Even all-thumbed technophobes who can't program a VCR and don't know a dot from a com will have to admit that the computer can be awfully handy.
Consider the Bible. True, for reading comfort and marking up favorite passages, nothing will ever replace Holy Writ in old-fashioned book form. But computerized CD-ROM Bible texts are helpful for on-screen research. And the Internet provides similar electronic access to most of the major translations in English (and in many foreign languages), often with search functions.
No single Web site offers everything you'd want in cyber-Scriptures, but two stand out. Protestants especially might start with The Bible Gateway, http://bible.gospelcom.net.
This site is part of Gospel Communications Network, an Internet service sponsored by Gospel Films of Muskegon, Mich., and other conservative Protestant ministries. It posts eight English translations, and notably includes three of the most beloved:
1. The King James Version of 1611, still the king for literary types and traditionalists.
2. Its Revised Standard Version update from 1952, the favorite 20th-century translation for those who want to retain King James elegance.
3. The New International Version of 1978, a huge-selling rendition produced by conservative evangelicals.
On Gateway, readers can call up for comparison the same verse or verses from any or all of those three versions and five lesser-known ones: The slightly updated "New" King James Version, John Nelson Darby's 1890 Bible, Robert Young's strictly literal 1898 translation, the literal New American Standard Bible of 1971 and the highly simplified "Worldwide English" New Testament from 1971.
One problem: Because Gateway is devoutly Protestant, it omits the Deuterocanonical books (also known as the Apocrypha) that Protestants believe are not part of the Bible. That will frustrate Roman Catholic and Orthodox readers, for whom the Bible includes these extra Old Testament books.
Another conservative Protestant site, The Unbound Bible www.unboundbible.org accommodates Catholic and Orthodox needs and boasts special features, though it lacks the popular Revised Standard and New International versions.
Sponsored by Biola University of La Mirada, Calif., the Unbound provides the Deuterocanonical books with its King James Version, and with the official Catholic Bible that was produced during the King James era, the Douay-Rheims version of 1609.
Besides those two texts, the Unbound, like the Gateway, has the New American Standard, Darby and Young translations. And it adds the American Standard Version, Basic English, Webster's and World English Bibles, and the Weymouth New Testament.
The Unbound allows three-version comparisons of verses. An exclusive feature is its 10 searchable Bible reference works (dictionary, commentary, etc.). Not bad, but realize that these old works, in the public domain and free for the asking, don't compare with the currently published reference books that serious Bible students should be buying and using.
The Revised Standard Version with the Deuterocanonical books (also the King James with Deuterocanonicals and the 1582 Catholic New Testament) can be found at the Humanities Text Initiative of the University of Michigan digital library, www.hti.umich.edu
Two other important Bible translations are available online:
l The official U.S. Catholic version, the New American Bible of 1991, is posted on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops site: www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible.
l For a version using gender-free language, there's the ecumenical New Revised Standard Version of 1989, found on the Daily Devotions site: www.devotions.net/bible/00bible.htm.
l For links to several of these Bible sites, as well as sacred writings apart from the Bible, click on "Search Sacred Texts" under the "Spiritual Tools" at www.beliefnet.com, an interfaith portal.