I was struck by this story on the BBC website, about a famous Australian judge who told a small white lie to get out of a speeding fine, and ended up spinning a web of deceit which has not only ruined his international reputation but also landed him in jail. How easy it is for little white lies to grow! How important it is that we tell the truth, in small things as well as big ones.
In part 1 of this series I discussed the demise of Re:Greek and zhubert.com because the text they were based on is copyrighted by the German Bible Society. In this post I discuss the issue of whether it is possible, or right, for anyone to claim copyright over the original text of the Bible.
I note first that this is an issue only for the New Testament, because the UBS Greek text (the UBS 4th edition which is essentially the same as the Nestle-Aland 27th edtion) is an eclectic text, with readings chosen by a committee of scholars (Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger) who have presumably assigned their copyright to the German Bible Society.
By contrast, in the German Bible Society’s edition of the Hebrew Bible, Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, which is also the recognised scholarly edition, the basic text is simply copied from the Leningrad Codex manuscript which is out of copyright. So others are free to publish an identical text as long as it is derived directly from the Codex. Indeed, at least one other group has done so, at Westminster Theological Seminary, with the results being online as the Westminster Leningrad Codex with a Creative Commons licence. Sadly it is not possible to do quite the same to reproduce the UBS Greek New Testament text.
It is nearly two years since I last discussed copyright on this blog, and when I did so I did not refer to the biblical text. I stand by what I wrote there, and so I agree in part with David Ker’s position, that we should respect the rights of scholars as well as artists to protect and make a living from their own work. I also agree that we shouldn’t do anything to undermine the support which the larger western Bible societies provide to Bible translation and distribution projects worldwide. Nevertheless I agree with the thrust of Tim Bulkeley’s “oversimplification” (his word):
If GBS (or any other Bibe Society) restricts people making the text freely available, simply to protect the economic viability of their print editions – which are expensive to produce luxury items – then they are betraying the generations of Christians who have coughed up their hard earned cash “to make the Bible available”!
So, what of the principle of copyrighting the Bible? I note Vern Poythress’ theological discussion of copyright, in which he argues for a right to copy others and that “restricting copying interferes with loving one’s neighbor”. This provides justification for Tim Bayly’s assertion that
no one and no corporation and no non-profit organization should ever be allowed to hold a copyright on any text of Scripture for anything other than assuring the integrity of the text they worked to produce.
Tim Bayly has also, in an earlier post, demonstrated the absence of any proper legal basis, at least under US law, for any claims of copyright on compilations and selections of material where there is no originality or creativity. The principles explained there surely apply to the work of the scholarly compilers of the UBS Greek text, which is by its very intention the opposite of their own creative and original work: it is to restore the original 1st century text.
Now I accept that the textual apparatus in the UBS Greek New Testament, i.e. the discussion of variant readings, is original work and so can be copyrighted. But the matter at issue with Re:Greek and others is main text which is separate from the apparatus.
I can imagine the German Bible Society being asked in court to show places where their text is actually original in the sense of being different from any previously existing public domain text. The only places they could potentially point out are where they have actually failed to do their job!
The situation is different with a Bible translation because it is accepted that the work of translation is original and creative. So there is a legal basis for new Bible translations being copyrighted, which does not apply to new editions of original language Bible texts, nor for that matter of public domain Bible translations. Nevertheless Tim Bayly seems to consider copyright claims on Bible translations to be immoral, if not illegal, although he does allow that publishers should be allowed to charge royalties until such time as their investment in the translation process has been recouped.
To summarise my own position, I would agree with Vern Poythress that there is no moral justification for restricting copying of one’s work of any kind. Yes, I need to respect and obey the existing law, but that does not make it right for me to rely on its protection of my own work. While I understand people’s desires to protect their own genuinely creative work, it seems to me morally repugnant to claim copyright over mere compilations and arrangements of the work of others, and especially so when that work is the written word of God.
On the issue of profitability, I note that most of the profit in marketing biblical texts in the original and in translation is from annotated and study editions. The notes of whatever kind in these editions are usually creative or original and so can quite properly be copyrighted, if any text can. I also note that the free availability of an online text generally tends to promote rather than reduce sales of print editions. So it is highly unlikely that there will be a real threat to any publisher’s income from making a Bible text freely available.
So I call on the German Bible Society and all others claiming copyright over texts and translations of the Bible to renounce those copyright claims and make their work freely accessible to all who have a need for it.
