How to Translate the Holy Bible

Why?
I am sometimes asked what it would take to do a Bible translation project like the World English Bible.

The first question that comes to mind is “Why?” Why do you want to get involved in Bible translation?

Why do you want to translate the Holy Bible into the language and dialect you are anticipating starting work on?

With me and the World English Bible, the process really started with a desire God put into my heart to share the Holy Bible in electronic formats that are easy to copy and share—formats that can “go viral” in the social media sense. This was before social media was a thing. This was before the Internet was a household word. I couldn’t do this with the existing modern English Bible translations because of copyright law and restrictive, profit-oriented policies of copyright owners. As I asked God about this, He clearly answered me that I was to do a Bible translation.

Your story may be different or similar, but the principle remains: Bible translation is a holy undertaking that I don’t recommend you do without God’s calling. If God has called you to Bible translation, then I strongly recommend that you keep pursuing that goal. Just do it. This document can help you get started, but it isn’t the only way to get started.

Just as a gut check, here are some good reasons to engage in Bible translation:
• The Bible translation is for people who speak a language where there is a Bible translation need, but nobody is filling it, yet.
• The Bible translation is for a language where there is a Bible translation available somewhere, but it is either technically inferior, locked up with unreasonable copyright policies, or both.
• God has called you to do this.

The following are some motivations that are bad reasons to engage in Bible translation:
• To customize the Holy Bible to fit your own personal theology. Do yourself a favor and stop right now, before you incur the wrath of God, if this is the case.
• To make money. Seriously, only the major languages are really profitable in Bible translation, and this field is already crowded with people who compete with you effectively. If money is your main goal, do something else. You can make more money with things less hazardous to your soul than being tempted to compromise God’s Word to sell more copies.
• To advance your own social agenda by altering God’s Word to be more politically correct. If that is what you want to do, you may experience God’s grace for a while, but there is no way I would want to trade places with you on Judgement Day.
• You want to do a more trendy or popular Bible translation. Seriously, you had better be sure this is what God is calling you to do before doing it. That is not likely, by the way. I strongly recommend sticking closely to the original Holy Bible.

Are you still interested in doing Bible translation work? Good. Read on.

God’s Call and Spiritual Warfare
The single most important qualification for Bible translation is knowing that God has called you to do this. The rest can follow from that, as needed. With firm trust in God, you are empowered to do exactly what He has called you to do, regardless of spiritual opposition. There will be spiritual opposition as long as you do what God is calling you to do, but you need not fear it. God has given us the victory in Jesus Christ. We need to enforce that victory in our prayers, our words, and our actions. Please remember that the real enemies are the spiritual forces of darkness, not the people who they tend to use in the process. Once you know that it is really God who has called you to do this, you can fearlessly carry on. No weapon formed against you will prosper.

Please don’t do this alone. Get some people who will stand with you in agreement in prayer. Listen to the Lord, and be quick to obey Him in whatever He says. He has some great ideas!

Copyright Considerations
Copyright law is more complicated and more troublesome to Bible translation use than you probably think. You can’t just “not copyright” something, as it is legally copyrighted the instant you write it, for example. I could write a whole book on this topic as it relates to Bible translation, but I’ll skip to the conclusions, here.

Copyright permission is probably the second most important consideration in Bible translation. Ideally, you should get this handled and decided before you translate so much as a verse of Scripture. Why? Because you might find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to start over because you made false assumptions. You could find yourself in conflict with other team members. Or worse yet, you could be one of those who spend a great deal of time and resources to make yet another Bible translation that is locked up in anachronistic, monetary profit-driven restrictions that war against God’s intentions for the use of His Word. See mpj.cx/mmi for a more detailed explanation of what I see as a proper way to handle copyright, not for maximum monetary profit, but as a prophet or messenger of God.

I have spent years studying, praying, and meditating on the issue of Bible copyrights and the best way to handle them. As I have grown in faith in God, wisdom, and understanding, I have found better andbetter ways to deal with this. There is more than one way to do this right, but most of the traditional ways have serious problems and/or unintended consequences.

Copyright laws and treaties change with time. Publishing practices change with time. Technology disrupts publishing in many ways. So, for now, I recommend the following as best practices:
• Choose source texts for your translation that are not under current copyright (i.e. in the Public Domain) unless they are clearly covered by permission for you to use them, for example with a Creative Commons Attribution or Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. This is
because if you use a copyrighted Bible translation to revise or translate, copyright ownership stays with the original copyright owner of the source text, and you must have their permission to do that. You also could be put in a position of not being able to use or publish your own work without their permission, which may involve royalty payments or may not be granted at any price. Fortunately, the best original source texts in Greek and Hebrew are firmly in the Public Domain (not copyrighted), so this is not a problem with those, but it may be if you choose almost any modern Bible translation.
• Agree in advance with all of your translation team that you will make the text of the translation of the Holy Bible available for free, and decide on a license. If you use a source text under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, then you must apply the same license to your translation. If not, then a Public Domain dedication or Creative Commons Attribution license are reasonable alternatives. There are more restrictive Creative Commons licenses which some people prefer, thinking that they somehow “protect” the integrity of the Bible text. They don’t, so I no longer recommend those.
• Make sure the copyright ownership, date, and license is clearly marked on drafts and published versions of the Bible translation text. This is so that people know there is authoritative permission for them to use the text in all the ways we want them to, i.e. sharing, preaching, recording, broadcasting, publishing, etc. If there is a problem with security where the exact names and identities of the translation team should not be attached to the text, then please use a proxy in a safe place who can act on your behalf as copyright steward. Leaving a work anonymous has the surprising effect of locking up the text for 95 years where it can’t be effectively used. That is why it is best to clearly mark the copyright ownership AND a very permissive license.

Training
Once God has called you to Bible translation work, the question of training is secondary. There is no single training program that is the best for all circumstances, or for all roles within a Bible translation project. I have been reading and studying the Holy Bible daily since I was a child. I also did some independent study on Biblical languages and advanced programming topics, took a correspondence Bible course, then obtained a Certificate in Applied Linguistics from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (now Dallas International University). I already had a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, among other training. Was all of that necessary? All of that (and more) has been useful for me, but many good Bible translators get by on much less formal training. The most important part is familiarity with the Holy Bible and a good relationship with God. I dare say that, plus a good understanding of the Bible source language(s) and target language are all that is really essential. Of course, for a reasonable amount of efficiency, it is also important to be computer literate and able to learn the software used to do Bible translation.

A higher level of responsibility and ability is required to lead a translation project than to contribute to it. While it is possible for one person to do an entire Bible translation alone, that is a very slow and costly way to do it. I didn’t do that, even though I’m the most visible person on the World English Bible team. Many of our contributors had very little training, indeed. Some had advanced degrees in theology and/or biblical languages. Much depends on the context of your project. You are likely to have a pool of volunteers that includes more education and greater spiritual maturity in some places than others. You will know who to work with as God guides you.

