Welcome to Biblia Mirecurensia!
Discover a new way to read the Bible in the original languages!
Biblia Mirecurensia is a new, downloadable edition of the whole Bible in the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), designed for English-speaking readers.
It has innovative characteristics, which makes it differ from all other editions of the original texts currently available over the Internet. It has been designed to enable the reader to approach the ancient texts just as he would a living language and to read them on portable devices. It thus drastically improves both the speed of reading and the depth of understanding of these texts, so as to carry out a rich, ordered reading of the entire Bible in the original languages in less than a year.
It will be used in a profitable way by anybody intent on having the Bible in the original languages as his/her daily spiritual food, but also by the students who wish to get a primer on these texts by reading short passages.
The name Biblia Mirecurensia has been given to this project in honour of the town of Mirecourt, situated in the Vosges district in Eastern France, where I have been living and ministring as a protestant minister over the past 30 years.
This is what the texts of Biblia Mirecurensia may look like when displayed on an e-reader:
- 1.1 Eclectic text
- 1.2 Highlights the structure of the discourses through added headings
- 1.3 Uses modern punctuation marks
- 1.4 Includes companion documents
- 1.5 Interactive, designed for portable devices, reversible - and free
- 3.1 Emendations to the Masoretic text
- 3.2 The usage of headings
- 3.3 The punctuation
- 3.4 An unvocalised Hebrew text
- 3.5 The distribution of spaces
- 3.6 Formats, page layout, fonts
As compared to other editions of the original texts of the Bible available on line, Biblia Mirecurensia features the 5 characteristics listed below:
1. It is an eclectic text,
i.e: it does not correspond to any existing manuscript, but has been edited from a variety of sources, such as ancient versions or commentaries. For the New Testament, Biblia Mirecurensia is nothing else than the well-known Nestlé-Aland eclectic text. As regards the Tanakh, it is an original endeavour of mine: the emendations made to the Masoretic Text (including the Ketiv/Qere readings of the Masoretes themselves) amount to approximately 9,200, thus sparing the reader the wearisome glance to and fro from the main text to the lower margin where the critical apparatus appears (as exemplified in an edition such as BHS).
All these emendations have been carefully recorded in tables designed for that purpose, and are therefore perfectly reversible through basic copy-paste manipulations.
(overall structure of the book, paragraphs or pericopes, or stanzas in poems). Besides the traditional division into chapters and verses, each book of Biblia Mirecurensia includes layered headings in English plus a table of contents: the reader is thus able to grasp the plan of a whole book (like for example Isaiah) at a glance, by using either the table of contents at the beginning of the book or the browser pane of his word processor or tablet. All the headings are clickable, thus allowing immediate navigation within the document, even in long books like Genesis or Psalms.
As a result, both at the level of an entire book and at the level of a short pericope, the reader is guided by the page layout to grasp the flow of thought, the dramatic movement of a tale or the various parts of a poem.
such as quotation marks, exclamation marks, parentheses, and so on, both in the Hebrew and the Greek portions. The reader is thus helped in his understanding of the text by finding the visual aids that he is accustomed to having when reading a book in modern Greek or Hebrew - the ultimate purpose is to have him approach the original languages of the Bible exactly in the same spirit and with the same visual comfort as is the case with a living language.
(such as reading plans and emendation tables) which help the reader develop a fluent reading, as time passes, by offering him logical steps to follow.
(like e-readers or tablets) in PDF or .docx format. Everything, from the choice of fonts to the width of the main text to the system of headlines, has been designed to ensure maximum reading comfort, even on small size devices.
The texts can be copied, printed or shared on various types of devices. They are all perfectly modifiable: once he or she has downloaded them in .docx format, the reader can restore the Masoretic Text at a given place, modify the page layout, change the fonts or the healines or alter the punctuation - in short customize the text according to his personal exegesis, that is to say modify a vast number of surface details in order to gain a more personal, in-depth understanding of the meaning of Scripture.
Biblia Mirecurensia can be downloaded for free, for academic or private use.
