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BibleWorks 5: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research

Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 65 no 1, January 2003

by Rev. James P. McIlhone

Among the programs for biblical research, BibleWorks has to rank as one of the finest. The latest revision has brought it to the top of the line. All databases are unlocked, including Bibles in over twenty modern languages, plus several Hebrew and Greek texts, dictionaries, and lexica. Among the English-language Bibles are the New American, the Douay Rheims, and the New Jerusalem Bible.

Installation is simple. The user answers a few questions and installation continues flawlessly. The manual is thorough, giving the user an overview of the program with several detailed examples. The print version of the manual is replicated electronically in the help screens, and there are a number of video clips illustrating the features of the program.

This version offers three interfaces: beginner, standard, and power user. The beginner interface provides simple searching capabilities and the ability to copy text into word processor files. Enter a word or verse reference and click the "Search," "Lookup," or "Copy" button. The standard interface introduces the "command line" which is the heart of the program. The "command line" gives more flexibility. Enter search criteria and choose from four actions in a drop down menu: find verses containing a search string, containing any of its words, or all of its words, or simply display the verse.

The Power User mode will be used most frequently. Based on the "command line," it permits more complex searches. Its search engine is the greatest strength of the program. It performs searches faster and with greater accuracy than any program on the market. One drawback is the codes the user must learn to enter searches. These codes are explained thoroughly in the documentation; yet still it takes a little time to get used to them.

A search of the Morphological Greek NT for basileia tou theou or basileia tou ouranou resulted in 237 hits in 111 verses in 0.57 seconds. A search of the same text for all forms of a noun with no article preceding, followed by a form of the verb eimi, resulted in 607 hits in 569 verses in 3.37 seconds.

A new feature in this version of BibleWorks is an advanced search engine which allows the user to set up searches by dragging and dropping elements graphically. Through the use of intuitive boxes you can do Boolean searches, define agreement between elements of the search, or define the distance between words in a search. Search parameters are sent to the search engine and the results displayed.

Results of searches can be saved in word lists or verse lists for later research using the Word List or Verse List Manager. These features generate concordances of all words or verses in a Bible, book of the Bible, chapter, or specified range of verses.

Greek and Hebrew searches are entered without accents or vowel points, yet the search engine can be configured to search on accented or pointed forms. The search engine of BibleWorks 5 is one of the best in computer Bible programs. It is by far the program's greatest strength.

Another feature of BibleWorks is its ability to develop statistical lists of word usage. These lists can be raw statistical data, or graphs by biblical book, or chapters in a book. These can be exported to a word processor.

The BibleWorks Editor collects results of searches, statistical studies, notes on verses or chapters of a biblical book. The Copy Center exports material generated by the program to several word processors. This feature worked best with Microsoft Word, both exporting text and inserting text within Word using a pop up. Fonts exported with no problem. WordPerfect, exported well, but the pop up generated errors. Nota Bene for Windows did not accept either the export or the pop up. However, it was possible to copy material to the windows clipboard, and paste into Nota Bene; however, the fonts did not transfer.

There are other features of the program which assist scholars and teachers. BibleWorks displays multiple versions in parallel columns. It has a synopsis feature that displays the Synoptic Gospels in parallel columns. It is not aligned like the Aland Synopsis, but it does allow relationships to be viewed. It has a timeline of biblical events which the user can customize to insert events. BibleWorks has several reference works e.g., Bible dictionaries (Easton's and Fausset's), cross references (Treasury of Scripture Knowledge), and Naves Topical Bible. As many of the computer bible programs, it lacks specifically Catholic references.

BibleWorks 5 is a good resource for searching text and working with word and verse lists; however, it lacks the breadth of resource material found in Logos' Libronix system. Nevertheless, it is a good investment for anyone involved in serious biblical study.

Rev. James P. McIlhone (M.Div., S.T.L., Ph.D.) is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biblical Exegesis and Proclamation at Mundelein Seminary, University of St. Mary of the Lake.


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