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BibleWorks 9

"...this software has so much and lacks so little that I cannot conceive of any person doing serious work in biblical exegesis not benefiting from it immensely."

Dr. Jim West

March 8 through May 8, 2011

Zwinglius Redivivus [website]

URL: [Retrieved on 2011-08-09]


BW 9 arrived as promised today and before it did an email with unlocking codes also arrived.   Along with the materials unlocked with the installation of the program the additional codes allow me to access a number of recent English translations of the Bible along with the numerous included in the base installation.

Installation was itself quite an easy process.  First, however, users are advised to uninstall any previous version of BibleWorks which may be on their machine.

Once the installation starts running, unlocking codes are required.  At this point it seems prudent to unlock all of the materials for which you have codes so that the process of unlocking doesn’t have to be repeated.  I entered the main code and the biblical versions codes and the 3 disks all loaded in about 15 minutes.

Once setup is accomplished a restart is necessary and the user’s guide also advises a check for any updates to the software online.

All in all, the process is simple and even the least experienced computer user can manage it without any issues arising (and if they do, the user’s guide is a great help).

I’ll play around inside the program and offer a review in numerous parts in due course.  Stay tuned.

Greek Manuscripts

The most exciting aspect of the new BibleWorks 9 program is the inclusion of Greek manuscripts including Vaticanus and Sinaiticus and Bezae and a number of others (as you’ll see below)(click to enlarge).

Users can easily choose whichever manuscript they want to view, and with right click choose the level of zoom for viewing the manuscript:

It’s just simply fantastic.  One needn’t travel the world to lay hands on the most important Uncials, they’re here!  And one needn’t any longer take the word of someone else on the reading of a particular text, it’s available at one’s fingertips both in transcription (in the middle column of the program) and visually (on the right).  Further, verses and chapters are handily tagged so that they’re more than easy to find.

Furthermore, if you look at the top right corner you’ll see the currently selected verse in the major editions and the textual variants are easily discerned.  This is so useful for textual criticism.  So useful.

Finally, the layout of the page is very compatible for research.  Useless materials aren’t included, there is no clutter on the screen, and users can simply hover their mouse over any item and find an explanation.

Biblical scholars and researchers, students, and text critics will most definitely want to take a look at this material.  It’s outstanding.  And that’s after my just having utilized it for about an hour.  What other treasures I’ll discover remain to be seen.  When I do, I’ll pass them along next time, when I examine the program’s other aspects.

And Yet, Something's Missing

In BibleWorks 8 users could download and install a copy of the SBL Greek New Testament.  That edition isn’t however, available in the new BibleWorks 9 software.

I don’t know if it will be made available for download for BW9, and I also don’t know if the BW8 version would work if I downloaded it.  I may well give it a try (and hope that it doesn’t muck anything up).


I mentioned earlier that the one thing that BW8 had which wasn’t included in BW9 was the SBL GNT.  Thanks to a commentator I’ve since downloaded and installed it with no difficulty at all.


The brilliance of the program is most plainly evidenced, I think, in its search capacity.

Simply highlight a phrase (in any language- it works for all the installed bible editions) and on the left panel a listing of every occurrence of that phrase in the opened text.  This is particularly useful if you’re curious about the use of a certain phrase or word in a particular author.  How does Paul use μη γενοιτο?  That’s easily discovered and the search takes a mere fraction of a second to complete.

Further, if your work takes you to the Aramaic version of the Old Testament, you can discover the frequency and form of the Divine Name (and anything else that you may wonder about).

Hover your mouse over the word you want to learn and the definition pops up, along with important information concerning its forms and functions.  This allows readers to learn a lot of vocabulary and a lot of forms and to either acquire great competence in the languages or sharpen their skills in them.

Finally, when you’re reading along in poetic texts like Job where lots of words are unfamiliar (because seldom used in the entire Bible) a simple hover will divulge lexical information for those unusual words.  You can, again, search phrases simply by highlighting and right clicking.

BW 9 is a remarkable, powerful, useful, and simple program for searching words, phrases, meanings, and all those things which make exegesis possible.  Switching between versions is similarly simple and there are a LOT of versions (both ancient and modern).

Searching texts for a whole range of purposes has never been simpler.


Another very, very useful piece of the program is the huge selection of versions.  A whole range of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Latin texts are available but there are even more of many other major and minor languages.

Given my own preferences, I’m going to highlight the German versions:

You counted them right, there are 12 different German editions.  Including the best of the lot, the Zurich Bible!

These versions are accompanied by notes as well so that users aren’t simply given the bare text.  This is fantastically useful.

The program is a veritable wonderland of exegetical treasures.  To be sure, many of these materials are also found in BW8.  But the additional materials (and especially the text critical tools) make upgrading (or purchasing outright) more than sensible.

This is the ‘pearl of great price’ which, a man finding, goes and sells everything in his house so he can acquire it.

Lexicons and Grammars

Another very useful aspect of the program is its inclusion of major lexica and grammars for both Hebrew and Greek (and Aramaic of course).  Enlarge the image below to see a list of the Hebrew Grammars-

When you go to any particular text in the Old Testament and click on it, the resources panel on the right fills up with lexical and grammatical (as well as exegetical) materials.

