Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament, 5.1 (2016), pp. 109-112.
Accordance 11. Altamonte Springs, Fla.: OakTree Software, 2016.
Software. US $59.90–$1,999.
BibleWorks 10. Norfolk, Va.: BibleWorks, LLC, 2016. Software. US
Dr. Scott N. Callaham
Once a technological breakthrough embeds itself within the rhythms of
life, it becomes rather difficult to conceive of its absence. Thus the
corded phones and flip-phones of yesteryear have largely given way to
smartphones whose memory and computational capacities would have
boggled the mind just a decade or so ago. The dramatic effects of
technological advance are likewise evident in the field of biblical studies.
Among software packages tailored to the needs of biblical scholars,
Logos, Accordance, and Bibleworks together constitute a triad of
indispensable research tools. On one hand, Logos has distinguished itself
as a digital library platform par excellence. On the other hand, Accordance
and Bibleworks maintain sharper focus upon analysis of biblical
and related texts. Keeping the primary interests of readers of JESOT in
view, the present review evaluates Accordance and BibleWorks from the
perspective of biblical Hebrew and OT scholarship.
Mercifully past is the longstanding problem of platform specificity;
one can use Accordance and Bibleworks on both Windows PCs
and Macs. Nonetheless, the heritage of each software package is evident.
Accordance employs an uncluttered Apple-style interface that aims for a
relatively intuitive user experience. In contrast, BibleWorks builds a
finer degree of control into its user interface. To illustrate this point,
suppose that a researcher wants to study the difference in vocabulary
between Gen 1 and Gen 2–3. The sequence of discrete commands one
may issue to achieve this end in each software package appears below.
| - Within the range of Gen 1, search for all words.
|| - Limit range of hits to Gen 1.
- Search for all words.
|- Open a new tab.
- Within the range of Gen 2–3,
search for all words not found with the search on the previous tab
| - Create a primary word list file of these hits.
- Limit range of hits to Gen 2–3.
- Search for all words.
- Create a secondary word list file of these hits.
|| - Highlight words in the secondary list that also appear in the primary list.
|| - Delete the highlighted words.
|| - Save the resulting word list(or “inclusion-exclusion
|| - Perform a search (still within Gen 2–3) of all words within this saved “inclusion-exclusion file.”
User actions in the two paths differ in level of control over steps in the
unfolding process, but they both lead to identical research results.
One can imagine an unbounded constellation of complex
morphological searches that Accordance and BibleWorks make possible,
such as tabulating all instances of plene spellings of the infinitive
construct among strong verbs, finding verbal roots for which the Hebrew
Bible attests both Qal passive participles and Niphal participles,
comparing sentence-initial yiqtol verbs with sentence-initial jussives, and
so forth. Before the development of these programs and their underlying
databases, such research was possible only through leafing page by page
through a Hebrew Bible and concordance.
Beyond the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) and its critical
apparatus, Accordance and Bibleworks facilitate rapid access to other
texts significant to OT scholarship, including BHQ, the Rahlfs-Hanhart
Septuagint (and the New English Translation of the Septuagint), the
Vulgate, the Peshitta, many Targums, the Samaritan Pentateuch
(morphologically tagged in Accordance), Ben Sira, and the Dead Sea
Scrolls. Accordance users can also view Northwest Semitic epigraphic
texts, Ugaritic texts, and rabbinic literature. Assisting the analysis of
these texts are lexicons whose contents are only a mouse movement
away, with Brown-Driver-Briggs, Koehler-Baumgartner, and Lust-
Ehnikel-Hauspie (for the LXX) available in both programs and the
Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (both concise and full versions) in
Accordance. Among the expanded “wordbook”-style references, users of
both programs can electronically refer to the Theological Wordbook of
the Old Testament, and Accordance can also access the Theological
Lexicon of the Old Testament and the New International Dictionary of
Old Testament Theology and Exegesis. Each program enables rapid
reference to the standard grammars of Gesenius, Joüon-Muraoka, and Waltke-O’Connor, though neither program presently incorporates the
Van der Merwe-Naudé-Kroeze reference grammar.
