JTA – A Bible in printed form: about $ 20.
A Bible on the blockchain: priceless – or at least that’s the hope of two Israeli entrepreneurs who turn Torah verses into NFT.
Non-fungible tokens, also known as NFT, have become a flagship among art collectors and blockchain enthusiasts over the past year or so. Everyone from Grimes to the New York Times have jumped into the game, selling everything from art to a newspaper column to pet clip art, in a new industry that can sometimes look like a scam.
Now CryptoVerses, a company founded by two secular Israelis, hopes to make NFTs made up of encrypted Bible verses in Hebrew and English in the next big blockchain collectible.
CryptoVerses organizes its worms into small groups, listed by story, and has already sold 30 of them for an average price of 0.91 Ethereum, or around $ 4,150. While others have created NFTs of artwork related to Torah chapters, CryptoVerses appears to be the first company to encrypt actual biblical text.
“It’s like an evolution of the printing press,” Yonatan Bendahan, software developer and one of the co-founders of CryptoVerses, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency. He compared the NFT Bible verses to âa kind of new Judaicaâ.
Yuval Meyraz, co-founder of Bendahan, recalled taking a Bible with him on hikes as a youth group counselor. He was reading stories from the Bible that were relevant to where they hiked in Israel in order to connect his campers to the text.
“It was a great way to pass the story on to the next generation, but these days I’m working on a little more technological way to connect young peopleâ¦ with the stories we love and grew up on.” , Meyraz said.
JTA explained to Meyraz and Bendahan why someone would want to own an encrypted Bible verse and how the idea was received. This conversation has been edited and condensed.
JTA: First of all, can you explain what an NFT is for those of us who still haven’t figured it out?
Meyraz: Sure. So, NFT stands for non-fungible token. A token is a digital asset that you can own just like Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency. When it comes to NFT, this is another type of digital asset that you can own. But it’s not a coin; it is something that represents something unique that you can own and transfer, buy and sell. It started mostly with digital art: people created digital images and created a token, which represented these images and started to transfer ownership of those images.
So why would anyone want to buy an NFT of a bible verse?
Bendahan: We see it as a kind of new Judaica, a piece of something you can collect that you have a personal connection with, and want to give to yourself or to a member of your family. Our second goal is to encrypt the text of the Bible on the blockchain. So we want to take the text of the Bible, which was written on a piece of paper or something that was even before paper, and then transfer it to digital copies over the Internet. And now the next phase we’re taking is putting it on the blockchain. And what is so unique is that we put this text on a distributed network, and that way we can make sure that no one can delete it, and that it can be available to anyone. So, by owning an NFT that encrypts a Bible verse, you can participate in the preservation of the text on the blockchain.
How can you even turn the Bible into NFT when no one can really own the Bible?
Meyraz: So like you said, no one can own Torah, it’s totally in the public domain. And we’re not really claiming that anyone will own it, of course. But we see it more as a work of art that we did for the first time. For example, let’s say I took 5,884 gold candlesticks, and on each of them I hit a different verse. And we only have once each candlestick with a specific verse. It is unique. Now, I go over there and sell my art with the specific verse, and it’s not that I’m selling the Bible, but we own the unique canvas, because you only have one. So it’s the same when we made this NFT: it’s a work of art, we are selling the encrypted verse and this is the first time in the history of the Jewish people and this is what we are selling . So the NFT is something you can own, but no one owns the Bible itself.
Who are the people who buy these NFTs? And was there a backlash?
Meyraz: Religious, some of them, we were surprised. They found it super interesting. We were afraid of having negative reactions to the project. We didn’t know how it would be accepted, especially with the religious [Jewish] people. And what surprised us is that it is above all the religious who are more enthusiastic about the project. So we have religious investors studying in the yeshiva even now. One of them even helps us with the text, with the analysis of the text – you would be surprised at the number of versions of Torah, so we had to choose which version is the correct one. It’s really surprising how our intuition that we hope everyone connects to the story to preserve the story, how it really connects with everyone in the real world. It was really surprising, I think it’s very beautiful that people see texts as something precious, especially in the digital age.