An open Bible translation for the digital era

Today is my children’s first day of school, and this school year I want to go through the book of Proverbs with them. I looked around a little for a devotional to help me along, but I quickly decided to just try and make something myself. My basic plan is to divide the book into sections based on theme and work through each theme each time we do devotions.

I like doing this kind of thing “out in the open”, and so this is what I produced for the first two days. [UPDATED the link to a more readable format.]

But I immediately hit a roadblock that has already sucked up hours of time. It’s the kind of problem that gives me facial ticks. You’ll notice that the Scripture passages quoted there are in the NASB. [Updated now to be the World English Bible.] That’s fine for the few verses I have listed there… but I’ll get in trouble if I quote more than 500 or so verses.


I just want to create a study of the book of Proverbs for my children, but I want to make it freely available to anyone else. And I want to include the entire book of Proverbs. And I don’t want to use the KJV.

Is this too much to ask?

So, of course, I dove down the rabbit hole of finding out the current state of permissively licensed English translations of the Bible. This FAQ for the Open English Bible project is a helpful starting point because it explains what they are doing and why, but it also links to a couple other high-profile attempts to make the Bible in English freely available. The two examples it gives are the NET Bible (FAQ) and the World English Bible (FAQ).

I spent some time reviewing the NET Bible, and I found it very discouraging. I compared the NET Bible with the NASB for passages on this list for starters. Seems to suffer from all the typical political correctness.

The World English Bible doesn’t seem to suffer from the same amount of political correctness, so I think I’ll give it a try.

Tips and suggestions welcome!


Worth reading:

and here:

While not trying to advocate for the KJV or the NKJV, I’m wondering why it’s not suitable for you.

If you’re interested in the Lucas Weeks Bootleg Version of the Book of Proverbs and have a 500 verse limit for cabbaging off the NASB, you might do this:

  1. The Book of Proverbs is composed of 915 verses.

  2. Select 475 verses out of the NASB.

  3. Select the remaining verses out of the KJV.

You might do something similar by incorporating additional English-language translations of the Book of Proverbs. It would be sort of tedious, but that sort of comes with the territory.

You could also do your own paraphrase of any particular verse by consulting a number of English translations of any given verse (Bible Gateway is helpful here), and then settling on your own paraphrastic amalgamation of them all. If you find several versions rendering the Hebrew verse identically (this will definitely happen!), then you can chalk that verse up to whatever English translation y ou please.

It’s all an exercise in CYA, of course. But, it could be done.

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Thanks for the suggestions. The NKJV is copyright by Thomas Nelson:

(1) Up to and including 1,000 verses may be quoted in printed form as long as the verses quoted amount to less than 50% of a complete book of the Bible and make up less than 50% of the total work in which they are quoted; (2) all NKJV quotations must conform accurately to the NKJV text.

So that one’s out.

My reasons for not wanting to use the KJV are very unsophisticated: it’s hard for me to understand, let alone my children. Granted, I find that the Old Testament is much easier to follow in the KJV than the New Testament, but still. I don’t have any theological or sentimental commitment to the KJV, and so I’m always looking for something that’s easier to understand and more contemporary.

I’d like to be consistent, and I don’t want to do the work of paraphrasing anything. I think it will be more helpful to others, also, if I use an existing translation.

I know it’s nice to have the Scripture passages included in the devotional, but you could forgo that and just list the chapter and verse. (Thanks for making those devotionals public, btw!) Then you and the kids can turn in your own Bible(s) and off you go. No copyright issues. We’ve been doing something similar this year as we read through the NT. Just an idea, an unsophisticated one at that.


It’s a good suggestion… but then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to rant about the state of English Bible translations and copyright!



Could consider Berean study Bible. I don’t know that it’s a perfect translation. I have liked what I have read so far, for the most part.

I haven’t read Proverbs in it yet. I read Judges last year and thought it was good. (I’m usually NASB).

There is also a Berean Literal Bible which I like better for NT but I don’t think they have the OT in it.

How about the American Standard Bible? It’s the precursor to the Revised Standard Version.
Interestingly, Ken Taylor used the ASV in making his Living Bible paraphrase.


Heh…I’m envisioning an online Bible where you can “dial in” your translation preferences on various scales:

<Formal Equivalence ---- Dynamic Equivalence>
<Gender literal ---- Gender neutral>

Then it would dynamically render the text to your specific preferences.

But would it be sinful to build a solution that would allow some people to corrupt their own translation?


I may switch to the ASV. I’ll see as I go along.

The ASV has all the archaic language: “thee’s” and “thou’s” and such. That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to avoid. I thought about just removing that kind of obvious stuff myself, but then I’d end up with the custom, Lucas Weeks translation of the Bible. Yuck.

If you’re interested in following along, I’ve updated the link to my work to something that’s much easier to read:

I’m using software called Bookdown, and you will always be able to download what I’ve done in both epub and PDF formats.


The beverage I was drinking just about went through my nose.

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What’s wrong with a custom translation, if it’s good? You’re already picking and choosing among translations, after all.

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Yeah, I admit that’s true. And, even more, it’s a translation that’s basically what you suggested: some guy took the 1901 ASV and decided to modernize it somewhat. So I guess I’m basically taking your advice, just not doing all the work.



I like the World English Bible as well as the ASV and have used both in the past, though lately I have returned to the KJV. I don’t think you will go wrong with the World English Bible - I too have not noticed “political correctness” in it in the past.