Why I Use BibleWorks

Students often ask me about the Bible software that I use during class. The program that I display to them nearly every day is BibleWorks8. Here is why.

For many years, the Accordance software was the gold standard for scholars and pastors working with the primary texts of biblical studies. Its main drawback was that it only worked on Macs, thus relegating the myriads of PC users to one or more of the inferior programs that were available for the Windows operating system. The release of BibleWorks 5 and 6 began to close the gap between Mac users and PC users. With the release of BibleWorks 7 and 8, however, the gap is gone, and a new standard was set for serious students of the scripture who use Bible software.

As in previous versions, BibleWorks8 has a wide range of valuable databases in its base package. Not only does it have the standard critical texts of the Old and New Testaments (Nestle-Aland 27th and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, respectively), but it also has several other Greek editions of the NT (including Westcott-Hort and Tischendorff) and Rahlf’s text of the Septuagint. All of these versions are fully lemmatized and parsed. Nearly every English Bible version is included in the base package of BibleWorks8, as are Bible versions for more than 26 modern languages. Other important primary texts in the base package include the works of Josephus and Philo, the Aramaic Targums on the OT, the Peshitta, the Vulgate, and the Apostlic Fathers.

I recommend buying at least three of the add-on modules that are available: BDAG, HALOT, and the Qumran Sectarian manuscripts. BDAG and HALOT may be purchased separately for $150 and $159 respectively, or bundled for $212. One cannot underestimate the value of these two lexicons, nor the time that one will save in looking up individual words in the Greek NT and the Hebrew OT. The Qumran Sectarian manuscripts cost $80, and these also are a vital resource for biblical scholars.

I really like the three-column interface of BibleWorks8 (screenshot below):

The three columns are designed to be user-friendly to the researcher. When researching a particular topic, one usually moves from searching, to browsing, to analysis of particular words or phrases. The new interface is laid out in this order (search-browse-analysis) so that reading and analyzing search results is more intuitive. Of course, this latest version retains the powerful search capacities of previous versions, including a graphic interface for morphologically/syntactically complex searches. Here’s a screenshot of the graphical search engine set to look-up every instance of the Granville Sharp construction:

Some software programs require additional fees for adding on new Bible versions, but BibleWorks8 includes everything one needs in its base package for a mere $349. Even if one does not purchase the three add-ons (which I highly recommend), the base package has much to offer. The wide variety and quality of these resources make BibleWorks8 a great value.

The breadth and focus of its databases, the user interface, and the value of its base package make BibleWorks8 a must-have for serious students of scripture. Seminary and Bible College students, professors, and pastors would all benefit from this powerful tool.

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[I understand that there is a new version of BibleWorks that has been released. I’ll post a review of it when/if I get it.]

8 Responses to Why I Use BibleWorks

  1. G. Kyle Essary August 4, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    This is a great writeup. I spent probably $1000 on Logos, but was constantly running into issues with the terrible speed of the program, difficulties in comlex searches and the fact that it just never quite worked right. I switched to Mac for Accordance and have never looked back. There is simply no comparison, but BibleWorks is getting close. It’s still slower in searches, especially more complex searches (when using comparable PC to Mac hardware), and doesn’t have the excellent mobile format (Accordance 1.3 on the iPad is the best mobile scholarly Bible software out there by a landslide).

    BibleWorks excels for scholars, because they haven’t focused on having tons of content, but only on making the content scholars need work right. Instead of having workspaces and setups for everyone, they focus on biblical scholars and that’s evident. If I were still on a PC, there is no doubt I would be using BibleWorks over Logos or anything else.

  2. Josh August 4, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Have you ever used Accordance? The newer releases, I mean (post 2005). Sometimes people like to write software reviews without spending significant time in each environment, which only means that you’re able to argue thoroughly about the one you’re most familiar with. I’m not accusing you of this, but you can’t take jabs at Accordance (or any other software) without using it. I have a friend who bought a Mac and Accordance and wrote a published review after only a month or two of using it. I found the review lacking, and it’s clear that he didn’t really know the product at the time of the review, only the basics.

    I’ve used both products extensively in seminary and I hardly think “the gap is gone.” In fact, I would argue that in the past decade the majority of Bible software users go with either Logos or Bibleworks, which is mainly due to the tremendous market-share advantage that the Windows OS has around the world (as opposed to OSX or Linux). But as you know, that “gap” is actually narrowing. When you look out at your class when you’re teaching, how many Mac laptops do you see compared to others laptops? 2-1, perhaps? Young people love Macs. When they become old people they’ll probably still love Macs.

    Although your point about cost and about Bible versions is well taken, those are the only advantages of Bibleworks, in my opinion, and you haven’t convinced this Mac user to make that switch. The interface in Bibleworks is confusing and unorganized, and the Granville Sharp graphical search screenshot you mention makes no sense to me. You can tell that an engineer or programmer put that together without thinking about the user experience. And that’s the difference between Mac and Windows, between Accordance and Bibleworks/Logos. A clean, precise, and organized interface is the way to go with Bible software. This is what Apple does best, and Accordance too.

    With Bibleworks, I always feel like I’m looking at a beta test. With Accordance, I feel like I’m looking at a complete product.

  3. Denny Burk August 4, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Josh,

    Yes, I have used Accordance. I wasn’t taking jabs at Accordance at all. In fact, I considered switching to Mac years ago just so that I could use Accordance. As I said above, they have set the bar.

    The problem is that it is not available on PC’s. The only point I was trying to make is that BibleWorks has done a lot to catch up with the functionality of Accordance.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  4. Denny Burk August 4, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Kyle,

    I still use LOGOS, and I find it to be good for what it’s good for. When I need a commentary (or some other book) in a pinch, it’s where I go.

    But you are right about speed. For some reason LOGOS just moves more slowly than BibleWorks. It is for that reason that BibleWorks is the one I use the most when I am browsing or searching primary texts. I use LOGOS when I need to get access to secondary texts. Since I need both, both programs are valuable to me.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  5. Dan Phillips August 4, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Yet another thing you’re right about, Denny. Absolutely love, love, love BibleWorks — though my main reason is a bit different.

    Just started using ver. 9 yesterday; plan to review when I can.

  6. Matt Powell August 4, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I used the early versions of BW and loved it. Since there is no mac version I stopped using it because of how cumbersome it was to reboot into Windows.

    I would be thrilled if they would release a mac version.

    • J. Gary Ellison August 6, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      I use BibleWorks 8 on my Mac with Parallels. There is no need to reboot, and with the Parallels “Coherence” setting, BW (and other Windows programs) operate almost identical to other Mac based programs; you don’t even see the Windows screen. (I do have 8GB of memory as I run multiple programs at the same time.)

      One disadvantage on the Mac: BW will not automatically copy selected text to a Mac based program such as Mac Word. Other than that, the “Parallels line” between Mac and Windows is almost indiscernable.

      BW9 looks fantastic.

  7. Barry Applewhite August 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    Denny, I fully agree with your conclusions. BibleWorks 8 (BW8) has been my main tool in writing books and commentary material since it came out. When I bought BW8, I already owned a version of Logos, but I have not bothered to upgrade it because my BW8 works so well.

    I also purchased the BDAG-3 and HALOT modules for BW8, which are far superior to anything else in biblical lexicography. The Qumran module is not something I have used, but I’ll take a harder look.

    Just upgraded to BW9, but do not have enough experience with it to talk about the improvements just yet. I don’t know how anyone can pass up BW9 at the price.

    One last thing: I do Bible exegesis and exposition with the use of commentaries as a clearly secondary element. If commentaries were my biggest desire, then Logos might be my tool of choice.

    -Barry

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