Late to the Game: Some Scattered Thoughts on BibleWorks 9 (Mostly about NT Manuscripts)

Introduction

I know that BibleWorks 10 has been out for a little while now and from all I’ve seen it looks fantastic. My introduction to BibleWorks came with version 8 and it was incredible. I used the program daily in my study of the Bible and ended up writing a series of review posts sharing some of my thoughts on the features I used most. Then came BibleWorks 9 and I was provided with a copy for review… 2+ years ago!

My apologies for this delayed response. I’d love to say that the cares of life kept me from using the program but that just wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I had installed BW9 on my Toshiba Satellite Pro and after doing one of the routine updates it began to crash every time I opened it. This went on for quite a while and I tried to fix the problem by doing multiple system restores in Windows Vista. That didn’t work.

It took quite a bit of deliberation for me to finally decide to do a fresh install. The main issue was that my laptop’s screen had given up the ghost and I had it hooked up to an external monitor. The laptop was, for all intents and purposes (not intensive purposes!), a desktop. But it was situated in a spot behind the monitor in the dark recesses of my desk that made the disc drive difficult to access. A reinstall would mean more work for me than I had really wanted to do.

But a fresh install I did, and I ended up loading the program on an external hard drive since my Toshiba’s hard drive was nearly full and slowing daily. So onto the 1TB Seagate it went. I was finally able to open the program without issue but then I became gun-shy with updates, refusing to install any. The truth is that after the reinstall I really didn’t take advantage of any of the new features of the program. I used BW9 just like I used BW8. And then I got a Mac.

When I got the MacBook Pro I installed Logos 5 on it and that was my go-to Bible software in the earliest stages. Then I contacted Accordance because I wanted to see how well their software worked on the machine it was designed for. It works great by the way. But I still wanted to use BibleWorks and it was now a possibility on OS X. There are three options: native, virtual, dual boot. I opted for running it in a virtual machine so I installed Parallels, Windows 8.1, and finally BibleWorks 9.

I will note that BibleWorks 9 was the sole reason that I put a virtual machine and Windows on my MacBook. It’s also the sole reason that I bought Apple’s overpriced Superdrive since I had the installation DVDs and needed to get them onto the laptop without a disc drive. That’s how much I cared about this program!

Scattered Thoughts

So how does BW9 work on my Mac? It works great! It’s fast as ever once opened but it does take a moment to load initially (longer than Accordance but that shouldn’t be a great shock). But it seems to me that the real difference between BW9 and BW8 is the addition of the fourth window and all of the manuscript features (pictured in part below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 07.33.11(2)

The addition of transcribed versions of Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Bezae, Washingtonianus, Boernerianus, and GA 1141 including high resolution images of the actual manuscripts is a boon to those engaged in textual criticism. I don’t do much textual criticism these days and in the interest of saving precious space on my limited hard drive I have opted to install Sinaiticus alone (which can be seen in the above screenshot).

I was somewhat surprised to find that only the NT portions of Sinaiticus appear in the program. It would have been desirable for the OT portions to have been transcribed and images included as well. One might argue that much of the OT material is fragmentary, which is quite true, but there are entire books (e.g., Jeremiah) that do appear in the manuscript, and access to those portions of Scripture would have been quite helpful.

There are a number of image processing options that are designed to allow the user to alter things such as the color or sharpness of the manuscript in order to get a better look at hard to read portions. I haven’t found that any of the alterations I’ve tried have made the text any easier to read, in fact, I think the original image provided is probably the best quality I’ve seen.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 21.52.18

The transcriptions themselves are what I find most useful though. It’s immensely satisfying to have a searchable text that includes the nomina sacra (which can be copied from BW9 and pasted into MS Word, Pages, or even a WordPress blog post in unicode – Χ̅Ω̅ Ι̅Υ̅ – by the way!) and does the work for me in separating the scriptio continua. I’m well aware that there are people who enjoy working through manuscripts and deciphering such things but I’m not one of them. I also enjoy reading the occasional transcription note that appears below the manuscript image (see below).

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.00.28

The Center for New Testament Textual Studies’ New Testament Critical Apparatus appears, as far as I can tell, to be a powerful tool. I’ll admit that it frightens me a bit and I don’t quite know how to use it to its full potential just yet. Thankfully, the BibleWorks website has a page explaining just what it is, what it does, and how to use it.

Screenshot 2015-05-19 22.13.47

There are undoubtedly thousands of other features that I’ve yet to discover, and I’m pleased to report that everything I loved about BW8 (e.g., the diagramming, the lightning fast searches, the ability to create custom parallel texts, etc.) has been carried over into BW9. I look forward to getting back to my roots and using this program more in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. Who knows, maybe I’ll get proficient in it one day and make the move to BW10. More anon, I’m sure.

B”H

6 thoughts on “Late to the Game: Some Scattered Thoughts on BibleWorks 9 (Mostly about NT Manuscripts)

  1. Any thoughts on what I should purchase for my scholarly work in second temple studies? Accordance looks nicer but bw10 is a lot lot cheaper for same databases

  2. Harry: It all depends on what your focus will be and what you’re willing to spend. They’re both great for exegesis. They’re both lightning fast and extremely powerful. Accordance is more customizable in terms of layout. BibleWorks is less expensive.

    Both work with Windows and OS X these days so your operating system doesn’t much matter, but trust and believe that Accordance is slightly better on a Mac and BW is slightly better on a Windows machine.

    If you’re studying Second Temple Judaism then there are obviously primary texts aside from the Bible that you’ll be spending plenty of time in. Look and see which program offers those texts at the most affordable rates. My copy of BW8 came with Josephus, Philo, OT Pseudepigrapha, and more, which was carried over when I upgraded to BW9 (and I’m sure that’s all included in the latest version). Accordance didn’t come with any of that so that may play a role in which software is most suited to your needs.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Thanks for that. For scholarly, precise copies and links and searchability, is there a major difference between the two? My sense is that Accordance has more tags etc. but that both are as searchable when it comes to Greek texts (Josephus, Philo, Pseusepigrapha, Apocrypha, etc)? If that is the case, I think that my money is better spent on Bibleworks (since it is a lot lot lot lot less expensive)

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