There is an old Chinese proverb which I use to remind my clients about prognostication. It goes like this: Making predictions is very difficult, especially when they are about the future.
Two years ago, when I wrote my first review for Preaching, I made a few predictions. I am happy to say that my risk-taking has been rewarded. Improvements in most of the popular Bible software programs are right in line. Two years ago I categorized the standard features of all the good programs; these included multiple translations, Boolean searches, multiple displays, printing options, etc.
I also forecasted that more and more programs would migrate to Windows operations, thereby improving the user-friendly point and click process and solving all of the word processor problems. I also said that CD-ROM drives would become the delivery channel of choice. Two years later the direction is very clear: Windows dominates and CD’s are everywhere. And I’m not even Chinese!
Why are CD’s the choice of the major software developers? The obvious answer is data storage. Programs like Bible Works for Windows from Hermeneutika use up to 120 megabytes of hard disk. That is costly, both in manufacture and operation. A single CD can accommodate 500 megabytes.
Hard disk storage is without question much faster — in fact, Silver Mountain reports that assessing the Septuagint from CD-ROM on a single speed drive is virtually impossible. But most elements of the vast data storage collection for Bible study do not require the speed provided through hard disk access. And even if the access is marginally slower, the ability to off-load programs that run over 100 megabytes is a considerable advantage. Yet data storage problems are not the only reason that CD versions will proliferate. CD’s remain the best way to defeat unauthorized program duplication. No ordinary PC user has the equipment to duplicate a CD. Therefore, delivering data in this manner ensures that only those who pay can play. Still another motivator is marketing — you can see a glimpse of the future in the NavPress CD (below).
Programs which offer original language displays
There are two general classes of Bible software programs: those that provide Greek and Hebrew languages and those that do not. Programs with Greek and Hebrew are intended to reach the professional and scholarly community. But even though you will see Greek and Hebrew characters on your screen, this does not mean that the various developers take the same approach to providing the text.
The best technical comparison of the databases, sources and operations of these varied approaches can be found in an article by Tim Walker, “Original Language Bible Study Software,” in Christian Computing Magazine, November 1994. It is well worth reading if you want to fully understand how the software manipulates the data that you see. Walker’s article reviews Bible Windows 2.5 (Silver Mountain), Bible Works for Windows 3.0 (Hermeneutika), Bible Word Plus 3.10 in conjunction with Gramcord accordance, Online Bible 6.12, Logos Bible Study 2.0, Seedmaster for Windows and The Word Advanced Study System 3.0.
While all of these programs display Greek and Hebrew, Logos, Online and Seedmaster do not provide tools for morphological analysis. (Morphological tools allow you to search for variations of grammar, word forms, etc.; this allows you to find the correct word even though it may be found within various tenses, moods and forms.) In addition, the programs that provide morphology do so from very different sources for the Greek text. This can produce some unusual and quite confusing results; Walker’s article is especially good in pointing out the differences. This problem does not exist with Hebrew morphology since all the programs which offer Hebrew morphological tools use the WTS Hebrew OT as the source.
The biggest event this year is the release of Logos Research Systems Version 2.0 in Public Beta (test version). This means those of you who had previous versions of CD-Word Library will soon have the “almost finished” new Logos CD 2.0. The consumer version should be done by the time you read this article. Version 2.0 is a substantial and fundamental change. The CD contains more than 360 megabytes of information, with dozens of sources, Bibles, devotionals, dictionaries, commentaries, and even worship manuals and hymns available through the Library Browser. Some of these references are offered electronically for the first time (such as the little “Kittel”).
One of the reasons Logos has taken so long to issue this program is that the effort to incorporate all of the Windows features across the massive amount of textual materials was a far more daunting task than it first seemed. Now Version 2.0 allows multiple customizable tool bars, drag and drop, linked windows, find and point controls, and power mousing. The Library Browser feature displays all of the available databases and allows you to open any database with mouse controls or drag and drop. Searches can be done through the whole library.
