2015 Year-end Report for eBible.org

Matthew 11:28 (WEB)Summary

This report is for the organization called “eBible.org”, which operates many web sites (including, of course, eBible.org) and engages in other ministry associated with distributing God’s Word, the Holy Bible, to the world. Staffing consists of Michael Johnson and a team of volunteers. Although we refer to what we do as “electronic Scripture publishing” or “digital Bible distribution”. By “publishing”, we don’t mean taking on the role of a traditional for-profit publisher, but just distributing Bible translations for those who translated them and making them available to those who can read and listen to them, as permitted by either copyright owners or Public Domain status.

EBible.org does not charge either the Bible copyright owners or those who read the Bibles we distribute for this service. Asking for someone to pay to hear the Gospel for the first time is not the most effective evangelism technique. Even people who already believe in Jesus Christ and know the great value of the Scriptures sometimes live in places where there is no reasonable way for them to pay for something over the Internet, and we don’t wish to exclude them. More discussion about the economics of digital Bible distribution is given, below.

How can we know we are doing any good?

There are really five main ways that I know that we are doing good in spreading God’s Word throughout the world:

  1. Scriptural promises, like Isaiah 55:11 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  2. Prompting of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The nature of what we do.
  4. Reports from the field.
  5. Counting things that can reasonably be counted.

Scriptural Promises

How can we lose? If God is for us, who can be against us? Search the Scriptures for yourself and see. Read the whole Book, if you like. Get your free digital copy of the Holy Bible at eBible.org/web or just read it online.

Prompting of the Holy Spirit

I can think of nothing that is both more sure and more subjective than the inward prompting of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God still speaks to His children in many ways. When He does so, He never contradicts what He inspired in the Holy Bible. Therefore, I am greatly assured that what we are doing will be both pleasing to God and effective, to the extent that we are obedient to Him. Romans 8:14, John 10:4

What We Do

We do the following to encourage the Holy Bible to “go viral” in the good, social media sense:

  • Distribute Scriptures that don’t have legal restrictions on copying, i.e. Public Domain or licensed to allow unrestricted copying and also allow conversion to other formats (i.e. for specific Bible study apps).
  • Distribute Bibles in presentation formats that are not difficult to read or copy, with or without Internet access.
  • Share Bibles in source formats with others who are like-minded and wish to share Bibles from their own web sites and apps.
  • Distribute Bibles from multiple web sites, including both large multilanguage sites and sites targeted more at specific cultures and languages.
  • Keep adding more Bibles to the distribution as translations are made available to us or found in the Public Domain.
  • Keep adding more digital Bible formats to the distribution, each for its particular advantages.
  • Automate Bible format conversion as much as practical to speed access to new translations and facilitate rapid updates.
  • Check quality on the initial publication as well as responding to reports of opportunities for improvement from the field.
  • Strive to make the presentation of the Scriptures pleasant and worthy of the Word of God.
  • Make the Scriptures available in digital formats to end users at no cost other than whatever their Internet connection and/or media and hardware costs them.

The above activities create conditions that encourage sharing. Unlike a printed Bible, I can give away as many copies as I like, and still have mine to read and cherish. Indeed, it seems that information wants to be free. Traditional publishers go to great lengths to try to limit copying with various “copy protection” and “Digital Rights Management” schemes. Simply not spending our time on such barriers to copying gets us closer to our goal of giving everyone access to the Holy Bible in their own language.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that we understand that there are some Bible translation copyright owners that do not permit their Bible translations to be freely published as above, usually for economic reasons. In those cases, have future plans to support more limited (non-viral) distribution, more like a traditional publisher. Limited support for their distribution models exists today via InScript and on various partner web sites. This will get more of our attention after we have gone farther in distributing Public Domain Bible translations and copyrighted Bible translations with appropriate open access licenses.

This begs the question: Why would anyone grant free, unrestricted access and no-royalty copying of their copyrighted Bible translation, at least for noncommercial ministry use? The main reasons usually include one or more of the following:

  • Seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
  • The cost of the translation was already covered by donations and missionary support.
  • The target audience is small enough and/or poor enough that it is unlikely that Bibles could be sold for economic profit to that group.
  • The target audience is in a creative access access area where persecution precludes economic profit in providing Bibles.
  • Free distribution of basic text-only digital editions acts as effective advertising to create greater demand for print editions and premium digital editions with extended features of some sort.

