BibleWorks 8 - A Review
Ligonier Ministries Blog, July 28, 2009.
One of the great needs of the church today is a renewed commitment to expository preaching and teaching based on a careful study of the Bible in its original languages. Many pastors, however, are pressed for time and find it difficult to dig into the text as deeply as they would prefer. Many of those over the age of 40 may not even be aware of the wide range of time-saving Bible study software that is now available. As I mentioned in a previous review, at the time I was in seminary in the early 90s, in-depth study of the original text involved a rather large pile of open reference books all over my desk, floor, chairs, and wherever else I could find room. The most helpful time-saving tools I had available at that time were various analytical lexicons.
Today, there are software tools that enable the user to do in mere seconds tasks that would have taken anywhere from several minutes to several hours (or even several days) the old way. One such software program is BibleWorks, a tool designed specifically to assist pastors, professors, and students in their exegesis of the original languages of Scripture.
Although available since 1992, I first began using BibleWorks (version 6) for the first time in 2003. The most recent version, BibleWorks 8, was released in 2008. For the purposes of this post, I am reviewing BibleWorks 8. In the interest of full disclosure, I am reviewing a review copy sent to me gratis by BibleWorks. BibleWorks 8 normally retails for $349. My review copy includes the BDAG Greek-English Lexicon add-on module (which can be purchased separately for $150).
BibleWorks 8 is designed to run on the Windows operating system (2000/XP/Vista). When I used BibleWorks 6, I ran it on a Dell PC. Because I now use a Mac, I can only run BibleWorks by using software that enables a Mac to run Windows applications. On my Mac, I use Parallels Desktop. There are other programs available, such as VMware Fusion 2, which also enable a Mac to run Windows applications. BibleWorks 8 runs just as fast and smooth on my Mac as BibleWorks 6 ran on my PC. In short, Mac users should not have any concerns about using BibleWorks provided they are willing to install Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion 2, or a similar program.
BibleWorks 8 is installed from either multiple (five) CD-ROM discs or a single DVD-ROM disc, depending on which edition the user purchases. The contents are the same. If you can install software from a DVD-ROM, the single disc is more convenient. I installed the software from the CD-ROMs.
If you are using a PC, the installation process is simple. You simply remove any previous versions of BibleWorks, then install the first CD-ROM disc (or the DVD-ROM disc), and follow the on-screen instructions.
If you are installing the software on a Mac, there is one additional step. You must first open whatever software program you are using to run Windows applications. If you do not do this first, you will encounter problems.
Considering how much data is on these discs, the installation time is relatively fast. It is also very easy. The on-screen instructions are not difficult to understand, and they are all explained in the installation instruction booklet that comes in the box.
BibleWorks 8 has a multitude of features. Some of what is possible with this program is listed below (from the BibleWorks website):
• Analysis window shows related lexical and grammatical references for a word or verse, cross references, full browse context, and common words, as the cursor moves over text.
• Bible texts, dictionaries and lexicons are fully searchable, with many search options.
• Comparison tools highlight differences between Bible versions.
• Complete lemmatization and parsing is provided for Greek New Testament, Septuagint and Hebrew Old Testament.
• Copy and paste verse text to other programs customizing text and verse reference format.
• Custom cross-reference databases can be created.
• Custom lexicons can be created, based on words in a particular passage.
• Diagramming module enables users to construct diagrams of any text.
• "Drag & Drop" is supported between BibleWorks and many word processors.
• Editable timelines of church and secular history provide a historical perspective.
• Editor supports Unicode and has a wide range of editing features.
• Extensive search tools for lexical, grammatical, phrase, semantic domain, related verse, key word in context searches. Build search with graphical interface.
• Hebrew and Greek review tools including vocabulary flashcards are available in print, electronic and audio formats, Daily Light in Greek & Hebrew, and more.
• Highlighted text and search results can be saved in multiple sets.
• Link manager handles your own links to Internet resources and other Bible software.
• Listen to English Bible text read aloud.
• Manage and browse online and offline books and internet links (ERMIE). Trade catalogs of links.
• Mouse pop-ups show verse text for each resource.
• Multiple copies of BibleWorks may be opened for convenience.
• Multiple views show Bible versions in parallel columns, vertical comparative lines or full context.
• Parallel-Aligned Hebrew and Greek text makes it easy to find Hebrew and Greek equivalents.
• Parsing, lexical information and cross references are displayed when cursor moves over tagged Bible text.
• Popup list of morphology codes opens as you enter morphological codes.
• Popup window, with word definition and parsing, is displayed when mouse is held over Greek and Hebrew words.
• Report generator compiles and prints lexical information, morphological analysis, multiple Bible versions, word frequencies and more.
• Satellite maps can be customized with locations, sites and other notes.
• Search queries and results can be saved and reused.
