Jun 10, 2013

BibleWorks in the Real, Modern World: 4 Examples of how BW9 is Essential to the Modern Minister

Recently in a FaceBook group dedicated to the study of the original language Bible, a professor friend in Southern Ca. posted an image of Codex Alexandrinus from the British Library so that we could examine the nomina sacra (“sacred names” abbreviations in ancient texts).  I was sitting in my backyard in Ark., while another participant engaged in doctoral work at the University of Birmingham, was at home in England. While commenting on the lunar sigma (ancient form of the Greek letter sigma), I was suddenly struck with the novelty of the situation.  I remarked, “What a special time in the history of the church when men can sit in different states and continents and discuss orthographic issues related to the ancient witnesses, while simultaneously viewing those witnesses in their leisure and via their mobile phones.”  Indeed we live in a special time in the history of the church when technology has made it possible to engage in biblical studies in a way that previously would have been the stuff of science fiction.

Along these lines, I am reminded of a quote from Luther in the introduction of the Hebrew grammar I use.  It reads,
Though the faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by simple preachers without the languages, such preaching is flat and tame, men grow at last wearied and disgusted and it falls to the ground. But when the preacher is versed in the languages, his discourse has freshness and force, the whole of Scripture is treated, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and works.

It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book (A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, p. 12).
Keep in mind these words from Luther are ca. 500 years old.  Surely the culpability of ministers in the present day is even greater when so many sophisticated tools are available to us.  How great must be the urgency for us—His Gospel witnesses—not to be content with the novelty of what God has given us.  Rather, we must employ these new tools, in these last days, to press home the truth of God’s Word in the expansion of His Kingdom.  BibleWorks 9 is the most sophisticated, powerful, versatile tool available to the modern minister in his Kingdom expanding work.   I’ve been using BibleWorks for over 15 years.  Below I will highlight some of the key ways it helps me and why it should be the primary tool for the modern day Gospel minister.

1.)   BibleWorks for the Church Planter.  When in church planter mode, I do not have time to read materials not directly related to my preaching/teaching.  This means no luxuriating in commentaries or the kinds of books included in a lot of other software programs.  While planting the current church where I am the Pastor-Teacher, I worked a secular job 32 hours a week while preaching/teaching 2-4 times per week.  This is why BibleWorks is indispensable.  First, its sophisticated original language tools allow(ed) me to develop expository sermons in a fraction of the time required if using any other source(s).  Additionally, the church planter must be mobile.  His office may be the local library, coffee shop, his living room or wherever a quiet place may be found.  Because church planting is like building a plane mid-flight, I have sometimes taught/preached impromptu messages from my BibleWorks equipped laptop, examining various translations, grammatical forms, original language texts, alt+tabbing back and forth from my sermon notes on the fly.  Full time pastors able to spend 40 hours a week of study in their offices may have the luxury to use traditional tools or other software, but bi-vocational church planter-expositors in the modern world likely do not. 

2.)   BibleWorks for the Counselor.  A component of our church’s discipleship philosophy includes intensive discipleship, i.e. nouthetic counseling.  In fact, the most personally traumatic counseling case I have had showed up half way through week 1 as a full time pastor at our present church.  BibleWorks was an indispensable tool during the difficult weeks/months following, and continues to be indispensable in my counseling and training work now. 

In just a few seconds, during a counseling appointment or in the middle of a midweek lesson, when a parishioner asks me an impromptu question (on Wednesday evenings I have my computer on a specially designed stand built into my pulpit; sometimes even on Sunday evenings), I can do a quick structural or textual analysis of any passage drawing on both my favorite translations, as well as original language manuscripts, including the Masoretic Text (hereafter MT), LXX, Vulgate, Peshitta, UBS, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, etc. 

