AUTOMATICALLY TYPESET STUDY BIBLE

In the beginning was the Word.

Bible producers usually believe the verse quoted from John 1:1. However, most of them also add the conclusion of their own tradition: ...and in the end was the InDesign.

This does not necessarily have to be true anymore. It is my great pleasure to introduce the OP-Bible by RNDr. Petr Olšák, the software that has the potential to change the way Bibles, especially Study Bibles, are usually being typeset.

Perhaps you guys in the free parts of the world with centuries long tradition of large Bible-printing houses do not feel that this is an urgent need. But if you think about countries where Christianity is being persecuted and where you cannot go to a book store and buy a Bible, let alone choose from various versions of it, you may consider the above claim to be not as exaggerated as it looks at the first sight.

The vision which started in 2009 is not finished yet (Summer 2022), there's still a lot of work to be done. Nevertheless, some things are already working, and in my humble opinion, they do so quite well. Judge for youselves.

As a sample, I am using these 6 English translations of the Bible:

  1. Bible in Basic English (BBE);
  2. Jubilee2000;
  3. NETfree;
  4. Updated King James Version (UKJV);
  5. Restored Names King James Version (RNKJV); and
  6. Webster
As I do not have hard copies of these Bibles, all that I can show you comes from internet, and as such it is therefore subject to an error. Don't get upset if you find one; look for the great things the program is capable of doing, even if occasionally some spelling may differ from your Bible.

I will show you PDF's of these six Bibles in various forms. In the table below you will see two lines containing the PDF's. The first of those lines are the versions of the sample book of Daniel. Most of what this site describes applies to them. You will focus most of your attention here.

The second line contains the same six translations, this time the entire Bibles with John Gill Exposition of the Bible Commentary as the notes below the line. These Bibles underwent no editing at all, the computer only placed the notes on the same pages as their respective verses. There are no headings, no paragraph breaks, no poetry formatting, no book Introductions, no images, maps, charts, articles, etc.

As Gill's commentary is rather large, most pages contain only a few lines of Biblical text and the rest belongs to the notes. Obviously, such commentary can find better ways to be used besides becoming the notes in a Study Bible. But it is only a sample for you to see what can be done: Once you have a commentary (whether you write your own or make a deal with a publisher that would allow you to translate an existing one), there is no problem making a Study Bible with it; no need to pay a human typesetter for several years to do it from Word to InDesign. Don't get discouraged by ugly design of these Bibles, they are not to be taken too seriously anyway. I hope you will find it more fascinating when you look carefully at the first line of the table where one book, Daniel, is being elaborated on in much deeper detail.

But before you do, let me tell you what to look for there. (Please keep in mind that this page NOT a user manual. All the necessary information on how to run the program will be in the documentation that we are working on right now (still Summer 2022). When we are done (hopefully soon), the program will be made available for public use.)

So let's take a look at the book of Daniel as a part of a potential Study Bible.
To create these six Study Bibles, I used six files with different versions of the Bible (which is probably understandable) plus one (yes, you read that correctly: one single) file with the commenting notes that go below the line in all of the six different Bibles. Another file contains an article titled Who was Darius the Mede? near chapter 6, and yet another file contains the Introduction before the book itself. Also, the image near chapter 2 has its own file, as does the map in the Introduction. I had to overfill Daniel like this to demonstrate what the program will be eventually able to do.

Then there is one main file (usually main.tex ) which specifies everything that is called to action. The most important feature for you as a user is the ability to choose which translation you are going to use. You run TeX to produce the resulting PDF, then you can go back to the main file and pick another translation and produce a new PDF with that new version of the Bible.

However, there are other things you can do in the main file as well, e.g., change the design of the page layout, enable or disable highlighting of the search phrases, etc.