The World English Bible is a special case, in that it was intentionally dedicated to the Public Domain as it was translated, at God’s direction. This is specifically for the purpose of maximizing the ministry impact of God’s Word among English-speaking people around the world. It has literally “gone viral”. I just did a Google search for “World English Bible” (with the quotes), and got over a million hits, with the first three entries being being its primary distribution point at WorldEnglishBible.org and eBible.org/web. There are a few other translations where the translators have done the same thing, for the same reasons.

Reports from the Field

Almost all of the reports I get from the field are in the form of personal communication or feedback via our web contact forms. Sometimes I find out what is going on by going on a personal visit. Sometimes indications of usage come indirectly, via a typo report or someone asking about an outage. Sometimes people ask about using Scriptures for various purposes. Sometimes they don’t, but just take the licenses at face value and comply with them. That suits me fine. I don’t need to know about someone reading the Bible or quoting the Bible in their book for God’s Word to be effective. (It would be serious information overload for me, anyway, if I did know all of that.)

I’m not going to quote from the reports, complements, or complaints, but just summarize what I learned, here:

  • Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship (CRMF) in Papua New Guinea (a part of Mission Aviation Fellowship) sells Android smart phones. For no extra charge, they preload the phones with Scriptures appropriate to the areas they sell them in, which I provide to them.
  • CRMF also works with MAF in placing portable WiFi hot spots around the country that don’t provide Internet access, but do provide access to Scriptures. They load them up with Scriptures I provide to them that are appropriate to the areas they send them.
  • SIL PNG Branch is also placing “Save Long God” (know about God) WiFi Bible boxes like CRMF’s, loaded up with Scriptures that I process for them.
  • Our Bible web sites are locally promoted by SIL, PNGBTA, and Vanuatu Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. PNGScriptures.org is promoted on bumper stickers on SIL vehicles in PNG. The opening of the VanuatuBibles.org web site was reported in the local newspaper, courtesy of Ross Webb, who wrote the article.
  • In the last Pacific Orientation Course in Papua New Guinea, students went out for their village living with Tok Pisin Bibles in Kindle format.
  • On Manus Island, Scripture Portions in the Nali language are being read on people’s phones.
  • Solar powered Bible players are being distributed with audio Bibles in many language groups throughout the Pacific.
  • In Micronesia, a group of local believers has taken responsibility for maintaining their own Bible web site, FSMBibles.org.
  • I lost count of the number of cases of relieved gratitude resulting from people finding a simple “Yes, with no royalties” answer to using the World English Bible in their book, devotional, web site, or app, usually after encountering some sort of brick wall of denial using other English translations. Usually, the only people to ask are those who have trouble believing the Public Domain notice. No, it is not too good to be true.
  • There are many believers in creative access countries benefiting from Bibles in formats that require no Internet access and that can be easily copied.
  • Some school computers in Papua New Guinea were loaded up with local language Scriptures.
  • Sometimes the line between digital and print publishing is really thin. The government of Papua New Guinea paid for a print run of a container load of World English Bible New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs for use in school curriculum in that country, and gave them as a gift to the students. I typeset it for them in exchange for 10 copies of the New Testament. The endorsement in the introduction is enough to make a Gideon cry tears of joy.
  • Another print run of the World English Bible was done for distribution in Papua New Guinea by a ministry in Lae, funded by a believer in the gold mining business.
  • Shortly after the text of the 66-book protocanon of the World English Bible was stable enough, someone published a print-on-demand version of the whole Bible in a large paperback edition. The typesetting is embarrassing, but the words are there. (My only appropriate defense against the embarrassing typesetting is to release a much better edition, which I hope happens this year.)
  • Sometimes when I meet new people, I ask if they have ever heard of the World English Bible. Increasingly often, the answer is “Yes.” This gives me hope that the same sort of familiarity will follow for the many minority language Scriptures that we publish.
  • I recently deleted an old yearly Bible reading plan on eBible.org that I didn’t think was in use. I got a complaint about it being absent by a man who had been using it for his daily Bible reading for years. I’m sure he isn’t alone. Not everyone is bold enough to contact me about such things. I’ll put it back.
  • I got the silly idea that it would be good to stop posting an edition of the World English Bible in the traditional Roman Catholic book order. Not much later, someone wrote asking if they could do one themselves. So… I put it back, since the way I do it, it keeps automatically updated with the latest language updates, which there are many of left to do in the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha.
  • I have gotten help from a native Chinese speaker in correcting some character encoding issues.
  • I get regular proofreading comments, mostly for the World English Bible, but sometimes someone still finds a rare typo in the ASV or KJV, and even rarer still, someone will send a valid comment on one of the minority language translations. Nobody reports typos in books they don’t read—especially such hard-to-find typos as generally get reported.
  • There are frequent complements and the occasional complaint, usually from Christians and cult members, respectively. Sometimes an accurate translation of the Holy Bible offends someone because it disagrees with a pet doctrine of theirs. I don’t worry about either category, but do investigate if they appear to bring up a valid translation or clarity issue in the World English Bible. If it is a comment for one of the other translations, I pass it on as appropriate.
  • A visit to Vanuatu early in 2015 confirmed the need for digital Bibles that were easy to install and copy in an area where Internet access was intermittent and expensive, but smart phones were cheap and ways to charge them were available in remote villages. I really wish I had ePub generation finished when I visited there, but I’m glad that I do have it done, now.
  • Missionaries are increasingly able to search for and find digital Bibles in the languages of the people they are going to minister to.

