Review of BibleWorks 10
“Being able to conduct this sort of text-critical analysis using high-def images of Greek manuscripts is a dream come true, and former generations of text-critical scholars might be rolling over in their grave!”
exegeticaltools.com, July 2015. Retrieved 8/8/2016.
Part 1: Interface and Design
This post will discuss the interface and design of BibleWorks, which I have always appreciated the most about the program because of its simplicity and down-to-business look. One friend says it looks like it was built for MS-DOS, which was a humorous exaggeration, but it truly is a simple, text-based design for serious exegetes. Moreoever, it’s lightweight and loads and operates far quicker than Logos, which is a beast even on my brand new, high quality Lenovo Yoga Pro 2. Searches on BW are nearly instantaneous and can be quite complex, as I’ll demonstrate in future posts. For now, let’s look at this simple, yet elegant design.
NOTE: My last version was BW 8 (I skipped v. 9), so some of my comments may pertain less to those wondering if they should upgrade from v. 9.
One of the best elements of the design is the ability to add a second Analysis column (fourth column total), which was also possible in v. 9, but there are a few improvements. You can get a second window of text to compare parallels in two other ways (by using the “Browse” tab in the right column or by using the Parallel Versions Window [Tools –> Viewing the Text]), but having a permanent fourth column that also has all 18 tabs of the right column is inestimably helpful. An improvement to v. 9 is that you can close the fourth column if you want, and you can use the Analysis Tab Options to choose which resource tabs you want to show in which of the double columns. I moved the Resource tab to the far right and left the Analysis tab in the other Analysis column since I use those two tabs the most and want to use them simultaneously (screenshot 1).
Screenshot 1: BibleWorks 10 with 4 Columns (Click to see Full Size)
Now, after seeing the first screenshot you may notice the major flaw with BibleWorks 10 on some devices. My computer works at an optimal resolution of 3200×1800, which is an HD resolution that is incredibly sharp. The downsize is that some programs, such as Windows Media Player (a Windows program!!) has incredibly tiny menu bar buttons and play/stop buttons. They are almost unusable. This is an unfortunate result of the newer, high resolution devices (tablets and some laptops like mine) that are being made.
BibleWorks suffers from the same issue in the menu bar, as you can see from screenshot 1 if you enlarge it. You can also see that some of the tabs don’t show completely but nest into one another (try reading “Summary,” “Lexicons,” etc. in the far right column, bottom row: you can’t see the bottom half of the words).
In an effort to fix the overall problem of scaling, BibleWorks did add a scaling option (View –> Scaling). This enables you to scale up the entire program so everything is bigger. Screenshot 1 is scaled to 120%, and screenshot 2 below is scaled up to 140% so you can see the difference. Interestingly, the search window tabs (1, 2, 3, etc.) are cut off more at 100% scaling than at 140% scaling, but the Summary, Lexicons, etc. tabs in the right column get cut off the same amount.
Screenshot 2: Scaling at 140%
I e-mailed the developers to ask them about this and they say it’s far more difficult to scale menu buttons (the ones that appear tiny on my screen) than to scale the rest of the program. They say it’s a problem with Windows that will helpful be resolved in the future as more high-res devices are made, and I believe them, since I have the same issue with many other Windows programs. So this is not a strike against BW, but is a significant design element to know before purchasing the program. I do think BW should be able to fix the tabs that nest into one another, since they nest the same amount no matter what the scaling.
Now, back to more positive elements. They added a color scheme option to the program. I’m good with black and white myself, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the simplicity of the program, but for those of you who just need some color in your life, you can click any color scheme or make one yourself (screenshot 3).
Screenshot 3: Color scheme option window, with “BW Green and Yellow” selected
One other nifty feature is the ability to color code words based on morphology (screenshot 4). If you are a beginner or intermediate biblical language reader, you may find this useful, for instance, to quickly spot the verb and subject of a sentence. This also doesn’t give away the parsing before you’re able to figure it out yourself, so it doesn’t cripple you as much as immediately hovering over the word to see the parsing, or other resources that include the parsing directly below the word.
Screenshot 4: Morphology color-coding
In summary, BibleWorks now looks just as good as it ever did, but they have added some customizable options for those who want to make it feel a bit more “you.” The customization of the second Analysis window is probably the most helpful feature and will help you do word studies, check cross-references, and check other tabs even quicker than in previous versions.
The next installation of our review series on BW10 will cover new features from versions 8 and 9, some of which I am really excited to tell you about. I’ve used many of these features to prepare our Basic Greek Videos and our Colossians Greek Reading Videos.
Part 2: New Features
Review of BibleWorks 10, Part 2: New Features
Part 1 of this review series looked at BibleWorks 10’s design and interface, highlighting its simplicity but also warning those with high-res devices. This post will focus on BW 10’s new features, some of which are simple but extraordinarily helpful.