But I note that things are changing, if only slowly. The Institute for New Testament Textual Research at the University of Münster, Germany, which was founded by Kurt Aland, is working on the Digital Nestle-Aland which is:
the forthcoming electronic version of the standard scholarly edition of the Greek New Testament. It offers two major features not available in the printed book:
- Transcripts of important Greek manuscripts of the New Testament
- New complete apparatus based on these transcripts
– and on the Editio Critica Maior which is the next generation of the Greek New Testament text. In a discussion on copyright nearly three years ago at Evangelical Textual Criticism P.J. Williams seemed to offer hope that the Editio Critica Maior would be free of copyright restrictions, but it will be some time before this text is complete. On that matter I think we need to wait and see.
But the decade or so before this edition is completed is too long to wait for wider access to the current UBS Greek text. I hope that the Bible societies will see sense on this. Perhaps other Bible societies will pressure the German one to release the text to undo the damage that the current controversy is doing to their image, and potentially to their income. As I wrote in the previous post, they need to decide whether they are going to rely for their income on dubious business practices or on the generosity of God’s people.
Something of a row has broken out because Zack Hubert’s popular site for Bible scholars Re:Greek, formerly zhubert.com, has been closed down because the UBS Greek New Testament text it was using is copyrighted by the German Bible Society. This is reported by David Ker, at his FutureBible blog and at Better Bibles Blog, who is quite favourable towards the German Bible Society; by Tim Bulkeley who disagrees with David; and by Tim Bayly who writes an intemperate rant about the situation but make some good points while doing so.
First we need to get some facts straight. Tim Bayly writes that
A Greek Bible web site used by lovers of God’s Word around the world has been shut down by the German/United Bible Society.
But it seems that this is not actually true. According to this discussion thread, the only communication from the German Bible Society was the following letter, which was not to Zack Hubert but to Weston Ruter, who leads another project, Open Scriptures. Here is the text of the letter, as quoted in the hidden text in the first item on the thread:
I understand your Open Scriptures project as being not-for-profit and open source.
The German Bible Society is a not-for-profit religious foundation. Its mission, in collaboration with other members of the United Bible Societies, is to promote biblical research and worldwide Bible translation work in order to make the Bible available to everybody in their own language.
Biblical research and translation work costs a lot of money. Therefore, according to the standing rules of our foundation, we have to earn money with our texts to enable further Bible translations worldwide.
Please understand that as a matter of principle we don’t license the NA27 or the UBS4 Bible text for open source projects.
Regarding the “MorphGNT with UBS4” on the Open Scriptures website: This is
again a copyright infringement as the basis of the text is the UBS4. We ask
you to remove this text from your website, too, as we are the copyright
holder of the UBS4.
Well, it is a strange way to “promote biblical research and worldwide Bible translation work” to deny permission for scholars and translators to use the primary tool for much of their work, the recognised scholarly edition of the Greek New Testament. But the German Bible Society did not communicate this to Zack Hubert. Rather, Zack read this letter, forwarded to him by Weston, and replied:
Oh. Well that’s really bad news.
As I’m using the MorphGNT for zhubert.com, it pretty much sounds like the project needs to shutdown to protect their copyright.
Shortly after that he shut down zhubert.com, of his own accord and without any direct communication from the German Bible Society. But there is another side to his action: Zack no longer had time to keep his project going. He said last year:
What can I do to keep this project continuing since I only had 15 minutes a week to go in and either approve a lexicon entry or make a little bug fix …
The lack of time is no doubt because Zack now has a busy day job for Zondervan, no less, working on the social network tool The City. Weston wrote last week, just after quoting the above:
Zack seems to have washed his hands of the Re:Greek project …
So, in the light of the German Bible Society’s attitude Zack Hubert has voluntarily decided to close down a site which, as he had already stated, he was no longer supporting properly. It seems to me that the letter from the German Bible Society simply prompted Zack to do what he was surely going to do rather soon anyway.
There may anyway be more to this than meets the eye. Zondervan has recently acquired not just The City but also Bible Gateway, which was in some senses already a competitor to zhubert.com, although the UBS Greek text is not one of the Greek texts it offers, and has the potential of being enhanced to be a more complete competitor. Zondervan, which is part of the Murdoch group, would hardly encourage an employee to work privately on a competitor to one of its own products. One might hope that they would employ some of Zack’s great talents on enhancing Bible Gateway to include the sadly missed special features of zhubert.com. They can also of course afford to pay the German Bible Society royalties to make the UBS Greek New Testament available on their site – or to face down their copyright threats if their own lawyers consider them empty.
Meanwhile a German Bible Society representative wrote in a follow-up message on the same thread:
the German Bible Society does not license the Greek New Testament for online use as a matter of principle. … However the Greek Bible text is available for free in our Bible portal www.bibelwissenschaft.de.
Well, it is good that the text is available there. It is sad that the site is only in German and so able to “promote biblical research and worldwide Bible translation work” only among that small minority who read German well. The days have gone when every Bible scholar in the world was German or had studied for many years in Germany.
Sadly the response of many to this may be that they do not give money to Bible Societies or others who take this attitude, as a matter of principle. This mean-spirited attitude can be contagious and has the potential of doing great harm, financially and in other ways, to the interests of the Bible Societies and of the work which they claim to promote.
The Bible Societies need to make a decision whether they are funding their outreach work primarily from commercial profits or primarily from gift income. They can decide the former, follow good business practice, and watch their gift income dry up – although if they do this they will have to give up their UK charitable status. Or they can choose to operate as a charity and rely on donations for the bulk of their income. In this case they need to renounce any commercial practices, even if they make good business sense, which alienate their support base, and instead be seen as generous and open-handed. I hope they choose the latter.
By the way, I should disclose that some of my past Bible translation work was funded in part by the United Bible Societies. I have also benefited from the generosity of the German Bible Society: they sent a free boxful of Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testaments to the small new Bible society I was working with, in a former Soviet republic, a place where there were very few Greek scholars; this Bible society started to sell them off quite cheaply mainly to people who wanted English Bibles; and I bought one, for far less than the normal price in the West.
I had intended what I have written here to be just the introduction to a discussion of the principle of copyrighting the Word of God. But it has already become an over-long post in its own right. So I will leave this here and hope to continue the discussion later.
UPDATE 28th March: I have now published part 2 of this series.
I wondered if Rick Joyner would keep up his promise to post weekly videos about the restoration process which he is leading for Todd Bentley. But he has done more than that: in the last week he has posted four new videos! These four, and the two earlier ones which I reported on here and here, are accessible from this page. Todd features personally only in the two most recent videos, because he was away from Rick’s centre spending time with Shonnah and the children.
In the first video, The Restoration Process & The Issue of Divorce, Rick speaks for 10 minutes about sin and restoration, especially in the context of divorce. He repeatedly states that he is not lowering biblical standards to condone divorce and remarriage. He makes it clear that sin is sin and needs to be repented of as such. He clearly has no intention of letting Todd get away with excuses for his behaviour. Instead he is looking for true repentance, which will open the way for God’s forgiveness and eventual restoration. Rick also clarifies that the restoration process will not be a quick one, that rumours that Todd will be returning to ministry in the near future are unfounded.
In the second video, Rick Addresses Lee Grady’s Charisma Article, again 10 minutes, Rick compares how Grady and Jesus respond to those they disagree with, and explains how Grady has strayed into areas where he has no authority as well as only partial information. The same advice should be heeded by any who make public negative comments about Todd or for that matter anyone else in public life. Of course Rick is himself making negative comments about a public figure, but note how gently and lovingly he does so.
The third video, Choosing Mercy over Judgement, 11 minutes, and the fourth, The Ministry of Reconciliation, much shorter at under 6 minutes, seem to go together in that both feature Bill Johnson as the main participant with Todd and Rick responding to them. I guess the videos were made together as all are in the same clothes. But the shorter one starts abruptly, and was posted four days later, suggesting that its first part had been edited out. I will not attempt to summarise Bill’s helpful messages. The most interesting thing that Todd says is that he had a good week with Shonnah and the kids, and was able to say sorry to Shonnah and reach a measure of reconciliation with her; but there are some concerns about her health. Oddly there was no mention at all of Todd’s new marriage and wife – but then the series is continuing.
As I will not continue to summarise or post links to each new video in this series as it comes out, I recommend anyone interested to subscribe, as I did, to e-mail notifications of new videos.
I just discovered that I posted a lot about speaking in tongues in May last year, but not since. However, I have continued to practice it and to reflect about it. For example, last November I led a study on interpretation of tongues for my home group. Here are my notes, slightly edited. I don’t think there is anything new here, but this may be helpful for any of my readers who are not already familiar with this:
INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
Peter Kirk, 20th November 2008
5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. Those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues, unless they interpret, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
13 For this reason those who speak in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. (1 Corinthians 14:5-15, TNIV)
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church; let them speak to themselves and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28, TNIV)
Should all tongues be interpreted?
