There are two aspects here:

Historical developments which have been by and large well explored by Chris and are mirrored well in our various av11n system - with specific and now largely known gaps - we have less clue on the Roman catholic development of versification systems and probably even less on a variety of autochthone churches with their own historical development of translations an versification. But these are well defined tasks and e.g. the work of Dominique to bring in the French systems documents well how we should handle that side. 

The complications coming in due to modern translation are actually very limited:

FWIW, most modern translations which play about with versifications still actually follow an underlying well known and documented plan. 

NRSV(A) eg seems to be all what UBS and Wycliffe use - even when allowing for verse bridges, reordering and more. 

Which makes me think we should think more about a presentation overlay which we have at the moment very rudimentary only. OSIS certainly allows for more than we incorporate right now. 

This could take eg in the engine the form of a resorting filter where text is reordered and marked up for user facing presentation based on additional presentation info in modules. 

This would to my mind be a much better solution than ever increasing further system of av11n or indeed a complete rewrite. 


Sent from Outlook for iOS

From: sword-devel <> on behalf of Troy A. Griffitts <>
Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2024 12:24 am
To: <>
Subject: Re: [sword-devel] Catholic versification / inter-versification mappings

Dear all,

These comments are a mix of background, history, and thoughts:


Variation between reference systems sucks.  Until you get into the weeds of the details, it is normal to assume the problems are not complex.  SWORD tries to implement a simple 90% solution.

SWORD and JSword support defined abstract versification schemes with 3 simple dimensions: [bookid : chapterMax][chapterNumber : verseMax][verseNumber : verseEntry]

Conceptually we also operate on these assumptions (I've skimmed the proposal by Arnaud which differs here, but I haven't given it the thought it deserves to comment yet): that book order is defined in the v11n system; that chapter and verse numbers are numeric and begin at 1 and increase to verseMax.  We also allocate a special slot '0' for: Module Introduction; Testament Introduction; Book Introduction; and Chapter Introduction (e.g., Matt.0.0 can hold an introduction to Matthew).

Those who have been exposed to many Bibles will immediately think of places these assumption fall short.  But for >90% of our Bibles, these assumption hold true, and these assumption make many aspects of our work much simpler (abstract parsing of verse lists and ranges, bookmark ordering, etc.).

Historically, SWORD previously supported dynamic, per module, versification, with a 3 phase lookup:

index file .bks[book number] = book offset in next index;
index file .cps[book offset + chapter number] = chapter offset in next index;
index file .vss[chapter offset + verse number] = verse offset and entry size in data file.

20 years or so, we made the decision to begin the hard work to understand versification systems within Bibles so we could begin to map them appropriately.  This let us remove the .bks, and .cps index files and store that data in versification system definitions, leaving only the final .vss index file which gave the offsets and entry sizes into the data file.

Caring about versifications was a decision we made.  Our previous design let any Bible decide how many books, how many chapters, and how many verses each chapter contained.  This had its merits because any new versification could be defined in each module without anyone caring what it was.  But the drawback was the same: any Bible could decide how many books, how many chapters, and how many verses without anyone knowing why or what they were.

Some have pushed for dynamic definitions of v11n systems again, and I understand why.  I am in favor of moving forward with a hybrid approach: a set of defined versification systems, which a module will still need to choose from, to which it most closely adheres, + the ability for that module to specify its variation.

Toward 98%: We have tried to work around the cons of this simple design and approach 100% support by accounting for the most common types of problems, e.g.

  • The engine allows common verse suffixes (e.g. Matt.2.7b);
  • The engine skips verses in a Bible which are not present-- this allows us to create v11n schemes which are a superset of n number of closely related v11n schemes, knowing that the engine will skip over the verses that are not present in the module; We also have tools which print out missing verses which has proven a good QA check for our modules team.
  • When we run across a Bible which adds an odd verse here or there or an out of order verse, our workaround has been to append these to end of the verse just before where they should appear, so the text flows the same as the printed Bible, and we include for the reader an inline visual separator and marker showing the publisher's verse number.

