BibleWorks 6: A priceless tool for homily Preparation
Homiletic & Pastoral Review, October 2004, pp 75-77.
by R. Jeffrey Grace
Whether you want to do some serious exegetical work or simply get a good feel for what's happening in a particular passage of biblical text, BibleWorks is a software program that will soon have you wondering how you ever got along without it. The latest incarnation of the program, version 6, is packaged with an array of new features that makes this powerful program even more impressive. The program is well documented. It not only comes with a manual that is over 400 pages in length, it duplicates the manual in the online help system in the program itself.
There are a total of 92 bibles in 28 languages. In addition, there are 20 original language texts, and at least as many lexical-grammatical references. One of the new features for this version is the Qumran Sectarian manuscripts with morphological tags (this module requires an additional purchase). The modules that are sold as add-ins are seamlessly integrated with the program and function flawlessly. Just a few of the new features included in the base product at no extra cost are items like the Apostolic Fathers (Greek), the complete works of Flavius Josephus, Greek and Hebrew flash cards which can be printed, and the ability to clone the program. This is helpful if you want to follow a tangential idea without losing your work.
To configure the work environment the way I wanted it, I selected the bible versions to display then selected a version to perform searches in and now work with that configuration primarily. After configuring it in such a way the settings can be tweaked to search in different versions or to display different versions as needed.
I configured the program to display the text of the verses from the following versions: the Greek New Testament; the New American Bible, and Westcott-Hort Morphology. The text I perform searches in is the Greek Westcott- Hort Morphology so I can get a search result of multiple forms of a word. You can configure it to work on the Hebrew text as well, for the Old Testament. I think the best way to describe how the program works is to describe a search I did, so here goes . . .
Doing a search
I did this in the power user mode, since it's the most interesting of all the modes. I decided to see how the word for body and the word for flesh are used in the New Testament. The Greek for body is soma and the word for flesh is sarx. I typed the word as "swma" for "soma" into the command line (there's a button you click that opens a graphical keyboard that guides you on the keys to use in order to type in a word in Greek to search on) and the results were displayed in 0.11 seconds, which is a little over 1/10th of a second! If you don't know Greek, you can do a search on a word in your favorite translation and have the Greek New Testament verse displayed below the translated verse. In this way, you find out what the Greek word is that was translated into the word you searched on. You can use one or all of the Greek lexical-grammatical tools included in the program to find the fuller meaning of the word. Now that you know the Greek word, you can search on that word and can get a sense of how it's used in other contexts and this can really open up the text.
After the search on a word is done, you now have before you results that are displayed in 6 different windows. In one window you have a list of all the verses that a form of the word appears in and when you highlight one of them the full text, in every version you've pre-selected, is displayed in another window. You can toggle between viewing only the verse and viewing the verse along with the rest of the chapter. As you move the cursor over the text, two things happen: 1) a little box pops up over the word to give you the paradigmatic form as well as its meaning. If it's a noun, its declension is given, and if it's a verb, it's parsed; 2) more detailed lexical-grammatical information is displayed for each word in a window below.
In another window you see a list of all the forms of the word that were found and how many times each form appears. In yet another window you see the entire word list for the version you searched in and your search word is listed amongst the rest.
Another window (already mentioned above) displays lexical and grammatical information about the text as you move the cursor over the text. It will also display any notes about the text, such as the critical notes found in the NAB. Finally, the last window is the command line, where you type in your search terms.
The great thing about this program lies in the fact that what I have just described is only one way to get at the text. You could also start by poking around in the text of the Bible itself and work your way into the original language to get a deeper look. You could also look up words in the lexicon and work your way into the text by following the references given and discover where the word is used and how. I've barely scratched the surface of what you can do with the program. For instance, when creating a list of words from the advanced search engine you can actually set it up to search within a semantic domain, which essentially means you can perform searches on meanings rather than words. The semantic domains come from the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon. I did a search on the domain "supernatural beings" and generated a list of verses that contained words like "holy spirit" and "angel." You can also copy and paste from the program and into your word processor, which saves time by freeing you from the task of typing out verses, especially if you want to type them in the original language.
I'll have to say that this program is as impressive as it gets. The support is excellent as far as updates and patches go. I haven't had the need to call in for support. Under "Things I'd like to see," being a Catholic, I did notice that it does have some Catholic translations, notably the New American Bible and the Douay-Rheims. I'd like to see some specifically Catholic reference works and commentary, but for pure textual analysis and research I don't think you'll find anything better in its modest price range.
R. Jeffrey Grace is Managing Editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review