Where your electronic Bible comes from

360 million mobile phones, iPads and other devices can’t be wrong. That’s how many unique devices have installed YouVersion – the Bible App. It’s just one – the leader – among a suite of apps that host the Bible.

But have you ever thought about where YouVersion gets its Bible texts from? It has a lot of them – 1,841 Bible versions in 1,276 languages, all for free.

YouVersion gets its scriptures from the Digital Bible Library (DBL), a centralised storage system set up by the United Bible Societies. It securely stores scriptures in 2,120 texts in 1,430 languages used by 5.5 billion people, including 799 full Bibles in 440 languages. In 2018 the number of audio scriptures grew to 1,125 in 752 languages spoken by 5.4 billion people. The very first video translation was also uploaded – Mark’s Gospel in Thai Sign Language. It will be joined by Bible Society Australia’s video recordings in Auslan, the sign language for the Australian Deaf community.

“What has become possible due to technology is incredible, never before in history has the Word of God been so accessible to people all around the globe, and this is only going to increase further,” Youversion’s Australian representative Mitch Hammond tells Eternity.

The DBL has the technical expertise to keep the scriptures updated technically to make sure they are available to the newest devices. It guarantees that the Bible will not become a technical orphan, coded in outdated formats.

Digital Bible Library stats

Digital Bible Library stats United Bible societies

The story of the DBL is one of increased collaboration between Bible agencies and donors, co-ordinated in a group called Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN). It ensures that projects are not duplicated, which in the case of the DBL has created one standardised storage solution for digital versions of the Bible.

Despite being technically advanced and the product of Western technicians, developing countries’ right to their own Bible translations are respected with high-level copyright protections. A group of donors makes sure that developing nations’ Bible Societies get paid royalties.

So while you can set the YouVersion app in (say) the Nepali language, the locals will get paid even though the app comes to you for free.

The DBL is part of a technical revolution in which new tools and processes streamline Bible translation and allow communities to take part in bringing scripture into their own language. These tools will drive up the number of languages the Bible is translated into – 1,200 current and new translation projects should be done by 2038 – and you will find most of them on your phone.