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BibleWorks Running on Mac OS X

I’ve been holding off writing this post. Others have already announced earlier today the availability of a Public Preview Mac Installer that allows BibleWorks version 9 to run on Macs. Bootcamp and virtualization software were already viable alternatives to run the program until now. Today, however, there is a third possibility: using Wine’s compatibility libraries.

I know from experience that BW 8 (I don’t have version 9) works very well under Parallels or VirtualBox. If you own a reasonably powerful Intel Mac and are running Lion or Mountain Lion, that’s your best bet. It remains to be seen how well version 9 will perform under Wine.

The reason I wanted to wait before letting the cat out of the bag is that I needed to be sure how “Mac native” this option was. I can’t deal with the technical side of things here (I leave that to programmers and others more knowledgeable than me), but I do have to agree here with Kevin Purcell’s assessment that using Wine (like WORDsearch or Bible Explorer) is not exactly taking the Mac native route.

I have enquired about this and BW’s staff have been kind enough to explain some of the specific details. The good thing is that most of BW’s excellent features will work, at no additional cost, on a Mac. However, from a user experience point of view, this is certainly not a native Mac app, as can be surmised by watching this video. So, if you own an Intel Mac and use BibleWorks 9, you can now test the public preview and tell us all about it. BW is committed to fixing any compatibility issues that might appear and improve the overall performance of the program in due course.

 

EDIT (October 4, 2012): The web page http://www.bibleworks.com/content/mac.html has been edited slightly in order to reflect the exact nature of the Mac native version, which now reads “Native (a Mac port running on custom WINE libraries)”. Further down, under Details, the following explanation is given: “The native Mac version of BibleWorks runs on OS X using customized compatibility libraries (WINE) by CodeWeavers. It runs directly on OS X without a virtual machine or machine instruction emulation. The underlying technology uses WINE and xQuartz libraries”.

As usual, BW has been very responsive to user feedback and quick to clear up any misunderstandings. Now everybody should be able to know what to expect.

 

Accordance 10 is Here!

Today is launch day for Accordance 10, sporting a brand new user interface that offers the same power and flexibility we have come to expect from Accordance Bible Software. There are lots of visual changes at first sight, but also major enhancements in the handling of the Library, as well as improvements in the area of searching and many others. Some of the UI changes will need some getting used to, but the workflow should be easier and faster.

 

Also, great news for Windows-only users: Accordance 10 will be available as a native Windows application in 2013!

This is taken from the official Press Release:

New features of Accordance 10 include:

• Single-window interface with a professionally designed aesthetic

• Fully customizable toolbar offers instant access to features and resources

• Integrated Library panel lets you browse, explore, and search your Bibles and books

• Flex Search finds variations of the words and phrases you search for

• Automated search modes anticipate the kind of search you’re doing and how you want the results displayed

• Themes offer attractive out-of-the box solutions for customizing the look of text

• Search analytics have been redesigned and made easier to customize

• Reading Mode offers a full-screen reading view of any open Bible or book

Accordance 10 can be purchased with a Starter Collection of Bibles and books for just $49.99. Larger library packages and upgrade discounts are also available.

 

Happy Birthday, BibleWorks!

BibleWorks is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, which makes me feel a bit old (I’ve been using the software since the early 90’s). Anyway, it’s not about me, it’s about them. As part of the celebration, the company is running a special contest and will give away a copy of their latest version to two lucky winners (one copy for each decade). Here’s what you need to do:

To win, send us exactly 20 words telling us why you need a copy of BibleWorks. Entries will be selected based on humor, wit, and verve.

Enter at our website or here on our FaceBook page. We’ll pick the two best entries by June 15, 2012 and post the winners shortly afterwards.

Best wishes!

The BibleWorks Team

 

Learn Biblical Languages with Bible Software

Today I want to briefly review two products that set out to make the original languages of the Bible –and the tools that use them– more accessible to the average person who has little or no familiarity with them. In both cases the goal is to improve our exegetical skills, that is, the way we interpret the Scriptures.

Typically, learning Greek and Hebrew has been accomplished using traditional methods, being exposed to lots of grammar rules and memorizing paradigm after paradigm and vocabulary list after vocabulary list. Today Bible software is here to help. The question is whether this help is going to affect only the mechanics of language learning or have far-reaching consequences in the long run. The other issue is if a democratization of the use of Greek and Hebrew tools is a good thing or not.

These products are particularly suited for people who have never before been exposed to the study of Biblical Greek (or Hebrew), and those who once studied it but now want to refresh what they learned.

