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BibleWorks 5.0

Dr. Shawn Madden

Reviewed in FAITH & MISSION, 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Missionary Journal.
Vol. 19, no. 2, Spring 2002, pgs. 81-83.

For a pastor, a student, or a professor to do Biblical research right and well access to original language tools is necessary. The essential tools for this task include the texts in the original languages, lexicons, and concordances. These tools have been available in print for years (centuries, millennia) and their value in the hands of a dedicated student of the Bible is difficult to measure. The works that are presently available in print to researchers today include items that date to the 19th century -- Gesenius's Thesaurus and its offshoots, and works more recently produced, such as E. J. Brills update and expansion of Koehler/Baumgartner. Though valuable, the use of these resources is tedious. That is especially true for anyone trying to do concordance research, trying to run down the particular use of a particular word in a particular relationship with other particular words and forms within a particular corpus.

Enter the computer. These wonderful machines have done much to enhance a Bible student's ability to squeeze as much information as possible from the various tools that have come to be available to him (or her) in the form of software. This enhancement comes primarily by drastically reducing the tedium associated with accessing and using all of the books useful and necessary to "doing it right and well." Many software products have been available as aids to Bible research for several years now. Among these there are several standouts-Logos, Gramcord, and BibleWorks. This review will focus on BibleWorks.

Included in the software package is the text-only and grammatically tagged versions of the Hebrew Bible (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th corrected ed. with pointing and accenting), Septuagint (Rahlfs, 1935 ed. with Apocrypha and variants), and Greek New Testament (Nestle-Aland, 27th ed./UBS 4th ed.). A combined morphological database refines the analysis and facilitates comparative study of the Septuagint and Greek New Testament. One also finds editions of the Greek New Testament by Stephanus, Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, Scrivener, and Robinson and Pierpont (this last item is particularly important to we at Southeastern as Maurice Robinson is one of our own). Additionally there is the Vulgate, the source of much theology and debate (which, however, is not tagged). The program also includes translations of the Bible in 24 modern languages, with English, French, German, and Spanish well represented. Among the many English translations in the program are the KJV (1611/1769), NRSV, NIV, NASB (1977/1995), NKJV, NAB, NJB, JPSV (1917/1985) and the Douay-Rheims. The only major languages I did not find were Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Yiddish! Perhaps with Unicode these will follow soon. The program does include the Salkinson-Ginsburg Hebrew New Testament, an interesting and useful item indeed. A quick note, if I may, on the inclusion of the accenting of the BHS text. C. L. Seow, in his A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (rev. ed., p. 64) rightly notes that "These [accent] markers . . . are helpful in the task of translation, inasmuch as they provide a traditional understanding of the meaningful units in the text." For the later part of my Hebrew class my students begin dividing the text into its clauses and one of the most helpful tools for this essential task of understanding the Biblical texts has been the accents. I provide examples for my students from cut and pasted texts from BibleWorks and not having to go back and add in the accents has been a major time saver.

Valuable as the original texts are, especially for cutting, pasting, and comparing, access to them is best made through lexicons and concordances. It is difficult for computers to improve on the work done by serious scholars over the millennia and most software developers recognize this by making available the lexicons that have already been produced. For most programs the lexicons that appear on the screen are those that have been dropped out of copyright to the public domain. Developers may also make licensing arrangements with publishers to provide copyrighted materials in their offerings. BibleWorks includes as part of their base package the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Harris, Archer, Waltke), the unabridged Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon (1905), Hebrew-French, & Hebrew-Russian Lexicons, Whitaker's abridged BDB-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon. Available soon as part of the base package will be the complete unabridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon. On the Greek side they provide Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon, abridged, Friberg's Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Complete 2000 edition), Louw-Nida Greek NT Lexicon based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Ed., 1988, UBS Greek-English Concise Dictionary of the New Testament (Barclay Newman), unabridged Thayer Greek Lexicon, many English/German/Dutch/French/Russian Bibles tagged with Corrected Strong's Codes and definitions, and Wigram's TVM (Tense, Voice, Mood) codes and grammar explanations for tagged English/German/Dutch/French/Russian Bibles. New additions (for an unlock price) are the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 4th Edition (Koehler-Baumgartner-Stamm) and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition (Bauer, Walter. Edited and revised by Frederick William Danker).

Word meaning is often bound by geography, chronology, and author and the tool necessary to this task is a concordance. It is in this function that computers come into their own. For Hebrew concordance searches in print nothing matches the thoroughness of Even-Shoshan but few possess the skill to scratch its surface much less plumb its depths. In the Greek world the concordance tools are Moulton, Geden, and Moulton for the Greek New Testament and Hatch and Redpath for the Septuagint. These too are difficult, save for the most skilled and dedicated. BibleWorks brings the power of these works to most Bible students, however humble their abilities and provides some very important enhancements. The print version concordances provide their information by Bible book and for the student who needs to do a corpus search of words, this has to be compiled by hand. With BibleWorks word searches can come from books specified by the researcher and copied and compiled in the program itself or sent to a favorite word processor. Additionally, the program can be set up to transfer, not only the original language verses but also the same verses from versions and translations. That last feature is a big plus when doing comparisons. Even when not utilizing the original language power of the program comparing English language versions can be very productive. In a recent Sunday school class we were taking a look at the NIV and dynamic equivalency and comparing it to other translations to see the difference. That was a very enlightening exercise and one that would be particularly valuable to a pastor whose congregation enjoys a great variety of versions.

For those of us who have gotten ourselves hooked on computers as a necessary tool for doing research and writing, the Copy Center function is superb. Verses are easily copied to the onboard editor of BibleWorks (which allows Right-to-Left Hebrew/Aramaic typing!!), to the windows clipboard or directly to your favorite word processor. The Copy Center provides the option as to what versions will be copied and in what order they will be copied. For comparisons (BHS to LXX; NIV to KJV, etc.) this function is invaluable.

Space does not permit the full explanation of what BibleWorks provides to we who would plumb the depths of Scripture more fully. Suffice it to say that I have used computers for many years to do research and to prepare my classes and I have found nothing of the depth and speed of BibleWorks, so much so that it is an invaluable and indispensable tool.

Shawn Madden, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina.


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