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Rev. Dr. Ian Ritchie

Website: Downloaded 2011-10-24.

There are many powerful programmes for Bible research on the market today, ranging from free Bible verse search programmes to programmes costing thousands of dollars. This review looks at three I have used extensively over the past ten months, and recommends what is, for my purposes, the best value for money.

I begin by recommending BibleWorks 8. It has far more useful features than programmes costing twice as much money, or more, yet runs on existing hardware platforms with ease. What attracted me to it was its ability to open windows with parallel Bible versions in as many vertical columns as you want. Add to this the fact that BibleWorks 8 has more foreign language Bible translations (38 to be precise) available to use as part of its basic package  than any software I have seen, and it becomes a very powerful tool. This is what sold me on it. Other programmes do some of the things Bible Works does, and a more costly package may give access to more resources, but none do so much so efficiently at such a good price.

            Several freeware Bible search softwares in the past few years have advanced to give a dazzling number of features you would have paid three hundred dollars for just three years ago.  I have tried ESword and The Sword Project, and found both to be valuable tools. They, and other free search packages, include many commentaries and some ancient texts as part of their free package, and this, along with the advanced searching options now possible are impressive.  I particularly liked ESword’s ability to line up four Bible versions in parallel vertical columns, useful for Bible studies with our international students. 

The Sword Project  free software offers even more free Bibles in foreign languages than ESword, and it may still offer the most foreign languages of any software available at any price - all the more remarkable that they can put all this out for free. Its support for the ancient languages, particularly Hebrew, is far superior to ESword’s, and for this reason alone may be useful to the Bible student on a tight budget.  A major drawback from my perspective is that its facility for viewing several translations in parallel is currently limited to only three, and it arranges them horizontally on top of each other, one verse at a time. This might be useful in private study of single verses, but its usefulness for any other purpose would be very limited. Passages cannot be read as a narrative this way, and this makes it awkward for groups to use.

One nice feature this programme has, which I haven’t yet found in any other Bible study software, no matter how expensive, is the free glossarys for most of the languages for which it supplies Bibles.  If you are doing research on how different languages chose to translate a phrase you can just highlite a word and click on its glossary, getting an instant pop-up translation. This speeds up cross language translation research immensely, making one wonder why more programmes don’t offer this feature. 

            After two months of use, I found the lack of technical support for the freeware programmes to be a frustrating and serious drawback. Questions and problems would go unanswered. Further, both ESWord and The Sword Project had shortcomings with no fixes in sight. My research was leading me to the professional level programmes. After investigating the foreign language support offered by the three leading contenders; Accordance for the Mac, Bibleworks 8, and Logos 4, it appeared that BibleWorks 8 had the best support for foreign languages (38 distinct foreign languages supplied, many with several versions in that language) as well as the best support for English language Bible translations (55) included as part of the basic package available at $350.  Although there are a few stripped down versions of Logos and Accordance you can get cheaper than that, they do not include the current best English Bibles (NRSV, NIV, NLT) as part of the basic package, let alone any of the foreign language Bibles. In fact, Logos doesn’t include more than about six foreign languages at any price, an oddity when you consider how many books it can integrate.

            BibleWorks support for the original Biblical languages is not only professional, its convenient and fast compared to other programmes. Hebrew includes cantillation marks, all the ancient Aramaic/Syriac texts are supplied, along with a good stock of Lexicons, grammars and reference tools. Most scholars would be happy with what BibleWorks 8 contains, though some specialists might want some additional tools. Some, (such as BDAG and HALOT) are available at extra cost, which is also true for any other  programme. But the cost of BibleWorks together with BDAG and HALOT is lower than any other programme with those tools bundled in. The same is true of the other tools needed by scholars. (Note that the Dead Sea Scrolls are to be released online, to become freely available, soon!)

            I especially like the way BibleWorks can quickly present the definitions from six different lexicons beside each other, so one may compare.  For example, I looked up the Greek term monogeneis to see what the Greek lexicons say. Instantly I had a read out on the left column of all scripture passages where the term is found, and on the right the articles on it in all the greek lexicons.  I shall insert just a short summary below:

Of the six prominent Greek – English Lexicons supplied by BibleWorks 8, five give the meaning of μονογενής as “unique” or “one of a kind.”; they are the lexicons by: Friberg, Thayer, Moulton-Milligan, Louw and Nida, and Gingrich.  Lidell and Scott’s Abridged Lexicon is the only one that gives “only-begotten” as the meaning for μονογενής and we should note that theirs is a lexicon of Classical Greek literature, not New Testament or Septuagint Greek.


