So... Congratulations on graduating to a full-fledged Stack Exchange site!

We'd kinda like to do something special for y'all, and this is currently the top-ranked feature request: Add Markdown and/or OneBox support for BibleGateway

That said, oneboxing is troublesome. BibleGateway doesn't offer an API for this, so we'd be stuck trying to scrape the site's text, which is fragile... And then there are potential legal issues that we probably don't want to worry about.

However, Pacerier and Iszi laid out a reasonable idea in the comments there... What about a special syntax for Markdown here that enabled quick generation of links to specific passages and translations?

For instance:

The only question is, would this actually be useful? If you're quoting a passage anyway, then you probably already have a link ready at hand. Is this a feature that would actually improve the experience here on the site, or would it just end up being extra baggage?

  • 4
    There's a proposal on Mi Yodeya for an even more general referencing system. Grace Note answered that a yet more general system is in the works. It seems like this is a case of the best being the enemy of the good. Commented May 30, 2013 at 19:16
  • IIRC, that FR is slightly more complicated because you can't build the URL without making an API call. The BG quick-links would pretty much just be macros, which could be generalized fairly easily.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 20:11
  • 5
    Heck yes it would. I often quote a few verses but link to the entire chapter.
    – user3961
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 21:03
  • Can I upvote this more than once, please??
    – user32
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 17:29

5 Answers 5


Yes this would be very useful in itself, but oneboxing would be even better.

There are API's out there for this, the Bible text is the Bible text no matter whether you pull it from Bible Gateway or somewhere else. In fact there are sites that have large numbers translations available through an various API's.

If you were going to do just the link format support, I would like to see some options for providers. For many versions there are better sites to be linking to.

  • 2
    FWIW, there's a similar feature request on Judaism that offers slightly more flexibility: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1232/… - that said, part of the appeal here is the simplicity coupled with the fact that there are a ton of links to BG here already (so we wouldn't be adding a dependency that doesn't already implicitly exist). If you're aware of an API that would enable clean one-boxing AND supports multiple translations AND doesn't have onerous licensing requirements, let me know.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 19:11
  • 3
    @Shog9, If we can't find an API to get Oneboxing to work (or even if we can), it might be nice to have something like RefTagger as well (reftagger.com).
    – user971
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 21:50
  • 2
    @Shog9 The licensing requirements might be sticky. I'll know a couple API's that would support the first two, but let me poke around and see if there are options that fit all three bills. The second and third items tend to be mutually exclusive. Many translations is not an issue, but specifically a couple of the more popular translations (NIV I'm looking at you) have licensing issues. Having many (and the best) translations won't help if the one people want to use isn't available. The ones I use regularly don't have NIV. I don't care because I don't use it, but that won't be an option here...
    – Caleb
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 11:21
  • I did a little bit of poking around the copyright issues, and posted on main specifcially for this reason :) And yes, NIV was the first thing I thought about too... Commented May 31, 2013 at 15:51

Rather than requiring additional markdown syntax, I would suggest an even easier approach for all users - let the backend submission code add the markdown for you. It would actually be very simple to implement.

api.biblia.com has several useful calls:

  • scan - will take a full text of an answer and return all bible locations it can find.

  • parse - will then convert those to references that could be included in markup

  • content - is a full up JSON-returning API that does what you could scrape from Bible Gateway - and since it's backed by Logos (you really should contact them about advertising!) - you will get almost as many versions.

Using these tools, I would love to add simple functionality to the [SUBMIT] button that would automatically scan the answer for any textual references and automatically add a link to the content. That way, even beginning users unfamiliar with content would get the nice syntax :)

At one point, I had actually written a simple little "Stack Exchange Concordance" using these tools. The idea was simple - iterate over every new post in C.SE and BH.SE, cache results in a database, and then generate a list of posts (questions and answers) that contained references to any verse. Ultimately, I was even planning on contacting you guys about adding a "Concordance" link, so that when you clicked on it, you'd get a page that would allow you to search all posts for any posts that contained any reference within a selected range. As a result, if you wanted to see if there were any questions that dealt with, say, Ephesians 2:8-9, or the Book of Jude, it would return all results in a fashion not unlike the search box today. Were that parsing integrated into the submit button as well, the concordance would be that much more useful.

As a pastor, when I set about to preach a text, I'm always trying to imagine what questions people have about any given text. There are a lot of people here who have great questions, and I for one would find that Concordance to be a great spur in my sermon preparation.