The program supports multi-language texts in all phases (display, typing, notes and printing). There is full morphology of all original language texts. Linking references is simple and quick. With power mousing, you can access “extra information” (indicated by an asterisk over the mouse pointer) with the right mouse button. This will give you instant pop-up displays or floating windows of additional lexical or other aids. A feature called “key-links” lets you set up a direct connection between any supported language and a specific reference tool. With this feature, you could set a “keylink” between Greek and Kittel so that each time you wanted additional information on a Greek word, the program would automatically open Kittel to the corresponding entry. Another great feature is the ability to link topics or verses to a hymnology library and to listen to the sounds on a MIDI program.
Version 2.0 also employs the CD-ROM marketing advantage of allowing the user to have all the library on a single CD but only be able to access the portions that have been authorized. The current CD carries 360 megabytes in four volumes; access to each of the volumes is provided via a key by payment through a credit card and an 800 number. The key is typed into the program and unlocks the volume for future use.
I reviewed a Beta (test) copy of this CD. There were still several linkage problems, some minor verse reference issues and a few search difficulties. When the public edition is released, this may be the most powerful program available.
Bible Works for Windows (version 3.0) from Hermeneutika (406/837-2244) is now supplied in both CD and floppy. On CD, the entire program with all modules is provided when the disk is purchased for about $300. There have been a lot of improvements since we first looked at BWW. You will hardly be able to find a more complete selection of scholarly texts since there are eighteen text databases, including English, German, Dutch, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The New American Standard (NAS) is now included. More than a dozen lexical and reference works are available (BDB, Robinson’s, Nave’s, Thayer, etc.).
The strength of the entire collection is still the speed of the search and the coordination of all the reference materials. Many of these are now directly accessed through use of the second mouse button. This is convenient and logical. While I still have frustrations with the command line approach, the fact that every toggle and button has instant explanatory display is very helpful. Now the program includes additional “Mouse Notes” for added clarity — place the cursor on an icon or function and click for explanation.
I was glad to see the incorporation of an interlinear display in the Greek text. Hopefully it will be expanded to include Hebrew. Full morphological analysis is available in Greek and Hebrew. The program also includes options for standard, parallel, and synchronized displays. Since version 2.3, BWW contains a new set of Greek and Hebrew True Type scaleable fonts. These are now installed automatically, but you’ll have to reboot to use them.
One of BWW’s greatest assets is its user manual. Not only is it the most detailed I’ve seen, it is actually readable, containing pictures of almost every critical screen with regard to the smallest detail. With this manual in hand, it is virtually impossible to get lost in cyberspace. I found the tutorial exceptionally clear. I felt as though I could actually run this extensive program like an experienced pro. BWW incorporates power mousing, with the ability to get instant parsing, dictionary help, occurrences and statistics with a click of the right mouse button. BWW allows notes to be added to any verse and the notes can themselves be in Greek and/or Hebrew.
BWW remains one of the leading products. On CD, its full scope is now available to users with even modest hard drives. In addition, the CD version can be run on a Mac with the apropriate fonts supplied by floppy. No serious user need be without a fully integrated, comprehensive Bible library.
Silver Mountain (214/293-2920) produces Bible Windows, now in version 3.0, available in CD and floppy. You will need at least a double-speed drive to make full use of the CD version. One of the top original language programs, it offers morphological tagging of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Septuagint.
When I did the first review of this product two years ago, I was impressed with its power mouse access to interlinear display, definitions and parsing. I am no less impressed today. The operational process is still the simp lest, easiest, and most intuitive of all the programs. The interlinear mode can now display the original language, the parsing information and an English word equivalent. BW 3.0’s interlinear mode displays an entire passage at once, in context, rather than a single verse at a time. BW3.0 now provides an integrated Louw-Nida text. Morphological searches can be saved and recovered and the results of all searches can be exported to a separate window. With “extended copy,” full chapters or complete searches can be exported to a word processor without the usual cursor highlighting operation. Version 3.0 now allows the addition of notes attached to database texts.
I previously commented that this program was so simple to use that the manual was a mere 20 pages. The manual has now grown to 50 pages, adding the technical information needed to customize systems files and other options, and providing full screen examples of most operations. I still find BW3.0’s complex search one of the easiest to use. The search operators are handled with point and click selections rather than having to remember to insert characters such as (!) or (“”). It couldn’t be better. There are a host of minor refinements, such as automatic control of the True Type font point size, much simpler synchronization of multiple windows, and global and local bookmarks. BW3.0 has built-in macros for direct export and import to the most popular word processors.
