The Wartburg Project

January 29th, 2020

59. Dealing with Defects

How do we plan to deal with defects in the various editions of the published EHV?
Updated September 26, 2020

Since the print edition of the complete EHV Bible has been available for over a year now, since the complete Bible is also available in various electronic editions, and since the Study Bible with notes is now available in the Microsoft Store edition, and there is a metric version of the Study Bible, the question might be asked, "How do you keep the ten or so versions straight and together?” It is not easy. It seems to be a good time to lump together several questions under the topic “dealing with defects.”

Mechanical Issues

Let us start with the easy part of the problem first: dealing with what we will call “mechanical defects.” This is the problem that is easy to deal with (at least for the users of the Bible).

Copies are sometimes damaged in shipping. This may be the fault of the packaging or of mishandling by the carrier. Fortunately that is not the purchaser’s problem to solve. Publishers may try to reduce the problem with improved packing or by using different carriers, but users simply contact the publisher, Northwestern Publishing House, and ask for a replacement copy.

The second type of mechanical defect is a result of mishaps in the printing and binding process. All mechanical processes produce errors. Even with modern, high-quality production equipment, there are occasional volumes from which there is a signature missing. (A signature is a bundle of pages.) At other times, stitching or gluing of a signature is defective. These types of errors are essentially the same as your experience with your copy machine when two pieces of paper come through at the same time, and half of the page is printed on one sheet and the bottom half is on the second sheet. We all have had the experience of having to return a product we have bought and asking for a replacement. This problem of defective copies of books is simply one of the imperfections of life in an imperfect world. Solving this production issue is not the purchaser’s problem. You simply request a replacement copy from the publisher.

Problems with such mechanical issues relating to the EHV should be addressed to Northwestern Publishing House. In the first year since publication of the Bible, we at the Wartburg Project have heard only of three examples of missing signatures (two of them, involving the same signature from two volumes in the same shipment) and a relative handful of bad bindings out of many thousands of copies. We do not have any information about what the industry norm is for the percentage of such copies but the problem seems to be universal to all manufacturing.

There is a parallel set of problems with electronic versions that are handled in the same way.

Downloads from the Microsoft Store seem to work pretty well, but there are occasional problems. We can usually give you advice if it is a known, recurring issue with the MS Store.

Content Issues

Issues that seem to be the result of errors in the underlying text files (typos, missing words, formatting errors, etc.) as well as suggestions for improvements to the translation, should be addressed to the Wartburg Project.

Why must there be different editions of a Bible translation? “There is a sense in which the work of translation is never finished.” This statement is from the preface of the 1978 edition of the NIV. The NIV translators go on to say: “Like all translations of the Bible, made as they are by imperfect man, this one undoubtedly falls short of its goals. Yet we are grateful to God for the extent to which he has enabled us to realize these goals and for the strength he has given us and our colleagues to complete our task.”

Many people have the mistaken notion that the NIV 1984 edition, which many of us used for decades, was the first edition of the NIV. In fact, the NIV published its New Testament in 1973 and the first edition of the complete Bible in 1978 (my plain, unadorned NIV Bible is still my 1978 edition). I began teaching from the 1978 edition in 1979. Neither I nor my students experienced any significant difficulty when NIV 1984 came along, and we used it in various study Bible editions. Most readers never even noticed the little changes that occurred throughout the life-times of the two editions, though occasionally in Bible class, two students would notice that their wording of a passage in NIV 84 was not exactly identical.

The process for launching the EHV is not that much different than that of the NIV except that the advance of technology speeds up the process. Our EHV New Testament appeared in 2017. The complete Bible appeared two years later in 2019. Electronic editions of the study Bible also appeared in 2019. Our first revision will probably appear between 2022 and 2024.

