Updated 28 November 2023.
This Frequently Asked Questions document covers the following about the World English Bible (WEB) and the World Messianic Bible (WMB):
That is a good question. There are many good English translations of the Holy Bible. Unfortunately, almost all of them were either (1) archaic (like the KJV and ASV of 1901), or (2) covered by copyright restrictions that prevent unrestricted free posting on the internet or other media (like the NIV and NASB). The Bible in Basic English (BBE) was in the Public Domain in the USA (but not all countries) for a while, but its copyrighted appeared to have been restored by GATT, at least for a time. It now appears that in spite of the ambiguities involved, BBE is really in the Public Domain, now, but that was not at all clear at the time I first investigated. (The BBE used a rather restricted subset of English, anyway, limiting its accuracy and readability.) In other words, at the time this project was started, there was NO OTHER complete translation of the Holy Bible in normal Modern English that could be freely copied (except for some limited “fair use” or in the case of the NET Bible, restrictions regarding personal use only, etc.) without written permission from the publisher and (usually) payment of royalties. This is the vacuum that the World English Bible is filling. This is a quality translation of the Holy Bible into modern English that you may freely use, either for personal or commercial purposes. There is no legal monopoly controlling what books you may quote Scriptures from this translation in, or what Bible study software may or may not use this translation.
The copyright laws of most nations and the international treaties that support them are a mixed blessing. By granting authors and translators a legal monopoly (for a limited, but very long, time) on the right of copying and “first sale” of their works, the law makers have made writing and translating very profitable for some people whose works are in great demand. This has, no doubt, been a factor in the creation of many of the good Modern English translations of the Holy Bible that we now enjoy. (Some would argue that we really have too many translations, and that some of them are intended more to generate sales than to be accurate.) The problem with this system, with respect to the Holy Bible, is that it has had the effect of limiting distribution of God’s Word in modern languages. For example, I cannot legally post copies of the entire Holy Bible in most modern translations on my web site in a downloadable, searchable, and readily copyable format without the permission of the copyright owners. Some won’t grant such permission unless they get a significant royalty (one publisher quoted me $10,000 + $10/copy distributed) and unless I convince them that my Bible search software is “good enough” for them. Some just won't grant permission. Full stop. Needless to say, the Bible search software that I am writing with the intention of distributing freely will not come with translations with restrictions like that.
The problem of copyright protection of Modern English translations of the Holy Bible is not just significant on the Internet and various electronic information services. It also affects people who want to quote significant portions of Scripture in books, audio tapes, and other media. This drives up the price of preaching the Gospel. Basic economics tells us that this is not a good thing when our goal is to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). For example, the “free” Bibles that the Gideons place cost more if they use a modern version, than if they use the (more difficult to read) King James Version.
Naturally, I’m not suggesting that we abolish the copyright law or that all existing Modern English translations be immediately released to the Public Domain. I understand the way that the profits from the sales of some Bible translations help fund other ministry activities (as well as helping to enrich some people). I also understand that the business of Bible sales has helped establish a good supply of Bibles in many parts of the world, in a variety of formats, sizes, styles, and colors. What we are doing is liberating at least one Modern English translation of the Holy Bible from all copyright restrictions -- a translation that is trustworthy, accurate, and useful for evangelism and discipleship.
Another concern where copyright restrictions come into play is in translation and creating derivative works. For example, the copyright notice of the NASB expressly forbids making translations or derivative works based on the NASB without getting permission from the Lockman Foundation. I don’t know if they would make this easy or hard, expensive or cheap, but I do know that there will be no need to even ask when using the WEB. At this point, there are several Bible translations derived from the World English Bible, none of which would have been likely to see the light of day without such a nice free starting point.
Yes, you may use any portion or all of the World English Bible in your book, tract, web site, electronic publication, or whatever. All we ask is that if you change the actual text or punctuation of the World English Bible that you not call it the World English Bible any more. (This is a condition of our trademark use, not to restrict your freedom, but to avoid confusion.) Please make sure you have a recent copy from eBible.org, WorldEnglish.Bible, or the Digital Bible Library to ensure that all known typo corrections have been made.