A significant new feature is the ability of BW3.0 to read most Online Bible translations including the New International Version (NIV). John Baima, Silver Mountain’s developer, has long maintained that he is not in the “one more module translation” business, but rather in the business of providing electronic tools for textual study. Bringing Online into this format means that the very inexpensive addition of Online Bible databases can now be handled with the sophistication of BW3.0. The only feature which I would still like to see is the addition of instant explanatory helps when the cursor is placed on an icon. While some other original language programs offer more translations, BW3.0 is still my favorite for in-depth study.
acCordance 1.1 from The Gramcord Institute (360/576-3000) has not been released as a Windows product. We might hope that will soon be remedied. Paul Miller notes that the base of the Windows product (already in beta test) will be the Seedmaster program. In its Mac version, it offers the NA26 Greek New Testament, BHS, Rahlf’s Septuagint as well as nine English versions. The program is intentionally aimed at seminarians, scholars and pastors. Its power may be lost on those who do not use original languages comfortably, but for original language studies this may be the most formidable tool on the market.
One of the unique features of acCordance is its ability to search in parallel. For example, if you search the NA26 while displaying the parallel NAB, search results in the Greek will show the corresponding NAB text, even where English texts do not match original language verse numbering. The program allows perhaps the most sophisticated search capabilities of any of the original language software. It gives statistical information as well as frequency plots. There is an incredible range of morphological options. In the Mac environment, almost every operation is a simple click or drag, with many pop-up lists for suggestions, spelling, explanation or information messages. The manual is thorough, providing ample screen illustrations and suggestions. Windows users should keep their eyes open for that release.
There are two programs which display Greek and Hebrew texts and offer lexical helps but do not offer morphological analysis. These are Online Bible and Seedmaster. Each of these programs provides parsing of verbs only (tense-voice-mood) with lexical ties to Strong’s Concordance. Online Bible allows you to type in Greek and Hebrew. Seedmaster does not support Greek and Hebrew in notes. Seedmaster provides the Septuagint database; Online Bible does not.
Online Bible, version 6.12 (519/664-2266) has become a default collection of texts used by other developers (e.g., Silver Mountain, Seedmaster) to supplement their offerings. The reason is simple: in CD, Online Bible costs only $30. In addition to many modern language Bibles, Online contains both Greek and Hebrew (unaccented and unpointed) but has verb parsing only (TVM), no morphological support. It does support typing in Greek and Hebrew but you will leave behind some of the user-friendly interfaces in the IBM compatible world. Unless you’re a Mac user (the Mac program is on the CD, you’ll be stuck with a DOS program at the moment. That is not all bad news; the menus are quick and simple, the operations efficient even on a single speed CD-ROM drive.
All of the complex search operations are supported. There are plenty of options for displays, TSR, notes, window panes, etc. Printing requires the usual cumbersome process familiar to DOS-only users, but there is an option to export directly to the Windows Clipboard (and from there to a Windows word processor). There is limited mouse support. Once you learn the function keys and the operations procedures, you should have no trouble jumping from screen to screen in your studies. Larry Pierce of Online Bible says they expect to have a fully compatible Windows edition ready for their new November CD. It will be included free in every CD ordered. With everything else that Online Bible offers, the bottom line is this: absolutely nothing can deliver as many texts for the price. Online Bible is a full complement program at a bargain basement price.
White Harvest and IBM (800/318-7333) now offer The Bible Companion Series, the successor to Seedmaster. BCS comes in three CD versions. The Teacher’s Version offers the most databases, including Smith’s Bible Dictionary, NASB, United Bible Societies Greek New Testament Dictionary, Darby’s, Young’s, and many more. It provides instant explanatory text when the cursor falls on an icon. The list of Bible books is in alphabetical order rather than in the usual Bible order. The Strong’s dictionary provides the TWOT and TDNT references. There is a direct interface to some Windows word processors but not Microsoft Word.