If you are leading a Bible translation project, be ready to do some training of the volunteers. (Or if you actually have money to pay them, be ready to train your employees. I wouldn’t know much about that.)

Church Community Involvement and Volunteers
Getting other people involved in a Bible translation project has many advantages:
• People working in parallel on different passages can dramatically boost the speed of a project. If done well, 100 people can go at least 80 times as fast as 1 person. (It isn’t quite 100 times, because it takes some effort to coordinate and cross-check, but the gain is still significant.) Speed matters. Some people die every day without having read or heard the Holy Bible.
• People working together on the same passages (at the same time or in separate passes) can improve the quality of the translation.
• Getting input from people from diverse church backgrounds is a good way to be aware of and avoid denominational bias in the translation.
• Having participation and involvement with people from a variety of churches and backgrounds helps lend legitimacy and acceptance to the finished project. It is easier for the larger community and the Church as a whole to accept the results this way.
• It is much easier to proofread someone else’s writing than your own. Proofreading is more effective when done by someone who didn’t do the original translation or writing.

Choice of Source Texts
The best and most authoritative source texts for the Holy Bible are the original manuscripts in biblical Hebrew (for the Old Testament) and Koine Greek (for the New Testament). It turns out that figuring out what the original source texts were based on the early manuscripts that we have access to is hard.

It isn’t actually that hard for the Old Testament, due to the extreme accuracy and consistency of the scribal traditions. The traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament is well beyond copyright expiration, legally safe to use, and trustworthy. There are a few other “critical texts” of the Hebrew Old Testament, including one that the German Bible Society claims a copyright on, but the tiny differences in these texts are insignificant with respect to meaning and make no difference in any basic theology.

For the New Testament, there are three credible choices of source Greek New Testament texts:
• The Greek Majority Text (based on the manuscripts that were most trusted and most copied and used by the Church),
• The Nestle/Aland UBS Critical Text (based on giving greater weight to the manuscripts found on what appears to be the oldest media, based on carbon dating), and
• The Textus Receptus (the basis of the King James Version).
I believe that the Greek Majority Text is the best choice, based on my own prayer and study. My conversation with God is subjective, and I don’t expect everyone to take my word for it. That is OK. I enforce its use in the World English Bible and recommend that others use it.


The Nestle/Aland UBS Critical Text is the most popular among most academics “experts” and is used in most modern Bible translations. I put significant alternate readings from this text in footnotes of the
World English Bible.

The Textus Receptus is valuable in that many people are used to the reading of the King James Version. I recommend putting significant alternate readings from this source in footnotes.

That said, there is not much difference between the above Greek New Testaments– nothing that affects any major teaching.

So what do you do if there is nobody on your team who is good at Hebrew and Greek, but they are good at another language with a trustworthy Bible translation, or maybe there is a good but archaic version in the same language? That is OK. You can use a trusted translation of the Holy Bible as a source IF it meets the copyright requirements (i.e. is not copyrighted or is available under a license that clearly allows you to use it for this purpose, like the CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licenses). For English, this would include the World English Bible and the Unlocked Literal Bible. In some other languages, this may be an older Public Domain Bible that is trusted and used, but which needs a language update to be easily understood in that language. Still, in case of questions, it is best if someone can check the
translation work against the original language texts. There are some good software tools to make that easier, even with just some basic knowledge of the source languages.

Translational Philosophy
When working with a group of people on a Bible translation, it is important to come to agreement on exactly how you will do the translation work, and more importantly, what the desired outcome is. If one person is working towards a conservative, mostly literal translation, and another is working towards a free-form paraphrase, the result will likely not be acceptable to either one of them (or anyone else). As project leader(s), you should write out clearly what your translation philosophy, target dialect, and language style choices are. It is also helpful to write down why certain choices were made, but at a minimum, what these choices are. It should include such things as use of contractions (or not), handlingof God’s Proper Name in the Old Testament, handling of certain key terms, the approximate size of the vocabulary or reading level of the target audience, etc.

For a first or most useful translation in a language, or at least the first one which is free to copy, share, and use without royalties, limits, and hassles, I recommend a conservative translation that aims for a middle of the road vocabulary: not too simple, not too complex, not using many words that tend to be used only in church, but not oversimplifying or contextualizing to the point where meaning is obscured or lost. Try to balance preserving the meaning, literary form, and style of the original while expressing it in natural-sounding speech in the target language.

Note that strict word-for-word translation doesn’t normally work well because (1) different languages have different natural word orders, and (2) the ranges of meanings of words vary between languages, such that sometimes one word maps to more than one word in the other language and vice versa. Sometimes it takes mapping a phrase to a phrase. Sometimes it is just hard to get it fully right, in which case a footnote may help clarify things.

Speaking of footnotes, I recommend using footnotes only for textual variants and translation issues. Leave the commentary, study notes, etc., for another time, possibly by other people, or put them in a separate commentary. This way you avoid having the whole Bible translation rejected on the basis of included commentary that is biased towards or against one denomination or church background.

Setting the pace for the translational philosophy need not be a big document, but it is important. I did this with the World English Bible Frequently Asked Questions document. I referred people to it often as
the offered to help with proofreading, etc.

Some basic good advice on Bible translation standards and consultant checking is published by the Forum of Bible Agencies International (FOBAI) at http://www.forum-intl.org/resources. Remember, the point is not to gain just approval of people, but the approval of God. It just happens that there is some godly wisdom in that document derived from wise counsel of those who have gone before in seeking to please God with Bible translations. Note that FOBAI standards are a little bit loose and subject to interpretation, as you might expect from a body comprised of a diverse set of Bible
translation agencies, but look for the wisdom in there and ask God for specific guidance for your particular case.

It is extremely likely that if you are reading this document, you are about to start (or have started) on a Bible translation project that is not within one of the FOBAI member organizations, so some items may not be exactly pertinent to your case, but the general principles hold. Innovative and unconventional Bible translation processes that result in quality of Bible translations and are pleasing to God are just as good or maybe better than those that strictly follow traditional Bible translation processes assumed by FOBAI.

Quality Control
There are several ways we control quality in a Bible translation:
• Make sure that everyone with final edit authority believes in Jesus Christ, knows the Holy Bible well, is fluent in the target language, and has a profound respect for God’s Word.
• Make sure that typo reports, change suggestions, and new translation wording is always vetted by someone with final edit authority. (There is no need to authenticate or check credentials onpeople submitting typo reports, etc., as those can be evaluated purely on the content of the suggestion, but the suggestions certainly need to be validated before acceptance.)
• Build checks into your process, such as translators cross-checking each other’s work, community and church checks, and qualified consultant checks.
• Provide ways for people to give feedback to the translators and actually check this feedback. This can be both in-person readings of the Scriptures and remote comments via the Internet or other channels. This may include web contact forms, email, social media, voice contact information, and paper mailing addresses. Of the remote contact methods, I have found the web contact forms to be the most useful and least prone to automated spam.

