Arthur J. Fox
BibleWorks 8 (store.bibleworks.com), $349 for full version, upgrade discounts available.
The good news for Bible Works users is that Bible Works is now available in its eighth version. I reviewed version 7 when it came out, and I think what I began with there is appropriately repeated here:
First and most important, no Bible Software program can substitute for your devotional life. By this I mean that even if you become an expert in the use of BibleWorks or any other program, if you do not have a living and growing relationship with Christ, any work you produce using that software will not please God. Nor will you grow unless you meditate on as well as use the program to analyze the text.
Second, and closely related to this: a program does not make a scholar. You must do the hard work of understanding the text you are studying and use the software to that end or you may just end up with a technical display that edifies no one. I speak personally. I am a pastor who preaches two sermons a week and teaches a Bible Study as well as a Sunday School class. I use BibleWorks to aid me in preparing my notes. But at a recent Session meeting I received the helpful criticism that my sermons were more Bible Studies than sermons and that people were not hearing the gospel. I had my cross references in order and depth of material, but it was next to useless because I assumed that was enough. Greek and Hebrew vocabulary are not what makes a sermon or Bible study useful to God's people. A heart for people that drives you into the Word does.
With a heart that is set right and eyes fixed on Christ, and with prayer for the Spirit's help, BibleWorks 8 is a marvelously helpful tool to make preparation of sermons or personal Bible study more effective and efficient.
Right out of the box, as they say, BibleWorks 8 distances itself from its earlier version: If you have a DVD drive in your computer, there is only one disk to use for installation. If you have purchased modules in versions 6 or 7, then BibleWorks will send you new activation codesand here getting them listed in the program is simplicity itself; just highlight, click copy, and it will put the code right into the program and tell you to simply click and it will be listed in the program for activation. After that you begin to see the improvements immediately! Yet there are so many of these, and the tools given the user are so varied and numerous that this review must of necessity be selective in its examples.
The command center window is basically the same as in version 7, three columnsthe search window where you type in either the passage reference or the word/phrase you want to study, the browse window where each verse containing your text appears, one at a time, and the analysis window where the program has tabs for the following tools: an editor window, where you can cut and paste text or write notes, the Word Analysis Tab (where you will find version notes, parsing and definitions for Greek and Hebrew words, and other important information), the Resource Summary Tab (which tells you what each lexicon says about the word on which you have your cursor), the User Notes Tab (for creating your own commentary or study notes), the Editor Tab (the help notes for BW-8 says: "This is a full-featured editor that has all the features of WordPad plus many features specific to BibleWorks. It has full support for Unicode plus a wealth of useful features including hypertext links, Scripture links, inserted bitmaps, full undo and redo, automatic outlining, Bible Text insertion [by verse or in tabular form], and text zoom"), the Cross-Reference Tab (where you get the advantage of cross references for each verse depending on the version you are using), Search Statistics Tab, Words (a list of the words contained in the current version, a list of words in the verses contained in the current search results, and a list of words searched), Context (listing all the words used in the present chapter), Version Info, and Browse (for viewing the current verse in its context).
There are the same modules as in version 7, except many of the optional modules are now freely added, plus you can buy others that are listed on the Web site. One module included for free if you are upgrading from version 7 is Metzger's Textual Commentary on the New Testament and Tischendorf's textual apparatus, along with ready-to-go diagrams of verses, Bible time lines, tools to help with original language vocabulary study, and a host of features that, again, would take more than this reviewer's space to list!
As always, searches on words and phrases are done with lightning speed (3,808 verses with the word God found in .48 seconds). And if you do not like the way the command window is set up, you can arrange it to suit your needs. Ideas can be found in the forums section of the Bible Works Web site.
I believe one more word of commendation is required before this review is concluded. Far too often one finds that tech support on a program is spotty at best. Questions are not answered, or, if they are, then they are either answered after a long delay or it is hard to engage the tech support staff in correspondence. Not so with Bible Works! This staff has been of tremendous help to me over the course of the last ten years (and I have been on board since version 1). They are always polite and patient and their clear goal is to respond with all the help they can muster. This is encouraging and ought to be an incentive to use this product without fear of getting lost in the options for its use.
By all means, contact the company through their Web site, find out what the product does and then buy it. It is well worth what you will spend on it. Further, I would recommend that the session of each church consider purchasing this invaluable research tool for their ministers and teachers without their requesting it. The time saved in Bible study and sermon preparation will more than repay the expense.
Arthur J. Fox, an OPC minister, serves as pastor of Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Ordained Servant, March 2009.