Note in particular these interesting things:

  1. Search phrases.
    When a note comments on a particular word or group of words in a verse, that phrase is typeset in bold font in the note. This is common, normal and expected, although some versions of the Bible prefer italics to boldface; in any case, the phrase is highlighted at the beginning of the note. What is not so common is the fact that the same phrase is being searched for in the Biblical text of the corresponding verse. For working purposes, phrases searched in this way can be displayed as red in the Biblical text. This feature is enabled for Webster only in order for you appreciate the notes following the phrases on their pages as described below. It is disabled in other versions to show you how the final result may look like.

    The magic which no one else has managed to achieve yet is that the pages automatically break not just by verse numbers (as you see them do in the second line of the table in the entire Bibles with Gill's commentary and no phrases specified to be highlighted) but by those searched phrases themselves.

    For example, the Webster breaks page inside the verse 10:20; look at page 23 where you read "will I return to fight with the prince of Persia" and then at page 24 where the same verse continues with the phrase "the prince of Grecia."
    Notice that the commenting notes follow their respective phrases on correct pages.

  2. Matching phrases with the Biblical text in various versions.
    Some, if not most, of the specified, i.e., search phrases spell differently in different translations. OP-Bible is able to not only find them, but also print them correctly. Notice, for example the verse 2:5 where the same phrase If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it (NIV) is worded like this:

    BBE: if you do not make clear to me the dream and the sense of it
    Jubilee2000: if ye will not make known unto me the dream with its interpretation
    NETfree: If you do not inform me of both the dream and its interpretation
    UKJV: if all of you will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof
    RNKJV: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof
    Webster: if ye will not make known to me the dream, with the interpretation of it

    This is how you have to write the note in order to be able to choose from any of these translations without making any further changes:

    \ww
    {if you do not make clear to me the dream and the sense of it} % BBE
    {if ye will not make known unto me the dream with its interpretation} % Jubilee2000
    {If you do not inform me of both the dream and its interpretation} % NETfree
    {if all of you will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof} % UKJV
    {if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof} % RNKJV
    {if ye will not make known to me the dream, with the interpretation of it} % Webster
    \Note 2:5 {If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it.} % NIV; the content of these brackets is not shown when \ww preceeds it but they have to be there, even if empty.
    Nebuchadnezzar formulated a plan for testing his advisors. If they could not relate the dream back to him he would have no confidence in their interpretation (see <"v." 9>).

    Having all the notes in a form similar to the one above allows for having six (or ten, or a hundred) various translations of the Bible typeset as Study Bible with the same commenting apparatus and displaying everything correctly without a need for changing anything in those notes. Compare the sample PDF's at the note on 2:5 to see it in action. And most of other notes, too. There are rather few occurrences where the phrases do not differ in various translations.

    If you think that the result is not worthy the pain of writing everything in this way just consider how much it will cost you to have your Study Bible typeset in traditional way six times. After all, you don't have to retype everything manually; all the varying phrases in this sample book were obtained by just copying and pasting from online sources.

    You can also notice that the search engine is case-sensitive, and therefore you have to type the phrase exactly as it really appears in the Biblical text, i.e., with the small "i" in the beginning in most of the translations but not in NETfree. The program, however, will make every printed phrase start with a capital letter automatically, as you can see in the PDF's.

    And it also adds a period after the phrase so that you don't have to worry about it (and perhaps forget it every now and then).
    The OP-Bible also recognizes when the phrase ends with a punctuation mark that does not allow for a period to follow, i.e., and exclamation or a question marks. I such cases, the automatic period is not printed, as in NETfree 2:24 I will disclose the interpretation for him! or all six translations in 3:15 What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?

  3. Some translations have different numbering of verses than others.
    The various traditions of numbering of some parts of the Bible are not so obvious in these six translations, nevertheless there is one case where even our sample of Daniel shows how this problem can be handled. It is in the verses 10:20 and 10:21 where we want to comment on several phrases, such as "angel of Persia" and "true writings" but for some reason (not entirely clear to me) BBE has these phrases in oposing verses then the rest of the translations.
    The trick is done by the command \renum which renumbers the verses in the specified translations and the notes are printed with the correct number. Again, without the need to change anything in the notes file. You only switch to a different translation in your main file and everything fits in its place.

