A Bible lies open next to a computer. Photo by Keila Trejo/iadMedia

Who owns the .bible?

DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) — To whom does the .bible belong?

If not read carefully, the question seems silly — the Bible belongs to anyone who wants to claim it. I am referring, though, to the new generic top-level domain name — .bible — which is comparable to .com, .gov and newer names such as .law. The domain .bible has been purchased by the American Bible Society, which has set strict limitations on the domain that go far beyond its original application. As time passes, this acquisition will have important implications for Bible-related web searches: .bible website names will be short, easy to remember and highly visible, resulting in a stronger web presence of the Bible, according to the ABS.

When the society — which lists several conservative Christian "founding partners" on the get.bible website — first applied for the rights to .bible, it pledged to provide wide access to “all qualified parties” interested in Bible issues. Soon after acquiring the domain name, though, ABS barred publication of material it defined as “antithetical to New Testament principles” or promoting a secular worldview or “a non-Christian religion or set of religious beliefs.”

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Alarmed by this restrictive language, biblical scholars and religious groups reached out to ABS and expressed concerns — with some success. Following discussions with the Society of Biblical Literature, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, ABS recently revised its policy to invite “a fuller participation for all groups that hold the Bible as their sole sacred text.”

The new policy extends an olive branch in particular to Judaism by prohibiting content that “communicates disrespect for the Jewish faith.” As a Bible scholar who is Jewish, I appreciate this modification. I worry, though, that while Jews are now welcome at .bible alongside mainline Christians, many other groups are excluded, as the new policy bars any content that advocates “belief in any religious or faith tradition other than orthodox Christianity or Judaism.”

Then there’s the question of who decides what constitutes an orthodox opinion in Judaism or Christianity. The ABS would do well to recall, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the oft-cited dictum: “The heresy of today will be the orthodoxy of tomorrow.”

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But according to the ABS, disputes about what can be included in .bible will be settled by panelists who affirm the traditional Protestant definition of the Bible, “enthusiastically support” the ABS mission and “believe that the Bible is the Word of God which brings salvation through Christ.” Could such a group, for example, accurately judge whether or not a website disrespects Jewish faith? Could it fairly evaluate Catholic material?

The society’s general mission also raises concerns about its suitability as sole custodian for .bible. Prior to 2001, the society focused primarily on translating and distributing Bibles “without doctrinal note or comment.” The group’s orientation then shifted significantly. Now its website describes the group’s advocacy campaign on behalf of the Bible in public life, including its plans for a Faith & Liberty Discovery Center telling the story of the Bible’s influence on American life. The site describes the .bible domain as part of a broader campaign through which “God’s word will gain cultural credibility.”

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Meanwhile, the ABS seems not to understand that there is no consensus among Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Jews on what constitutes the Bible, nor is there a single model for the Bible’s origin, authority and interpretation. It would be wrong for a single ideologically driven firm to control the new domain name .law. It is far more wrong for .bible to be controlled by any group interested in promoting a single notion of what the Bible is and how it should be interpreted.

The American Bible Society should again revisit and further broaden its acceptable-use policy for .bible, fulfilling the purpose of its original application. If the society cannot greatly expand its vision for .bible, then the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which manages global domain names, must revoke the society’s sole control over that name.

The Bible has never belonged to one group alone. Its internet namesake shouldn’t either. Instead, this key internet portal to Bible discussion, debate and scholarship should be open and available to all — just as the book itself always has been.

(Marc Zvi Brettler is a professor of Jewish studies at Duke University and professor emeritus of biblical studies at Brandeis University. He is co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible and The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and co-founder of TheTorah.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Comments

  1. I suspect this “control” is an attempt to stuff the “cat back into the bag”! And it won’t work. Someone else will come up with a .realbible.com (or something similar) web address and offer opposing information. Then the ABS efforts will be for naught.

  2. Who cares? Said bible so is full of myths, embellishment and down right lies it should be banned as false news!! Just as is all the “holy” books of religions.

    Once again, saving some time on said issues:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  3. While the Bible has never belonged to any one group, the American Bible Society literally owns “.bible”.

    You might look at the rhubarb over the “.sucks” domain, whose domain registrar has been described as “predatory, exploitive and coercive” by the Intellectual Property Constituency that advises the ICANN board.

    Result: no action.

    The American Bible Society’s policy of providing denying access to a “belief in any religious or faith tradition other than orthodox Christianity or Judaism” simply ensures that the domain serves the purpose intended.

    For those with other proclivities and the cash, perhaps the following domains are up for bid:

    .torah

    .scripture

    .writ

    .testament

    .authority

    .book(s)

  4. “The domain .bible has been purchased by the American Bible Society”

    Like it or not..they are within their rights to be bigoted under domain rules.

    Want to study bible scholarship? Stick with .edu sites…since universities tend to hire…umm…real scholars.

  5. “…there is no consensus among Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics, or Jews on what constitutes the Bible.”

    Hmmm… I guess “Eastern Orthodox Need Not Apply”. Oh well.

