European Journal of Theology XIII (2004):1
by Dr. Jamie Grant
We not only review books and journals here at EuroJT, but seek to survey anything that may be of interest to a readership interested in theology and biblical studies. So we are pleased to offer a review of the latest version of BibleWorks (BW) software 'for biblical exegesis and research'.
I first bought a copy of BW some six or seven years ago. Having investigated the Bible software market fairly thoroughly (which was a much easier task back then!), I came to the decision that BW did the things that I need to do most quickly and easily. The latest version of this software serves to confirm that decision as the correct one- BibleWorks 6 is an excellent option for anyone involved in Bible research, particularly research involving the original languages.
Obviously, choice of software is as personal as one's choice of shoes-some people simply prefer one programme to another. However, there are certain things about BW version 6 that commend the programme to anyone doing biblical research. First, there is the comprehensive range of BW 6. It includes 92 translations of the Bible in 28 languages (including at least one version from the majority of European languages), various versions of the OT, NT and LXX in the original languages and some excellent analytical tools. Secondly, BW is a very rewarding programme to use. It does take some effort to get to know the programme well (as is the case with any powerful software), but the returns are great-searching for the contextual usage of a Hebrew verb in a particular stem is transformed from a minor research project into a momentary pause for thought. Thirdly, BW 6 incorporates excellent reference works. Some important lexica and aids are included as part of the basic programme (TWOT, BDB, Liddell & Scott, Friberg's Analytical Lexicon, Louw-Nida, the UBS Greek-English Dictionary, Thayer etc.). Other significant reference works may be unlocked upon the payment of a separate purchase price (BDAG, HALOT, Waltke & O'Connor and Wallace). Each of these reference tools works seamlessly with the main Bible software enabling the user to investigate the nuance of a particular word with considerable ease. Fourth, the new version of BW includes some useful additional tools for use with the biblical languages. This latest version includes flashcards for learning Greek/Hebrew vocabulary and an excellent sentence diagramming function enabling easier analysis of sentence structures.
All of the above probably means something to those who have used BibleWorks or other Bible research software in the past, but it may be unintelligible rubbish to those who have never used such software. So why use BW rather than books? I would be the first to acknowledge that 'there is just something about a book,' however, the electronic form does have certain advantages in terms of ease of use. For example, the opportunity to display and compare several versions of the biblical text on the same screen is helpful. I frequently view the Hebrew OT and one of the English versions side by side; or the Greek NT and an English version; or the BHS and LXX alongside one another. Of course, this is possible with books, but seems easier on screen. Equally, if one does not work with Greek and Hebrew, several English translations (or for that matter several translations in a variety of languages) may be displayed in parallel for ready comparison.
Another advantage of the electronic version is the concordance ability based upon computer search functions. Of course, there are some excellent concordances (in a variety of languages) available for purchase in bound form and I would never discourage anyone from buying one or more of these. The advantage of electronic word searches is the speed at which such searches may be conducted. Taking a verse at random, Job 16:9 contains the word 'adversary'-a double-click in BW reveals that this word occurs 18 times in the ESV and a brief survey of these verses reveals that outside the Book of Job this word is not used with reference to God. This advantage is doubled if you work with Greek and Hebrew, where it is possible to search not only for every occurrence of a root verb, but also for every occurrence of that verb in a particular form (be that an aorist passive infinitive or a hif'il imperative). BW 6 carries out such searches very quickly and the resultant list of verses allows you to read each occurrence of any given word or form in context at the click of a mouse.
Another advantage of BW (and also of other programmes of this ilk) is the array of volumes contained within the software and the resulting accessibility and availability of information. A Hebrew OT, Greek NT and a lexicon for each takes up a considerable amount of desk space, yet this software gives easy access to each of these works (and much more) and the user is able to read from them, print them out or insert information into sermons/ research work.
There may well be another category of people reading this review who have an entirely different set of questions regarding BW 6: Those who already own a previous copy of BibleWorks will probably be asking, 'Is it worth the expense of upgrading to version 6?' To such readers, I would advise that they check out the information about the new version on the Bibleworks website very carefully. There is an impressive list of new features in BW 6, but you have to ask yourself the question, 'Are these features which I would use regularly?' Having said that, BW6 is quite simply an excellent piece of software. Some of the new additions are particularly pleasing. Opening the Greek or Hebrew text and running the cursor over a word brings up a parsing 'word tips' bubble which provides a brief definition and explanation of the form-helpful when dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary for the first time. Another change which is very helpful is the addition of a call down menu which remembers the verses which you have most recently accessed in any combination of versions. This allows the user to easily switch between passages or bible versions and I have found this to be a very useful addition. There is also a choice of interfaces in BW6 which means that the more technically minded have free range to access all of the abilities of BW6 in the most direct fashion, but those who need a little more help are provided that by way of a more explanatory interface. This is particularly helpful for those who are new to the programme. The new graphic layout of BW is definitely an improvement on previous versions, affording greater flexibility and user-friendliness. There are other niceties that have been added-for example, the ability to highlight the text in various colours (just as you may do with a printed Bible) and the inclusion of verb paradigm charts for Hebrew and Greek.
However, perhaps the most fundamental reason to bite the bullet and upgrade is for the sake of buying additional modules to work within BW. For example, it is possible to buy BDAG and HALOT as additional modules if one has BW version 5, but all new modules (e.g. Walkte and O'Connor's Introduction to Hebrew Syntax or Wallace's Greek Grammar beyond the Basics or the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts) all require BW version 6. This seems to be the direction that software companies are heading-producing a base programme at a lower price, but making available options (at a price) which may be attractive to some users, but not to all. So anyone who seeks the benefit of these additional modules, must buy the latest version of BW.
I have been using BW version 6 for around three weeks now and in the main I still use most often the same functions that I regularly used in BW 3.5-reading and translating from the original languages, comparing multiple translations etc. However, it must be said that these activities may be conducted much more easily using version 6 when compared to the older version. So by way of summary, BibleWorks version 6 is an excellent tool for anyone doing research involving extensive biblical exegesis. The price may make one think twice, but I have found this to be an excellent investment which makes very technical tasks much easier.
BibleWorks 6 is an excellent piece of computer software and a worthwhile investment for anyone involved in biblical research or exegesis on a regular basis. BW6 will be helpful to pastor or academic alike. The latest version of the software includes a number of improvements on previous versions, including the possibility to purchase additional modules which include standard lexica and other reference tools. More detailed information can be found on the BW website (www.bibleworks.com).
Jamie Grant (M.A. Reformed TheologicalSeminary, Ph.D. University of Gloucestershire) is Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Highland Theological College, Dingwall, Scotland.