"Scroll down" is taking on a new meaning: The first comprehensive Internet edition of the Bible has gone online to meet the demands of a world gone digital.
On Tuesday, Herzog College in Gush Etzion, launched hatanakh.com—the "Google of the Bible," as it is calling the project with the permission of the Google Corporation. The online Bible is the fruit of five years of work by a team of 10 researchers who wanted to make not only the Bible itself, but also biblical commentary, scholarly articles, and religious lessons accessible through a user-friendly website.
Another feature of the site is its stock of Google Maps that allow users to "tour" biblical locations.
The site launched in Hebrew and English versions, and while still in its testing version clocked hundreds of thousands of page views, 53 percent of them from repeat visitors. Users ages 18 to 34 comprised 40 percent of the visitors. Most of the visitors were based in Israel, but the site also saw traffic from the U.S., France, Russia, England, Canada, and Australia.
According to Herzog College head Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes, the project includes tens of thousands of content items amassed throughout 50 years of research, study, instruction, and writing.
The technological development aspect of the project was entrusted to Matrix, which built the site using open code so that external applications can be added in the future.
"This is another step in the revival of Bible study in Israel and the Diaspora and making the Bible the foundation of Israeli and Jewish identity, through a connection to the past and the future—an ancient legacy and modern advancement," Brandes said.
Rabbi Dr. Shuky Reiss, the site's editor-in-chief, said that he expected it to become a leading Bible study tool.
More than NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) has been invested in the site. Herzog College is seeking major donors who can help translate it into additional languages. The team plans to have the site translated into five more languages in 2017, as well as integrate film clips and a GPS navigation system that will enable users to navigate key biblical sites.