Theological Review [Near East School of Theology, Beirut], vol. 38, issue 1 (April 2017).
This review covers the latest version of the software BibleWorks (BW) – the 10th edition. I have used earlier versions (3.5 and 7) of BW daily since the late 1990s. I had taken a number of Hebrew and Greek classes as an undergraduate and then as a masters student, but I was reluctant to use the biblical languages when studying Scripture as a pastor because I felt my schedule did not allow time to look up individual words as I read Hebrew and Greek. To be at home with these languages, I needed much more experience with reading than my coursework had provided. My early copy of BW3.5 did that for me. It saved me enormous amounts of time because I only needed to hold the mouse over a Hebrew or Greek word to be able to see its parsing and possible meanings. I was therefore able to read significantly faster, which meant that I felt free to use the languages much more, and my knowledge of Greek and Hebrew grew by leaps and bounds.
I came to use BW for virtually all of my personal study of Scripture. I normally keep four to eight synchronized translations open at the same time, constantly and effortlessly comparing the most updated Greek New Testament editions (and also the Septuagint and Hebrew Bible) with English translations. I place the mouse over a word to read definitions from multiple lexicons, to confirm a verb’s tense, to see the original form of the word, or find where it occurs elsewhere in the Bible.
I use BW constantly for searches. I right click on any Hebrew or Greek word and instantly search for that particular form, or I can do what BW calls a “lemma” search and locate any form of a given word. By using an asterisk before the ending of a word, I search for that word with any number of endings. By typing a period before two words I’m searching, I discover all the verses containing both of those words. Or by typing a forward slash and two words from the Bible, I find all verses containing either of the two words for which I’m searching. The mechanisms for searches far outstrip what I could do with a paper concordance.
The searches are also highly effective even using only the English translations. While preparing a lecture recently on spiritual seeing and knowing in the Gospel of John, I typed “/see* know*” and found all the verses that contain either the word see, sees, seen, or know, knows, known. The user can easily limit the search to just one book of the Bible, or just the New Testament. One can now also do what is called a “fuzzy search” in English, which will turn up all forms of a given English word, so that one is able to do in English the equivalent of a morphological search in Hebrew or Greek.
BW also includes many Bible translations in about forty modern languages. During my Ph.D. studies, when I needed to learn to read German and French, I kept a couple of parallel translations in those languages open on my computer alongside the Hebrew, Greek, and English. I only needed to study the grammar of German and French a little, and then BW gave me very useful practice reading and comparing those languages with the ones I already knew, so that I became able to read.
Later, as I learned Arabic for teaching and ministering in Egypt, I began to keep the Van Dyck translation open in BW alongside the Hebrew, Greek, and English. This greatly improved my ability to read Arabic. It also quickly led to the recognition that the Van Dyck version is a precise word-for-word translation far more than the NIV, and is based on different manuscripts. In earlier versions of BW, I had to perform a separate download to obtain the Arabic text, but in BW10 it comes automatically. One can also do searches within the Arabic text.
While teaching Greek and Hebrew, I have found that BW saves me time creating exercises and tests for students. For whatever topics I teach, I’m able to find many specific examples through BW’s search capabilities, and then I easily copy and paste those onto Word documents.
BW10 offers a number of improvements over my previous BW7 edition. I first heard of BW10 by accident. My aging eyes began to struggle with prolonged reading of the small font in BW7, so I wrote the company and asked if there was anything I could do to enlarge the print. I obtained a quick response saying that BW10 can easily be scaled larger, for ease of reading, and also for ease of viewing when projecting it on a wall. The new appearance of BW10 is far more usable for extended hours of reading or when projecting it in front of a classroom. Optional uses of color also accentuate BW10’s beauty and readability; I like how the main Bible version I’m using appears in blue while the rest of the parallel versions remain black.
An exciting new feature is the inclusion of color facsimiles of the Leningrad Codex for the Hebrew Bible and a number of manuscripts for the Greek New Testament. With just a click, these appear beside the text I’m reading, and they even stay synchronized with the main passage I’m studying.
In an earlier version of BW, when reading Arabic, I had noticed a number of mistakes in punctuation or in the accidental combining of two Arabic words into one word. I then contacted the company and they helpfully sent me the direct email address of the person in charge of such changes. In the latest version, I noticed that a number of issues in the Arabic text have been fixed. However, I still found a few errors. For instance, in Psalm 27:11, the second to last word needs to be split in half; it should be two words. In verse 13, the third to last word needs to be split into two words. Any such errors can be reported to BibleWorks for correction, so that users play a role in helping to solve these issues.
I should mention that BW can seem a little complicated or overwhelming upon first sight, as though one is suddenly driving a luxurious car with a dashboard resembling a jet plane; however, it does not take long to feel at home as the “driver.” You can move the mouse over an item on the dashboard for a small explanation. Or, you can press F1 while the cursor is over anything you don’t understand, and you receive a longer explanation. BW also has over 150 tutorial videos on YouTube. I viewed some of these while adjusting from BW7 to BW10 and found them very clear, succinct, and useful.
I have known the BibleWorks company to be highly responsive to its customers; I am going to mention a couple issues here which might be rectified.
I found BW10 a little slower than BW7 when switching back and forth between a Word document and BW. I sensed a very slight hesitation. Still, it is far faster to use than a webbased program.
More importantly, for potential users from the Middle East and across North Africa, BW needs more Arabic translations, in addition to the Van Dyck text. It would be invaluable to be able to place several Arabic versions for comparison alongside the Greek and Hebrew texts.
In conclusion, if you are a serious student of the Bible, I heartily recommend BW10.