BibleWorks 9 Review
Dr. Jarvis Williams
“BibleWorks 9 is here!” These words appear at the top of the BibleWorks 9 software promotional packet. I am so thankful that it is finally here! I am a young New Testament scholar. I specialize in early Christian origins and Pauline Theology. I spend most of my time reading and analyzing ancient Jewish and early Christian texts and the theological concepts that emerge from these texts. I am also a churchman who regularly preaches and teaches in my local church. Consequently, the features of this new software have given me tremendous help in my research and preaching in the few short months that I have been using it. In this review, I will highlight a few of the many useful features available in this software. Second, I will provide a personal example of how the software has helped me with both my scholarly and ministerial work. Third, I will appeal to biblical scholars, pastors, students, and church leaders to invest in this software.
The Unique Features
BibleWorks 9 has several useful features for the rigorous scholar, the busy pastor, the frugal student, and for the curious lay person. First, the economics of the software are reasonable. For $359, customers have access to one of the most powerful biblical studies aids available. The purchase of this software will save customers thousands of dollars by including digital copies of some of the most important and most expensive texts, lexicons, ancient manuscripts, grammars, etc. that are necessary for serious study of the bible.
Second, the software allows its users to do several things in the area of biblical and theological studies. (1) Users can look up passages with virtually no effort. At the direction of the user, she or he can conveniently read the Greek text of Rom 3:25 while simultaneously analyzing several major translations (e.g. ESV, NIV, NASB, etc.). This same feature is available for the Hebrew Bible. In addition to reading the Hebrew text, users can simultaneously analyze the Septuagint (LXX) and other translations from numerous modern languages (e.g. French, German, etc.). (2) Users can instantly receive information about any verse in the Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek traditions, from other ancient versions (e.g. Latin Vulgate), and from modern translations. By simply moving their computer mouse over the text, users can easily pull up lexical information, parsing information, text critical information, grammatical information, and additional reference works (e.g. church fathers) that might shine a ray of light on the verse. With the preceding features opened, BibleWorks 9 allows users to discover the most frequently used words in a given context with a simple click of the mouse. For example, users can click on the word “honor” in 1 Pet 2:17, and immediately all of the texts wherein the command “honor” appears in the bible will appear.
(3) Users can search for words, phrases, and complex grammatical constructions with a simple click of the button. In a matter of seconds, users can search thousands of complex grammatical constructions in thousands of texts in both biblical and extra-biblical literature. For example, Rom 3:25 is an important text for Paul’s theology of atonement. In verse 25, he uses the Greek term hilastērion to explain God’s offering of Jesus to die on the cross for sinners. With one click, users are able to pull up all of the verses in the canonical LXX and in the non-canonical LXX (only one occurrence in the latter in 4 Macc 17:22) where the term hilastērion occurs. Additionally, users can likewise pull up all of the texts where hilastērion occurs in patristic texts that were written during the general milieu in which Paul wrote Rom 3:25. Once users have in front of them all of the available texts, they are more feasibly and more quickly able to analyze all of the occurrences of this word in the specific individual contexts in which it occurs. While these windows are opened, users can take notes on the BibleWorks 9 notepad. These options speed up analysis and enable users to produce the results of their findings on one computer.
(4) For users whose Greek and Hebrew skills are in development, the software provides Greek and Hebrew flashcards. These cards will enable scholars, pastors, and students to improve the acquisition of vocabulary, which is one of the most difficult things about studying the biblical languages. The flashcards can especially provide assistance and encouragement to the motivated Greek novice without formal theological training to begin a lifetime of learning Greek and Hebrew for the purpose of enhancing her or his personal bible study.
(5) Users can check over a dozen cross-reference sets. When users consolidate their screens, he or she can display textual information about a variety of different verses from distinct texts in the bible.
(6) Users with either an intermediate or advanced knowledge of Greek will appreciate the diagram option. This allows users to view and print completed diagrams of the Greek New Testament. Students can check their diagrams with BibleWorks 9 as they are diagraming the Greek text instead of having to wait until her or his professor grades her or his work.
(7) Users can copy bible texts from all biblical languages and from several ancient and modern languages onto their word processor. This feature allows users to copy and paste even the results of grammatical searches into the word processor. Consequently, users are spared from the pain of having to type and point every Hebrew and Greek letter with the appropriate vowels and accent marks.
(8) Users can analyze ancient manuscript evidence. Critical readers of the Greek and Hebrew bible are well aware of the fact that English translations have emerged from a variety of ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts (mss), and from a variety of versions (i.e. ancient languages with biblical texts). Many of the mss are good and early, but some of them are late and bad. In addition, some of them have been severely damaged. Thus, it is imperative for the reader of the Greek and Hebrew bible to do the painful work of textual criticism in order to discern whether what one reads in the bible is actually what was written by the respective biblical author. BibleWorks 9 helps users with this task by providing helpful and concise commentary on relevant mss and by providing images of these mss. The software also has an up to date textual apparatus.
(9) The software comes with over 200 bibles in over 40 languages. It contains the standard Greek and Hebrew texts and the major English bibles. It includes over a dozen biblical language grammars, lexicons, reference works, and numerous tools that will aid its users’ biblical exegesis and biblical research. The software includes statistical analyses of various words and grammatical constructions, and it includes maps and pictures of the biblical world and diagrams of important structures (e.g. the tabernacle) in the biblical world. If users desire, he or she can purchase optional add-ons that will even further enhance her or his biblical exegesis. Users can purchase the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Targums, and a host of other helpful resources. In addition to having access to the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the works of Philo, and the works of Josephus by purchasing BibleWorks 9, adding on other ancient texts will provide the user with a wealth of crucial resources for understanding the bible, the biblical world, and the world of early Christianity during the times of Jesus and during the writing of the New Testament. Finally, the software comes with a pamphlet and with short videos that explain both how to use and how to get the most out of the software.
Personal Examples of the Usefulness of BibleWorks 9
I will provide two personal examples of how BibleWorks 9 has helped me with both my scholarly and ministerial work. First, BibleWorks 9 has been a tremendous help to me in my scholarly work. I am currently writing 4 academic monographs. Each monograph requires me to spend much time reading extra-biblical literature. For my current projects, the apocryphal literature, the pseudepigraphal literature, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are valuable sources. I have hard copies of all of these texts, and I have them on my BibleWorks 9 software. On the software, they are in the original languages and in English with the exception of the Dead Sea Scrolls (they are only in the original). Access to these texts in digital form allows me to analyze more carefully and systematically the literature for my research since BibleWorks 9 allows me to search specific words, grammatical constructions, and concepts with a simple click of a button.
Second, BibleWorks 9 has helped me with my church work. For nearly a year, I have been serving as an interim pastor while simultaneously serving in full-time academic ministry and scholarship. My responsibilities during my interim at the church have primarily focused on the preaching and teaching ministries of the church. In my first eight months at the church, I preached through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians and the book of Jonah. The BibleWorks 9 software tremendously helped my research of these texts by giving me the search engines to analyze thousands of biblical and extra-biblical texts that shine a ray of light on the biblical texts.
I appeal to biblical scholars, pastors, students, and church leaders to invest in this outstanding software. If they regularly use this software, their research, sermons, and personal bible study will be enriched. Their teaching will be enhanced, and their congregations and students will greatly profit from their preaching and teaching. I am indeed thankful that “BibleWorks 9 is here!”
Jarvis J. Williams is a professor at Southern Bapt Seminary.