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BibleWorks 5.0 for Windows

Gerald A. Klingbeil, D.Litt.

Reviewed in DavarLogos, Volume 1.1 (2002): 99-104.

In current research, software plays an ever-increasing role in the accessing, management and manipulation of ever-growing amounts of data. Additionally, software does not occupy precious shelf space and is generally more user-friendly and comprehensive than any given printed index or table of content. BibleWorks (BW) is one of the major players in electronic Bible concordance business (together with GramCord and Logos) and version 5 includes sufficient changes and advances to warrant another look (see my earlier reviews of BibleWorks 3.0 in Theologika 11.1 [1996]: 227-234 and BibleWorks 3.5 in Andrews University Seminary Studies 35.2 [1997]: 310-20.

In this review I will not repeat the basic concepts that were already described in the earlier reviews, but rather will focus upon the new aspects of BW 5.0. For those who have never worked with the program, BW contains a huge amount of Bible concordance database in dozens of modern languages (including 5 Spanish and 23 English versions) and is an indispensable tool for working with the original biblical languages, including 5 Hebrew and 17 Greek text databases. Original language tools include parsing databases (which define and explain any given Hebrew or Greek word) and standard lexicons and dictionaries. So, what is new in BW 5.0? First of all, 18 new databases have been added, the most significant being the full unabridged Thayer's Greek Lexicon and the full unabridged Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon. Additionally, many more foreign language versions have been added (included Danish, Swedish, Bulgarian, Jewish, German or Czechoslovakian versions). Several existing databases have been enhanced. For example, the important BHS Hebrew Old Testament text, edited by the Westminster text project, includes now the full Hebrew accents. Another important Hebrew morphology database (Groves-Wheeler) has been updated to version 3.5. Also, the standard version of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (this is the original version, not the revised version published by Eerdmans) is now integrated into the program itself.

Another important addition to BW is its four hours of video training contained on a supplemental disk and an important improvement in user-friendliness, offering three distinct user-interfaces ranging from beginner, standard and power user. A new configuration manager allows you to save different configurations. Another important tool is the new synopsis view which has been pre-configured for the synoptic gospels. However, the extremely helpful tool is editable and can be easily changed to design one's own synopsis (e.g., of 1/2 Kings and 1/2 Chronicles). Other program enhancements include a more complete copy function and the option to compile one's own version (e.g., of personal translation). This should be a helpful addition for translators or missionaries.

A helpful tool for biblical language teachers is the Word List Manager which allows to generate word lists (based on roots or actual forms) of selected passages, chapters or entire books. I found this an incredibly helpful tool for preparing reading exercises for my advanced Hebrew students. The results of the word lists can be saved for future reference, edited and exported to your favorite word processor (see figure 1 [not part of English version review]). Other additions and enhancements include the inclusion of clipboard and import function for the complex Advanced Search Engine, a more centralized configuration tabbed setup window which includes all possible configuration options, the possibilities to browse lexicons and dictionaries in context and some other smaller changes and additions. The new version also includes a much improved manual of 388 pages which is very well organized and helpful. The didactic principle of the manual emphasizes the road from easy to more advanced and corresponds to the new emphasis on user-friendliness.

Searching BW includes three main avenues. Firstly a phrase or term can be double-clicked directly in the text which will then provide a search for the exact phrase. For example, double-clicking on the verb [n:m', "withhold, hold back" (in its basic Qal, Perf. 3ms form) in Gn 30:2 generates four hits, namely Gn 30:2; Pr 1:15; 11:26; and Jer 48:10. The references can be easily sent to Windows clipboard (which functions as an intermediate storing device) and can be formatted according to one's own likes. However, in order to search all the occurrences of the root (including other forms) one right-clicks the word and chooses "Search on root" (see figure 2). This way 29 verses, involving 20 different forms of the same root, can be found. There is another search method, which involves more complex patterns, called the Advanced Search Engine. This is the most complex way of finding patterns, phrases or specific combinations in the target text (be it Hebrew, Greek, English or Spanish or any other). Figure 3 provides the example of the combination of the noun @a;, "nose, nostril," in combination with the verb hr'x', "to burn". This combination, which is often translated idiomatically with "to burn with anger against" (Ex 4:14), appears in 56 verses 62 times (see also my observations in "To break the law. Some notes on Exodus 32:19", DavarLogos 1.1 [2002]:?-?). As can be seen in figure 4, if one would want to know how often the personal noun YHWH is used with the combination (which, most probably would indicate the subject of the action), one could note that now the combination appears only in 34 verses 45 times. The Advanced Search Engine is extremely powerful and although it requires some practice it is well designed and very useful for anybody wanting to dig deeper into Scripture.

BW includes also a new Hebrew transliteration database, which includes the entire OT in transliterated form. While this is helpful for those not familiar with the Hebrew language, the chosen transliteration system does not follow standard systems (as, for example, in Patrick H. Alexander et al., eds., The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies [Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999], 25-9). Future updates of the transliteration database should provide standard solutions. BW also includes all the needed fonts and automatically installs them. Over the past years, the type has developed into a handsome design, with some recent updates. However, especially the Hebrew fonts are still too small in comparison to standard fonts. For example, if one would want to print the Hebrew text in the same size as a regular Times Roman 12 fonts, one would have to choose size 16. The quality of the AVI format tutorial videos (over 4 hours total) of BW is very good. As an example, the video introducing the complex Advanced Search Engine is nearly 19 minutes long and very comprehensive. The additions of the video tutorials is definitely a huge plus for all user on all levels. Another important addition especially for NT studies is the Louw-Nida Lexicon based upon Semantic Domains. A semantic domain is an increasingly important concept where words with similar meanings (e.g., all Greek verbs having to do with "eat") are grouped together. BW provides via the Advanced Search Engine and via the Word List Manager the adequate tools to access these domains and utilize them appropriately in the study of the NT. Unfortunately, as yet there is no database working with the Hebrew OT which is based upon semantic domains.

Software is never "done". For this reason, BW version 5 includes now an integrated update button which checks for the user (with no user intervention) automatically, if the makers of the program have posted updates for the program or for any database. The process is very smooth and helps to keep the software up-to-date. As additional add-ons Hermeneutika also offers two top-notch dictionaries, namely The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 4th Edition by Koehler-Baumgartner-Stamm (published by Brill) for the unlocking fee of US$159.00 and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, by Bauer and Walter, and edited and revised by Frederick William Danker for US$99.00. If one would want to buy the two standard works (whose printed versions are much more expensive), the bundle price would be US$197.00.

BW is a mature and powerful electronic concordance program which provides for any student, pastor or scholar the right tools to dig deeper into Scripture. Its new three-level-user system helps the beginner to not be intimidated by the many features of the program. The improvements in user interface and user-friendliness make this version especially appealing for those who have never worked with similar packages. The quality of the databases is very high (although one can find now and again the occasional error) and the responsiveness of the customer service people should be applauded. Remains only the issue of the high price of US$299.95 which presents a real challenge to cash-strapped South Americans. However, considering the included lexicons, dictionaries, concordances and versions, the price is reasonable, although it creates a small market, since there are not many people in South America who may be able to afford to spend one (or two) month's salary on a software package. All in all, BW is a software package that warrants serious consideration for any students, pastor or professor.

Gerald A. Klingbeil (D.Litt) is Professor of OT and ANE Studies at River Plate Adventist University, ARGENTINA.

 

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