You can now buy the bible in NFT form. But why would you? – The Front
Perhaps you are immersed in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and know exactly what a non-fungible token is. Or maybe you, like me, barely know what those words mean, but have a vague feeling that guys in a certain type of bar love to talk about bitcoin and that NFTs are some kind of digital art. Maybe you saw the headlines when an NFT, from an artist known as Beeple, sold for $69 million.
Anyway, you can now buy Bible verses as NFT, thanks to the four-month-old Israeli company CryptoVers, which has just announced that it has sold a set of four consecutive verses in Exodus dealing with Shabbat, the shmita year and idolatry for just under half a coin of the Ethereum cryptocurrency, or the equivalent of $1,500. Their first sale was in August for 3.5 Ethereum, worth around $14,000, and the crypto verses offer both the original Hebrew and the 1917 English translation from the Jewish Publication Society.
Pricing is just under $69 million, but still plenty for something you can read for free online, including on CryptoVerses’ own website. Once NFT worms are encrypted in the blockchain, making them impossible to modify and buy, they remain free to view and read on the CryptoVerses site. Cryptoverses even say that owning their Bible NFTs is not owning the verse itself, since the Bible is in the public domain; in a press release, they compared owning their NFTs to owning a “medallion, where the buyer becomes the owner of the medallion but not the owner of the verse written on it.”
This is actually not unusual in the NFT world; this $69 million piece of Beeple is available not only to view but also to download for free, and it remains a mystery to me why anyone paid millions for it. In fact, you can capture or download or access almost any NFT for free, even if you don’t officially own it. Some argue this easy access to NFT content increases the value of the artwork by increasing its popularity and fame and who knows – it might be true. Is not all value fundamentally an invented social agreement? Hell, it’s basically our unspoken societal agreement about the green pieces of paper we carry around in our wallets.
NFT Proponents Say they are the future of art collecting and empower artists, giving them more financial control and a new audience hungry for digital art. But the CryptoVerses project, given its extremely famous and extremely accessible content, highlights a relevant question: what does it mean to own something that anyone can access for free?
Yonatan Bendahan, co-founder of Cryptoverses, likened their NFTs to owning the first printed bible – you don’t own the contents, but you own a revolutionary version of it, an item worth something in itself, “like holding a precious piece of rare Judaica,” he said in an email.
Bendahan also highlighted the potential preservation aspects of the project; Due to the unique technology blockchain uses to store data, once a set of data is entered, it cannot be changed. “Once the verse is encrypted, no one, even us, can delete or modify it,” he said. “So just as the printing press revolutionized Bible distribution and preservation, so too will blockchain.”
On the other hand, when I explained the project to a friend who actually understands some things about the crypto and blockchain world, he pointed out that the public domain nature of the Bible means anyone can create the exact same thing, although Cryptoverses will always have the status of being the first to do so.
Of course, anyone can copy most NFTs, but they are designed to prove that ownership belongs to only one person, perhaps comparable to owning an original work of art, even when prints and posters are widely available. (Of course this is an imperfect metaphor when the original and the print are identical digital pieces, instead of one being oil on canvas and the other laser printed on paper hardback.) But because the Cryptoverses Project source material is in the public domain, you could really create and own your own original NFT that was, at least in content, identical, and you would have official ownership of it, though. it may lack the Cryptoverses brand and any cachet that confers.
But maybe that’s where the real value comes in. With ownership of some NFTs, such as those in the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection, comes perks, like getting invited to fancy parties, and much of the whole NFT world seems to be hype, bragging rights and a certain clique that you have access to when you buy, which is especially underscored by blockchain technology, which creates a public ledger of property – so everyone can see that you are the owner of a trendy piece of Beeple. Value is relative, and pedigree has always been important in the art world; on the contrary, NFTs have simply reduced complex mathematics to pure prestige.
So maybe, in a certain crowd, it’s cool to say that you own part of the Bible in NFT form, and that alone is worth thousands of dollars.
You can now buy the bible in NFT form. But why would you?