December 14, 2017

The New Battle for the Bible, part 1

By Guest Blogger Daniel Jepsen

Coming of age in a fundamentalist church in the 70’s left one feeling a little like a Titanic passenger who’s made it onto the life boat: Yes, it’s kind of cold and cramped in here, and no, we don’t know here we’re going, but at least it’s not down.  Not smug, just relieved, we looked forward to being air-lifted by the rapture.

In the meantime, all sorts of fun could be had in the lifeboat if you knew the games.
The favorite (besides skirmishes with other life boats) was to discern (not judge) the fruits (not the lifestyles) of our fellow passengers.  Standard criteria included the biggies, such as hair length (for men) hem length (for women) and whether they had to look up Amazing Grace and Just as I am or knew all the verses from heart.

My favorite criterion was simpler:  What kind of Bible did they carry? Not the translation, mind you.  You would no more bring in a Bible written after 1611 into our church than you would carry a copy of The Satanic Verses into a mosque.   No, we looked at the type of King James Bible.  If the person clutched a pew bible or plain, standard issue KJV, you could be sure they were a newbie or a slacker.  If they lugged a Thompson Chain-reference, you labeled them studious and serious.  A Scofield indicated true piety, because the Pastor used it.  For most all of us, these were the only real choices. Of course you also had a huge choice of binding (“leather or bonded leather, sir?”) and of colors (“And will that be black, burgundy, or dark blue?”)

My, the times have changed. 

The new convert checking out the Bible section of your average Christian bookstore or website today finds herself like Imelda Marcos with a $100 bill at a shoe convention.  They all look good, but which do you take home?

These are actual Bibles for sale Christianbook.com, and I will let the reader decide if we are really so religious in this country we need all these permutations, or if the marketers have gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Faithgirlz Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Journaling Bible
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

I will stop here.  I haven’t even gotten to the study Bibles.  Or the teen Bibles.  Or the Brides/wedding Bibles (14 listed including a “Groom’s Bible” with a striped tuxedo cover).  In all, the website listed 4229 items under “Bibles”, though, of course, this is only because you can order your “Life in the Spirit Bible” or “Seek and Find Bible” in all kinds of bindings and colors.  Some of the bindings:

  • Hardcover
  • Padded Hardcover (why?)
  • Paper
  • Vinyl
  • Metal (why again?)
  • Leather
  • Premium Leather
  • Calfskin leather
  • European leather
  • Leatherette
  • Leatherlike
  • Leathersoft
  • Imitation leather
  • Bonded leather (this is to real leather what particle board is to real wood)
  • Premium Cromwell bonded leather (no idea)

And you want color?  We got color:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

This, of course, is in addition to the usual suspects (black, red, brown, etc…).

Looking at the two lists, one is forced to conclude two things.  First, the people who make these really, really like leather.  Maybe they own cattle futures.  Second, they must have been pretty hungry.

Now, all this could be passed over with merely a snicker if not for two nagging questions.

First, does the proliferation of Bibles marketed to a certain demographic divide the body of Christ?  An incredible number of these bibles are targeted at women, kids, men, grandparents, African-Americans, Latinos, etc….  Shouldn’t the scriptures of the Cosmic God force me to think in cosmic terms, not just apply it to people in my life situation?  Don’t versions like these re-enforce the walls of division that should be torn down? Does Galatians 3:28 mean nothing here?

Second, does the proliferation of what I call “gimmick bibles” cheapen or trivialize the word of God?  Suppose a young couple gets married, and receives 3 or 4 wedding Bibles including, of course, the Precious Moments Bride’s Bible.  What do they do with these?  Don’t they just sit on the shelf or rot in some box?  Are these Bibles intended to be read and obeyed, or are they just a pretty, but meaningless, gift? Or suppose I give my brother in law, who loves hunting, The Holman Sportsman’s Bible.  This treasure comes in a woodland camouflage cover (no, I’m not kidding), and non-reflective page edges that, we are told, “won’t scare away game”.  The ad description promises, “in addition to the full text of the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, The Sportsman’s Bible contains numerous devotions written for hunters and fishermen…”  Also included are special sections on, “Setting up a Ground Blind” “Tree Stand Safety”, etc…Will a gift like this not encourage my brother in law to think of the Bible as some sort of personal self-help book?  Aren’t we already losing that war without the Christian publishers giving the other side ammo?

When Jesus comes back, I wonder if instead of turning over tables He doesn’t torch a few printing presses instead.


Note: In part 2, I will propose some of my own “designer bibles”; sometimes satire is the best tool to expose foolishness.

Comments

  1. My Kind Of Bible (and Bible Girl): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTYr3JuueF4

  2. Thanks for the memories. I must agree with the criterion and express the guilt I felt at buying my first New King James Version translation.

