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Copyrighting the Bible

Men like Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and others fought the established order of the church over matters such as translating the Bible into the common tongue or allowing laypeople to interpret the Bible for themselves. Tyndale gave his life for it and was burned at the stake so that we could read the Bible in our own language.

Today, it is another matter. As I began my journey through the Bible cover to cover, I came upon some curious words: Rights in the Authorized (King James) version of the Bible are vested in the Crown.

Apparently, Cambridge University Press is the Crown’s patentee and allows a maximum of 500 Bible verses to be printed in book-form without their express permission. In other words: God’s Word in the King James version belongs to England and Cambridge University press. It seems that British imperialism extends to heavenly kingdoms as well.

Just a joke–but it is rather peculiar. To be fair: the same holds true for all modern English translations of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers seem to own the New King James Bible, Zondervan owns the NIV (and by extension, so does Rupert Murdoch), and Crossway owns the rights to the latest serious Bible trend: the ESV.

It seems that God’s Word has been copyrighted, just like my website, applesofgold.com (shameless plug), or like the device you are using to read this, or any other trademarked, intellectually-safeguarded, globally-recognized product.

Do I need to say anything else? In case I do: today, we think we own God. Tyndale would see in all this the same voracious thirst for power that he saw in the ‘holy mother church’. Am I being too critical of our modern copyright laws and those who hold them? Could all this be attributed to God’s mysterious ways? Should the Bible be exempt from copyright laws? You tell me. I’d love your thoughts on this.

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