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Bible proofreaders do their work with prayer (& ‘a lot of coffee’)

ATLANTA (BP)–Doug and June Gunden believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. Their livelihood — professionally and spiritually — depends on it.

No, they’re not Bible translators, linguists, publishers, preachers or even theologians. They own a small business specializing in Bible editorial and proofreading services.

“We don’t know of another business like ours that exists for the sole purpose of proofreading Bibles,” said June, a former middle school English teacher who, with her husband, has owned and operated Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading Service for more than 20 years.

In January, the Atlanta-area business completed a three-year project proofreading the new Holman Christian Standard Bible, released in April by Broadman & Holman Publishers, LifeWay’s trade book division.

“We got to actually see the original [Holman CSB] manuscript, go through it and interact with translators and the publisher before it ever went to press,” June said. “That’s really very special.”

About 100 biblical scholars, linguists and editors collaborated on the Holman CSB, a translation into modern English from the original languages of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. With a goal of achieving accuracy and readability, the Holman CSB translation is the culmination of a 20-year, $10 million project.

Considering the Bible is the best-selling book in the history of publishing, one might think its production would have been perfected by now. However, translators continue to use advances in linguistics, biblical research and technology to provide the Bible in an accurate and reader-friendly format.

“Translations are always being redone, not because the original languages change, but because our cultural language changes,” June Gunden said. “People do not say the same things in the same ways. For example, we can no longer say, ‘Paul was stoned,’ because of the way young people will interpret that.”

Consequently, a need for Bible proofreaders remains constant, she said.

“In the ‘70s, we were told proofreaders eventually would not be needed as computers got more sophisticated,” she said. But those prophecies remain unfulfilled, and Peachtree is in high demand. Currently, the 17-member staff is working on more than a dozen Bible proofreading projects for various companies.

With painstaking attention to detail, Bible proofreaders are responsible for ensuring that the text fits on each page properly and that the spelling, punctuation and word usage is correct — assurances that only the human eye can verify. Each typesetting change, such as different fonts, larger print or smaller margins, requires a proofreader, she said.

“There is a lot of detail to our work,” Gunden said. “People don’t want to get a Bible with a line or verse missing, so we drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of doughnuts to stay alert.”

Despite the tediousness of their work, the Gundens said proofreading occasionally provides a chuckle. For example, one Bible translation provided a passage in 2 Chronicles that referenced “sour ancestors” instead of “our ancestors.”

That mistake was only funny because it was caught before it went to press, Gunden said. “There’s more at stake in Bible publishing than in book publishing,” she said. “Readers are more forgiving of a book publisher than of a Bible publisher.”

Most Bible proofreading projects begin with comparing printed pages to an audio cassette.

“The tape is really detailed. We spell out words and include punctuation, open and closed quotes, numbering systems for chapters, verses and footnotes,” Gunden said. “And then we cross-check each other.

“Instead of any one person being responsible for the proofing of a certain job, we have a team approach,” she said.

The Gundens say their staff can proofread an existing translation of the Bible in about six weeks. And they’re more than meticulous — they are even prayerful, starting each week by praying for every project.

“It’s just an incredible privilege to be associated with the production and printing of God’s Word, it really is,” Doug Gunden said. “It’s an awesome responsibility and we don’t take it lightly.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BIBLE BASED TEAMWORK and ALL IN THE DETAILS.

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  • David Rivers