Counting Things

Here are is a collection of things that can be counted without disrupting or hindering our Bible distribution ministry. There is more analysis that could be done with the web server logs, but that will have to wait, because of programming resource limits. (In other words, given a choice between spending the same time putting more Bibles in more formats into distribution or just counting what is going into distribution, I keep coming up with the same answer. Maybe I can get some volunteer help on this for next year.) In the mean time if you enjoy the book of Numbers, you will like this section of the report.

Numbers of translations by format on eBible.org:

Bible format # 31 Dec 2014 # 31 Jan 2015
InScript 676 685
HTML 676 685
ePub 0 685
mobi 0 685
SWORD 0 685
PDF 0 682
Total 1,352 4,107

Web site hits per month (just the sites with the highest use rates):

Site Dec. 2014 Dec. 2016
Alkitab.pw 1,880 43,564
Baebol.org=VanuatuBibles.org 27,580 76,987
Bible.af (operated for DBS) 7,069 2,396
Bible.cx 72,444 5,175
Bibles.pw (operated for DBS) 1,544 7,042
Biblias.me 9,164 81,511
eBible.org 1,389,035 2,655,508
FSMBibles.org 85,095 202,903
PacificBibles.org 33,519 90,688
PNGScriptures.org 307,012 439,708
TokPlesBaibel.org 112,853 218,875
webible.org 16,357 28,656
WorldEnglishBible.org 102,208 121,765
Total  2,165,760 3,935,570

Note that July through September 2015 all had totals of over 5 million hits per month. At the end of November, code was implemented on the eBible.org server to deflect hits due to a malware attack, so the reduction by about a million hits per month in December mostly means that the defense was successful, leaving the server able to perform faster for legitimate site visitors. Even with that correction, web site traffic nearly doubled over the last year. Note that a web site “hit” can be a page view or a file download, either by a real person or a search engine bot. Since search engine bots are normally followed by real people doing searches and finding our Bible sites, we consider search engine hits to be friendly hits. They are usually a small percentage of the hits, except for some of the very small language groups, where a very small number of speakers of the language have access to the Internet.

Search engine ranking is another measure of success. Tests with sample queries that should find one or more of the sites listed above usually came up with the web site on the first page of results, often at the very top of the list. Thus the search engine optimization efforts have been effective.

Haiola project statistics as of Tue, 19 Jan 2016 23:51:43 GMT UTC provide many more numbers for both eBible.org and part of the Scriptures distributed by the Digital Bible Society:
616 languages with freely redistributable translations
656 dialects with freely redistributable translations
683 freely redistributable translations
426 certified translations (extra quality checks completed)
52 limited-sharing translations (not open access licensed)
637 total languages
682 total dialects
735 total public translations
5 subset projects
815 projects
737 primary distribution URLs
8 master sites
252 open access translations converted from Paratext projects
96 open access translations converted from USFM
6 open access translations converted from USFX
361 open access translations converted from USX (DBL bundles)
48 restricted translations converted from Paratext projects
4 restricted translations converted from USFM
1 restricted translations converted from USFX
2 restricted translations converted from USX (DBL bundles)
Translations by site:
235 translations at pngscriptures.org
7 translations at baebol.org
1 translations at bible.cx
423 translations at ebible.org
2 translations at no public site
6 translations at alkitab.pw
11 translations at pacificbibles.org
52 translations at inscript.org

Current updates of the above set of numbers are kept at http://ebible.org/Scriptures/scorecard.txt. A list of these Bible translations by language is at http://ebible.org/find/language.php.

