Bible software (part 2)

In the last issue of the magazine we looked at some of the best Bible software packages that were designed for those who have little knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, and were studying the Bible for their own growth, or for teaching in Sunday School classes. In this follow-up article, we’re going to look at software for those who need to dig a little deeper. These recommendations are therefore for people who teach the Bible to adults, or who want to study Greek/Hebrew.

At this end of the market, the choice of software is actually quite limited. Although there are plenty of software packages that include Greek/Hebrew texts (see the previous review), most of them are dated and unreliable. If you want to refer to the original languages you should be using Logos Bible Software 3, Bibleworks 8, or Accordance 8. Choosing between them is actually quite easy:

  • If you’re a whizz with the languages and are only interested in exegeting the text (in other words, using the software for morphological searching and lexical analysis), then put Bibleworks (PC only) at the top of your list.
  • If you want to do all that, but also want to use your software to consult a wide range of commentaries and theological dictionaries, then Logos (PC or Mac) will be just right for you. Logos is also perfect for those whose Greek or Hebrew is not up to scratch, so if you didn’t understand the previous bullet point, choose Logos!
  • If you’re somewhere in between, and want to focus on searching in both English and the original languages, but occasionally consult a commentary or dictionary, then consider Accordance (Mac only, PC via free emulator).

Understanding what’s on offer

Before we compare the different products available, let’s look at what marks out these packages from the more basic ones that we looked at in the last issue. In two words: morphological tagging. Let me explain what that means.

Each of the packages here offer the Bible in English and in the original languages. They also offer several lexicons (i.e. Greek/Hebrew dictionaries). But simply having the Bible in Greek or Hebrew is of limited value. Most teachers of the Bible know that ἀγαπάω (agapaō) means ‘to love’. But did you remember that ἀγαπήσεις (agapēseis) is finite, second person, singular, future, indicative and active, and is usually translated ‘You shall love’? No, nor did I. That means you don’t just need a Greek text, you need a morphologically tagged Greek text. These texts have tags hidden in every word in the Bible that explain exactly the form of every word, and tell you what the lemma (root word) is.

A morphological text means that you can jump quickly to a lexicon in one click from any word, without resorting to looking up reference numbers. You will also be able to parse any word, usually by just hovering your mouse over it.

A morphological text also allows you to search for every instance of every word, regardless of its inflection. You can also do more complex searches, such as searching for every time ἀγαπάω (agapaō) is given as a command. If grammar scares you, skip to the next paragraph, but for those who are interested let me give you an idea of the power available. You could find all instances of a dative or accusative participle not immediately preceded by an agreeing article, and followed by an agreeing article and noun, excluding cases where a word from a specified list intervenes. I’m struggling to think of why you might want to this, but the point is that if you want to search for something – anything! – these programs will make it possible. You’ll be glad to know that they all come with tutorials that help you find your way through the complexities.

In other words, software like this should replace all your bibles (English and original language), your concordances, your interlinears, your lexicons,  and most of your grammar books – perhaps even your commentaries. You’ll never have a messy desk again!

Bibleworks v8 (www.bibleworks.com, typically £250)

Bibleworks does one thing very well, very quickly. It allows you to view, search and analyse the Biblical text. Bibleworks deliberately avoids commentaries, theological dictionaries and other ‘books’, and puts all its effort into the Bible text. It’s lightning-quick, relatively cheap, and very powerful.

Bibleworks is designed for people who are familiar with the original languages, or you want to become so. There’s no interlinear included, for example, which would display the Greek/Hebrew text, but under every Greek/Hebrew word give an English translation of that word.  There’s also few ‘extras’ to buy (which many people think is a blessing – you get almost everything included for your initial fee). The only ‘extras’ most people would consider would be the BDAG, HALOT and perhaps Liddell-Scott lexicons, which weigh in around £100 each.

Verdict: Perfect for those who are comfortable with the languages and want to focus on exegesis.

Logos Bible Software v3 (www.logos.com, £300 – £1,000)

Logos Bible Software is not so much Bible Software, but a full electronic theological library. It combines the power of Bibleworks’ searching with the ability to read some of the very best commentaries, dictionaries, systematic theologies and even books. Most of these are available as add-ons, which can quickly get pricey. However, when you make your initial purchase of Logos you could choose a package that had many of them included, usually at a substantial discount.

Let me give you a flavour of some of the commentaries that are available: Kistemaker/Hendriksen (12 vols, £110), Bible Speaks Today NT (22 vols, £70), Calvin (22 vols, £70), Focus on the Bible (coming soon – 32 vols, £200), Welwyn (coming soon – 49 vols, £210), Charles Simeon’s Horae Homileticae (21 vols, £350), Keil & Delitzsch OT (10 vols, £85), Lenski’s NT (12 vols, £210), New International Greek (12 vols, £375), Pillar NT (8 vols, £175), Word Biblical Commentary (59 vols, £490).

Of the other resources the best include a set of IVP dictionaries (17 vols, £90), and the Theological Journal Library (500 vols, £240). Those who enjoy historical theology might appreciate the works of Luther (55 vols, £140), John Bunyan (61 vols, £55), Richard Sibbes (7 vols, £55), Thomas Goodwin (12 vols, £125), John Owen (17 vols, £210), John Knox (6 vols, £70), Richard Baxter (23 vols, £125), Thomas Manton (22 vols, £140), or Francis Schaeffer (22 vols, £70). Partial sets are also available of Spurgeon’s sermons (63 vols, £68), Warfield (20 vols, £210), Jonathan Edwards (2 vols, £85), Boettner (8 vols, £55), Berkouwer (14 vols, £230), Philip Schaff (21 vols, £100), A. A. Hodge (10 vols, £55), A. T. Robertson (15 vols, £105), A. W. Tozer (57 vols, £280), A. W. Pink (40 vols, £175), Lloyd-Jones (10 vols, £105), and John Piper (24 vols, £140).

Systematic theologies include Strong (£30), Hodge (£25), Geisler (£85), Reymond (£30), Grudem (£30), and Erickson (£20). Greek lexicons include BDAG (£105), Liddell-Scott (£95), Friberg (£20), Louw-Nida (£30), Strong’s (£18), and TDNT (10 vols, £140). In Hebrew you can choose from HALOT (£110), Brown-Driver-Briggs (£35), DBL (£28), and TLOT (3 vols, £70). Believe it or not, that’s only a tiny fraction of what’s available – literally everything from Max Lucardo’s Travelling Light to The Ugaritic Textbook (revised edition).

If your Greek or Hebrew is less than you’d like, then Logos has some wonderful features that set it apart from other packages. The most useful are reverse interlinears. Usually interlinears focus on the Greek (or Hebrew) text, and have a very wooden translation in English that follows the Greek word order. John 3:16 in a standard interlinear might read ‘Thusly for loved the God the world so that the son the only born he gave…’. Reverse interlinears do the opposite – they preserve the English word order by moving the Greek words around. The great thing about this is that you can work with the English text (ESV or NRSV), but still have access to all the Greek morphology. You can even search for Greek/Hebrew words and have the results come back in English!

The other key aids in Logos are the exegetical guide and passage guide and bible word study. These effectively bring all your resources together – necessary because the sheer number of Logos resources can make them hard to find. The exegetical guide takes a bible passage, and splits it up into its original words, giving you at-a-glance access to all your resources that relate to each word. The passage guide searches all your commentaries, maps and other resources and displays everything that relates to that passage on one easy-to-access page. Finally the bible word study takes a word (Greek, Hebrew, English – even Syriac or Coptic!) and shows links to dictionaries and details about how that word is used and translated in the Bible.

Verdict: Nothing else comes near Logos for breadth of resources. If you want to use your computer to go beyond searching bible texts, Logos is your best choice.

Accordance v8 (www.accordancebible.com, from £175)

For years Accordance has been the premier Bible study software available for the Mac, although it can also be used on a PC through a free emulator. Most users who choose Accordance do so for its ease-of-use and its additional resources (compared to Bibleworks), and speed (compared to Logos). Mac users appreciate it was designed for those used to Mac ways of working, PC users should realise that you have to learn how to use both the emulator and the software which some may find tricky. Accordance is very good software. On the plus side its resources are very well integrated into the package. On the downside it has nowhere near the resources of Logos, and there’s no interlinear.

Verdict: If you can’t afford Bibleworks and Logos, but want the strengths of both, you might find Accordance a happy compromise.

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