Persistence
In the process of Bible translation, there will almost certainly be times where you need to remind yourself of God’s call on your life and your ability to actually do whatever He calls you to do. Keep your full armor on (Ephesians 6:10-20). Keep doing whatever God puts on your heart to do. Don’t give up, even if (when) you face opposition or trouble.

Bible Translation Format Standards
It is possible to do Bible translation with pencil and paper, using printed books for reference. I don’t recommend this approach, as it is too slow and error-prone. Going high-tech has hazards, too, in that it is even easier to lose or destroy a copy of a Bible translation than it is to lose or destroy a paper document. Fortunately, it is very easy to make copies and backups of digital data, and when done properly, the digital data is actually much more robust than paper data. Bible translations differ from most documents in that:
• They retain value far longer than most software packages, many of which will become obsolete and unreadable in the next 5 to 10 years.
• There is a growing body of custom software to convert from standard formats to useful output formats. Starting with a nonstandard format usually causes a great deal of manual labor.
• Getting it to look right on paper for one edition isn’t enough. There needs to be a trustworthy digital archive of each Bible translation such that it can be reused for different output formats, book sizes, etc., and updated as necessary as that language changes.

The best practice for Bible translation work, right now, is to use Unicode for character encoding and USFM for markup. (Using other formats that easily convert back and forth to USFM, such as USFX or USX, is also acceptable.) For a more detailed discussion of Bible translation file formats and some competing alternatives, you can refer to https://ebible.org/usfx/Bible-encoding.htm.

Bible Translation Software
There is a great deal of software available to help in the Bible translation process. See a list at http://lingtransoft.info/apps/results. The most important, though, is a choice of Bible translation editing software. (It is possible to edit USFM directly in a plain text editor, but I don’t recommend it.) The top 4 software packages to consider are, Paratext, Bibledit, Adapt-It, and Translation Core.

Paratext is a joint project of SIL and the United Bible Societies. It is the most professional and polished of these, but it is also proprietary and some features are limited to only a select group. See https://pt8.paratext.org/ for more information. I use this software regularly.

Bibledit is free and open source. I have used Bibledit before, and would probably be using it, now, except that I use the Digital Bible Library connection feature of Paratext (which is something not everyone involved in Bible translation needs to do). See https://bibledit.org/ for more information about Bibledit.

Adapt It is probably the best choice if you are starting a project to adapt a Bible translation into a related language or dialect. It is free and open source. See https://adapt-it.org/ for more information about Adapt It.

Translation Studio is a new contender that is free and open source. It also provides some nice backup, sharing, and publishing features. See https://unfoldingword.bible/ts/ for more information about Translation Studio.

Backup, Backup, Backup
Make sure you always have multiple copies of your most important data, stored in multiple locations. It should be extremely difficult for you, a virus, a natural disaster, or a thief to destroy all of them.

Modern Bible Publishing and Sharing
This is not your grandfather’s publishing environment! The days when getting a book into print was the end of the line for Bible publishing have long since gone. Printed books are great, and still useful, but digital copies in the right formats are much better for sharing, publishing in both digital and print versions, updating as languages change, and adapting into related dialects or languages. Getting a Bible into just one digital format or on one web site is not enough, either. Every year, new Bible apps and formats appear. The way to keep up is by keeping a good source text in a standard format (like USFM or one of its XML equivalents) and continually converting to updated formats as the opportunities present themselves. Many times this is as easy as letting someone else do the conversion(s).

Any Questions?
Ask.

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How to Lose Excess Fat

Michael with Bicycle on Mount Haleakala

My current favorite form of exercise is bicycling. Since I live on Mount Haleakala, I sometimes ride all the way to the top.

I have made a couple of posts before about working on losing weight and some of its effects. Now that I’m down to a happy weight and holding, I have been asked how to do that. Having lost 80 pounds and really like feeling the benefit of that, I never want to go back, so this is a continuing process.

  • Ask God for help with motivation and self-control. Seriously, this is first in the list for a reason.
  • Log what you eat and drink and count Calories (or kilojoules, if that is how food is labeled in your country). This is not all that hard with MyFitnessPal or something similar.
  • Exercise regularly with some serious cardiovascular exercise (at least 20 minutes a day, 6 days a week). I started with an elliptical trainer and walking, then graduated to jogging and bicycling. (I couldn’t bike much at first, because I live on a mountain with almost no level places to ride, and I was too fat to ride uphill.) While it is theoretically possible to lose weight without regular exercise, just eating less than your basal metabolic rate burns, it is harder when it comes to the willpower battle. Besides, the exercise brings additional benefits beyond just not being as fat.
  • Log the calories you burn in exercise. The biggest help for me in that regard is my smart watch/fitness tracker, which helps me get a reasonable estimate of calories burned with a variety of exercises. (Mine is an Apple Watch Series 3, but I used an Android phone as my primary phone, I would probably use a Fitbit Ionic instead.)
  • To lose weight at a healthy rate of about 1 pound per week, total Calories consumed must be about 500 less than the total Calories burned with exercise + basal metabolic rate. I use MyFitnessPal to keep a running total during the day.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, with a total Calorie count that fits your activity level and weight loss goals.
  • Avoid processed sugar. Sugary soft drinks are the only food I totally eliminated.
  • Avoid fad diets. They all work if you do them all the time, but some of them can mess up your body by getting your food groups out of balance.
  • Make healthy, permanent lifestyle changes. Don’t think that this is a diet that you just do until your weight is at your goal then you go back to your old ways.
  • Keep doing all of the above once you reach your weight goal, except that your Calorie intake restriction can be increased to match (but not exceed) the Calories you burn.

So how is this working for me? Well, thank you. It is a bit of an ongoing struggle, to be honest, and it is hard to maintain all of the above good habits while traveling, but I keep at it, because the health benefits are amazing. I feel younger than I did 2 years ago. I don’t need any maintenance medications. I don’t need the CPAP machine. I have more energy. I think more clearly. I’m not going back to the old, obese Michael.

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Viral Bible Distribution

Digital Bibles

Bible translations in various languages on different devices

Viral Bible distribution is my favorite way to get the Holy Bible to the most people with the lowest cost, least hassles, and best coverage of the world’s most challenging areas.

What is Viral Bible Distribution?