  4. Links to verses or notes are in blue because they are clickable hyperlinks: when clicked, they jump to the destination they point to. But then they don't hit back, which is disconcerting. The only PDF viewer I know of where this doesn't bother is the latest Linux's Evince. There, you just hover the mouse over the link and a big window pops up with the immediate context of the link. This will turn out to be an invaluable tool when checking links for accuracy before submitting them to print.
    If you are Linux user but Evince doesn't work this way for you, you will have to install it using flatpak, or wait for some of the newer distributions to include this new Evince in their repertoire.
    Users of other browsers will have to do with clicking and one-way jumping.
    Today's web browsers already do you the same service without having to download PDF files to your computer: you click on a Bible in the table and see it immediately, and the hyperlinks jump where they should.

    The links only work within the books displayed, so in this sample only inside the book of Daniel – both to the Bible and to the notes. Links to other (non-displayed) books don't work as they have nowhere to jump, thus they don't show anything in Evince either.

  5. You can also see active hyperlinks in the map in the Introduction, where they indicate where in the Bible that particular place is discussed. But that's not all: the local names on the map can vary according to your chosen Bible version in a similar manner as they do in the notes. For example, notice the city Shushan, as most of the translations spell it, a little above the Persian Gulf, and check it out in NETfree Bible: It changed to Susa even on the map, not only in the note on 8:2.

    Similarly, with the image of Daniel's visions at chapter 2, the menagerie varies a little:
    Bear is the same everywhere but
    Leopard of most tranlations is Tiger in Jubilee2000;
    usual Ram becomes Male sheep, as well as clay changes potter's earth in BBE;
    ordinary brass turns into bronze in NETfree;
    Greece of BBE, Jubilee2000, and NETfree is Grecia in UKJV, RNKJV, and Webster.

    This way the chart follows your choice of translation.

  6. Whatever browser you use to view the PDF, it is recommend to enable two-page view. It will make you appreciate the balance of the article, which is below the notes over two pages somewhere near the beginning of Chapter 6. Web browsers can do double-page views too, but they'll happily put the first odd page on the left, so they may not show this effect. Such a feature seems a bit hokey: after all, double-page spreads are displayed to show what the open book will look like, right? Why display two pages of the same sheet of paper side by side? The odd page belongs on the right; when the book is closed and you look at the cover, you see page 1.

  7. In the article, you can see how a quote (or any similar external element) can be embedded in its text. There's one in the Introduction as well.

    If you want a similar thing inside the Biblical text, it is printed at the top of the page as the first element under the headline. The OP-Bible will know when the quote falls on the left or right page, and will always tack it to the outer edge. The huge faint red quotation marks indicating the quotation enlarge the margin of the page, which then includes the large chapter number at the beginning of each chapter. This feature is enabled for UKJV, RNKJV, and Webster and is disabled in the other three translations. In those disabled cases, the chapter number is placed at the beginning of the first verse, magnified over two lines.

  8. The pericopes headings in the Jubilee2000-Dan.pdf may seem really crazy; they truly are because they have been copied from some online outline and were never intended as headlines inside a text. Forgive me the inconsistencies like these and just try to imagine how you are going to make it look better when you finally have such tool at your disposal. (Or check the Czech version of the site if you can understand it; Daniel there is structured more carefully.)

  9. There are five books in the Bible that have only one chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude. The program knows that references to these five books do not contain neither the chapter numbers nor the colon following it, and still finds and prints them correctly, for example, <"see also" Phlm 4> .

  10. The program constitutes of macros written by Petr Olšák's version of LuaTeX (called OPTeX), so any Unicode font (.otf, .ttf) is no problem, as you can see in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Old Persian examples. Any language whose written form has a Unicode version will be able to use this program.

