The World English Bible (WEB) FAQ

This Frequently Asked Questions document covers the following about the World English Bible (WEB), previously known as the ASV of 1997 (ASV97):

Why create yet another English translation of the Holy Bible?

That is a good question. There are more than 40 English translations of the Holy Bible. Unfortunately, all of them are 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 status was restored by GATT. (The BBE used a rather restricted subset of English, anyway, limiting its accuracy and readability.) In other words, there is NO OTHER complete translation of the Holy Bible in normal Modern English that can be freely copied (except for some limited "fair use") without payment of royalties. This is the vacuum that the World English Bible is filling.


Why is the copyright such a big deal?

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. 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 New International Version of the Holy Bible on my web site in a downloadable, searchable, and readily copyable format without the permission of the International Bible Society and Zondervan (copyright owner and publisher). Zondervan won't grant such permission unless they get a significant royalty (they quoted me $10,000 + $10/copy distributed) and unless I convince them that my Bible search software is "good enough" for them. Needless to say, the Bible search software that I am writing with the intention of distributing as donorware will not come with the NIV.

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, like Thomas-Nelson's New King James 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 existing Modern English translations be immediately released to the Public Domain. I understand the way that the profits from the sales of the NIV, for example, help fund other language translations at the International Bible Society (as well as helping to enrich some folks at Zondervan). 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.

Isn't it dangerous not to copyright the WEB?

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. The God's Living Word translations of John's Gospel and John's letters are copyrighted only for this reason, for example, even though blanket permission to make unlimited copies of that translation is published with them. This legal leverage is so much weaker than God's protection of His own Word that it is of questionable value. (See Revelation 22:18-19.) The only other major concern is that somebody might later claim a copyright on the WEB and remove it from the Public Domain. 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.


What is the WEB Revision?

The WEB Revision is an update of the American Standard Version of 1901, which is in the Public Domain. The 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 and the Revised Standard Version. The first pass of the translation, which has already been done, was to convert about 1,000 archaic words and word forms to modern equivalents using a custom computer program. The second through seventh phases consist of manual editing and proofreading. The initial manual pass is 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. The subsequent passes are to review of the results of the previous pass. In each pass, volunteers read the current draft, looking for typos, unclear passages, etc., then report back to the senior editor (Michael Paul Johnson <>), who checks the suggestions and merges the best suggestions into the master draft. As this is going on, the draft at the WEB web page is updated.


Who is behind the WEB Revision work?

Rainbow Missions, Inc., a Colorado nonprofit corporation -- and many volunteers who are born again and seeking to daily follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. If the Lord so moves you, tax-deductible financial gifts to help pay for WEB publishing and other minor costs associated with this project  may be made to:

Rainbow Missions, Inc.
PO Box 1151
Longmont CO 80502-1151


Is the WEB a one-man translation?

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 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, 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.


What are your qualifications to do translation work?

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 I 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.


What is the WEB Translation Philosophy?

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.


What original language texts are you using?

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 as published for use with The Online Bible in the New Testament (M-Text). 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 (UBS), we find the following to be compelling reasons:


How does the WEB compare to other translations?

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 chosing 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 pronounced like, instead of rendering that Name as "LORD" or "GOD" (with all caps or small caps). The current scholarly consensus has shifted from spelling this Name as "Jehovah" to spelling it as "Yahweh." 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 from other translations.

Because World English Bible (WEB) uses the Majority Text as the basis for the New Testament, you may notice the following differences in comparing the WEB to other translations: