Notes on the Texts

The texts used in the Word database are all public-domain English translations published in the first half of the twentieth century.

The fact that all four texts are available in a single language is what makes the project possible, but it also presents a problem: Translating is a limited process, and translations depend on the languages and the translators involved.

When dealing with scripture, this is immensely important. In fact, in the case of the Qur'an, only the original Arabic text is considered to be the word of God; any translation is useful only for non-Arabic-speakers to learn and begin to understand the Qur'an's meaning. Readers of text in translation must always be aware that the text is merely an approximation of the original.

Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads
The Upanishads are a small section of Hindu scripture, the full canon of which is called The Vedas. The Vedas date from about 3500 years ago and deal with everything from spiritual practice to secular laws. The Upanishads are 108 poems and books that have been identified as especially important, and of those, we include here eleven of the "principal" Upanishads.

Nikhilananda's translation of eleven major Upanishads are generally regarded as far superior to anything else in the public domain. (There is really only one other option, Max Mueller's translations from the 19th century, but they are considered by many as unreliable at best.) Nikhilananda includes a good deal of explanatory text in a hardcopy four-volume set of The Upanishads.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meanings of the Holy Qur'an
The Qur'an is the sacred text of Islam, created about 1400 years ago. It consists of 114 chapters (or "Suras") of varying length, each made of several verses (or "Ayat") dictated by the prophet Muhammed to his followers.

The text used in Word is Abdullah Yusuf Ali's 1934 translation, The Meanings of the Holy Qur'an. It was chosen because it appears to be the most popular English translation available in the public domain. Yusuf Ali's The Holy Qur'an is available from Amazon along with several other translations and useful commentaries.

Jewish Publication Society, The Holy Tanakh
The Tanakh is the Hebrew Bible. These writings were first gathered together about 2400 years ago, and they are the largest of the texts included in the Word database. The Tanakh comprises 39 books -- the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the later 21 books of the prophets and 13 books of Wisdom (also called Writings). The Tanakh is known to Christians as the Old Testament.

Although possibly based in part on the King James version of the Christian Old Testament, this 1917 translation still stands out as the best option for a public-domain Jewish version of these books. The Jewish Publication Society now publishes a new translation of The Tanakh, with extensive footnotes and other informative material.

American Standard Version, The New Testament
The New Testament consists of the books written by Jesus' apostles, including the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and their letters to believers, all of which were collected in the first and second centuries A.D. The New Testament is coupled with the Hebrew Tanakh, or Old Testament, to make up the Christian Bible.

This 1901 work was an entirely new tranlsation from the original Greek, made without relying on previous translations. It is also widely respected as adhering as closely as possible to the Greek text, even more so than the King James and much more so than many other modern translations. It will likely strike many readers as unfamiliar in places, but its use of a more modern English than the 1611 King James Version made it the best choice for the Word database. The American Standard Version has since been followed by many newer versions, but it may still be found in your local library or from this page on Amazon.com.

Please note that none of these authors or organizations are in any way affiliated with this web site. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the translations used in Word.

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Adam Young, Atomic Software, 2003