MASTER SEARCH BIBLE: COMPARATIVE BIBLE RESEARCH ON COMPACT DISC
By: Steven E. West
Biblical research has entered the 21st century a few years early. With the advent of the CD-ROM drive for computers, searching through massive volumes of information is just seconds away.
One of the most prominent Biblical packages available is Master Search Bible. I was impressed even before running the program. The binder is nice and organized, and unlike some CD’s, Master Search Bible comes in a plastic case instead of a cardboard one. The documentation is easy to understand and follows a logical order. It is easy to see that someone put a great deal of time in the packaging and documentation.
Working with the database is a pure delight and is almost possible without a manual. When the program loads you are given six options. The first is listed as options and gives you the choice of New Session which deletes all windows on the screen and allows you to start again with no former search information in memory. Profile lets you customize MSB for your hardware and search preferences as well as allowing the user to change screen colors. Documentation give you an on-line user manual while using the database.
Shell to DOS is for temporarily leaving the database to execute a DOS command. Quit is the menu item which will exit the database.
The program menu which has a definite windows look is divided into three area’s of research. Biblical texts, reference texts, and Greek/Hebrew. Just like window, MSB can display more than one text at a time. In fact, up to four different texts can be searched and displayed on-screen for comparative and parallel study. Windows can be zoomed to fill the whole screen or viewed in the normal, smaller window to facilitate looking at more than one reference at the same time. Windows can be made active by simply pressing the tab key to move to different windows.
Having MSB is like having a whole bookrack of different texts, without having to take one book at a time and search for a word or scripture reference. Using MSB allows you to find what would literally take hours or days to research and document and give it to you in seconds or minutes. Even to the point of sending to a file for use by your favorite word processor. Scripture texts, reference works, and original languages can be displayed on the screen at the same time.
The first area of research is that of Biblical texts which include: the King James Version (KJV); the New American Standard Bible (NASB); the New International Version (NIV) and its translator’s notes: and
Transliterations, MSB’s own electronic version that automatically aligns the English text of the KJV with appropriate dictionary entries for Greek or Hebrew.
I tried a simple search in the KJV, on my 386, 33mhz machine, by typing in the word, ‘faith.’ By simply pressing a function key I was able to go backward or forward one reference at a time from anywhere in the Bible I chose to start. Searches of single words, multiple words, specific texts, or any Boolean operators such as AND< OR, AND NOT, WITHIN, TO. Parentheses and equal sign can be used to search the scriptures.
The second area is that of reference texts which include: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, the Handbook to Bible Study, The New International Dictionary of Bible Archaeology, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, Notes from the Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, and The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands.
In my opinion the best feature of the reference texts is the ability to select ALL texts which will search all eight texts for a reference at the same time. I selected ALL TEXTS and typed in the word “divorce” and MSB found 267 occurrences in just 3 seconds. Pretty impressive when you think about how many hours it would have taken me find those references by taking the same books down from my bookshelves. All of the search features mentioned in Biblical texts can be utilized with reference texts.
The final area of research is that of Greek or Hebrew. It gives options for relating English to the original languages when you specify a word study or a definition: Hebrew to English, English to Hebrew, Greek to English, and English to Greek. This information, including the number after each entry, comes from the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
Typing in “master” in the English to Hebrew gave me the words for master in the original language. To see a dictionary meaning for the same word you would select Hebrew to English and enter the Hebrew word.
All of the information you can find in MSB would be great even if you had to write down the references, statements, and whole articles you needed for your study. Thankfully that is only part of what MSB does for you. At any time during your session you can go to the Window selection on the menu and select Memo to take personal notes. A memo pad will pop up on the screen alongside the active window. If you type a note longer than the window itself, the text will scroll as you type more. When you finish, MSB will give you the option of sending the information to a file or printer or both. The file is in a plain ASCII text file so your word processor can use it later.
Another way to extract information is through the Window option called Export. When selected you can move the cursor to any point in your active window and press F7 to start marking text. Move the cursor to the end of your selected text and press F8 and the block is formed. After pressing F8 you will be given the option of sending the information to an ASCII file or the printer or both.
Since the material of MSB is current material, all copyright laws apply. The size limit for a single text block is set for 10,000 characters. This is more than enough for most research, but if it is not, you are given the
option of more export or exit. You simply select more export, mark another, block, through the same process, giving it a different name from the first (or append the first file).
A fourth area of research, though not actually from book form is that of what MSB calls Links. It is by far the most powerful feature in an already feature filled database. Links is broken into four area’s which can find meaningful material related to the text even when you are not sure what Scripture reference or what word you should be looking for. The Links menu gives options to search for chain references, Old Testament usage in the New Testament, Scripture references in all works listed in the reference texts, and footnotes.
No review can really do justice to such a comprehensive work as MSB and this writer has only tried to wet your appetite for what you will find after working with the product.
I personally would not like to be without MSB in my study. It is an easy to use, speedy information gathering tool that I will use over and over again. The cost of $495.00, plus the need for a CD-ROM drive may be prohibitive to some but just think what the cost of all of these books would be. Plus the added incentive of a whole library in your shirt pocket if you are a minister (and ministers move often!).
For those that want this kind of retrieval system without such a cost, Tri-Star has introduced a concise edition for $ 199.00 which includes everything MSB provides, minus some of the reference works. The Concise edition does have Greek/Hebrew menu option.
For more information or to order call Tri-Star Publishing at 1-800-29BIBLE or (215)441-6451.
Steven E. West is owner of West Computer Systems & Pastor of First Baptist Church, Florala, Alabama. (205) 858-6656
(The above material appeared in the June 1992 issue of Christian Computing Magazine.)
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