BibleWorks 9 - The Manuscripts Project

Written by Michael Hanel on June 28th, 2011

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As best as I am able, I will try to highlight some of the new features of BibleWorks 9, but realize I am only one man. Therefore, I’m already going to point you to two sources which will likely be even better places to learn more. 1) BibleWorks’ own website (remember this blog is an unofficial one, we’re not employees of BibleWorks, just big fans of the program) and 2) the BibleWorks forums. Right now for instance you can see on the BibleWorks website what’s new in BW9, see videos of it in action and place your orders so that you can be among the first to get it when the product ships.

With that said, I want to introduce BW9 by talking about the Manuscripts Project, which is one huge addition to the program.

The BibleWorks Manuscripts Project has long been in the works and it is an understatement to say that this is a massive undertaking. BibleWorks has invested countless resources in a task that would boggle the mind of textual critics of the by-gone eras. Essentially the BibleWorks Manuscripts Project is a project whose goal is to provide new transcriptions of the most frequently cited Greek New Testament manuscripts and to accompany them with manuscript images which have verse locations tagged.

What does that mean? That means rather than looking at the textual critical apparatus to see what text says what, you will actually be able to have Codex Sinaiticus in your browse window just like Nestle-Aland, Westcott-Hort, etc. It will be a morphologically tagged text. But beyond that, BibleWorks is also providing you with images of the manuscripts themselves so that you can see what it was that the transcriber was seeing. As you will soon tell with textual criticism, it is more an art than a science. When one sees a nu, another might see a mu. In order for the text to be useable textual critics need to make decisions, but BibleWorks doesn’t just make the decision and hide the evidence. It’s there for you to see with your own eyes. If you’re worried about not being able to see the manuscripts well, BibleWorks has also provided ample imaging tools to make that task even easier. The amount of help you have at your finger tips is far beyond what Tischendorf, Tregelles and so many others had available to them.

In order to make it even easier to find where the text is in the manuscript, BibleWorks provides verse labels that are placed on the image (you can remove them if they get in the way), so that you can see exactly where in the manuscript Matt 1:4 begins for instance. In other words, they go the extra mile to help make these manuscripts accessible to you.

The Manuscripts Project is a looooooong term project. When you see what they have done so far you will begin to understand how difficult of a project it is. As of right now, they have completed full transcriptions of the following manuscripts: Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Vaticanus, Bezae, Boernerianus, Washingtonensis, and GA1141. Of those so far, only Sinaiticus is morphologically tagged, but the rest will be made available as updates when they are ready. And beyond that more manuscripts will also be added as they are available. But as you can see, they didn’t start off with the easy ones. They went right to the big guys.

The biggest reason why I think BW9 is worth the update is because you will be supporting this project.   Whereas other publishers fight over who can control the textual apparatus materials from some of these ancient texts, BibleWorks is attempting to make them available to more people than ever before in ways that will only increase the amount of work that can be done with them. Don’t think the project of textual criticism is over. In some ways, it’s only just beginning.

Just a couple of pictures.

#1:

In the above, you can see an active collation of Greek versions. In the middle portion you can see the image of the manuscript with verse tags. You can pop out the image in its own window if you wish to do that as well.

In the above, you can see an active collation of Greek versions. In the middle portion you can see the image of the manuscript with verse tags. You can pop out the image in its own window if you wish to do that as well.

#2:

This is just a small sampling of what the image viewer options look like. This is the same manuscript image as above, only with imaging options applied.

This is just a small sampling of what the image viewer options look like. This is the same manuscript image as above, only with imaging options applied.

Again, this isn’t the only thing new in BibleWorks 9, but it is one of the features that excites me the most. There may be others you prefer, but for my money, this alone pays for the upgrade. Of the making of critical editions, there will be no end, but when people do that, they will always be returning to these, the ancient manuscripts themselves.

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