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BibleWorks 7 Review

Steve Egge

SacraMentors, March 27, 2007

I have been given the opportunity to look at and now review BibleWorks 7.   As a member of the SacraMentors community I have been on a renewed spiritual journey though my Catholic faith over the last 10 years.  As I became interested in the scripture and with my natural bent towards computers, I looked into bible software programs and became familiar with Logos software version 2.1.  This software has matured over the years and is now Libronix DLS 3.0c.  After posting a review of the software, I was invited to look at and give my thoughts on BibleWorks 7. Please understand, I am a Catholic lay believer, a physician, and I am not fluent in any foreign languages ( I took 2 years of Latin and 1 year of French in high school and I am trying to learn Spanish).  Greek and Hebrew are not anywhere on my radar screen in terms of knowing much about the language and what I know has been gained from using bible software.  Given that background, I do find it interesting to try to get to the real meaning of the Word via the bible software available. 

BibleWorks 7 is exceptional in providing tutorials, written and in video, on how to use their software and this cut down the time on the learning curve quite a bit. These tutorials come on the program discs and do not have to be viewed over the internet which is a welcome feature.  This review is based on less than a month of familiarity with the program. I was pleased that it offered the New American Bible as one of the 37 English bibles as it is the official Catholic version. The speed with which BibleWorks 7 performs the tasks you give it is phenomenal. It is truly the “Ferrari” of bible software.  Things happen almost instantaneously and seem transparent.  The program is well set up with a 3 vertical pane system.  The left pane is the Search window, the middle is the browse window and the right pane is the Analysis window.  The right Analysis window is where the action takes place as far as I’m concerned.  The window is tabbed giving you the option of looking at the simple word analysis or the more robust word summary tabs as well as the option of recording your notes on a full featured note module which is tagged to the verse you are studying.  The system is very efficient.  I spent some time looking up the 5th Sunday of Lent Gospel, John 8: 1 – 11.  Of Particular interest was John 8: 6 where Jesus was writing or drawing on the ground.

NAB version - John 8:6 - They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

You can display many versions of the text in the middle “Browse” window including both Greek and English texts and in using the Greek texts you can see the variation in the word used for “to write”.  The BGT uses the word kate,grafen and the BYZ uses the word e;grafen...... With BibleWorks 7 by holding your mouse over the word you wish to study you get an immediate translation of the word in a “tooltip” type window that also includes morphological information and by pressing the shift key you can maintain that selection as you move your mouse over to the right pane get further information on a word such as that contained in the Louw-Nidia Lexicon:

  1. In the Louw-Nidia Lexicon: 33.61  gra,fw - 'to write. ' o]n e;grayen Mwu?sh/j evn tw|/ no,mw| ' the one of whom Moses wrote in the Law' Jn 1.45. Since the knowledge of writing is almost universal, there is usually no difficulty in obtaining a satisfactory term for writing. In some instances in which languages are only now being reduced to writing, a phrase is often employed, for example, 'to make marks on paper' or 'to talk with lines' or 'to speak with paper.'
  2. In the Louw-Nidia Lexicon: 33.63  katagra,fw: to write something down - 'to write down, to record.' tw|/ daktu,lw| kate,grafen eivj th.n gh/n ' he wrote on the ground with his finger' Jn 8.6. It is possible to interpret katagra,fw in Jn 8.6 as implying only the position of Jesus writing something down on the ground, but in view of the total context, one can also interpret it in the sense of writing down an accusation.

So you can see that the words have slightly different meanings, one being to simply write down/scratch/record or form letters, the other meaning implies Jesus was writing an accusation on the ground.  Was Jesus just scribbling on the ground to buy time before he responded or divert attention away from himself, or was he echoing back to the accusers an accusation of them and their judgments from a place of sin within them?  Is Jesus in this instance being portrayed as someone brought into a tricky argument and working his way out of it, or is he decisive and clear and providing feedback to those who are accusing the woman and showing them that their judgments only lead to death and not new life?  Both texts are written and recorded.  They lend themselves to two different views, the subtleties of which are not conveyed in the English text.  Which version do you choose, which do you take as true? Both open up a more “human” Jesus as by reflecting upon the possibilities you are drawn closer to his humanity and possible emotions.  In the end the reader who engages in this exercise is brought closer to Jesus by going to the Greek texts and discerning the word than simply reading the English texts (even reading every version of the English texts does not bring to light these possibilities).

