Trying Not to Panic Over Updates to the Bible

Recent updates to the New American Standard Bible, Christian Standard Bible, and, less recently, the New Internatlional Version, English Standard Version, and Amplified Bible have awakened discussion about the possibility of introducing error or succumbing to pressure to conform with the world when updating the English Bible.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about new translations. Christians are put in a very awkward position and most don’t realize the nature of it. On the one hand, we have language, which is continuously evolving. This evolution is relatively slow, but not so slow that you can’t see it if you’re looking for it. Those of us with more than a couple decades under our belts can definitely see changes between how the language was spoken in our youth vs. how it is spoken now. On the other hand you have the Bible, which we hold in high esteem and which we believe to be (or contain) the very Word (or words) of God. We can’t imagine God not expressing himself perfectly the first time, and just assume that our English Bibles should be just as unchanging.

When looked at in the big picture, we understand that we need a Bible written in our native language, and that by that we mean not just English but Modern English. We can probably understand the Great Bible (1540) and King James Bible (1611) but not in their original blackletter font and Early Modern English orthography. Even the vaunted 1769 and early 1900’s editions of the KJV that many Christians cling to as the Bible have been significantly modernized in order to be readable. Despite this innate understanding, we are at least slightly repulsed by the idea of “updating the Bible”.

It’s when we start to act this general understanding (that is, that we need a Bible written in our native language) that we get into trouble. One of the big problems is gender language. Because it’s a politically sensitive issue, there’s a feeling like the Bible should be above it. But setting aside where our personal politics lie, we have to admit that we want an accurate translation of the Bible. The fact is that the biblical languages do not convey gender in the same way English does, and the way English conveys gender has been changing. We try not to say men when we mean people. And we are trying to figure out if we like using they to refer to a single person of unspecified gender.

Personally, I’ve avoided these issues by not picking a favorite. I have a lot of experience with the RSV (predecessor of the ESV and descendant of the ASV) and the KJV (the most successful of the Early Modern English translations). For years I carried a side-by-side KJV/NIV. I was reading from the 1977 NASB when the 1995 edition came out. I’ve read through the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), World English Bible (WEB; modernized ASV), NIV (1984), and KJV; some of these more than once. I’m about 30% through the 2020 NASB. I don’t consider any of these to be the Bible; they are all just translations of the Bible into my language. By adopting this position, I completely avoid any emotional response to any new edition of any of the versions of the Bible I read.

I like to think this is an enlightened, mature perspective. Let others get hung up in arguments over which imperfect translation of one of several imperfect collations of imperfect copies of imperfect copies of the original manuscripts is somehow “best”. I choose to focus on the fact that Jesus summed up 3/4 of the Bible (the Old Testament) in two commandments (love God; love others) and his own ministry in one sentence (the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost). Paul summed up his ministry (and thus the bulk of the New Testament) in 2 Cor 5:14-21. Those fragments are enough to occupy one’s life; precisely how they are worded doesn’t change their implications or importance. And much of the rest is just exposition.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #3

Today we want to talk about our progress so far on PocketBible for Windows. At this point in the project, it’s difficult to show everything we’ve been working on because a lot of it is “under the hood” or “behind the scenes”. It’s related to how PocketBible accesses its files, or the server, or the database where your user data is stored. These are all hard to demonstrate.

But we’re at the point where there are a few things we can demonstrate, and you can see them in the video above. I’ll also briefly describe them here for those of you who, like me, don’t like to watch videos.

We’re trying to make PocketBible more tablet and touch friendly. We’ve taken ideas from our iOS and Android apps. You’ll notice in PocketBible for Windows that the toolbar buttons are a little bigger than they might be in a typical app. This is to accommodate the touch/tablet environment.

The toolbar at the top of the screen is reconfigurable. You can drag buttons onto and off the toolbar from the Preferences screen.

The toolbar on the left side controls the features of the Study Panel. This is where we display your bookmarks, highlights, notes, search results, etc. In particular today, we demo the note editor. We can style text and paragraphs as you might expect, though your edits are not yet saved to the database. You can edit your notes in a plain-text editor if you’re comfortable working around the HTML tags that control the appearance of your notes.

We have a lot of the features related to display books implemented. There’s no “navigation” features yet, but you can scroll through them and see both text and images.

We’ve been doing a lot of work on the Library functions. This is how you download and open books. You can view a list of books installed on the device or books that you own (your Cloud Library account). You can view the lists in a “gallery” format or in a “list” format.

Clicking on a book in the Cloud Library causes it to be downloaded. Clicking on books in your Device Library opens them. You’ll see a progress indicator as you download books, and you can select multiple books to download them all at the same time.

You can choose to see only Bibles, only dictionaries, only commentaries, etc. You can also search for a book by typing a portion of its name in the search field.

There are a limited number of display format preferences implemented. You can currently choose a font, font size, line spacing, and some other options. You can choose from one of several color schemes, including a “dark mode” scheme, and you can create a custom color scheme by choosing colors for each of a couple dozen different elements of the display.