• Searches can be very broad or limited to selected verses or books.
• Sets of favorite Bible versions can be created, saved and searched.
• Statistics utility allows you to plot, compare and export graphs of search results.
• Synopsis window shows editable parallel gospel accounts.
• Text can be exported to Unicode Hebrew and Greek.
• Verses, chapters, books or entire Bible versions can be exported.
• Word list utility can generate word frequency lists for any range of verses.
• Your own chapter or verse notes load automatically each time you view a verse.
• Your own Bible versions can be created, saved, searched and integrated into BibleWorks.
There is a learning curve with BibleWorks because there are so many things you can do with the program, but the amount of help available within the program itself can make the learning process much less difficult. When you first open BibleWorks 8, for example, there is a Getting Started page with some introductory videos explaining basic features and functions. It is advisable to watch all of these before doing anything else.
In addition, there are numerous study guides available if you click "Help" on the Menu Bar. These study guides provide instructions (and usually videos) explaining how to do a large number of common tasks.
An extremely helpful feature is the F1 function. If you want information on any BibleWorks button, tool, or window, simply place the cursor on it and press F1 (Mac users will need to press the fn key simultaneously with the F1 button - unless they want to reduce the brightness of the screen). The F1 function is particularly helpful for new users trying to remember what all the buttons and tools do.
The number of resources available on BibleWorks8 is also very impressive. A complete list may be found here on the BibleWorks website. The items listed in black on this list have been available on older versions of BibleWorks. The items in blue have been added to BibleWorks 8.
The BibleWorks 8 interface will look familiar to anyone who has used Windows based programs extensively. The basic screen is shown below.
The main screen is divided into three basic windows:
1. On the left is the Search Window
2. In the middle is the Browse Window
3. On the right is the Analysis Window
The Menu Bar at the top provides a comprehensive collection of tools and features.
The customizable Button Bar immediately below the Menu Bar provides shortcuts to the most commonly used tools and features.
The Status Bar at the bottom of the main screen provides access to several additional features.
Context Menus can be opened by placing the cursor over an item and right clicking the mouse button.
The search window is where users will usually begin with BibleWorks. It enables the user to perform all manner of searches within any available version.
Search items are entered into the command line (The entry in the command line above is "Abram"). The three main searches are the "and" searches, the "phrase" searches, and the "or" searches.
With the "and" search you can search for all verses that include the words entered into the command line.
The "phrase" search looks for all verses that contain a particular phrase.
With the "or" search you can find all verses that contain one word "or" another.
There are many other more complicated types of searches that are available by clicking on the "Tools" button below the command line. You can also set search limits if you only wish to search in certain books. I have attempted all manner of searches, simple and complex, and they usually take less than one second to complete.
The browse window displays your selected versions of the Bible in any order you choose.
The Bible can be viewed in a multi-version mode (showing many translations of the same verse at the same time - as in the picture above) or in a single-version browse mode (enabling you to scroll through the entire text of a single version). You can also easily toggle between the two modes or open a separate browse window so you can view both modes simultaneously.
Verses displayed in the browse window can easily be copied and pasted to the clipboard or to a word processing program such as Microsoft Word.
Some searches can also be initiated in the browse window. If you double click on any word in the browse window, BibleWorks will do a search for that word. You can also search for an entire phrase in the browse window by highlighting the phrase, right-clicking the mouse, and choosing "Search for Phrase" from the menu.
The analysis window is a powerful and useful tool that brings together several tabs that enable the user to display a wide range of information related to whatever verse he or she is studying.
The Analysis Tab automatically displays parsing information for Greek and Hebrew words. It also displays Greek and Hebrew lexicon entries related to chosen words.
The Resources Tab summary window displays all lexicon entries, grammar, entries, and other reference work entries that apply to the verse you are studying.
If the verse you are studying, for example, is Genesis 1:1, the Resource Tab summary includes in summary form every reference to Genesis 1:1 in the BDAG lexicon, the Thayer lexicon, the Holladay Hebrew lexicon, the BDB lexicon, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the Jouon-Muraoka Hebrew Grammar, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, Waltke & O'Connor's Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Charles' Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Schaff's Early Church Fathers (all 38 volumes), Matthew Henry's Commentary, Nave's Topical Bible, the Babylonian Talmud, Thompson's Chain Reference Bible, The Three Forms of Unity, Torrey's New Topical Text Book, and the Westminster Standards (See the picture below).
You can click on any of these summaries to open the entire entry in question.
As I mentioned above, the package I am reviewing contained the BDAG Greek Lexicon add-on module. I already own the print version of this tool, and I suspect many readers of this review also own it. Some may wonder if it is worth the additional cost to add this module. I can unreservedly say yes. I prefer print books to any kind of e-book or online book, but reference works are a different story. Being able to access all of the relevant information in the standard Greek lexicon in a matter of seconds is such a time-saver that it will pay for itself in a matter of months if you take into consideration what your time is worth.