  6. Makes no difference since all the listed cults of Christianity are in error theologically and historically and all easily “kiboshed”. Scroll down the for a kibosh summary of all religions.

  7. You have missed totally the beauty and historical value of the Bible AND of all the other sacred texts of the other world religions.

    Anyone who wants to have an understanding of world history should be familiar with all of these texts.

    Many are full of great poetry and wisdom for those that read them thoughtfully and critically. The Gita is one of the most beautiful ever written. AND the Sermon on the Mount is also a beautiful piece.

    The stories are myths but like all myths they have much to teach us. Many address issues of the human condition that people have struggled with from the beginning of time. How to treat the stranger for one example.

    Our society would be a poorer one without them.

  8. Some examples of the “beauty” of your bible:

    Your god’s-approved atrocities:

    To wit:

    •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

    •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

    •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
    ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon (“larger than Ai”), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. “He left no survivors.”
    ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
    ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

    •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
    •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
    •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
    •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

    •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
    •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

    ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
    ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

    •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
    •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
    •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
    •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

    •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

    The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.

    And you want some ancient beauty and history:

    “The Iliad and Odyssey: Historical Background

    Who, What, Where:

    These stories/poems (Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer) are about the Mycenaean or Bronze Age, ancient Greeks, who flourished from about 1600-1100 BC. This is roughly about the time Moses led the Israelites from Egypt through the time David ruled a united Jewish nation; by most accounts, Moses led the Jews out of Egypt and Troy fell somewhere around 1300-1200 BCE.

    (keeping mind that there was no Exodus, therefore no history but good fiction indeed)

    Some more ancient thinking:

    “The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect. ”

    Al-Ma’arri
    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth.”

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/resalat-al-ghufran#ixzz1lI6DuZmZ and http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma'arri.htm

    Death’s Debt is Paid in
    Full
    Death’s debt is then and there
    Paid down by dying men;
    But it is a promise bare
    That they shall rise again.

    Al-Ma’arri

  9. What most Christians do during sermons.

  10. What most readers doing upon reading Rational Conclusions’s comments.

  11. I’m just able to stay awake long enough to type my respon….Zzzzzz…..

  12. Must be difficult trying to sleep in the four sided bible box that you are trapped in.

  13. Especially when the walls are screaming in anguish from your god’s approved atrocities as outlined previously. (scroll down the page)

  14. Sleeping on a bed of nails would be easy after reading your repetitive commen…Zzzzz….

  15. The Bible is the world’s most famous antique.

  16. Not to mention Oriental Orthodox, Assyrians, Ethiopians, and Anglicans all of whom have their own canons.

  17. If no one cares, why are posting long posts on the topic?

  18. Because l am a citizen concerned about the time wasted on religion.

  19. I am a citizen who agrees with the Founders that religion is a civic good.

  20. And maybe you could cite a reliable reference supporting your civic good comment?

  21. Why?

    You’re a professional gadfly, uninterested in more than an opening for your next snarky dismissive litany.

    You can accomplish that, and have, without my assistance.

  22. So you are making it up as you go along?

  23. I do note that a good portion of your litany is copied and pasted from your materials stored on your computer verbatim.

    Obviously you don’t require my assistance.

  24. This is frightening. This group is hardly equipped intellectually to own the Bible.

  25. The language obviously excludes Mormons. Sign of a developing crack in the US right wing coalition (with Mormons, however right wing they, always being polite to other religious traditions, unlike other religious bodies dedicated to Jesus Christ).

  26. The author probably meant Eastern Orthodox. The better term would read something like ” the eastern branches of Christianity, including but not limited to the Eastern Orthodox.”

  27. My humanistic read on the Bible (both parts) is that it presents various human concepts of “God.” and along the way undermines or rejects them as false. For instance the God concept in Genesis II/Garden of Eden is rejected by Adam and Eve in their learning to take responsibility for themselves rather than live as dependent children. This concept of a God that demands moral decision making and moral responsibility from humanity (instead of passive childishness) is more in accord with Genesis I. Genesis I stands as a kind of premise for the rest of the Bible. P.S. Yes, you could say the sin in te Garden of Eden is lack of responsibility and the use of human freedom (image of God) rather than disobeience. Obedience has been ovedone as the message of the Bible.

  28. An invented common ancestor was an ancient way to unite warring tribes. The point about the invented ancestor is the values he or she embodies. From a literary point of view there is no need to take much of the Bible literally. Ancient Christians were free read the Bible metaphorically. “Literal” is a very late way of looking at the Bible and its meaning.

  29. I was under the impression that the domain was one to deal with the written texts of the Old and New Testaments.

  30. Said copies are typically from previous self- generated writings or conclusions gathered from exegetes. Might want to review Thomas Jefferson’s views on religion.

  31. Really? But his conclusions have had significant effects on religious thinking. So take some time and get with the flow.

  32. His remaining ideas with purchase are primarily his views on natural law.

  33. You can’t tell beauty from mythical story.

    The passages you mention still have much to teach us. Einstein commented that the Bible showed the progression of thought about God and religion from seeing God as judgmental, vindictive tyrant to a more loving and compassionate Father figure.