When an Israeli reader opens his Tanakh at Exodus 3: 13-17, this would roughly be the English visual equivalent of what he gets in Hebrew:
XIII >And moses said unto *YHWH// behold #when I come unto the children of *israel, and shall say unto them// The god of your fathers hath sent me unto *you #and they shall say to *me// what is his name; what shall i say unto *them; XIV and god said unto *moses// i am that i *am: and he *said// thus shalt thou say #unto the children of *israel// i am hath sent me unto *you. XV >And god said more over unto *moses// thus shalt thou say #unto the children of *Israel, YHWH god of your *fathers, the god of abraham, the god of isaac, and the god of jacob, #hath sent me unto *you: this is my name for *ever, and this is my memoryal unto all *generations. XVI >go #and gather the elders of israel together #and say unto *them// YHWH god of your fathers, the god of abraham, of isaac and of jacob #appeared unto me *saying// I have surely visited you #and seen that which is done to you in *egypt: XVII >And I have *said// I will bring you up out of the affliction of egypt #unto the land of the canaanites, and the hittites, and the amorites, and the perizzites, and the hivites, and the *jebusites #unto a land flowing with milk and *honey.
Getting the picture? Is this to be considered a normal, satisfactory situation for anybody who intends to read in a meaningful, reasonably fast manner? Biblia Mirecurensia has therefore been designed to offer some sort of reader-friendly text, to help the reader develop an in-depth intimacy with biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek - while remaining free to return for consultation to the Masoretic Text or the Textus Receptus if this is his or her inclination.
Without getting embroiled in technical discussions - and all the less, contentious ones -, I would like to explain briefly the two guiding principles that underlie the making of Biblia Mirecurensia:
As I see it, the Bible, God's Word to the believer, must provide him with a daily, easily available spiritual food. For most people, this spiritual food will naturally be found in their own language - that is to say in translation. For those who can (rabbis, trained clergymen or scholars, and still more Greek or Hebrew native speakers), it is a good thing to read the Bible in the original languages. But in that case, I tend to think that merely reading one or two passages for reference is not sufficient: one should have at his/her disposal a text that allows an easy, abundant reading such as we find natural to have in our own mother tongue - and it is here that an eclectic text comes into its own.
Even if it still has detractors, the Nestlé-Aland (Greek) eclectic text of the New Testament is being used as the actual base for the various modern translations of the Bible that are published year after year, and is the daily reading for a host of clergymen the world over. Therefore I find it all the more regrettable that a (Hebrew) eclectic text of the Tanakh should have such difficulty taking shape, even on the Web. (To the best of my knowledge, The Oxford Hebrew Bible, the only eclectic text of the Tanakh available on line, is still in draft form and will not be available in its entirety for some time). Two main factors explain that, until now, there has been no user-friendly tool for reading the Tanakh: first, the existence of the Masoretic Text, sanctioned by a long tradition of use by Jews and Christians alike; and next, the reluctance to elaborate an eclectic text, supposedly tainted by arbitrariness or subjectivity (without even mentioning interdenominational polemics). But, this being understood, is it really inevitable that the present day Jewish reader that wishes to begin his day by reading the Psalms while commuting in a Tel Aviv bus or the Brooklyn underground railroad, should do so with a text pestered by all kinds of errors? Moreover, when it comes to difficult passages, the Masoretic Text leaves aside the textual emendations offered by prestigious versions like the Peshittea or the Vulgate, or again the solutions found by various commentators over the last three centuries.
The Masoretes carried out a magnificient job in their own era, whose scope and exactness must be saluted. But that was 12 centuries ago - and what could be considered the last word in terms of critical work at that time does not meet the standards expected in ours, and does not fulfill the expectations or requirements of the average reader in the all-digital age. The endeavour of Wycliffe, who in the heart of the Middle Ages translated the Bible into the common language of his people, the endeavour of Gutemberg with his printing press, can now be carried a step further thanks to the Internet and other digital tools, which enable us to make the texts in the original languages (and not just the translations) more available to the greater number - and this can be done in an interactive way allowing everybody to gain an in-depth understanding of them.
The enduring sacralisation of the Masoretic Text among Jews and Christians alike borders on hypocrisy when one notices how most translators or commentators, even those who staunchly define themselves as theologically conservative, obviously take liberties with the Masoretic text. This, by the way, should not surprise us, in view of the remarkable advances that have been achieved in the fields of comparative linguistics, lexicography and textual criticism for more than a century: these incite us to alter the Masoretic Text in hundreds of instances. In that respect, Biblia Mirecurensia's only contribution is to have moved into the body of the text certain proposals made by the translators or commentators in the footnotes; it does so in accordance with the critical decisions made by the translation teams of famous Bible versions or by recognized exegetes.
