BibleWorks 5 [& 6]: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research
Themelios 29.2 (Spring 2004) pp. 65-66. Themelios is an international journal published by Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship
by Dr. Alistair I. Wilson
Basic Price $299.95 (ca £190.00 in UK), discounts offered for upgrades from previous editions.
Extra charges for lexica unlock codes.
BibleWorks software has been available for several years now and has established itself as the software of choice in a number of theological colleges (including the one in which I teach). I have used version 3.5 of the software for seven years. When version 4.0 became available (including some older reference tools and an unlocked NIV) I chose not to upgrade. Would the benefits of version 5.0 justify an upgrade now?
This software is excellent in so many ways. There are numerous features that are included as standard. There are many English translations of the Bible, including the NASB, British and American versions of the NIV, the NRSV and the recently published ESV. One of the more interesting recent additions is the Jewish Publication Society's Tanach edition of the Old Testament scriptures. Some versions, such as the KJV and the NASB, are linked to Strong's coding system. There are also many versions of the Bible in other modern languages, including French, German, Dutch, Romanian and Bulgarian. While many of these versions will be of little use to most English-speaking users, they clearly reflect the international market of this software. But the real benefits of this software are aimed at users of the biblical languages.
All the basic texts are there: NA/UBS Greek NT, TR Greek NT, Hebrew, LXX. Version 5.0 is the first version to have full Hebrew accents which is a significant advantage. All of the biblical texts may be copied and pasted into other documents in other software. The various texts can be viewed either as continuous text or verse-by-verse in parallel with other versions. Particularly useful is the function by which a grammatical analysis and lexicon entry relating to a particular Greek or Hebrew word appears automatically in a separate window whenever the cursor passes over a word. The software has very powerful search capabilities and the new version has made such searches considerably simpler for less experienced users. The lexica that are provided at no additional charge are workmanlike: the classic but dated BDB for Hebrew and the Greek lexica by Louw-Nida and Friberg. However, one of the most notable features of the new version is the inclusion on the CD of two standard lexica: the Kohler-Baumgartner Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) and the 2001 edition of Bauer's Greek lexicon (BDAG). These resources are a superb addition to this software. However, they are only accessible on purchase of an unlock code which is additional to the cost of the basic package. The additional cost is quite substantial but purchasing both databases together will cost less than purchasing the paper versions. The review copy of the software did not include these lexical tools so I can make no comment on them.
There is a substantial (402 pp.) manual, which is supplemented by helpful video tutorials on a CD.
So who should purchase BibleWorks 5? If you have no need of Greek and Hebrew tools, then this is surely a more sophisticated and expensive package than you require. If you need Greek and Hebrew and are looking to make your first purchase, then this is an excellent package. If you already possess an earlier edition of BibleWorks, you will have to weigh up whether the additional benefits justify the cost of the upgrade, but I think it is worth considering seriously.
Additional Note: BibleWorks 6
Remarkably, Hermeneutika issued a further upgrade, BibleWorks 6, before this review of version 5 could be published! It is therefore no longer possible to buy version 5 directly from Hermeneutika, but version 6 sells at the same list price. However, if you purchased version 5 a year ago, it will now cost you $125 (ca £100 in the UK) to upgrade to version 6. Clearly all the qualities identified above remain in the new version, but what does BibleWorks 6 offer that was not in BibleWorks 5? There are some nice touches like a flashcard facility and a tool for constructing diagrams of the syntax of a biblical text, but I think most users of BibleWorks 5 could live without these. More impressive to me is the addition of, among other items, the writings of Josephus in Greek and English, the Apostolic Fathers in Greek (and Latin where relevant), the Aramaic NT ('Peshitta') and the Targumim (Aramaic translations/interpretations of the OT). Also of particular interest to the serious researcher will be the new extra cost modules, which are now available, including Waltke and O'Connor's standard Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, and the 'sectarian manuscripts' from Qumran. While these modules cost quite a bit extra, the facility of clicking on a biblical text and instantly being referred to the relevant portion of a standard reference tool is very attractive. If you need original language Bible software, then, BibleWorks 6 makes an even greater claim to be the one to get. If, however, you already own version 5, you must consider whether you really need to spend the extra money to upgrade from what is already an exceptional tool.
Alistair I. Wilson is now Principal of Dumisani Theological Institute, King William's Town, South Africa and Extraordinary Associate Professor of New Testament in the School of Biblical Studies and Bible Languages, North-West University, South Africa.