I did find some quirks. Like its predecessor, it does not provide morphologically tagged texts. There is a small trick to be learned when closing a “Search Window” — to avoid screen clutter, search windows are overlaid on the open text. If you choose the “Close” command, all windows are closed. To return to the text window, you must click the right mouse button or hit the escape key. Finally, BHS is not included on the CD but is available as a floppy add-on. This program will continue to add modules as floppies, all working directly with the CD.
The Old Testament from TES, Inc. (914/356-1485) is a Mac only program. (There is a DOS version called Bible Scholar from the same manufacturer. It does not run color but does handle Hebrew characters and takes only seven megabytes of hard disk.) This program shows a lot of careful development, even in the details. For example, the package comes with stick-on characters to replace the English key-board with Hebrew text (and a location map, of course). The Hebrew text base is The Jerusalem Bible. The English text is from the 1992 Israel Bible Research Society.
The program is the patient development of Orthodox Jewish believers and reflects Orthodox treatment of God’s names and other appropriate Jewish laws. While this may surprise some Christian users, the program is well worth studying not only for its approach but also for its meticulous care of the text. There are a host of unique features which I hope will be incorporated in popular Christian programs. For example, the program talks. Voice technology will read the text in either English or Hebrew, a feature both powerful and amazing! You can attach notes in either language to any part of the text, including notes on a single letter. Notes can be spoken, written or include pictures or maps (the program comes loaded with maps and drawings of many Old Testament themes). You may view the attached note while displaying a text with a single click and the display shows by arrow the exact location of the note embedded in the text.
The concordance supports a full range of morphological searches. It has exhaustive helps, including spelling corrections and hypertext. I found everything thoroughly explained in the manual. My only complaint was the lack of an index to the manual. I am sorry this is not available in a DOS or Windows format.
New releases of programs without Greek/Hebrew displays
NavPress WORDsearch CD Expandable Library (512/835-6900) is a prime example of marketing as a motivator pushing the CD world. This CD costs only $9.95. How is that possible when competitors are selling at $200-$300? NavPress simply puts its entire set of program modules on a single CD, then requires the user to pay for a code to unlock any desired modules. For $9.95 you get the King James Version (KJV) and the right to test drive any other modules, but you can’t use them permanently until you call NavPress and pay for additional unlock codes with a credit card. It is brilliant marketing — your initial $9.95 pays the cost of pressing the disk, producing the promotional brochure and delivering it to you. NavPress makes its margin even if you never turn on a single module. Now you have everything at your fingertips except the authorization to use it, so why not give it a try? Expect to see more of this marketing device.
WORDsearch is incredibly easy to use. Put the CD in the drive, run Install and you’re off. As a Windows-based product, all functions are point and click. Even the instruction manuals for programs are on the disk (no more costly paper manuals to produce). Like all CD products, the developer suggests you transfer to your hard disk the programs that you want to run quickly and frequently. Nothing shuffles data faster than having it on the PC internal drive. Nevertheless, you can adequately run the entire set of program modules with very little hard disk space –just enough for some control files and the basic program functions.
Parsons Technology (800/223-6925) has also released its collection on CD-ROM. The QuickVerse Bible Reference Collection contains an atlas, dictionary, Nave’s and Strong’s, NIV and KJV. The package is not aimed at the scholarly world so there are no original language texts. Greek and Hebrew are transliterated. Last year we suggested that more programs would incorporate CD and hard drive operations, drawing from both sources as needed. QV does just that, accessing its other modules from direct installation on the hard drive. Since the program is Windows-based, all the various modules work in concert, although access to the CD ones are a bit slower.
Since the target market is the average English-speaking believer, Parsons added several databases which are useful. The Believer’s Study Bible offers handy referral to Bible topics through a series of common inquiries (questions for personal growth, articles on Bible books and themes, articles on the church, etc.). Parsons now provides the concise Matthew Henry Commentary, the NASB and its concordance and dictionaries, the Ryrie Study Bible and Holman Bible Dictionary. Other modules are helpful assistants for preaching, including add-ons for Bible illustrations (2,500 stories and quotations), a Bible-based calendar, the Scofield Study Bible, nine English translations including Today’s English Version (TEV), and the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (500,000 cross references). Parsons’ marketing approach is to offer a dozen different databases, individually priced, which work together as a suite or stand by themselves.
