BibleWorks 9 Review
Southeastern Theological Review 3.2 (Winter 2012)
by Shawn Madden
In essentially all forms of human endeavor the computer in its myriad of forms and presentations (mainframe, network, desktop, laptop, tablet, iAnything, phones) has become a necessary and indispensable tool. Those involved in the industry are in a daily struggle and quest to best utilize the resources and provide products (hardware and software) that are better able to serve humanity and do so just that bit better than others. This review will observe one product and evaluate its effort to keep up with technology and surpass others who are doing so in the same field.
BibleWorks 9.0 is out attempting to supply Bible students and scholars with the tools necessary in today’s environment to “rightly divide the Word of God” in a manner better than Logos and Accordance. Their web page notes that their “. . . goal is to provide a complete package containing the tools most essential for the task of interpreting the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew, and to do it at a price that poor pastors and students can afford.” As such, their product comes in one fairly priced ($359, $159 for an upgrade) package and for the most part restricts itself to those tools needed to evaluate the Biblical texts. It is a Windows specific program (XP, Vista, 7, and 8) but it is reported by Mac users that it will work on Macs under VirtualBox, Parallels, Fusion, or BootCamp.
Logos is a Library—BibleWorks is a Scripture Study Tool. If you want to know what the Bible says then BibleWorks is the program. If you want to know what EVERYBODY has said, then Logos is the program. One is a fast Bible research tool with some additional resources, the other is a library with a Bible research tool attached.
For research Bible Works 9 has added the BibleWorks Manuscript Project (ongoing) which contains graphic images of the major manuscripts (Sinaiaticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, etc.) for close textual research. These include Full New Testament transcriptions, over 7.5 gigabytes of images, verse hyperlinks, and a Manuscript comparison tool. Ongoing is the morphological tagging for the manuscripts which will be updated regularly. Related to manuscript research, BibleWorks now includes the New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies which covers the entire New Testament.
For comparison studies it is easy to open a window to display several versions in a window. A powerful similar feature is the LXX-Hebrew comparison window. This allows a researcher to have the two texts next to each other with full morphological features on and operating. This is an extremely valuable and indispensible tool, most closely related to what a researcher would do with the Hatch-Redpath Greek LXX concordance. For language studies and in particular NT usage of OT passages this a valuable tool in that will find wide spread use in the field.
To aid in Bible research BibleWorks includes the full Moody Atlas with 118 high resolution maps and very many photos of the regions as an unlocked standard portion of the package. Additionally, for a small fee ($20) the ESV Study Bible is available with its articles, maps and images, all of which can be displayed in a window next to the searched text.
I have not done a speed comparison but my personal experience is that BibleWorks is fast—for searches it even presents a timer to tell you have fast the search took! Others have noted that this is a major strength against its competition. Mouse overs are instantaneous and complex searches are nearly so. The complexity of the searches may be extensive, depending on the users skill, level of language ability, and inquisitiveness. The most complex searches are handled by the graphic search engine and may be mindboggling intricate. BibleWorks has included several sample searches to aid any researcher’s quest.
For using any of the features of the program there are over six hours of ‘how to’ videos included and BibleWorks has an excellent updating feature and the crew is updating the program and databases on a frequent basis.
As a student of the Bible and a teacher of Scripture, I have found BibleWorks to be an indispensible tool, kept always close to hand and employed often. I look forward to the future releases as they move to more and newer platforms. BibleWorks has committed itself to ever improving their product and has always included items my previous reviews have called for (Josephus, Unicode) and I suspect that could see it on my smartphone before too much time goes by.
Shawn Madden is Associate Professor of Hebrew & Old Testament and Director of the Library, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.