    You need to look at the book in a broader capacity rather than picking passages here and there to support your ignorance and prejudice.

    IF anyone wants to be well informed, rather than ignorant, they need to study the Bible as historical document.

    AND they just might find true wisdom and beautiful poetry within its pages.

  34. The problem is not ABS. They are just taking advantage of idiots. .bible, .law. .iamafool, etc. should not be owned by anyone. happy.bible, just like happy.com, could be owned by someone. happy.com is just one website, whereas, xxx.bible is a zillion websites where xxx = any alphanumeric combo.

    Whoever decided .putanythinghere should be privatized is the fool who gave us this situation and there will be NO solution until they stop allowing .putanythinghere to be sold (except the one per country that is allowed to be owned by a country.)

  35. And you do not pick and choose passages from your violent “good” book? Give us a break!! I will stick with Homer and

    “The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect. ”

    Al-Ma’arri

  36. And picking and choosing from Einstein:
    “He did not believe in a personal God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings, a view which he described as naïve.[3] He clarified however that, “I am not an atheist”,[4] preferring to call himself an agnostic,[5] or a “religious nonbeliever.”[3] Einstein also stated he did not believe in life after death, adding “one life is enough for me.”[6]

  37. “And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva
    in the brain of Jupiter.

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
    Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

  38. Yes, he also was humping one of his slaves and led himself to the brink of bankruptcy.

  39. Adultery is apparently presidential

  40. And, a few hundred years from now, there will be no record of you. Therefore, you won’t have existed according to your testimony. Since you don’t exist, you are a nobody and certainly not a human being.

  41. My rational conclusion is that since God willingly died in my place, even when I still hated Him, what he does is always right, even if I don’t understand why.

  42. “•TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.”

    Why do you prefer the atheist death tolls?

    62 million killed by Stalin
    50-60 killed by Mao
    Millions more killed by Hitler, Pol Pot, and in Rwanda and Armenia.

    It is sad that you prefer the death of over 100 million by atheist dogma in just the last century, alone.

    Even worse, you hate helping people. Where are the atheist hospitals? Where are the atheist homeless shelters? Where are the atheist prison outreaches? In the USA, these are mostly Christian, and almost all religious.

    Who you trying to kid, kid?
    Blame it on a fine philosophy.
    Who you trying to kid, kid?
    But, your bottom line still says, me, me, me!

    You save the whales
    you save the seals
    you save whatever’s cute and squeals
    but you kill “that thing” that’s in the womb
    would not want no baby boom.

    You’ll march if all the streets are full
    a two bit closet radical
    no time to check the end result
    expedience is your catapult.

    Convictions make your skin to crawl
    you act like you’re above it all
    you say faith is a crutch for a mind that’s closed
    you guzzle your crutch and shove it up your nose.

    Can’t understand those Christians
    so you type us all in stereo
    they’re hypocrites
    they’re such a bore
    well come on in
    there’s room for one more.

  43. Now for the reality:

    WHERE WAS YOUR GOD(S) WHEN THE FOLLOWING TOOK
    PLACE:

    The Twenty (or so) Worst Things GOD’S CREATURES Have Done to Each Other:

    M.White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u
    (required reading) – with proper references

    The Muslim Conquest of India

    “The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. ”

    Rank
    …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

    1.
    63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs.
    Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and “Shintoists”)

    2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

    3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

    4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

    5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism,
    Chinese folk religion)

    6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk
    religion vs. a form of Christianity)

    7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

    8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

    9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

    10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

    11.
    15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

    12.
    15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

    13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

    14.
    10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

    15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

    16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

    17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)

    18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C
    (Christians)

    19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

    20. 7½
    million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

    Questions and Answers by M. White:
    *:”
    Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

    A:
    No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red
    China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider
    every belief system to be a religion.”

    Q:
    So, what you’re saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

    A:
    Arrgh… You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference
    between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it’s more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don’t even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

    In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under
    “Communism”, 24 under Colonialism, 2 under “Railroads” and 2 under “Scapegoats”. Make of that what you will.”

  44. What makes you so sure? Remember JC commentary on adultery?

  45. Obviously, today’s followers of Paul et al’s “magic-man” are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and “magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah/Argentine white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

  46. “WHEN HUMANKIND FIRST STARTED, I WAS A MOLECULE OF WATER FLOWING DOWN THE NILE, a nitrogen molecule over the South Pole, a phosphate molecule in the Smokey Mountains and a calcium atom locked in limestone in the Allegheny Mountains. Before that and even before that I was being generated in the trillions of universal stars. Call me, the Recycled PN&E Man of the Universe. So says it all for all of us.”

  47. I’ll let you be the St. Jefferson maven.

  48. “Science, sufficiently advanced, will seem like magic.” (Arthur C. Clarke)

    Since you don’t believe there are any scientific facts more advanced than you already know (aka: magic), you must think you are God.

    It will be interesting when you meet the real God.

  49. Likewise, the same could be said of a safety pin. Now, a safety pin requires an intelligent designer.

    So, you are saying that you are less complicated and dumber than a safety pin? Well, if you insist.

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