Who Owns the .Bible Domain Suffix?

RNS photo illustration by Kit Doyle
RNS photo illustration by Kit Doyle

To whom does the .bible belong?

If not read carefully, the question seems silly — the Bible belongs to anyone who wants to claim it. I am referring, though, to the new generic top-level domain name — .bible — which is comparable to .com, .gov and newer names such as .law. The domain .bible has been purchased by the American Bible Society, which has set strict limitations on the domain that go far beyond its original application. As time passes, this acquisition will have important implications for Bible-related web searches: .bible website names will be short, easy to remember and highly visible, resulting in a stronger web presence of the Bible, according to the ABS.

When the society — which lists several conservative Christian “founding partners” on the get.bible website — first applied for the rights to .bible, it pledged to provide wide access to “all qualified parties” interested in Bible issues. Soon after acquiring the domain name, though, ABS barred publication of material it defined as “antithetical to New Testament principles” or promoting a secular worldview or “a non-Christian religion or set of religious beliefs.”

Alarmed by this restrictive language, biblical scholars and religious groups reached out to ABS and expressed concerns — with some success. Following discussions with the Society of Biblical Literature, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, ABS recently revised its policy to invite “a fuller participation for all groups that hold the Bible as their sole sacred text.”

The new policy extends an olive branch in particular to Judaism by prohibiting content that “communicates disrespect for the Jewish faith.” As a Bible scholar who is Jewish, I appreciate this modification. I worry, though, that while Jews are now welcome at .bible alongside mainline Christians, many other groups are excluded, as the new policy bars any content that advocates “belief in any religious or faith tradition other than orthodox Christianity or Judaism.”

Then there’s the question of who decides what constitutes an orthodox opinion in Judaism or Christianity. The ABS would do well to recall, on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the oft-cited dictum: “The heresy of today will be the orthodoxy of tomorrow.”

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SOURCE: Marc Zvi Brettler
Religion News Service