You may rely on the Public Domain (not copyrighted) status of the World English Bible for publication purposes, including for the purpose of printing and selling whole Bibles, making extracts, including quotations in books, works of art, etc. The World English Bible has been published world-wide electronically since 1997, always along with consistent, persistent, and very public statements of dedication to the Public Domain. Most of the contributors live in countries that recognize such declarations. Even those who do not could not enforce any copyright claims after declarations we have made, including the Creative Commons CC0 declaration. We have no desire at all to restrict distribution and publication of the World English Bible. Go for it. Just don't ask me to sign anything, or I might ask for an outrageously large nonrefundable legal nuisance fee.
Yes and no. Because the World English Bible is God's Word, you may not do anything to change the meaning of the text. That is God's rule, not mine or any rule of man-made law. Because the World English Bible is in the Public Domain, you may change it without breaking any human laws, for example to update the wording but keep the same meaning, or to translate it to another language or another dialect of English. Because "World English Bible" is a TradeMark, you may not call it the "World English Bible" any more if you do change any of the text or punctuation. ("World English Bible" would be a pretty strange name if you translated it into another language, wouldn't it?) Please note that genuine distributions of the World English Bible from eBible.org are digitally signed and verifiable.
Why not? They are important to those who consider them to be part of the canon or secondary canon (deuterocanon) of Scripture. They are also useful aids to understanding the history and context of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments that all Christians agree are part of the Holy Bible. Maybe we can't solve the disagreements about what their status is, what they should be called, and which books should be included, but we can certainly make a modern English translation of them freely available in the same manner as the World English Bible. Included in this section are books found in Roman Catholic Bibles, Greek and Slavonic Bibles, and (in the case of 4 Maccabees) an appendix to the Septuagint.
The following books and parts of books are recognized as Deuterocanonical Scripture by the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Russian Orthodox Churches: Tobit, Judith, Esther from the Greek Septuagint, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach, Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah (sometimes included as chapter 6 of Baruch), Daniel from the Greek Septuagint (including the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon), 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees. If you count the Greek Esther as one book and the extra parts of Daniel found in the Greek but not the Hebrew Old Testament as separate books, that makes a total of 88 books in the Roman Catholic Bible.
The following books are recognized as Deuterocanonical Scripture by the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, but not the Roman Catholic Church: 1 Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3 Maccabees. Note that 1 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh are also in an appendix to the Latin Vulgate Bible.
The Slavonic Bible includes 2 Esdras, but calls it 3 Esdras. This same book is in the Appendix to the Latin Vulgate as 4 Esdras.
An appendix to the Greek Septuagint contains 4 Maccabees. It is included for its historical value.
The World Messianic Bible does not include any of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon books, since they are not considered Scripture in the Hebrew tradition.
Among Christian denominations, opinions vary widely on these books, as do the collective names they give them. Many regard them as useful in gaining additional understanding of the Old and New Testaments and the hand of God in history, even if they don't give them the same status as the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Since the American Standard Version of 1901 did not include an Apocrypha, the World English Bible Apocrypha is derived from the Apocrypha in the Revised Version of 1894, or (where a section is not in that book) the LXX2012 Septuagint in English, which is in turn a language update of the Brenton translation of the Septuagint into English. The original World English Bible Apocrypha that was derived from the King James Version Apocrypha has been phased out.
The World English Bible is an ecumenical work, not under the control or supervision of any single denomination. We just work to make it an excellent translation, and leave it to Christians of various denominations and positions of leadership to prayerfully evaluate and compare the results with other translations. We are open to comments from all who believe in Jesus Christ and who respect the Word of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit, and prayerfully evaluate all of them.
It is our prayer that this Bible translation will part of a bridge between Christian denominations and bring healing to the Body of Christ.
No. Copyright protection is intended to protect the income of the copyright holder’s sales of a work, but we are planning to GIVE AWAY the right to make copies of this version of the Holy Bible to anyone who wants it, so we have nothing to lose that way. There is some argument for copyrighting a Bible translation just to retain some legal control against some evil, cultic revision of a translation. Historically, this has not been effective in preventing heretical modification of a Bible, although there is some plausibility to that argument. However, all copyrights expire eventually, and all copyrights rely on civil lawsuits by copyright owners for enforcement. Some countries have a copyright law and are a party to copyright treaties, but enforcement is either impractical or impossible. So...good luck with that. As for us, we choose to rely for protection of God's Word by God Himself, first and foremost, (see Revelation 22:18-19) and then by the use of a TradeMarked name and digital signatures.
