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BibleWorks 9: A Review Article

Dr. Philip Church

Stimulus, the New Zealand journal of Christian Thought and Practice
April 2014, Volume 21, Issue 1: pp. 50-53

For anybody working with the biblical text, Bible software has become an essential tool. Indeed, I now rarely use a printed Bible, either Greek, Hebrew or English, having been a long time (around 20 years) user of Logos software. It is from this background that I approach this review of BibleWorks 9. BibleWorks has also been around for over twenty years and, according to the advertising, Version 9 represents a major enhancement.1 Not having used a previous version, I cannot make a comparison, but I can compare with Logos on a number of fronts, which I will do.

BibleWorks has a major price advantage over Logos, and is certainly great value for money. The standard package is USD359 (today NZD429), compared with the Logos Starter Pack at USD295 and Logos Bronze at USD629.95. Both of these have considerably fewer resources than BibleWorks, which contains over two hundred Bibles in over forty languages, numerous original language texts and a considerable number of reference works. A one to one correspondence is not possible, but I suspect that the Logos Original Languages Package at around USD750 would be comparable. The Logos Portfolio package is almost USD5,000. But, of course, it has many more resources (around 2,600) than BibleWorks. Then again, I am not sure who needs that many resources.

People who buy software such as this need to know what they are getting. Unfortunately, both BibleWorks and Logos include numerous unwanted books, especially old Bible study tools, included because they are now in the public domain. One of my roles at Laidlaw College is grading students’ essays. When evaluating a resource I often ask myself, would I be happy if a student was to cite this work in an undergraduate essay? With such tools as Matthew Henry’s Commentary (c. 1710) and the 1939 edition of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, when the second edition has been around since the 1980s, the answer is usually “no.” Of course these were great resources in their time, but have long been surpassed with more up to date scholarly works. And, apart from a church history specialist, who really needs the Five Arminian Articles of 1610, the Canons of Dort, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith? Both Logos and BibleWorks frustrate me at this point, especially in that they provide no guidance on the relative worth of much of the outdated material. Students are often surprised when I tell them the publication date of Matthew Henry’s Commentary, and how outdated and largely discredited is Trench’s Synonyms of the NT (1876). And who really needs all those foreign language versions of the bible, both ancient and modern, that appear in BibleWorks (e.g. Arabic, Catalan, Indonesian, Cyrillic and Swahili, along with the 1613 Czech Bible, the 1776 Finnish Bible and the 1632 Polish Bible – and plenty more)? I intend no offence to speakers and readers of these languages, but I wonder which English speakers (for whom the software seems to be designed – the interface is all in English) really need them.

On the other hand, both packages include many great resources. Having a multiplicity of recent English Bible translations and original texts, all searchable at the click of a button, is a wonderful gift to students and scholars. Alongside this, both Logos and BibleWorks contain up to date scholarly reference works that can be instantly accessed from within the software. These resources are fully integrated with the biblical text, making access to them transparent. Such features make it simple and straightforward for scholars and students to embark on original research.

Some resources come with the base packages and some have to be purchased as optional extras in both Logos and BibleWorks. The optional resources in Logos are far more extensive than in BibleWorks. With so much material on offer (and so much in my electronic library), Logos has become essential for me. There are far fewer optional resources in BibleWorks, but then again, the single standard package is more extensive than a comparably priced Logos one. One major advantage of BibleWorks is that I have not yet found a module in Logos that will give a grammatical diagram of a verse in the Bible. The Leedy diagrams in BibleWorks are a great tool for demonstrating the flow of thought in a verse. On the other hand, the German Bible Society Greek and Hebrew texts with their critical apparatuses, including Biblia Hebraica Quinta, can be added in to Logos at a reasonable price, but are unavailable for BibleWorks.

As far as the interface goes, I make no comment on Logos. I have been using it for many years and am familiar with most of it. For this reason, and because I have a large Logos library, I don’t expect BibleWorks will become my software of choice; although, some features are more convenient than those in Logos, and BibleWorks is considerably faster. The more I have worked with it, the more I have realised how user-friendly it is.

Upon opening BibleWorks a new user is faced with two screens. In front is the Welcome Screen with links to over sixty videos explaining how to use the software. The explanations are clear and concise, and there is a video for almost everything. For example, the “parallel versions video” let me compare Luke 3:19 with Josephus’s version of Herod’s marriage to Herodias in Antiquities 18.109– 10. These videos are a great resource, although I confess I have not viewed them all. Upon closing or minimising this screen the main BibleWorks screen appears. There are three windows on the screen, the Search Window, the Browse Window and the Analysis Window, which may be split into two, to make a total of four.

