Review of Accordance

Accordance 9. By Oak Tree Software. 2010. Price varies depending upon the package purchased. (877) 339-5855. http://www.accordancebible.com.

Having heard so many Mac users rave about both Apple machines and Accordance Bible Software, I determined that the next time a PC in my possession died, I would switch to a Mac to see what all the fuss was about. The day came (no surprise to Mac users), and the switch was made. In recent months I have been learning the world of Apple and Accordance. This review will focus on Accordance Bible Software, but some Mac comments will be inevitable. Along the way I will mainly compare Accordance and BibleWorks. I am also grateful to have and use Logos 4, but I will not say much more about it. The main benefit of Logos is its massive electronic library. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a PC, BibleWorks is for you. If you don’t want a big electronic library and you operate a Mac, Accordance is the obvious choice. It is possible to get software that will enable you to run Accordance on a PC, or BibleWorks on a Mac, but the only reason for doing this would be if you had been using one of them and were switching platforms and did not want to purchase and learn the other software. In what follows I will comment on price, environment, my one big complaint (which really isn’t about Accordance), search capacity, and the thing that has me most excited about the switch to Accordance.

I begin with some surface level comparisons. Macs tend to cost significantly more than PC’s, and Accordance Bible Software is considerably more expensive than BibleWorks. The basic BibleWorks package comes with every English Bible translation you could imagine, while the comparably priced Accordance package comes with a couple English Bibles and you will pay $30 to $40 for each additional one. BibleWorks comes with BDB unabridged. If you want the complete BDB in Accordance, the price is $50–$70, depending on whether you are upgrading from within a package. BibleWorks comes with the Syriac Peshitta and the Aramaic Targums, the Peshitta will cost you $100 in Accordance and the Targums another $100. Somehow BibleWorks is able to bundle BDAG and HALOT and offer these two lexicons for $212. The BDAG and HALOT bundle costs $299 from Accordance. In general I think it is fair to say that less money will get more texts in BibleWorks, though more can be done with the texts you pay to get in Accordance. These observations about prices should not be taken as complaints. Workers are worthy of their wages, and these companies are rendering a tremendous service and making precious resources available at a fraction of the retail price.

PC’s are notoriously unstable, but I have always found BibleWorks reliable. It suffers only from its environment: the PC’s in my possession take a long time to wake up, often need to be restarted, and seem to be constantly downloading updates of one sort or another. The Mac knows no such instability or sluggishness. It is fast, responsive, and smooth. Accordance Bible Software has the Mac advantage, though it does come at a price.

Running Accordance on a Mac does not return us to the Garden of Eden, however, and not everything is perfect. My biggest disappointment has been the fact that Word for Mac simply will not handle right-to-left text correctly, making it impossible to copy Hebrew text from Accordance, paste it into Word for Mac, and produce a structural layout of the text. Accordance/Mac users tell me that Mellel, a word-processing software developed in Israel, can do this, but I’ve already paid twice as much for this machine and I refuse to shell out the extra cash for Mellel. The $30–$50 Mellel would cost me could be used to purchase the texts of the Apostolic Fathers in Accordance (Lightfoot ed., which comes with BibleWorks at no extra charge, the Holmes ed. costs $100 in Accordance). When I need to do a structural layout of a Hebrew text, I will be returning to my trusty copy of BibleWorks on a not-so-trusty but functional PC. I will probably go there when I need to search the Apostolic Fathers as well.

I hasten to observe that this my biggest complaint has to do with something that is a problem with Microsoft Word for Mac. It is not a problem with Accordance, which has been nothing but impressive. I also hasten to add that I still love BibleWorks and find it to be nothing but impressive. I have found the two programs comparable in terms of search capacity. If I run up against a search that I don’t know how to do, someone knows how to do it, and a google search, or a scan of instructional material, or a phone call to a knowledgeable friend quickly resolves the difficulty. I would also observe that in my years of working from Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic to teach and preach the Bible and write articles, books, and reviews, I simply have not needed to do that many complicated searches. Most searches are simple and straightforward. Admittedly, most of the time I am not doing technical grammatical work, but neither are most of the people using these programs. So I am confident that BibleWorks and Accordance can both do whatever you need them to do in the way of smart searches. Let me say, too, that the best way to learn the way words are used and how grammatical constructions work is not to spend a lot of time doing searches with powerful Bible software but to spend a lot of time reading and re-reading the biblical texts in the original languages.

What most excites me about Accordance is the way it grants access to the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament. Not only can the high-resolution photographs of the manuscripts taken by Dan Wallace and his team at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) be integrated into Accordance, Accordance has fully tagged, fully searchable transcriptions of the NT text of Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Washingtonensis, and the NT Papyri from Comfort and Barrett. At some point I read of an NT scholar in the 1800s who tried to access the NT exclusively from the manuscripts. That possibility is now open not just to those who live near a library with manuscripts but to all who have Accordance. And the tagged and searchable texts hold out astonishing promise for the study of, among other things, the nomina sacra. Reading the text from the photos in Accordance will do more for one’s understanding of the challenges involved in the task of NT text criticism than countless books and articles on the topic could ever accomplish. The images are clear and legible, but not everything appears on them. For instance, take a look at the photographs of 1 Corinthians 14 from Codex Vaticanus provided by Philip B. Payne here. Not as much can be seen in the CSNTM photograph of a facsimile of Vaticanus provided here. This, of course, is not Accordance’s fault, as they are simply integrating the CSNTM photographs.

The pricetag on both Mac and Accordance may be high, but the treasures yielded are priceless. The unique ability to search a fully tagged text of the earliest manuscripts of the NT is astonishing and unprecedented, and to my knowledge Accordance provides the only way to do it. Proverbs 16:16 insists that wisdom and understanding are better than silver and gold. Accordance Bible Software is definitely a means to wisdom and understanding, limited only by the capacity of the human who makes use of it.