Viral Bible distribution gets its name from the concept of viral sharing of something via social media, but in our case, the sharing is via any network or medium, and normally via a combination of those. The people sharing can be any of the end users, as well as other publishers, Bible app developers, other web sites, etc. Viral Bible distribution can include normal web sites, printing, and book sales, but unlike conventional Bible distribution, it is not an exclusive monopoly on distribution of any given translation. Unlike a biological virus, which causes sickness, or a computer virus, which wreaks havoc, viral distribution happens with something people like. In this case, it is the life-giving, healing Word of God that gets passed around from person to person  and device to device. The beauty of sharing digital Bibles is that you can give away as many copies as you like, and you still have your copy. So can everyone who has a copy. This sets up the conditions necessary for exponential growth.

How Does Viral Bible Distribution Differ from Conventional Bible Distribution?

Conventional Bible distribution consists of selling or giving away printed Bibles (or portions thereof) or directly selling or giving access from a limited number of digital distribution platforms (such as web sites or Bible study apps). Secondary distribution and sharing is not allowed, as that could possibly reduce the copyright owner’s monetary income. The legal monopoly granted by copyright law is enforced and relied on to maximize monetary gain for the copyright owners. Royalties are usually required as a condition of distribution, sometimes even the distribution is done at or below cost of production. Conventional Bible distribution is the tradition for the major commercial Bible translations, which are often managed as a source of money income, either for profit or for funding of nonprofit activities.

Viral Bible distribution consists of anyone who wants to selling, sharing, or giving Bibles from an unlimited number of platforms using an unlimited number of distribution methods and an unlimited number of formats. A key cornerstone of viral distribution is peer-to-peer sharing, but viral Bible distribution also includes sharing among large and small publishers. Although Bibles can still be sold this way, sales are never exclusive, and competition is allowed. Where copyrights are still in effect, licenses are granted to explicitly permit this. A lesser form of viral Bible distribution can happen when unlimited sharing is restricted to noncommercial use of the text only, although such restrictions tend to have a chilling effect on print distribution. In viral Bible distribution, the primary purpose is to get the Scriptures distributed and in use, and funding requirements for the costs associated with Bible distribution and related activities are met by other means, such as donations, unrelated business income, and sales which do not rely on having a legal monopoly to be successful.

What are the Advantages of Viral Bible Distribution?

  • Economy. There is no need to establish and maintain point of sale controls, digital rights restriction management (DRM), royalty accounting systems, etc., when digital copies are intentionally given away and shared freely. The burden of the cost of distribution is spread out over a multitude of people. The cost of making a copy of a digital file is very small, indeed. The peer-to-peer sharing ability is especially important in places with limited or expensive Internet access.
  • Scalable capacity. No one person or organization needs to do it all. Parallel distribution, web site mirrors, peer-to-peer sharing, additional publishers and app developers, etc., all contribute to increasing capacity as needed to meet the demand.
  • Persecution resistance. Since translations of the Holy Bible in viral distribution are found in so many places and formats, and since any one of those can be copied to all who want it, it just takes one copy to get inside of a censored area, and it can spread throughout that region. Censoring a small, fixed number of web sites or centrally-distributed apps is easy for some governments. Censoring a constantly-changing landscape of new web sites and tiny, easily-hidden files that can easily be copied is hard. Missing one can mean it gets re-copied a million times before it is found again. Finding them all is nearly impossible.
  • Maximum distribution. Viral Bible distribution can reach people who are excluded by conventional Bible distribution, such as those who are unable or unwilling to pay the higher prices, people in persecuted areas, small scale web site and Bible study application developers who don’t have the resources necessary to engage in conventional Bible distribution. Since the main goal of viral Bible distribution is to reach as many people as possible with God’s Word, without regard to monetary gain, there is no hesitation to provide free access to digital copies and inexpensive access to printed copies without worries about how that might possibly affect sales.
  • Love. When the Greatest Book, which tells of the Greatest Love of God, is offered freely to people who need to know God’s love, in fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, it communicates love far better than trying to sell it like just another book.

What are the Disadvantages of Viral Bible Distribution?

  • Fear of lack. For viral Bible distribution to be sustainable, there must be some way for the entire work of Bible translation and publication to be funded. There are still many ministries, even those who are nonprofit ministries, who operate financially basically the same as a for-profit publishing house, using monopoly sales of translations of the Holy Bible as their main source of income. For them, especially, shifting to non-monopoly, competitive sales combined with freely giving away digital copies would require development of new income streams, such as donations, sales of premium editions of the Holy Bible, sales of other books and merchandise, etc. Several ministries have gone through that transition, and it can be done, but it goes against human nature to let go of one source of supply to gain another one, even if the other one is arguably better.
  • Distribution control issues. Some might say this is an advantage, but for copyright owners who had an expectation that they would be able to control and know exactly where, how, and by whom a Bible translation is distributed, and it what contexts, this could be a scary thought. I was told once by the head of global publishing services for a major Bible ministry that he didn’t want any of his Bibles distributed if they couldn’t be counted and reported. I think it is because even though he was willing to give away copies of Bible translations, he wanted to take full credit for each of those copies given so that donors would know how much they have sponsored in terms of Bible distribution. In other words, even freely-given copies of the Bible are tied to money in some people’s minds.
  • Text control issues. Some viral-friendly distribution licenses allow changes to the text, and some do not. Still, even with a license that prohibits text changes, some copyright owners are hesitant to let go, possibly due to confusion or not being sure of what might happen.

How Do We Overcome These Disadvantages?

Have faith in God. We trust God for our financial needs. We trust God to provide through donations, other work, and in various creative ways. We give the control of the distribution of the text and safeguarding of His Bible to God. For this to work, you really have to believe that God has called you to do it. For myself, I have that conviction.

Use digital signatures. Cryptographically signing Bible translations provides tamper-evident seals to provide assurance that the text has not been altered after it was signed by a trusted author.

Consider time. Note that all Bible translation copyrights expire eventually, and when they do, conventional monopoly distribution is not an option, anyway.

Understand our environment. We are getting closer to Jesus’ return. Technology keeps making new things possible and some old things impossible. Conventional printing house thinking does not work well in a world where book distribution is shifting to digital and print-on-demand any more than a film photography business works in a digital photography world. Selling audio Bibles on 8-track tapes would be an extreme example of how not to do things, but the astute observer will also recognize new opportunities to do much better with current and coming technology.

How Do We Do Viral Bible Distribution?