There’s more going on behind the scenes that are hard to demonstrate, and there a lot of things visible on the screen that are really just placeholders. Anything you see on the screen currently could change at any point before release.

About Our Development Tool Set — Electron

I’ve been talking about our innovative, new development environment since before we started coding on the project. I want to explain that in more detail at this point. If you’re not interested in the technical side of what we do, you can probably just jump to the end at this point. 🙂

We’re using a tool called Electron to develop the Windows version of PocketBible. Electron is a framework for creating native applications using Web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It combines node.js (a JavaScript run-time environment) and the Chromium engine (the guts of the Chrome browser built into the app). This allows us to write our code in JavaScript and create our user interface using HTML and CSS just like we would on a website. It wouldn’t be incorrect to describe this as a website running on an embedded Web server inside a Windows executable.

A lot of programs you are already familiar with are implemented using Electron, like VS Code, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitch, and Microsoft Teams. We’re encouraged by the fact that Microsoft seems to be committed to this tool set.

This lets us leverage what we know about website design as we design the user interface and write the app.

We can actually use the Chrome developer tools just like you would in your browser to debug the app. We can explore the user interface, set breakpoints in our code, and examine the values of variables — all using tools we’re familiar with from Web development.

Using Electron allows us to use our Macs for Windows development. The video above was shot on a Mac. That’s why you don’t see a menu bar in the app — on a Mac the menu for the active app is displayed at the top of the screen, not in the app’s window. Being able to run the app on a Mac is a real benefit to us since we’re 100% Mac OS here. We use it for Android, iOS, and Mac development. When necessary, we have Windows running on our Macs under Parallels so that we can use Windows apps. But we try to avoid it as much as we can. 🙂

So that’s where things stand as of early February. You can post questions below or send them to support@laridian.com and they’ll make sure I see them and can respond.


Brief demo of multiple panes. See comments below.

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #2

More Rewards Distributed

The 2021 editions of the PocketBible Library Collections are being released coincident with this status update. If your reward package included the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum Library, you’ll find those books are now in your account. The special Diamond Edition for those at the higher contribution levels has also been distributed, though of course it’s not available to the public. You can download any new books from these collections using the Cloud Library feature in PocketBible.

Note that the 2021 editions contain some Bibles that are not compatible with the current Windows versions of PocketBible, particularly The Passion Translation, World English Bible with Strong’s Numbers, and the Spanish Nueva Biblia de las Américas. These will work in PocketBible on other platforms.

Note further that the collections include the very recently released 2020 edition of the New American Standard Bible. The publisher has said we can continue to offer the 1995 edition, but we need to refer to it as “NASB1995” and call the new version “NASB”. Since the Windows versions can’t be updated to use the new abbreviation for the 1995 edition of the NASB, you will end up with two Bibles both called NASB. In the Windows Desktop version you could potentially have 4 tabs labelled NASB, NASB, NASEC, and NASEC (the latter two being the NASB with Strong’s Numbers). You’ll find if you hover over the tab you’ll be able to see which one it is. In other places where you’re choosing from two versions with the same abbreviation, you’ll see that “1995” or “2020” has been added to the title so you can tell which one each is.

Diamond Edition Contents

Because the 2021 Diamond Edition is not available to the public, there’s not an easy way to see what it contains. This collection, which was offered as a reward for those who contributed $720 or more to the project, contains everything in the 2021 Platinum Edition plus:

A Hebrew Word for the Day
Ancient Christian Commentary Series
Bible Reader’s Companion
Bible Teacher’s Commentary
Dake Study Bible Notes
Ephesians: Reformed Expository Commentary
Gospel Transformation Bible Notes
Greek New Testament Collection
Knowing the Bible Series
Maclaren’s Expositions of Holy Scriptures
Preaching the Word Series
Systematic Theology Study Bible Notes
The Good and Beautiful Community
The Good and Beautiful God
The Good and Beautiful Life
The Sermon Notebook
Understanding the Bible Series

The total value of all these books sold separately is over $4000. Thank you again for your support!

Progress Update

Work continues on two fronts: Implementing features related to what we call “user data management” (notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress), and translating the code at the core of PocketBible that reads and acts on PocketBible books and Bibles.

We’ve completed much of the nuts and bolts of user data management and have begun to work on user interface issues related to those features. For example, neither the Windows Store nor the Windows Desktop version of PocketBible allows you to set bookmarks on more than one verse at a time. (To be fair, neither does the Mac OS version.) But the iOS version recognizes that you have multiple verses selected and assumes you want to set or clear bookmarks on all (or at least some) of those verses. We prefer this behavior and want to introduce it in the new Windows version.

This is what we meant when we said that we would draw on our experience with the Mac OS and iOS versions when writing the new Windows version. Not that we were going to duplicate either one, but that we would allow what we’ve learned while experimenting with different ideas on those platforms to influence how we re-imagine the Windows version.