The Editor Tab is a valuable resource if you intend to transfer any of the results of your study to another document. This tool enables the user to type in Greek or Hebrew using either Tru-Type font or Unicode. The user can also create extensive notes and links to various BibleWorks resources. If you find, for example, a reference in one of the church fathers about a particular verse, you can save a note on that verse and add a link to that section of the early church fathers, enabling you to easily return to it the next time you are looking at that verse. You can also create multiple notes folders for different tasks (sermons, Sunday School classes, research papers, books, etc.).
The Stats Tab provides detailed statistical analysis of your most recent search and can format the analysis in a variety of ways depending on the users preference.
There are a number of other Tabs providing additional information, but a list of all the functions would require a small book.
The Menu Bar contains all of the functions available elsewhere and more. Clicking on any button in the menu bar opens a drop-down menu. Under the "View" menu, you can choose display versions, choose the order in which to display them, choose popup versions, set color choices, and more.
Under the "Search" menu, you can open the Graphical Search Engine, choose search versions, set search limits, and more.
Under the "Tools" menu, you can choose among several text analysis tools, text viewing tools, language tools, and more. The language tools available here are vocabulary flashcards, with audio recordings of every Greek and Hebrew word on the flashcards and a diagramming module. The diagramming module allows you to diagram the Greek text. It also allows you to view Leedy's Greek NT diagrams, containing Greek diagrams of the entire New Testament.
Under the "Resources" menu, you can view all manner of resources including lexicons and grammars, background resources, maps, Bible dictionaries, a Hebrew OT and Septuagint parallel text, and Ermie (the External Resources Manager), among others. The External Resource manager contains dozens of external links organized by topic or tool type. The user can add folders and links to ERMIE as desired.
I have used BibleWorks regularly since 2003, and although there are some differences between the BibleWorks 6 interface and the BibleWorks 8 interface, it was not difficult to learn the new one. I have only used a handful of other Bible Study software tools, so my judgment is limited, and others may disagree, but for the price, I still find BibleWorks to be the best tool for original language study.
In terms of value, BibleWorks 8 is very competitive. Some may think that $349 is too expensive, and it may be, but for the amount of resources available without any additional add-on modules, $349 is a good deal. Considering what it would cost to obtain all of these tools in print makes the price even more reasonable. Additional modules vary in price and can be added on at the users discretion. A list of add-on modules is available here.
The process of adding a module is not difficult. I added the BDAG Greek Lexicon in a matter of minutes. You simply shut down the program, insert the first CD-ROM (or the DVD-ROM), choose the "Modify" option, and follow the on-screen instructions, which involves entering the new unlock code and activating the new resource (in my case, the BDAG lexicon).
Ease of Use - If you watch all of the "Getting Started" videos (about 15-20 total minutes), you will be able to begin using the basic functions of BibleWorks right away. The more complicated search features and the more complicated Editor functions will take more time to learn fully, but with the available Study Guide instructions and instructional videos and with the use of the F1 function, learning how to use these tools is not terribly difficult.
The speed and power of BibleWorks 8 is truly something to behold. I created some of the most convoluted search parameters I could imagine, and the results never took more than a second to appear. Some of the analysis that would literally take days to do the old-fashioned way take only a few minutes now. As an example, there have been times when I wanted to see what the early church fathers said about a particular text. To do this with the print version of Schaff's Early Church Fathers, you have to check the index in the back of each volume, find the page, and find the relevant section of the page. This can take many hours. If you have the Early Church Fathers selected in the resource tab section of the analysis window, every reference to a particular text is right there in less than a second. All you have to do is click on each entry and read it.
BibleWorks maintains a helpful Support staff to answer questions the user may have and to deal with any problems that may arise. There are also user forums on the BibleWorks website allowing users to ask and answer various questions. The Help materials that come installed on the program itself are so detailed that you may never have the need to contact BibleWorks support for any reason. I've found that the F1 function answers most of the questions that arise as I use the program.
My one major complaint with BibleWorks is that it isn't available in a Mac version, and as far as I know there are no plans to make it available for Mac. I can run it on Mac by using other software, and other Mac users can do the same, but it would be preferable to have a Mac version. If they can make Microsoft Office for Mac, it wouldn't be impossible to make BibleWorks 8 for Mac. The number of Mac users is growing, and most Mac users I know would never dream of going back. It's obvious that the people at BibleWorks have focused most of their energy on creating the best BibleStudy software possible, and I think they've succeeded admirably. Now they simply need to make it available for the best operating system.
That said, I highly recommend BibleWorks 8 to anyone who is regularly working with the original languages of Scripture.
For more information on BibleWorks 8, visit their website.
Dr. Keith Mathison is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries.