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The Bible on the Internet

TitleThe Bible on the Internet
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsShellnutt, K
Date PublishedApril 2008
UniversityWashington and Lee University
CityLexington, Virginia

For centuries, different groups have read the Bible as a closed system or as open system. The “closedness” or “openness” of the Bible depends on how different religious communities treat, approach, and use the Bible. Churches that apply many of the characteristics of stable systems to the Bible promote or favor less open readings; churches with many of the characteristics of complex systems allow for more open readings. The Internet, itself a complex system, seems to favor an open reading of the Bible, offering the ability to move instantly from passage to passage or passage to commentary, an overwhelming amount of additional information and context, and a sense of interactivity all at once. In this paper, the author will discuss each of instance in the history of the Bible that gave rise to a more open perspective of on the text as well as use web sites to demonstrate how the digitalization of the Bible relates back historical movements towards open reading. It will also include exceptions to the openness the Internet invites, showing how digital technology can also be used to maintain hierarchical, stable systems and keep the Bible closed. Though the digital Bible may share characteristics with the previous versions, it ultimately marks a unique setting for biblical text and readers. Because the Bible serves as Christianity’s central text, reading it online could have broader implications for Christians. The sacred experience or sacred mystery associated with the physical book of the Bible, as a holy object, may be lost in the Internet’s timelessness and placelessness, which makes biblical text universally accessible. Or, this sense of sacred may be enhanced by the infiniteness the Internet, where meaning can emerge out of individual choices made within a complex system.