BibleWorks Review: Overall
BibleWorks describes itself as “the premier original languages Bible software program for Biblical exegesis and research.” As you can tell, that is quite specific when compared to most of the bible programs on the market today. The majority of Bible software exists for all types of research and most focus on commentaries, books, and maps. Bibleworks, on the other hand, is focused exclusively on exegeting the original text and providing the raw tools to help like lexicons, Greek/Hebrew grammars, and textual notes. This means that BibleWorks does not truly compete with software like Logos. Rather, they are counterparts to one another.
In fact, BibleWorks has built in options to link with Logos so that if one wanted to dive deeper into the theology of say Luke 18:19, he or she could have Bibleworks open Logos up to a commentary on the verse. All this to say, many people buy both BibleWorks and another resource-rich Bible software for a complete Bible study experience. I personally am using Bibleworks whenever I study in the original languages or just simply doing devotions. I also use it when I want to research a specific theological topic or other opinions on a particular verse.
I do want to elaborate on why BibleWorks does not offer many resources like Logos and Accordance. Their reason is twofold: to keep the software affordable and because of their philosophy of electronic resources (they are against them!). Ironic, right? Well it is also slightly exaggerated (but only slightly).
Does it sound kind of weird for an electronic Bible software company to take caution against building up electronic libraries? Not when you hear their reasons. Their stance is actually one of the reasons I immensely respect Bibleworks, something I rarely say about any business—secular or Christian.
BibleWorks does offer different modules that can be added on. However, they are mainly lexicons and original language grammars. At the bottom of their module page, BibleWorks has “Some Thoughts About Electronic Libraries.” Here, they warn against stocking up on your electronic library for two reasons. The first is that “there is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today’s electronic media,” and the second, “almost all electronic libraries are in proprietary formats: there is no standard. Proprietary formats, and the software that reads them, come and go (remember DOS?).” This is followed by a link to several articles that further expound on this idea. I highly recommend taking a look at these articles as they ask some tough questions that should be considered before you drop a chunk of change on resources.
BibleWorks’ stance on electronic resources is a breath of fresh air and proof that they truly are thinking of their customers. They are not completely against owning digital commentaries and the like, and they agree that it makes sense to buy electronic versions of the reference works you use on a daily basis. But, for everything else, they recommend buying the print versions first and only then buying the digital version if you really need to.
But enough of their philosophy, let us actually get into some of the features of BibleWorks. The first aspect of BibleWorks that really sets them apart is their search engine. Because BibleWorks never intended to be a theological library, they seemed to have been freed up to put everything into their search engine. It is quick enough to instantly search all the Greek lexicons, church fathers, grammars, critical apparatuses, manuscript images, and any module you purchase as you simply mouse over each verse. It does not bog down the system, but effortlessly displays all the information on the right-side panel, giving easy access and eliminating wasted time.
When you turn to searching the original languages, it just gets better. Through the how-to videos, anyone can learn how to quickly and easily search through the Greek text. There are options to search every time a form of αγαπαω appears, or every time αγαπη is plural (which was not a simple process for BibleWorks to make available). Plus, the Google-like wildcards such as αγαπ* can be used as well!
The last feature I wanted to point out was BibleWorks brand new Manuscript project. This amazing piece of software lets the user actually search the manuscript digital images! It is as if you had the manuscript right there on your desk! Included at the moment are the manuscripts Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA1141, with more on their way. BibleWorks has also included a highly sophisticated image-processing panel that lets users tweak the images to better analyze the manuscripts. The Manuscript Project comes with transcriber’s notes and is fully integrated with the rest of the BibleWorks interface. It will even automatically switch to the verse in the main display. It is a textual critic’s dream come true!
For those seeking to understand the Bible in its original language, BibleWorks will prove to be an indispensable tool. It is affordable and geared towards those who care about what the software can actually do as opposed to how fancy it looks. Coupled with their attitude of looking down the road for their customers, it will be hard to look elsewhere when buying software for Bible exegesis.
Timothy Wellings is a student at Moody Bible Institute (Spokane).