BibleWorks 6: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research
by James M. Hamilton Jr.
Southwestern Journal of Theology
By any standard of measure, BibleWorks 6 is impressive. This review will first describe what comes with the basic package for $299.95 before discussing the two add-ons listed above and the software's capabilities. Whereas with some Bible software one must pay extra for each original language text and each major translation, BibleWorks 6 comes with a breathtaking list of original language texts and translations. For the Greek New Testament, not only does BibleWorks 6 come with the standard NA27/UBS4 text, it also comes with the Stephanus Greek NT, the Robinson-Pierpont Greek NT, and Scrivener's Greek NT (all following the Textus Receptus). But also included are Westcott and Hort's Greek NT and Tischendorf's Greek NT-with Tischendorf's text-critical apparatus!
For OT studies, the software comes with the BHS Hebrew text, the LXX with the Apocrypha, and Brenton's English translation of the LXX. The software also comes with the Aramaic Targums on the OT, and these are parsed, lemmatized, and linked to a Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon. Included as well is the Aramaic New Testament (also known as the Peshitta) with the James Murdock English translation.
The base price also brings the Latin Vulgate, the Apostolic Fathers, and the Complete works of Josephus in the original Greek and Latin along with the Whiston English translation. With some software programs each modern translation of the Bible will cost anywhere from an additional $15 to $30 (the KJV is always free, and generally one modern translation will be thrown in on the deal), but the BibleWorks 6 base price includes every modern translation one could desire (NKJV, NASB, NASB 1995, RSV with Apocrypha, NIV, NRSV with Apocrypha, NAB, NLT, NJB, JPS 1917 and Tanakh 1985, ESV, and the 1534 Tyndale NT) and others.
BibleWorks 6 also comes with Ernest Dewitt Burton's Syntax of Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek and Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar. One also has access to an editable Synopsis of the Gospels-the Synopsis can be underlined on the computer. Another helpful feature is an impressive timeline of ancient history extending from before the flood through the early church, the middle ages, the reformation, and to the contemporary era. This is also editable so that dates can be adjusted according to one's conclusions and events and figures can be added to the timeline for additional detail. BibleWorks comes with an easy to use diagramming tool so that untangling complex Greek sentences can be done on one's computer (though writing the text out by hand has its value).
This review also extends to two important add-on modules. First are two most necessary lexica for Bible study: BDAG and HALOT. These may be purchased separately at $125 and $159 respectively, or bundled together for an impressive bargain of $197. BibleWorks is able to make these tools available for less than it would cost to buy them from the publishers. Further, while I think one should possess the books themselves for serious study, having these tools on the computer so that the click of a mouse brings up a full entry is incomparably faster than thumbing through a large lexicon.
The second add-on is the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts (commonly referred to as the Dead Sea Scrolls). While this module is morphologically tagged, it only comes with the original Hebrew or Aramaic text. This restricts its usefulness to those who know the languages. But, for those wise enough to study Hebrew and Aramaic in seminary, this is a powerful tool. Point, click, and on the screen appear every occurrence of "righteousness" or "faith" or any other term from the Dead Sea Scrolls. By making these texts available in this way, BibleWorks 6 has opened up exciting possibilities for students of Second Temple Judaism (the same goes for the text of Josephus, which is also searchable).
As far as search capability is concerned, BibleWorks 6 is as capable as any other program and arguably more user-friendly. The program comes with a series of helpful video tutorials that make learning one's way through the program easy.
When we come to compare BibleWorks to other available Bible software, it seems to me that the advantages of the three most popular programs can be compared as follows. The strength of the Logos system is its digital library, but the numerous digital texts come at a higher price. BibleWorks does not set out to replace the traditional library of bound books, and for lovers of actual books, this is a virtue. And yet BibleWorks does make available a core set of texts which are useful for Bible study. At the other end of the spectrum, with fewer available texts (and thus also a lower price) is the Gramcord software. In my judgment BibleWorks 6 strikes the happy balance of encouraging people to build libraries of actual books while making available resources that are either extremely expensive and hard to find or generally inaccessible outside a research library (e.g., the Tischendorf critical apparatus, the Targums, Josephus in Greek). Every serious student of the Bible can be grateful for this outstanding product.
James M. Hamilton Jr., Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Park Place Campus.