We probably should begin by reminding readers what the term edition means. An edition includes all copies of a book printed from substantially the same file (or in older technology, from one setting of type), including all minor typographical variants. From time to time, readers may observe an error in the text and report it to the publisher. The publisher typically keeps these “reprint corrections” in a file, pending demand for a new print run of the edition, and before the new run is printed, the corrections will be entered. Such minor changes do not constitute a new edition, but introduce typographical variations within an edition, which are of interest mainly to collectors. This is one of the factors that accounts for the word “substantially” in the definition of an edition as “substantially the same file.”

This standard operating procedure is also the practice of the EHV. We insert “corrections” into the text every time there is a new printing. The first edition of the EHV is now in its fourth printing. None of these four printings is 100% identical to any of the others, just as no two Bible manuscripts are entirely identical. Our general policy is to insert “corrections” as soon as possible, but to hold most “improvements” for the first revision in about three years. (More on this later.)

The updating process is more rapid with computer Bibles like the Microsoft Edition of the EHV study Bible, which are automatically updated for users as soon as needed corrections have been uncovered and entered into the online files. This means corrections in the print Bible will lag behind the computer Bible, and the two versions will never be in complete sync. Various electronic versions will not be in sync with each other, depending on the update policies of the provider.

In some electronic editions, a new edition number is needed if even one letter is changed in the text, with the result that you end up with edition numbers like 1.3.4.

Our EHV policy is stated in the Continuative section of the study “Luther and the EHV,” which is available in our Wartburg Project online library. (p.13)

No translation is ever perfect or complete. That means critical and qualitative revision is essential. It is, in fact, a never-ending process from one generation to the next. During the course of a translation project, a team learns many things—about the original text, exegesis, consistency, how to handle key terms or difficult passages in the receptor language, and even organizational efficiency. Thus at the end, they realize that, in view of what they have picked up along the way, they need to begin all over again. They must undertake a careful revision in order to correct the inevitable errors and to improve the wording wherever possible, based on their past experience and also the feedback from readers.

In many cases, unfortunately, such an opportunity does not materialize. For one reason or another, the production team is disbanded and its members return to other pursuits.

To address this issue the Wartburg Project will have a continuing editorial and administrative board to oversee the typical revision that usually comes three to five years after the appearance of a first edition, but even as we continue to correct and improve, we want to have a stable text[1] so that the churches will have a relatively uniform text in their catechisms, liturgy, and other worship resources. Even in the midst of change, we stress another c, continuity.

Here we distinguish between the correction of errors and the introduction of improvements, although the line between them is sometimes blurry as we will see later.

Errors are of two types: errors of translation and errors in reproduction of the text (typos, etc.) Among all the manuscripts and resources that we have used in working on the EHV, we have not found any that do not have mistakes. So try as we may, we do not expect to be exempt either. Even the best Hebrew and Greek manuscripts have many variants in the reproduction of the text. Though the inspired authors of Scripture were protected from error, copyists, translators, and editors are not, so we will always be rechecking our work to make corrections, and our readers will be part of the process.

Another type of updating is improvements. The judgment of what is an “improvement” can of course be quite subjective. Part of this need or desire for improvements is because of the ever-changing nature of language and because of preferences for different styles of translation, but much of it is due simply to the nature of the art of translating and editing. No matter how many times translators, writers, or editors reread their work, if they are honest, they will always see something to change. They change A to B to C, and then decide A was better after all. It simply is the nature of the discipline, which is an art not a science. In many passages, there can be more than one good translation. It is not that one is correct and the other is not. That is why there is a benefit to footnotes and to looking at different translations.

Translating, writing, and editing have two common enemies. One is carelessness or laziness that does not try to produce a clean product. The other is perfectionism that can never bring anything to conclusion and say, “I have to go with what I have.” In the Evangelical Heritage Version we are aware of both pitfalls, and we are always working to try to produce a good product, but to do it relatively quickly, so it can be of use to the church, and the church can be part of the testing process.

As stated above, we do want to have a stable text, especially for educational purposes. We, of course, will fix any typos or errors as soon as we find them, but we will do a systematic revision only after three to five years of congregational use, so that a wide cross-section of input can be sifted and compared. We expect this revision to be modest in scope, keeping the text as stable as possible. We work to keep the two goals of improvement and stability in balance.

