BibleWorks 8 Review
Blog, January 26-28, 2010.
Part 1, Contents and Modules
Many thanks to the folks at BibleWorks for the gratis upgrade copy of version 8. I’m coming to the software from BibleWorks 6. Both those who have earlier versions and those who do not already have a copy of the program ought to get a sense of its value and utility in the course of this (multi-part) review. Of course, I will not be able to highlight everything the program can do and all the resources it has to offer, but I will note some of what I have found to be its most significant features.
BibleWorks 8 comes with an impressive variety of resources and tools aimed at enabling the user to perform anywhere from simple to advanced exegesis of the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible, the Greek New Testament and several of their ancient translations. One can easily perform word searches (on form or lemma), phrase searches, searches on complex syntactical constructions, and even locate related verses or words with this set of handy tools: the Related Verses and Phrase Matching tools and the KWIC/Collocation table module. The last of these allows you to see what words appear in association with another word and with what frequency (click picture below; this can be done with the lemma and not simply a particular form, too). One can also view multiple translations (ancient and modern) simultaneously. Tagged and fully searchable in their original languages are the LXX, the Greek OT Pseudepigrapha, several Targumim, the Apostolic Fathers, Josephus’ works, and Philo’s works. A powerful map module, Charles’ Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Rodkinson’s Babylonian Talmud, and Schaff’s Early Church Fathers are among some of the most significant “extras.” Included with the cost of the program are important secondary sources such as Joüon and Maraoka’s A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Waltke and O’Connor’s Biblical Hebrew Syntax and Wallace’s Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. These are extraordinary resources and their inclusion at no extra cost is a huge bonus.
Though the focus of the program is to assist one’s independent exegesis of the biblical text, a select number of secondary resources or additional primary resources in the form of modules are available at extra cost, some of which can be difficult to obtain—or not at all available—in print. An example of the former is the standard Greek Grammar of the New Testament (BDF) and of the latter is Martin Abegg’s Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts module. For research into the DSS this resource is absolutely crucial and (as far as I can tell) displaces any need for the DSS Concordance (non-biblical texts) inasmuch as it is fully searchable and kept up-to-date with the latest critical editions of the Scrolls. Although readily available in print, one can also purchase module versions of HALOT and BDAG, which would save considerable time in research (though I have not made the purchase). One disappointment, however, is the absence of a Qumran Biblical Manuscripts module. Another desideratum is an original language module of the Mishnah, which is surely as relevant to biblical interpretation as the Apostolic Fathers. Given the rate at which its creators have been expanding and improving the program, one can hope that such projects are in the (Bible)works.
Part 2, Using BibleWorks
Considering the power of the software, BibleWorks is rather easy to get accustomed to. Three panels or windows make up the user interface. The layout presents a significant improvement over BibleWorks 6. One especially useful feature is the tab function in the Search Window (1st). This allows you to conduct research into several texts simultaneously as though one had opened several clones of the program, a more clumsy way of achieving the same thing. The Analysis Window (3rd) has been greatly improved, also with tabs, so as to facilitate your access to relevant statistical information, notes and resources. The information in this window appears automatically as you move the cursor over words anywhere in the Browse Window (2nd).
One of the most valuable, and basic, features of any Bible software program is the ability to cut and paste text, especially foreign language text, into a word processor, blog post, or whatever. One of the best features of BibleWorks 8 is that one can easily export text in Unicode. This will save all kinds of time for anyone who seeks to share their work in the biblical text with others.
One tremendously valuable feature is the Graphical Search Engine. This tool allows you to construct complex searches which would be extremely time-consuming and tedious otherwise. I don’t know if this is a criticism, or simply a fact of using such a powerful tool, but this feature does take some time to master (something I’ve yet to do). However, a detailed help manual is included electronically, and, when that hasn’t answered my questions, I have always received speedy responses to my email queries.
Part 3, Conclusion
To conclude this series, I will highlight some further desiderata and a few features not yet mentioned as well as offer some thoughts about the program’s value for various users.
Two resources I would like to see available on BibleWorks are a colour-coded synopsis of the Gospels and a source-critically colour-coded Pentateuch. One complaint I have about the Gospels synopsis, besides the lack of colour, is that columns of parallel texts from the Gospels, so far as I can tell, cannot be moved simultaneously up and down. This makes it difficult to view extended texts in parallel.
BibleWorks is now designed to incorporate external links and user-created databases. External links can be incorporated in two ways: Ermie (External Resource Manager) is a folder supplied with abundant links to online content, which is, of course, expandable with your own supplementary links; second, links to lemma specific pages on such online programs or lexica as CAL, TLG or Perseus can be accessed simply by right-clicking a word in the Browse Window.
Furthermore, BibleWorks allows users to contribute databases to the program (see a list here). I’ve added Calvin’s Institutes and Commentary on the Bible, Keil and Delitzsch’s OT Commentary, as well as an index to the Great Isaiah Scroll online. The process was easy to complete.
BibleWorks ought to be affordable to many religious clergy and lay teachers of the Bible who with knowledge of the biblical languages would be greatly assisted in lesson and homily preparation. For scholars and students of biblical literature, some form of Bible software is virtually a must have. BibleWorks is the only such program I have used and it has met my needs more than adequately, with comparatively minimal cost, little user-headache, and much delight in time saved and complex tasks made easy.
Nick Meyer is a student of the biblical traditions in the Religious Studies Ph.D. program at McMaster University..