This Frequently Asked Questions document covers the following about the World English Bible (WEB):
That is a good question. There are many good English translations of the Holy Bible. Unfortunately, all of them are either (1) archaic (like the KJV and ASV of 1901), or (2) covered by copyright restrictions that prevent unrestricted free posting on the internet or other media (like the NIV and NASB). The Bible in Basic English (BBE) was in the Public Domain in the USA (but not all countries) for a while, but its copyrighted status was restored by GATT. (The BBE used a rather restricted subset of English, anyway, limiting its accuracy and readability.) In other words, there is NO OTHER complete translation of the Holy Bible in normal Modern English that can be freely copied (except for some limited “fair use”) without written permission from the publisher and (usually) payment of royalties. This is the vacuum that the World English Bible is filling.
The copyright laws of most nations and the international treaties that support them are a mixed blessing. By granting authors and translators a legal monopoly (for a limited, but very long, time) on the right of copying and “first sale” of their works, the law makers have made writing and translating very profitable for some people whose works are in great demand. This has, no doubt, been a factor in the creation of many of the good Modern English translations of the Holy Bible that we now enjoy. The problem with this system, with respect to the Holy Bible, is that it has had the effect of limiting distribution of God’s Word in modern languages. For example, I cannot legally post copies of the entire New International Version of the Holy Bible on my web site in a downloadable, searchable, and readily copyable format without the permission of the International Bible Society and Zondervan (copyright owner and publisher). Zondervan won’t grant such permission unless they get a significant royalty (they quoted me $10,000 + $10/copy distributed) and unless I convince them that my Bible search software is “good enough” for them. Needless to say, the Bible search software that I am writing with the intention of distributing as donorware will not come with the NIV.
The problem of copyright protection of Modern English translations of the Holy Bible is not just significant on the Internet and various electronic information services. It also affects people who want to quote significant portions of Scripture in books, audio tapes, and other media. This drives up the price of preaching the Gospel. Basic economics tells us that this is not a good thing when our goal is to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). For example, the “free” Bibles that the Gideons place cost more if they use a modern version, like Thomas-Nelson’s New King James Version, than if they use the (more difficult to read) King James Version.
Naturally, I’m not suggesting that we abolish the copyright law or that existing Modern English translations be immediately released to the Public Domain. I understand the way that the profits from the sales of the NIV, for example, help fund other language translations at the International Bible Society (as well as helping to enrich some folks at Zondervan). I also understand that the business of Bible sales has helped establish a good supply of Bibles in many parts of the world, in a variety of formats, sizes, styles, and colors. What we are doing is liberating at least one Modern English translation of the Holy Bible from all copyright restrictions -- a translation that is trustworthy, accurate, and useful for evangelism and discipleship.
Another concern where copyright restrictions come into play is in translation and creating derivative works. For example, the copyright notice of the NASB expressly forbids making translations or derivative works based on the NASB without getting permission from the Lockman Foundation. I don’t know if they would make this easy or hard, expensive or cheap, but I do know that there will be no need to even ask when using the WEB.
No. Copyright protection is intended to protect the income of the copyright holder’s sales of a work, but we are planning to GIVE AWAY the right to make copies of this version of the Holy Bible to anyone who wants it, so we have nothing to lose that way. There is some argument for copyrighting a Bible translation just to retain some legal control against some evil, cultic revision of a translation. The God’s Living Word translations of John’s Gospel and John’s letters are copyrighted only for this reason, for example, even though blanket permission to make unlimited copies of that translation is published with them. This legal leverage is so much weaker than God’s protection of His own Word that it is of questionable value. (See Revelation 22:18-19.) One other major concern is that somebody might later claim a copyright on the WEB and remove it from the Public Domain. Because there is a timely and public declaration of the Public Domain status of the WEB by those who are working on it, that would not work, and they would not be able to defend such a bogus copyright claim.
With a Public Domain work, there is a hazard of confusion if many people start revising it or making derivative works from it and call it the same thing. For that reason, the name “World English Bible” is a trademark that may only be used to identify the World English Bible as published by Rainbow Missions, Inc., and faithful copies of that work. In addition, official distributions of the World English Bible are digitally signed to provide a tamper-evident seal.