Money and Bible Distribution

Digital Bible distribution costs money, just as print Bible distribution does, but the costs are different. The cost of translating the Bible is the same either way, but when it comes to distribution, things look drastically different. There are costs associated with software development, converting the Bible translations to file formats that are suitable for end users, plus costs of setting up and maintaining web sites and other distribution channels. The cost per copy distributed, however, is negligible once those are covered. Costs are actually much lower when there is no need to try to sell the Bibles to recover royalty money, because there is no need to implement and maintain digital rights management/copy protection schemes or payment systems. There are costs, however.

Funding for eBible.org operations comes mostly from third parties and volunteers: not usually the Bible translators or Bible readers. Tax deductible donations to cover Bible distribution costs can be made to support Michael and Lori Johnson through World Outreach Ministries. (We also have some other revenue sources, but cannot continue this ministry without donations, at least not at this pace.) This support model greatly simplifies the Bible distribution and removes concerns that someone might not receive the Good News of Jesus Christ because they are unwilling or unable to pay for them. Honestly, I don’t expect that an evangelist who charged admission to his meetings would do well, but free will offerings let him cover his costs without hindering anyone from coming to the Lord. In the same way, we enjoy being able to freely give the Holy Bible to anyone for free, especially when we have a translation available in their heart language. When those who are like-minded partner with us both with prayer and finances, it becomes possible.

Any questions?

World English Bible “Essentially Done”!

World English Bible on an Android phone
The World English Bible thrives on electronic media.

One day in March 1994, I was discussing electronic Bible publishing with the Lord while driving between Boulder and Longmont in a Volkswagon Rabbit. I asked God directly what I should do about the lack of a modern English Bible translation that could be freely copied from computer to computer. He told me “You do one” (meaning that I should do my own Bible transation). We discussed that for a while, and, to make a very long story short involving many people who helped along the way and two decades of very part-time work, all 66 books of the World English Bible Old and New Testaments are now essentially done. This means that the automated language updates are done (and have been for a long time), and now the manual language updates are now also done. Praise God! He was right!

Now the perceptive among you will note that “essentially done” does not mean “totally, completely, finally done”. That is true. I still have a very large backlog of editing comments to wade through (like panning for gold) and submit some of those for consideration. Some of those will likely cause some edits, but those will likely all be very small, and very unlikely to change any meaning. There will be no more style changes except some made for consistency with other parts of the World English Bible. There is still the issue of the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha book updating, but those are usable as they are. There will probably be another audio recording done, too, not to mention typesetting and printing. And there are some people wanting Strong’s numbers in the source. Yes, there is more work to do!

Still, today, the 8th of Januray, 2014 is a day to celebrate! Hallelujah!

Read and enjoy!

Electronic Scripture publishing is what I do.

Bimin New Testament by kahunapulej
Bimin New Testament, a photo by kahunapulej on Flickr.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke

As people watched intently in Bulal Village, I worked on some things using a notebook computer, using some of the precious little electricity I got walking a mile to a church that had a connection to a generator. In Melanesian village culture, people watch and listen to learn what others are doing. This works great for basic life skills, like cooking over a fire, hunting, fishing, coconut husking, learning languages, building bush houses, gardening, canoe construction, etc. In the case of things I do on computers, it is a woefully difficult way to learn. You can’t really see what is going on in the computer and in my mind, just by looking. I might visualize data structures, algorithms, and program flow in my mind while all an observer sees is that I am poking buttons and silently looking at incomprehensible (to him) text on a screen. Now, as I work at electronic Scripture publishing in many languages, it is kind of like that even for observers who have much more formal education and who even use computers themselves. I imagine that it looks something like this to the casual observer: I sit down at my computer, wave the mouse, press buttons, study the screen, press some more buttons, and lo and behold, web sites appear on the public Internet with translations of the New Testament and other Bible portions in many languages. The more I do that, the more Scripture translations appear. Cool, huh? Of course, I get some interesting questions about that.
Q: How do you learn all of those languages?
A: I don’t. Teams of Bible translators spend a lot of time, usually between 3 and 30 years, to learn a language and translate a New Testament into that language. I just help with the electronic publishing of the Scriptures once it is ready. The number of people involved in translating all of the Scriptures I have posted so far, plus all who support them, adds up to a true army of people.
Q: How do you type all of those languages?
A: First, I don’t retype Bibles. Think about that. A good typist can type 33 words per minute at simple transcription in a language  she understands, and there are about 788,280 words in the Bible. That means it would take about 50 8-hour days of fast typing to do one if I could type as fast with a language I can’t read as a good typist can with one she can read. But I do type small amounts here and there. From time to time, I need to type some characters not found in English, like a r̃ or ŋ. For those, I either use an alternate language keyboard layout, or if it is only a few characters, insert them from a character map. I also made an alternate keyboard layout of my own that contains every character found in every written Papua New Guinean language.
Q: Do you have a computer translate Bibles?
A: No. Machine translation of natural languages is tolerable, if somewhat humorous at times and dead wrong at other times, for a few of the largest language groups. This is the result of a great deal of work and refinement for large customer bases. Nobody does that kind of work for the little tribal languages. Not yet, anyway. Even if they did, it would still take human review to make sure it was right.
Q: Don’t computers help the process of Bible translation?
A: Yes, of course. They greatly assist in the process of Bible translation, especially with some of the new software that is being made available to Bible translators, like Adapt It. Good Bible translation remains utterly dependent on humans who are utterly dependent on God.
Q: Are you a one-man show?
A: No. There is no way to do this by myself. This project involves cooperation and coordination between several organizations and many people. I work with people in different countries helping with different aspects of the process of Bible translation and publication. There are also others who work on electronic Scripture publishing in other geographic areas.
Q: So what do you actually do?
A: I help write open source software that processes Scripture files, essentially typesetting them into different formats. These formats are are then made available to people to read and study the Bible on various electronic devices. I also create and maintain several related web sites. My goal is to post Scriptures without barriers to making and sharing faithful copies so that they can spread to as many people who can read them as possible. I’m focusing right now on the Pacific area, but have helped a few people in other areas.
Q: How fast can you post new Bible translations and formats?
A: That depends on many things. It depends on what format I get the Scripture in and how much work I have to do to get the files into the format expected by the conversion programs. It depends on when I get translations and permission to post. It depends on how long it takes to write software to convert to a new format. The biggest limit to the speed of this work is the time it takes to actually translate the Holy Bible. Actually running the software and posting Scriptures is very fast, once the software is ready and the Scriptures are in the correct input format. This can make for some impressive bursts of speed, but there can be longer delays between postings while working on more challenging input formats (like, for example, paper only) and writing software to produce alternate output formats (like software for specific Bible study programs). The net result looks like intermittent bursts of activity that are hard to predict.
Q: How many many languages have you posted Scriptures for?
A: That is a rapidly-moving target, right now. Check out the current count at PNGScriptures.org and VanuatuBibles.org. I suppose you could count English, too, with eBible.org.
Q: Do you do any actual Bible translation?
A: Yes, for the World English Bible, which I’m the senior editor and chief bottleneck for. Please pray that I stop being a bottleneck and start being more of an editor. Its claim to fame is being free. Free of copyright. Free of hassles. Free to use and publish. It is a bold statement that I believe that God’s Word really belongs to God, not me. If it were copyrighted and designed to make money, there would be no need for it, really. There are already plenty of those in English.
Q: Are the Scriptures you post whole Bibles?
A: Only a few are. Most of the minority languages don’t have a whole Bible translation. Many have a New Testament. Some have a few books of the Old Testament and/or New Testament. Some only have one book. I post whatever has been translated and sent to me for posting.
Q: Does anyone else post freely downloadable Scriptures on line?
A: Yes. One good example is ScriptureEarth.org, which hosts over 230 minority languages spoken in North and South America. We keep in touch with each other and, where practical, help each other. I’m concentrating on the Pacific nations.
Q: Who is going to read and listen to the Scriptures you post?
A: The current primary audience is the diaspora. Those are the people who have moved from their remote villages into towns and cities where they have Internet access, access to computers and smart phones, etc. The secondary audience is those who already have that access in their own villages. The secondary audience will grow in time, and become primary, as access to technology and networks improve in remote areas.
Q: Will electronic Scriptures replace printed Bibles?
A: No, but they make a great supplement. There are many advantages to electronic Scriptures. I carry an impressive library of Bible translations to church in my smart phone, but I’m not ready to get rid of my paper Bibles altogether. People’s preferences and situations will vary. The more ways to get God’s Word to people, the better.
Q: What do you charge for Bible software and Bible web hosting services?
A: Nothing.
Q: What do you charge people for downloadable Bibles?
A: Nothing.
Q: Who pays for the costs of Scripture web hosting, other ministry expenses, and your cost of living?
A: Our partners. May God bless them all!