Users start with the search window on the left. At the top is a command line, where using a somewhat less than intuitive system of codes (they appear with a right-click on the command line), one can search for a word or a phrase or combinations of words with either “and” or “or” Boolean operators. A biblical reference (either a verse or a range of verses) can also be entered in this command line and the text appears in the Browse Window. Other codes can also be entered, e.g. the letter “p” opens a parallel versions window where the same text can be displayed in two versions (e.g. NRSV and NIV), or even different texts, e.g. parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels. All this happens at lightning speed.

Adjacent is the Browse Window. Here texts can be read and examined. After a search has been conducted in the Search Window, clicking on a resulting verse displays the verse in the Browse Window in as many versions as the user wishes to select. When the user clicks on the picture of two walking feet (?), the software toggles between the entire chapter in a single version and the verse in multiple versions. Hovering the mouse over a Greek or Hebrew word displays its grammatical description, and right clicking on a word in the text, in any language (including Greek and Hebrew of course) enables a variety of search options, as well as opening a lexicon or dictionary definition of the word. Again, all this happens at lightning speed.

The real power of BibleWorks is the Analysis Window, which in version 9 can be split into two windows. The Analysis Window contains thirteen tabs that enable the text to be analysed in a variety of ways. Most of them work by hovering the mouse over a word or a verse in the browse window. Many are worth an explanation, although I pass over a few very briefly. The “Notes” and “Editor” tabs enable users to make their own notes, linked to the text in question, which can also be copied and pasted here. The “Words” and “Context” tabs list all the words in whatever version the user has open, and all the words in the pericope that is open in the Browse Window, respectively. Raw data presented in this way might be useful for some, but I haven’t been able to work out what I would do with it. The “Version” tab lists details from the Copyright Page of the Bible version that is active in the Browse window, and the “Browse” tab gives the surrounding context for a single verse open in the Browse Window.

When working with an English language version, the “Analysis” tab gives any notes contained in the active Bible version. I particularly like the way that BibleWorks has partnered with the NET Bible. The NET Bible contains copious translator’s notes and is freely available online.2 Harnessed to BibleWorks and integrated with it, results in a really useful tool for students and scholars alike. With Greek and Hebrew texts, the “Analysis” tab displays an entry for each word in the verse in the lexicons included with the package. Sadly, the now standard Greek and Hebrew lexicons (the third edition of the Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich Greek Lexicon, and the five volume Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament) don’t come as part of software, but (as with Logos) they can be purchased separately and integrated. For scholars and for postgraduate students (and maybe undergraduate students who want to work with the original languages) these are essential tools.

The “Resources” tab has five sub-tabs: Summary, Lexicons, Grammars, References, and Options. These tabs list all the lexical, grammatical and other resources included in the software and enable users to decide whether or not to display them. Most of the References can be safely turned off, unless you want to see what (e.g.) the Five Arminian Articles of 1610 or the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says about a verse. I have switched all the English ones off apart from the Moody Bible Atlas and the NET Bible. The rest are either not relevant for analysis of the text, or outdated and superseded. The Greek resources are more useful, especially the Tischendorf and the CNTTS critical apparatuses (more about these later). The grammars are also valuable, especially Waltke and O’Connor’s Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, the Joüon-Muraoka Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, and Wallace’s Exegetical Syntax of the NT. Clicking on a resource in the “Summary” tab, opens that resource at the appropriate place.

Next comes the “X-Refs” tab. As it suggests, it contains cross references from a variety of sources, as well as a consolidated set of cross references. Another tab lets users view the cross-reference in whichever version they prefer. I like to work out my own cross references, and sometimes I find those that Bible editors and translators supply to be obscure. I am unlikely to use this tool. Others will I am sure.

The “Stats” tab gives statistics for the most recent search carried out. It shows the number of hits in the number of verses. There are a variety of options, showing the number of hits in a verse, a chapter or a book, or these numbers as a proportion of the words in the verse, chapter or book. These statistics can offer a number of interesting insights. To take one example, the Hebrew word for “land” is the fourth most common substantive in the OT (2,505 times, after God, Yahweh, and Israel). It is most common in Jeremiah, appearing 212 times in a book written before and during the exile, but Joshua has the highest percentage, with 141 hits in a relatively short book dealing with the conquest of the land. It hardly appears at all in the NT, showing a marked change of emphasis. One useful feature for teachers, also available in Logos, is the ability to graph these word statistics and send them to a power point slide.