At this point it is necessary to qualify the above-mentioned
listing of texts, lexicons, and grammars with a word about their cost. In
general, Accordance has taken a more modular approach to gathering
together powerful study tools. After selecting a certain collection of
resources as a foundational purchase, a scholar then adds individual
resources or “bundles” to customize to research needs. This approach
facilitates the availability of a large array of research assets in the
Accordance platform, though each added resource naturally deepens
financial investment in one’s own copy of the software. In contrast,
BibleWorks attempts to maximize the research benefit of its baseline
package and minimize the need for additional outlay of funds for
modules. One example of reduced dependence on modules concerns the
high-resolution images of the Leningrad Codex. At no extra charge,
BibleWorks synchronizes displayed electronic text with Leningrad
Codex images and overlays them with virtual verse notations, allowing
rapid reference to the manuscript underlying BHS and BHQ. Viewing
the Leningrad Codex in Accordance requires a separate purchase. The
same situation pertains for each program’s specialized tool for Hebrew
Bible and Septuagint text comparison; it is native to the standard package
of Bibleworks but requires an additional purchase in Accordance. One
should note that these comparison tools employ the Rahlfs-Hanhart
Septuagint, and also that many volumes of the Göttingen Septuagint are
available—again, for additional purchase—in Accordance.
Despite the economic advantage the BibleWorks pricing scheme
may confer upon some users, Accordance offers two features that will
most likely only gain significance through time. First, Accordance has
committed itself to broader exploitation of mobile devices. While both
BibleWorks and Accordance run on Windows tablets in their fullfeatured
versions, Accordance has developed an app allowing access to
one’s Accordance library and a reduced set of biblical language search
capabilities on iOS devices as well.
Second, and much more significantly, Accordance offers
syntactical searching of the biblical text, with only Isaiah and Jeremiah
awaiting implementation at the time of this review. Syntactical tagging is
in line with modern linguistic theory and is not language-specific, thus
Accordance uses an identical system for analyzing the Aramaic portions
of the OT as well as the Greek text of the NT. Further easing the learning
burden of the user is the seamless integration of syntactical tagging into
both the command line and graphical construct search methods.
Researchers can easily investigate syntactical issues, such as the word
order of verbless clauses, the placement of verbs in clause-initial positions other than the first word in a verse, and the use of feminine
subjects with masculine verbs. Otherwise, with recourse to morphological
search capabilities alone, the user would need to screen out a
significant number of non-applicable search results generated by
attempts to account for the relationships between words by proximity and
position within a sentence rather than by actual syntactical linkage.
All discussion above relates to use of primary resources, as well
as tools and reference works that foster direct, unmediated study of the
biblical text. As for the use of commentaries and other secondary
resources in one’s computer-empowered research, available for purchase
and download in Accordance is an impressive array of high-quality
works such as the Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries, the Anchor Bible
Dictionary, various biblical and systematic theologies, and much more.
Through partnership with WORDsearch, a narrower range of excellent
secondary resources are available in BibleWorks as well. While there is
an integrated e-book reader for adding resources in the epub format,
amassing a portable electronic library is not a core function of the
No review can fully do justice to the advanced capabilities of
top-tier biblical research software such as BibleWorks and Accordance.
The sheer power of these programs may even intimidate prospective
users even as it raises the inevitable bottom-line question: “Which
program should I buy?” Reformulating this question into “Which
software package is better?” does not necessarily clarify matters, because
determination of “better” for an individual user or institution tracks
closely with specific research needs. On one hand, if one must have a
system that maximizes research upon the biblical text and simultaneously
facilitates the building of an electronic library, Accordance is clearly
more suited to meeting both requirements. On the other hand,
BibleWorks is arguably a more economical choice for research upon the
biblical text alone. Yet even these generalities must defer to detailed
consideration of software package capabilities.
In the end, once thinking through research needs leads to a
purchase, helpful online videos, training guides, and user discussion
forums will facilitate employing these tools to ever-greater advantage.
Given what one can accomplish with Bibleworks and Accordance, it is
now nearly unthinkable that one would undertake the task of serious
research upon the biblical text without them.
Scott Callaham is a professor of Hebrew and OT at the Baptist Seminary in Singapore.