These work arounds get us pretty close to being able to support 98% of our Bibles exactly as the publisher wishes, and the remaining 2% is supported "well enough" for no complaints by publishers.  Could we build a system which allowed out of order verses, or which allowed any scheme a Bible wished to follow?  Sure, but the added complexity for various tasks increases quite a bit for some of these allowances-- e.g., think index math for book chapter verse when we cannot assume numeric sequence; think abstract ordering of bookmarks not tied to any specific Bible, search results across Bibles, etc.

Our vision with v11n definitions is that they will be a few as possible allowing us to map between them most easily; and as many as necessary to allow us to represent well enough a published work.

Chris Little previously was our versification pumpkin holder and did some amazing work researching all this material.  As a demonstration of his thorough work and an example of the difficulties with v11n, see his work on just the LXX tradition:

Chris has left our community after many years of volunteering massive time and effort.

We haven't had anyone step up who is willing to commit the time and effort necessary and who holds our vision (as few as possible, as many as necessary).


SWORD and JSword support v11n to v11n mappings. Graciously, Костя Маслюк worked with us for over a year to discuss the problems and implement a versification mapping system which has been included in the engine.  He also added v11n mappings for systems he was interested in supporting. If anyone is interesting in the discussions, they can see the archives, e.g.,

Historically, we called this topic alternate versification, so if you see "av11n" in the archives, you'll be aware.

Registering v11n systems and mappings in the engine is straightforward in our versification manager, and as you can see, loading these dynamically from a file would be simple to implement:

During the development of the mapping infrastructure, our proof of concept was to see if we could concisely build a parallel Bible HTML display across versification systems, letting a user specify any number of Bibles, the first Bible v11n being the primary ordering driver:


So, now to the issue with adding another Catholic versification system.  I would love to continue to delegate ownership of v11n decisions!  I trusted Chris.  He said "no" all the time, and only allowed new versification definitions if we really couldn't support a set of Bibles using an existing system with our work arounds.  He spent the time necessary to understand the traditions, which published works would use the proposed versification, he had excellent skills clearly delineating systems-- generally he made well informed decisions from many hours of research.

I don't understand the complex details nor have the time to do the research for each individual request.  My first thought is, where is Chris?!  Next, my uninformed mind thinks: we have v11n definitions "Catholic" and "Catholic2"! Why do we need an additional Catholic versification system?  Did we do a bad job with the first two?  Can we not follow our principles and create a superset between 2 or more of these?  And of course, these are not proper responses.

So, if anyone is prayfully willing to take up this pumpkin-- to put in the time necessary to research Bible traditions and published works, to truly understands both the pros and cons of the decisions we've made to go down the path we are on, along with our workarounds for the cons, and is willing to live wholeheartedly with where we are now, but certainly always open to improve, I would love for that person to take ownership of versification.

I appreciate the pointers to the Paratext v11ns and mappings, maybe we compare where we are now with what they have.

Thank you all for being zealous to improve things.  Looking forward the conversation to follow,


On 1/26/24 06:10, Arnaud Vié wrote:

Hello everyone,

I'm the person Cyrille mentioned, and I just joined the mailing list as I thought I could maybe explain a bit more what I'm trying to do with this new versification.

1. Problem statement

Simply put, my objective is to be able to align verse-by-verse the contents of two bibles that use different versifications.
For example :
- I open Daniel 3 in a Catholic bible, it has 100 verses because the Prayer of Azariah is included.
- I want to compare the translation verse by verse with, for example, the KJVA. This means I want to see the Daniel 3 from KJVA, with all verses from PrAzar included in the corresponding place.

There was already logic to perform such mapping in jsword, and I recently included it to support deuterocanonical contents (on the AndBible fork, since that's the only one where I got answers from the maintainer) : 

Now, the problem is to be able to do the same with the deuterocanonical additions to the book of Esther, because there are many different "strategies" adopted by different bibles.
- Protestant bibles, when they have it, usually have it a separate books (AddEsth in KJVA).
- Some catholic bibles have it as additional chapters at the end of Esther, making Esther 16 chapters long : that's the existing "Catholic2" versification, which maps to KJVA easily :
- Most catholic bibles actually have the additions integrated directly within the original text, using lettered verse numbers (13A, 13B, etc., see here for example : )

Currently, these catholic bible with the text integrated use the "Catholic" versification, and ignore all the lettered verses (or include the letters as raw text) : basically, Esther 3.13 with these additions becomes one single very long verse. This makes it impossible to map properly with the AddEsth of KJVA.