If we try to keep the text as stable as possible, this will make some of our readers very happy, but it will make many other readers sad because it means that we will have to be reluctant to adopt many of the suggested improvements that we will receive in the next three years. The goals of stability and improvement clash with each other, and a balance must be sought.

A Few Observations

It is impossible and highly inadvisable to have an unchanging, frozen text. A couple of years ago the ESV announced that they were going to have a frozen text. Very soon thereafter they announced that they were abandoning this policy as unwise and unworkable.

One reason for this has already been mentioned: the necessary correction of inevitable errors as they are discovered. It makes sense to correct these as quickly as possible, even if this means that no two printings of an edition will be entirely identical. We hope these corrections to be relatively few.

One complication in keeping all versions and editions of the EHV 100% identical is that all the different media and apps require a proliferation of the already great number of text files which we have to work with.

Our archive of text files fills 7.72 GB in 222 folders, containing 6,732 files, and it is growing. Our project files amount to 57 GB in over 1000 folders with 40,000 files. One reason for this, besides the many generations of revisions of the translation of a given book, is that different platforms require different sets of files.

  1. The basic print edition is produced from a special type of file which Northwestern produces from our Word .doc files.

  2. The Windows computer study Bible is produced, not from the NPH master, but from a different set of docx files.

  3. We need a separate set of docx and pdf files for the Logos study Bible notes-only module.

  4. The printed edition of the study Bible will need reformatted pdf files in order to get the page breaks to come out looking fairly decent. This, in some cases, requires some changes to the text of the notes and adding or removing or resizing pictures to get a good fit. The color files have to be converted to grayscale.

  5. In producing e-pub files for various formats, Word files that produce an acceptable e-pub file using one conversion tool do not work in another conversion tool. In one extreme case, a publisher tried to produce an e-pub file from our doc and pdf files for a week without success, and we had to turn to the e-pub converter of another publisher, which worked immediately. The file did not look nice, but we lived with it.

  6. This problem with e-pub files and with compatibility between various formats of file is actually worse than this simplified version makes it sound, but it is abbreviated here to avoid making it more tedious than it already is.

As explained above, corrections are updated with every printing. When corrections are made, they have to be changed not only in the master or app in which we found the error, but in all our various formats of files. For example, if we find an error in a study Bible text, we not only have to fix it in the computer Bible, but in the print Bible, in the files for producing the print Bible, in the Logos files, and in the various e-pub editions. It is easy to say all these files should be alike after all the rounds of correcting, but it is easier said than done, for a number of reasons. A discrepancy can result when someone creating a new file and new format accidently uses a generation 12 file instead of the generation 13 file.

Besides simple operator errors, there are errors and inadequacies in the computer programs. Here we will limit the discussion to a couple of examples from Word. The spellcheck function in Word is not reliable. For example it misses some examples of words with an accidental asterisk, which is a common error. We know this because when we are trying to find a certain word to correct it, the search sometimes says that this term does not occur. We know that this is wrong because we know the word does occur. We track down the right verse by searching for a different word that occurs in the passage, and sure enough, there the missing term is. Since Word search is not reliable at finding individual words, we have to assume that it may miss some items in a series, and that when we use the search function to correct all the instances of one term, our search may not have turned up all the instances, and our correction is incomplete. It is not always clear whether the problem is a true software error or an operator error involving unseen half spaces or something like that.

Errors which were not present in the files which we gave to the programmers sometimes turn up in editions like BibleGateway. Their conversion process created a new error that was not there before. Sometimes files do not copy correctly from one program or from one file to another. For example, in Word, text pasted from one file to another sometimes turns up with the wrong font or spacing scattered at random intervals even when we use special paste.

It is quite possible that most of these errors involve some form of operator error, but aided and abetted by software complications.

Another example of such user-induced error is that lectionary users accidently introduce errors into the biblical text when they paste the readings into files to be projected during services. If they do not use the correct form of the special paste function, the Lords will become Lords and the superscripted verse numbers will become full-sized numbers.