One other major concern is that somebody might later claim a copyright on the WEB and remove it from the Public Domain. Doing so would actually be a crime called copyfraud. Because there is a timely and public declaration of the Public Domain status of the WEB by those who are working on it, that would not work, and they would not be able to defend such a bogus copyright claim. Such a claim would actually be morally equivalent to theft of intellectual property from the general public, just as much as unauthorized copying of a newly released movie, song, or book would be theft of intellectual property from the copyright owner. Even if someone makes a composite work of the World English Bible and study notes, parallel translations, etc., and claims a copyright on the combined work, anyone can still get the pure World English Bible from a clean source, and use it totally unencumbered by that combined work copyright.
With a Public Domain work, there is a hazard of confusion if many people start revising it or making derivative works from it and call it the same thing. For that reason, the name “World English Bible” is a trademark that may only be used to identify the World English Bible as published from eBible.org and WorldEnglishBible.org, and faithful copies of that work. In addition, official distributions of the World English Bible are digitally signed to provide a tamper-evident seal.
At this point in time, with the World English Bible and its derivatives, the World Messianic Bible, the World English Bible British Edition, and the World Messianic Bible British Edition all firmly in the Public Domain, copyleft (like a Creative Commons BY-SA license) is not an option. We cannot and will not use a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike or other similar copyleft license, because those don't work without a copyright. Those also place restrictions on people that we don't feel are necessary. "Copyrighted" and "Public Domain" are opposites. Nothing can be both at the same time. We did consider such a license at the beginning of this project, and rejected it, because it does not realistically offer any advantage over the protections we already have with a digital signature, trademark protection on the name, and God's own protection of His Word. Even if you were to discount or underestimate the latter (which would be silly), there is no scenario that any of us have imagined in which copyright could help us to prevent a real-world problem to any greater extent than what we are already doing. For example, copyright on a good translation cannot prevent someone from making a bad, even heretical translation of the Holy Bible. (It has already happened to another translation, and nobody could or did stop it with copyrights.) We are happy with the decision to place the World English Bible firmly in the Public Domain. Even if we weren't, it is way too late to change that decision.
The World English Bible is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which is in the Public Domain. It has been edited to conform to the Greek Majority Text New Testament where there are significant differences in manuscripts. There are some places where the original textual basis decisions made by the ASV translators remain in place, but none of those have any significant effect on meaning. This revision is also in the Public Domain, which sets it apart from other revisions of the American Standard Version, like the New American Standard Bible, the Revised Standard Version, and their descendants. The first pass of the translation was to convert archaic words and word forms to modern equivalents using a custom computer program. Manual editing was then done to add quotation marks (the ASV of 1901 had none), update other punctuation, update usage, and spot check the translation against the original languages in places where the meaning is unclear or significant textual variants exist. Many people proofread the work and send typo reports and suggestions in. These were reviewed, and if they were found to have merit, edits were made. Sometimes reviewing a suggestion brings to light a better option. As this was going on, the draft at the WEB web page was updated. Edits are now complete, although actual errors may still be corrected if found and verified.
who are born again and seeking to daily follow the leading of the Holy
Spirit. There are several organizations involved, too, in some way or
another. We don't publish a complete list, because, to be honest, we
lost track, and because we don't want the World English Bible to be
judged by the people working on it but rather on the results. The
senior editor and main translator is Michael Paul Johnson.
If the Lord
so moves you, tax-deductible financial gifts to help pay for WEB
publishing and other
costs associated with this project may be made by designating
donations "FUND CODE #70" and making payment to
WORLD OUTREACH MINISTRIES
PO BOX B
MARIETTA GA 30061-0379
Donations may also be made online by donating to Michael and Lori Johnson.
Many people have been involved in the production and editing of the World English Bible from a variety of backgrounds. Because this is a revision of the American Standard Version of the Revised Bible, we start with the over 50 Evangelical scholars who worked on that project. They, in turn, relied on the work of those who had gone before them. We also rely on the work of many scholars who have found, compiled, combined, and published the excellent and highly accurate Hebrew and Greek texts from which we work. We also rely on the excellent lexicons of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek that are available to us.
In addition to these excellent references that represent literally hundreds of years of combined labor by many committed Christian men and women, we have access to the United Bible Society's handbooks on Bible translation and a large number of other English translations to compare and consult.