The Mounce Greek Study System: Learn Biblical Greek with Accordance costs $229.00, although less expensive packages are also available for those who already have some resources. It includes The Biblical Greek Primer Video series plus Accordance 9 and Starter Collection, as well as the following modules: Greek New Testament NA27 (GNT-T) with Notes, Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament and Dictionary (MOUNCE-NT) and Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of OT & NT Words (Mounce Expository).

I recommend adding ESV with Strong’s – ESVS (an extra $39.99) at the very least. Other Accordance modules are recommended in the lectures as optional tools.

An even cheaper alternative is to pay $49.00 for a full year of online access to the video series. The streaming videos and screencasts work very well, and a free preview of the first couple of lessons is also available.

This Biblical Greek Primer or “Baby Greek” is, in fact, the first installment of a three-part series (“Church Greek” and “Functional Greek” will follow) that is roughly going to cover the material contained in Bill Mounce’s Greek for the Rest of Us. Having a copy of the book is not required, but it certainly helps.

Every lesson includes a video lecture and a screencast where the principles outlined are illustrated using Accordance Bible Software.

In Accordance, the link between the English and the Greek is done via Strong’s numbers (in Mounce’s case, Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering system with cross-reference to Strong’s numbers), and some people are very vocal against the use of these numbers, but that is due to their misuse. Properly used (see Dave Moser’s series of blog articles on How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance, they are extremely useful. Just keep in mind that Strong’s is a concordance, not a dictionary, and should be used basically as an index to find out the appearances of every root word in its context. In this sense, Mounce’s Dictionary and Expository Dictionary are particularly helpful because they hyperlink the number of occurrences of every word under each entry to actual Accordance searches in the Greek New Testament and the English version, respectively.

Pros:

Cost. For around $250.00 (or less) one can have access to solid teaching and tools.
Flexibility. Different packages available, as well as streaming online video.
Powerful. Mounce resources have some value-added features available only in Accordance.

Cons:

If it is Hebrew you are interested in, you are out of luck.

Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew with Logos Bible Software sells for $499.95. This DVD series does not include Logos 4 or any modules. The Original Languages Library is necessary in order to follow the examples shown in the DVDs. It is currently on sale for  $353.56.

Instructors Dr. Michael Heiser (Hebrew) and Johnny Cisneros (Greek) present a series of videos and screencasts that teach how to work with the original languages using the different tools and resources provided by Logos Bible Software.

The DVDs include a browser-like interface and are fully compatible with PC and Mac, although the screencasts always use the PC version of Logos.

In Logos, the reverse interlinears are what link the English to the original languages. Time and time again we are encouraged to create our own lexicons based on a study of the occurrences of the different lemmas, which are always accessible via the English text. This bypasses the traditional lexicon look-up and focuses on a comprehensive study of the search results. The final stage of the process suggested for word studies includes the use of some standard lexicons that define the word under consideration, rather than simply offering different glosses or English equivalents.

Pros:

The powerful combination of the Reverse Interlinears and Visual Filters make possible the study of the original texts while working with the English Bibles.
Emphasis on avoiding word study fallacies.

Cons:

Cost. The series is far too expensive, considering the fact that all the modules have to be bought separately.
No streaming option offered.
Greek and Hebrew are bundled together, which means that it is not possible to get only Greek or only Hebrew.

Both courses follow a very similar approach to word studies, and offer helpful tips on how to use the particular brand of Bible software they use. However, in my opinion, Mounce’s series has the edge if you are interested in Greek only.

I would also like to address the issue of expectations. Marketing language falls very easily into hype, and that can develop all sorts of unrealistic expectations. In my opinion, The Biblical Greek Primer is more down-to-earth and restraint in what it claims to do. On the other hand, Learn to Use Biblical Greek and Hebrew with Logos should drastically revise their promotional videos (for an earlier criticism, see D. Miller’s blog). Personally, I consider the assertion “after completing these videos with comprehension you’ll be at the level of a third year Hebrew or Greek student who was trained by traditional methods. All without memorizing anything” to be quite an overstatement, to say the least.

I have taken Greek and Hebrew at degree level (as well as taught a Greek class for lay people at church) and I can assure you that some degree of memorization and quite a bit of hard work are essential. After all, you do have to memorize the Greek or Hebrew alphabet and some pronunciation just to be able to read! Add to that a good number of grammatical terms. Talking of which, in my experience the first single most important problem people face when they try to learn the biblical languages is their poor grasp of English grammar!