Some Other Miscellaneous Observations

We will treat the biblical text and the Study Bible materials differently. For the sake of stability we will be hesitant to make “improvements” to the translation of the biblical text unless there is a pretty significant improvement, but we can incorporate many of the suggestions which we do not adopt in the main text into the notes. On the other hand, we will be pretty free to add, amend, or subtract things from the study Bible notes.

None of our published versions of the EHV are Beta versions. They are thoroughly proofed texts, read by many readers. See FAQ 24, “EHV Review Process.” A Beta version is a pre-sale, pre-publication version that is meant to be tested by reviewers. Our published works are correctable and improvable but they are not preliminary versions. (We do use Beta versions of our computer apps, which are tested by reviewers before the app goes public.)

It could also be said that some parts of the first three years of the lectionaries were Beta versions since the Old Testament translation was not yet done. The compilers are in the process of updating the lectionaries, but the changes are not major and the first editions are very useable if you prefer to keep them.

Though they are not Beta versions, all our editions are almost certain to have errors. In spite of repeated checking, errors sneak though, many of which are created after the proofreading.

A Few Examples

A few examples of textual blips will illustrate the issue. Simple typos require no comment, but there are other interesting twists.
In the first printing of the EHV New Testament three typos were reported.

Luke 19:27 – insert “of” before “me”

Ephesians 4:32 – “other” should be “another”

1 Thessalonians 2:7: the footnote needs an “s” on “infants”

This does not mean there were only three typos, since typos often go unreported for years, decades, or even centuries. (We have since found a few more typos beyond these three.)

There were two blips that appear to be computer glitches, though they could have been operator errors induced when the file was being loaded.

2 Peter 3:17 has a superscript “5” before “through.” It seems that this is a computer-induced mistake since it was not in our final manuscript.

Matthew 5:16 has the verse number full-size rather than superscript. This error was not present in the underlying text file. It may have been a pasting error by the computer program or an accidental touch of the touch pad by the operator. If you want to check whether your EHV NT is a valuable first printing of the first edition or merely a first edition, check this verse number. If it is normal size, you have a first printing of the first edition. If it is superscript, you do not.

What some people correct as typos are not actually typos. Some want to correct the word “worshipped” to “worshiped” because many dictionaries say “worshiped” is the correct American spelling, but computer studies, which can scan vast amounts of literature, show that “worshipped” is the standard spelling on both sides of the Atlantic, so this is the standard spelling in the EHV. We have to ignore the incorrect spell-checkers that tag “worshipped” as an error.

The most dreaded computer-induced error (actually it can be considered to be either a program flaw in Word or an operator error) is sudden deletions of words, lines, or even paragraphs from a file that has already been proofread. A person working on page 100 accidentally brushes the touch pad and without knowing it highlights something on page 96. When he next touches the keyboard, that line on page 96 is deleted and he does not even see it happen. Every time you open a computer file, there is danger of creating a new error.

A reader recently reported that in the Microsoft computer Bible, a line was missing in Psalm 62:12. The line was not missing in the print edition nor from the underlying files, so this must be an example of an accidental touch by someone who was getting the file ready for the programmer of the study Bible. Fortunately, this is easily fixed, and the line is already back. But this issue arises often enough to make this our most feared danger. It is enough of a problem that we turned off the typeover feature in all of the versions of Word that were being used to produce the EHV. But then you have to be extra careful that when text is replaced, you don’t end up with a doublet.

The rule for “corrections” is pretty straight-forward. Make any corrections as soon as you can, even if it means not all printings are exactly the same.

Our last example will take us back to the more difficult issue of when to make “improvements.”

A reader recently noticed that in Isaiah 2:2 the wording was not exactly the same in the computer study Bible as it was in the print Bible.

Study Bible

2This will take place in the last days:
The mountain of the House of the Lord will be established
as the head of the mountains.