Among the volunteers who have contributed to this project, we have people who attend various churches, including Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, non-denominational, and many more. This broad representation helps guard against introducing sectarian bias into the work. In addition, the novel technique of publishing draft copies of the World English Bible on the Internet provides additional protection against bias, because all serious comments are carefully considered and the wording compared to the original language.
Although we don’t demand credentials from people who comment on the translation by email, we do validate their comments before deciding what to do with them.
We do have one senior editor who is responsible for decisions regarding the text, but he is also accountable to several other Christians. Everyone who has authority to decide on the wording in the World English Bible believes in the inspiration by the Holy Spirit of the text as recorded by the original authors. In addition, we also believe that the Holy Spirit is still active in preserving the text and helps us in our work to the extent that we let Him.
First and foremost, God's calling to this project is the most important qualification. Beyond that, standing on the shoulders of giants–those mighty men of God who provided the critically edited original language texts, translated other English versions (especially the ASV), wrote the great translation guides available from the American Bible Society, and the writers of the Greek & Hebrew study materials we use - is the most obvious. Others include having studied the Bible for years, studying several languages, and earning a Master’s degree. None of those matter as much as the next reason. God called me to do this, and I willingly answered His call. God would not call me to do something without enabling me to do so. Without God’s call, I would drop this project like a hot rock. Although many people contribute suggestions and typo reports, they are all checked before editing the master copy of the World English Bible.
The WEB must
Bible translation (as with any natural language translation) is a balancing act, where the translators seek to preserve the following:
Note that some of the above goals are at odds with one another, like preservation of the original style vs. faithfulness to the target language, and expressing the last bit of the shades of meaning vs. preserving the impact. Still, it is possible to retain a good balance. Different balance points are chosen by different translation committees. Indeed, many translations can be characterized by the weight the translators gave to each of the above items. For example, The Amplified Bible excels at getting the meaning across, but falls down hard on impact, style preservation, and faithfulness to the target language. The New Living Translation excels at preserving the meanings of entire thoughts, impact, and faithfulness to the target language, but loses some of the style and shades of meaning. The New International Version excels at most of the above, but loses some elements of style and some of the subtleties of wording. The World English Bible attempts to balance all of the above with a fairly literal translation.
Some people like to use the terms “formal equivalent” and “dynamic equivalent.” Neither of these exactly describe what we are doing, since we have borrowed ideas from both, but I suppose that we are closer to formal equivalence than dynamic equivalence.
We pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and I believe He supplies it. However, our ability to receive that great gift is imperfect. We do not claim that the translation is perfect, and we certainly don't believe it to be more reliable than the original language texts we are translating from. We do ask you to pray for us, that God would help us to find whatever needs to be corrected, and that we would be wise in filtering through suggested changes to discern what is from God and what is not.
Yes. In spite of its imperfections and lack of grammatical polish in some sections, none of those things detract from or confuse the basic message of the Good News about Jesus Christ. The World English Bible in its current form is still better for modern readers than the American Standard Version that we started with, and no worse than the ASV in any section. The ASV was and is considered to be a very reliable and honest translation of the Holy Bible. None of the language update edits we do change the meaning in any significant way, and none of the edits to conform to the Greek Majority Text have any significant impact on basic doctrine. Our Lord commanded that we who believe in him teach others what he taught us. Whatever our Lord commands us is possible, even if it means walking on water. God watches over his word to perform it. Bible translation is one important aspect of obeying the Great Commission. Therefore, you can rely on God’s Word, because God’s message to us is so clear that it doesn’t rely on the little subtleties of any one language. It is translatable, and the Holy Spirit helps those whom he has called to translate the Holy Bible.
Since this is primarily an update of the 1901 edition, the choices made by the original 50 or so Evangelical scholars that made this translation hold unless reference is made to the original languages to help with places where the Elizabethan English is not clear, or where major textual variants are known to exist. In this case, we are using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, also called The Stuttgart Bible, in the Old Testament, and the Byzantine Majority Text . We referenced both the Robinson-Pierpont and Hodges-Farstad editions, which are nearly identical. This choice of Greek text is very close to what the KJV translators used, but does take advantage of some more recently discovered manuscripts. Although there are good scholarly arguments both for and against using the Byzantine Majority Text over the “Alexandrian” text based on the dating and critical editing work of Nestle and Aland and published by the United Bible Societies (NU), we find the following to be compelling reasons:
For the curious, the scholarly, and those who might think we "changed" the Holy Bible in translation, significant differences between these three credible choices of source text are footnoted in the World English Bible.