Actually, most of what encourages viral Bible distribution is stopping doing what stops or discourages it. Viral Bible distribution is what naturally happens in response to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission among believers. In practical terms, this means:

  • Remove legal barriers to copying existing Bible translations. This requires the cooperation of the copyright owner/steward of a copyrighted Bible translation. Note that ALL Bible translations are copyrighted by default, even if the translators had no intention of copyrighting them, took no action to do so, and made no copyright notice, just as soon as they are fixed in a tangible form (written on paper or in a digital format). Therefore, the current best practice is to attach a license that freely allows copying, even for commercial use, or dedicate the work to the Public Domain. If the copyright owner chooses not to do this, then the alternative is to wait until the copyright expires, which may take up to about 120 years.
  • Take advantage of existing Public Domain Bible translations. The original Bible manuscripts and many Bible translations are in the Public Domain (not copyrighted) due to copyright expiration. These can be legally distributed virally by anyone anywhere without any permission or royalties required. Copyright expiration is an excessively complex issue due to the number of laws and treaties involved and the way those have changed over time. The best explanation of what is in the Public Domain is in this document maintained by Cornell University.
  • Create new Bible translations with viral-friendly licenses. This may be a costly option, but when there are significant portions of a language group left in Bible poverty due to copyright restrictions that will last at least another decade, or because there is no adequate Bible translation in a language, this is the best option. People are starting to do this on a large scale. See unfoldingword.Bible.
  • Remove technical barriers to copying. The first part of this is easy: don’t do the for-profit publisher thing with Digital Rights (Restriction) Management (DRM). The second part is a little more subtle. Design and create formats that people can easily copy peer-to-peer with existing and new technologies. This may include embracing open standards like epub, existing book reader formats, like Amazon Kindle .mobi, and existing Bible study app Bible formats. It may also include creation of new apps and Scripture app builders. It helps to automate the conversion to a variety of formats, so that many formats can be distributed, and users can work out which are their favorites, and share those.
  • Distribute quality Bible translations. Obviously, those Bible translations with the greatest acceptance by Christians are the ones those same Christians will more enthusiastically read, listen to, and share.
  • Use quality presentation. By paying attention to details that make a Bible translation pleasant to look at, read, search, study, and share, it becomes more likely that people will develop a healthy Bible reading habit themselves, as well as sharing with others.
  • Tap pure funding sources. One of the best sources of funding is donations from like-minded Christians who understand the value of God’s Word in transforming people’s lives, changing their eternal destination to the Kingdom of Heaven. This source takes minimal time from direct viral Bible distribution activities and is not likely to result in inappropriate pressure or conflicts of interest that other sources could possibly involve. We may be giving away the Bible for free, but it is far from free to do so. Only together with financial partners can we be effective in this ministry.
  • Pray and listen to God. We are engaged in spiritual warfare. We can’t do this without intercession, our own prayers, and meditating on God’s Word ourselves.
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What insights have you gained by working on a Bible translation?

See how great a love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God! Give thanks to Yahweh, for he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever. —1 John 3:1a; Psalm 118:1, World English Bible

Father God’s love is forever.

Yes, I have been asked that. I think that maybe the person asking was expecting some great subtle meaning involving deep understanding of the Greek and Hebrew text of the Holy Bible, or maybe an authoritative answer on some issue that Christian scholars debate. After an initial reaction somewhat akin to what you might expect from Albert Einstein after you ask him to condense all he knows about physics into one 30 second explanation, or from your favorite musician when asked to explain all he or she knows about music in 15 seconds, I thought about it and decided that I could indeed give a profound insight. Of course, I am no Albert Einstein, and my musical skill is almost all on the appreciation side, but I have been intentionally walking with God since 1970, and reading and studying the Holy Bible for that whole time. Through decades of service including formal education, military service, working as an Engineer, missionary service, marriage, raising children, working on the World English Bible and related Bible translation projects, and publishing hundreds of other Bible translations digitally, I have learned a great deal. I could write books about it all, if I had time. There are things I learned from success, things I learned from failure, and mostly things that I learned by the grace of Father God, the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the patience and strength of the Holy Spirit.

So here is a small sample of profound truth that God taught me:

  • God is good.
  • God is real.
  • God loves you.
  • The Holy Bible is reliable.
  • The most profound Truth of the Holy Bible is in the main themes, clearly repeated, and understandable even in translations of marginal quality.
  • Righteousness rests on God’s love to us and flowing through us to others.
  • God’s love is the key to unlocking the power of wisdom to combine with knowledge.
  • I pay great attention to detail in Bible translation out of respect for God and His Word, and still focus on the major themes of the Holy Bible in life, out of respect for Father God’s intent.
  • A little bit of knowledge without love is dangerous, but knowledge of the real Truth combined with Love is powerfully good.
  • God’s grace in my life is truly amazing, so I keep striving to improve showing grace to others.

I speak as one still learning and growing in God’s ways. If you get the above in your heart, and not just in surface mental assent, it will change your life. If you spend more time reading, speaking, and meditating on God’s Word than you do in worldly entertainment, your spiritual life will be much healthier and you will have greater joy.

Do you need a copy of the Holy Bible? Go get a free digital copy at WorldEnglish.Bible as my gift to you, which was freely given to me by God. Or, if English isn’t your first language, look for the Holy Bible in your language at eBible.org/find.

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Weight Loss Problems

Michael Johnson before and after losing over 80 pounds

Left: Michael Johnson obese. Right: Michael Johnson healthy.

I won’t lie to you. Losing a significant amount of weight causes problems. Here are a few:

  • Clothing cost. I basically had to replace all of the clothes I regularly wear, not just once.
  • My passport photo doesn’t match my face any more, causing delays at border crossings.
  • I don’t get to chug a liter of Cherry Coke every day.
  • I don’t get to binge feast on candy.
  • People who haven’t seen me for a while have trouble recognizing me. When they do, the conversation often turns to weight loss instead of more interesting things.
  • You don’t just passively “lose” weight like you lose a loose object. It takes intentional exercise, consistent self-control with respect to eating habits, and a life-long commitment to maintaining those habits.
  • It takes time and mental energy to stay healthy.
  • Disruptions to routine, such as travel, holidays, etc., can cause past progress to be undone, requiring the same level of effort to re-lose the same weight.
  • I am now negatively buoyant in fresh water if my lungs are not at least half full, meaning it might be easier for me to drown if I get the wind knocked out of me. Therefore, it is more important for me to wear a life vest while boating.

So, why do I keep up the habits that led to weight loss? Simply because the problems listed above are very small and easy to overcome compared to the benefits of not being obese any more:

  • I feel better. I have more energy, both physically and mentally.
  • I get more of what matters done, even though I spend more time exercising. The remaining time is more productive. Even the exercise time is not lost, as it is time to think, pray, and listen.
  • I get to enjoy having some newer clothes (even though they are often the same as the old, just newer and smaller).
  • I will soon have a new passport with matching photo and more room for more visa stamps.
  • I am easier to be around, since I feel better about myself, and it is therefore easier for me to be gracious to others.
  • I can do things I couldn’t do before, like routinely run 10 km or more, or bicycle 10 miles up Mount Haleakala then coast 10 miles back down.
  • I will likely live longer, having more time to do what God has put on my heart to do in this world.
  • There is no more need to take any medications to control blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • I have no more trouble with hip joint pain or foot pain.
  • I can sleep well and breathe well at the same time at night without chemical or mechanical aid. I really don’t miss the CPAP machine!
  • I have learned to enjoy healthy food more than I ever enjoyed the junk food I used to eat.
  • I don’t feel deprived, since I never totally cut out any food I like except for most forms of sugar water, and those don’t appeal to me as much as they did since the addiction is broken.
  • I find that I often inspire others to get to a healthier weight.

