BibleWorks for Rapid Reading, pt 2 (BibleWorks 9 Review)

In this series I am exploring some ways that the new BibleWorks 9 can be used, not simply as a tool for exegesis or Bible study, but as an aid to communicative learning and teaching. For a good overview and introduction to the features of BibleWorks 9, see David Instone-Brewer’s guide.

Rapid Reading and Comprehensible Input
Everyone who reads this blog knows that I think the way Greek is traditionally taught is not optimal. Students are taught to move at a snail’s pace, analyzing, parsing, diagramming, looking every word up—it’s what makes “reading” Greek pure drudgery. I advocate an approach that begins with an oral/aural basis, and moves to rapid, extensive free reading. The reason for the oral/aural basis is to get students beyond translation mode. The reason for the extensive reading is to provide lots of interesting, comprehensible input. On the concept of comprehensible input, see this and then take a look at this video of Stephen Krashen demonstrating it.

Bible Works for Extensive Reading
What does this have to do with BibleWorks? Well, BibleWorks is a great way to practice rapid reading of Biblical and extra-biblical texts, and thereby get a lot of interesting, comprehensible input. BibleWorks 9 comes standard with a Greek New Testament, Rahlf’s text of the LXX (including Apocrypha), the Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Philo, and the Greek OT Pseudepigrapha. That’s a lot of text, much of it very easy reading with pretty basic vocabulary!

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Here’s the best way to use BW for rapid reading, in my opinion. (If you haven’t ever used BibleWorks and these instructions seem confusing, rest assured that it’s pretty easy to get the hang of, and BW includes lots of instructional videos that give you step-by-step demonstrations—see here for the basic layout of the screen). First, load up whatever text it is you want to read, e.g. the OT Pseudepigrapha (the code is OPG for the Gk text) and put it in Browse mode. Then start reading. When you come across a form you don’t understand or a word you don’t know, simply hover the cursor over the word and a parsing and brief lexical entry pops up in a box. At the same time, in your Analysis window, a full lexical entry will appear (you can choose from your installed lexica – Liddell Scott comes standard, as do Louw-Nida, Moulton-Milligan, Thayer, and others—BDAG is available as an add-on module).

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This cuts out all the time you would waste looking words up in a paper-based lexicon, or trying to figure out what lexical form you’re even supposed to be looking up! It’s superior to an interlinear in two ways: 1) it includes parsing (most interlinears don’t) and 2) it lets you focus on the Greek without constantly having an English translation staring you in the face, tempting you to be lazy. Of course, if you wanted to cheat, you could put it in verse-by-verse mode, where you have an English translation parallel to the Greek, but that kind of defeats the purpose.

Other Sources of Comprehensible Input
Now, Bibleworks isn’t the only place to get comprehensible input in Greek. Loeb editions are great, as are interlinears. Please note, interlinear snobs, before you begin anathematizing me: these are only great as tools for working toward becoming fluent in the language, not as a substitute for it or as a lifelong crutch.

Next time: Using BibleWorks for vocabulary acquisition.

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5 Responses to BibleWorks for Rapid Reading, pt 2 (BibleWorks 9 Review)

  1. Carl W. Conrad says:

    Daniel, I know you said that you were well-compensated for awarding this sort of tribute to Bible Works, and I realize that the point has been made in response to your earlier part 1, but it’s also worth repeating that these instantly-consulted lexical resources are readily available in other original-language Bible software packages. They certainly are in Accordance and in Logos, I can attest. The point I would emphasize is this: despite the fact that Biblical-Greek pedagogy in schools is being undermined by the ready accessibility of the Biblical language software packages, these packages nevertheless are a boon to successful students who wish to be rapid readers of Greek and Hebrews texts. While the tagging of inflected words can be abused in the same way as an interlinear that becomes a crutch for the stumbling reader, the tagging also enables a broad range of invaluable analytic searches of these texts.

    • Carl, “well-compensated,” I’m not so sure, but I did get a free review copy. I really don’t know anything about Accordance since I don’t own a Mac–does it come standard with all the OT Pseudepigrapha/Jos/Phi texts? I think in some of my upcoming posts I will be highlighting some areas where BW does offer features that Logos doesn’t–but, again, I’m not an expert on Bible software, so I appreciate any feedback in the comments alerting us to the fact that Logos or Accordance can perform the same tasks.

  2. I’ve never used any of these software tools, nor have I ever used an interlinear, but I have used (not so much anymore) Reader’s Editions and heavily annonated texts with BRIEF grammatical notes, like Steadman’s books. My point has always been that these resources support a communicative/fluency approach because they get the reader back, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, to the Greek text. Even a diglot to my way of thinking is less of a hindrance to fluency than a detailed grammatical commentary or a book in English which tries to explain verbal aspect or some other metalanguage concept. We seem to have strange bedfellows here, the high ambition to speak and write and listen to Ancient Greek combined with an acceptance of tools that are often thought of as aiming too low.

    • I agree. I almost mentioned reader’s editions. I do think a tool like BW is better in that it presents a full lexical entry (in the analysis window) in case the reader wants more than just a gloss.
      I also agree with your strange bedfellows comment–I like to think we’re subverting the evil intentions of the interlinearists. 🙂

  3. Richard says:

    I was wondering if you have a specific way you advise using interlinears as means of providing comprehensible input. I have read many of the critiques of interlinears, namely that you “think you know Greek but don’t really.” How specifically have you used them, or advised students to use them in a manner that aids growth toward fluency rather than being a crutch?

    My initial sense would be to read a text in the interlinear over and over until you can read it without the glosses, thus it has become comprehensible input. Is there a different way you approach it?

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