The “Verse” tab has three options in a drop down box at the top. The user can display the verse in the NET Bible, with the NET bible notes, the Tischendorf Apparatus (in Latin), and the CNTTS Apparatus. Even though the Tischendorf Apparatus is a nineteenth century work, predating the Papyri, it is still valuable, listing many more variant readings than in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The CNTTS Apparatus, produced by the Centre for New Testament Textual Studies (CNTTS) at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,3 claims to be the most comprehensive detailed list of textual variants for the NT. It is an indispensable resource for NT scholars, which continues to expand, and is again far more comprehensive than the apparatuses contained in any published Greek NT. It gives the detail for every reading of every manuscript for every verse in the NT, and clicking on the code for the manuscript activates a link to describe that manuscript and give its classification. With almost 17,000 pages of data, this resource would not be possible in printed form, but users of BibleWorks 9 get it as part of the basic package. If you want it in Logos it costs around $100 (almost thirty percent of the total cost of BibleWorks 9). Of course it has not stood the test of time as has the Tischendorf Apparatus, and with such a huge volume of data there are almost certainly to be errors yet to be identified.

The mass of information in the “CNTTS” tab is a bit daunting, but some of it is presented in simpler form in the “Mss” Tab. This tab gives the active verse in the Browse Window in a variety of Greek texts. The top line is the verse from the UBS fourth edition and the Nestle-Aland 27th edition (hopefully an update for the 28th edition is on the way). This is followed by several other Greek texts, including the Byzantine text, Codex Vaticanus (with a separate line for the Vaticanus corrector), the Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus codices, and others where relevant. Also included are several older published Greek New Testaments: Westcott and Hort, Scrivener and Tregelles. Of course these are really only of historical interest. Finally, for good measure there are images of a few of the major NT MSS that move around depending on the verse being studied.

The final tab is the “Use” tab. When the user hovers the mouse over a word in the Browse Window, the “Use” tab lists every occurrence of that word in the book or version concerned. For example, if Heb 4:2 is open in the Browse Window, the user can hover the mouse over the word “therefore” in (e.g.) the NIV and discover that it appears sixteen times in Hebrews out of 303 verses, and 446 times in 442 verses out of 31,102 verses in the entire Bible. If the user hovers over a word that inflects (e.g., a past participle of a verb) the tab can display the data for the lemma (the dictionary form), or for that precise form. This feature is even more useful when examining a Greek or Hebrew word, since those languages inflect much more than does English.

Menus and icons appear along the top of the screen. Many of these are other ways to access some of the features I have already discussed, but other great resources also appear here. The “Tools” Menu is the most useful, enabling users to do such things as open a synopsis of the four Gospels in whichever version they choose, display different versions of a text in parallel columns, create vocabulary flash cards (great for beginning language students), display a flow diagram of a text, as well as perform a number of other functions. Additional features with the icons include the ability to open parallel columns with the Hebrew text and the Septuagint (Greek OT), with all the words described and defined, open the set of maps that comes with the software (that can be readily copied to a Power Point slide), and generate a report with all the BibleWorks detail for a particular verse. Finally, the icon on the far right opens “Ermie” (External Resources Manager). “Ermie” contains links to numerous resources on the internet, which can be added to or modified by the user. There is plenty here.

In conclusion, while I would describe Logos as an integrated electronic library, BibleWorks 9 is a database of texts that can be analysed in a variety of powerful ways. Ultimately both will give the same results and contain the same analyses. BibleWorks has the price and speed advantage, along with the Leedy diagrams and the CNTTS Apparatus as part of the original price, while Logos has the advantage of a huge number of available resources, although these come at a cost. As I said at the outset, I am now tied to Logos since I have such an extensive Library. If I was starting out now I would certainly consider BibleWorks 9 in terms of price, ease of use, and speed of operation.


1 The BibleWorks website (www.bibleworks.com; accessed 21 Feb 2014) contains a massive amount of information and will repay careful study. System requirements for Mac and PC are also set out there. BibleWorks and Logos both work on a PC and a Mac, and Logos has Apps for iPhone and iPad, and well as Android platforms.

2 Online: https://net.bible.org. Accessed 21 Feb 2014. Read about it in Wikipedia, online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_English_Translation. Accessed 21 Feb 2014.

3 Online: http://www.nobts.edu/publications/News/CNTTSDatabase.html. Accessed 21 Feb 2014.


Philip Church is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology, Mission and Ministry at Laidlaw College and the Dean of the Laidlaw Graduate School. He is the Editor of Stimulus.

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