark 1:1 with statistical data and the Alexandrian codex
What will I find are the strengths of BibleWorks?
Strengths of the program are:
· Focus on the Bible text. There is no diversifying of resources over a range of publications that are not relevant. Greek and Hebrew texts are emphasized. Users can quickly research words and phrases. The program contains all that is required for original language studies, Spanish Bible versions. There is no need to buy additional modules.
· Speed of analysis. There is no waiting for the information required from searches or by hovering the cursor over words. The response time is more or less instantaneous.
· Depth of the program. Diagram analysis and graphical searches offer the most detailed investigation of Bible texts. The KWIC (Keyword in context) table shows the results of concordance type studies of phrases such as "in Christ".
· Refinements allowed within the program. The triple window layout is such that information is built up from the search results. The information shown can be refined according to user requirements. This flexibility of use of the program extends even to being able to change the keyboard to a Spanish one and the licensing of the software which allows purchasers to put it on several machines providing they are just using one at a time.
Fig. 4 Hebrew Old Testament and Greek Septuagint in parallel
What will I find are its weaknesses?
· English interface and resources. Maps, grammars, lexica, Josephus, Philo and Fathers of the Church are all in English. Only Spanish Bibles are available. Although the BibleWorks website does offer a Spanish Forum.
· Idiosyncratic. At times it is a difficult to use what should be easily accessible information. For instance the parallel resources are contained in files with confusingly abbreviated names such as "mnt", "ot2" and "ntot"
Am I the type of person to use BibleWorks?
The main users of the programme will be:
· Preachers. It will speed up the stage of understanding the actual words of the Biblical text or looking for occurrences of phrases. Even for the preacher who has no training in the original languages, information about the underlying Greek and Hebrew is accessible.
Fig. 5. Map module offers options of overlays and satellite imagery
· Students. For those learning Greek and Hebrew there are Flashcard options and paradigm charts, as well as basic and more advanced grammars. For essay and dissertation work, the program enables complex biblical searches to be built up, Sentence diagram maps can be produced as can statistical information of words and phrases in their original languages or in Spanish.
Fig. 6. Flashcards with Greek vocabulary
· Teachers. BibleWorks website offers a series of 43 videos entitled "Classroom Resources" with tips on how teachers can be helped in their teaching. They include: "Comparing Vocabulary in the Synoptic Gospels", "Creating Translation Assignments" and "Using Text Highlighting".
Fig. 7. Diagramming module of John 1.1
BibleWorks owner, Michael Bushell, says "We have always focused our talents on serving people who want to study the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew".
For almost 20 years now BibleWorks has been doing this, for which preachers, teachers and students can give thanks to God.
Dr. David Ford is Prof. of Nuevo Testamento at Seminario Bíblico de Colombia and Online Editor for International Missions Board, Edinburgh, UK.