Print Bible

2This will take place in the latter days:
The mountain of the Lord’s house will be established
as the chief of the mountains.

The reader wondered which was correct and which was official. Actually neither one is wrong, and neither one is more or less official than the other. It seems that the version in the print Bible was a late alteration to the file which NPH used to produce the print Bible, an alteration which did not get into the file used to produce the study Bible. (The files used to produce the NPH file cannot be used to produce the computer study Bible because they have formatting markers that must be edited out.) Looking at the two versions of Isaiah 2, it appears that the version in the study Bible is better for syncing with the parallel passage in Micah 4. The study Bible note at Isaiah 2:2 says: “Isaiah 2:2-5 is a close parallel to Micah 4:1-5, but the quotation is not verbatim, and Micah’s presentation has some material not included in Isaiah. We do not know if either prophet was consciously echoing the other. For the EHV, the two passages were translated independently, and the parallel translations retain some of the insights of each translator.” So when the print Bible is updated, it will have to be determined whether the print Bible should be moved in the direction of the study Bible or left as is. It will take at least an hour to go through all the data since it involves half a dozen different files for different formats.[2]

As was stated earlier, we don’t intend to introduce very many “improvements” into the biblical text until the update in about three years. Any updates will have to be done separately in the files for the computer Bible and in the master of the print Bible, and well as in all the different formats and apps and in all their underlying files. Is it practical or even desirable to keep all these editions in complete sync? If a reader submits a suggestion that is a significant improvement in clarity, does it make sense for the users of the computer Bible to wait three to five years until the improvement appears in the study Bible or should they receive the most important improvements along the way? Is it worth the huge amount of time and money that would be needed to keep the print Bible and the computer Bible 100% identical? Or does it make better sense if the print Bible, which is the source of educational materials like catechisms, is less changeable than the more rapidly updatable computer Bible? All of these are difficult questions, about which different readers may have different opinions, but it seems that providing greater insights and a clearer text to the users as soon as it is possible is more valuable than striving for a mechanical identity that does nothing to add to understanding.

The time of a monolithic translation like the King James, which became a standard for the English language, will probably never return. Today students in a class often have several translations on their phone or their Chromebook or they look at several versions on BibleGateway. They understand that there is often more than one good way to translate a passage and that reading different versions brings out different nuances.

In the past, many years often went by before a book was reprinted. As errors were discovered in the printing, the publishers would put little slips with a list of the errata into the unsold copies. They could not throw away the printings with the mistakes. They had to patch them as best they could. When our EHV study Bible is printed, it may be printed in a five-year supply. If errors are discovered, would it make sense to withhold corrections from the computer Bibles for five years so that the two editions could stay identical? Should publishers try to apply the standards of a type-set world to an electronic world, or would that be sewing old patches on new clothing?

It is important for Bible readers to remember that the essence of Scripture is not the sound of the words or the shape of the letters but the divinely intended meaning. If two different wordings convey the same divinely intended meaning, they are equally the Word of God. Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer in different editions. We use different editions of the Lord’s Prayer, and our worship edition has not always agreed with our Bible edition. Moses records two different versions of the Ten Commandments. Concern to have exactly the same wording everywhere does not seem to have been a concern of the biblical writers or the Holy Spirit. Concern to have the same divinely intended meaning was. Our concern should be to convey the divinely intended meaning as clearly as possible. If that means updating the wording, that is what we should do.

Bottom line: we want to be very conservative about making changes to the biblical text of the translation, but we do not want to stifle improvement that will benefit users.


[1] A stable text means that any changes that fit into the category of corrections will be introduced into each version of the EHV as quickly as possible. We will be more reluctant to introduce stylistic improvements or change for change’s sake, especially in passages used in worship and education. A change will have to be a significant improvement in clarity for it to be used in the text. (Even if there are new editions of the EHV at some future date, churches will always be free to continue to use the earlier editions if they prefer them.)

[2] On the issue of syncing parallel passages see the article “To Sync or not to Sync” in our online library.