Holy Hyperlinks

The hyperlink has to be one of the great inventions of the 20th century. Like most great inventions, we now take it almost completely for granted — a paradoxical consequence of its success. Apparently the word ‘hyperlink’ was coined in 1965, but the now-familiar sight of blue underlined text didn’t become ubiquitous until the advent of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. In essence, the hyperlink is a labelled wormhole from one point in the information universe to another. One of its greatest benefits is its time-saving potential (just as one of its greatest drawbacks is its time-wasting potential, as anyone who has been sucked into a Wikipedia rabbit hole will know).

At its simplest and best, a hyperlink is an instant click to an endnote, a definition, an explanation, an elaboration, or an illustration. No walking to the bookshelf (never mind the library). No thumbing through pages. No unremedied ignorance through sheer laziness.

From the Christian perspective, perhaps one of the worthiest uses of the humble hyperlink is to connect an in-text Bible reference to the actual text of the passage referenced. After all, many Christian books are peppered with Bible references, either in parentheses or in footnotes, and we tend to assume the more the better. Who doesn’t want their book to be (or at least appear) biblical? Yet how many of those references do we go so far as to look up for ourselves, if only to check that Scripture isn’t being taken out of context? In earlier generations, more Christians would have recognised the texts behind many of those references without looking them up, but in these days of unprecedented biblical illiteracy that assumption no longer holds.

For this reason, hyperlinked Bible references can in some modest way help to elevate the Christian’s respect for Scripture and knowledge of Scripture. Many electronic library systems with Christian literature (such as Libronix) offer this feature as standard. A good number of Christian websites host articles with all in-text Bible references hyperlinked to an online Bible, even though manually inserting these links can be a time-consuming task. Some websites (particularly blogs) are now making use of automated hyperlinking services through server-hosted JavaScript tools (e.g., RefTagger, Scripturizer).

The main limitation of these services is that they’re only active on those websites that choose to implement them. But wouldn’t it be nice to have Bible references automatically hyperlinked on every website you visit — and hyperlinked to the online Bible of your choice? Sure it would. And that’s why I created Bible Refalizer: a little extension for the popular Firefox web browser which offers just that.

What’s a ‘refalizer’, you ask? It’s an automated reference hyperlinker, of course. I invented the word for three reasons: (1) It’s quicker to type than “automated reference hyperlinker”. (2) It sounds kinda cool. (3) If anyone hears the word and Googles it, they should find the Bible Refalizer home page very easily.

If you use Firefox and think this tool might be useful to you, please check it out. If you don’t use Firefox, why not give it a whirl? It’s free and there’s a good chance you’ll want to stick with it, not least because of the many other life-simplifying extensions available for it.

Bible Refalizer currently allows you to choose from six popular online Bibles (and any of the translations offered by those sites). The latest addition is an impressive newcomer, Bible.Logos.com, which sports a nice clean interface and offers the most popular English translations plus a number of translations (and original-language texts) not available elsewhere. Check it out and give the Bible.Logos.com team your feedback to help them make it even better.

4 Responses to Holy Hyperlinks

  1. Re: Bible.Logos.com. I wish to complain. Nine Greek versions, by my count, and precisely zero Hebrew Bibles. A trifle Marcionite, wouldn’t you say?

    :)

    David Reimer

  2. I’ve had the Bible Refalizer installed for several months now.

    However, I hesitate to say that I’ve been “using” it, because (for me at least) it takes more than a handy tool to change my habit of failing to look up scripture references.

    That said, on the occasions that I have used it, it has worked perfectly and been very useful.

    Andrew

  3. David,

    Yes, it would be great to see a Hebrew text to redress the balance.

    What I’d really like to see online is a good interlinear (both OT and NT). I currently use the one at crosswalk.com when I don’t have my other interlinears to hand, but it’s quite buggy.

    Phil Gons at Logos told me that they’re planning to make more tools available online for those who own one of their base packages.

  4. Googling (don’t bother searching for “Javascript Bible” as your terms, though!) uncovered the NETBibleTagger. It works on hovers, rather than clicks, and feels like it’s on steroids. Click throughs take you to the NET Bible’s Bible Study Environment (that’s Matt 1:10 for a random example), which is pretty impressive in its own right, but perhaps overkill for some purposes!

    FWIW. YMMV. ktl.

    David Reimer