World English Bible translation status 16 Oct 2008

There is more than one way to
cross a river.
Grace, peace, and mercy be to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Now is one of those times that I need to take a strategic look at the World English Bible project, and really seek the Lord concerning the finishing of the translation. This project was begun by the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, and it must be finished the same way. This project began in a Volkswagen Rabbit in March 1994. (See http://ebible.org/webhistory.htm for some background information.) The World English Bible has always been a part-time project, subservient to a full-time job, for me. It still is. It is the same for the many people who have contributed to the project. (There are so many that I gave up trying to keep track shortly after losing many of their names and email addresses in a disk crash. I also vowed to do a better job of backing up important data after that.) I’m hoping that either that will change, and the Lord will provide some dedicated time for me to work on that project exclusively, or that He will show us how to accelerate the process as a part-time work.

The most recent update of the official distribution copy of the World English Bible at http://eBible.org/web/ and http://WorldEnglishBible.org is still 19 August 2008. The books that still need work are indicated with *2* or *3* at http://ebible.org/web/web.htm. The project is still active, but there are some serious challenges. At this point, my #1 need for help is in prayer: faith-filled prayer of agreement. A couple of times in the past, things looked grim for the timely completion of the World English Bible. Both of those times, the Lord showed me some clever ways of moving forward at a faster pace. This is now one of those times. I feel the need for another boost from the Holy Spirit. I also believe that your prayer support will make a big difference. Here are some specific prayer requests:

  • I need to find more time to regularly work on the World English Bible translation. This has been hard for me, lately, because of the demands of my main job (which is also supporting Bible translation, but for minority languages, and in ways that really don’t overlap at all with the World English Bible work. I also live in a place that lacks many (most) of the time-saving conveniences that I would like to be accustomed to, again, such as automatic dishwashers and pizza that doesn’t involve starting from scratch with flour, oil, yeast, etc. On top of that, much of my time has been consumed (and will be, for a while) with complicated legal and social issues pertaining to adopting a Filipino girl as U. S. Citizens while living in Papua New Guinea. Either that, or I need a release from the Lord to release control of the project to someone else, but so far, I haven’t gotten that except in one case, and then only for a short time and for certain books, and then only until the person stopped work and moved on to another project. Please pray for me for wisdom in time management and for Rachel’s adoption, visa, and citizenship issues to be resolved quickly, with little more effort on my part.
  • Please pray for a new volunteer, David, who will be continuing the work of recording a Public Domain audio version of the World English Bible for posting at http://eBible.org/webaudio/ and other places. Please pray that he would find joy in the work, do an excellent job that pleases the Lord, and that the recordings would bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God.
  • It has been on my heart for some time to shift the software infrastructure for the World English Bible translation process to be compatible with the formats used for minority-language Bible translations all over the world. I want to be able to use the same software I use to facilitate the translation and publication of the World English Bible to also help with Scriptures in many other languages. (I live in a nation with over 800 languages spoken, so this is a rather important project to me.) The conversion process has begun. Please pray for wisdom and understanding for me in the software and data conversion and development process.
  • Please pray for provision for the printing of the whole World English Bible, for continuation of the high-volume web site for text and audio distribution of the Holy Bible, and for abundant provision for my family. (We live on donations. See http://kahunapule.org for more about that.)

Thank you. May God bless you.

New Testament and Old Testament Completions 2008-2009

One of the most spiritually intense portions of the Bible translation process is the completion phase. (A close second is getting started.) Of course, there are battles all along the way, but it is especially worth while to pray for the translation and publication teams working on the end stages of the translation and for the people who just had the Scriptures made available to them in their own language to open their hearts to what the Lord has to say to them.

It is also a great encouragement to us who are doing the work of Bible translation and fulfilling the Great Commission to see progress being made. Included in “us” are Bible translators, consultants, Bible translation support workers on the field and at home, everyone who sends money and other resources to supply those listed above, and those who pray in faith.

