BibleWorks 10

Reviews of the Enoch Seminar 2016.10.09

BibleWorks 10. Copyright © 1992-2015 BibleWorks, LLC. Programmed by Michael S. Bushell, Michael D. Tan, and Glenn L. Weaver. $389.00. USB Flash Drive/Download.

Isaac W. Oliver
Bradley University

For many years, I have used BibleWorks for personal research and classroom instruction. Over the years this software program has continued to evolve in its complexity, a reflection of the impressive developments made in the world of technology. Once primarily featuring databases for exegeting the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, and English translation, BibleWorks now boasts a vast array of resources that complement its biblical core.

BibleWorks 10 provides quick access to the biblical text in its original languages and in more than forty translations. For the Hebrew Bible, one can access the Hebrew text of Codex Leningradensis fully transcribed with the Masoretic vowel and accent markers. Owners of previous versions of BibleWorks should note that this version contains photos of the entire Codex Leningradensis superimposed with chapter and verse numbering. One can navigate through the manuscript photos and, by moving the cursor over each line of the Leningrad manuscript, simultaneously compare it to parallels texts such as the Septuagint. Users of BibleWorks can now also consult the text of the Samaritan Pentateuch (von Gall’s ed.) independently or in tandem with the Masoretic text. For an additional price, users can acquire the text of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta with apparatus and morphology functions (I cannot comment on these features, since I currently do not enjoy access to them).

For the Greek text of the New Testament and the Septuagint, the base package of BibleWorks 10 now incorporates the 28th revised edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece (Nestle-Aland) and Rahlf’s 1935 edition of the LXX. Also included in the base package are many other Greek texts of the New Testament, including Sinaiticus, Boernerianus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, and Codex Bezae, among others. (As a Lukan scholar, I am particular delighted to see Codex Bezae, of particular importance for the study of Luke and Acts, embedded within the BibleWorks database.)

Hebrew lexicons in the base package of BibleWorks 10 include the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (by W. L. Holladay). For an additional price, one may add The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner, and J. J. Stamm (HALOT).

These are the Greek lexicons that come with the base package: Friberg’s Analytical Greek Lexicon; Lidell-Scott (abridged version); Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the NT; Louw-Nida’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament; Vocabulary of the New Testament by J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan; The Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by Gingrich (2d ed. rev. by Danker); and Danker’s The Concise Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG) is also available for an additional price. In fact, one may purchase the BDAG and HALOT—the standard lexicons for biblical Hebrew and Greek—together for $212.00. This is a great deal, considering especially that these lexicons are fully integrated into the BibleWorks database (e.g., verses that are cited in the lexicons are instantly accessible in their original languages or translation with a mere click).

As a research tool, BibleWorks 10 provides powerful search features allowing one to investigate various combinations and forms of words, lemmas, and phrases in biblical and extra-biblical texts. My own research now focuses on the question of the restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts. Using the search window in BibleWorks, I can search simultaneously for all Greek forms of lutrōsis (“deliverance”), sōzein (“to save”), and apokathastasis (“restoration”) not only in Luke-Acts, but also in the entire New Testament and the Septuagint as well as many other extrabiblical Greek texts that have been incorporated into BibleWorks. The graphical search engine allows one to create complex queries with particular word orderings and combinations of terms that can be associated (or disassociated) in endless ways. These queries can then be saved into one’s computer. The similar functions are available for Hebrew and Aramaic texts as well in the many documents written in ancient and modern languages featured in BibleWorks 10, be they Syriac (Peshitta), Samaritan (Pentateuchal text), Latin (the Vulgate), or modern translations of the Bible into English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, languages I often consult. BibleWorks routinely updates its features even after you acquire its program; I noticed that they just added the very respected 2010 edition of the Traduction Œcuménique de la Bible, the French equivalent to the New Revised Standard Version in English.