The WEB Revision is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which is in the Public Domain. The revision is also in the Public Domain, which sets it apart from other revisions of the American Standard Version, like the New American Standard Bible and the Revised Standard Version. The first pass of the translation, which has already been done, was to convert about 1,000 archaic words and word forms to modern equivalents using a custom computer program. The second through seventh phases consist of manual editing and proofreading. The initial manual pass is to add quotation marks (the ASV of 1901 had none), update other punctuation, update usage, and spot check the translation against the original languages in places where the meaning is unclear or significant textual variants exist. The subsequent passes are to review of the results of the previous pass. In each pass, volunteers read the current draft, looking for typos, unclear passages, etc., then report back to the senior editor, who checks the suggestions and merges the best suggestions into the master draft. As this is going on, the draft at the WEB web page is updated.
Rainbow Missions, Inc., a Colorado nonprofit corporation -- and many volunteers who are born again and seeking to daily follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If the Lord so moves you, tax-deductible financial gifts to help pay for WEB publishing and other costs associated with this project may be made to:
Rainbow Missions, Inc.
PO Box 1151
Longmont CO 80502-1151
Rainbow Missions gets its name from the rainbow that is a sign of the covenant between God and Noah, the rainbow around God’s throne, and the rainbow that suddenly appeared in the clear blue sky right after I asked God what to name this ministry.
Many people have been involved in the production and editing of the World English Bible from a variety of backgrounds. Because this is a revision of the American Standard Version of the Revised Bible, we start with the over 50 Evangelical scholars who worked on that project. They, in turn, relied on the work of those who had gone before them. We also rely on the work of many scholars who have found, compiled, combined, and published the excellent and highly accurate Hebrew and Greek texts from which we work. We also rely on the excellent lexicons of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek that are available to us.
In addition to these excellent references that represent literally hundreds of years of combined labor by many committed Christian men and women, we have access to the United Bible Society handbooks on Bible translation and a large number of other English translations to compare and consult.
Among the volunteers who have contributed to this project, we have people who attend various churches, including Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, and many more. This broad representation helps guard against introducing sectarian bias into the work. In addition, the novel technique of publishing draft copies of the World English Bible on the Internet provides additional protection against bias, because all serious comments are carefully considered and the wording compared to the original language.
Although we don’t demand credentials from people who comment on the translation by email, we do validate their comments before deciding what to do with them.
We do have one senior editor who is responsible for decisions regarding the text, but he is also accountable to several other Christians. Everyone who has authority to decide on the wording in the World English Bible believes in the inspiration by the Holy Spirit of the text as recorded by the original authors. In addition, we also believe that the Holy Spirit is still active in preserving the text and helps us in our work to the extent that we let Him.
Standing on the shoulders of giants - those mighty men of God who provided the critically edited original language texts, translated other English versions (especially the ASV), wrote the great translation guides available from the American Bible Society, and the writers of the Greek & Hebrew study materials I use - is the most obvious. Others include having studied the Bible for years, studying several languages, and earning a Master’s degree. None of those matter as much as the next reason. God called me to do this, and I willingly answered His call. God would not call me to do something without enabling me to do so. Without God’s call, I would drop this project like a hot rock. Although many people contribute suggestions and typo reports, they are all checked before editing the master copy of the World English Bible.
The WEB must
Bible translation (as with any natural language translation) is a balancing act, where the translators seek to preserve the following:
Note that some of the above goals are at odds with one another, like preservation of the original style vs. faithfulness to the target language, and expressing the last bit of the shades of meaning vs. preserving the impact. Still, it is possible to retain a good balance. Different balance points are chosen by different translation committees. Indeed, many translations can be characterized by the weight the translators gave to each of the above items. For example, The Amplified Bible excels at getting the meaning across, but falls down hard on impact, style preservation, and faithfulness to the target language. The New Living Translation excels at preserving the meanings of entire thoughts, impact, and faithfulness to the target language, but loses some of the style and shades of meaning. The New International Version excels at most of the above, but loses some elements of style and some of the subtleties of wording. The World English Bible attempts to balance all of the above with a fairly literal translation.
Some people like to use the terms “formal equivalent” and “dynamic equivalent.” Neither of these exactly describe what we are doing, since we have borrowed ideas from both, but I suppose that we are closer to formal equivalence than dynamic equivalence.