People often ask me how I did it, probably expecting me to give some simple answer that is simple to do. My answer is simple, but doing it may not be. This is how I lost worked off excess fat:

  • Treat this as a spiritual discipline, a victory of your spirit over your flesh with the help of the Holy Spirit. Pray for help and follow God’s leading.
  • Exercise consistently, usually 6 days a week of mostly cardiovascular exercise, with some strength training thrown in for good measure (to avoid losing muscle instead of fat). Get a good estimate of how many calories you actually burn with that exercise so that you don’t overcompensate for those Calories with excess eating. I found that our elliptical trainer flattered me by more than doubling the amount of Calories it reported, so adjusted the estimates accordingly. Later, I got an Apple watch, and found its calorie estimates to be much better. (There are other fitness trackers that probably work well enough and may suit your needs better. The important thing is how you use the information they provide.)
  • Consume about 500 fewer Calories per day than you burn to lose about a pound a week. (Faster than 2 pounds per week is not very healthy, and less than one pound per week is hard to measure and sustain.) Then don’t consume more than you burn to maintain your target weight once you get there. You aren’t done when you reach your target weight, unless you want to gain back all of that fat again. For me, this requires logging my food and adding up the Calories, which I found not to be as hard as I thought it would be using MyFitnessPal. Note: maintaining that Calorie deficit will result in your feeling hungry from time to time. That is OK. Let your belly be hungry. You won’t die from that level of hunger.
  • Don’t do any fad diets, but stick to sustainable lifestyle changes. What you do to lose weight, you will probably have to do to keep it off. That is why I didn’t totally cut out all desserts, for example, but instead cut back on the frequency and amount of sweets.
  • ALL Calories count pretty much the same in terms of weight loss, but refined sugar is good to avoid, because it doesn’t leave you feeling as full as equivalent Calories from any other source, leaving you hungrier than you should be and eroding your willpower. Make sure you get enough protein, both for muscle building/maintenance and because it helps you feel satisfied. Eat balanced. Eat your vegetables. Have some carbohydrates, but not too much. Fresh, whole fruit is the best way to satisfy a sugar craving. Plan your eating to sustain your health and energy.
  • Stick to it. Sometimes your weight may plateau for a while or even increase a little, but if you keep the downward pressure on with exercise and proper eating, it will eventually go down some more. Expect weight loss rates to slow down the closer you get to your ideal weight, because metabolic efficiency will increase, among other things. This is OK. Just keep being persistent and consistent.

Those before and after pictures are not fake. They are both unretouched (except for proportional resizing and cropping) tripod self-portraits of me, before and after losing about 1/3 of my body weight. Left: shirt size XXL and tight around the belly. Right: shirt size M and loose around the belly. I may not look like a professional model, but I feel younger and healthier than I did 2 years ago.

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Cryptocurrencies, my tip jar, and the future of money

coins

Cryptocoins are not made of metal like the ones in the photo. They are entries in a distributed digital ledger called a block chain.

I put up a “tip jar” to accept gifts of 4 different kinds of cryptocurrencies on our missionary partner page, but that doesn’t actually mean that I think investing in cryptocurrencies is a good idea. I don’t know. I am, however, happy to receive gifts of cryptocurrencies to help support our ministry if anyone wants to give them. The cryptocurrency that gets the most press, Bitcoin (the classic original one), is actually useful, should I get some, in that I can spend it directly for some services I need for ministry. The other 3 (Bitcoin cash, Etherium, and Monero) have some technical merit over Bitcoin classic, but nowhere near the popularity. I would likely have to convert them to another form of money to use them. Popularity is essential for any fiat currency to have actual value, since, like almost all national currencies, it isn’t actually backed by anything but the word and reputation of the issuer. In this case, the issuer is a distributed network of cryptocurrency activists with simple majority rule in their ranks. The issuers are vulnerable to a multitude of social and technical attacks that could cause losses, or in some severe cases, bring the system down. Of course, national currencies are also subject to many such attacks, but the national governments actively defend against counterfeit currency and attacks on the banking system. Block chain cryptocurrencies are actually less vulnerable to some attacks than national currencies. Nevertheless, they are starting to look more like the same thing to an attacker. The difference is that national currencies are kept in computer banking ledgers in central systems, while cryptocurrencies are kept in distributed ledgers in a loosely associated “block chain” network of computers all over the world in such large numbers that it is hard to take them all down if the particular cryptocurrency is popular enough. I’m thinking that it may be easier to attack the centralized bank ledgers than the decentralized block chain ledgers, but I’m not interested in doing either, so I haven’t really studied the matter.

In the picture, above, there are only 9 coins that I can use as money where I am right now in space and time. The rest are just interesting to look at and may have a value to a collector, or in some cases, to someone traveling to the country of origin of a coin. Cryptocoins, however, have no intrinsic value as a work of metal art. They are just ledger entries. They don’t know geographic boundaries, though, so they could be used world wide, although government regulations might make them harder (or illegal) to use in some places.

I recommend steering clear of any cryptocurrency other than the 4 I mentioned above, at least for now. Most of the wannabe and me-too cryptocurrencies seem to me to be too much like a Ponzi scheme. And even the front runner in terms of press and popularity, Bitcoin classic, has some serious technical problems that limit its transaction rate and keep its cost of transactions high enough that it will probably never be useful as a direct replacement for good old-fashioned national currencies. If you like gambling, cryptocurrency investment should be fun for you. Right now, it seems like it is more about wealth redistribution than wealth creation. The real question I ask is: “Can this be used for good and to advance the Kingdom of God?” I’m sure it can. I don’t love money in any form, but I do want to be found to be a faithful steward of what God supplies for the work He calls us to do. If we keep our priorities straight and seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first, then God will supply what we need.

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How to download Bibles on Android

Download an epubThere are many ways to download and read the Holy Bible on an Android smart phone or tablet. Here are two:

  1. Download Gitden Reader from the Google Play store.
  2. Download an epub file for that Bible from eBible.org.
  3. Open that file with Gitden Reader.

OR

  1. Download And Bible from the Google Play store.
  2. Three dots icon

    Select the 3 dots icon to download more Bibles

    In And Bible, select the 3 vertical dot icon in the upper right corner.