The base text of Biblia Mirecurensia is the Masoretic Text of Biblia Hebraïca Stuttgartensia (BHS). Approximately 75-80 percent of the emendations made by Biblia Mirecurensia are those already present in the critical apparatus of BHS. As regards the New Testament, Biblia Mirecurensia is basically the NA26.
When I say "modern formatting", I mean the various aids to reading (such as page layout, punctuation marks, headlines, and so on) that the reader expects to find in virtually any book published nowadays, whether academic or fictional. In this respect the Masoretic Text is quite deficient: it is nothing but plain text as regards prose, and when it comes to poetry it has no stanzas and the verses are sometimes cut in a wrong manner. The cantillation marks (ta'amim), being designed for synagogue services, overload the written text more than anything else and are of little use to the reader who reads silently. Conversely, the punctuation marks that have been taken for granted for more than 3 centuries in the Western world, such as quotation marks or parentheses, are conspicuously lacking. The net result of this lack is: not only does the reader have to cope with learning classical Hebrew with the morphological or lexical difficulties that go with it, but he must also bear the visual nuisance of an opaque, monotonous formatting. Is this to be accepted well into the 21st century? The situation is better for the Greek text as exemplified in the Nestlé-Aland editions, but far from being ideal: both text division and punctuation remain somewhat minimalistic.
As I see it, a formatting of the texts in the original languages that is to comply with today’s standards must meet 3 main criteria:
- the reader must be able to find his bearings easily in the text, whether at the level of the whole book or at the level of the shortest sentence: Biblia Mirecurensia meets this need by providing a system of layered headings, a text division into paragraphs or stanzas, and a rich punctuation.
- the reader must be able to navigate instantly within the book: Biblia Mirecurensia meets this need thanks to a set of tables of content and hypertext bookmarks, which allow him/her to explore the book and get immediately where he wants.
- the reader must be able to customize the text to meet his/her personal preferences: like any other digital text, Biblia Mirecurensia meets this need by providing a fully modifiable text, whether in Word or PDF format, allowing him/her to highlight, to add notes or bookmarks, to alter words or whole sentences, on any personal computer or portable device.
As to possible emendations being made to the Masoretic text, where it contains obscurities or inconsistencies (or else when it differs from the other great classical versions), decisions must take into account two considerations:
a). the number of emendations: some books, like for instance Jonas, have an extremely well preserved text that requires virtually no emendation. Others, like Hoseah, pose numerous problems of comprehension (or at any rate of preservation of the original text) which call for alternative solutions to the Masoretic text.
b). the traceability of the emendations: if we keep the Masoretic Text as the text base (as edited in the BHS), how can we show the reader where and how it has been emended using other versions or commentaries?
Here are the solutions that I have adopted:
a). As regards the emendations, 2 extreme positions are possible. One can decide to stick with the Masoretic Text against all odds, even if this entails jumping through all sorts of grammatical or lexical hoops to justify this or that passage that appears problematic as it stands. At the other extreme, one can unrestrainedly resort to emendation, altering whole sentences, disrupting the sequence of verses or stanzas. The problem is: how can we find the happy medium? The experience I have gained over the past 30 years reading commentaries that purport to be academically serious has taught me that even commentators that consider themselves theologically conservative can prove quite "liberal" in their handling of emendation, and I tend to side with them in that respect: I prefer to err more on the side of boldness than on the side of conservatism, while keeping in mind my overarching purpose of readability and clarity.
Here are the sources of my emendations:
- BHS(Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia): its critical appararus is quite rich, and accounts for 75-80 percent of the emendations I suggest.
- HALOT (The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Koehler § Baumgartner): wishing to bring lexical solutions, this reference work suggests possible emendations in numerous places, which often fall in line with the emendations of the BHS, and sometimes are very different from them.
- NEB (New English Bible, and its revision the Revised English Bible): this English translation, which dates back to the 60-70's, offers a wide range of emendations, listed in The Hebrew Text of the Old Testament : Readings Adopted by the Translators of the New English Bible (L.H Brockington), Oxford University Press. I have adopted a number of them.