Paul clearly writes in this passage that messages given in tongues in public meetings of the church should be interpreted. But he does seem to distinguish this from private prayer in tongues, which does not require public interpretation. Nevertheless 1 Corinthians 14:13 seems to suggest that one should pray for understanding of one’s own tongue, without restricting this to public meetings. In 14:15 there is an apparent reference to singing in tongues, in worship to God, implying that this too should be interpreted at least for the sake of outsiders.
According to 1 Corinthians 14:5,13, the one who speaks in tongues should interpret the message. But 14:27,28 and 12:10 suggest that someone else should interpret. I suppose this means that someone should not speak out loud in tongues in church unless they are confident that either they or someone else will be able to bring an interpretation. It should be accepted as normal if the same person brings the tongue and the interpretation.
What does it mean to interpret a tongue?
A “tongue” is sometimes a human language not known to the speaker. In Acts 2:4,6 the apostles spoke in various languages which were understood in the normal way by people present. I have heard of modern examples of Christians being given words to speak in foreign languages which they don’t know, to preach the gospel or as words of knowledge etc.
Sometimes people recognise individual words of a message in tongues as in a language they know. [Our pastor] has recognised [words in a foreign language he knows] in the private prayer language of people at [my church]; I have recognised [ones in a foreign language I know]. But in these cases there has not been a complete message in [one of these languages]. Sometimes this may be chance resemblance, or maybe the Holy Spirit is using this deliberately to reveal the meaning of part of the prophetic message.
In other cases, as suggested by 1 Corinthians 13:1, a tongue may be an angelic language. Certainly it is often a language not understood by anyone present – but then no one would recognise all of the more than 6,000 living human languages, not to mention extinct ones. The gift of interpretation, as usually understood, is about giving the meaning of a message which one does not understand in the normal way, but only as the Spirit reveals the meaning.
As such this is very similar to prophecy. While I have not personally been given a clear interpretation of anyone else’s tongue, God has showed me the meaning of visions etc reported by others. I suppose that it is in a similar way that the meaning of a tongue is revealed to the interpreter. Any experiences to share?
Also the combination of a message in tongues and its interpretation is seen as equivalent to prophecy. Is there in fact a difference, for example in the typical content?
Note 1 Corinthians 14:22-25:
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” (TNIV)
In the context the tongues here must be interpreted tongues. What does this mean in practice? This passage is rather obscure but I suppose means that uninterpreted tongues make unbelievers say we are out of our mind, but interpreted tongues will have the effect of prophecy, convicting of sin leading to repentance and faith.
The irrepressible David Ker, in a post simply entitled 7000, has tried to start up an outrageous meme which has the potential of overrunning the whole Internet with mindless drivel, if the people he tags do what he asks them to do. In the spirit of brotherly love, and since the world might be a better place if the Internet collapses, I will obey his instructions to the letter. Indeed I am copying his whole post just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. 😉
Lingamish has reached a milestone of 7,000 comments on this blog. Gone are the days of badinage and flapdoodle. Hyperbole has given way to humdrum. But 7K is a pretty good sized number.
In honor of this momentous event I’ve decided to make the technorati rank of all my commenters who have blogs soar into the stratosphere. This is like a chain letter. You musn’t break it or we will all get mad at you. I have arbitrarily chosen ten of the most recent commenters on my blog and shown them below. Each of them must copy this entire list into a post on their own blog and add then more of their own commenters. The result is going to be huge amounts of link love.
OK, everybody, include this list in your post and tag ten other commenters on your blog. What better way to thank all these nice people that make us feel so happy by leaving comments on our blogs?
P.S. The last time I did this someone broke the chain after two weeks and the very next day was torn limb from limb by hyenas. I kid you not. So don’t risk it. Instead let the blessings flow…
Or am I doing this because I am afraid of the hyenas? There aren’t too many here in England, but I’ll stay well away from Mozambique just in case.