I’ve said before that we’d be building the new version using a different programming language, application framework, and toolset. So porting the shared portions of the code — functionality like being able to read and operate on our Laridian book (LBK) files — is mostly a “translation” task. This is not entirely true, as certain concepts are very different between the two languages, as are the syntax, idioms, and data types.

To give you an idea of the size of this task, I counted this morning (automatically, not by hand) the number of lines in the shared C++ code and it came to 457,326 lines. That’s about 8000 pages if you were to print it out. All of that code has to be read line-by-line, translated (taking into account changes made to other parts of the code during translation), and tested.

We continue to make progress in this area, though I believe we’re only about 10% to 20% through it. For example, the program is now able to detect the books you have installed and allow you to select from among them — though once you open a book, you’re not able to read text from it. The text we see on the screen is simulated — biblical lorem ipsum so to speak. I’m working on that portion of the code right now.

Reading Through the Bible in 2021

Every year, our church encourages members to start a program of Bible reading with the goal of reading the entire Bible by the end of the year. Each month we all exchange emails with progress reports and are encouraged to keep going. Despite the planning, the encouragement, and the reminders, about half of those who start don’t finish.

The NIV Bible contains 753,429 words. Divided into 365 equal readings, that would be 2064 words per day. The average person reads at a rate of 200-300 words per minute. If you’re a college graduate, you probably read around 450 words per minute. So reading through the entire Bible can be easily done by most people in 4-1/2 to 8-1/2 minutes per day. Certainly less than 10 minutes.

So why do so many people fail at keeping this goal? The time itself is not the problem; we all have 5-10 minutes sometime in our day to read the Bible. Here are some suggestions on how to get through the Bible this year.

Make it a part of your morning ritual.

We all have a list of things we do like clockwork every day. Wake up. Shower. Shave. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Have breakfast or at least a cup of coffee. Check email and social media. Go to work. The next day it repeats. Maybe on the weekend it happens later in the morning, but it happens.

Put your Bible reading on that list. In my case, I make a cup of coffee and sit down to make my first pass through email, Facebook, and moderation of my church’s email prayer/announcements list. It was easy to add 5 minutes of Bible reading to that schedule.

For you it might be 5 minutes before you even get out of bed. Or while you eat breakfast. The important thing is to find it a place in your morning ritual so that it becomes habitual.

Use PocketBible on your phone or tablet.

You might think this goes without saying, since it’s coming from Laridian, but it’s a valuable point to make. Laridian offers a number of free and low-cost Bible reading plans and devotionals for PocketBible and makes it easy to access each day’s reading and keep track of your progress. Simply tracking your progress by marking each reading as complete will motivate you to keep going and help you catch up if you get behind.

In addition, for most of us, our phone or tablet is with us all day. This makes it easier to take advantage of break-time, commute-time, standing-in-line-time, and other moments in our day to do our Bible reading. Instead of Candy Crush or Facebook, spend those minutes getting your Bible reading done.

Be realistic.

Figure out how much time you want to devote to the Bible and schedule your reading appropriately. 5-10 minutes will get you through the Bible in a year. 10-15 minutes will get you there in 6 months. Don’t set out to get through the whole thing in a month unless you have an hour each day to set aside for Bible reading.

Try a different translation of the Bible.

Because PocketBible reading plans are not tied to any one translation of the Bible, you’re free to experiment with something different. My previous reads through the Bible have always been in the KJV or NIV. So last year I tried the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). This year I’m using the World English Bible (WEB). (Note that neither the CSB nor WEB are compatible with the Windows versions of PocketBible, but work fine in the Android, iOS and Mac OS versions.)

I think the unfamiliar wording of familiar verses helps me comprehend the passage better. For example, the WEB uses “Yahweh” where the KJV, NASB, and NIV all use LORD. Encountering “Yahweh” in the text seems to make God more personal to me – as if he’s more of a character in the story with his own plans, motivations, and ways of interacting with the people I’m reading about. When I just see LORD in the text, he seems to just blend in and is more of a nameless force or entity in the background. It’s a subtle but important difference in the way I’m perceiving the text.

Last year I ran into the phrase “half the tribe of Mannaseh” (vs. the more familiar – to me – “half-tribe of Mannaseh”). I found this confusing, since I had always assumed the “half tribe” title was because Mannaseh and his brother Ephraim shared the inheritance of their father Joseph (each was half the tribe of Joseph). Running into this wording in verses such as Deuteronomy 3:13 caused me to realize the title is based on the fact Moses gave land on the east side of the Jordan to half the tribe of Manasseh and land on the west side to the other half. The important point here being that running into an unfamiliar phrase caused me to stop, ask the question, and go looking for an answer.

Don’t tell anyone, but it’s OK to skim some passages.

I had a person tell me that they were doing fine reading through the Bible until they got to “the part with all the ‘begots'”. To be honest there aren’t that many of these, but they are mind-numbing. Come back some time and look at the names in those lists and try to learn more about them, but if those lists are what’s keeping you from getting through the rest of the text, just scan ahead to where the story picks up and keep reading from there.