- BJ (Bible de Jérusalem/ the Jerusalem Bible), which remains a reference Bible in the French-speaking world (and not just among catholics), does have interesting suggestions here and there in its footnotes, that I have adopted.
- Biblia Mirecurensia: in approximately 2 percent of the instances, I offer my own emendations.
- I have also regularly consulted the New International Version (NIV) and La Bible en Français Courant (BFC) that I occasionally quote, besides other translations or reference works, referred to much more rarely.
- Last but not least, a very interesting source is that of the commentators who have become specialised in one given biblical writer, who know their subject matter inside out and have explored all sorts of textual solutions provided by ancient versions or previous commentaries. They are listed in the companion documents named "Statistics". Worthy of particular attention in that respect is the
Word Biblical Commentary, which provides very detailed critical notes, but there are also excellent authors in other commentary series whose findings I have adopted.
b). As regards traceability, I have avoided doing what is found in BHS or Nestlé-Aland , where the emendations are marked within the main text by letters (in BHS) or by a system of symbols (in Nestlé-Aland). As I am constantly striving for readability, I have decided to avoid indicating the emendations within the main text, which means that the reader cannot detect whether or not there has been an emendation, unless of course he makes a parallel, word for word reading of the Masoretic text. Those who wish to check on emendations will have to refer to the detailed tables of emendations that are part of the companion documents (see below, where I explain how they have been designed). This will enable them to restore the Masoretic text, through a copy-paste operation, wherever they see fit to do so.
In the same vein, I have also occasionally moved the verse number a few words away in instances where it ended up in an awkward location, in particular as the result of emendation.
One might object that Biblia Mirecurensia finally boils down to a series of textual decisions all tainted with subjectivity. I am familiar with this sort of argument, but I am also aware that as a person that favours an eclectic text I stand in good company, and I can avail myself of the labours of people who are recognized authorities in their own field, having spent many years delving into the same biblical author, who has become their area of expertise. The total amount of emendations that I suggest (about 7,700) does not seem exaggerated to me when compared with the total mass of emendations suggested by various commentators for each book of the Tanakh. I also note that the Masoretes themselves paved the way with their system of Ketiv/Qere (roughly 1,500 emendations), even though they did not have at their disposal the critical and comparative tools that are of common use nowadays. It is quite clear therefore that every single emendation suggested by Biblia Mirecurensia remains open to question, but all this is nothing but a legitimate part of the ongoing debate within the community of biblical scholars.
I consider it vital that the reader should always be able to find his bearings within the text, thanks to the browser pane of his word processor, in order to always resituate the passage he is reading in its context. In order to ensure this, I have adopted two main features:
- The headings are in English, which allows beginners in Greek or Hebrew to find their bearings at a glance. In that respect, Biblia Mirecurensia follows the footsteps of reference works such as the well-known Kurt Aland's Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. (For those that might be put off by headlines in English, a version of the Tanakh with headlines in Hebrew is under way).
- The headings are layered in three different levels, which appear in decreasing font size: 1. major units of the book; 2. sub-units that have an internal thematic unity; 3. the paragraph, episode or pericope. In that respect, worthy of notice is the fact that Bibles designed for the public at large rarely provide layered headings (one notable exception being the Jerusalem Bible), which means that after a few pages the reader has lost his bearings, and as a consequence the headlines that do appear are of little use anyway.
Because the selection of the headings, which goes hand in hand with the division of the books so as to highlight their structures, determines how the reader will understand them, I have based myself on the best available commentaries for the wording of these headlines (usually at least two different commentaries for each book of the Bible) - very often I have kept the wording intact. The authors of these commentaries, together with the name of their works, are listed in the document named "Statistics" which comes with the Bible book considered, among the other "Companion documents".
Approximately 30 percent of the headings are my personal composition, the remainder being a free adaptation of the various commentators quoted. I have tried to keep the best of everybody, both as regards the division of the text and the wording of the headlines - the overarching aim here as always being maximum clarity.
If a headline is long (that is, longer than 5-6 words), I have distributed it over two lines to avoid the "fat finger syndrome" on touch-screen devices, while still remaining readable at a glance.
It stands to reason that punctuation is an exegesis in itself, in particular in the more difficult passages. The punctuation choices I have made are therefore open to question, just like the system of headings or the emendations of the Masoretic text. But they have the merit of providing a base that will enable the reader to get a more precise idea of the structure of a given sentence or passage.
