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BibleWorks 7
Scholar's Library: Silver - Logos Bible Software 3

by Mark Vitalis Hoffman

Teaching Theology & Religion
Vol. 10 Issue 2 Page 125 April 2007
[http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/toc/teth/10/2]

As a seminary teacher of biblical studies, I almost daily use BibleWorks 7 (BW7) and Logos Bible Software 3, the two leading programs for Windows-based systems for work with original Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, and Latin texts alongside modern English Bible versions. Both are mature products and currently reflect a convergence of the best features of each. Both impose significant – though not confusing – learning curves if one is to use them efficiently and tap into their full capabilities.  Both offer adequate resources, including videos, to help learn the programs. Both allow (and really require) some customization by the user, but Logos feels like a more “polished” and consistent program. While this can be a strength, it often means that the Logos user will need to walk through a few more steps to accomplish a task than would be necessary by directly using the command line input of BW7.

As for differences, the Logos interface can be set up in a number of ways to help the user navigate through a variety of windows of biblical text or related information, but BW7 uses a plainer, more utilitarian panel approach that assumes the user will progress through searching for a text, browsing the text results, and analyzing aspects of that text. More importantly, there is a distinct difference in overall approach. BW7 focuses on the verse or even a single word of a biblical text and links outward to related resources. Logos, on the other hand, is conceived as a library management system that includes both biblical texts and a large collection of other digital resources. Such functionality requires a comparatively fast and memory-rich system to work well, for Logos not only looks across the books of one’s digital library but also can look deep into each book – down to the individual word level – and perform sophisticated searches and associations. That library, however, is only as good as the books that are in it. The Silver collection reviewed here includes more than 520 titles and provides a fine assortment of biblical resources, but many focus on other areas such as leadership or pastoral ministry. Quite a few of the books are self-described as “classic” or reflect a “conservative” or “evangelical” perspective.

By licensing the Libronix Digital Library System upon which Logos is based to other publishers, Logos users can purchase additional collections such as the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible (the only way to obtain critical editions of the Greek and Hebrew testaments), the Anchor Bible Dictionary, and a long list of other resources from a variety of prominent publishing houses. Many recent course textbooks in the fields of religion and theology have been published with accompanying CD-ROM, and most likely it comes in the Libronix format. Logos, therefore, is a great way to enhance the ability to find information and to integrate referenced biblical texts. BW7’s focus is clearly on doing biblical textual work, and it provides excellent resources for such work along with the option of purchasing additional lexical, grammatical, or ancient language modules. BW7 does, however, come with a long list of non-English Bible versions in twenty-two modern languages, Bibles that would have to be purchased separately with Logos.

What these differences mean in terms of actual experience is, first, that Logos attempts to preserve digitally as much as possible the layout of the physical book counterpart, while BW7 presents text more straightforwardly. Second, Logos initially works more like a library catalogue than a textual research tool as BW7 does.

Three examples will illustrate how the programs work.

  1. If one wants to investigate “resurrection,” for example, in Logos one would enter this word in the “Study Topic” dialogue box, and it would find over 800 references (and this is not even using the full library of books available) located in Greek-English lexicons, Bible dictionaries and other handbooks, commentaries, textbooks, the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, and more. In BW7, on the other hand, one would need to start by looking for the word “resurrection” in specific English language texts and then follow those hits out into related resources.
  2. If one wanted to investigate Mark 16:6, Logos offers a “Study Passage” dialogue box which would generate an organized list of every instance where this verse is mentioned in all the commentaries, parallel Bible versions, hymn references, maps, and so forth, that are in one’s digital library, and it is only another click to the “Exegetical Guide” which develops an analysis of every Greek word in the verse with links to lexicons, grammars, and the syntactically analyzed text. In BW7, one would go to Mark 16:6, and the “Resource Summary” panel could be chosen which would provide links to every time this verse is referenced in the lexicons, grammars, sentence diagrams, and Metzger’s Textual Commentary that are included with the program. One could also use the “Generate Verse Report” option to obtain a full analysis and lexicon listing of every word.
  3. If one wanted to study the use of the aorist passive of the Greek word egeirō that occurs in this verse, both programs provide right-click options to navigate through searches and lexicons. BW7 offers the possibility of customizable links to other programs, including Logos resources, or online sites that can accept passed-through parameters (such as laparola.net/greco). Logos also offers additional links, but particularly useful is the “Bible Word Study” that generates a very helpful collection of grammatical and lexical data. In doing such work, BW7 will be perceptibly faster, both in terms of setting parameters through the use of the command line and in actual speed of returning results, while Logos will be more intuitive and provide more visually pleasing results. In both programs users can save the results of their research through a variety of export or copy options (Logos even generates footnotes in a selectable citation style) and also create linked-to-text note files within the program. Logos, again consistent with its goal of recreating the book experience, even allows users to annotate the texts directly, much as one would highlight or write margin notes in a physical copy. Similarly helpful, BW7 provides an editor window for making notes that are attached to a verse or chapter.

Beyond the benefits for individual research, I have concluded that facility in the use of Bible software can significantly help students obtain long-term proficiency with the Greek and Hebrew texts. To that end, I regularly use BW7 or Logos in the classroom with a projection system both to demonstrate how to use the programs and to illustrate how one can productively employ such tools in exegetical work. The capability to have such programs at the ready is particularly helpful for collaborative student problem solving since the software can easily provide the texts or information required.

In addition to the kind of exercises described in the previous paragraph, I have used the sentence diagramming modules (both programs have editors to create one’s own diagrams; BW7 includes diagrams for almost the whole New Testament, and Logos now includes syntactically analyzed texts of both the Old Testament and New Testament), synoptic tools which allow for a variety of types of parallel passages to be displayed, and the maps that come with each. (The maps in BW7 are particularly instructive and illuminating.) In addition to exegetical work, both programs can be employed for learning Greek or Hebrew. BW7’s flashcard module even comes with editable files coordinated with various grammars, and its adaptable “Copy Center” is particularly useful in generating interleaved texts. Logos has a slightly different way of displaying parallel versions, but it can export this and any other view in both TXT and HTML. By creating such interleaved views, students can compare English versions and then explain differences with reference to the underlying original language text. The capabilities of Bible software have actually encouraged me to rethink my approach to language instruction. Rather than focusing on memorizing vocabulary and forms, the analysis provided by the software allows me to emphasize instead the grammatical and interpretive significance.

This brief review only begins to touch upon the capabilities of the programs. My descriptions should illustrate how Logos is the more comprehensive program for doing biblically related research, but BW7 is the more efficient tool for focused work on biblical text. There are tradeoffs with each, and I usually have both programs running. Logos will cost more (though significant academic discounts are available), and one should compare the various collections offered. The Original Languages Library ($415.95) provides a good starting point that is more comparable to BW7 while the Gold collection ($1379.95) offers some outstanding additional resources that are well worth the difference in price from the Silver collection. For what it intends and so capably accomplishes, BW7 is a tremendous value, but there is nothing like Logos for working with a digital, biblical library.

For further information on these programs, I have collected links to web resources at: www.gettysburgsem.org/mhoffman/other/bw7&logos.htm

Mark Vitalis Hoffman is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

 

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