Since this is primarily an update of the 1901 edition, the choices made by the original 50 or so Evangelical scholars that made this translation hold unless reference is made to the original languages to help with places where the Elizabethan English is not clear, or where major textual variants are known to exist. In this case, we are using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, also called The Stuttgart Bible, in the Old Testament, and the Byzantine Majority Text as published for use with The Online Bible in the New Testament (M-Text). This choice of Greek text is very close to what the KJV translators used, but does take advantage of some more recently discovered manuscripts. Although there are good scholarly arguments both for and against using the Byzantine Majority Text over the “Alexandrian” text based on the dating and critical editing work of Nestle and Aland and published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), we find the following to be compelling reasons:
The WEB is different enough to avoid copyright infringement, but similar enough to avoid incurring the wrath of God. By “different enough,” I mean that the wording is about as different from any one Modern English translation as the current translations differ from each other. By “similar enough,” I mean that the meaning is preserved and that the Gospel still cuts to the very soul. It is most similar to the ASV of 1901, of course, but I suppose that similarities will be found with other translations.
The WEB doesn’t capitalize pronouns pertaining to God. This is similar to the NRSV and NIV, and the same as the original ASV of 1901. Note that this is an English style decision, because Hebrew has no such thing as upper and lower case, and the oldest Greek manuscripts were all upper case. I kind of prefer the approach of the KJV, NKJV, and NASB of capitalizing these pronouns, because I write that way most of the time and because it is a way of offering greater honor to God. I admit that it is kind of a throw-back to the Olde English practice of capitalizing pronouns referring to the king. This is archaic, because we don’t capitalize pronouns that refer to our president. It is also true that chosing to capitalize pronouns relating to God causes some difficulties in translating the coronation psalms, where the psalm was initially written for the coronation of an earthly king, but which also can equally well be sung or recited to the praise of the King of Kings. Capitalizing pronouns relating to God also makes for some strange reading where people were addressing Jesus with anything but respect. In any case, in the presence of good arguments both ways, we have decided to leave these as they were in the ASV 1901 (which also gives us fewer opportunities to make mistakes).
The WEB, like the ASV of 1901, breaks the KJV tradition by printing God’s proper Name in the Old Testament with a spelling closest to what we think it was pronounced like, instead of rendering that Name as “LORD” or “GOD” (with all caps or small caps). The current scholarly consensus has shifted from spelling this Name as “Jehovah” to spelling it as “Yahweh.” There are a couple of other English translations that use “Yahweh,” so this is not new, per se, but it does set it off a little from other translations.
Because World English Bible (WEB) uses the Majority Text as the basis for the New Testament, you may notice the following differences in comparing the WEB to other translations:
May God open their eyes and give them a sound understanding.
If you prefer the King James Version of the Holy Bible, then, by all means, read it and do what it teaches. I think that the KJV was a wonderful Contemporary English translation of the Holy Bible when it came out. It has been mightily used by God and has had (and continues to have) a profoundly good impact. Unfortunately, the evolution of the English language continually erodes its value as time goes on. It is now outsold by the excellent New International Version, for many good reasons.
I guess that there are a few people that seem to believe that the KJV is more accurate than the original Hebrew and Greek of the Holy Bible, and that all the other versions are tainted with heresy and conspiracy. I’ve read some of their literature. I found it to be some of the most non-Christian and illogical literature that I have endured, thus further proving the claim that the KJV is the only valid Bible to be wrong, at least in my mind. I guess I’ve now put myself on record as being a heretic in their eyes, but I must follow God, rather than men.
Indeed, throwing another Modern English translation into the “market” to “compete” with solid translations like the NIV and publishing giants like Zondervan sounds as silly. It sounds like that, perhaps, until you consider that the primary target for the WEB is royalty-free distribution of the Holy Bible in unlimited copies made by many people using many computers, tape recorders, photocopiers, and presses all over the world. This is a “market” that the “giants” have excluded themselves from. Indeed, if they change that policy (don’t hold your breath waiting for them to), we win, anyway. If we win this area, that is enough to justify this effort. If we do an excellent job, the WEB might possibly start competing in more conventional areas (like printed Bibles in bookstores), but not because of any significant effort or marketing on our part. After all, the bookstores have lots of Bibles in Modern English, already.
Once you look at the whole picture of what is going on, the multi-million dollar publishers and Bible translators really don’t have much of an effect on us, nor do we have much of an effect on them. The result of the combined efforts of both is simply more complete availability of the Holy Bible in Modern English.