  3. Administration
    Select “Administration”.
  4. Download documents
    Select “Download Documents”.
  5. Refresh selection
    Refresh the selection (the two circle arrow icon).
  6. Select Bible translation
    Select the language and translation you would like to read.
  7. Assamese
    Back in the Bible reading window, select the Bible translation you want to read.

 

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How to download Bibles on iOS

There are many ways to read and study the Holy Bible on iOS devices. Here are two:

  1. Download an epub file of that Bible translation from eBible.org/find.
  2. Open the epub file in iBooks.

Or:

  1. Refresh module sources

    Refresh module sources

    Download PocketSword from the Apple App store.

  2. Select the “Downloads” icon (down arrow into a rectangle) at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Select the folder icon at the top right of the screen.
  4. Select “Refresh Source List”.
  5. Select “eBible.org“.
  6. Refresh source list & select Biblical textsSelect the refresh icon then select “Biblical Texts”.
  7. Select languageSelect the language you wish to read the Bible in.
  8. Select the translation you wish to read. (For minority languages, there is usually just one.)
  9. Select “Install” (upper right hand corner).
  10. When the dialog appears saying “No Search Index”, pray for the developer of PocketSword to have time and motivation to fix this problem, then click “Ok”.
  11. Select the “Bible” icon on the bottom of the screen.
  12. Touch the translation indicator on the upper right to select which of the installed Bible translations you wish to read.Read a Bible translation
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How to get a free digital book

The Angels of Herron

If you are sign up for our prayer letters (which you can do using the form to the right), commit to pray for us, and send us a donation of any amount, you may have a free digital copy of The Angels of Herron just by asking me for it. The Angels of Herron is a Vietnam War era novel. Although it is a work of fiction, it reflects the author’s knowledge of the reality of the power of prayer.

I am grateful to my friend, James Besaw, for donating the use of this novel for this purpose, as a way to thank those who support the Bible distribution work we do.

Of course, we also provide free Bibles in hundreds of languages in various digital formats. See eBible.org/find for a list to choose from.

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Losing Excess Fat

Michael Johnson with too much fat and Michael Johnson with less excess fat

Michael Johnson with too much fat and Michael Johnson with less excess fat

Some people have asked me how I am losing weight. After all, for many people, getting down to a healthy weight and staying there is HARD. With a sedentary job that involves mostly sitting at a desk in front of a computer, exercising little but my mind and my fingers, and being surrounded by sweet, sugar-enriched, processed foods and drinks, it takes some serious effort to not join the ranks of the seriously obese and suffer from the multitude of health problems that causes.

There is no magic pill that can make you lose weight with no effort and with no adverse side effects. There is, however, a simple formula that works if you can do it: consistently consume about 500 Calories (about 2092 kjoules) less than you burn each day. That will lead to a weigh loss of about a pound a week. Basically, all diets that lead you to do this work, if you can stick to them. My doctor advised that I avoid fad diets and to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Therefore, I chose not to do a “real” diet (i.e. temporary restrictions on specific foods just until a specific weight goal was realized), but instead to focus on permanent lifestyle changes that support reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. That difference may seem subtle, but to me, it is important. It seriously affects my ability to keep on track with my weight goals without feeling deprived or suffering. I can still eat almost anything I want, as long as I control the portions sensibly. About the only things I cut out are caffeinated drinks and drinks with refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup added. My long days of addiction to Dr. Pepper, Cherry Coke, etc., are gone, along with the headaches and stomach discomfort they caused. Yes, they tasted good and made me feel good for a short time, but they weren’t actually good for me. Just cutting those out actually resulted in some weight loss without doing anything else, but that weight started creeping back. I had to do something much more drastic.

To get serious about losing the excess blubber, I first had to believe that it could be done. Sure, my wife would comment from time to time about how I was eating, but I was just following my appetite. If I felt hungry, I would eat until the hunger or craving subsided. Unfortunately, food cravings in my body are complex functions of not just the nutritional needs of my body, but my spiritual and emotional state, compounded by decades of bad habits. Still, whatever God commands can be done. Since He wants me to treat my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then it can be done. So, on the 23rd of August, 2016, I took the advice of my wife and my doctors and started logging my food and exercise and counting calories. In essence, I started “flying” by instruments instead of by the seat of my extra extra large pants. I remember when my mother would count calories with a huge notebook of the caloric content of thousands of foods and beverages. It was tedious. Fortunately, technology has advanced and I can take advantage of any of several good online and app services. The first one I tried was MyFitnessPal, available online and as an app for my phone and tablet. It worked well for me, and the price was right (free, or there is a cheap premium service that cuts out some of the ads and adds a few features), so I stuck with it.

Losing weight

My weight over time

Logging my food and exercise had an interesting effect. I could now see much more clearly how certain things affected my health, and seeing those things helped me to be motivated to do something about it. I started exercising regularly for real. I started limiting my calories consumed to fit my calorie budget. And I started losing excess fat. Being the übernerd that I am, I have been tracking my weight and various other measurements in a spreadsheet. Weighing myself regularly provides some feedback, so that I know if what I’m doing is working well or not. As you can see from the graph, my weight loss isn’t a perfectly smooth line. My weight fluctuates for a variety of reasons, but the constant downward pressure of new exercise and eating habits clearly has an effect. If you try to lose weight and weigh more one week than the last week, don’t give up. Just keep at it. So far, I have gone from a Body Mass Index (BMI) of  38.95 (seriously obese) to 29.37 (overweight, but not obese). Yes, I’m fully aware of the limitations of BMI as an indicator of excess fat and health, but seriously, in my case, it is pretty much on the mark. I plan to keep losing weight until I get to a BMI less than 25, then hold there in the “healthy” range of between 18.5 and 24.9. It will probably be some time towards the end of this year when I get under a BMI of 25 at my current rate of weight loss.

A rate of between one and two pounds per week is a good, healthy rate to lose weight and keep it off. Going faster is possible, of course, but studies have shown that faster weight loss is harder to keep off. It results in the body going into a lower base metabolism mode. It also doesn’t give the body much time to adjust to its new weight, and it tries very hard to get that weight back. I’m in this for the long haul, anyway. It took me over half a century to get so fat, so it is OK if it takes a year and a half to get down to a healthy weight.

Some things I have learned:

  • Cutting back on sugar, and especially refined sugar, helps reduce hunger, even when the calorie count is the same.
  • Our old elliptical trainer exaggerates the calories I burn by more than double. I multiply the number it claims by 0.45, and it comes out just about right.
  • “Low fat” foods are not necessarily low calorie. Often, they have more sugar, and the first thing your body does with excess sugar is make fat. Read labels carefully.
  • Vanity sizing is normal practice, even in men’s pants, in the USA and the UK.
  • Exercise time is not lost time. Besides probably gaining it back in length of life, exercise time can be used to think, pray, be inspired, and when using an exercise machine, even to read the Bible, read email, etc.