Please note that although there are many differences between the various manuscripts and critical compilations of manuscripts, none of them impact the essential Good News of Jesus Christ or any sound doctrine.
The WEB is different enough to avoid copyright infringement, but similar enough to avoid incurring the wrath of God. By “different enough,” I mean that the wording is about as different from any one Modern English translation as the current translations differ from each other. By “similar enough,” I mean that the meaning is preserved and that the Gospel still cuts to the very soul. It is most similar to the ASV of 1901, of course, but I suppose that similarities will be found with other translations.
The WEB doesn’t capitalize pronouns pertaining to God. This is similar to the NRSV and NIV, and the same as the original ASV of 1901. Note that this is an English style decision, because Hebrew has no such thing as upper and lower case, and the oldest Greek manuscripts were all upper case. I kind of prefer the approach of the KJV, NKJV, and NASB of capitalizing these pronouns, because I write that way most of the time and because it is a way of offering greater honor to God. I admit that it is kind of a throw-back to the Olde English practice of capitalizing pronouns referring to the king. This is archaic, because we don’t capitalize pronouns that refer to our president. It is also true that choosing to capitalize pronouns relating to God causes some difficulties in translating the coronation psalms, where the psalm was initially written for the coronation of an earthly king, but which also can equally well be sung or recited to the praise of the King of Kings. Capitalizing pronouns relating to God also makes for some strange reading where people were addressing Jesus with anything but respect. In any case, in the presence of good arguments both ways, we have decided to leave these as they were in the ASV 1901 (which also gives us fewer opportunities to make mistakes).
The WEB, like the ASV of 1901, breaks the KJV tradition by printing
God’s proper Name
in the Old Testament with a spelling closest to what we think it was
instead of rendering that Name as “LORD” or “GOD”
(with all caps or small caps). The current
has shifted from spelling this Name as “Jehovah” to spelling it as
“Yahweh”. There are also a few places in the Old Testament where God's proper name is shortened to “Yah”, and those are transliterated as they stand. There are a couple of other English translations that use
“Yahweh,” so this is not new, per se, but it does set it off a little
translations. However, in the World Messianic Bible (WMB) and World English Bible British Edition (WEBBE), we go back to the
KJV-like tradition of using “LORD” or “GOD” (all caps instead of small
caps). Note that the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament do not transliterate God's name, but substitute the Greek word for “Lord”, instead, we do not use “Yahweh” anywhere in the New Testament or the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon.
Because World English Bible (WEB) uses the Majority Text as the primary basis for the New Testament, you may notice the following differences in comparing the WEB to other translations:
May God open their eyes and give them a sound understanding.
If you prefer the King James Version of the Holy Bible, then, by all means, read it and do what it teaches. I think that the KJV was a wonderful Contemporary English translation of the Holy Bible when it came out in 1611, and an even better one when the spelling was standardized and numerous typos corrected in 1749. It has been mightily used by God and has had (and continues to have) a profoundly good impact. Unfortunately, the evolution of the English language continually erodes its value as time goes on. Modern English translations of the Holy Bible are used regularly by more people than the classic KJV, for many good reasons.
We firmly believe that good theology flows from sound translation of the Holy Bible done prayerfully and carefully, not the other way around. We do not intentionally put doctrinal bias into our translation for anyone, including the senior editor. Arguments for changes based on disagreements with any individual or denominational doctrine don't carry any weight in our editorial process unless they are backed up by strong support in the source texts and sound translation principles. When evaluating suggestions for changes in a passage, we evaluate the suggestion, not the person making the suggestion or his or her organizational affiliations. We are responsible before God for conveying His Truth and accurately translating His Word. We have received so many comments from so many Christians of diverse backgrounds that major denominational biases would surely have been discovered by now if they were there.