Anyways, that's a long answer to say yes anything we can do to link this content back to the Word

  • You trying to get an SE job or something?
    – user3961
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 19:04
  • Actually, I'm more content at my current job than I have been in years, but yeah, that would have been a good pitch :) Commented May 31, 2013 at 19:11
  • +1, but perhaps a button on the toolbar (like the 'code' button) that converts the selected syntax into markdown, inserting the content and link? I think that's work better that automatically changing the text when you submit as it gives you a chance to change your mind before then, eg if you realise the quoted text is too long. Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 4:38
  • Could do a meta project for that. Like a FAQ for bible references, every answer is a book of the Bible and inside the answers are the links to the questions/answers that correspond to the books
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 17:27

I've created my own site so I can quickly cite and link to the ESV, you are welcome to use/copy it if it is of any use. Or it could be adapted for other versions that are accessible via an API I imagine.

If you visit a URL like http://www.douglastechnology.co.uk/esv?passage=Matthew+5.43-47, you should see output like:

> <sup>43</sup>“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ <sup>44</sup>But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, <sup>45</sup>so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. <sup>46</sup>For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? <sup>47</sup>And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? <sub><sub>[ESV](http://www.esvbible.org/Matthew+5.43-47)</sub></sub>

and this pasted into an answer looks like:

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? ESV

The PHP behind this is:

$v=fopen('http://www.esvapi.org/v2/rest/passageQuery?key=IP&include-passage-references=false&include-footnotes=false&include-headings=false&include-short-copyright=false&passage='.urlencode($_GET['passage']), "rb");
echo stream_get_contents($v);
<script src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.9.1/jquery.min.js"></script>
    $("body").css("font-family", "monospace");
    $("span.chapter-num,span.verse-num").each(function(){ $(this).replaceWith("&lt;sup&gt;"+$(this).text().replace(/\s+/g,'')+"&lt;/sup&gt;"); });
    $("p").prepend("&gt; ");
    //$("p").prepend("&gt; ").each(function(){ $(this).replaceWith('<span>'+$(this).html()+"</span>"); });
  • hmmm, no syntax highlighting? Please fix if you can see what I've done wrong :) Commented May 31, 2013 at 17:53
  • 2
    not a code site - no syntax highlighting here.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 18:02

I'd like to use it and I appreciate the sentiment, but I prefer to quote and link to the New American Bible (which has a pretty good API), not because I think it's a better translation, but mainly to annoy Protestants, which I don't think works.

What if the translation part was the link and the rest of it was static text

[bible Ecclesiastes 1:18 NIV;KJV;NKJV;NABRE] would convert to

Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NIV;KJV;NKJV;NABRE)

If there was only one translation, then it could convert just to one full link (I'd imagine 99% of our links are just to one translation.)

Is this too complicated? Well, I'm a programmer and I'm starting to hate myself for even suggesting this. So, the bg syntax is good, as long as BH.se doesn't get it till they graduate.

  • Doesn't annoy me. I like your idea. I always use NIV out of old habit.
    – user3961
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 15:12

It seems like Markdown is automatic generation of links to a specific site and Onebox is automatically copy-pasting specified verses onto the post. Correct me if I am wrong.

Markdown and Onebox are both great features; however, when we write our post, we generally just copy and paste the verses from the Bible we wish to use; its not very often that we just post the link to the said verse. I for one always copy paste the verses I use.

Why? Simply because we do not want our readers to shuffle back and forth between tabs just to see what we are talking about; putting the entire verse in our post makes everyone happier. That being said, Oneboxing is troublesome.

The idea I propose is this; we create our own source of The Bible inside this site, and then we Onebox from there. No more hassle.

  • 1
    That's fraught with peril. From which translation to use to getting copy right permissions on the one we do choose. That's not a solution I can see working. Agreed on the thought that we almost always copy the verse in addition to the reference.
    – wax eagle
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 1:19
  • @waxeagle I thought you said perl and I was like, "This website uses perl?" Anyhow, I do wonder; who holds the ultimate copyright to The Bible? Commented May 31, 2013 at 1:29
  • No one does to the original source material. It was all written long before copy right existed. However, most English translations (the only immediate exception that comes to mind would be the original KJV and even this is not quite the case, see below) have been translated recently enough that the copyrights will still be very much in effect.
    – wax eagle
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 1:31
  • 2
    Individual translations have their own copyright. Most of the older ones are out of copyright (the KJV does have special copyright status, despite its age, but only in the UK). The NIV, one of the more popular modern translations, is copyrighted. Bible translators do tend to be more lenient about allowing quoting than many others: some translations include specific licensing allowing quoting x number of verses.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 1:31

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