So what are the major effects of my fit body overcoming my old fat body?

  • Hypertension is gone. My blood pressure is better now without medication than it was with medication, before.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is gone. Although obesity isn’t the only cause of OSA, and some people who are not obese have it, in my case, it was excess fat in my face and breathing passages that caused OSA. I used to need a CPAP machine to sleep soundly and breathe well at the same time. No more.
  • I don’t have headaches much any more. I used to have them fairly frequently when I was obese and addicted to caffeine, probably due to a combination of caffeine withdrawal and OSA-induced sleep deprivation.
  • Better mobility and less tired. Seriously, how could not carrying around 63 pounds of excess fat fail to have an effect? It is like the difference between walking up a mountain with a 50-pound bag of rice and 3 2-liter bottles of some soft drink and running up the same mountain without the excess baggage.
  • No pain in my hip joints/lower back and in my feet. Good riddance to plantar fasciitis.
  • My wife says my weight loss helps her to stay motivated in healthy habits, too.
  • I get to clean out my closet and refresh my wardrobe. Fortunately, my clothing needs are very simple, or this could get expensive. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, etc., are my friends. Seriously, going from pants waist size 42 to 34 requires new pants to safely fly. When TSA demands you remove your belt then hold your hands above your head, it is important that the pants fit properly.
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Public Domain works stay Public Domain

Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da VinciI

Believe it or not, some people keep trying to claim copyright ownership on a creative work that was already in the Public Domain due to copyright expiration. This is kind of like some random person trying to charge extra for admission to public land that is supposed to be free to access. That is because copyright is an exclusive right to make copies (or permit copies to be made) of a creative work. It is the creation of the work that merits the copyright, not making copies of it.

Making a copy of a Public Domain work in another format is not copyrightable. See case law in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp. and https://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/36_FSupp2d_191.htm where the court says that taking a picture of a public domain work of art does not create a copyright, even though the output is in a different format. Everything published before 1923 is firmly in the Public Domain, including everything that Leonardo da Vinci painted. If you just take a picture of it, that is just making a copy, not creating a new creative work, so the result is still in the Public Domain. If you make a copy in another file format, that is still just making a copy, and not making a new creative work, and therefore does not merit copyright.

Facts are not copyrightable. Function is not copyrightable. (It may be patentable, like the PDF patent, but Adobe granted open rights to anyone to use their PDF patent.) Mechanical or slavish replication of data or an artistic work is not copyrightable separately. Arrangement of names and phone numbers in a phone book is not creative enough to be copyrightable. See case law in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications,_Inc.,_v._Rural_Telephone_Service_Co. and https://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/499_US_340.htm where the Supreme Court says so.

Anyway, all this means that just because you convert a work into another file format does not mean that you can copyright the result, even if it took a lot of labor or expense to do so. Labor isn’t copyrightable. Creativity is. Therefore, if a work is in the Public Domain, there is no loophole in the law that allows you to enslave it to copyright again just by making a copy in another format. You could do some creative enhancement to the work and copyright the derivative work, but the original Public Domain work stays in the Public Domain.

I like this, because it means that I can use lots of Public Domain works freely in all sorts of good ways. This is really important to me in the case of the Holy Bible. Recent translations may be copyrighted, but the original manuscripts and older translations are all in the Public Domain. And they stay there. I believe that is a good thing!

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Why so many Bible sites and formats?

World English Bible logoA friend asked me about a Bible site and said it seemed like one was a duplication of effort. Maybe it is, but if it is, it is a good kind of duplication of effort.

Have you ever walked along Waikiki and noticed the ABC stores? Are they duplication of effort or smart marketing? They sell the same stuff and all are part of the same corporation. So why do they have a store every block or two in tourist-dense areas? What about Starbucks? Surely there must be some duplication of effort going on, there? Or at grocery stores, why do they put candy in the checkout lanes instead of just in the candy isles? Is it just smart marketing again? Obviously, the point is to be seen, to be found, to be convenient, and to serve as many of their customers as practical. It is the same with all of the Bible web sites I’m involved with. It isn’t a human corporation, but God whom we serve. It isn’t stuff for sale, but the life-giving Word of God that we provide. There are Bible sites featuring individual Bible translations, customized for that particular language and culture. (Baibala.org is one example, featuring the Hawaiian Bible, but there are many.) There are national Bible sites and regional Bible sites. (TokPlesBaibel.org and VanuatuBibles.org are a couple of examples of these.) There are global sites that try to feature every Bible translation in every language that they can. (eBible.orgScriptureEarth.org, Bible.is, Bibles.org, and Free.Bible are a few of these.) There are also many Bible study apps and Bibles in various eBook formats. Each of these has their own advantages for different people. There is not any single Bible site, app, or format that best meets everyone’s needs.

The needs and expectations of someone who speaks English, lives in a place where freedom of religion is a protected right, and has constant free or cheap Internet access differ greatly from the needs of someone who speaks a minority language, who might be persecuted severely for reading the Holy Bible, or who has costly and intermittent Internet access. Likewise, there are some who might never go to a big Bible site looking for the Scriptures in their own language, but would visit a site featuring their own language and culture, or perhaps a more regional site. Others might start first at a larger Bible site to see if their language is represented. Some might just enter a phrase in their own language into a search engine to see what comes up. Others would prefer to read the Holy Bible in an app or Bible study program on their phone, tablet, or computer. Still others might prefer to read the Bible like they read other books on a dedicated device like the Amazon Kindle.

So which do we support? All of them that we can practically do. This isn’t a problem with wasted effort when we share Scriptures in a common format. Sure, it gets complicated with copyrights and copyright owner policies at times, but there are hundreds of Bible translations for minority languages that are freely shared under a Creative Commons license. There are also Bible translations that are in the Public Domain. These are the ones that get the most exposure, and which ultimately do the most good for the people who speak those languages. This is because they are the most available, because they get shared with many sites and apps. They can also be shared directly between people reading the Bible, which is important in creative access countries.

Now you know why I share Scriptures with others who run web sites and create Bible study apps (when copyright restrictions allow), even though I already have the same Scriptures posted on web sites I operate, and at least one app format, and in two ebook formats (epub3 and mobi). You also know why I sometimes post Scriptures that someone else has already posted. It is because I firmly believe that God’s Word is good for people. When mixed with faith, it can change a person’s eternal destiny and transform whole societies for the better.

Finding and tracking all available Bibles is a huge task. Check out find.Bible for a great resource in this area. If that doesn’t work, try one of the usual generic web search engines.

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