However at this point a difficulty arises.  If users click on Genesis 1:1, for example, the materials appear as indicated.  Clicking on v2, though, results in no change in the panel on the right.  In order to effect change, so that the resources available for the new verse appear, one has to click on any tab in the panel and then go back to the first tab titled ‘summary’.  Then the new verses’ resources engage.

There may be another way to get the resources for the new verse one’s working to show up in the right panel, but I don’t know what it might be.

Clicking on any item in the right panel opens up that resource. So here, for instance, is the entry on ‘earth’ in Brown-Driver-Briggs:

And here’s Holladay’s entry on ‘Elohim’:

J-M’s grammar – when selected- takes users directly to the relevant page discussing the verse at hand:

Users can, as well, access these lexica and grammars apart from their connection to specific passages making it possible to read through them or utilize them for wider research purposes.

Though I’ve focused on the Hebrew grammars and lexica, there are Greek as well:

All quite useful.  BW9 includes so many useful tools.

There are weaknesses, though, as I’ve indicated above.  And doubtless there are resources which some will want included and there are resources which others would like left out.  But on the whole, the ‘editors’ (or compilers or programmers or whatever they’re called) have done a really brilliant job of selecting many of the top notch resources which, ‘sold separately’, would be very expensive indeed (if even available at all).

Getting Help

First I don’t think it’s necessary to point out that I’m a computer user, not a computer whiz nor a programmer.  So I know basic things like how to turn it off and on and how to get to programs and use them (sometimes) and how to do a little html.

Naturally, then, I need help from time to time.  BW 9 has a number of useful help tools.  First and foremost, the ‘help videos’ which come along with the program:

I wish there were some way that I could, here, demonstrate these helpful and brief little videos.  They’re clear and simple.  So, for instance, if you want further instructions on how to use the CNTTS apparatus there’s a step by step video detailing the entire process.  And that video is 11 minutes long!

But these very useful videos aren’t the ‘end of the matter’.  Within the program itself are other help tools:

The ‘BibleWorks Help Contents’ is thorough and extensive.  And if all that fails to answer your questions, you can always contact them.  They are extremely helpful and very quick to get back to you.


Too much cannot be said of the map modules BW9 contains.  First, there are a number that users can choose from:

The images and remarks below are all based on the BibleWorks map module.  First, then, this powerful map-set contains tons of information.  Images can be selected from a wide variety of perspectives (note the box in the upper right) :

Scrolling down the list of choices, users can select locations mentioned in all of the biblical books.  I selected for this example the places mentioned in Matthew:

If you enlarge the image you can see the sites at a distance.  Zooming in (note the top bar towards the left) the sites become even more visible:

Adding John in to the mix along with Mark and Luke, it becomes quite evident that John is far more ‘geographically concerned’ than the Synoptics, referencing numerous places which the Synoptics do not.

Another brilliant aspect of the utility is the ability to identify sites by archaeological era.  Note the selection box again on the right and the sites selected from that period.

One can also zoom in to any site one wishes and a pop up box indicates latitude, longitude, variant spellings for the site name, and Hebrew and Arabic names.  So I chose to zoom in on Gath (in honor of Aren) :

And all that merely from the BibleWorks map module.  The others are also loaded with data.  The person researching the Bible needs such tools.  That they are conveniently located in this package makes it even more useful and valuable.

Are the maps perfect?  No.  The resolution deteriorates the further one zooms in.  But that’s to be expected.  This isn’t Google Earth and it doesn’t have street view.  Perhaps in the future it will, when PC’s have millions of gigabytes of storage space.

Hebrew and the LXX, and Final Observations

Frequently it’s necessary to examine the Hebrew text of the Old Testament side by side with the LXX.  BibleWorks 9 makes it simple as pie.  One need simply open up the program, go to the OT text one is exegeting, and select ‘Parallel Hebrew -LXX’ from the list of resources:

Then one has handily displayed the Hebrew and Greek side by side along with their respective analyses and lexica.

Want another verse, just go to it in the main window and there it is:

Once you’ve decided where you want to be, you can enlarge the window and everything is considerably easier to see.

I’ve examined the program quite a bit but there is still a lot more to explore.  But I won’t drag these review-lets out interminably.  Hence, a few closing observations.

First- BibleWorks 9 is the ideal tool for biblical exegesis.  It contains everything one needs in terms of primary materials.  Biblical texts in the original languages, numerous versions, lexica, dictionaries, maps, grammars, and all the rest are at the fingertip.  Even more, though, now several very ancient manuscripts along with transcriptions of those are also included.

Second- given all that it contains, I’ll call it ‘the scholar’s go to tool’ for exegesis.  It has everything many of us have had on our shelves in hardback book format for a while and is much easier to access.

Third- if asked which biblical studies software I would recommend, I would, and will, say BW9.

Fourth- that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect.  I wish it contained other editions of the Bible (like the Revised English Bible) and I wish that it had the Dead Sea Scrolls biblical texts (along with photos of those texts as it has for key NT manuscripts) and Clines’ Dictionary of Classical Hebrew.

Fifth- In conclusion, this software has so much and lacks so little that I cannot conceive of any person doing serious work in biblical exegesis not benefiting from it immensely.

Dr. Jim West is a pastor and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies at Quartz Hill School of Theology.


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