Indeed, throwing another Modern English translation into the “market” to “compete” with solid translations like the NIV and publishing giants like Zondervan sounds as silly. It sounds like that, perhaps, until you consider that the primary target for the WEB is royalty-free distribution of the Holy Bible in unlimited copies made by many people using many computers, audio players, smart phones, tablets, photocopiers, and presses all over the world. This is a “market” that the “giants” have excluded themselves from. Indeed, if they change that policy (don’t hold your breath waiting for them to), we win, anyway, because our real goal is maximum availability of the Holy Bible to all who need it (i.e. everyone). If we win this area, that is enough to justify this effort. If we do an excellent job, the WEB might possibly start competing in more conventional areas (like printed Bibles in bookstores), but not because of any significant effort or marketing on our part. After all, the bookstores have lots of Bibles in Modern English, already.
Once you look at the whole picture of what is going on, the multi-million dollar publishers and Bible translators really don’t have much of an effect on us, nor do we have much of an effect on them. The result of the combined efforts of both is simply more complete availability of the Holy Bible in Modern English. Most of our distribution is digital, where we excel, but we actually sell some printed copies, too.
Of course, it does take considerable effort to pull off a decent Bible translation -- even a language update like the WEB. Fortunately, there are lots of people willing to volunteer some time to help with this cause, and the Internet helps bring those people together.
The real bottom line, though, is that this is God’s project, and He is fully capable of providing everything that we need to accomplish His goals.
The editing of the World English Bible is completed. However, if you find something
significant that needs to be corrected because it is an obvious typo, is wrong, is inconsistent with this document, or is unclear, please
The World English Bible is published at ebible.org/eng-web, and for the British/International spelling edition, at eBible.org/eng-webbe. It is also shared via the Digital Bible Library in USX format for developers. For printed copies, please see eBible.org/buy.php.
There are a few, some of which are derivatives of the World English Bible. There are also some Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licensed English Bible translations available, now, as well. (The Creative Commons licenses were not available when I started the World English Bible or I might have considered that alternative. It is not an option for the World English Bible, now.) A good example of a CC-BY-SA licensed Bible is the Unlocked Literal Bible. People often ask if we are aware of the New English Translation, and we are, but it is not Public Domain. They allow free downloads for personal use, though, and there is a lot of scholarly work that went into that translation. In particular, the translation and study notes associated with that translation make it an excellent resource for Bible study. There are also several derivatives of the World English Bible available under different names in various places. We have listed some of the alternative free/libre English Bible translations at WorldEnglish.Bible under the links for the World English Bible.
The World English Bible was completed in 2020. A few typos have been corrected through August 2022. We don't anticipate more changes, although we may choose to correct any typos or obvious problems if they are found. (These are very rare.) No more language update edits are being entertained, to keep the text stable.
The World Messianic Bible (also called the World English Bible: Messianic Edition or the Hebrew Names Version), which is a derivative of the World English Bible is also complete and stable.
Yes, you can. See eBible.org/buy.php.
World: because God’s Word is to the whole world, and this translation is to be read by English-speaking people all over the world.
English: a language spoken by about 10% of the people in the world.
Bible: God’s Holy Book.
WEB: This translation of the Holy Bible travels by way of the World-Wide Web, aided by its copyright-free status.
Several publishers that don’t already own rights to another modern English translation of the Holy Bible might be interested, although the lack of a monopoly on printing this Bible might be off-putting to some because of the risk of unknown competition. Of course, if they all think like that, one who is bold to initiate publishing will probably do well. In the mean time, several print runs have been done for mission purposes, as well as print-on-demand publishing for small volumes. Ask a publisher.
We actually deal with differences of opinion among different Christians on this topic by providing two options. The main American English translation of the World English Bible transliterates the Most Holy Name. The other variants revert to using "LORD" and (where used in conjunction with "Lord", "GOD", in the style of many other English Bible translations.
