Cool Website #40: BibleWorks.com

BibleWorks 8 is the premier software tool for Biblical exegesis in the original languages.  It combines an exhaustive array of Bible versions and language tools (lexicons, parsing guides, morphology analysis) with a number of practical helps for the serious student of the Scriptures.  It is not intended to perform the same service as other compilations of commentaries and study guides.  Instead BibleWorks facilitates primary research into the text itself.  I have been using this program for many years in my study and preparation.  But as I recommend this site I must confess that my skill level in using the available toolset only touches the tip of the iceberg.  For more scholarly analysis you need to read some of the reviews referenced at the host website: BibleWorks.com.  However, it is just because of this limitation that I feel my overview of the program might be helpful.  The technically savvy NT professors at the seminary level need no introduction to the value of this software.  But the busy pastor and Sunday School teacher and serious Bible student might shy away from this sophisticated product in favor of some much more simpler concordance and word search tool.  I want to encourage that more general audience to adopt this software as the gateway to learning how to deepen their own exegetical skill and expand their expectation of their own level of study.

One of the most helpful disciplines I acquired in my seminary studies at Grace was the organized analysis of the flow of the passage through diagramming in the original language.  I began by learning the techniques in the English text — being able to identify all of the parts of speech and understand how the various connectives functioned to move the argument of the paragraph forward.  Then I progressed to the same analysis in Greek and Hebrew.  Obviously this technique is more helpful in the writings of the Apostle Paul than in the historical narratives of the OT.  But it helps to give appropriate weight to the various portions of the passage so you don’t end up in your sermon preparation with just isolated observations based on your subjective identity with certain themes.  It might sound like a “wooden” approach, but I am able to use BibleWorks to chunk up the passage into my sermon outline before I even have any topics or main points identified and detailed. In other words I can determine that my text has 3 main points with 2 sub level sections under each.  I can then start the detailed portion of the study and work towards an expositional outline.

For example, having just preached on Acts 2:2-4, here is the Leedy NT diagram you can very easily dump out of BibleWorks to help with your parsing of the passage:

I can’t tell you what an incredible resource this is!  You have the tools to create your own diagrams as well.  I used to import the Greek text from BibleWorks into Microsoft Word and draw all of my own lines, etc. to show the relationships.

Here is just another quick example of a different resource.  Click on Resources / Miscellaneous to select the “Archer & Chirichigno, OT Quotes in NT” application.  In studying Acts 2 I am interested in Peter’s use of the quote from Joel 2.  You can see the quote displayed in the Hebrew as well as in the LXX along with some commentary notes explaining how the quote is being used:

When you first start using the software expect to be overwhelmed by the visual overload in terms of the amount of information presented.  There are helpful tutorials which you need to track through to get familiar with the general layout and the different sections of the screen: the search window, the browse window, and the analysis window.  Don’t try to master everything all at once.  You need to focus on a particular task and gain a confidence level there and then move on to add more functionality to your approach.   Obviously the concordance type searches will be the simplest level of usage.  Some of the simplest “Tips” that pop up to educate you turn out to be the most useful — e.g. if you don’t grasp the concept of using the Shift key to freeze the screen you will quickly be frustrated.  Otherwise as you move your cursor the related analysis constantly changes based on what word you are passing over.

The Study Guides (accessed from the Help window) provide both a textual explanation and a short video clip to illustrate the functionality.  For example, pick a skill like displaying two different versions of the same passage side by side for the sake of comparison.  You might be comparing 2 English versions or an English version against a Greek version.  It is a very simple task once you understand the steps to take.  But if you don’t use this technique often it is also very easy to forget and need a refresher.  That is why I recommend continuing to build on your mastery of the program rather than contenting yourself with a few basic search skills.  Scroll through the variety of topics referenced in the Help section.  The depth and breadth of the program will far exceed your appetite and expectations.

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