  11. After the first version is released, there are plans for further development of the OP-Bible.
    For example, different layout of a page: notes in three columns instead of two, or Biblical text in two columns instead of one.
    Or an HTML output to create a web site for having your Study Bible available online.
    Or using HTML output as a source code to feed a mobile app that might include results of any OP-Bible project... Possibilities are limitless.

    However, continuing the project in these directions may (and probably will) depend on support from people whose hearts are already burning. If you happen to be one of them please check the bottom of this web page.

Summer
2022
BBE
 Bible in Basic English 
Jubilee2000
 Jubilee Bible 2000  
NETfree
  New English Translation  
UKJV
  Updated King James Version  
RNKJV
  Restored Names King James Version  
Webster
  Noah Webster's Bible 
  Daniel only   BBE-Dan Jubilee2000-Dan NETfree-Dan UKJV-Dan RNKJV-Dan Webster-Dan
 Entire Bible  BBE-Gill Jubilee2000-Gill NETfree-Gill UKJV-Gill RNKJV-Gill Webster-Gill

My intention is to give the result to the public as a public domain.

This will mean not only finishing some work that remains to be done, but also writing the documentation – both user and technical ones – both in English and Czech. So please be patient (it is a fruit of the Spirit).

I believe the program will be widely used in countries where the church is growing rapidly (Asia, Africa, South America) but where Christians are denied opportunities common in countries that owe their development to the fact that they have been influenced by the Bible centuries ago.

Imagine, for example, China. On the 11 November 2019, Amity Press, the world’s largest Bible printing company, celebrated 200 million copies of the Bible in Chinese printed out. That was the time when there were already 400 million Christians in China. The church grows there with unimaginable pace – one million new Christans a year. And only less than a half of them can have their own copy of the Bible, and even that it only basic biblical text, no accompanying commentary.

But the need is great: Where the church grows the fastest, there the pastors have the least opportunity for solid biblical education. Most of the pastors in those revival areas have less than one hour of formal training in the Bible. Perhaps you can imagine the nightmarish consequences of that.

Therefore, to have just plain Bible may not be always enough; what is needed is a sound theology to interpret and apply the Word properly.

It took John McArthur 30 years to write notes to his Study Bible. If you could put together 30 Chinese Bible-trained Christians, perhaps they could produce their own commentary within one year.

And they do not need to be scholars with a degree from Harvard Divinity School; they could be just translators. Instead of producing their own original set of notes they can translate an existing one from English. If you can hire 300 of them instead of just 30, you could possibly have the entire Study Bible complete in one month.

And with the OP-Bible, you have it typeset instantly. The day you complete the proofreading of the text you can send the PDF directly to the printer house. No waiting for another five or so years for the typesetter to do it manually from Word to InDesign with an unchangable result of one Bible only. Using the OP-Bible, you can print an updated version every year. In China, there will be another milllion of new Christians each year eager to have their own Bibles. Just add or modify some notes and print a new version of your Study Bible anytime.

Alternatively, you can make OP-Bible produce a PDF without the crop marks, suitable for home printing. You may think it must be a foolish idea to print a 2000+ pages document at home but if you live in a persecuted country where you need to risk your life in order to smuggle Bibles in, you may reconsider your priorities.

Perhaps you only have one complete, usable translation of the Bible in Chinese, but what if you want to have one Bible in traditional Chinese and another in simplified? You run your commentary through OP-Bible with both texts and there you go: you have them.

The entire project, working, running, producing the resulting PDFs, can be installed on the server overleaf.com, which may prove to be an advantage in places where persecution for installing on a home hard drive would be a threat.

So I have a plea to you: Pray that this can be completed and published, and then that it really serves to help spreading the God's Word. I mean it. Even though you may not end up using the program yourself, your prayers will not be wasted.

Also, although it is free to take, it's not free to make. If you would like to support this project, you can do it via bank transfer:
Account number for payments from the Czech Republic: 2000587859 / 2010
International: IBAN: CZ96 2010 0000 0020 0058 7859
BIC/SWIFT: FIOBCZPPXXX
You can also email me if you want to learn more.

Šimon Konečný