As a comparison and a longtime Libronix user I tried to do the same exercise in Libronix 3.0c.  In Libronix, as it is a Digital Library System, I work differently.  One of the features I like in Libronix is that it has a Lectionary feature, which unfortunately does not have the Catholic Lectionary (It does have the Revised Common, the United Methodist Revised Common and the BCP Daily Lectionary) but you can make it with a little knowledge of XML. A friend much more adept at this than I has furnished me with a copy of the lectionary in progress. I use the  lectionary feature to guide me to the text to study for the upcoming week.  Then I open it up in the New American Bible and read the scripture.  My work pane is divided in half with the Bible scripture on the top and a linked Commentary on the bottom.  As you scroll through the reading, the commentary scrolls also. I have purchased the Collegeville Bible Commentary and usually use this Catholic commentary for further information.  For this particular reading, it was relatively uninformative, so I switched to Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series.  It is actually here where I first became aware of the possible interpretations of the scripture based on the two different Greek words for Jesus writing in John 8:6 (the only place in the bible that describes Jesus writing). Using the “study passage box” on the Logos Home page and selecting the Exegetical guide feature for John 8:6 which used the NA27 as the default, then moving the vertical window over and creating another Exegetical guide and switching to the Byzantine Majority Textform New Greek Testament I now had both versions of the “to write” Greek word “translated”. Then clicking on each word I wanted to study and then clicking open the references for the words: BDAG, ANLEX, Louw-Nida, I obtained the same information that was available in BibleWorks 7.  The difference was in the amount of steps necessary and the 60 seconds it took to generate the proper lexicon entries for each word and open up the available resources for more information. 

For those who wish to primarily study, read, and analyze bible texts, discerning what the texts have to say to them, then BibleWorks 7 will perform what you want more cheaply and quickly with no distractions. It stays true to its mission statement to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). BibleWorks does offer some commentaries (Matthew Henry) but is largely focused on the bible texts and the linguistics involved in interpretation. BibleWorks 7 is the speed king and excels at what you would expect to find in a bible language program. You can read versions of the bible side by side, compare parallel passages in the four gospels, and perform lightning quick simple word and complex grammatical searches with BibleWorks.  There are also many bonus features in the contents of the BibleWorks offerings such as bibles in other languages.  There are 7 Spanish, 7 French, 9 German, and 1 Vietnamese versions of the bible just to highlight a few of the 25 non Greek and Hebrew languages offered.  What a blessing for the multilingual culture in which we currently live.  I would think the more Greek and Hebrew language skills you had in understanding the different tenses and language structure, the more BibleWorks would help you understand the scripture from its original language, but even I, with no formal training such as you would receive in a seminary can easily and quickly use the software for further growth in understanding the scripture.  The basic set offered is wonderful right out of the box for $349.  They do offer an add-on module of BDAG/HALOT for an additional $197.  I have always thought of BibleWorks as a well respected and premier level bible software program and after using it, I must say it is absolutely wonderful at breaking open the Word and allowing it to speak to you in new ways.

Libronix is largely a Digital Library System and as such can be very resource rich in commentaries and various other readings, depending upon which package you purchase.  It can accomplish much of what BibleWorks 7 can but not quite as directly or quickly.  For those who wish to not only study, read, and analyze bible texts but also wish to have access to multiple resources to enhance their understanding of the Bible, ministry, different religions, church structures, history, and as well as some contemporary issues and are willing to tolerate the speed, then Libronix will work quite well for you.  You will have to work differently with Libronix as you can not simply place the mouse over the Greek or Hebrew word and get its interpretation (although doing so will give you the words morphology).  You must open an “information window” and the word meaning will come up in the default lexicon and is not nearly as easy to read the text and discern the “translation of the word” in this manner.  You can use an interlinear version of the bible which contains the translation with the original language or better yet perform an exegetical study on the scripture passage.  This certainly is a slower process but works best for me.  Having a library comes at a greater cost and you can shape your library by adding books of your choosing.  The books are generally cheaper than that available in print but costs for add-on commentaries can be substantial (the 58 volume Word Biblical Commentary sells for $499). Any collection purchase will get you the most for your investment as opposed to buying books individually so plan what your needs are and buy accordingly.  The “Libronix library engine” that runs the library is constantly being upgraded with more features, often without further cost. The original Language version (which would allow you to do the Greek and Hebrew text Exegetical studies), lists for $415.95 and adding the BDAG/HALOT bundle to that is $249.95.  To be fair, the version I am using includes the current Scholar’s Library Gold with many add on purchases over the years giving me over 1800 resources in my library.  No matter which version you have, you can always upgrade and modify.  For Catholics you can add the NAB version of the bible with the Collegeville commentary best by purchasing The Collegeville Catholic Reference Library: CD-ROM Edition (PC) Version 2.0.

For me, I am glad to have both programs as they are different at what they do best.  I am sure as I continue to delve into the original meaning of the scriptures more and more, I will find myself using BibleWorks 7 regularly for more efficient study of the Word.

Please note that all prices are the regular prices offered by the companies involved. You may qualify for special discounts if in Semanary or pastoral care. Often a cheaper price can be found through a retail outlet.

For more information see the BibleWorks website

Steve Egge is webmaster and trainer for SacraMentors.


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