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This review updates a review of BibleWorks 9 that appeared in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly in 2012. BibleWorks 10 came out in April 2015. It also contains a number of helpful links, which will guide the reader to appreciate various aspects of the review. Enjoy!—The Editors
According to its online summary, BibleWorks (BW) has “more than 250 Bible translations in nearly 40+ languages, 45 original language texts and morphology databases, 30 lexical-grammatical references, and a wealth of practical reference works. Reference works include Greek and Hebrew vocabulary flashcards and pronunciation; Bible maps; Holy Land images; the Greek New Testament read aloud and fully diagramed; Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew grammars; full transcriptions and image sets for both the Leningrad Codex and nine of the most important Greek New Testament manuscripts; and the full CNTTS New Testament apparatus.”
This reviewer recently downloaded BW’s Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) text and apparatus, plus BW’s Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) text, extensive apparatus and commentary on the apparatus for Deuteronomy, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Megilloth (Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and Esther). These became available in October 2015, so this reviewer has not worked with them much, but their availability is one reason for a new review. They are part of a $199.00 extra package that includes Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Revised Edition (Nestle-Aland), with morphology and apparatus, and much more. Shortly, additional BHQ volumes and the United Bible Societies 5th revised edition of the New Testament will become part of that package at no cost to purchasers. In Windows all these are easily-searched .chm (compiled HTML help) files.
For details about BW 10 and what is new in it since BW 9, the more interested exegete can start at BW’s main product page. Then, I suggest reading reviews. Two of the best online reviews are by an NIV Committee on Translation member, Dr. David Instone-Brewer, who is a senior research fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, and by Todd Scacewater, teaching fellow in New Testament and PhD candidate at Westminster Seminary. Scacewater is right about BW 10’s searchable hi-resolution images of the Leningrad Codex – they are stellar.
I have used BibleWorks almost daily since version 4.0 came out in 1999. Since 2012 I have found its note-taking pane particularly useful. I can set up that pane’s .rtf files to save automatically, chapter-by-chapter, to box.com. This procedure keeps notes synced between a laptop and desktop computer.
Many pastors in our circles use Logos, available for Mac and Windows computers. The other major option, Accordance, rivals BW and Logos in excellence. Why might a WELS pastor consider BibleWorks, when Northwestern Publishing House publishes so many resources in Logos’ format and Logos is required at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary?
Accordance and Logos both offer more resources (commentaries and other reference books, especially) than BibleWorks, and unlike BibleWorks, which works on Windows 7, 8 and 10 computers and tablets, Accordance and Logos have iPad/iPhone apps. Logos works on Android smartphones and tablets as well. This reviewer uses his Android phone now and then to access the Lutheran Confessions, Luther’s Works, and Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly issues.
One reason to use BibleWorks might be speed. BibleWorks is faster than its competitors, especially on older computers. I run the free Logos 6 engine on my Windows 7 laptop. BW 10 loads in 10 seconds or under. Logos needs 45-60 seconds longer to load. Searches in Logos take longer than BW, too. If an analogy helps, you could say in Windows BibleWorks is a Maserati; Logos is a Cadillac Escalade. Both are fantastic, but with different purposes. Thankfully, BW can run on Mac too.
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Another reason to choose BibleWorks might be price. The typical reader of this review, who’s trying to do exegetical work, would want the BibleWorks base package plus the BDAG module ($150) for a total price of $539. Add the BDAG/HALOT module ($212), to give yourself both up-to-date Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic lexica, and your price is $601. The equivalent Accordance package ($299 + complete Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon upgrade for $50 plus BDAG/HALOT bundle on sale $299.00, normally $463) appears to be $648. Logos 6 Biblical Languages Library is on sale as of this review for $637.46, though other deals may be available. The BDAG/HALOT bundle goes for $274.95. Total price: $912.41.
Another reason to consider BibleWorks: freebies. BibleWorks’ base package includes free training videos, unlike Logos. It has The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Moulton & Milligan) and grammars such as Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics and Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Waltke & O’Connor), and A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Joüon & Muraoka). At bibleworks.oldinthenew.org you can download for free Luther sermons (Lenker edition), Kretzmann’s commentary, Keil/Delitzsch Old Testament commentary, the Bente/Dau English Book of Concord, and Walther’s Law and Gospel.
One final reason to consider BibleWorks: company philosophy. BW’s motto is “focus on the text.” BibleWorks, unlike Logos, does not aim to be your electronic library. Thus, in a 2010 interview, BibleWorks president and lead programmer Michael Bushell was asked, “If you had to recommend the use of Bible software to someone who has never been exposed to it before, how would you go about it?”
He began: “There is no substitute for simply sitting down and reading the Biblical text and then taking the time to think about what it means.” BibleWorks is for scholars of the inspired text. So, BibleWorks offers in its base package the Center for New Testament Textual Studies Textual Database (from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary), a far more comprehensive apparatus for Greek NT manuscripts than UBS5or NA28. (Accordance and Logos offers the same database, but they charge $99.90 or $99.95, respectively. Logos offers the valuable Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible with the apparatus of BHS and NA28 for $129.99.) BibleWorks 10 also includes, at no extra cost, high resolution .jpg images, morphologically tagged databases and tools to compare important Greek NT manuscripts such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, GA1141.
Back to the interview: Bushell was asked, “Why do you think people should consider using your software?” He answered in part, “We exist to serve the church, not to make money. We have a reputation for aggressive development and careful attention to the suggestions of our users. In fact our programmers routinely, on a daily basis, interact directly with users. We offer a 90-day return policy. If BibleWorks is not what you need, we do not want your money.”
On BibleWorks’ helpful online forum page, I have seen Bushell extend this offer well beyond 90 days to someone with a gripe. In short, this small company continues to impress this reviewer as an organization well worth committing to long-term, as you would want to do if you bought their product or switched to it. I am more convinced than ever: Logos for library (such as Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly back issues, and Luther’s Works); BibleWorks for daily Bible study.