Because Biblia Mirecurensia has been designed for an international public of readers, it was hard to adopt a system of punctuation that might please everybody, in so far as the precise rules (use of the various marks, spaces, and so on) tend to vary from one country to another. This is why I have tried to work out a coherent system based on modern Israeli Hebrew and Greek, with 3 overarching principles:
- Enhancement of the internal logic of the sentence or paragraph.
- Abundance and variety of the various marks, to take maximum advantage of the range of indications afforded by modern punctuation.
- Maximum readability and elegance: this has led me, for instance, to use the hyphen instead of the dash (to gain space).
In the Greek text, I have tried to strike a happy medium between the traditional presentation (which for example does not use capital letters to begin a sentence within a paragraph) and the modern presentation as exemplified in a modern Greek text.
Here I was confronted with an essential dilemma. On the one hand, an unvocalised text is more difficult, not just for beginners but even for seasoned hebraists, at least in poetical passages, which are often peppered with rare words or somewhat special constructions. But on the other hand, a text systematically vocalised with the help of vowel points generates three major setbacks:
- It attracts visual attention onto a huge number of pronunciation details (including minor, erratic exceptions), thus keeping the reader's eye focused on the syllable or word, to the detriment of the sentence or paragraph. As a consequence, what exactness is gained in terms of pronunciation or word-for-word comprehension is lost in terms of a global reading which enables one to grasp the progress of a poem or the dramatic movement of a tale. The endeavor of phonetical preservation of the Masoretes has lost much of its raison d'être anyway, since nowadays Hebrew is the spoken language of a whole nation, and besides numerous audio versions of the Masoretic Text are readily available in mp3 format over the Internet.
- It loses much of its readability (in particular if the ta'amim, which are an additional burden for the eye, are retained), in particular when read on portable devices like the iPhone - and for me readability comes first.
- It generates an erratic use of the matres lectionis: from the moment they chose to preserve the pronunciation, thanks to vowel points added to pre-existing matres lectionis, the Masoretes did not see fit to adopt a coherent system to regulate the use of those matres lectionis, thus generating a very irregular graphical aspect.
I have therefore chosen to offer a text that has no vowel points. This means that the English-speaking reader of Biblia Mirecurensia will mispronounce words here and there if he wants to read aloud (just as he would when reading French or Russian, for example), but he will have a better global comprehension of the group of words, and therefore of the overall meaning. He will still be able to use the Masoretic Text (or an audio version of it) to check the pronunciation, and add vowel points where he sees fit thanks to his word processor; this will oblige him to take phonological phenomena into account in order to delve deeper into the text. In this respect, Biblia Mirecurensia does not purport to be the last word as far as exegesis is concerned, but to the contrary, is nothing more than food for thought so that every one may endeavour to make the text his/her own by occasionally verifying how it is pronounced.
Besides the richest possible use of western-style punctuation to make up for the lack of vowel points, I have tried to be as coherent as possible with the matres lectionis by making a more abundant - and, above all, considerably more regular - use of them than is the case with MT. (However, I have avoided the כתיב מלא as it appears on a site such as mechon-mamre.org, because it is much too wearisome when read on a tablet; in this respect I have chosen to stay closer to the MT).
In the same vein, I have had no hesitation in rubbing off minor spelling irregularities to obtain something more regular for the eye, and so more predictable, so that the reader's attention may be kept focused on the meaning rather than on some minor oddity.
Here again, the objection may be raised: as a result of all these tiny adjustments, Biblia Mirecurensia is nothing but a sanitized text, in which the rough details of text transmission, or even the redactional idiosyncrasies of the various authors, have been sacrificed on the altar of easiness of reading. To this I shall answer that biblical Hebrew has its own ample stock of morphological, syntaxical or lexical irregularities (not to mention stylistic details, that I have left untouched as a matter of course); all these are quite fit to meet the needs of the reader in terms of variety and authenticity - there is no further need for all sorts of details of presentation, which are basically little more than accidents that occured in the course of transmission and were made perennial by the copyists as centuries passed by. I leave the purists or tradition lovers free to stick to the Masoretic text, as my work is designed for those who wish to put meaning first and form next.
