Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS), vol. 42 (2004), pp. 221-223.
by Teresa L. Reeve
For those who have never used BibleWorks before, it might best be described as a Bible software tool with impressive information and searching capabilities containing all of the major Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic texts, as well as a large number of the best English and modern-language versions. Not a "library on CD" like some other biblical-software offerings, BibleWorks keeps its attention strictly focused on providing the most powerful and up-to-date resources possible for the primary tasks of exegeting the ancient text. This program is one of the small handful that I use (gratefully) every day, as I have done for years.
Verses, passages, and whole chapters can easily be looked up and displayed in several versions simultaneously, either vertically or side by side. Basic parsing and lexical information for the ancient-language biblical texts is always available onscreen as one rolls the cursor across each word. A broader range of lexicons can be consulted by the click of a mouse button; and, for those who want the scholarly standards on-screen, both the latest Bauer-Danker and Koehler-Baumgartner editions can be added for an additional fee.
BibleWorks's searching ability ranges from the basic and easy-to-use word or phrase search to incredibly complex combinations of word, phrase, and morphology specifications using the powerful "Advanced Search Engine." Among other search options, one is able, e.g., to locate particular types of morphology, such as feminine nominative participles, either in a general search or as used in a particular word or list of words. Any search can be limited to a specific passage, book, or range of books. Search results are easy to transfer into any of the major word-processing programs, and verses or passages can even be imported from within the word processor without having to switch windows or perform a cut-and-paste operation.
BibleWorks also offers its own well-equipped word processor that is always open for use next to the biblical text. Besides doing the basic word-processing functions, this wordprocessor allows users to make their own notes on biblical verses or passages and attach them directly to the text so that they may be opened with the text at any future time. The "Notes Function," however, is probably the least user-friendly of any of BibleWorks's major offerings. It is difficult to perceive, e.g., how to save one's notes and how to move around between chapters and verses. Even the on-board tutorial on the subject is rather hazy on such specifics.
In recent years, BibleWorks has worked hard to make itself as valuable and useful for the beginner as it always has been for the experienced scholar. One of the available interfaces is designed especially for the beginner or layperson, making it accessible for just about anyone who wants to do things such as look up verses, check different versions, do simple word or phrase searches, and even find the meaning of an English word in its original Greek or Hebrew form. As expertise with the program is gained, the user can quickly graduate to the more powerful interfaces, which exchange simplicity of understanding for greater speed and research potential. While the program can be easy to use, it is not particularly affordable for the nonprofessional user. The $299.95 price tag is rather high for the average person to pay for these basic functions and will be most attractive for those who plan to do at least some work in the ancient languages. One other potential drawback to the BibleWorks program is the fact that it is available only for PCs, with no Mac version suggested in the near future.
The new offerings with BibleWorks 6 are practically irresistible. Somehow BibleWorks manages to keep coming up with exciting new features so that even those who just bought the previous version months earlier are left casting about for another $125 to buy the latest model. With BibleWorks 6, e.g., users get the complete works of Josephus (Greek, Latin, morphology, and English), the Apostolic Fathers (Greek and Latin), a collection of Targumim (Aramaic and morphology), and the Peshitta (Syriac and English). Those who pay an additional fee may add a collection of Qumran sectarian manuscripts and several top-notch grammar texts. Unfortunately, these new texts are not yet fully integrated into the BibleWorks system, and it takes some time to figure out how to get to and manipulate them. In addition, full morphology and lexical data are not yet available. Other useful new tools BibleWorks 6 adds include editable outlines, a Greek and Hebrew flashcard builder, and the ability to build sentence and structural diagrams, to highlight text in various colors, and to automatically compare and highlight differences between same-language texts.
One particularly annoying new feature is the pop-up "Word Tip" window, which shows up next to the cursor as it is moved across the Greek or Hebrew text. Meant to make it even easier to read quickly through the original languages by providing instant parsing and definition of each Greek or Hebrew word near at hand, the "Word Tip" mini-window gets in the way of the surrounding text and gives away too much in a classroom setting where the professor wants the students to be working out this information for themselves. Since the same information is already automatically displayed in the "Auto-info" window below the "Results" window, one may elect to turn this function off-a simple procedure once one finds the instructions.
Overall, the small irritations are minor compared to the unsurpassed contribution BibleWorks makes to biblical research. The program is fast and, in the majority of areas, easy to use. With BibleWorks, scholars can work with the biblical text in ways they could only wistfully dream of, if even imagine, in the past. It is a pleasure to use. If one had to decide what five things he or she would take along for a study leave on a desert isle (assuming one has electricity), BibleWorks should be at the top of the list.
Teresa L. Reeve is Assistant Professor of New Testament Contexts at Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.