Of course, it does take considerable effort to pull off a decent Bible translation -- even a language update like the WEB. Fortunately, there are lots of people willing to volunteer some time to help with this cause, and the Internet helps bring those people together.
The real bottom line, though, is that this is God’s project, and He is fully capable of providing everything that we need to accomplish His goals.
Specifically, we need people who will read drafts of WEB chapters carefully, checking the following things, and email suggestions for improvements in the following areas:
Note that all suggestions made in line with the above mentioned translation philosophy will be seriously considered. There is no guarantee, of course, that any suggestion will result in a change, especially in those areas that involve judgment calls, because we are likely to get conflicting suggestions for the same passage. If in doubt, suggest or ask, anyway. We want to eradicate as many of the above distractions as possible, so that the meaning and message of the Holy Bible come through clearly.
Draft portions of the WEB are published in the WEB mailing list and at http://ebible.org/web/, and in the unmoderated Usenet news groups alt.bible and alt.christnet.bible. Once the WEB translation is done, we plan to continue it as a daily Bible reading list.
There are actually three mailing lists that can properly be called the WEB mailing list:
|bible||Daily World English Bible readings and some announcements|
|hnv||Daily HNV readings and some announcements|
|webnews||News about status of World English Bible translation and publication.||
The easy way (if you have access to the World Wide Web) is to visit http://ebible.org/subscribe.htm and follow the instructions there.
If you can’t do the above, send mail to email@example.com with the single line in the body of the message (not the subject) with “subscribe” followed by the list name, like:
Expect somewhere around 4 chapters of the Holy Bible per day, along with related material (like this FAQ, the glossary, and announcements).
Visit http://ebible.org/subscribe.htm and follow the instructions there, or send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the single line in the body of the message (not the subject) saying “unsubscribe” followed by the list name, like:
If you don’t have access to the account you are unsubscribing from, then add your old email address to the line, like
unsubscribe bible email@example.com
but substitute your own email address for firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just unsubscribe from the old address and subscribe from the new address, using the instructions, above.
Yes. Dr. Maurice Robinson is overseeing another project to revise the ASV into what he is calling the Modern American Standard Version (MASV). That project is not on quite as ambitious schedule, but it should be worth looking at when it is done. There are now some other works, too, like the Updated King James Version at http://www.geocities.com/updatedkjv/. People often ask if we are aware of the New English Translation, and we are, but it is not Public Domain. They do allow free downloads for personal use, though, and there is a lot of scholarly work that went into that translation.
The New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs are finished (but we will still consider well-justified edits and typo corrections). We are attempting to complete the first manually-edited draft of the Old Testament by Christmas 2004. (This isn't a promise. It is a target, but it should give you something of an idea.) It will probably take several months after that to get the whole Bible into print. You can see the current revision status at http://eBible.org/web/.
You can get a bound, printed copy of of the New Testament plus Psalms and Proverbs of the World English Bible by ordering it on line at http://www.messianicbook.net/Scriptures.htm or by ordering it from a book store. Order ISBN 0-9703344-2-7 (paperback), ISBN 0-9703344-5-1 (hardback), or ISBN 0-9703344-7-8 (case laminate cover).
World: because God’s Word is to the whole world, and this translation is to be read by English-speaking people all over the world.
English: a language spoken by about 10% of the people in the world.
Bible: God’s Holy Book.
WEB: This translation of the Holy Bible travels by way of the World-Wide Web, aided by its copyright-free status.
Several publishers that don’t already own rights to another modern English translation of the Holy Bible are likely to be interested. Ask them.
“Yahweh” is the most probable best transliteration of this most holy proper name from the Hebrew consonants YOD HE WAW HE, or YHWH. This holy name is sometimes rendered “Jehovah” based on the mixture of the vowels for “Adonai” (Lord) with the consonants “YHWH” as it is written in some later Hebrew manuscripts. The original Hebrew manuscripts had no vowels, and we believe that the vowels for “adonai” were added to reflect the tradition of avoiding pronouncing God’s name, and saying “Lord” instead, and was not an indication of how the name should be pronounced by those so bold as to actually utter God’s name. This is a break from the tradition of the KJV and others that use “LORD” or “GOD” with all caps or small caps to translate “YHWH”, and use “Lord” (normal mixed case) to translate “Adonai” and “God” (normal mixed case) to translate “Elohim.” That tradition gets really confusing in some places, especially since “Yahweh” is used in conjunction with “Lord” and “God” in many places in the Old Testament. Since God’s proper name really is separate from the titles “Lord” and “God” in the original Hebrew, we wanted the English translation to reflect that fact, even when read aloud.