2. Proposed solution (Catholic3 versification)

With the proposed Catholic3 versification (except it needs a few adjustments compared to the file proposed by Cyrille), what I'd like to achieve is to give a unique verse number to each of those.
For example, Esther 3 goes from 15 to 22 verses, with the OSIS IDs becoming :
- Esth.3.13 for verse 13
- Esth.3.14 for verse 13A...
- Esth.3.20 for verse 13G
- Esth.3.21 for verse 14
(Basically, the OSIS ID identifies the position of the verse; the actual numbering from the bible can be preserved separately with the OSIS "n" attribute or the "\vp" USFM keyword.)

would your use-case be served if canon_catholic.h was
modified to increase the verse counts in Esther to 39, 23, 22, 47, 29,
14, 10, 41, 32, 14?
Since my objective is to allow mapping verse by verse, you'll understand that I need the verse counts to be aligned with the actual usage. Having the "versification" allow more verses than what's actually used defeats the purpose.
In addition, I believe it's a very bad idea to make big changes to already published versifications : the point of versifications is to give a unique ID to a verse. Updating a versification will change all IDs for the verses of already existing bibles that use this versification.
I really believe the best solution for the time being is to create a new Catholic3 versification, as originally suggested.
I can provide the full definition very soon (though since I'm working with JSword it will be in Java format first), and it should in theory be aligned with Catholic and Catholic2 except for these differences in Esther. (I'll check if there are more differences I missed).

3. Modular versifications

I think at some point it would be nice to have per-book versifications
or some other way to deal with bibles that don't follow a "standard"
If everyone is open to the idea, I'd like to work in the next few months on an extension of the OSIS standard to define "modular" versifications, ie. versifications that can be built by composing other versifications and applying a diff.
Then each bible could, in its document header, not only reference a standard versification with refSystem, but include its own specific changes and how they map to the standard.

Before I spend time on the topic though, is there anyone in particular I should ask to approve the general idea, and who would be interested in reviewing proposals on the topic ?

Thanks all and best regards,


Le jeu. 25 janv. 2024 à 16:35, pinoaffe <> a écrit :


I don't know much about catholic bibles or sword, but just out of
curiosity: would your use-case be served if canon_catholic.h was
modified to increase the verse counts in Esther to 39, 23, 22, 47, 29,
14, 10, 41, 32, 14?  Or would the decreases in verse counts in other
chapters of other books also be necessary?

And would such a change be acceptable to others?

The catholic bibles I've encountered "in the wild" are the dutch
Willibrordvertaling of 1975 and the neovulgate.  Both of these appear to
follow canon_catholic3.h everywhere except in Esther, where they have 16

I think at some point it would be nice to have per-book versifications
or some other way to deal with bibles that don't follow a "standard"
versification, but for now we'll have to make do with what we got

Kind regards,

Fr Cyrille <> writes:
> Hello,
> Recently a person interested in the Catholic bible in French told me
> about the mapping problems between Catholic versification and the kjva
> concerning Esther. So I'm bringing up the question of a new Catholic
> versification that could better deal with this kind of problem and at
> the same time incorporate some of the errors in current Catholic
> versifications. I should mention that two versifications for French
> Bibles have been added since my proposal for a new Catholic
> versification, which was made long before these versifications were
> added, and which was not favorably received at the time. In our case,
> the number of Bibles that follow this versification is simply
> enormous, since the majority of Catholic Bibles do. I would also add
> that the LXX versification is not entirely correct. There are no LXX
> today that put 16 chapters to Esther. Ralph's already uses letters to
> integrate Greek passages into the text.
> In fact, Catholic versification simply follows Ralph's. So I suggest
> that we seriously reopen this question with concrete suggestions.
> For my part, the suggestion is simple: convert the numbers in the
> Greek passages into verses and offset the numbered verses in the same
> chapters. I'll copy you on what that might look like.
> Br Cyrille
> [2. text/x-chdr; canon_catholic3.h]...
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