I have written this review as a time-conscious fulfillment of a promise I made to a BibleWorks representative. This is a “surface” review because my desktop computer has been in the shop for most of the time I have owned this version of BibleWorks. (Perhaps a review of Acer Desktop computers is waiting in the lurches of my mind.) Hopefully this review will give enough of a “taste” for the program to cause the reader to sense the need for the purchase of the same. I will write a deeper and broader review after I have used BibleWorks 9 more on my main home computer.
In this review of BibleWorks 9, I am delighted to show some of the features of this newest revision, as well as to bring out many reasons why BibleWorks 9 should be on the computers of every serious biblical scholar and learned pastor.
First off, I have owned some version of BibleWorks since 2001; that gives me 10 years experience with the program. I have not, however, always kept the most current edition on my desktop for either financial reasons or because I had become so familiar with the current edition I owned that I did not want to make the change. Further, I do own other Bible programs, including the greatest competition to BibleWorks, and, for the most part, make BibleWorks my tool of choice.
On a daily basis, I am seeking to understand deeper meanings of the Scriptures. The tools of the various versions of English Bibles, accompanied by various Greek and Hebrew editions aid in the quest. Additionally, I keep a couple editions of Latin texts as well as a Spanish translation readily available (although the Spanish edition is for another purpose … which I will explain shortly.)
Using this setup, I now have the availability to observe several key (to me) editions of the English Bible, accompanied by several editions of the Greek/Hebrew texts in order to glean full/deeper meaning. I also have the ability to observe how those Latin translators understood said meanings. (Of course, the Latin does require a fuller understanding of the Latin language because of lack of Latin aides within BibleWorks 9; there are several lexicons and grammars associated with the Greek/Hebrew texts.) From this vantage, I can “see” parsings and meanings of the various words. (As said of the Latin, an understanding of the languages is extremely useful if possible but not necessary to begin to understand what is being said. NOTE: However, never assume that the fact that you can SEE what the words are and what their individual words mean make you a scholar. I have often said in teaching my classes that “a little Greek/Hebrew is a dangerous thing.”) Having said that, there is deeper meaning that is now at any user’s fingertips.
(Note: I also mentioned that I keep a Spanish translation open at all times. I do this because my wife and I often have opportunity to ministry to pastors and leaders in Latin America. While neither of us is fluent in Spanish, the capability of observing the Bible in their language greatly opens our understanding in being able to communicate with Latin Americans.)
I love to be able to hover over a word in several of the texts and see its immediate meaning. I find this very useful when I am reading in the original languages and come across a word with which I am unfamiliar. Granted, this CAN become a crutch for students of the languages if improperly used, but it can also be a great asset for such things as a hapax legomenon or other infrequently used term. Further, I am given the option of digging deeper into particular words’ meanings through additional lexicons and tools.
I also love the ability to use parallel versions to see how different teams have translated a particular word or phrase. And having them paralleled with the Greek, Hebrew, and Latin has been a huge plus for me because I can immediately see those various versions alongside the original language. Of useful assistance here is the ability to see textual variants as well. And a new feature in BibleWorks 9 is the utilization of a few of the prominent early texts in both transcribed and scanned formats. I think this is a huge stride forward.
Another new feature of BibleWorks 9 is the ability to format your screen into four columns instead of the normal (for BibleWorks) three columns. I honestly have not used this much because the three-column format has worked for me for quite a while now, I am familiar with it, and my computer sets it as default. However, I do see the capabilities of having four columns because you are given one more possibility of tools there on your screen.
I actually can think of only a few negatives to this program. For instance, it has greatly influenced my sermon preparation time in a negative manner. So many “rabbit trails” have appeared that I have effectually doubled (or more) my prep time. In other words, there is so much here, so many cross references, so much additional contexts, and so much in-depth study of the various words that it is difficult to confine oneself to the immediate task at hand. Of course I say all of this tongue-in-cheek because the truth is that I personally need to further discipline myself to NOT get carried away by all of the features.
Additionally, this program may not be as effective in the hands of the non-seminary trained pastor or teacher. It is short on the commentary aspect although it does have some background materials available. Again, this is not a weakness per se; instead it shows that the people at BibleWorks had a narrowed, clarified concept of what they were wanting and they worked toward that end. There are many good tools out there for pastors, but this is probably not on that list for those untrained in the praxis of its specified, particularized tools.
On another note, I was somewhat disappointed to see the removal of A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures, from BibleWorks 9. It is a tool that I used often and one I will miss although I do have a hard copy of this work.
At the end of the day (and at its beginning for that manner,) BibleWorks is my tool of choice when attempting to glean the maximum understanding from the original languages of the Bible. Even without the ability to recognize and read the Greek/Hebrew texts, a student can and will be assisted through the use of this program … although a deeper understanding of the grammar and vocabulary of these languages will cause the use of BibleWorks 9 to be magnified many-fold. I heartily endorse the acquisition and use of this program by all seminary students, professors, learned pastors, and students of the Word of God. I would not consider such purchase as a burden but instead, an investment … and one which will reap great benefits.