As I mentioned several days ago, my trusty old copy of QuickVerse — the Windows 95 edition! — died when my old computer died. I’ve had to buy a new computer, and that meant going to Windows 7. And the 64-bit version of Windows 7 won’t run any of my old Bible study products.
And so the good people at BibleWorks have provided me with a review copy of BibleWorks 8, which is a massive program and far beyond anything I even imagined would be available on the market. Things have sure changed since 1995! It makes me feel, you know, ante-Diluvian. It makes me feel as old and backwards as my kids think I am! Oh, well. Maybe they won’t read this.
So I figured that before I opened the package, I’d make a list of what I really want. Let’s see … a perfect software package for me would have —
1. Easy interface. In my view, well-written software is intuitive and requires no instructions at all. I should be able to install and run it and get what I want out of it without hitting the Help button or opening a book.
2. Lots of English translations. I have no need for Bulgarian or Sanskrit translations, but I love having gobs of English translations, especially the KJV, NIV, and ESV.
3. Easy search. I should be able to search for an English word by book, testament, or even subpart of the testament, such as the Pauline epistles.
4. Easy browse. I should be able to type in book, chapter, and verse and have my verse pop right up.
5. Greek and Hebrew interlinear. The interface should make it easy to know what Greek or Hebrew word is translated into the English word I’m looking at. And I want to be told the root word, because I’m not good enough to figure it out for myself.
6. Greek and Hebrew declensions, etc. I want the software to tell me if the word is aorist, future, middle voice, or whatever.
7. I want easy access to the Septuagint. That would be really, really cool.
8. Dictionaries. I want Strong’s at least. I’d rather have multiple Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. And I want them there when I need them, with a click that takes me straight to the definition.
9. Cross-references. One of my favorite features in the Windows 95 QuickVerse was instant access to two sets of cross-references. I could click back and forth, and the editors had put some fabulous cross-references together. They were immensely helpful, and I miss them.
Now, for newer readers, I need to tell you that my formal training in Hebrew is exactly zero, and my formal training in Greek is about 1 1/2 quarters of sitting outdoors with Dr. Rodney McCloud, who offered a free class to those of us at Lipscomb who wanted to learn koine Greek but couldn’t schedule it. That was more than 35 years ago, and we didn’t get very far. I have just enough knowledge to use the resources.
The last several days, I’ve had to make do with the internet, and there are GOBS of free, excellent resources on the internet. That means that criteria 10 is —
10. Worth the price. Why shell out $350 for a product you can get for free on the internet?
Until BibleWorks hit my front porch, these are the resources I was using —
A. BibleGateway. I have this free toolbar thingy installed in FireFox that lets me type a verse or word in a box, and the verse or search list will magically pop up in a new tab. It’s that simple. And Bible Gateway has my favorite translations plus some. Even the ESV.
B. Bible Study Tools Interlinear Bible. I created a button in the toolbar row in FireFox, so I can just click and a tab pops up with a search box. Type in a verse and a Greek/English interlinear translation shows up. If I click on the Greek word, I get the Strong’s dictionary definition. And it has the declensions and such.
C. Scripture4All. I downloaded a free Greek and Hebrew interlinear package similar to B, but no internet connection is needed.
D. ApostolicBible.com. I downloaded a free copy of the Septuagint.
Now, you can do some serious research with these tools. And you can find Calvin’s Institutes, the works of Jacob Arminius and John Wesley, and many, many other commentaries and works that have shaped Christianity over the centuries (deny it though we may) for free. This is but a small, small sample.
So why pay real money for software when all this and more can be had for the price of an internet connection?
Frankly, a heavy duty research tool such as BibleWorks will be much more than many people need. If your research consists primarily of comparing English translations and doing English word searches within translations, BibleGateway isn’t perfect, but it’ll do quite well.
But internet research has its weaknesses.
1. Most of the software can’t be downloaded, so you have to be connected to the internet. That’s fine for me, because I have an always-on cable modem, but if you have dial up or pay by the minute, that’s a big problem.
2. In Bible Gateway, you can’t search in a book. Look up “faith,” and you get every hit in the New Testament or in the Pauline epistles. You can’t search for “faith” in just Romans.
3. The free software often has a really cludgy interface. Once you’ve found your verse, you can check the Greek out on one of the other services, but it’s not easy. Trust me. QuickVerse Windows 95 was faster, more intuitive, and much easier.
For example, in QuickVerse, the cross-references were in a separate window from the Bible text. In BibleGateway, the cross-references are superscripted into the text. And that means when I cut and paste into the blog, I have to edit all the footnotes out — and it’s a pain.
4. It doesn’t work together. Find a verse in one program and you still have to enter it in the other to see whether the Greek really works, for example. It’s a major pain to switch from program to program.
I’m hoping BibleWorks solves these problems.