Moulton and Milligan, in Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament says this about monogeneis:


2771  μονογενής [pg 416]


     is literally “one of a kind,” “only,” “unique” (unicus), not “only-begotten,” which would be μονογέννητος (unigenitus), and is common in the LXX in this sense (e.g. Judg 1134, Ps 21(22)21, 24(25)16, Tob 315). It is similarly used in the NT of “only” sons and daughters (Lk 712, 842, 938), and is so applied in a special sense to Christ in Jn 114, 18, 316, 18, 1 Jn 49, where the emphasis is on the thought that, as the “only”Son of God, He has no equal and is able fully to reveal the Father. We cannot enter here into the doctrinal aspects of the word, or into a discussion on the sources, Orphic or Gnostic, from which John is sometimes supposed to have drawn his use of it, but reference may be made to the art. by Kattenbusch “Only Begotten”in Hastings’ DCG ii. p. 281 f. where the relative literature is given. A few exx. of the title from non-Biblical sources will, however, be of interest. In an imprecatory tablet from Carthage of iii/A.D., Wünsch AF p. 1837, we find—ὁρκίζω σε τὸν θεὸν . . . τὸν μονογενῆ τὸν ἐξ αὑτοῦ ἀναφανέντα, where the editor cites the great magical Paris papyrus, 1585 εἰσάκουσόν μου ὁ εἷς μονογενής. With this may be compared P Leid Vv. 34 (iii/iv A.D.) (= II. p. 21) εὐχαριστῶ σοι κύριε ὅ@τι] μοι @ἔλυσεν] τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, τὸ μονογενές, τὸ ζωόν. See also Vett. Val. p. 1132. An inscr. in memory of a certain Plutarchus, Kaibel1464 (iii/iv A.D.) describes him as μουνογενής περ ἐὼν καὶ πατέρεσσι φίλος. And the word is apparently used as a proper name in C. and B. i. p. 115, No. 17 (Hierapolis) Φλαβιανὸς ὁ καὶ Μονογονις εὐχαριστῶ τῇ θεῷ, where Ramsay thinks that we should probably read Μονογένης or Μηνογένης. For the true reading in Jn 118 it is hardly necessary to refer to Hort’s classical discussion in Two Dissertations, p. I ff. 

(Joh 3:16 BNT) μονογενῆ

Bauer Arndt and Gingrich’s Lexicon gives a more expanded range of meanings but it ends up favouring the majority on this topic.

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            While having a huge library of books available in digital format can seem like a good idea initially, no one can guarantee that any of today’s hardware formats will still be usable ten years from now. That means your purchase lasts only as long as the hardware it plays on: a sobering thought.  That being the case, the life span of a printed book media is much longer and can still be a better option in many cases. For this reason, BibleWorks has intentionally avoided trying to integrate a huge library of books into its system, something to consider well if one is thinking about the Logos Libronix system. 

            The people who designed BibleWorks must have asked Bible translators what they would like to see in a programme, and they must have listened to the answers: Bible Works 8 has the complete set of extended IPA character sets, unlike many other programmes that only claim to have it. This will be of interest to Bible translators and all others who work with various foreign languages written in scripts modified to accommodate sounds not used in English. For example, the Hausa words:  “zan ɓuɗe litaffi, kan ƙafaratun” have letters called the “hooked b, hooked d, and hooked k”. I have not found programmes that have these until I saw Bibleworks 8.

I also noted that these characters, along with all other functions in Bible Works 8 can be entered in to the Editor window, and then copied into Word. Word could display these special characters once entered, even though Word could not generate them on its own. However, transferring the new document onto another computer without the necessary add-ons for Word, may result in the special characters coming out as boxes rather than letters. This suggests that additional fonts installed by Bible Works 8 will benefit every computer you install it on, and is not limited to work within BibleWorks 8.

            The integrated nature of BibleWorks 8 makes it a joy to use. I find in the months since I have been using it, that it has revolutionized my personal Bible study, making it a joy to get into the text again.  I could not say that about any other programme I have bought since I started using computers 24 years ago.  That is quite a recommendation. Some programmes I have enjoyed for a while, but soon became humdrum. Others were irritating right from the start. But I have not found any except this one that revolutionized my research and study in such a profound way.  Get Bibleworks 8 and you won’t be disappointed. 

Rev. Dr. Ian Ritchie is the Inter Faith Officer at the Anglican Diocese of Ontario.


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