If you are reading this, it is likely you are already sold on the worth of providing original-language Bible tools to pastors around the world. But as nice as that vision sounds, it does not mean much unless there is an actual path to accomplish it. That path is outlined below.
Step 1: Provide Bible Societies with a Great App in Their Language
First-class, intuitive, and free
All three of these aspects are critical for this project to succeed. If the app’s original languages study information is sub-par, Bible societies will not make use of it. If the interface is not intuitive, users will be hindered from contributing. If the data produced is not free and open-source, then organizations will not get on board.
By creating a beautiful, user-friendly app template, we seek to open wide the door to accomplish our vision.
Bible societies will be able to easily translate the user interface to the appropriate language and then simply plug in their translation(s) of the Bible. For those Bible societies needing technical assistance in launching their Bible Tags based app to the app stores, we will provide this service with the support of donors desiring to sponsor an app release. (Bible societies, click here.)
The result: A whole bunch of great Bible apps, each with branding, user interface, and translations in different languages, complete with original language tools.
These tools will include:
the full Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, including manuscript variants
easy access to the original behind a specific verse while reading through a translation
parsing information for each original language word
a powerful search for both the translation and the original language
Steps 2-5: A Good Tool That Gets Better and Better
Each Bible Tags based app will be a quality, clean Bible app in a local language out of the box. Still, while its original language tools will be a big help to those who already know Greek or Hebrew, its value will be more limited for those just learning. But not for long.
Bible Tags based apps are always getting better and better. The way this happens is through “crowd-sourcing” tagging data (sometimes called “alignment data”) between a translation and the original languages from users who know the original languages. This is facilitated by providing an easy way for users to indicate which word(s) in their translation correspond to which word(s) in the original, all within the app itself. As soon as they do so for a particular verse, that tagging (i.e. connection between the words in the translation to the words in the original) will be displayed to other users, accompanied by an “unconfirmed” flag. As other users confirm (or correct) this tagging, the system will intelligently remove the flag. Another sort of artificial intelligence will be utilized to also guess at the proper tagging of other verses, again presenting the “unconfirmed” flag until those guesses are verified. Finally, contributor ratings will also play a big part, increasing or decreasing as their taggings are confirmed or corrected, so as to maximize the accuracy of the data.
The result: A whole bunch of even better original-language powered Bible apps in different languages with advanced tools that are particularly crucial for those learning the original languages.
The additional functionality will include:
tap on any word in a Bible translation in order to study the original language word behind it
start an original language search from a word in the translation
a gloss (i.e. simple definition) of each original language word in the language of the app, automatically derived from how it is translated throughout the given Bible translation, and editable by the most highly rated contributors
break-down of how often and where an original language word is translated
Crucial Original Language Data for the Church
The result of the process described above will not only be a wonderfully improved app, but also an open-source and free hub of data to serve the global Church in yet other ways. The possibilities are endless. And there will be no strings attached. Anyone and everyone will be free to utilize this hub of data connecting words* in Bible translations to the original languages.
How can you legally use and distribute data of copyrighted texts (without needing to obtain licenses)?
In order to avoid the need to obtain licensing agreements for Bible translations, BibleTags.org will not distribute any Bible translation texts. First, the organization publishing the app (or the embedding website as described below) will be required to provide the Bible translation(s) to be used in their app. This is why we assume this app will be most useful to Bible societies as they already own their Bible translations and so can make use of them in a Bible Tags based app without restriction.
Second, the crowd-sourcing data produced through the contributions of Bible Tags based app users will NOT include the actual text of the translations. Instead, the data will connect, for example, the first, second, and third words of the ESV of Genesis 1:1 to בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית instead of connecting “In the beginning” to that word. The result is that Bible translation texts will not be reproducible from this tagging data and no copyrights will be violated.
Will the tagging data be accurate?
In one way, the crowd-sourcing approach in this project might be compared to Wikipedia. But that raises a concern, because not everything you find on Wikipedia is accurate! But there really need not be a concern given the way our approach differs from Wikipedia.
The tagging submissions we are asking users to make, unlike Wikipedia, are black-and-white in nature. That is, there is a right answer. This is due to the fact we are asking users to simply tell us which word(s) in the translation are associated with which word(s) in the original. Will there be mistakes made? Of course, but those will be easily corrected by the smart server as described in the verification process above.
Will there be any easy ways for a website to make use of this tool?
That is our hope. If the Lord provides sufficient funding and interest, Phase 6 of our build-out plan will be the development of an embeddable widget for Bible study websites and blogs.
How will the widget work?
For the widget to work, the embedding website will need to supply the Bible translation’s verse content each time it makes a call to show the widget. (See the question about copyrights above.) Of course, detailed documentation will be provided on how a website can set this up.
Each of these wonderful ministries provides various original language Bible study tools and also brings in non-English Bible versions. Some of them also translate their interfaces into different languages. What they do not have, however, is the data necessary to connect non-English Bible translations to the original text, nor do they have a way to create that data.
And this is critical! Without data tying Bible translations in Persian and Arabic and Hindi to the original Hebrew and Greek, they can only provide very limited original language helps—not nearly sufficient to empower pastors in those languages. Nor can these sites presently provide lexicons in all the different end-user languages.
This is where Bible Tags comes in. Our approach will produce the necessary data so that web apps like these and many others can get better! Thus, Bible Tags is not an alternative to any of these great tools, but rather looks to serve these tools by producing an open-source data hub from which they will be able to draw.
Note: Phase 4 (partner development and refinement of the app templates) will involve working with such sites to maximize our collaboration.