A Comparison of The Open Source Scriptures (OSS) and the World English Bible (WEB) Scripture Versions

The Pedigree of the WEB and OSS

The King James Version (KJV) is the ancient forefather of most of our contemporary English translations and every translation is indebted to it to a greater or lesser degree.

In the 19th century a new translation was made entitled the Revised Standard Version (RSV) which was meant to replace the KJV. It used more modern language and also took into consideration a wider variety of manuscripts.

The American Standard Version (ASV) is essentially the RSV but with a few variations due to cultural and theological differences between English and American translators.

It is upon the ASV (1901) that the World English Bible (WEB) is built. The WEB modernized the language of the ASV just as the ASV had done with the KJV. From there the translation has undergone (and undergoes) continued modifications. You can learn all about the method, process, and philosophy of the WEB on the WEB FAQ page.

The Open Source Scriptures (OSS) is built on the WEB. This allowed us to bypass much of the work of correcting archaisms as this valuable work had already been completed by the folks working on the WEB.

It is at this juncture that the OSS and WEB begin to diverge…and that is not to say that the OSS is superior to the WEB, only that the philosophies and methods being utilized are different.

The OSS will go through a number of fairly rapid revisions. The text included below can be considered 0.1. Creating this text involved reading line-by-line the text from the WEB and comparing it line-by-line to the text of the English Standard Version (ESV) and Lexham English Bible (LEB).

Where there was divergence between the texts this was exhaustively footnoted and when the ESV and LEB agreed against the WEB, the ESV/LEB agreed translation almost always replaced the WEB’s original translation.

The Differences Summarized

The following is a brief compilation of the changes made between the two texts:

  • The Lord’s prayer has been significantly shortened due to a scholarly consensus that the additional portions included in the WEB are almost certainly interpolations from some of the other gospels.[1]
  • A number of individual words have been changed:
    • v. 4 “bring” becomes lead;
    • v. 5 “tell” –> “say”;
    • v. 7 “don’t” –> “do not”;
      • “can’t”–>”cannot”;
      • “it to you” –> “give you anything”;
    • v. 8 “as many as” –> “whatever”;
    • v. 11 “his” –> “your”;
      • “won’t” –> “will not”;
      • “he won’t give him a scorpion, will he?” –> “will give him a scorpion?”;
    • v. 13 “your” –> “the”;
    • v. 16 – “testing” –> “test”;
      • “brought to desolation. A house divided against itself falls.” –> “laid waste and a divided household falls.”;
    • v. 19 “Therefore will they be your judges” –> “Therefore they will be your judges”;
    • v. 20 “God’s Kingdom” –> “kingdom of God”;
      • “to” –> “upon”;
    • v. 21 “dwelling” –> “palace”;
    • v. 23 “doesn’t” –> “does not”;
    • v. 24 “dry” –> “waterless”;
    • vv. 24-26 “he” –> “it”;
    • v. 26 “himself” –> “itself”;
    • v. 29 “crowds were increasing” –> “multitudes were gathering together to him”;
    • v. 31 “one” –> “something”;
    • v. 35 “isn’t” –> “is not”;
    • v. 39 “platter” –> “dish”;
      • “inward part” –> “inside”;
      • “extortion” –> “greediness”;
    • v. 40 “You foolish ones” –> “Fools!”;
      • “didn’t” –> “did not”;
    • v. 41 “all things” –> “everything”;
    • v. 42 “bypass” –> “neglect”;
    • v. 44 “hidden” –> “unmarked”;
      • “men” –> “people”;
    • v. 45 “this” –> “these things”;
    • v. 46 “men” –> “people”;
      • “difficult to carry” –> “hard to bear”;
      • “won’t even lift one finger to help carry those burdens” –> “do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers!”;
    • v. 48 “testify” –> “are witnesses”;
      • “works” –> “deeds”;
    • v. 51 “Zachariah” –> “Zechariah”;
    • v. 52 “took” –> “have taken”;
      • “didn’t –> “did not”; “those who were entering in, you hindered” –> “you hindered those who were entering!”
  • In addition, the following was dropped from the OSS which exists in the WEB:
    • v. 11 “asks for bread, will give him a stone? Of if he”;
    • v. 29 “the prophet”;
    • v. 34 “also”;
    • v. 41 “to the needy”;
    • v. 44 “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”;
    • v. 54 “that they might accuse him.”

