[Back to review index]

BibleWorks 8: What Do I Think?

Dr. Jim West

October 16, 2009

Dr. Jim West [website]

URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]
URL: [Retrieved on 2009-11-03]

Jim Barr (no relation to James Barr of Oxford, that I’ve been able to uncover anyway) has been very kind and sent along a copy of the new BibleWorks 8 for me to play around with (and of course review).

I’ve installed it and will review it, not in its entirety, but in segments. Each segment review will be posted independently. Rest assured, I’ll let you know what I honestly think of it.

And since I’ve gotten it installed let me start with that. The box arrived containing a quick install guide and 5 cd’s. On screen prompts are user friendly and what we used to call ‘idiot proof’ (which is good when the installer isn’t a computer geek). One disk follows another and the whole process took about 15 minutes on my not brand new Windows XP machine.

When everything is installed, the computer has to be restarted and then BibleWorks is ready to use. A double click on the icon and the opening screen offers a little video showing the main section of the program and how to use them in a most basic way. As is true of all such programs, one really has to dig around in them to familiarize oneself with all they can do.

The interface is, in contrast to some bible software programs, quite simple to use. A sampling of the available resources reveals simply loads of biblical editions not limited to one or two Hebrew, Greek, or English versions. The maps are fantastic (I had to play around with them a bit in the initial go as well).

I’ll have to spend a bit more time of course going through it (and can’t just now because SJOT editorial tasks are calling), but my initial reaction has been quite positive. More anon…

Here I think I’d like to focus on the resources -besides the biblical versions- that come with BW8 (that’s BibleWorks 8, not Ben Witherington VIII).  Here’s a screenshot you can enlarge-


Note that the resources are categorized and that each category, when expanded, contains further listings (though some only contain one).  For instance, under Text Criticism, you have Tischendorf’s apparatus.  This is a fantastic tool.  And it is Tischendorf, German, Latin and all.

Under the miscellaneous category there are a few things one might expect, such as the devotional materials.  But it seemed a bit odd to me that the Swedish Bible is also included in this subcategory.


I appreciate the fact that anything one wants, one can easily find either in the Resources list or on one of the buttons on the bar below.  Frankly, for my own work, I prefer lists to buttons.  Others may prefer the button approach.  Which is why, I think, BW8 does a kindness to all by offering more than one option.

Working with the biblical text is a pleasure with BW8 because it allows the user to mouse over any word in the original text and immediately be taken to a dictionary entry.  See, for example, Hebrews 1:1


The same is of course true of the Hebrew Bible


Next, the various search functions.  More anon…

Searching words or passages in BW 8 is a bit different than other software programs I have used.


The search pane is on the left and the green box towards the top is the version selection button.  Easy enough indeed.  Choose your version, type in your passage, and there it will be in the middle pane.  Searching words is a bit different though.


Unlike other programs, to get BW to look for words, you have to type a ‘period’ ‘.’ before the first letter of the word you’re looking for- whether that word be in English or any other.  Once you do, though, a passage list pops up and you can easily scan for the passage you need.

To do the same in Greek or Hebrew (or other languages) you have to select the Version of that language as your search version.


If you forget to put the period in front of your search word, don’t worry.  A box will pop up suggesting you do so.

I played around with various versions- here’s an example from Targum Neofiti, with a search for the word ‘ra’h’.


You’ll note that various lexical entries also pop up in the right pane.

All in all, aside from the somewhat odd need to place a period in front of search words, the program is quite intuitive and very, very fast.  Indeed, it’s worth pointing out in a review of this sort that the information in BW 8 loads much, much faster than in Logos, which loads line by line and sometimes word by word.

Here are a few more random screen shots of search functions.



Next, and finally, I’ll take a look at the third pane- the lexical and analytical portion of the program.  More anon.

I’ve used a number of Bible software programs and I think the best way to view BibleWorks 8 is in comparison to the others.   After all, if it is essentially like them, and they like it, there’s little point in suggesting one over the other.

The first, and the one I’ve used the longest, is Logos.  Here’s what it looks like when it opens:


It’s aesthetically pleasing, to be sure, and crisp to read.  Unfortunately, however, one is bedeviled by what are essentially pop up ads making mention of the latest offerings.  That’s fine, of course, but I’m the sort of person who, if looking for something, looks for it.  I don’t appreciate pop up ads any more than I appreciate telemarketers.  Both are intrusions.

And, Logos loads quite slowly.  Searching a particular text in Greek or Hebrew can be quite time consuming, especially if the passage is half a chapter or more.  One could frequently easily walk to one’s shelf and open a lexicon in the time it takes the lexical data to show up on screen.

Logos is, though, a fine product with loads and loads of secondary source materials.  If only the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible module were available…  But I digress.

Next, I’ve also used E-Sword.


It’s easy to use, user friendly, and has plenty of downloadable resources.  Aesthetically, it’s not on par with Logos, however.  And unfortunately, since it is free, all of the materials it makes available are in the public domain- which means that they are out of date.  Using ESword as a biblical scholar is like a surgeon using 19th century medical equipment in a modern operating room.  It may do in a pinch, but only in a pinch- when superior materials are unavailable.  Scholars, however, owe it to their students to make use of the best materials and resources.  Even if they cost something.

Finally, BibleWorks 8.


I’ve previously described the resources and search functions of the program, which are quite excellent.  Aesthetically, BW8 isn’t as pleasing to the eye as Logos.  But one hardly ever buys a program simply because of that.  Though, as an aside, I did once know a man who bought books only because they fit the color scheme of his shelving.  He, though, was a weirdo.

When it comes to functionality and ease of use and speed, BibleWorks 8 surpasses its competitors.  There are more than enough resources for the skilled exegete and there are more than enough helps for the beginning student.

BibleWorks seems, in my opinion, a blending of Logos and ESword.  Which is to say, like Logos, it contains some of the very best biblical studies tools presently available in print.  And like ESword, it also contains a number of resources that are available in the public domain.  It, then, blends what appear to be the approach of Logos (make current research available in electronic format) with ESword (make older research available in electronic format).  The old and the new are here.

If I were in the market for bible study software; or if someone were to ask me which software package I would recommend, I would ask them what their goal was in terms of using said software.

If they simply wanted to check a word or look up a passage or see what some older resources had to say, my answer would be – then get Esword.

If they wanted a swell looking, functional, and secondary source rich but not very fast and weren’t bothered by sometime pop ups program, I’d recommend Logos.

If they wanted to do serious work on the Biblical text.  And if they wanted a program that focused more on the Bible than on ancillary materials and secondary sources and that ran at a nice speed with an easy to use interface uncluttered by non-essentials, then I would have to recommend BibleWorks 8.

In sum – here’s how I see it:

If the main issue is Cost-  Esword
If the main issue is secondary source materials- Logos
If the main issue is exegesis of the Biblical text- BibleWorks 8

Others will certainly see things as they see them. This is simply the way things are, to me.

Dr. Jim West is a pastor and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies.


[Back to review index]