In the first draft of this article, I attempted to list the names of languages of Bible translations finishing in 2008 and 2009 that were cleared for publication, being finished by several different Bible translation agencies. Because of concerns about accuracy of a few of the entries, I’ve removed the list rather than try to verify and reconstruct it. (It was a really long list, and I only have about 86400 seconds per day.) I still encourage your prayers for the home stretch of these Bible translation projects. God knows their names.

Bad news/GOOD NEWS

We could really use some prayer, right now. There is an overabundance of circumstances that point to the likelihood of the enemy trying to cut off our supply lines in some sort of spiritual war turned physical. There is no way the Good News of Jesus Christ can be stopped by this, but I believe that we need to be active in prayer and in standing firm in the authority and responsibility granted to us by Jesus Christ to overcome these things. Some help agreeing with us in prayer and holding onto the promises of God on our behalf would be greatly appreciated. Here are a few concerns:

  • Heavy rains and flooding have caused a bridge to be closed between us and Kainantu (where we could get on the Highlands Highway). There is no alternate bridge. There is no real alternate road (but there is a long motorcycle trail and a 4WD trail that goes through the river (not over it). This makes it harder to get supplies (like fuel and food) that are normally trucked in. The government has been informed of the outage on this national road, but higher priority road disasters (land slips on Daulo Pass and Kassam Pass), coupled with depleted funds from earlier repairs due to floods in other provinces make it unlikely that this will be fixed quickly.
  • A man named Yanis Manki claims that because the creek that our community draws water from gets water drained from his land (with a valid government permit), he wants more money in compensation for that water. He got tired of waiting for the courts to act, so this morning, he took a mob of people past our guards to disable our water intake, in violation of a court order. Remember, this is in the rainy season, with about 29 inches of water in the last month falling out of the sky for free, and the issue has nothing to do with him needing more water. He clearly doesn’t. It would just run down the stream, into the river, past the eroding foundations of the afore-mention bridge. He just wants more money from the “rich” missionaries that what they offered him. Much more. We get plenty of drinking water from our roof, but this is the water we use to flush toilets with and do much of our washing.
  • Our Internet access via satellite has been in a slow, intermittent, degraded state for about 3 weeks. In addition, our ISP just cut off access to the port I needed most to manage the web/ftp/mail server that hosts eBible.org and 40 other domains. Shortly after that, the server went down.
  • There is more, like the still-missing engine on the airplane in the picture, the PNG visa situation, and adoption paperwork hassles, but I don’t want to whine, just motivate you to pray.

Now, it is a good time to remind ourselves of the GOOD NEWS.

  • We win! Jesus Christ always causes us to triumph!
  • We have eternal life.
  • We get to live with God in Paradise.
  • We will accomplish what Jesus sent us to accomplish, including getting the Word of God to more people in their own languages.
  • We still have supplies, communications, etc.

Praise God!

History of the World English Bible

WEB logoI just wrote and posted a brief history of the World English Bible. The World English Bible is a Public Domain (not copyrighted) translation of the Holy Bible into modern English. It’s main claim to fame is that it is an open-text free project that can be freely copied and published without paying royalties or even having to ask. The only thing proprietary about it is its name and logo, which are trademarks that may only be used to describe the unmodified text of the World English Bible as published by Rainbow Missions, Inc.


Bible translation software development

When people ask what I do, I usually say something like “I develop software to help Bible translators.” That is probably about the shortest accurate answer to that question that I can muster, at least for my “main” job. I do many other things, too, but this is the bulk of what I spend my working hours on. I often see a puzzled look in response to that question. Every once in a while, I get a pleasantly informed response from someone who knows about software development who asks a question indicating that he or she really gets it. I really don’t have room to explain things very well in our newsletters and emails, because of the artificial limits we place on ourselves for length. We know that our partners are mostly busy people and won’t take the time to read much detail, for the most part… but some do care to know more. For you who care, we have this blog. 🙂Old computers on display at JAARS

Software that Bible translators use covers a broad range of things, on a broad range of platforms. Computer technology keeps advancing, making the older computers and older software seem rather quaint, but even the old stuff really helped Bible translators to do their work. There are many things that computers help any missionary to do, such as email, accounting, correspondence, mailing list management, etc. There are also more specialized tasks related to Bible translation. These include:

  • Studying culture and language.
  • Analyzing language elements in many ways, including audio processing of speech samples, analyzing phonetics, phonemics, grammar, vocabulary, and discourse.
  • Preparing linguistic reports.
  • Developing and using writing systems, where needed.
  • Preparing literacy educational materials so that people can learn to read and write their own language, including the Holy Bible.
  • Editing, analyzing, checking, printing, and publishing the Scriptures.
  • Adapting the Scriptures from one language to one or more other closely related languages.