Getting to 1.0

What needs to occur to move from the current 0.1 to 1.0? A lot. While the text has here been compared to the ESV and LEB there is a need for at least one more pass to be done with each of these versions. In addition, it is desirable to compare to a number of other versions as well Рsuch as the  Amplified Bible (AMP), Common English Bible (CEB), Expanded Bible (EXB), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), New English Translation (NET), New International Version (NIV), and so on.

Nor is 1.0 the end…there is much to be done beyond 1.0, the OSS is meant to be ever-evolving, ever refining, but if we were to travel along that path this post would exceed its already significant length, so look for another post to come discussing about some of the things the OSS hopes to accomplish in the long run.

Also, after the comparison of the text see the embedded 0.1 version with footnotes. This version is meant to be used by those working on the OSS (or anyone performing Scripture translation) – currently there are 165 footnotes just for chapter 11!

Luke 11 OSS/WEB Comparison

Below is the embedded comparison, if you run into any issues viewing it you can hop over to the actual document by going here.

OSS With Footnotes

Below is the chapter w/footnotes in the OSS, if you run into any issues viewing it you can hope over to the actual document by going here.

  1. [1]In other words, it is not that this text is not part of Scripture, only that it is not part of Scripture at this juncture. It was added by a scribe at some juncture because it existed in one of the other gospels.

….And We Are Off!

I’ve (Dave Mackey) worked and do work on a lot of different projects. One of my challenges is narrowing my focus so that I can have significant forward momentum rather than diffusing my momentum into tiny fragments across a wide field. I’ve come a long way on this front, yet still have quite a ways to go.

A photo of an illuminated Latin Bible from 1407 taken by Adrian Pingstone (wikimedia handle: arpingstone) and released into the public domain.
A photo of an illuminated Latin Bible from 1407 taken by Adrian Pingstone (wikimedia handle: arpingstone) and released into the public domain.

When it comes to projects there are only a few that I am really, really, really committed to. The rest may come and go Рbut there are three which beat at the center of my heart.

The first is Calvary Community Church (CCC). I’ve been attending and serving there for over twelve years now in one capacity or another. It has been a long, intense, difficult journey – but I have remained committed over the long haul.

The second is Layered Bible – my endeavor to build a series of commentaries from an evangelical perspective similar to William Barclay’s excellent but more theologically liberal Daily Study Bible series.

The third is the Open Source Scriptures Version (OSS) – an endeavor to build an open source, free, contemporary, commercial quality translation of Scripture.

The idea for Layered Bible grew out of my ministry with teenagers at CCC. I was teaching them through books of the Bible – but I wanted more for them – I wanted to give them me throughout the week so I could provide insights on the historical/grammatical/social context of Scripture while at the same time leaving the interpretation and application primarily up to them.

The idea for the OSS grew out of Layered Bible. I realized that there was no contemporary, free, commercial quality translation of Scripture available for my use within Layered Bible – and one of my intentions was to print the books of the bible individually (for ease of study) and to use the text throughout the commentaries.

As you can see, each passion has grown out of the preceding passion – you could say they are all one passion, just unfolding over time.

I’ve been working with CCC for over twelve years, with Layered Bible for ten or so years, and now the Open Source Scriptures has been a project on my heart and in my computer for perhaps the last year…I’m not in these endeavors for the quick flame and then flickering out – I’m committed…and I hope you’ll join me.

With the OSS especially, I am looking to bring together hundreds of individuals (scholars and lay people) to create an excellent translation of all of Scripture (OT and NT).

For now I’m starting with a simple architecture. I’m using WordPress as the Content Management System (CMS) for the website and Google Drive as the collaboration method for creating the translation. Thus far I’ve completed what I’m called version 0.1 of the first six chapters of Luke. You can view all of them on this site under OSSV. I’ve done this primarily to demonstrate my commitment to this project and the hours I have already committed to this project.

I hope you’ll consider joining me. The published documents are only readable, not editable. If you want to actually be a collaborator you’ll need to contact me (e.g. leave a comment in the footnotes, shoot me an email, use a smoke signal, etc.) and I’ll give you permissions and see how things go – if the changes you are making are good (and not spammy/hackish/inappropriate) then I can increase the trust/permissions.

