Southwestern Journal of Theology
BibleWorks continues to impress with new features and databases added to this affordable high-end software program. Among the most important new features are instantaneous usage statistics in the Use tab, instantaneous highlighting of differences between Bible versions, and an optional fourth column. Major new databases include the BibleWorks Manuscript Project and the Center for New Testament Textual Studies Critical Apparatus, both of which are included in the base cost of the program.
With the new Use tab, simply hovering over a word instantaneously reveals how frequently that word appears in the current book and in the entire version. Settings may be adjusted to show either the current form or the lemma (lexical form). More than just lightning-fast information, this feature provides a significant psychological boost for the language student. While it can be discouraging not to instantly know the definitions for words when you translate, in reality there are many words which most students should not know. Of the 5,393 words in the Greek New Testament, 4,351 occur ten times or fewer, 3,767 occur five times or fewer, and 1,932 words occur only once (data quickly available through the Vocabulary Flashcard Module). While professors will disagree on the appropriate cut-off, there is a point at which vocabulary study is not time well spent. It is sometimes more effective simply to look up words when you don’t know them, and with instant usage data, one can quickly determine if the word is one which he should have known or not.
The new fourth column allows one to view an additional set of data. While my recommended display order includes search results, the biblical text, lexicons, and usage data, the third and fourth columns can be easily rearranged to show any of the available tabs (including the new images of biblical manuscripts), or one may easily turn off the third and fourth columns. Instant difference highlighting can be turned on or off with a simple click in the browse window menu.
The BibleWorks Manuscript Project provides manuscript images and transcriptions for a growing number of important manuscripts such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Bezae, among others. When studying any verse, one can instantly see manuscript images by clicking into the Manuscripts tab. In addition, the manuscripts can be opened full screen and viewed with an impressive variety of visual filters. The transcriptions of each manuscript may be used in the same way as any Bible version, and morphological tagging of each manuscript is ongoing. Transcription and tagging tools accompany the manuscripts.
The CNTTS database is an extensive user-friendly critical apparatus which can be viewed in either the third or fourth column. In addition to a listing of variant readings and manuscript support, the data for each verse can be easily expanded to show manuscripts sorted by date and text type. Aside from the usefulness of the manuscripts and the apparatus, what is particularly amazing is that these items are added to the base package at no additional cost, while in another program the apparatus sells for $100 and manuscripts sell for $40 to $60 each.
Among the 22 new Bible versions, notable additions include the 2011 NIV, the second edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and updates to the NET Bible. New morphological versions accompany the Byzantine text, Westcott-Hort text, and Scrivener text. The Moody Atlas of the Bible is included at no additional charge, and new additional-cost modules include The ESV Study Bible, Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, and Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
Ongoing needs for the program include the ability to turn off parsing information while viewing lexical entries in the analysis window, modified morphological texts including second aorist and second future forms, and a syntax database along the lines of Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (which is still included for free). Along with the new fourth column, users would benefit from the ability to create new tabs such as an additional lexicon or manuscript tab so that one could view multiple lexicons or manuscripts at the same time. Furthermore, since some of the tabs include submenus, this option would allow submenus to be moved to their own tab.
Most significantly, BibleWorks has not yet entered into the mobile world. Apps for phones, and more importantly for tablets, are desperately needed in order for BibleWorks to remain competitive with other companies. Since BibleWorks is designed for Windows and since phones and tablets use other platforms, BibleWorks has chosen to wait for devices which use a Windows platform. Given BibleWorks’ resources, this is a risky but likely a necessary decision.
BibleWorks remains my first choice for those who want to dig into the original text, yet I am becoming increasingly convinced that for the serious student of God’s word, investing in multiple software programs is a wise investment indeed. Given that BibleWorks and Logos have different yet significant strengths, I find myself using both on a daily basis. While some may object that purchasing two programs is unrealistic, we live in a world where people regularly have two TV’s, two suits, and two cars. If the combination of the two programs makes a qualitative difference in ministry (and it does), then how could one justify not spending the money?
As a final note, the time has come for churches to invest in the ministry of the Word by equipping all of its ministers and Bible teachers with software programs such as BibleWorks. We recognize that chairs and projectors and air conditioning are part of our costs of doing business for Bible study, yet somehow we have neglected to provide the tools which can best increase the quality of this ministry. It’s time for our thinking to change. BibleWorks should be standard issue. The next time you are faced with the choice between new chairs or BibleWorks for your teachers, please choose BibleWorks.
David Hutchison, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Havard School for Theological Studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.