One feature I’m excited about is the “Forms” tab. When you hover over a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word, the forms tab will show you every form of that word that appears in that textual version. I’ve used this many times already while teaching Greek to find, e.g., the difference between aorist and perfect forms, stem changes, and other irregularities that are difficult to look up in books. It’s such a simple, but powerful feature that will help improve your language in a bit way if you use it rightly.
Figure 1: Forms tab
BW 9 was the first version to include high-def photos of manuscripts, and many of them were morphologically tagged and searchable. BW 10 retains this feature, which comes with the three major manuscripts Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Vaticanus, as well as a few others. Since they are morphologically tagged, you can choose any of these manuscripts as your “browse” version and then do morphological searches on them just like you would with the standard Hebrew and Greek versions! The ability to see these manuscripts from my computer is amazing. In my dissertation I have a section on Eph 1:1 and the phrase “in Ephesus,” which is lacking in the earliest manuscripts. How much easier can textual criticism get from my laptop than to open these three early witnesses and see what’s written?
Look at Ephesians 1:1 below in Sinaiticus. The scribe shortened εἰσίν to εἰσι, and when I check the “Forms” tab for εἰμί, I see that the form with the nu occurs 427 times in the NT + LXX, while the shortened form here occurs only 8 times. (Kink for BW: When I click the form of the word, it doesn’t open up the sentences that contain that form, but the sentences with all the forms, so I would have to hunt down those 8 occurrences among the 427 verses displayed.) There may be no significance to the shortened version here, but τοίς εἰσίν is the phrase that is questionable because of its awkward grammar (“the saints who are, and the faithful in Christ..”), so perhaps there’s something to it.
Screenshot 2: Ephesians 1:1 in Sinaiticus
More importantly, note on the fourth left, “έν Έφέσῳ” is written in the left margin, showing that the phrase is likely also a marginal note in whatever text(s) this scribe copied from, or at least wasn’t integrated smoothly as to look original. Being able to conduct this sort of text-critical analysis using high-def images of Greek manuscripts is a dream come true, and former generations of text-critical scholars might be rolling over in their grave!
But the greatness doesn’t stop there. BW 10 has added full images of Leningradensis manuscripts of the Old Testament. What! Yes, there it is, בראשׁיתבראאלהימ! For those of who you like to try to read from manuscripts, BW 10 is now an incredible program. I purchased the Dead Sea Scrolls Sectarian texts package a while back for some coursework and I enjoyed using the morphologically tagged text, but I did all my translation and text-critical work on 1QM from high-def images here. I got a good feel for the scribe’s tendencies, for Qumran orthography, and was able to see the breaks in the manuscripts (on which much has been written). Now that BW 10 is adding so many important manuscripts to the program for us to be able to read directly from them, I expect I’ll be doing much more of my Greek and Hebrew reading from these ancient manuscripts.
@BibleWorks 10 added full images of Leningradensis manuscripts of the OT! Click To Tweet
Screenshot 3: Leningradensis Hi-def, tagged images
I’m afraid if I continue on at length about these features, this post will run too far, so let me summarize some of the other great features available only in this version.
- They added a user lexicon, which allows you to keep research on specific words in one file (which opens in the Analysis window “UserLex” tab), rather than keeping notes on that word in your “Notes” tab on a specific verse in which it occurs.
- They added NA28 and updated Leedy’s NT Greek diagrams, which I use constantly when doing exegesis or when I teach.
- If you’ve never been to the Holy Land (like me), you can find many images of Israel in Resources –> Pictures –> BibleViews. I would post a screenshot, but that may violate something.
- You get another Greek lexicon, Danker’s frequently used Concise Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament
- There is also the Friberg Analytical Greek New Testament tab in the Analysis window, which provides an interlinear display of the AGNT text, including several new lines such as English reference glosses, phrasal glosses and documentation links (screenshot 4). However, the text is incredibly small for my computer and the lines nest into one another, a problem I highlighted in our first post for those of us with high-res screens. When you hover your mouse over a word, the explanation in the bottom half of the Analysis column, but my computer thought the words were in all the white space, so there is some sort of issue here that needs to be sorted out.
Screenshot 4: Friberg Analytical Greek New Testament Tab
There are many other features and text versions that are new to BW 10, and there are some new Greek and Hebrew packages you can buy as add-ons. You can check them all out here on BibleWorks’ website. I’ve highlighted in this post a few of the features I find to be the most exciting and useful, but with so many features to highlight surely the other features will be just as exciting to other students, pastors, and scholars.
Todd Scacewater is a Teaching Fellow and PhD Candidate in New Testament at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.