Kyle C. Dunham
Themelios, Volume 37, Issue 2, July 2012, pp. 400-402.
BibleWorks 9 (BW9), the latest update to the leading MS Windows-based exegetical software, has enhanced an already robust BibleWorks platform for personal and technical study of biblical texts. In this review I will cover the new features in BW9; the functionality of its interface; a few personal examples of its utility for students, pastors, and teachers; and a summary of its strengths and weaknesses. While a more exhaustive list of the new features in BW9 is available on the BibleWorks website (http://www.bibleworks.com/content/new.html), a few notable additions include a fourth column for expanded and more efficient analysis, digital images of several significant NT manuscripts, the Moody Bible Atlas by Barry Beitzel, and the NT critical apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies. With additional purchases the user may now access the ESV Study Bible, Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, and Grudem’s Systematic Theology, along with several previously offered modules (e.g., HALOT, BDAG, QBSET). With its supplements from previous versions, BW9 features some 200 Bible translations in over 40 languages, nine Greek/Hebrew grammars, nine Greek/Hebrew lexicons, and a number of other resources that are helpful to varying degrees (e.g., Greek/Hebrew paradigms, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, the NET Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, Schaff’s History, Henry’s commentaries, and the Westminster Standards).
Of primary interest to prospective BW9 users is unquestionably the usability of its interface. In this, BW9 does not disappoint. Search commands are flexible and fast, providing virtually instant access to an array of user-defined biblical data. Searches may be conducted, for example, on individual words or phrases (preceded by a period or quotation mark, respectively, in the command line) or (with a right click) on the particular form or lemma of terms in the original languages. Thus the user may easily find not only all instances of a given conjugated verbal form in the Greek or Hebrew text but also every occurrence of its root or lexical form. By clicking various tabs, the user immediately may:
If questions arise, BW9 includes nearly 150 how-to videos encompassing over six hours of instruction, thus providing a wealth of introductory material. I have yet to discover a question that is not treated in the training videos.
For studying the biblical text personally and for teaching in the context of a seminary and local church, I have found BibleWorks to be vitally important. A few examples will suffice. In teaching a course entitled Exposition of Proverbs last semester, I used BW9 to develop a biblical theology of wisdom terms within the book of Proverbs and the OT canon. The ease and speed with which I was able to amass, correlate, and export data for word processing saved valuable time and proved greatly beneficial. In a current series teaching through the Gospel of John in my local church, I have repeatedly found BW9 to be invaluable in understanding the flow of the narrative, the meaning of key terminology, and the significance of its inner-biblical allusions. For my Hebrew students with varying skills in the original languages, BW9 has provided an efficient means for conducting detailed and original studies of biblical passages.
In conclusion, BW9 has a number of strengths along with a few areas for potential improvement. As to its strengths, BW9 is nearly instantaneous in its search results, saving time and avoiding frustration for the user. Second, a wealth of material is available for comprehensive study of a given term, verse, or passage. The data is in turn easily exportable to word processing applications. Third, its inclusion of the CNTTS critical apparatus and searchable digital imagery of NT manuscripts are welcome features that will be of particular interest for NT studies. Finally, BibleWorks has been committed historically to keeping its prices affordable, and BW9 is within reach for most students and ministry workers on a tight budget.
As to potential areas for improvement, BibleWorks does not offer a Mac version of BW9, which may discourage some users (although allegedly the software runs on Mac OS X via external programs). Second, I had some difficulty initially in getting a timely response from the customer service department when I encountered a difficulty registering the software. This was due evidently to a backlog of inquiries. Third, for those of us who work primarily in the Hebrew Bible, BW9 appears to focus more on facilitating and enhancing NT studies rather than OT studies. Not all users will perceive this as a weakness, however.
On the whole, BW9 is a powerful Bible study program that will be advantageous for any student, pastor, or teacher who wishes to engage carefully and meaningfully with the biblical text.
Kyle C. Dunham is an Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, VA.