Because of the intimacy and grace we have as children of God, it seems appropriate to be able to pronounce God's Holy Name used in the Old Testament. “Yahweh” is the most probable best transliteration of this most holy proper name from the Hebrew consonants YOD HE WAW HE, or YHWH. This holy name is sometimes rendered “Jehovah” based on the mixture of the vowels for “Adonai” (Lord) with the consonants “YHWH” as it is written in some later Hebrew manuscripts. The original Hebrew manuscripts had no vowels, and we believe that the vowels for “adonai” were added to reflect the tradition of avoiding pronouncing God’s name, and saying “Lord” instead, and was not an indication of how the name should be pronounced by those so bold as to actually utter God’s name. This is a break from the tradition of the KJV and others that use “LORD” or “GOD” with all caps or small caps to translate “YHWH”, and use “Lord” (normal mixed case) to translate “Adonai” and “God” (normal mixed case) to translate “Elohim.” That tradition gets confusing in some places, especially since “Yahweh” is used in conjunction with “Lord” and “God” in many places in the Old Testament. Since God’s proper name really is separate from the titles “Lord” and “God” in the original Hebrew, we wanted the English translation to reflect that fact, even when read aloud. In some places, “Yah,” a shortened version of God’s Name is used. This is how it is written in the Hebrew manuscripts in those places.
As a concession to strong tradition among Messianic Jews, the World Messianic Bible uses “LORD” or “GOD” (all capital letters) for “Yahweh” and “Yah.” We acknowledge that there are a wide variety of opinions on this subject, with preferences for using “HaShem” or “The Name.” Nevertheless, we are confident that the current rendition is pleasing to the Lord and acceptable to the majority of the Messianic Jews for whom we have made this translation available.
In conformance to Catholic tradition, and contrary to practice of the Jerusalem Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible, we use "LORD" and "GOD" for "Yahweh" and "Yah" in the World English Bible Catholic edition. This also gives an option to people who prefer "LORD" and "GOD" to "Yahweh" and "Yah" in the Old Testament, but also prefer American spelling.
The World English Bible British Edition also falls back to the tradition of using “LORD” or “GOD” (all capital letters) for “Yahweh” and “Yah.” The primary reason for this is that in some places where British spelling is used, like Papua New Guinea, this is the normal tradition, so much so that many people really don't recognize other renditions of God's Proper Name.
Here is a summary of how the following Hebrew references to God are handled in several Bible translations:
|ASV||WEB||WEB:ME, WEBBE||NIV||JPS Tanach, KJV|
|Yahweh||Jehovah||Yahweh||[the] LORD||[the] LORD||[the] LORD|
|Yah||Jehovah||Yah||[the] LORD||[the] LORD||[the] LORD|
|Adonai Yahweh||Lord Jehovah||Lord Yahweh||Lord GOD||Sovereign LORD||Lord GOD|
Note that in the New Testament and Apocrypha/Deuterocanon, since we are translating from Greek, and “Yahweh” never occurs in the Greek New Testament, even when quoting from the Old Testament, that is the way it is translated. Our job is just to translate, not to change, God's Word from the source texts we have.
Some people would also like to see “God” replaced with “Elohim.” We think that would be confusing for readers of the WEB.
In Hebrew, there is no such thing as upper and lower case. The original Greek manuscripts were written in all upper case letters. Therefore, this is mostly a question of English style more than a question of conforming to the original language texts. English style is a moving target, and there is not widespread agreement on capitalization of pronouns referring to God. A few hundred years ago, it was common practice to capitalize pronouns pertaining to any king or other national leader. Since God is the King of Kings, it only made sense to capitalize pronouns referring to God. In modern English, we don’t do that, even when writing very respectfully. In modern English, it is considered correct to either capitalize or not capitalize pronouns referring to God, but the practice should be consistent within a book. Other contemporary translations of the Holy Bible into English are pretty much evenly split between capitalizing and not capitalizing these pronouns.
There are three other translational issues involved. One is that it seems rather awkward to translate quotations of people who were deriding Jesus Christ, and who at that point didn’t believe that He was the spotless Son of God, capitalizing the pronouns they used to refer to Him. The New American Standard Bible handles this by putting in a footnote to explain that they capitalized the pronouns because of who Jesus Christ is, not who the speaker thought He was.
Another issue is that in some of the coronation psalms, it was clear that the psalm was originally written for the coronation of an earthly king (i. e. King Solomon), but the psalm applies and is used more often to sing praises to the King of Kings. In that case, it is difficult to choose which case to use for the pronouns. By not capitalizing pronouns pertaining to God, we as translators preserve the ambiguity of the original Scriptures and leave the application to the Holy Spirit and the reader.
The third translational issue is a more practical one. Because the World English Bible is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which does not capitalize pronouns referring to God, it would have required reviewing all pronouns in the Bible for capitalization, determining from the context which referred to God and which did not. Even when done carefully, there is a risk of making errors in the process, and in some cases (such as those mentioned above), footnotes would be in order to explain the ambiguities that would be totally unnecessary without the capitalization.