Running QV is about as easy as it gets. Even the selection of book, chapter and verse can be done without typing a single character, just point and click. This is one of the best non-scholarly programs. It even has some humor built in — instead of the usual hour-glass display while the program is setting up, it says “Thinking.” I had to laugh.
Since our last review, The Lockman Foundation (714/879-3055) licensed the NASB in both floppy disk and CD-ROM to several software developers. This is a happy addition for users of programs other than Lockman’s Bible Master for Windows. BMW is a user-friendly, intuitive program for those not requiring access to original languages; however, the strength of the original version was its virtual monopoly on the NASB. Now that others have the NASB, it seems redundant to use BMW when other programs offer considerably more power and scope.
Nevertheless, I found BMW to be remarkably simple to use, the ToolBar icons fairly clear even without contextual helps, and the performance very fast. I was disappointed to find that displayed text did not include the familiar use of context symbols, italic and marginal notes found in the printed version of NASB, but no electronic form does. BMW will allow you to print directly to Windows Print Manager, add notes to any verse, establish a personal index, and save word and verse notes in the same file.
Christian Technologies, Inc. (800/366-8320) released The Holy Scriptures on CD-ROM. With eleven English Bible translations — including several Catholic versions, a Spanish Bible and a Russian translation — this program offers plenty of depth. It supports Greek and Hebrew definitions and a transliterated version with ties to Strong’s. Two unique features are the inclusion of Barker’s Everyone in the Bible and Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; both are indexed for speed searches.
THS is in both Windows and DOS versions. Databases on the CD can be installed directly to the hard disk. It is fast, very easy to use and quite adequate. A simple icon click opens Barker, and Edersheim’s work is accessed through the menu. The search function is straightforward and quick, although I would prefer all complex searches to be available by button or menu selection rather than having to remember to type in quotation marks, colons or other characters. THS allows verse notes, search results in context, and synchronized screens. In the Windows version, all the usual export functions are available. This remains one of the better programs for the money.
BibleSoft (206/824-8360) released its PC Study Bible Reference Library on CD. This version includes the complete Matthew Henry Commentary. One of the best parts of this program is not part of the software at all; it is the video that shows you how to use the program. This is the best way to get a quick working knowledge of each feature, and is a great addition. We have reviewed most BibleSoft features in previous years; this release now contains the NASB, a Bible atlas, and Matthew Henry. The commentary is organized by cross reference to the text and by chapter and verse. It does not support search capability within the commentary. The interlinear display shows three lines: a transliterated text, Strong’s numbers, and an English literal rendering. The Greek. translation is based on UBS, the Hebrew on BHS. Mouse clicks will take you directly to a dictionary, a Bible translation or notes.
Beyond the Bible
The unsurpassed storage capacity of a CD has been used to provide 20 years of Bibliotheca Sacra (faculty journal of Dallas Seminary), from Galaxie Software (214/414-5322). Both Windows and Mac compatible, this disk is great. Built on the Folio Infobase structure, even on a single speed drive it allowed me to jump from article to article, search for key authors or words, save previous queries, put in my own bookmarks, and copy material to my word processor. Having 20 years of this publication fit into a 1/2-inch space on my bookshelf is terrific.
The developers tell me they are now at work on a CD that will contain the rest of the library. This is the direction of all scholarly research – literally a library in your pocket. Galaxie also provides an excellent collection of 19 fonts for Biblical languages, including right-to-left typing on their floppy disk Bible Script 2.1.
If you find 20 years of BibSac on a single disk of interest, you should consider becoming a member of the Electronic Bible Society (214/407-9673). This non-profit organization is dedicated to producing a wide range of Biblical, historical and research works for computer access. Its first CD, scheduled for release in late 1995, will contain the complete English text of the 38-volume series, The Anti-Nicene, The Nicene and the Post-Nicene Fathers, free to charter members (about $300 in printed volumes). The EBS is supported by tax-deductible gifts.