Note that I do not endorse the blogs listed above, some of which I have not read and some of which I have read too much of. Here is my list of ten blogs of those recently commenting on my posts – again, I am not endorsing these sites, some of which I don’t know well, but I am omitting some which I prefer not to link to, or which are Lingamish:
- Rahab’s Place
- Obscene Beauty
- The Road to “Elder” ado
- Friends’ Meeting House
- The Sundry Times
- This I do…
- New Epistles
- Seeking His Face
- jon sidnell
Interestingly few of these are among the regular circle of bibliobloggers and Anglican and Methodist pastors whose blogs I read regularly. Not all blog regularly, but there are some gems to be found here.
Meanwhile, please comment here! I am just 55 comments short of Lingamish’s 7,000 mark, that’s counting approved comments only (are you counting the same, David?). That’s 6,945 comments on 690 posts (I’m sure Lingamish has more posts than that). Just one more push, perhaps another outrageous post about Todd Bentley, and I can ease past him!
Spring has come to England, with beautiful and quite warm sunshine, and daffodils and other spring flowers brightening up our gardens and streets.
Steph from New Zealand is rude about English daffodils, but has she seen them in all their glory? I didn’t have to look hard for these photos; these are flowers which grew up almost by themselves in my garden, as captured by my mobile phone.
Among the many comments on my post about Todd Bentley’s remarriage there have been several questioning whether Todd had proper biblical grounds for divorcing his first wife Shonnah and contracting a new marriage with Jessa. I don’t want to defend Todd’s actions here, especially as he himself has admitted that what he did was wrong. But I do want to say that it is by no means as clear as some suggest that Todd’s new marriage should be called adultery. This is because the biblical teaching on divorce and remarriage is not as simple and clear-cut as some people seem to think.
I wanted to point my readers to the teaching on this matter of David Instone-Brewer, who is a research fellow at Tyndale House, the evangelical research centre in Cambridge. Unfortunately Instone-Brewer’s main website about divorce and remarriage is out of action at the moment, possibly only a temporary glitch. But I did find a link to a summary of his teaching, at a site called Playmobible which, amazingly enough, uses cartoons in Facebook photo albums to summarise Instone-Brewer’s teaching! I’m not sure if this is an example of Facebook being smart for once or of Facebook dumbing down even Bible teaching.
Anyway, I would recommend those of my readers who think they can easily condemn Todd Bentley for his remarriage to look at the album of teaching on The Four Biblical Causes of Divorce and the one on Roman Divorce. Don’t miss the notes underneath many of the images. These albums are not produced by Instone-Brewer but are endorsed by him. It would of course be better still to look at Instone-Brewer’s main site, but sadly that is currently not possible.
So, according to Instone-Brewer’s teaching, is Todd Bentley’s divorce and remarriage permissible? I would claim that it is on the grounds that he was apparently deserted by his first wife; he has been deprived of his marital rights and so can go free, according to the teaching of Exodus 21:10-11 at least if allowed to apply to men as well as women. Of course if Shonnah left Todd because of his adultery, that would be a different matter. But I have never seen any convincing evidence that Todd ever had sexual intercourse with a woman he was not married to. So, while Todd has admitted to mistakes in how he handled the matter, I cannot agree with many of my commenters that he has actually committed adultery or should be treated as if he has.
In the circumstances Todd should be allowed to start his new married life in peace, and to go through the proper restoration process which has already started before returning to public Christian ministry.
By the way, don’t treat too seriously this comment I made on the Lingamish blog.
… at least so says, or sings, David Ker.
When I read your blogs I get smarter. When I hang out on Facebook I get much much stupider.
I agree. So, while I will remain a Facebook member at least for now, don’t expect me to hang out on it much.
I’m not like this guy. I don’t install any Facebook extensions, at least not without very good reason.
Todd Bentley has appeared for the first time since he left Lakeland, I think, in a 12 minute video interview with Rick Joyner, posted at Rick’s website. This is promised to be the first of a weekly series. This is part of the restoration process which Todd has now begun.
Todd starts by expressing his primary concern for his children. He refers without acrimony to Shonnah as his ex-wife, and only in passing to his new wife Jessa. He notes that the “process” of parting from Shonnah has been going on for years, and has nothing to do with Lakeland. He agrees with Shonnah when she says she is sorry for “the way the public won’t move on when we have”. To that public Todd says:
I want to say I’m sorry for the pain, the hurt I have caused you… I’ve been repenting and I want to repent and say to the church “I’m sorry”.
Rick points out that he bases his efforts to restore Todd on the command in Galatians 6:1.
Also I just found a long article about Todd’s remarriage at the website of Charisma Magazine.