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Religious Texts Online

If you need to include a passage from the Bible in a story but aren't sure you've got it quoted right, you can use the Internet to save yourself from embarrassment.

The BibleGateway, a service of The Gospel Communications Network, has an easy-to-use Web search engine for finding either keywords or a specific passage in the Bible.

You can select any of nine different versions of the Bible to search, from the New International to the King James. And the Bible is available in 10 different languages.

At that page you can search for every instance where a word appears in the Bible by typing it into the box on the right. Or use the drop-down menu just underneath the search box to specify if you want to search for a phrase.

Below that you can select the Bible version you want to search. The New International Version is the default setting.

To search for a particular passage, on the left of the main search page is another search box you can use to call up the full text of the passage. Help is provided for entering passages in the proper format.

The BibleGateway can be a valuable tool, whether religion is your beat or you're just a general assignment reporter.

Several years ago I used the site to help with a story on the investigation of the Unabomber serial bombings. Some people involved in the case believed the Unabomber's manifesto and other letters he wrote had religious connotations to them.

I was able to use the BibleGateway to quickly verify that some of the phrases the bomber used in his writings - such as 'good shepherd' and 'Enoch' - were also used in Biblical passages.

The Bible is just one of a number of classic religious texts that are available on the Internet in a searchable format.

But using them is problematic because there are many different translations -- and which of them is most authoritative is often in dispute. And unlike the BibleGateway, those different versions usually aren't all available on one site for comparison.

So before you use any of the other online texts, you should consult with a religious authority about the quality of the translation.

With that caveat in mind, here are some links to a few other religious texts at university Web sites.

The Koran Brown University's Scholarly Technology Group has a 'Quran Browser' with a search engine for doing keyword searches.

Another searchable version of the Koran is available through the Humanities Text Initiative of the University of Michigan's Digital Library Production Service.

And the Muslim Students Association at the University of Southern California has a Qur'an Database that lets you simultaneously search three different translations.

An explanation of the three translations and their limitations is available from the Muslim Students Associate at the University of Southern California.

The Book of Mormon The University of Michigan's digital library service also has made available an electronic version of the Book of Mormon.

Other Religious Texts To locate electronic editions of religious texts not mentioned here, you can try Beliefnet's Sacred Texts Online index. While many of the documents do not have built-in search tools, you can still do a keyword search of the text using the 'Find' or 'Search' buttons on your browser.

Finally, you can try the Virtual Religion Index put together by the Religion Department at Rutger's University. It has a comprehensive list of religious topics and related links.