I use BibleWorks not only to access and examine various texts but also as a pedagogical device in the classroom. A simple move with the cursor over each word of the Hebrew or Greek text instantly provides morphological analysis and translation for each term on a side window with their entries from various lexicons appearing simultaneously. When teaching beginner students in Hebrew and Greek, I have warned them to handle BibleWorks with care, as it can do all of the work of morphological analysis and translation, which beginners should first learn to do on their own. I want students first to absorb the language into their minds, flesh, and bones! In this regard, BibleWorks works better as a reference tool to be used with caution before the mental effort required to appreciate the intricacies of the biblical text has been fulfilled. Nevertheless, BibleWorks contains several useful resources for the beginner, including charts and flashcards for those learning Hebrew and Greek.

It is also extremely convenient for anyone teaching introductory courses on the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament to post on the projector screen various translations of the biblical text accompanied by the original Hebrew or Greek. Even undergraduate students who may not know any Hebrew or Greek can be exposed to some of the basic features of the original language. (BibleWorks also contains all of the BHS Hebrew Bible in transliteration.) The BibleWorks Maps module is another tool I employ regularly in the classroom when teaching about the Hebrew Bible in its ancient Near Eastern context or the New Testament in its Greco-Roman setting. This module offers numerous options for the user to personalize maps of the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world according to one’s preference. For example, when I lecture on the book of Genesis, I can select a BibleWorks Maps module to post only the names of sites mentioned in Genesis. But the BibleWorks Maps module contains many other overlay features including water boundaries, names of archaeological sites, and modern state boundaries.  Version 10 now boasts a “Holy Land Picture Database” containing photographs of various sites and locations relevant for biblical studies, making it even more useful for those teaching courses on the Bible.

At its core, BibleWorks is a database focused on exegeting the biblical text. As a scholar of early Judaism, however, I am happy to see BibleWorks gradually expanding its canonical horizons over the years to include various early Jewish documents, including the works of Josephus, Philo, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (only the Greek texts though and their English translations by C. Evans and R.H. Charles, respectively), the Old Testament Apocrypha, and the Targums. I am delighted to notice in this latest edition the inclusion of the Hebrew text of Ben Sira. BibleWorks also contains a module for the sectarian manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls; for $80.00 one can obtain all of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the non-biblical documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls with morphological analysis and integrated into the search functions of BibleWorks. For another $30.00, one can also acquire Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., & Edward M. Cook’s English translation of the sectarian texts (with introductions and explanatory notes) as well as The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (Martin Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, & Eugene Ulrich), which contains an English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls biblical texts with introductions, explanatory notes, and text-critical notes. Pricewise, this is an excellent deal. The Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (Brill, 2006 rev. ed.) essentially contains the same materials (albeit with photos of sectarian documents but no biblical texts of the DSS). Yet its cost prohibits wide access. Many of its morphological and search features are matched by those produced by BibleWorks 10. I wish though that the English translation of the sectarian documents in BibleWorks could be integrated into the browse window, as is the case with all of the biblical texts. For the time being, one must open the English translation in a separate window, while only the Hebrew and Aramaic documents of the DSS are searchable using the search windows in BibleWorks.

The advent of the digital age means that some of the resources BibleWorks offers can now be found for free on the internet. For example, all of the Targums in Aramaic are available for free online through the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon project (CAL). And certain works that are no longer copyrighted, such as Charles’ translation of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, are now open for access. Still, this does not detract from the convenience of having all of these works embedded into the BibleWorks database, with all of its lexical and morphological accessories. Sometimes when doing research, I do not want to access the internet because of all of its distractions. Having all of the Targums uploaded to my laptop, with the same search and lexical functions as CAL, proves extremely convenient for those precious unadulterated periods devoted exclusively to research.