In addition to punctuation marks and headlines, the distribution of spaces has an essential role in guiding the reader into an overall comprehension of the biblical writer's flow of thought in any given passage. In that regard, a cleverly positioned blank space can be as informative as a set of printed characters. Here are some of the options I have retained:
In prose passages, I have taken pains to divide the text as finely as possible into paragraphs, in order to enhance the reader's visual approach to the various movements of the text.
In passages written in verse such as the Psalms, dividing the text is all the more important as the language used is more difficult, which means a less straightforward reading. The deficiencies of the MT are particularly obvious in this respect, since it offers whole pages of verse without proper division, or also sometimes verses that are wrongly divided. I have therefore paid particular attention to division into stanzas, using the best available commentaries, in order to enhance the various units of meaning.
In the same vein, if we zoom in to verse level, I have opted for division into hemistichs (half-verses), or even still shorter units, rather than keep the whole verse as MT mostly does. The reader is thus confronted with very short lines of text (2 to 7 words, in general); this greatly enhances the minimal units of meaning, and also the different oppositions or parallelisms that are one of the basic features of Hebrew poetry.
In the Hebrew text, I have chosen a rather wide (14 point) space between the lines, which leaves the reader sufficient room to insert vowel points if he wishes (as is occasionally done in Israeli books), without overloading the paragraph when doing so. I have adopted the same principle for the Greek text, even if in fact the reader does not need to add anything, since it is already a polytonic text.
It goes without saying that, like other details in Biblia Mirecurensia, the spaces inserted into the poems or the division of a given verse are strictly reversible; this allows the reader to divide the text differently, according to his own exegesis, to obtain a visual result more in agreement with what he thinks the biblical author means. Here again, interactivity is the name of the game.
Biblia Mirecurensia is available in two different formats for downloading:
- PDF format: it allows immediate reading on all sorts of portable devices, without need to install specific fonts, with the garantee that all the visual characteristics are preserved.
- Word format (.docx): it allows to customize the text by using all the assets of a word processor.
The pages of Biblia Mirecurensia are in A4 format, which makes them easily printable on a home printer. The width of the prose text is 10 cm (4 inches), both for the Hebrew and the Greek text (and from 3 to 7 cm in poetry). This offers a good reading comfort, with no need to zoom in, even on a small size e-reader, if used in landscape mode. If you choose to print the pages or to read them on a desktop computer, a 10 cm wide text leaves quite ample margins, which allows to add all sorts of notes. In the Greek New Testament, since the Greek language often has rather long words, a main text reduced to a 10 cm width unfortunately imposes the frequent use of the hyphen; this is inevitable if we are to keep a justified, reasonably compact text. Those who are used to the Nestlé-Aland will not be surprised in that respect.
In all, Biblia Mirecurensia uses only three different types of fonts:
- For the Hebrew text: Arial Unicode MS, specifically designed by Microsoft for screen readability.
- For the Greek text: Athena Unicode, an elegant font specifically designed in the same spirit for polytonic Greek.
- For all the headings: Times New Roman (bold), in 3 different decreasing sizes according to the hierarchical level of the heading. If a heading happens to be long, it is distributed over 2 lines in order to preserve a compact aspect affording instantaneous reading and accurate finger pressing.
These three fonts have been chosen for their availability and readibility. To download New Athena Unicode, visit the host site: http://apagreekkeys.org/NAUdownload.html, or else you can find it among the downloads of Biblia Mirecurensia in: 1. New Testament / 0. New Testament companion documents.
Biblia Mirecurensia is available for downloading in two distinct parts: Tanakh and New Testament, and in two formats: PDF version and Word version. The hurried reader, who wants to use Biblia Mirecurensia "as is", will find it easier to use the PDF version, which is immediately readable on any device. The person more interested in research or who intends to make up his/her personal text will find it more useful to download the Word version, which allows to use Biblia Mirecurensia as a base for working out his/her own customized text.
A. PDF version
This version, which can be downloaded "as is" in a few clicks onto a tablet or an e-reader, allows immediate reading without any change in presentation or page layout (for the formatting characteristics of Biblia Mirecurensia, please refer again to item 3.6 "Formats, page layout, fonts" in the Table of Contents above).
You have a choice between 2 different PDF versions:
1. Continuous: allows you to download the whole Tanakh or the whole NT as one single file (recommended for tablets or desk computers).
2. Book by book : allows you to download the various books as distinct files (recommanded for e-readers, that usually find it hard to handle very long PDF's). The various PDF files are grouped in different folders according to the traditional structure of the Tanakh on the one hand and of the Greek New Testament on the other:
- major units: "Ketuvim" for the Tanakh, or "Catholic epistles" for the New Testament, for example.
- sub-units: "Sifeï Emet", for example.
- book: Job, for example.
Once he or she has downloaded the files, the reader can always re-arrange them as he or she sees fit, like in alphabetical order, for instance.
B. Word version
The files here are the same as the PDF ones, but in .docx format, and therefore modifiable through use of a word processor. They are sorted out according to the same overall structure: major units, sub-units, books. However, within the hierarchy, when one comes down to the level of the book (like Genesis, for example), one will find two different folders: "1. Text", which contains the Word document of the book under consideration, and "2. Companion documents", whose contents are explained below.
The "Companion documents" folder contains 3 types of documents:
A. Emendations of MT
Using a simple format, this section shows the emendations adopted by Biblia Mirecurensia for the book under consideration, for example: "Exodus emendations of MT". The format’s presentation is a four column table, whose contents are (from left to right):
1st column: reference of the verse that has been emended (chapter and verse), for example: 15:6. If the verse is a long one, or if a few different emendations have been deemed necessary within the same verse, it may appear cut down into different lines, like 2a, 2b, 2c.
2nd column: Masoretic text
The original portion of the MT that has been emended is shown here with great exactness (normally, the text remains unvocalised, unless the emendation itself concerns the vocalisation and not on the consonants).
3rd column: Biblia Mirecurensia text
The text here can differ from MT over a minute detail (like a single letter, for example). There may be much more serious divergences, regarding a group of words or the word order. It is normally unvocalised, except in 2 main cases: 1) if the vocalisation is different from that of MT (the consonants remaining untouched); and 2) for better clarity, if it can help to better understand the emendation, and therefore the meaning.
Caution: the text of Biblia Mirecurensia shown in the table replaces the MT reading in question with great exactness. This means that if you want to restore MT in the main text of the book under consideration, you have to copy the words as they appear in the MT column, and paste them back into the main text of Biblia Mirecurensia so as to re-implace its wording by that of MT. The only (quite uncommon) exception can occur with long verses, in which the emendation of MT has been made only at the beginning and the end of the verse, the middle part remaining identical in the two columns. In this case, in order to gain space, I have inserted suspension points to show where the common part is.
4th column: It quotes the authority on which Biblia Mirecurensia builds for the proposed emendation. By default, it is BHS, which means that in such a case the proposed emendation already appears in the critical apparatus of BHS. In other cases, the column shows the commentator or translator whose proposed emendation has been adopted in Biblia Mirecurensia. If on the same line of the table a few different emendations have been made (bearing on different words of MT), I indicate the 2 or 3 authorities involved according to the order in which their emendations appear within the sentence, for example: BHS, NEB, Allen. In a minimal number of cases, the mention BM shows that the emendation is my own proposal, without anybody else's backing.
In order to gain space, I have systematically abstained from providing a rationale to justify the validity of the emendation, which means that the reader will have to make his own opinion. In most cases, the emendation (correcting errors in subject-verb agreement, and the like) stands to reason; in some others, justifying the proposed emendation by the principles of textual criticism or exegetical reasons can take a few pages in a commentary like the Word Biblical Commentary. I leave it to the reader who wants to delve into the details to refer to the commentators quoted, with the following caveat: the emendation adopted by Biblia Mirecurensia is sometimes not the author’s own pick, but rather that of somebody else quoted in his commentary.
In future versions of Biblia Mirecurensia, I consider adding a fifth column which will provide a translation, at least for the lines in which emendation yields a meaning that is not obvious or departs from MT in a marked way.
NB: The Masoretes' Ketiv/Qere is not shown in the emendation tables. I have inserted the Qere directly into the main text without providing the rationale for it, just as other Internet sites dedicated to the MT do.
B. Reading plans
The reading plans offer orderly reading of the entire Bible, book by book, and, within each book, unit after unit. This allows not just to maintain a sustained pace of reading, but also to proceed in coherent blocks (and not simply chapter by chapter), thus constantly resituating one's daily reading within its contextual framework.