You may run into other places you just can’t get through. I get bogged down in the various sacrifices, dimensions of buildings, descriptions of furniture and draperies, and quantities of items plundered in battles. It’s ok to skip ahead a few verses. None of these are that long. Don’t let a verbal description of an architectural diagram keep you from finishing your reading.

Read it in a different order.

The order in which the books of the Bible appear isn’t ideal for reading through from start to finish. The Old Testament is ordered by genre – first the books of Moses (the Pentateuch), then history, wisdom/poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets. The New Testament follows a similar model, but more by author – first are the gospels; then history; letters from Paul (kind of in order by length, longest to shortest); the letter to the Hebrews (which some argue was written by Paul, but the author is generally considered to be unknown); letters by the apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude; and finally the New Testament’s only book of prophecy.

This year I’m reading through the Bible in chronological order using The Harmony Bible. The author of The Harmony Bible has rearranged the text so that you read about events in the order they occurred, not the somewhat random order that they appear in the Bible. So Job is inserted into the Genesis narrative. David’s psalms are inserted into the stories of his life. The prophets are inserted into the historical narratives, primarily in the books of Kings and Chronicles. In the New Testament, letters to the churches are intermingled in the book of Acts.

Other alternatives include reading a little from the Old and New Testament each day, which is what I did last year.

Some of the devotional books for PocketBible include short commentary or homiletic passages for each day. These can provide context for the passage and help you find application for what you’re reading in your daily life.

Be accountable.

I have really benefited from my email group that is made up of people who are all reading through the Bible at the same time. Find some other people in your church who want to read through the Bible. Meet together or at least exchange emails throughout the year to discuss what you’re reading. Encourage each other to keep reading. Ask your partner what was in those passages you only skimmed. 🙂

Don’t stop.

If you miss a day, keep reading the next day. PocketBible lets you adjust your reading schedule to account for missed days. If it ends up taking you an extra couple of days or weeks to get through the whole thing, that’s fine. Nobody’s keeping score. Don’t let a missed day derail your entire year. Just keep going.

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

PocketBible is on MeWe

With more PocketBible users making the move from Facebook to MeWe, we thought we should be there, too. We’re not leaving Facebook, just adding a MeWe page. You can click here or search for PocketBible on MeWe. When you find us, follow us.

For those of you who have never heard of MeWe, it’s like Facebook except without the ads and the censorship of certain points of view. It’s free like Facebook, but you can get access to premium features for a small fee. The free version seems to work great, though.

We’ve been happily posting on Facebook since March 2008 and have no plans to leave. We have, however, left Twitter and have no plans to return. It didn’t really fit our needs, nor, apparently, the needs of the majority of PocketBible users.

PocketBible for Windows Progress Update #1

As you know, our crowd-funding campaign for PocketBible for Windows ended on September 15 so we’re about one month into the project. While I can’t demonstrate much for you at this point, I do want to fill you in on our progress and answer a few questions.

Over the last couple of years we’ve experimented with a number of programming languages, frameworks, and development tools to try to discover the best way forward for PocketBible for Windows. In the process, we’ve explored some proof-of-concept ideas, some of which will find their way into the finished product.

For example, we needed to be able to display and interact with books with complex layouts, like The NIV with Goodrick-Kohlenberger Numbers and our parsed interlinear Greek New Testaments. You would think that displaying formatted text would be trivial these days, given that it’s 2020 and even Web browser technology from the last century can do it fairly well. PocketBible for Android, iOS, and Mac OS uses HTML rendering built into those platforms that does a very good job. Unfortunately, the similar functionality built into Windows is significantly less capable. So as we explored alternative tool sets for implementing PocketBible for Windows, this is one of the areas we focused on. Our ability to successfully render these complex layouts during our experiments in the summer of 2019 is what led us to settle on our current solution. (We’ll have more to say about that in a future update).

Now that we’ve demonstrated that we can display and interact with the text, we need to be able to extract the text of a book or Bible from our Laridian Book (LBK) file format. The code that does that is fairly extensive and complicated and needs to be translated from its current implementation and thoroughly tested. We’re currently working on that task.

A major area of progress is what we call “user data management”, which is keeping track of your notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress. In particular, we wanted to tackle synchronization of that data with Laridian Cloud. This would force us to fully implement the ability to read and write the data from and to the database, and would also require us to solve communication with our cloud-based sync provider — both of which are complex tasks that introduce risk into the schedule. Overcoming those challenges and dealing with that risk during the early part of the project avoids the possibility of unexpected delays right before our ship date, when it is least-practical and most-expensive to deal with it.

As of today, even though the PocketBible app for Windows doesn’t allow you to view or edit notes, it can sync its local notes database with the server. You can’t even see any verses, let alone select one to highlight, but you can correctly sync highlights to and from the cloud. This means we’re able to populate the local database from a customer account, make manual changes using a database editor tool, then request that the program sync again. The app accurately identifies what has changed and syncs those changes to the server. At the same time, it receives and records any modifications or new records sent to it from the server. That means that, at least internally, everything is working. There’s just no user interface to it yet. Sounds weird, but it’s very normal for a software project to be completely working but with no way to see that it’s doing so. That will come later.

It’s also worth noting that even though neither of the current versions of PocketBible for Windows (Windows Desktop or Windows Store versions) support Journal notes or renaming highlight colors (features of the Advanced Feature Set in PocketBible for iOS, Android, and Mac OS), the new version already supports those features. Or rather, the underlying support is there; there’s just no user interface to invoke it.

Until next time, thank you so much for your financial support, prayers, and words of encouragement for this project. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will be the effect of the Windows project on work being done on other platforms?

According to comments on a recent customer survey we did, some of you have expressed concern that our attention to the Windows project will take away from work on other platforms. I want to reassure you this is not the case. In fact, the very purpose of the crowd-funding campaign was to allow us to add staff for the Windows project in order to minimize the impact on other platforms. You may not realize it, but you’ve already seen the results — we shipped a new version of PocketBible for iOS coincident with the release of iOS 14, which introduced a number of major new features for PocketBible on that platform, all while work on PocketBible for Windows continued unabated.

When will I get my rewards?

When you get your rewards depends on what type of rewards you are entitled to.

Physical Rewards: Three contributors were entitled to some special rewards (a 1903 KJV New Testament and two framed, first-edition KJV pages from 1611). These were mailed within a week of the end of the fund-raising campaign.

2021 PocketBible Library Collections: Contributors at the $60, $120, $240, and $360 levels will get the 2021 Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Edition PocketBible Library collections, respectively, when those products are released near the end of the year.

Special Diamond-Level Library Collections: Contributors at levels $720 and above will get the special collection we’re putting together just for those contributors. It will be released either at the same time as the regular 2021 Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum collections are released, or shortly thereafter. We’re aiming for having all of the collections distributed by the end of the year.

Advanced Feature Set Subscriptions: Some contribution levels included multiple years of either the AFS for the new Windows app or for all platforms. Those will be distributed when the new app ships. We haven’t announced a specific ship date but are aiming for late summer, 2021. Obviously, those who are entitled to a mention in the in-app credits will see that when the app ships.

Wait… Isn’t that a Mac in the picture?

Yup.

PocketBible 4.14 for iOS 14

Today Apple approved PocketBible 4.14.1 for distribution through the App Store. This version coincides with the release of iOS 14, and while it doesn’t necessarily take advantage of every new feature of this latest version of iOS, it should work better than the previous version did.

iOS 14 adds a number of new features that may or may not make sense for PocketBible to take advantage of, such as widgets and app clips. Because PocketBible needs to continue to work with older versions of iOS (we go back to iOS 12 with this release), it’s not always practical to implement the very latest new features. And we never know what’s going to survive until iOS 15 and what will be dropped. So don’t expect a PocketBible complication for WatchOS or a PocketBible widget for iPhone.

Here’s what’s new in PocketBible 4.14.1:

FEATURES

Saved/named layouts on iPad. (AFS)

If you subscribe to the Advanced Feature Set, you’ll be able to save the current screen layout, which includes the number and position of open panes/tabs, the list of books open in each pane/tab, the position of each of those books, your navigation (back/forward) history, your recent searches, and your recently visited Bible verses (the latter itself being a new feature; see below).

Keyboard shortcut keys (customizable with AFS)

If you have an iPad Pro with an external keyboard, there are now key combinations that can be used to activate frequently used features like searching and navigating to a Bible verse. A list of these keyboard shortcuts can be viewed by pressing and holding the ⌘ (Command) key (this is true for any iOS app, not just PocketBible).

If you subscribe to the Advanced Feature Set, you can customize these commands. You’ll do that by selecting the function (such as “open a book”) then just press the key combination you want to use for that function.

Trackpad and mouse support in book panes

If you have an iPad Pro with an external mouse or keyboard with trackpad, you’ll find that 2-finger trackpad and scroll-wheel scrolling work better in PocketBible’s book panes than they did before.

New long-press functions of back, forward, search, and go-to toolbar buttons

Pressing and holding on the Back button will display the portion of your navigation history that is “behind” you. You can jump back more than one location by selecting an item from this list. If you have gone back at least one step on this list, a long-press on the Forward button will show you the locations that are “ahead” of you.

You’ve always been able to access a list of recent searches by selecting that option from the Search form. Now you can press and hold on the toolbar Search button to see that list.

A frequently requested feature was a modification of Back that would allow you to see a list of recently visited Bible verses so you could quickly jump back to a passage you had been reading. You can now access this list with a long press on the Go To button while a Bible is active.

Sync to current verse

PocketBible has long had the ability to keep all your Bibles and commentaries sync’ed up to the verse you are viewing in the active pane. That’s not always what you want to do, however. But when that feature is turned off, there wasn’t a way to easily sync your other Bibles and commentaries to the verse you’re reading. Now there are two.

When the automatic sync between Bibles and commentaries is turned off, you can choose Sync All to … from the PocketBible menu to cause all Bibles and commentaries to go to the topmost verse in the active pane (assuming the active pane is displaying a Bible).

You can also select a verse via pressing and holding, and choose the Sync button from the Selection tool bar. In that case, your other Bibles and commentaries will sync to the first selected verse.

ENHANCEMENTS

Customizable sorting of list of open books

When viewing the list of open books in the Library window, you can choose the Edit button to drag the books into the order in which you’d prefer to see them. This is a frequently suggested feature that turned out to be a lot easier to implement than we feared, though it has an important caveat.

That is, the order of the books in each pane is saved as a part of recording your navigation history. So if you change the order of books in a pane, then use Back to go back to a time before you re-ordered the books, the order will revert to its earlier state. Going Forward will restore the new order.

In addition, the order of open books is saved when you save a layout using the new Saved Layouts feature on the iPad. So if you change the order of the books in one layout, it will not affect the order of the books in the same pane in another layout.

And more…

Choosing a range of verses for searching requires fewer button presses. Once you’ve selected a range you’re taken right back to the main Search window.

Autostudy Word and Autostudy Verse will start the study when Enter is pressed in
input field (Advanced Feature Set subscription required for Autostudy).

Long-press link preview now works on the asterisks that mark footnotes in books
and Bibles.

FIXES

The correct background color was not being chosen for certain menus.

After closing the current book using Close this Book on the Library screen, the wrong book was marked as being active.

The program was not checking your AFS subscription expiration date often enough, which kept the subscription active well passed its expiration until you performed a particular action that caused it to be checked. The program now checks the expiration date on launch and at convenient intervals while you’re using the program. There is a grace period to allow you time to renew and activate the renewed subscription.

We Reached Our Goal!

Thanks to the kindness of 492 of our closest friends, we were able to reach our goal of raising $50,000 for the development of an all-new version of PocketBible for Windows! The final total came to exactly $53,000.

If you contributed to the project, you’ll get an email from us letting you know how we’re going to keep you updated on our progress. We’ll publish updates here on the blog. Some will be public like this one; others will be for supporters only.

To get things started, I met yesterday with the outside developer responsible mainly for user experience to bring him up to speed. And since the beginning of the crowd-funding campaign I’ve been working with another in-house developer to bring her up to speed on the development tools and the initial tasks we need to work on.

Even though we already have two different Windows versions of PocketBible, this version is going to be implemented a whole new way (more about that later). So we have to treat it as if we’re doing it for a whole new platform. When we launch into PocketBible for a new platform, I like to tackle the hard things first. That is, I try to identify what is going to be a challenge for us and do some prototyping or proof-of-concept tests to make sure we’re going to be able to solve those problems before they become hinderances to the schedule.

What that means is that we’re going to start kind of in the middle of the project, focusing on the note editor and user data synchronization, because those seem to always present problems on every platform. We’ve already done some experimenting with simply displaying and scrolling through text, as that’s another problem area. We’ve actually written and thrown away a few different attempts at some of those problems already.

This approach creates interesting paradoxes. We’ll be able to sync your notes, highlights, bookmarks, and daily reading progress to and from the server before the program can create or display a note, highlight a verse, or set or go to a bookmark. We’ll be able to scroll through Bible text before we can choose and open a Bible to read. But such is the world of software development, especially with a mature product like PocketBible. Even though the new version of PocketBible for Windows doesn’t exist, PocketBible itself exists both as an abstract concept and in several concrete implementations — not just the existing Android, iOS, and Mac OS apps, but our soon-to-be extinct Windows apps and our already-extinct Windows Mobile Smartphone, Pocket PC, Handheld PC, Palm-size PC, webOS, Blackberry, Palm OS, and browser-based versions. So this new Windows version already exists in our heads. Starting in the middle or at the end or the beginning is all the same to us. 🙂

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Here We Go Again: Are Gay Satanists Rewriting the Bible?

As you know, our English Bible is translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic, so even the direct quotes attributed to him in the New Testament were translated into Greek before someone translated them into English. Portions of the King James Version were translated from a Latin translation of the Bible, which itself had been translated from Greek documents that were no longer in existence. The Latin text was translated back into Greek (without reference, obviously, to the missing originals), then the Greek was translated to English. (We’ve since found copies of those missing Greek manuscripts, so modern translations are on a much firmer foundation.)

Translation is an art, not a science. It requires command of both the source and target languages. This is complicated by the fact that biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek are no longer spoken, so there are no native speakers from whom to learn the nuances of the language. Every translator differs in his or her choice of words and phrases to translate the original.

