BibleWorks 9: Software for Biblical Exegesis & Research
Joseph D. Fantin
Journal of the Evangelical Homeletics Society, March 2012, pp. 77-78.
Since 1992 BibleWorks has been a significant tool for Bible study. Version 9 continues this tradition providing PC users with a cutting edge exegetical tool. BibleWorks 9 contains the essential Greek and Hebrew Bible texts, over 30 English Bibles, numerous other Bible translations, lexical and grammatical tools, and many other references including scans of some important manuscripts, maps, grammars (including Joüon-Muraoka’s and Waltke & O’Connor’s Hebrew grammars and Robertson’s and Wallace’s, Greek grammars) and Josephus and Philo in Greek and English. Much of the original language material includes easily accessible parsing information. Many of these resources can be linked in order for the user to use multiple tools together in unison. The program itself, among other features, includes the ability to do word searches, run complex grammatical searches, construct diagrams, and produce various graphs and charts based on one’s searches. A full list of contents and a description of all the features can be accessed from the BibleWorks web site (www.bibleworks.com). Also, the program includes a number of introductory videos that will have even a novice using this software effectively within an hour of installation.
The basic desktop includes three windows. The center window is the “browse” window. Here one can display a passage in one or more verses. The left window is the “search” window in which results of searches are displayed. The right window (which can be divided into two) is the “analysis” window and includes multiple tabs that among other things allow the user to see information from lexicons and grammars, view other search results options, and write one’s own notes about a passage. Other specific windows can pop up as necessary from within the program. One very helpful feature of this program is the ability to place the cursor over a Greek or Hebrew word and have immediate access to parsing and lexicon information in the analysis window. The pastor who has learned or is learning the biblical languages should not feel like this is a crutch. Parsing information does not change nor need any special skills beyond memorization to recognize. The software can help one accurately recognize this information. The skilled exegete uses this information effectively.
There are many components to the exegetical process including textual criticism, word studies, grammatical analysis, background studies, etc. BibleWorks provides an excellent means for doing some of the more difficult and time-consuming aspects of this process in a much faster manner than one could do without such a tool. Most importantly, BibleWorks provides the user with a very quick means of doing word studies and grammatical (as well as various types of structural) analysis. First, for word studies, within minutes of loading the program I was able to do full word searches in both the original languages and English with a simple double click on the text in the center window. Immediately, I had access to all the occurrences of these words and had the data necessary to complete word studies. This process was form specific. The search window is necessary for searches of all forms of a word. Second, with a bit more work (and the tutorial video and help feature) I was able to do grammatical searches (e.g., looking for a verb followed by a noun in a certain case, etc.) providing data necessary to help determine the possible meaning(s) of grammatical structures. In fact, of all the excellent exegetical uses for Bible software, this function utilizes the benefits of the software and computer abilities most productively. Interestingly however, the BibleWorks’ feature is more difficult to use than the older Gramcord for Windows grammatical search engine.
BibleWorks does not do exegesis. It gives one access to vital data very quickly. The exegete must then apply his or her skills and utilize this information to come to a conclusion about the meaning of the text.
BibleWorks does not include any significant commentaries and only a few general books that would be of interest to many (e.g., Early Church Fathers). Additionally, few add-ons can be purchased. However, for exegesis, it may be the most focused exegetical tool available for the PC. With the additional purchase of BDAG and HALOT (together for $212), BibleWorks will provide all the basic exegetical tools for lexical and grammatical analysis. Unfortunately, the textual apparatuses for the BHS, UBS4, and NA27 are lacking. Those who desire to do serious textual criticism will need to look elsewhere. As noted, this is not a digital library (like Logos), one can still purchase books in Logos format. They cannot be incorporated into BibleWorks but for such work (reading commentaries, other books, etc.), it is not unreasonable to have more than one program opened at a time.
BibleWorks’ focus is narrow. It is primarily for original language exegesis (although the many included modern language translations allow it to be used effectively for Bible study in English). Within minutes of installation one can be using this software for important tasks. However, it will take time to master many of its more advanced features.
Joseph D. Fantin is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.