In view of the fact that many readers use BHS for the Tanakh and Nestlé-Aland for the New Testament, these reading plans have retained those two books as a reference: for example, in order to measure the daily average of text read, the right column of the table shows the number of BHS or Nestlé Aland26 pages read per day.
NB: In the Word version of Biblia Mirecurensia, reading plans appear at various levels of the subdivisional structure:
1. At the book level (for example: Exodus reading plan)
2. At the level of a major Scripture division (for example: Torah overall reading plan)
3. At Testament level (for example Tanakh overall reading plan).
The reading plan that I propose will get you to read the Tanakh in 209 days (which makes a daily average of 7.5 BHS pages) and the New Testament in 92 days (a daily average of 7.2 Nestlé Aland26 pages).
As shown by the name, "Statistics" provides a number of data concerning the book under consideration:
- number of pages and words (which may be useful to know if you intend to print the document)
- rare words. By this I mean not just the hapax legomena in the stict sense of the term, but also the words that are used less than 3 times in the Tanakh, or else some very special meanings of rather common words.
- emendations of MT, as they are recorded in the table bearing this name that appears together with Statistics in the folder named "Companion documents".
NB: The two statistics: number of rare words and number of emendations adopted by Biblia Mirecurensia, provide a rule-of-the-thumb indication of the level of difficulty of the book considered: indeed it stands to reason that a high number of emendations is the hallmark of a book that has suffered in the course of its transmission, and that a higher frequency of rare words makes the reading harder. It will come as little surprise that the book of Job comes first in this respect, with a record in Biblia Mirecurensia of 11 rare words and 7.5 emendations per BHS page.
The work of commentators quoted in Biblia Mirecurensia has been used at different levels: the overall plan of the book under consideration, the wording of headlines and the emendations of MT.
In the document named "Emendations of MT", I mention the name of the commentators from whom I borrowed a given emendation. By contast, when it comes to the headings, I do not specifically mention to which author I am endebted, and this for two main reasons : 1). I have often borrowed from a number of different commentators (in particular in long books) in order to achieve what seemed to me to be the best possible text division and the best possible wording of the headings and 2). Biblia Mirecurensia offers thousands of different headlines, and therefore mentioning to which specific author I am endebted for a each headline would require hundreds of additional pages.
I have therefore limited myself to quoting the various commentators in "Statistics". I readily acknowledge that my work in this respect is rather a sort of compilation (my personal exegesis is to be found more at the level of punctuation), and that I humbly place myself in a century old tradition of academical research of which I am the ultimate beneficiary.
For the reader that is resigned to "making do" with the obscurities of the Masoretic text, or is accustomed to reading the original texts with constant reference to a parallel translation for help, the usefulness of Biblia Mirecurensia is not immediately obvious - especially if he or she is not used to reading unvocalised Hebrew.
This is why I invite the reader to carry out the following tests after downloading Biblia Mirecurensia. They will allow him to become familiar both with its overall concept and with the texts themselves.
1. Choose an easy passage (for example Ruth Chapter 2, or John Chapter 9), and read it leisurely. This will allow you, in a text that offers no real difficulty, to appreciate the benefits of modern punctuation. You will notice that you manage to read faster, while having a better grasp on the movement of the text at the same time.
2. Take a much harder passage (like Hoseah Chapter 10 or Psalm 45). Read the Biblia Mirecurensia text comparing it verse by verse with MT. Then read again with the help of the Emendation table for that book, to be found in the companion documents: in the table, check all the differences between the 2 texts. This will enable you to go deeper into the text and to see by yourself if Biblia Mirecurensia does or does not offer valid solutions to the textual problems posed by the Masoretic text.
3. Take a whole book that is not too long or too difficult (for example Amos or Romans) and read it according to the pace set by the reading plan included in the companion documents, trying to "go the distance" day after day; if the reading plan is too ambitious for you, do not hesitate to gear down the pace: for example read Amos in 4-5 days instead of 2, and Romans in 10-12 days instead of 5. You will notice that, thanks to the help provided by the system of headlines and the punctuation, you manage to read in a more fluent way, by proceeding from one reading unit to another. You will then have the satisfaction of getting to read whole books and not just mere passages.
NB:Biblia Mirecurensia has been designed first and foremost to be read on portable devices. Therefore I suggest you carry out the tests above on some sort of tablet or e-reader. It seems to me that in this way you will be able to fully appreciate the advantages of Biblia Mirecurensia.