For example, last night while teaching on bibliology, I suddenly remembered a point I like to make from Psalm 1.  I typed in the reference and invited the congregation to turn there.  In the MT, my eye goes straight to the Masoretic accents (included in the more recent editions of BibleWorks).  I instantly see the placement of the rebia over the term translated “the man” (הָאִ֗ישׁ), which identifies the first division of the verse, as well as the placement of the oleh weyored, which shows me that the principle division is over the word translated “wicked” (NASB).  Understanding this division and the purpose of the accent impacts my understanding of the nature of what is generally understood to be a progression of sin.  I also quickly notice that the second two lines are in parallel but are inverse to the first line.  This shows me that the Masoretes ascribed as much weight to the second two “movements” of verse 1 as to the first suggesting this is not as much about progression as most tend to think.  Rather, it appears the Masoretes viewed the second two movements epexegetically, i.e. as explanations. 

Also, observation of the conditional clause opening verse two quickly reminds me of the apparent antidote serving as a preventive to worldliness.  As a pastoral counselor, this is, after all, what I want to get at.  BibleWorks allows me to make these sorts of observations at a glance.  I can choose to explain or keep private the technical data as appropriate.

3.)   BibleWorks for the Pastor-Teacher.  I am a pastor-teacher, and that means that one of my key responsibilities is preaching.  On Sunday mornings, I preach from the NT, Sunday evenings I preach from the OT.  On Wednesday evenings, as noted, I do counseling training or teach on various theological or apologetic issues.  In short, every ecclesiastical, theological, apologetic, etc. issue is before me.  In most of these cases, the issue ultimately gets back to the text.  I prepare every sermon/lecture/lesson using BibleWorks, Microsoft Word, and various other tools as helpful.

I have stated for years that at any time, any place I can prepare an original expository sermon from any text, or address any theological issue provided I have my BibleWorks equipped laptop.  You may have been expecting me to say Logos, because of its vast library.  Unfortunately, however, I don’t have the luxury of time to read non-essential material [see note below].  What I can do, though, is make a couple of quick copy-paste motions and produce a quick masoretic accent diagram, as in the case of Psalm 1 I referenced above.  Or, if dealing with a NT passage, I can usually produce a quick sentence-flow diagram such as the following from Eph 1:3:
Greek NT
(1:3) Euvloghto.j o` qeo.j kai. path.r
tou/ kuri,ou h`mw/n = VIhsou/ Cristou/(

                  o` euvlogh,saj h`ma/j                            
evn pa,sh| euvlogi,a|                  
evn toi/j evpourani,oij
evn Cristw/|(
Modern Hebrew NT
aWh %WrB' 
ybia ~yhil{a/h' 
                                                 x:yviM'h; [:WvyE WnynEdoa]
Wnt'ao %r:Be rv,a]            
   AnA[m. ymeV.mi
       vp,N<h; tK;r>Bi-lk'B.

Latin Vulgate
1:3 benedictus Deus et Pater
                           Domini nostri = Iesu Christi
         qui benedixit nos
         in omni benedictione
         in caelestibus
         in Christo

In addition to Greek, I often diagram the text in Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac, because doing so allows me to get a feel for the Semitic character of the writer’s thinking and/or text [note: pasting in the various foreign language fonts into this post caused some alignment issues above].  I want to see literary structures, words, forms, grammatical/syntactical constructions, etc. that may parallel OT passages.  I often diagram the passage in Latin, because doing so aids me in getting a feel for how the Latin fathers and important theologians of the past understood and formulated their theology.  I don’t spend a lot of time on this since I’m not typically doing serious research in the course of preaching, but  because of the capabilities of BibleWorks, these activities happen in a matter of a couple of minutes. 

4.)   BibleWorks for the Teacher/Professor. Over the past 15+ years I have been privileged to teach the Bible in 5 languages in multicultural environments.  These have ranged from theological Latin emphasizing the Vulgate with urban Korean Jr. High students, English Bible with African-American intercity high schoolers, Biblical Hebrew with lay people in an institute environment, and advanced Hebrew reading & biblical Aramaic with post-graduate seminary students, etc.  It’s not hard to imagine why BibleWorks is the go to software for these kinds of activities. 

