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Previously in Web Citations:

98.12.03
Break on Through

Portal, n. 1. A door, gate, or entrance; esp: a grand or imposing one.

98.11.25
Digital Sunlight, Digital Shadows

Using the Web to shine light on campaign financing is supposed to make elections more honest. If only.

98.11.18
A Little Help From My ... Friends?

Hey, it worked with Linux. Enlisting the aid of countless strangers is a strategy that's catching on.

98.11.11
Biotech at the Barricades

Some would say the avant-garde is dead.This avant-garde wants to live forever.

98.11.05
Dharma Geeks

Sure, there's Buddhism on the Net, but maybe the Net itself is Buddhist.

98.10.28
Revisions of Slavery

What the Web accomplishes that neither Hollywood filmmakers nor PBS documentarists can.

98.10.21
Liberty and Linux for All

Microsoft's worst nightmare may not be a courtroom in Washington, D.C.

98.10.15
Everything for Sale

In the world of online auctions, anything (and everything) goes on the block.

98.10.08
The Numbers Game

Baseball's days as our national pastime may be numbered.

98.09.30
Neurodiversity

On the neurological underpinnings of geekdom.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.



From The Atlantic's archives:

"Translating the Bible," by Barry Hoberman (February, 1985)
Scholars are still laboring to produce a contemporary English version of God's Holy Word.
Beta-testing the Bible
December 10, 1998

The NET Bible Some twenty years have passed since the most recent major English translation of the Bible (the New International Version, or NIV) was published in full. Although the intervening decades have produced a steady flow of revisions, condensations, and paraphrases of existing translations -- among them the New King James Version (1979), the Reader's Digest Bible (1982), the New Jerusalem Bible (1985), the New Revised Standard Version (1989), and the 21st Century King James Bible (1994) -- entirely new translations have been scarce. But just this past October the initial installment (the New Testament) of a new Bible, titled the New English Translation, appeared online, billed by its sponsors, the Biblical Studies Foundation, as "the first completely new translation of the Bible to be done in the age of the Internet." (Hence its acronym, NET.)

The NET Bible appears to be a thoroughly respectable enterprise, put out by an "interdenominational and evangelical" group of academics that has deliberately decided "to devote special attention to the avoidance of doctrinal peculiarities or sectarian bias." The idea for the project was born in 1995, during the course of the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, in Philadelphia, and some twenty scholars -- with degrees from such institutions as Brandeis University, Cambridge University, Catholic University, Columbia University, the Dallas Theological Seminary, and Oxford University -- are now involved in the ongoing translation efforts. Whatever the scholarly and practical merits of the translation itself -- which, when completed in early 2000, will have to be left to others to evaluate -- the simple notion of an Internet Bible has an undeniable appeal. It promises to bring significant change to the manner in which the Bible is studied, translated, and distributed around the world.

According to the NET Bible's project director and general editor, W. Hall Harris, the new translation has several advantages over its predecessors. First, never before has a critical edition of the Bible been available to the public free of charge. Hall says that in addition to "always" providing free online access to the current version of the translation, the project is "committed to making [the NET Bible] available without royalty to organizations which translate the Bible into other languages, or which distribute free copies of the Bible."

Bible Gateway
A second distinct advantage is the accompanying notes. (For the New Testament alone there are currently 16,025 notes, and Hall anticipates that the complete NET Bible will include some 50,000.) The editors claim that these notes "allow a sort of running commentary on the biblical text to a degree never seen before in modern translations," and this does appear to be the case. Because the NET editors have made a clever and efficient use of frames, there is a useful abundance of commentary for scholars and lay audiences alike -- the extent of which is impossible to include in print Bibles -- that can be considered or ignored without affecting the format of the text itself. The one glaring absence at this point is a search engine (of the powerful sort that appears, for example, at the Bible Gateway, a site unrelated to the NET project which allows users to find specific Biblical passages and to compare translations).

But the most striking novelty of the NET Bible is that it will be a constantly evolving translation, designed to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet offers for enlisting the aid of anybody and everybody who might have helpful ideas for improvement. Never before, the editors point out, has there been such a chance to "beta-test the Bible." (The NET editors are not alone in realizing the potential benefits of online collaboration, as our Web Citation from November 18 suggests.) Already, the project claims that pre-publication reviewers have logged more than a million review sessions -- "more ... than any translation in history."

Will the NET Bible's approach be infectious? Will a translation of the Bible come to exist only online, its constantly evolving spirit thus transcending the physical limits imposed by book covers? It's an intriguing thought -- one that Jesus himself might well have been fond of. After all, one of his best known parables suggests that -- as related, at least for now, in the NET Bible's version of the Gospel of Matthew -- "the kingdom of heaven is like a net."

--Toby Lester


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Toby Lester is the executive editor of Atlantic Unbound.

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