James M. Hamilton Jr.
For His Renown, January 17, 2009.
URL: http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/bibleworks-8/ [Retrieved on 2010-02-12]
I am not as grateful as I should be for the folks at BibleWorks, and I am not as excited as I should be about the release of BibleWorks8. But I am grateful, and I am excited. I won’t bother you with the details, which are better described at the BibleWorks site, especially in the series of posts “Things to Love in BibleWorks 8.” What I will do is give a personal testimony:
I have been using BibleWorks constantly since 2003. If my computer is on, BibleWorks is open. This tool has been invaluable for work done on the books and articles I have either written or am writing, for research done in preparation to teach class, for personal Bible Study, and for sermon preparation. I’ll give one example of a way it recently served me effectively.
As I was working on an article seeking to demonstrate that later biblical authors were influenced by earlier biblical authors (in this instance, that whoever wrote about David in Samuel described him in terms borrowed from the Joseph narrative in Genesis), I was looking for the use and reuse of unique phrases. Key to my argument was the ability to show that certain combinations of Hebrew terms only occurred in a few places. If a later biblical author picks up a unique phrase, chances are that in reusing that phrase he is consciously pointing his readers back to the earlier passage. Often these unique phrases consist of very common words.
So, for instance, if someone writing in English uses the phrase “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” most people are going to know that’s a famous phrase. Many will know it’s Shakespeare, and quite a few will know it’s from Hamlet. But each and every word in that phrase is very, very common in the English language.
In order to know when a recognizable phrase made up of common Hebrew words is being employed, you can either be a fluent speaker of biblical Hebrew, you can memorize the whole Hebrew Bible, or you can spend countless hours with your concordance searching every one of those common words looking for combinations that are rare. Or, much easier, unspeakably easier, amazingly easier, you can highlight the phrase in BibleWorks, right click, and select “search for phrase.” Almost as quickly as you’ve done this, you have a list of verses in which the phrase occurs.
This is just one of the countless ways that BibleWorks has made it possible to scour the biblical text. There is no substitute, of course, for a careful reading of the text ourselves. And, BibleWorks will be most useful to those who do just that. How else will you know what phrases might be significant? We must be stewing on the words and phrases of the stories, songs, and instructions in the Bible.
If you are a student or pastor and you don’t already have BibleWorks, I cannot recommend it highly enough. BibleWorks 8 is out, and you’ll notice a new link to the BibleWorks site on the right side of this site.
Praise God for his word! And praise God for BibleWorks.
Jim Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.