BibleWorks has grammars, lexicons, and other resources for research languages, but also includes searchable Korean, Chinese, and other Bibles.  I can quickly put together quizzes/exams for any of the languages that I know or with which I have a basic familiarity.  This is very important for a Bible/language professor because development of quiz and lecture material is a never ending process, and one that must be done quickly and efficiently.

Currently I teach seminary level Hebrew, Greek, and exegesis (both OT/NT divisions).  BibleWorks is unquestionably the greatest tool I have for doing this work, and here’s why.  BW9 has tools for every phase of instruction for my Greek and Hebrew exegesis courses.  Those familiar with seminary training know how helpful this is.  During exegesis courses, the typical curriculum requires students to produce an exegetical paper in steps.  BibleWorks really seems as though it was designed with this activity in mind.

For example, when I teach Greek diagramming, I can directly project (or print and hand out) the relevant sections of Leedy’s diagrams on a screen and walk the students through examples, sometimes straight from their chosen passages.  When in the OT, teaching diagrammatical analysis based on the Masoretic accents is simple, with the use of BibleWorks and a projector.  As I noted above, there are also the necessary lexicons, theological dictionaries, concordances, grammar books, etc. for all three biblical languages, so I can easily employ or refer the students to the relevant materials.  Unfortunately there are not yet many Latin tools available, but perhaps this will come.

More recently, though, there is a significant development that takes instruction related to text-critical analysis to a whole new level.  Various universities, libraries, and museums have been digitizing their ancient artifacts and documents, including biblical manuscripts, and making them available to the public. As a result, this semester I was able to give interactive lectures on early New Testament texts using P46 (ancient papyrus document containing the oldest extant copy of Ephesians) as a test case via the University of Michigan's P46 page, and another website dedicated to ancient biblical manuscripts.

Using BW9, I was then able to project Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and others on a screen and walk students through the process of textual criticism.  This new development, especially the inclusion of some of the most important ancient manuscripts in BW9, is a revolution in biblical studies. This will aid in what some have called the "democratization" of textual criticism, which is absolutely phenomenal.  For years, my students were unable to do a real text-critical paper because they simply did not have access to ancient manuscripts. Now they can, however, and my entire course is being revamped in light of this revolution.

By including ancient manuscripts in their software, BibleWorks has made possible the Biblical Studies equivalent of the medical student moving from an anatomy textbook, to dissecting the cadaver.  Ask the student with the knife if she thinks this is a big deal.  Ironically, the student now has something even superior to access to the actual manuscripts.  Previously, a scholar had to travel across the world to gain access to a given text where he would potentially strain his eyes to examine it.  Now, however, we have high definition images of manuscripts on our computers, and BW9 allows us to magnify, sharpen, color, etc. these texts without physically touching them.   This is a tremendous aid to those of us who have ruined our eyes through too much gazing at manuscripts.  In fact, I’m wearing an eye patch as I type this review, but able to utilize the manuscripts thanks to the text magnification and sharpening features in BW9. 

A simple illustration comes to mind taken from the first time I projected Sinaiticus on a screen in class.  Working through the translation of Eph. 6 with the students, we immediately noticed in verse 1 that Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, BYZ all read “in the Lord,” as does NASB and ESV, but Vaticanus does not—it has a deletion of the nu as well.  Interestingly, our UBS texts put “in the Lord” in brackets.  A student immediately alerted me to the interesting fact that the textual apparatus in our UBS texts gave the rating of “C” for the reading “in the Lord” despite the strong witnesses for it, which means that “the Committee had difficulty in deciding which variant to place in the text.”  This was surprising to us and the class then enjoyed a profitable time talking through text-critical principles.  

