BibleWorks 5: A Review
by Erik Thoennes, Ph.D.
I started using BibleWorks 3.5 half way through my graduate studies, and after a few hours of learning the program, the efficiency and quality of my studies skyrocketed. Now as a University professor and pastor, barely a day goes by that I do not use BibleWorks for high-level research, general Bible study, or lecture and sermon preparation. I recently upgraded to version 5.0 and have been very pleased with the improvements of this latest version.
Those unfamiliar with BibleWorks will find that it introduces a new world of Bible study capabilities. While there are other excellent Bible programs, like Logos, that seek to be a library database in which you can collect reference sources, most would agree that BibleWorks is the best Bible software for serious study of the Biblical text itself, especially for study in the original languages. It is a program that enables students of the Bible to do exegetical analysis and linguistic research in greater depth, versatility and speed than any program on the market. I have used the program for seven years and have not come close to exhausting the search capabilities. It can provide the answers that a basic concordance search would, or do complex morphological analysis. By simply putting the cursor on a word of the tagged Greek, Hebrew or English texts, BibleWorks provides definitions, parsing and other grammatical information in the Auto Info Window. Beginning and advanced language students will benefit from this most helpful feature. Also of great help are the synopsis and parallel display windows for comparing versions.
New and Enhanced Databases
5.0 adds many new databases and enhances several ones that were already in older versions of BibleWorks.
With the addition of these new databases in 5.0, BibleWorks now offers 90 Bible translations in 28 languages, 9 Greek and Hebrew texts with 7 morphology databases, 6 Greek lexicons and dictionaries, 4 Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries, and 11 reference works including the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. The addition of the new English Standard Version, which may be the best English translation available, is a real plus. If there is one draw back of BibleWorks it is that the standard Greek lexicon, BAGD, is not included within available databases. However, for most users the Friberg Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (© 1994, 2000) will prove more than sufficient.
The greatest strength of BibleWorks is its powerful search engine and its capacity to do research within the biblical text itself, and 5.0 has made hundreds of changes to make this strength even stronger. I will now highlight just a few of my favorite improvements to BibleWorks in 5.0.
Getting started using BibleWorks has been made about as easy as possible. The new Video Demo Library teaches you how to use the program and explains all of the new features in 5.0. Learning how to do searches has also been made significantly easier by the addition of two new user interfaces. When in Beginner Mode, all the necessary information for doing searches is provided so that basic computer skills are all that is needed to work the program right away. You can do complex searches; look up passages, or copy text to your word processor with the greatest of ease. In the photo below, one can see how easy doing searches is in this new screen layout:
In Standard Mode searches are done on menu driven command line. While using the Beginner and Standard modes make it considerably easier to learn the program right away, in the Power-User Mode searches are still done most efficiently and powerfully. If you learned to use BibleWorks using the command line you do not have to learn a new interface, but you will find that the search capacity of the command has been improved. Multiple Bible versions can now be investigated with only one search. This multi-version search capacity, like several of the most significant updates, are only available as free downloads from the BibleWorks Web page (www.bibleworks.com). The most impressive of these is the outstanding Verse Report Generator, which creates an extensive report of a verse or passage that provides linguistic analysis of every Greek or Hebrew word in the passage.
Also available on the website are enhancements to the formatting the Results Window that you can customize with the colors and style you like. Here is an example the results of a search on the word "love":
The Version Database Compiler enables you to build your own Bible version that can be incorporated into the other versions within BibleWorks. Translators and missionaries will no doubt find this feature invaluable.
The Lexicon Browser now enables you to search lexicons and dictionaries in context rather than by one entry at a time.
One of the most helpful new features, especially for writing research papers is that the new Copy Center allows you to export reference list with many different formatting options.
The Detailed Statistics window makes a graph of search results.
Gospel studies are now greatly enhanced with the Synopsis Browser, which enables you to view Synoptic Gospel parallels in side-by-side windows and edit the list to include passages you add.
The centralized Setup window now enables you to choose Bible versions to search and display, set search limits and customize the many features of BibleWorks in one place.
The Verselist Manager enables you to compile list of verses based on searches and then compare, merge and export them. The Wordlist Manager does the same thing with words you compile from different searches. Among other things this allows teachers and students of languages to make vocabulary drill lists. Both of these managers allow you to take the results of searches and easily manage and compare the results. You can do new searches based on the list you compile and you can also make word frequency lists form various verse ranges.
The Configuration Manager enables you to save customized configurations (e.g. "sermon prep" "Hebrew research") and choose the one you want too work from when the program opens.
Considering the powerful search capabilities, numerous databases, ease of use, good customer support, and price of BibleWorks, there is not a high level Bible study program that comes close to it. BibleWorks has significantly improved the efficiency, depth and quality of my study, teaching and preaching. The improvements of 5.0 will only add to the value of this program, which has already become a indispensable part of my work.
A single-user license costs $299.95; an upgrade from an earlier version is $150.
Erik Thoennes (Ph.D.) is Assistant Professor of Theology, Talbot School of Theology/Biola University and Pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada.