Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

the ESV Bible as a Web Service – API

Remember last month, when I asked “What About Christian Web Services?” Remember when I listed a series of questions remarking that I was in touch with a major Bible publisher who responded to “An Open Letter to Christian Media Outlets” I posted back in July? Well now I can let the cat out of the bag.

Late last December, I was contacted by Stephen Smith, the webmaster for the Holy Bible, English Standard Version website. ESV for short. When you were answering the questions posted as comments back in January, he was taking notes. It also didn’t hurt that some of you came up with web services of your own and used this web site as a means of working out the kinks. But I digress.

Yesterday afternoon, I received the following email from Stephen, announcing that the ESV as the first major Bible publisher to offer their content via web services AND an Application Program Interface (API) similar to those offered by both Google and Amazon. Here’s what Stephen had to say:


We’ve finished (for the most part–SOAP is still a little shaky) the technical implementation of the ESV Bible as a web service, and I anticipate final approval in mid-February. Based on the feedback you and others had, we made some changes to what I sent you previously.

In the meantime, we’ve posted two documents for public comment:

http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/share/services/ – introduction to the service and terms of use
http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/share/services/api/ – description of the API

We welcome any comments you may have. Thanks for helping us make this vision a reality.

Do you understand what this means? Imagine infusing title arguments with Scripture “The Great Commission” so hyperlinks and acronyms have more meaning (i.e. when you hover your mouse over the link) ? Or perhaps rewiring a DHTML trick for long posts to expand Scripture references the actual Word of God? Imagine your Bible Studies, Sermons and Devotionals programatically able to incorporate the Bible in the form of fully annotated footnotes? Imagine the ability to get verses of Bible into countries that would otherwise ban it with a little proxy trickery?

In other words, imagine if you will, applying Scripture to your online words in ways that are only limited by the imagination God has given us.

As you can tell, I’m pretty giddy — and grateful to the good people over at the ESV for having the vision and courage to take these steps. I’ve already given the API a spin and I can tell you, it is as easy to implement as their well documented page indicates. And in case you missed it, they are looking for input. If nothing else, send them a thank you note.

If I could ever find the time, I think the first cool tool I would create would be a MovableType plug-in that would take a custom Scripture reference tag and replace itself with the verses during generation. What about you? Go play with the API. Let the good people over at the ESV know what you think. Then come back an share your thoughts, ideas and visions. I’d be very interested to hear about them — perhaps now, it will get the attention of some other publishers — or at least help out the one who is already listening to us!-)

Thanks Stephen you really made my week!


  1. This does indeed look promising! Good job, Mean Dean, for helping get this off the ground. Hopefully enough Christian webpeople now will acutally use the thing.

  2. Oh someone please make a movabletype plugin, and make one fast!
    Haha this sounds so cool, I really must learn more about SOAP…

  3. Quickest program based on the api yet…
    Okay so it’s just a box that you type a verse into, which then produces the text, but that’s not the point, the point is it’s really quite simple to do (I actually made it in 10 minutes, but then had to go do some real work).

  4. Looks cool. I threw together a quick Miva script to test it out here: http://elbourne.org/temp/esv.mv I’ve only included the required parameters so far, but will add the rest later.

  5. Pingback: Chi Alpha @ Stanford

  6. This is great!! It’s wonderful to hear of a major Christian publisher embracing new technology like this.

    I’m wondering, though – what about something like this for the KJV? That’s the version my church uses and would be perfect for our site. It’s public domain so a publisher’s permission wouldn’t even be needed. Someone just needs to do it – I’d do it if I had the text in an electronic format I could work with. Does anyone know of any way of doing an API or any way I could my hands on an electronic version? Thanks!

    Keep up the good work, Dean!

  7. Never mind – I think I found one. I’ll keep you posted if I come up with something.

  8. I have just put up a website for my church youth group using a website program called PHPNUKE.

    The program comes with over 2200 news feeds that I can add to the main page.

    I have been looking for a RSS news feed for a week know that would be a Daily Devotional but all I can find is things that would teach the youth of my church how to be a cool looser in the world and not how to learn to follow gods ways.

    If you know of a RSS daily devotional or would like help making one please let me know.


    Brian Crissey

  9. Brian,
    you can also use the less sophisticated forms of syndication in the meantime until you find your RSS feed. There are a number of sites which offer devotionals via a javascript ‘SRC’, you just add this to your html coding. In PHP-Nuke, you just have to create an HTML block (or plain text block, if it’s the same as PostNuke 0.64) and paste the code in that they give you. Google devotional and syndication … e.g.,
    http://www.backtothebible.org/syndication/. When you get around to playing with php, you can make a special category for “devotionals,” modify your backend.php, and offer your own syndicated devotional to other rss using sites. If your church uses the lectionary you can use our java lectionary feed at http://watercourse.net/anglicanleuven/lectionary.php (again, by cutting and pasting the javascript code).

  10. I don’t know if you have found anything yet but you could try http://www.feedster.com/ it lets you search rss feeds for stuff, and intern the feeds them selves… I quickly found this site:

    I hope that helps


  11. Pingback: Country Keepers by Gary Petersen

  12. O.k. I’ve written some ASP code that calls the HTTP-GET Interface API’s of ESV. It allows you to have one textbox to search keywords or scriture verses. I also implemented all 3 read the bible in a year plans with previous/next day links for those who missed a day or would like to go ahead. The user gets to pick which plan they would like to use. If anyone’s interested in how its done … give me a shout. Here is my church website for an example of the above functionality.



  13. Hey Dean,

    Found this post on google.com, I know its old, but I am still looking for a bible verse API, particularly for NIV or NKJV, are there any out there other than this ESV version?