I am a church planter, a pastor-teacher (expositor), a nouthetic counselor, sometimes apologist, and a multidisciplinary seminary professor.  At maximal pace, I preach/teach 5-9 times per week in addition to my pastoral responsibilities.  Like other ministers, I entered the ministry to change the World for the glory of God.   Without question, in the real, modern World, BibleWorks 9 is the single greatest tool I have for doing this.  

Note: I have not tried Logos.... [original noted has been edited]


  1. Thanks for the review-with all you are doing, I hope you find good time to rest!

    Glad to have seen this review. Two things, if I may be so bold, to push back on just a bit:

    "no luxuriating in commentaries..."--I understand what you're getting at here, but I think we also need to be careful to not neglect hundreds/thousands of years of interpretation that have gone on before us. Certainly I am not the first one to have insight into this text, and it's a good safety/accountability to check against what others say. So I do think commentary reading (after one's own original language/exegetical prep) should be part of the deal.

    "Full time pastors able to spend 40 hours a week of study in their offices..."--my goodness! I hope no pastor is spending his or her 40 hours a week just studying in the office. :) It depends on the job description and church's expectations, I suppose, but there are other important pastoral duties, too, besides just study and prep for teaching/preaching.

    Thanks for letting me make those two comments--I've been using BibleWorks since 7, and it's saved me quite a bit of time, and really helped me grow in my love of original languages and Bible study.

  2. Abram: Thanks for the note and the comments! You have given me an opportunity to clarify a couple of assumptions I might not have thought about. So, here's a couple of thoughts re. your thoughts. :)

    1.) Notice those comments were under the "Church Planter" heading. I'm assuming a couple of things here. First, I suppose I'm assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that most reading this review will understand that church planting typically occurs for a limited duration and involves exceptional pressures (I tried to give a sense of this). For example, our most recent effort lasted for a year and a half and then the church was planted. I.e. I don't think it is healthy for anyone to maintain such a pattern of intensity indefinitely. Also, for me, the idea of "luxuriating" means spending a protracted amount of time doing something beyond what is necessary. Using commentaries as tools and luxuriating in them are two very different things. The first represents judicious employment of them, the second fits the above description. Yes, use commentaries even when under great time constraints, but do so judiciously. In reality, though, the church planter simply does not have the option of luxuriating in anything. Having said that, it's doubtful to me that someone using BW in the way I've described is going to be neglectful in this area.

    2.) My reference to pastors spending 40 hours in the study was certainly hyperbole. Although, its likely we both know of those who have erred here; in fact, we probably are both tempted in this regard. That is not my point, though. Notice I employed the term "able." I was simply trying to distinguish between highly discretionary use of time, and expendable time. Point being, the church planter's lack of expendable time warrants in the highest possible way the discretionary use of a product like BW. To use it in the way I have described, though, will require training in the sorts of seminary courses that I ended my post describing. This usually includes learning to use all of the tools with discretion, including commentaries.

    3.)You didn't ask about this, but let me be clear on something. I do not think everyone has to have original language skills to plant a church or be faithful in serving the Lord. In fact, I know plenty of men who lack any formal training who are godlier than I am, smarter and wiser than me, and who have been more faithful. I am suggesting, though, that in the modern climate, we need to up-the-game and equip our men/women with every possible tool. The stakes are too high to take short cuts here. Only you (the reader) know if you are taking short cuts. It is God's will for everyone to be biblically qualified to do the ministries He has called them to do; it is not God's will that everyone follow my path. I thoroughly believe, though, that the more attention you give to developing a high quality ministry tool-set and toolbox, the more opportunity you will have, and the more effective you will be--for most of us. I will never be a preacher on the lines of John Bunyan or Spurgeon, and most of those reading this will not be either, so we need exceptional tools for these exceptional times, particularly for those of us who are not particularly exceptional.

    Thanks for your comments and giving me an opportunity to clarify. --RBR