Right now, my focus is on the publishing side, taking Bible translation raw text in whatever format it is available in, preferably Unified Standard Format Markup and Unicode, and turning it into any of several formats for publication in print and various electronic formats. (Eventually, I hope to do more with the Scripture adaptation area, building on some brilliant ideas in existing products and adding a little more inspiration and work to the mix.) This turns out to be a rather interesting process, with all kinds of twists and turns with complications caused by economics, different writing systems, different (and often strongly-held) ideas about what constitutes good Bible publishing, and different cultural viewpoints. I have written some software that works (WordSend), and is easy enough for the Bible translators to use themselves. Of course, there is always more in the way of requests. My current work list includes:

  • Integrating WordSend into the JAARS/SIL Translation Editor via a plug-in mechanism.
  • Making the build and acceptance tests of WordSend more automatic.
  • Reworking the user interface for better user-friendliness.
  • Reworking the user interface to support localization to various languages.
  • Recreating the work done to export to Microsoft Word XML document (WordML) format to export also to Open Document Text (ODT–the native format of OpenOffice.org Writer). This not only makes using WordSend on Linux useful, but also opens up easy access to taking advantage of the SIL Graphite complex script rendering that is being built into OpenOffice.org products, but not Microsoft products. Some minority lanugages need that capability.
  • Making the GUI user interface of WordSend work cross-platform with Microsoft Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. (The “guts” of the program already works on all three platforms.)
  • Integrating several new features into WordSend affecting layout within WordML and ODT documents and supporting a larger subset of the USFM standard.
  • Creating export and import functions for several additional Scripture file formats to facilitate electronic publication via the World-Wide Web and Bible study software.

Who writes specialized software for Bible translators? If the software is something useful for other purposes and profitable to sell, then it is usually written by commercial interests. However, an increasing amount of free software is being written for philosophical and practical reasons, and much of this also suits some of the needs of Bible translators. However, some of it is so specialized that it really only is of benefit to Bible translators, who form a market so small and so cash-challenged as to not merit serious commercial consideration. Therefore, it is generally the same sort of people who do the Bible translation who do the Bible translation software development: missionaries on support, with some volunteers who work other jobs but contribute a little part time. The majority of the code, of course, is written by those who devote their full-time efforts to this job. This includes teams at JAARS and SIL located at Waxhaw, North Carolina, and Dallas, Texas, USA, as well as contributors scattered on various mission fields and home country locations. It also includes individual or small team efforts scattered around the world. We try to coordinate efforts with communication via the Internet (using mailing lists, wikis, chat, web sites, etc.) and face-to-face interaction like we had at the recent Computer Technical Conference and Workshops in Waxhaw. This helps us keep duplication of effort down to a healthy level and helps us achieve data format compatibility between applications.

Because of the economics of Bible translation and software development, the vast majority of Bible translators and Bible translation software developers prefer to develop free software, provided that the software developers’ needs are met by financial partners just like the missionaries they serve.

What kinds of computer hardware do Bible translators use? They vary from cutting-edge performance to almost-good-enough-for-the-missionary hand-me-downs. While most run Microsoft Windows (including some ancient versions), some run Apple OS X or 9, some run Linux, and some run Palm-OS-based low power computing devices. There is a great deal of interest in the One Laptop Per Child low-cost, low-power, rugged computer project. It’s computing specs are really whimpy, but the ruggedness, low power, and low cost make it attractive for use in very remote locations lacking commercial power. Most of the software being developed for Bible translators now is written for Windows XP, and probably runs OK on Windows NT, 2000, or Vista. Some is cross-platform, running on Linux and/or Mac OS X, as well; but not enough that most Bible translators can work comfortably in Linux most of the time. I have been inspired by some great examples of cross-platform software, like Thunderbird, Firefox, the OpenOffice.org office suite, etc., and have resolved to follow suit in my contributions to Bible translation software to the maximum extent practical.
What is my biggest challenge? Right now, it is defeating the temptation to move back into a high-paying software engineering job instead of contributing to the work of Bible translation and living on missionary support. 🙂 Still, I would rather not disobey the calling of God, so I press on.