Regarding the two questions I raised at the beginning, I do believe Bible software will change the way we approach language learning, but will not supersede what we have known until now. As to the dangers and consequences of knowing “a little Greek or Hebrew”, I have a confession to make. I have sat through some painful sermons lately. I mean, no exposition of the Scriptures. Topical messages loosely backed up with proof texts taken out of context for the most part, motivational speeches, personal experiences and whatnot. Getting acquainted with the biblical languages and the basic pitfalls inherent to shoddy exegesis surely cannot make matters any worse.

I welcome the effort to show how to make use of the powerful tools available in Bible software, and can only hope that it will reverse the current trend to belittle the usefulness of getting to know as much Greek and Hebrew as possible.

Disclaimer: Just for the record, I have NOT received any gratis copy of the products reviewed here.

 

To Review or not to Review, that is the Question

I often have to remind myself that indeed “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). Postmoderns call it a déjà vu. The entry I wrote back in 2008 on Just How Much Influence do Bloggers Have? could just as well be my post for today. Nothing much has changed. We’re in a loop of sorts.

I’ve mentioned before that I never anticipated I would be writing Bible software reviews. Yes, I know I haven’t done so lately. It is true that I am too busy with other things, but there is a more fundamental reason: for the most part, and with rare exceptions, it is not fun anymore. History repeats itself. If you write a positive review, people might think you’ve been bribed one way or another. On the other hand, if you raise criticisms, then surely you must have some axe to grind. Reviewers will always be accused of having some vested interests, no matter what. No wonder reviewers are so difficult to find! You can very easily become a VIP or a persona non-grata in no time!

What actually prompted me to revisit this whole thing was the article Five Reasons Not to Buy Logos. Admittedly, I would never use a controversial title like that, but the review itself is balanced and well-written. One may partially agree or disagree, but he certainly makes some valid points. However, I can’t help feeling some sort of empathy with this unnamed missionary. Opening certain boxes can be unpleasant. You never know if it will end up being Pandora’s.

So, what should we do? I know that generalizations are unfair, but still, it appears that some companies are more interested in hype and ads than they are in reviews. A review is neither an ad nor a rehash of the info provided by the corresponding Public Relations department. You want publicity? Pay for it. You want a second opinion from a fallible but even-handed blogger? Get your product reviewed. Incidentally, I find a bit disturbing some of the current uses of social networks too. Personally, I refuse to blog, retweet or comment on every single sale, offer or product available. It’s nothing personal. It’s the way I see things. For me this is not a business, it’s a service. I reserve the right to mention or not mention whatever I want. You are free to read or not what I say, and so am I to review only what I really enjoy and find useful.

Let me make this clear: I will never, ever, again directly request to review any product. I don’t care how good you think your app is. If I don’t find it personally interesting, challenging and useful, I won’t bother with it. So don’t ask me how many readers I have, or how many monthly visits, or how influential the site and blog are (influence is a highly overrated notion anyway). Simply ask yourself if you really want to know my opinion (or somebody else’s) on the perceived value of your program. You don’t? Fair enough. You do? Le me decide if I’m interested in reviewing it. Why? Because I’m worth it 😉

Having said that, the question still remains: is it really worth the effort to take on the task of reviewing Bible software? More often than not I would answer in the negative. As of late, only occasionally do I find any joy in doing it. It is clear to me that Bible software has become too much “the business of Bible software” and has lost the essence and impetus of the pioneers in the field. Sad but true.

 

Reina-Valera 1909 Spanish Bible with Strong’s Numbers

There are a number of Reina-Valera Bible editions currently available. The most widely used in Spanish-speaking countries is probably the 1960 version (although there have been other revisions published since then). However, these Bibles are all copyrighted and it is not always easy and/or financially feasible to include them in software packages. This has resulted in the widespread use of RV1909, or even earlier editions, since these are now public domain texts. But the use of less than perfect e-texts, as well as the inherent difficulty of sometimes outdated expressions or words, can be problematic at times. I remember very well when I first began to use Bible software (feels like ages ago!) and kept finding typos which I then reported to almost anybody who offered electronic Spanish Bibles back in the day. Needless to say that things have improved a lot nowadays, but still there was something that I felt was sorely lacking.

In a loose kind of way –particularly so in the most recent incarnations–, Reina-Valera Bibles have followed  the Masoretic Text and the Textus Receptus, and have adopted a formal approach to Bible translation, while preserving, at the same time, a really good literary style. In this sense, the 1909 edition has struck a nice balance. It is a PD text that follows very closely the traditional Hebrew and Greek texts and still reads quite nicely. So, seeing that none of the other versions (including those based on the Critical Text) were readily available, this one seemed like the best candidate to use as part of a project I had had in mind for years: an electronic Spanish Bible tagged with Strong’s numbers that could be used by everybody and further developed with other types of tagging in the future.

