[sword-devel] Concerns about Alternate Versification

Jonathan Morgan jonmmorgan at gmail.com
Tue Jan 6 00:49:28 MST 2009

Executive summary: I do not believe that alternate versification is
useful without mapping between versifications, and I am not convinced
that it is useful doing alternate versification with Genbooks.

All of the work and discussion that I have seen on alternate
versification to date has been concerned with individual Bibles and
representing all the foibles and quirks of individual Bibles correctly
without the limitations of the KJV versification.  I am somehow better
off accessing /Gen/3/2 in the KJV than I am accessing Genesis 3:2,
since I can then access /1Mac/2/2 as well.  As a software developer I
have to accept the limitation that I now need to have references for
one particular Bible and keys for that Bible rather than generic
references.  However, I think all of this discussion ignores one
thing: In general, I (and probably the "average user") am not
interested in Bible specific references.  I am interested in Genesis
3:2, not "Genesis 3:2 in this version".  A few examples:

1. My cross-references in the TSK or a Bible dictionary are references
to the entity "Genesis 3:5", not "Genesis 3:5 in a particular

2. If I want to produce a list of references on a particular topic,
that list is almost always version independent.

3. I want to be able to view multiple Bibles in parallel.  This is not
possible if I cannot get version independent references (doing such a
display with a considerably different versification is a hard problem
that requires thought, but the need is there).

I believe an important aim of Bible software should be, where
possible, to allow users to read the Bible in their own language (and
for me that includes not reading it in the KJV or DRC, since that is
not my language).  This is why I don't really like version specific
references, and this is why I don't like an alternate versification
that requires me to have module specific keys without a proper mapping
between them.

Producing a proper mapping is not an easy problem, since even versions
close to the standard versification can reorder verses, and that needs
to be considered when showing in parallel or displaying a reference
(e.g. if my English commentary refers to Romans 4:13, I want it to
display Romans 4:16 in the Telugu OV, since that is the equivalent
verse - this is a problem that is likely not solved by the current
system).  However, without such a mapping I believe that we are worse
off with alternate versification than without it.

I am also concerned about the choice of using Genbooks to represent
books, just based (as far as I can tell) on the fact that we already
have Genbook support.  Is there any technical reason that makes the
Genbook reference "/Gen/3/2" superior?  Remember that this is not
being displayed to the user at all, so we are at liberty to choose any
representation we like.  The Genbook representation allows all sorts
of invalid data - I could have /Gen/2, or /Gen/something or other/some
random text/2/3.

How I would represent it is (in broad sketch) as follows:
1. Use the current Bible representation of one entry per verse, but
only have as many entries as there are verses in the versification and
have a mapping table at the start mapping from verses to indices.

2. Have a master versification scheme (probably based on augmented KJV
versification, since that is probably the most influential and
standard).  Have VerseKeys using that master scheme, getting book
name, chapter number, verse number, etc. out of there, and then
mapping to the particular versification necessary.  [not 100% sure of
this, because of the reordering problem - if I'm in Telugu OV and type
in Romans 4:16, does the user mean master Romans 4:16 or Telugu Romans
4:16 - probably wiser to go for Telugu Romans 4:16, master Romans

3. Allow versifications and mappings to be done statically by a module
author rather than dynamically as has currently been suggested,
preferably expressed as differences from a standard versification.
Also allow generation of this versification from a source text?

4. Bible references from commentaries, etc. use this master versification.

I'm not sure such a scheme will handle every possible versification,
but that is not really important, IMHO.  It should be able to support
all kinds of oddities as things in the master versification that have
no equivalent in most Bibles (e.g. Book: Daniel, Chapter: 3, Verse:
90).  Then the particular Bible concerned has a mapping from there and
everyone is happy - if it is really a version specific oddity no-one
will mind too much that there is no mapping to other versions, so long
as it can be represented.

I think we also need to consider very carefully how we encode Bibles
that have Aprocryphal additions in the main text (in Esther, Daniel,
etc.).  I personally think that it is just as silly having a KJV with
apocrypha and one without as it is to have a KJV with strong's numbers
and one with WoC in red and one without (e-Sword, anyone?).
Therefore, I think we should consider having display options to turn
on or off apocryphal additions (at least ones in the main, canonical
text) in the same way as we have display options to turn on or off WoC
or strong's numbers.  I have no idea whether this is supported by
OSIS, but I seem to remember there is a canonical attribute that might
support this kind of action.


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