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The Free Bible

While Bibledit may be used for making any Bibles, there are some distinct advantages to releasing Bibles under a free license.

  • Others will feel free to publish the open Bible. You don’t need to do everything yourself: Others will help spreading the Word of God.
  • It becomes easy to publish Bibles in a variety of formats by a variety of people: on paper, phones, the Internet.
  • If you think that the Bible you translated is good and reliable, and you release it under an open license, it will rapidly spread over the Internet.
  • Compare an open Bible to the Greek minuscules: They were copied freely, and they can now be found all over the place.
  • Freely you received, freely give.

Various church people regularly express a desire to have a more accurate Bible than what they have now. The years pass by and the desire becomes stronger. They pray about the matter, discuss it, and decide to start the work on improving the Bible themselves, with the help of a booklet with directions. The booklet is published by the Bible Society.

Over the years some people join the group, and others leave the group. The church now has a translation team consisting of four people who by the grace of God work full time on the revision of the Bible. Each of the four people bring in their own expertise. Two of them focus on the target language. They aim at using accurate, faithful, beautiful and contemporary language. One of them focuses on the original Greek and Hebrew. He ensures that the translated text matches the originals. One of them focuses, more than the others, on the recipients. She aims at acceptance of the language by the future readers. Many proof-readers contribute to the work. The translation team regularly consults with language scholars and church representatives about the Bible translation. The Bible Society answers queries about how to translate difficult passages.

After several years the New Testament becomes ready. The manuscript is submitted to the Bible Society for publishing. The manuscript is formatted and uploaded to the church website. It can now be used by whoever wants to do so before it would be published in paper form.

The translation team starts to translate the Old Testament. The years pass by. The team eagerly awaits news from the Bible Society about publishing the New Testament. Five years later the news arrives that the Bible Society starts the preparations for publishing it. Another year later the team sees the first copies of the New Testament in book form.

During all those years the New Testament has been locked up in the offices of the Bible Society. It was not free to go out to the people in book form, but was kept locked up. It was enslaved.

The team keeps working on the Old Testament during many years. They are enabled to do so by the Lord God. The Old Testament becomes ready. The manuscript of the whole Bible is submitted to the Bible Society for publishing. One member of the translation team suggests to upload the formatted manuscript to the church website, just as was done with the New Testament. The team leader decides to not do this, but let the Bible Society be the first to publish the Bible. The translator feels disappointed, because the Bible, now complete and accurate, is not free to go out to the people. Not in paper form, not in digital form. It is enslaved, again.

Over the years the translator heard stories from others who had similar experiences. It occurs to him that the current way of doing things is not right. It leads to a situation where the Bible is not free to go where it is needed most: To the people. The translator begins to see more clearly that Christians should have freedom to publish Bibles or portions of it any time they wish to do so.

The translator becomes the leader of the translation team. The team leader is acquainted with open licenses. He chooses the GNU Free Documentation License as an appropriate license for the Bible. He is of the view that it is appropriate for the Word of God to be created under an open license to allow it to have free course.

The GNU Free Documentation License allows noncommercial distribution of the Bible by anyone who accepts the license. That is a good thing because this enables anyone to print the Bible and give it to someone else.

The GNU Free Documentation License allows commercial distribution of the Bible by any publisher who accepts the license. This is good, because it maximizes the distribution potential by allowing sales of printed Bibles. It also harnesses the profit motive for distribution. It limits overcharging with competitive pressure on prices.

The GNU Free Documentation License allows to update the Bible, provided the updated version is shared under the same license. This is a good thing because it allows legitimate updates, revisions, adaptations with no hassle to the translators and no delay for getting permission. A disadvantage is that changes can be made by people who might not be qualified or called to make changes, with possibly heretical results.

There is some fear that granting permission to make revisions would make it easier for somebody to make heretical changes to the Bible. But copyright law is not about preventing this. If anyone wants to make those changes, he would still do it. There is no need for this fear, because it is God who protects His own work. He makes clear what is a good translation, and what is not.

If a Bible Society is so protective about a Bible, so as not to grant a license to make revisions, then there is a bigger danger than that of heresy. The bigger danger is that the copyright holder holds on to the Bible, or disappears, or dies, or fails to be a good steward of it. Nobody would be allowed to improve or update the text.

Trust God. He takes care of His Word. He deals with anyone who might abuse it.

The Bible Society says: We own copyright, not in any way to restrict distribution, but to preserve the text. Protecting the text may at times restrict distribution. For example, the Bible must be distributed by us, or under our supervision. We have made a big investment in the Bible. Nobody may improve it without our authority. If anybody gives us details as to where the Bible can be improved, they can improve it, but only when we agree. This Bible is our property. We share it. It is not entirely ours, so there is a shared property. The Free Documentation License is good in an ideal world. But the world is evil, so we need a license where we can protect the integrity of the text.

The proponent of the free Bible says: A free license enables spreading the Word of God more quickly. The Bible Society has made such a reliable and good Bible. Is it not worthy of being spread as far and wide as possible? A restrictive license confines the Word to one publisher, one channel. A free license opens up the Word to being spread by more channels.

If the license is restrictive, it is not the bad people who are afraid of illegally copying the Word of God, making changes, then publish it. But it’s the good people who would be worried to violate copyright law when spreading the Word, thinking that God’s blessing cannot be on something illegal.

The free license does not aid bad people much, but it assists good people in many ways. A restrictive license does not stop heretics in any way, but it stops good people from spreading the Word.

The restrictive Bible Society says: If you revise our Bible, we’ll see you in court.

The free and open Bible Society says: If you revise and spread our Bible, we thank God for opening another channel for distribution.

God wanted property rights to be there for the benefit of humans. But did he also want copyright on Bibles? Show from the Word where this is the case.