There is a contingent of Christians today who feel the newer translations are being manipulated to promote a particular agenda. These people would never consider that the older Bibles they prefer would have been subject to the same biases, but they were. For example, the Greek word βαπτίζω (baptizo) literally means “to dip or submerge”. But since the English-speaking church was no longer immersing believers in water but rather sprinkling them, the translators were in an awkward position. Rather than point out the error in practice by the church of the day, they invented the English word “baptize”, which is just a transliteration of the Greek word βαπτίζω (that is, it is a made-up English word which, when pronounced, sounds like the original Greek word). Errant sprinklers could claim to be “baptizing”, just like they did in the Bible, without having to explain the change in the mode of baptism compared to the New Testament examples.

It’s pretty easy to get a rise out of Christians who are ignorant of the nature of translating from one language to another by suggesting that nefarious forces (Satan himself being on the top of the list) are working to subvert the work of God by causing the Bible to be mistranslated. The Facebook post below is an example. I first saw a version of this post in 2015. It makes a number of false claims, urges the reader to try to find verses that don’t exist in most Bibles published in the last 40 years, then uses that to “prove” that publishers are actively promoting a gay and satanist agenda by altering the text. Altering it from what the post does not make clear, nor does it explain how Luke’s failure to mention that Pilate had a tradition of releasing a prisoner during the Passover celebration advances the gay or satanist agenda.

The new version of this post I saw today added the ESV to the Bibles owned by HarperCollins (which is false), and unnecessarily took a swipe at the Olive Tree Bible App that wasn’t there last time I saw it. Here’s the post:


VERY CRITICAL ALERT!!!

NIV was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.

  • The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few…
  • The NIV and ESV has also now removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones especially “OLIVE TREE BIBLE STUDY APP.”
  • Try and find these scriptures in NIV and ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt
    • Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14;
    • Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46;
    • Luke 17:36, 23:17;
    • John 5:4; Acts 8:37.
    …you will not believe your eyes.

Refuse to be blinded by Satan, and do not act like you just don’t care. Let’s not forget what the Lord Jesus said in John 10:10 (King James Version).

There is a crusade geared towards altering the Bible as we know it; NIV, ESV and many more versions are affected.

THE SOLUTION:

If you must use the NIV and ESV, BUY and KEEP AN EARLIER VERSION OF the BIBLE. A Hard Copy cannot be updated. All these changes occur when they ask you to update the app. On your phone or laptop etc.


Laridian’s Response

A PocketBible user sent the above to Tech Support and asked if this horrific news was true. Here’s how we replied:

First, this post is old. It first circulated in 2015. Second, it represents a misunderstanding of everything it reports.

The NIV text was translated and is owned by Biblica (The International Bible Society), not Zondervan. Biblica is a 200-year-old organization that translates the Bible and distributes Bibles to various language groups around the world. The ESV is a revision of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which itself is a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV), which is an americanized version of the Revised Version (RV), which was, in the 1880’s, a modern-language revision of the King James Version (KJV). The ESV is owned and distributed by Crossway Bibles, not Zondervan.

The right to publish and sell the NIV in the US is held by Zondervan under license from Biblica. Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are both owned by HarperCollins. HarperCollins is the publisher of a wide variety of books including those mentioned in the post. But neither HarperCollins nor Zondervan are involved in the translation of the NIV. That started over 60 years ago by the New York Bible Society, which became the International Bible Society, then Biblica.

The right to publish and sell the NIV outside the US is held by Hodder and Stoughton, a secular publisher in the UK. The post doesn’t mention them for some reason, choosing instead to focus on HarperCollins, which it claims owns the NIV, which it does not. And neither company has any rights in the ESV.

Let’s look at the other claims:

The NIV and ESV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible. The grammatical error (“has” instead of “have”) resulted from an illiterate person, perhaps the person who forwarded this to you, adding “and ESV” to the original post from 2015. That makes the claim even more questionable, since it would be odd that two entirely different translations had each removed exactly the same number of words. 

What were these words removed from? “The Bible” is not a single document that you can point at or hold in your hands. It is a collection of writings, written over some 4000 years by 40 or more authors, in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. We have multiple copies of portions of it in the original languages, and they differ from each other. This is more true in the New Testament than the Old, but it is true to some degree throughout. The job of Bible translators is to choose the versions of the originals they want to work from or think are authoritative, then translate those into English. In doing so they do not remove words from the original text; they translate from one language to another. Translation is not a word-for-word, mechanical task. Just comparing the number of words used in one translation versus another does not tell us anything about the relative quality of either translation.

The author seems to be suggesting that the newer translations remove words from an older, more authoritative translation. Which one? The post doesn’t say. And why would that fact alone matter? For example, newer translations “remove” a number of words from the King James Version, including thee, thou, ye, comest, goest, conies, kine, and hundreds of others. Most have fallen out of use or changed their meaning over the centuries. This isn’t bad, it’s necessary if we who speak the English language are going to understand it.

