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Bibleworks7: Software for Biblical Exegesis and Research

Zeba A. Crook

Biblical Theology Bulletin,
37:3 (2007): p. 132

It is not often we are asked, nor would it necessarily be appropriate, to review software. However, more and more books are being published with CDRoms, being published exclusively as CDRoms, and software applications that promise to make scholarship and professional life easier are increasingly common. It seems particularly appropriate, therefore, to review Bibleworks7 here, as a service to both academic readers and clergy. The literature on Bibleworks7 promises greater ease in both biblical scholarship and sermon preparation. I should make clear at the outset that I have not used other common Bible software applications (such as Logos); so I am unable to undertake a comparison. I was previously using Bibleworks4, but it is difficult to compare them, as version 7 is nearly a different program altogether.

Bibleworks7 allows you to search in 32 modern languages and 112 translations. It allows you to search in any of them, as well as in a number of ancient texts. Bibleworks7 has, of course, the complete Hebrew Bible (BHS4), Apocrypha, and New Testament (NA27), as well as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Apostolic Fathers (Clement, Diognetus, Ignatius, Barnabas, Polycarp, Didache, Hermas), and the complete works of Philo, Josephus, and the Targums. In addition, for those learning languages, every text you search also offers a simultaneous morphological analysis. Also, there is a flashcard program for testing language learners. Within any ancient translation, passing the cursor over a word produces a wealth of information: simple meaning, a more detailed definition, access to dozens of analytical and other lexica, commentaries, Tischendorf ’s text critical apparatus, and Metzger’s textual commentary for the verse you happen to be looking at. It was not clear why if Bibleworks was able to carry the text of NA27 it was not able to carry its textual apparatus. Perhaps that will come in a future version.

Many of the lexica and commentaries that come with the software are very dated, owing likely to the difficulty and expense of acquiring licenses. There are add-ons one can purchase with the software, however, but they can be quite expensive. Here are a few examples: Balz & Schneider’s Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament $119; Blass Debrunner & Funk $55; Liddel Scott Jones McKenzie 9 $135; Bauer Danker Arndt & Gingrich Greek lexicon together with Koehler Baumgartner & Stamm Hebrew lexicon $197. On the one hand, most scholars using Bibleworks7 will already have these works, but on the other hand, these are the reference tools it takes to make a truly scholarly Bible software, but adding them more than doubles the price.

Bibleworks, like other applications, allows you to cut and paste passages in any language from the software to a Word document, and it installs TrueType fonts onto your computer that enable you to type in Hebrew or Greek from your keyboard. It also promises to export text in the increasingly ubiquitous SBL fonts, but doing so resulted in the loss of the accents and some letters when I tested it. The same occurred when I attempted to set the system to display texts with SBL fonts within the software. It is best, therefore, to work with Bibleworks’ own fonts, which unfortunately requires scholars using SBL fonts to correct the resulting errors by hand. [Since the release of BibleWorks 7 we discovered that the export Hebrew text
process in the SBLHebrew Unicode font did not work properly due to the installation of an earlier version of the SBLHebrew font. This has been remedied by installing a new version of the SBLHebrew font through an update to BibleWorks.]

Perhaps the most impressive feature of Bibleworks7 is the map module. One easily accesses satellite maps of the Galilee, Samaria, Judah and the Negev, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, North Africa and Spain, with pertinent locations marks on them. Also, they are large, and it can be slow moving around in them. But they allow you creative options. You might begin with an elevation map, a Landsat satellite image, or a land cover map, and you can overlay other maps onto it: Jesus’ travels in the Galilee, Paul’s travels according to Acts, waterways, places mentioned in any or all books of the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, the conquest of Canaan, and archeological sites from Neolithic to Byzantine periods. With all the maps, they become less effective as you attempt to zoom in for greater detail. If my monitor is the problem, then I suspect you need a very, very fine computer to make maximum use of the map modules.

This software is not without its idiosyncrasies, but it is powerful (offering everything from simple word searches to complex syntactical string searches) and very useful. I suspect the ability to paste Greek or Hebrew passages right into a word processor, and to be able to perform searches in the many primary sources they offer is worth the price of the software alone.

Zeba A. Crook is an associate professor at Carleton University.

Copyright 2007 Biblical Theology Bulletin. All rights reserved.


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