Open Source Bible Translation

Christian Origins has a new post about Open Source Biblical Studies. I like that concept. I appreciate open source software that has many people all over the world improving computer programs. With the biblical resources, computer and Internet technology available to us today, there can be wonderful project accomplished through cooperative efforts. I think that English Bible translation can be one of those efforts. In a way I kind of view our small efforts here on this blog as the beginning of what could happen through Open Source Bible Translation (OSBT). Through OSBT exegetes and translation scholars could work from their home or school offices. There could be interdisciplinary cross-pollination with linguists, translation theorists, literary critics, English editors, English professors, and the hoi polloi, all of whom could give input even more easily and interactively than through the “open” welcoming mechanisms which the NET Bible team has had in place to improve their translation through input from visitors to their website.

Translation teams need to have their efforts tested by a wide range of English speakers before their work is published, when it becomes much more difficult to make changes. There is nothing like the reality of how a translation wording comes across to an “ordinary” Bible user to help improve the quality of a Bible version. I know; I’ve experienced that as we have field tested the Cheyenne translation. It is so much better now than if it had depended on me and one other person working with me, because we got helpful feedback from others.

Is open sourcing for Bible translation just a pipedream? Maybe. But maybe not. A few years ago it might have been thought a pipedream that English Bible translation team members could instantly communicate with each other via the Internet, and use powerful Bible research software like Accordance, so that everyone on the team was “on the same page” and the translation effort could move forward more efficiently. Yet that is exactly how the HCSB team operated. And I’m sure their team would say how grateful they were for the role that computer technology had in the process of birthing the HCSB.

One of my dreams is that a Bible version with the literary potential of the ESV and the technological savvy of its website team could be improved through some form of open sourcing. That would put part of this blog out of business! I could just submit all the wordings I felt were not good literary English to the team via email or the next stage of computer connectivity, and there could be rapid interaction among exegetes and English scholars as to whether or not my ideas had any literary value or not.

Ah, dreams! Maybe Bill Gates will allow open sourcing someday. But then again, maybe not. But that hasn’t prevented others from benefitting from the concept, nor will it prevent such benefit in the future, if we are willing. For as it is said, where there’s a will, there’s a way (it has also been said, where there’s a will, there’s a relative!).

Kudos to those working to bring about open sourcing in biblical studies. And maybe there can be some good to our planting a bug (not software) in the ear of various ones about Open Source Bible Translation, as well.

2 Comments

  1. Peter Kirby
    Posted August 6, 2005 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Bill Gates can’t stop open source software or “open content” literature on Windows or any other platform. He can just refuse to release Windows, Office, and other Microsoft products as open source.

    I know how to program web-based software well enough. Think about how your ideal collaborative translation interface would work. Maybe I could write, or help write, the software to facilitate it. I cant help you much with actual translation though. Let me know what you think up.

  2. Wayne Leman
    Posted August 7, 2005 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    Peter, thanks for the offer to help with the software. At this stage what is needed most is for the idea to catch on with Bible translation teams, and then we can work on what kinds of software to use to facilitate open source Bible translation. Personally, I would be happy with just something like an online database where the proposed translation wordings would be seen and then there would be room for comments. The main thing is for it to be “open” so more people can benefit from each other’s input.


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