The specific words cited as removed are not removed as much as they are replaced. In particular:

  • “Jehovah” is an older (and many argue less accurate) attempt to transliterate the Hebrew word יהוה (often called “the tetragrammaton” — the 4-letter Hebrew spelling of God’s name). Many newer Bibles translate it as “Yahweh”. I believe the NIV and ESV use the convention of translating it as the word “Lord” in all caps or small caps (LORD or Lord).
  • The word “Calvary” as a translation for the place where Jesus was crucified is completely wrong to begin with. The Greek word used in the Gospels is Κρανίον (kranion or “cranium” for the Hebrew golgotha “skull”). “Calvary” is a transliteration of the Latin Calvariae Locus, which is the term used in the Latin Vulgate to translate Κρανίον. To insist that we continue to use a made-up word based on Latin instead of a direct translation of the Greek or Hebrew term would be identical to insisting that we refer to God by the made-up name “El Senior” because it is an English transliteration of the Spanish El Señor, the name commonly used for God in Spanish Bibles.
  • The term “Holy Ghost” is translated “Holy Spirit” in newer Bibles because the meaning of the word “ghost” has shifted over the years.
  • “Omnipotent” is used only once in the KJV, in Revelation 19:6. It is used as a title for God: “…for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” The Greek word is παντοκράτωρ (pantokratoros) which comes from the Greek word for “all” and the Greek word for “strength or might”. The other 9 times this word is used, the KJV translates it “almighty” (which is and adjective meaning “all powerful”). So if the NIV and ESV are wrong for “changing” this word from “omnipotent” to “almighty”, then the KJV is wrong for doing the same thing in 9 different places.

I see they’ve added a mention of the Olive Tree Bible app in this version of the post. Interestingly, Olive Tree is also owned by Zondervan/HarperCollins, which is not mentioned.

The post claims the NIV and ESV have removed 45 complete verses (though it lists only 10). Again I ask, “removed from what?” The post doesn’t say. The specific verses cited are present in some older translations of the Bible because the Greek manuscripts from which they were translated are actually newer (that is, they date from a later time in history) than the more recently discovered and older manuscripts used by the NIV translators. Because the older manuscripts are closer to the originals in time — that is, they went through the copying process fewer times — they are believed by modern translators to be more accurate. So it is not the case that these verses have been removed from newer translations like the NIV, ESV and many others, but rather that they were added by the copyists of the manuscripts upon which older versions, like the KJV and ASV, are based. It could be accurately argued that the “removal” of these 45 (or 10?) verses makes the NIV and ESV more accurate translations than the older ones the author prefers.

The post concludes by recommending that you buy and keep an earlier version of the Bible without saying which one. Most posts like this come from people who prefer the KJV. The KJV can be shown to contain thousands of errors in printing and translation, including one edition that said “thou shalt commit adultery”, and another that transgendered Ruth, referring to her as “he”. The KJV is where we get the phrase “strain at a gnat” where the Greek is more accurately translated “strain out a gnat” (“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”)

There is no perfect translation of the Bible, and there is no single original-language source from which to translate. Posts like this one come from people who are ignorant of the history of transmission of the Bible, the process of translation, and the business of Bible publishing. Please don’t give these people a bigger platform by reposting their nonsense.


The illustration at the top of this article is from a Facebook group called “Satanic/Luciferian Gay Community”. It’s difficult to find an image to illustrate this article that isn’t more offensive than it needs to be. I thought this one looked better than the others I found. Note that the Satanic/Luciferian Gay Community has nothing to do with propagating this story or mistranslating the NIV. I just used an image from their Facebook page.

Americans Lack Basic Understanding of the God of the Bible

The Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University released a study last week showing that Americans demonstrate an increasing ignorance of God and in some cases hold self-contradicting views of God’s attributes and actions.

The survey of 2000 adults was conducted in January, 2020 to determine the percentage of the country that holds a biblical worldview. It found that only 51% of Americans believe that God is the “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect and just creator of the universe who still rules the world today.” This is down from 73% who agreed with that statement in 1991.

The largest drops are among the youngest (under 30) and the oldest (over 75) among us. There is also a clear divide along political lines, with self-described liberals and Democrats holding the least biblical worldview and conservatives/Republicans, the most. Agnostic (“there may be a God, but we can’t know for sure”) and atheistic (“there is no God”) views have grown substantially in the last 30 year.s

Some contradictory views also come out in the survey. 45% who claim God exists also say they can’t be sure. This would actually seem to be more consistent with an agnostic view. One-third of those who old a biblical view of God way that he has no reason behind what he causes or allows to happen to them. One could argue that an irrational God is little better than (and certainly more frightening than) no God at all. Only 1/3 of those who believe in the God of the Bible say that he is involved in their lives. Again, a God who doesn’t care about us seems little better than no God at all.

Slightly more people believe in the biblical person of Satan than in the biblical person of God. Think about that for a while.


PocketBible can’t fix a person’s ignorance of God or of God’s character on its own, but it can give you the tools you need to repair your own understanding of God and help you share a biblical worldview with the people you live and work with. And this survey reflects only the opinions of Americans, where Christianity allegedly has its best foothold. There is no lack of work to be done, starting here and throughout the world.