As noted, BibleWorks remains committed to analyzing the biblical text. “Focus on the text,” is its motto. Consequently, the producers of BibleWorks have avoided adding too many secondary sources (e.g., commentaries) that other competing databases promote. This choice is understandable and has allowed BibleWorks to retain its distinctive identity with the rise of ever newer programs in the age of the “digital humanities.” BibleWorks stems from a particular confession (Protestant Christian), which they do not hide. As indicated on their website, BibleWorks, LLC seeks “to provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).” Additional resources are appended to the database such as the “Westminster Confession of Faith” or the “London Baptist Confession of Faith,” which are not directly relevant for the exegesis of the biblical text but are apparently included to reflect particular religious convictions. Even though I am Jewish, I do not mind these additions that give BibleWorks a particular religious character: BibleWorks remains a very useful and powerful tool for scholarly research for all, provided one does not mind its confessional overlay.

What additions might be considered for future versions of BibleWorks that would be useful for scholars of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, early Judaism, and early Christianity? For some time now, BibleWorks has been adding extra-canonical sources dating roughly from the time when the Jewish and Christian scriptures were written. Hopefully, this trend will continue. Perhaps, ancient Jewish sources often classified as “rewritten scripture” could be added. I think of the book of Jubilees, for example, which BibleWorks currently makes available via Charles’ dated English translation as well as the Hebrew fragments (if one purchases the DSS module). Since BibleWorks now includes works in Aramaic, Syriac, and Latin, why not add the Ge’ez text of Jubilees edited by J. C. VanderKam? A similar work could be done with the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (Biblical Antiquities) so as to include both its Latin text and English translation (H. Jacobson’s ed.).

The New English Translation of the Septuagint (A. Pietersma and G. Wright, eds.; Oxford University Press) is now included in BibleWorks 10. This translation of the Septuagint bases itself on the best manuscript evidence available. Yet BibleWorks currently only offers Rahlf’s edition (or Hanhart’s revision of Rahlf with an additional module) of the Septuagint in Greek, a semi-critical edition of the LXX. Ideally, one would want to consult the LXX text produced by the Septuaginta-Unternehmen Research Center in Göttingen.

Regarding rabbinic literature: at some point BibleWorks added Rodkinson’s translation of the Babylonian Talmud. This translation is problematic and dated. Before tackling the ambitious project of incorporating the Bavli, it would be better perhaps to integrate the Mishnah fully into BibleWorks. Danby’s English translation still enjoys respect in academic circles. P. Blackman’s translation of the Mishnah into English, which includes a vocalized Hebrew text in parallel, is now available in pdf to the public. Were these editions of the Mishnah to be incorporated into the search and browse windows of BibleWorks, they would make this foundational rabbinic document accessible and searchable to the non-specialist. Currently, the standard rabbinic database for academic research, which I use, is the Responsa Project by Bar-Ilan University. However, all of its texts are in Hebrew and Aramaic with no translation, vocalization, and little punctuation, making it inaccessible to the uninitiated.

These suggestions, of course, reflect the wishes of a scholar in early Judaism and Christianity who finds great use in the features already included in BibleWorks. I am also aware that it can be challenging finding useful texts that are free from copyright restrictions or low enough to facilitate their inclusion at a price users can afford after development costs. Resources in PDF format often require considerable effort to make them fully searchable. I am told that BibleWorks welcomes scholars who are ready to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle such projects so that they then be provided for free or at low cost for students and scholars alike.

Since 1992 BibleWorks has been developing software for biblical research. For almost a quarter of century later, BibleWorks has improved its screen layout, expanded the number of resources offered, and refined its tools for analysis and research. It is hoped that BibleWorks will continue to develop software for many years to come even as it strives to remain faithful to its mission “to provide a complete package containing the tools most essential for the task of interpreting the Scriptures in the original Greek and Hebrew, and to do it at a price that poor pastors and students can afford.” I would suppose that many a scholar with modest earnings could be numbered among the “poor pastors and students” and be grateful for BibleWorks’ commitment to make so many resources available at such a reasonable price!

Isaac W. Oliver, Bradley University
pdfRES-2016.10.09-Oliver-on-Bibleworks-10.pdf

One comment

  1. this is a wonderful review

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