BibleWorks is a comprehensive, versatile and incredibly powerful tool that will enable anyone to search through any of a large number of Bible versions for individual words, combinations of words appearing in the same verse, alternative words, phrases and just about any other combination that can be thought of. Searches are easy to set up and very quick (usually even complex searches are completed within a few seconds).
Following installation, a user is presented with three different possible screens — beginner, intermediate and power user — and by following the onscreen instructions in beginner mode will be able to start using the software within seconds. Not many users will continue with the beginner mode for very long, however: using either the thorough manual supplied with the software or, more probably, the included videos, will swiftly progress onto the more powerful but still relatively straightforward screens for the higher levels.
As a complete newcomer to BibleWorks I worked my way through the videos and found that, except for one or two occasions in which the tutor assumed something that was explained in a later video, they explained and demonstrated everything I needed to know to make good use of the software. For some of the more complex procedures the manual deals with matters in more detail. Further help is available through the on screen 'help' function and, in the event of problems, there is also a free technical support facility who responded to the query I sent them within hours.
As a student who has studied 2 years of Greek, but no other biblical languages, and as a regular preacher I wished to assess this software in relation to these particular activities.
For sermon preparation, and in particular exegesis, I found BibleWorks to be an invaluable aid in detecting themes and motifs within the biblical literature. During a teaching series on John's gospel I was able to identify key words and ideas within minutes by limiting my searches to that one book. Having identified a list of verses containing a word or even any word within a semantic domain, BibleWorks was able to copy a list of references or the full text of the verses to my word processor for ease of comparison. The concordance facility was considerably more versatile than others that I had used and could be applied to any of a number of English translations.
However it is in using the biblical languages that BibleWorks comes into its own. This software contains everything that serious scholars or students would look for in such a program, including a number of lexical aids for Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. Translation and searching within the original texts becomes considerably simpler than leafing back and forth through lexicons. I unlocked the BDAG, which I was then able to use alongside the other tools within the package. Having become such a standard reference book I found this an invaluable aid to my work, and the software version comes slightly cheaper than the book. There are many other books that are available to unlock within BibleWorks at competitive prices compared to the paper editions.
It is hard to find much to criticise about this package, although there are a couple of minor points which could be improved. I found that when using the software alongside some other programs, occasionally the configuration of my keyboard would alter slightly so that a couple of symbols were found with different keys. Once I had worked out which keys changed this made little difference to my use of BibleWorks. A more significant issue was that in some versions of the Bible when placing the cursor over a word, the corresponding lexical entry explaining the full range of meanings is displayed in another part of the screen — a very helpful feature but it doesn't work with any modern English version. To have this function linked in to the NIV or NRSV would be of considerable assistance if BibleWorks were able to get permission to establish such a link.
For serious and regular Bible study, BibleWorks is a fast, efficient and versatile tool to assist in exegesis. For anyone only considering a few English versions then a less powerful and cheaper concordance software package would do an adequate job, but for any significant study in the original languages combined with study in English (or indeed any of the other modern languages included), BibleWorks offers excellent value for money. It is a package that I anticipate making regular use of for many years to come.
BDAG: Bauer, Arndt, Danker & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
This review is based on BibleWorks 6, which has now been replaced by BibleWorks 7
Dave Sunman, October 2004Order from www.christianbookshops.org
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