You don’t have to work on the Gospel of Luke…that is just where I’m starting b/c that is what I’m leading a small group in next…and I have found that working on this translation has been an amazing study tool for me…I’ve been reading line-by-line from the WEB (the base of the OSS) and the ESV and merging as appropriate (and footnoting everywhere!) and then repeating the process with the results from above with the LEB. In this manner I see ever change in language and nuance and it forces me to think through why the differences exist.

Example of OSS Process: Luke 1.

It has been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been working behind the scenes. In my last post I mentioned that I had completed a first pass through the entire WEB except Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, Luke, Matthew, Proverbs, and Psalms. I have now completed a first past on all except parts of Matthew and Proverbs.

I also mentioned that I was soliciting recommendations on the best collaboration platform for this project – the consensus seemed to be MediaWiki, though I find the upgrade process for MediaWiki tedious and would love another solution which is more intuitive and requires less hands-on maintenance – perhaps even a hosted solution.

I’m working on a sermon series through Luke for the church I pastor in the upcoming weeks and so I have begun doing some work on the OSS version of Luke. I’ve attached to this blog post Luke 1 (Luke 1 OSS Example) after the (now) second pass that incorporates a number of changes. This will give at least some idea of where I’m trying to go with all of this. A few things to note:

  • I made the decisions alone regarding where to modify the translation from the WEB. In the future the ideal is that these changes will be the result of consensus by contributors.
  • I only compared the WEB with the ESV and LEB and made corrections as I felt appropriate. Ideally, eventually, all translations will be evaluated to provide even better translation choices…original source materials will be reviewed by original languages scholars…academic papers will be studied…writers and artists will contribute their expertise in making words flow and express fully the textual meaning.
  • It should be easy for folks without a background in original languages to contribute. They can compare the evolving translation with other existing translations not yet reviewed – for example the AMP, CEB, EXP, HCSB, Phillips, KJV, TLB, MSG, NASB, NET, NLT, NRSV. The only issue now is that the collaborative system is not implemented so there is not an easy way to merge contributors recommendations into the current version of the text.
  • You’ll note that I have footnoted where I have made changes, noting the original WEB text along with the version I relied upon to make changes – sometimes multiple versions.
  • There were some areas where I was hesitant to make changes, so to start I didn’t unless I saw that both the ESV and LEB agreed in their translation against the WEB.
  • I included numerous footnotes noting where the ESV and/or LEB differed from the WEB and how, also if one disagreed and the other agreed. This is a resource for future passes, as additional translations are consulted, original languages are reviewed, etc. the contributor may not only check against the WEB text but also see what other translations say.

My hope is to complete the OSS version of Luke as I work through the book at church. In this way I can provide a reliable translation of the Gospel without relying upon a copyrighted version – and at the same time smoothing out various issues which arise in clarity in the WEB.

I know, I know, I could just ask everyone to read from the same version – but my preference is to have each book printed individually – this makes it more manageable and less imposing.

If you are interested in contributing to this work – let me know…it will push me to implement a collaboration system sooner…

Current Progress: 11/30/13.

Where is the Open Source Scriptures Version currently at in its development process? Is this just another ambitious project that will never demonstrate any fruit?

I can’t assure you I (Dave) won’t be hit by a bus tomorrow and the project cease development due to a lack of other contributors, but I have every intention of being committed to this project – even if the progress is slow and/or the team remains small.

Here is what I’ve done thus far:

  • For the last several months I have been reading through the entirety of the WEB and making minor corrections to the text (spelling, grammar, etc). I have completed a first pass on all of the Scriptures except for Isaiah, Jeremiah, John, Job, Luke, Matthew, Proverbs, Psalms – but I am already making progress through these as well.
  • I’ve created this website and am currently recruiting team members as well as soliciting recommendations for the best collaboration platform for this project.

Here is what comes next:

  1. A collaboration system is selection.
  2. I complete the first pass on the WEB.
  3. I post the WEB to the collaboration system.
  4. Team members begin discussing refinements to the translation.
  5. Consensus determines translation choices.
  6. When a complete pass has been made of any biblical book, the updated version will be added to the “release” version of the OSSV.
  7. Rinse and repeat (Steps 4-6) ad infinitum.