In some places, “Yah,” a shortened version of God’s Name is used. This is how it is written in the Hebrew manuscripts in those places.
As a concession to strong tradition among Messianic Jews, the Hebrew
Names Version of the
World English Bible uses “LORD” or “GOD” (all capital letters) for
“Yahweh” and “Yah.” We acknowledge that there are a wide variety of
opinions on this subject, with preferences for using “HaShem” or “The
Name.” Nevertheless, we are confident that the current rendition is
pleasing to the Lord and acceptable to the majority of the Messianic
Jews for whom we have made this translation available.
Some people would also like to see “God” replaced with “Elohim.” We
think that would be confusing for readers of the WEB and not desired by
the majority of the readers of the HNV.
In Hebrew, there is no such thing as upper and lower case. The original Greek manuscripts were written in all upper case letters. Therefore, this is mostly a question of English style more than a question of conforming to the original language texts. English style is a moving target, and there is not widespread agreement on capitalization of pronouns referring to God. A few hundred years ago, it was common practice to capitalize pronouns pertaining to any king or other national leader. Since God is the King of Kings, it only made sense to capitalize pronouns referring to God. In modern English, we don’t do that, even when writing very respectfully. In modern English, it is considered correct to either capitalize or not capitalize pronouns referring to God, but the practice should be consistent within a book. Other contemporary translations of the Holy Bible into English are pretty much evenly split between capitalizing and not capitalizing these pronouns.
There are three other translational issues involved. One is that it seems rather awkward to translate quotations of people who were deriding Jesus Christ, and who at that point didn’t believe that He was the spotless Son of God, capitalizing the pronouns they used to refer to Him. The New American Standard Bible handles this by putting in a footnote to explain that they capitalized the pronouns because of who Jesus Christ is, not who the speaker thought He was.
Another issue is that in some of the coronation psalms, it was clear that the psalm was originally written for the coronation of an earthly king (i. e. King Solomon), but the psalm applies and is used more often to sing praises to the King of Kings. In that case, it is difficult to choose which case to use for the pronouns. By not capitalizing pronouns pertaining to God, we as translators preserve the ambiguity of the original Scriptures and leave the application to the Holy Spirit and the reader.
The third translational issue is a more practical one. Because the World English Bible is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which does not capitalize pronouns referring to God, it would have required reviewing all pronouns in the Bible for capitalization, determining from the context which referred to God and which did not. Even when done carefully, there is a risk of making errors in the process, and in some cases (such as those mentioned above), footnotes would be in order to explain the ambiguities that would be totally unnecessary without the capitalization.
Therefore, we have decided to retain the ASV’s capitalization rules in the Bible text.
Because the Greek New Testament was written not in the formal written register of the language, but in the informal register of the language used by common people, we have decided to use the less formal spoken register of the English language. This sounds much more natural when read aloud. The primary difference noticeable between spoken or informal written English and formal written English is the greater use of contractions.
The World English Bible has a companion Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical
section. This section is a revision of the KJV Apocrypha. (The ASV had
no such section.) Opinions and teachings regarding these books vary
from denomination to denomination and among Christians within those
denominations. We believe that these books have value in helping people
understand the context of the Old and New Testaments, and that they
contain some godly wisdom. These books are also considered to be a part
of the Bible by the Roman Catholic Church and some other denominations.
Therefore, we believe that they are worth preserving. The World English
Bible is an ecumenical work for both Catholic and Protestant use. We
aren’t going to pretend to resolve all doctrinal differences, but we
are able to provide a translation that should be good for all believers
in Jesus Christ who speak English.
At http://www.ebible.org/bible/WEB or http://WorldEnglishBible.org.
1. You can pray for everyone who works on it, that they would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and correctly handle God’s Holy Word, and that God would abundantly provide everything needed for this work.
2. You can partner with us, helping us to make the World English Bible freely available by sending tax-deductible donations to:
PO BOX 275
MESA CO 81643-0275
This FAQ is maintained by Michael Paul Johnson. This page is kept at http://ebible.org/web/webfaq.htm.
[Contents] [The World English Bible]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]. This page was last updated 1 February 2004.