Although not a program dealing with Bible texts, In His Service from Alpha Information Group (800/938-3224) is a powerful software assistant for the worship planner. Its goal is to integrate all the administrative and functional tasks which stand behind a worship service. With this in mind, the program offers a catalog of hymns and songs indexed to more than 18,000 topics and key words. It provides a membership directory, a program and bulletin publisher, an instrument catalog with full MIDI and mixer capabilities (including recording and patching of music clips, arrangement of slides, video and dramatic events), and it handles scheduling of all these activities for successful worship planning. Almost every aspect of the worship service — from sound engineering to ushers — is covered in the program. The only thing it doesn’t schedule is the Spirit of the Living God; presumably He is quite capable of handling that on His own.
And now a few words about the fancy stuff: cyberspace Christianity. Everyone knows about the Internet, that world-wide computer network monster of 35 million users. It has recently been the much-discussed topic of regulators, censors and politicians. In spite of the news made of the Internet’s notorious electronic mailboxes, did you know that there is an entire Christian world located in cyberspace?
Without getting too sophisticated, let me suggest that if you are serious about getting into cyberspace, you should consider the Internet Membership Kit from Ventana Media. Not only does it include several programs needed to successfully cruise the Net, it also contains two essential guides: the Internet Yellow Pages and The Windows Internet Tour Guide. I purchased all this from Surplus Software (800/ 753-7877) for $15. There are a variety of possible connection and payment options for Internet use; the easiest for sampling is either CompuServe or America Online. The Tour Guide will introduce you to a lot more than commercial providers.
Many of the software developers mentioned above now have Internet locations for on-line help. In fact, there are dozens of Bible-related sources on the Internet, from complete Bible translations which can be downloaded, to interactive study discussions, games and search programs. Consult the Internet Yellow Pages to get a brief idea of locations.
There are also several Christian services which offer a wide selection of interactive tools. The Christian Interactive Network (800/279-5673) is available by typing GO CIN at a CompuServe prompt. It provides interactive contact with ministries and mission groups (newsletters, transcripts, articles and e-mail communications), Bible research (translations, study topics and programs), home schooling assistance, and a publishers and writers on-line service.
Christianity Online (708/260-6200), sponsored by Christianity Today, Inc., is located in America Online and provides resources from nine CTi publications as well as interactive message boards, a college directory, several ministry operations, an on-line book buyers market, classified ads, and a host of personal services.
Gospel Communications Network (800/253-0413), also accessible through America Online, is a collaboration of ten service providers under one location: Children’s Bible Hour, Gospel Films, International Bible Society, InterVarsity Fellowship and Press, Ligonier, Navigators, Radio Bible Class, Youth for Christ, and Youth Specialties. With some parts still in development, GNC has already shown amazing growth with more than 150,000 users in its first month of operation.
Denominations are also getting into the act. SBCNet, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, offers CompuServe subscribers access to denominational resources, material for ministers, and dialogue groups. United Methodists are preparing a similar service.
One of the most interesting events on-line is a step taken by Trinity College and Trinity Theological Seminary (314/731-4544). In January 1995, Trinity introduced the first Bible college and seminary program to offer full-service student participation online. You can attend any course through your keyboard. There are interactive forums for chats with professors, queries to the business office, access to the fellowship hall, etc. The entire range of Logos Bible software is available to on-line students. Access is through a private forum address on CompuServe. The full range of programs — from single courses to academic degrees — is available. At present, 14 faculty serve more than 300 on-line students from all over the globe.
There is more on the Net than you can ever imagine. It will certainly revolutionize the transfer of information and make physical location almost incidental. Already churches are using the Net to provide the text of the last week’s sermon, a cell group for prayer and Bible study which reaches members anywhere in the world, instant access to relief and missionary needs, interaction with scholarly investigation and hundreds of other information transfers. It is the invisible tidal wave sweeping through cyberspace, displaying itself on every on-line screen with the touch of a button.
1995 certainly brought more to the market than one might have expected. But I doubt that the acceleration is going to slow in the next few years. We can all look forward to being happily inundated.
There is an old Chinese proverb which I use to remind my clients about prognostication. It goes like this: Making predictions is very difficult, especially when they are about the future.