Therefore, we have decided to retain the ASV’s capitalization rules in the Bible text, even though we sometimes capitalize pronounce referring to God in our other writing.
Because the Greek New Testament was written not in the formal written register of the language, but in the informal register of the language used by common people, we have decided to use the less formal spoken register of the English language. This sounds much more natural when read aloud. The primary difference noticeable between spoken or informal written English and formal written English is the greater use of contractions.
English, and especially English as used internationally, has a broad variety of styles and usage conventions. Although it is not, strictly speaking, more or less correct to use one set of style guidelines or another, it seems better and less confusing to stick with one set. The early editing efforts on the World English Bible resulted in some variations in style from place to place, so this section is an attempt to state what we are going to move towards as we finish editing. In most cases, we select the convention that is least likely to be misunderstood, rather than the conventions most common in a particular region. We lean towards a more technical and logical style, rather than common American literary style. Rather than trying to customize punctuation to American and British (really almost everywhere outside of America) conventions like we do with spelling, we are choosing one set of conventions that are a mix of international rules and trying to be consistent about their use.
In lists, commas are included between elements of the list and before the final “and” in the list, like “Sham, Ham, and Japeth”.
Although at one time, the typographical convention was to always put a comma or period (full stop) inside of a final quotation mark, at least in America, we prefer to use the convention of doing so only when that punctuation really belongs as part of the quoted text, or when the quoted sentence ends at the same point as the enclosing sentence. Meaning is more important than the looks of the typography, and the original historical reasons for always putting period or comma next to a letter instead of between a quote and space are no longer relevant. (We aren't worried about breaking or dislocating the small, fragile metal type commas and periods, which needed a letter next to them to withstand printing press usage.)
We use typographical (curly) quotation marks in the master copy of the World English Bible.
The first level of a quotation is enclosed with double quote marks. The second level (a quote within a quote) is enclosed within single quote marks. Further nesting alternates between double and single quote marks, up to 5 levels deep. (Anything deeper should probably be reworded, or quotation marks omitted.) Although older British usage reverses the single and double quote marks in the series, we don’t currently plan to make that substitution in the World English Bible British Edition, mostly because of the risk of messing up on distinguishing between right single quotes and typographic apostrophes, which are the same character, and because British usage of double quotation marks at the first level is increasing.
When a new paragraph or poetry stanza starts in the middle of a quotation, the quotation marks used to open that quotation are repeated at the beginning of the paragraph without closing them at the end of the previous paragraph.
The master copy of the World English Bible has the direct words of Jesus Christ marked so that they may optionally be printed in red letters (or some other way). This markup is independent of where quotation marks go, since it stops and restarts at verse markers and some other markup.
Regardless of the file format used, quotation marks are considered part of the text of the World English Bible, not something to be generated from markup.
Footnote and crossreference note markers will be placed at the end of the word or phrase that they pertain to, and outside of adjacent punctuation.
We use em dashes to set off some parenthetical phrases or indicate uncompleted sentences. Although style consensus is not unanimous on this in the world, we use m-dashes without spaces around them. When converting for display on devices that only handle fixed-width fonts, these might be better doubled or converted to two normal dashes, but the master copy will only have one m-dash without spaces around it.
The World Messianic Bible is an edition of the World English Bible that uses a dialect of English closer to what Messianic Jews normally use. It is just like the World English Bible, except:
The World English Bible is at WorldEnglish.Bible, with the actual text hosted on eBible.org (eBible.org/eng-web for the U. S. A. spelling edition and eBible.org/eng-webbe for the British/International spelling edition). It has gone viral to many other web sites and apps, as well. Try asking your favorite search engine. The World Messianic Bible, also known as the World English Bible: Messianic Edition or the Hebrew Names Version, is available at eBible.org/engwmb. The World Messianic Bible British Edition is available at ebible.org/engwmbb/. Pointers to where to buy paper copies are at eBible.org/buy.php.
This FAQ is copyright © 2000-2022 Michael Paul Johnson. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 4.0. This page is kept at https://ebible.org/eng-web/webfaq.htm. You may contact Michael at https://ebible.org/cgi-bin/contact.cgi
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