I am happy to report that the first stage of this project is now ready for prime time. Reina-Valera 1909 with Strong’s Numbers is currently available for the following Bible programs: Accordance, Bible Analyzer, e-Sword, SwordSearcher and theWord. It should be coming soon to BibleReader and PocketBible. In the meantime, if other companies not mentioned here want to offer this title to their customers, they are welcome to contact me. My goal is to make it as widely available as possible. Please note that I don’t send the files to individuals, and that the terms and conditions may be different from one software vendor to another. Once they get the files and produce their module, everything else is entirely up to them. The only general condition is that the module should be locked (i.e., users cannot modify it) so that changes can only be implemented by the editor (in this case, me!). However, users are welcome and encouraged to email me typos and suggestions.

This is still a work in progress but already fully useable. The power and flexibility of having a Spanish Bible tagged with Strong’s depends largely on the application being used, but in some cases it can be pretty amazing, as I will try to show in future posts.

EDIT (July 13, 2012): The Bible is now available as a SWORD module add-in and can be used by a wide range of Bible programs that use this particular format.

 

Reina-Valera 1909 con números de Strong

Existen en la actualidad diversas ediciones de la Biblia Reina-Valera. La que más se utiliza en los países de habla hispana probablemente siga siendo la versión de 1960 (pese a que desde entonces se han publicado otras versiones). Sin embargo, todas estas Biblias se encuentran bajo copyright y no siempre resulta fácil o económicamente viable incluirlas en un paquete de software. Esto ha provocado que se extendiera la RV1909, o incluso ediciones más antiguas, ya que se trata de textos no sujetos a derechos de autor. No obstante, el uso de textos digitales que distaban de ser perfectos, así como la dificultad propia de algunas palabras o frases anticuadas, podían plantear problemas. Recuerdo muy bien cuando me inicié en el uso del software bíblico (¡parece que hace siglos!) y no dejaba de enviar correcciones a casi cualquier compañía que ofreciera versiones electrónicas de las Biblias en español. Huelga decir que actualmente las cosas han mejorado mucho, aunque todavía hay algo que seguía echando en falta.

Tradicionalmente, la Reina-Valera ha seguido el Texto Masorético y el Texto Recibido de una forma más o menos libre –especialmente en las versiones más recientes–, y ha adoptado el método de la traducción formal, preservando, al mismo tiempo, un estilo literario de gran calidad. En este sentido, la versión de 1909 mantiene un excelente equilibrio. Se trata de un texto de dominio público que se atiene a los textos tradicionales hebreo y griego y cuya lectura resulta agradable. Así pues, viendo que ninguna de las otras versiones (incluidas las basadas en el Texto Crítico) estaban fácilmente disponibles, me pareció que esta era la mejor candidata para utilizarla en un proyecto que había tenido en mente durante años: la creación de una edición digital de la Biblia castellana con los números de Strong que pudiera ser utilizada por todos y emplearse posteriormente para añadirle otro tipo de etiquetas o códigos en el futuro.

Me complace informar de que la primera etapa de este proyecto está acabada. La Reina-Valera 1909 con los números de Strong se encuentra ya disponible para los siguientes programas bíblicos: AccordanceBible Analyzere-SwordSwordSearcher y theWord. Pronto lo estará también para BibleReader y PocketBible. Mientras tango, si otras compañías tienen interés en ofrecer este título a sus usuarios, sírvanse contactar conmigo. Mi objetivo es que goce de la más amplia circulación posible. Tengan en cuenta, eso sí, que no envío los archivos a particulares, y que los términos y condiciones de su uso puede que sean diferentes según el programa. Una vez que entrego los archivos y las compañías de software crean sus módulos, todo lo demás depende de ellos. La única condición general es que el módulo esté bloqueado (esto es, que no pueda modificarse), de manera que solamente pueda realizar cambios el editor del mismo (o sea, yo). Sin embargo, invito a todos los que usen este módulo a que me comuniquen cualquier error que puedan encontrar y a que me hagan llegar sus sugerencias a través del correo electrónico.

Se trata de un proyecto que sigue en marcha (especialmente el Antiguo Testamento), aunque puede utilizarse perfectamente tal como está. Las posibilidades y la flexibilidad de poder contar con una Biblia castellana con los números de Strong dependen en gran medida de la aplicación con la que se trabaje, pero en algunos casos, como pretendo demostrar en próximos artículos, resulta realmente espectacular.