Julien C. H. Smith
Excerpted from Perspectives in Religious Studies 35/3 (2008): 325-28
Nota Bene Lingua Workstation 8.0. www.notabene.com. $449.00.
BibleWorks 7. www.bibleworks.com. $349.00.
Logos Bible Software 3—Scholar’s Library: Gold. www.logos.com. $1,379.95.
Pastors, students, and scholars in need of software for biblical research will be interested
in the most recent releases from Nota Bene, BibleWorks, and Logos Bible Software. While each
of these software packages provides powerful tools for exegesis and research, they are targeted
towards different audiences and budgets (and only available for the PC).
BibleWorks’s company vision is to provide exegetical tools for “pastors, teachers,
students, and missionaries . . . at a price that poor pastors and students can afford.” The latest
release of this software package fulfills this vision admirably. At the core of BibleWorks 7 is the
biblical text, presented in a streamlined user interface designed to facilitate efficient searching of
the Bible, as well as the use of a number of exegetical tools. In addition to BHS and NA27/UBS4,
BibleWorks includes the ancient versions (LXX, Vulgate, Peshitta, Targums), virtually every
English translation, and scores of modern foreign language translations. A number of other useful
texts are included: R. H. Charles’s 1913 translation of the OT Pseudepigrapha; translations of the
NT Apocrypha by James (1924) and Hone (1820); Lightfoot’s edition of the Apostolic Fathers
with the translation from ANF; and the complete works of Philo (ET Yonge) and Josephus (ET
Whiston). Tischendorf’s massive critical apparatus and Metzger’s textual commentary are
included, as are the editions of Stephanus (TR), Tischendorf, Scrivener, Westcott-Hort, Von
Soden, and the Byzantine Majority text (Robinson-Pierpoint), making BibleWorks a useful tool
for NT text-critical work.
With the exception of the Peshitta and Von Soden’s edition, all original language texts are
morphologically tagged, which means that one can search for words both in their lexical form, and
in whatever inflected forms they occur in the text. This technology is by no means revolutionary—
morphologically tagged databases date back to the pioneering work of the GRAMCORD Institute
in the 1970s. BibleWorks nevertheless deserves credit for making the use of this technology
effortless for the user. Selecting a text, navigating to a location within a text, searching for a
particular morphological form of a word, limiting searches to individual books or groupings of
books, viewing different versions of texts in parallel displays—all of these tasks can be performed
efficiently and quickly from a centrally located command line. A Graphical Search Engine (GSE)
allows for greater complexity in searching, but requires some effort to use competently. The
Editor allows one to take notes or compose a lesson plan without leaving BibleWorks, which can
then be easily exported to a word processor. (Multi-lingual text can be exported—along with
extraneous formatting commands, carriage returns, and strange symbols.) The User Notes allows
one to take notes that remain linked to a biblical text.
To facilitate the study of this core of texts, BibleWorks also offers a collection of
exegetical tools consisting of a number of Greek and Hebrew lexicons, introductory grammars,
and Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. All of these tools are conveniently available in a panel
adjacent to the text being viewed, and are linked to that text. Hovering the mouse over a word
instantly brings up that word’s basic morphological and lexical information, as well as any
resources associated with it. None of these resources, it should be noted, represents the scholarly
standard in its field. Such reference works are available, however, as add-on modules: BDAG
($125), HALOT ($159), LSJ ($135), BDF ($55), among others. The total number of these
modules is modest (about twenty) and reflects BibleWorks’s minimalist approach to computer
tools for biblical exegesis. BibleWorks provides the basics at a reasonable cost, and with an
excellent user interface.
There are two significant differences between BibleWorks 7 and Logos Bible Software 3.
The first of these has to do with the ease and degree to which one can search the Bible.
BibleWorks has the more streamlined user interface of the two and has a faster search engine, but
in terms of technological innovation, the nod goes to Logos for its inclusion of several
syntactically tagged databases (one for the Hebrew Bible and two for the New Testament). Logos
boasts that these databases represent a “quantum leap” forward in technology, and although this is
no idle boast, the technology is not yet perfect, either. Using a morphologically tagged database
such as one finds in BibleWorks, one can at best approximate a search for syntactic structures, by
searching for words in proximity and sequence. In a complex search, this will invariably yield
hundreds of false hits, and potentially exclude legitimate ones. Logos’s syntactically tagged
database allows one to search not only for morphological characteristics of words, but also for
specific functional relationships between words in clauses, thus allowing for far greater
complexity and specificity. Of the two NT databases, the Opentext.org database (edited by S. E.
Porter, M. B. O’Donnell, and J. T. Reed) is linguistically oriented, while the Lexham database
(edited by A. L. Lukaszewski, and containing the Catholic epistles to date) takes the approach of
an intermediate Greek grammar. The syntactical analysis represented by these tools is on the
whole reliable, but both contain errors. In my tinkering with the Opentext.org database, I found a
small number of mis-tagged elements. [...] These minor errors (likely to be corrected in future updates) serve as
a reminder that although they represent a huge step forward, these databases are still works in
Julien C. H. Smith is a Ph.D. candidate at Baylor University.