  3. cermak_rd says:

    Think of it this way, a hunter in a blind can do one of three things. 1. read. 2. drink. 3. Stay on guard and appreciate the beauty of her surroundings. OK, so 3 is ideal. 2 is really not a good idea when one has loaded firearms about (I distinctly remember don’t drink and hunt (and also boat and drink) PSAs punctuating my youth. Obviously, I didn’t grow up in Chicago). Reading? Well, at least it’s not inherently dangerous.

    So encouraging a hunter to read the Scriptures doesn’t strike me as the worst idea on the planet. And, let’s face it, tree stand safety is important when folks are going to sit up in one for hours at a time.

  4. Steve in Toronto says:

    There is an interesting piece over on Slate.com woman’s issues blog XX on evangelical Christians and there /our curious relationship with pop culture. Exhibit A “My Princes bible” http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor/onward-christian-princesses (by the way does any one know how this bible deals with Rahab’s profession or Esters polygamous marriage to a pagan king? These are not issues I would be feel comfortable discussing with my 7 year old daughter)

    • Thanks for the link, Steve. It reminds us of another problem with the sillier Bible versions: we give scoffers more reason to scoff. I hate to think of what George Carlin would have said about this.

  5. Somehow we have a “Surfer’s Bible” in the house. I think my wife found it at a yard sale and meant to give it to a young surfing friend of ours. Maybe Matthew could use it if he comes to the States? 🙂

    About the leather bibles: Although I do have leather shoes and belt, I’d advise against getting a leather-bound bible these days. If a bible is meant as a tool for evangelism, don’t let it be a stumbling block to seekers who are also vegetarians or concerned about animal rights. Leather is no more necessary than the KJV these days. Heresy, I know.

    And lose the Scofield. Please.

    • As a young surfer, I can remember getting depressed that in Revelation “there was no more sea”. That made us more determined than ever to surf ’til rapture.

  6. They have an app. for that. 😉

  7. Daniel,

    Guessing that you are a Christian since you were allowed to post here, I’m glad you made it through the “good old days.” Chalk one up for the grace of God. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up in the harsh environment that you did. I’ll chalk another one up to the grace of God anyway.

    We’ve recently learned that only 45% of Americans can name the four gospels. It doesn’t appear that the cover, translation, or cute amenities are playing any part in increasing our knowledge of God’s Word.

    • Actually, Chris, I am very grateful to that church. Yes, they had some problems (who doesn’t), but I hate to think how I would be now if God had not used that Church to draw me to Himself. While I would not attend a church like that now, most of my memories are postive.

      Good point about the biblical illiteracy.

  8. I remember a time in my Evangelical life when it wasn’t the translation, which was important,or like you’ve asked, the design of the Bible, but it was the “wear” of the Bible that was most important.

    I had a large Geneva, leather bound with many scrapes and bruises. It had the Navigator (Dawson Trotman inspired) book guide on the edges. There were 5 color highlights (which I had done during my study with a Sharpie) of each chapter throughout both testaments, and countless ink notes I had scribbled in the margins.

    That Bible became to me, the same as the zabiba on the forehead of a devout Muslim. They often self-inflict this dark scar in the middle of their foreheads to show the world that they are “people of prayer.” Allah might know that they don’t go to prayer but what is really important is what other Muslims think.

    I, likewise, wanted my Christian counterparts to know I was a man of the word . . . so they would be in awe of my spirituality.

    Because of the above . . . now I never carry a Bible at all. I use the pew Bible. I want people to think that I don’t even own one myself (while I have a bookcase full) lest I get so full of myself again..

    • DreamingWings says:

      Ah the wear test! My church (SDA) growing up combined that with the Underline test. How many important passages, or passages you want to be considered important, underlined in ink. No wussy, vacillating pencils allowed.

      • Personal pet peeve. Call me un-spiritual, but for reasons I cannot understand, I simply abhor writing in my Bible. Maybe I just feel like God has said enough.
        I’m ok with others doing it. I have study bibles with lots of extra writing. If there’s something in my Bible that strikes me as substantially meaningful and relevant to me where I am at the time in life, well then I would so much sooner write it down somewhere else. Anywhere else at all really, just not in my bible. Why? I don’t know.

        • Quixotequest says:

          I also don’t like marking up my Bible. I’ve found from past experience that it makes it hard for future reflection — my eye tends to skip over unmarked verses to refocus on marked verses. Even my Study Bibles are sometimes too distracting to devotional meditation. Even sometimes I wonder, why did I mark this? If I wrote out notes nearby it would help, as if I was compiling my own Mishnah (smile). I just can’t bring myself to mark my Bibles up THAT much. Unfortunately when I write my thoughts in Bible study guides I hardly go back and read them later.

          It’s why at some time I want to go digital — say Olive Tree’s Bible Reader on iPad — so that I can keep notes together with having the versions and commentaries I prefer there if I choose them, while also keeping the text clean for each reading.

          • Matthäus says:

            Yeah, I’ve eventually settled on keeping two Bibles for basically this reason. I keep a plain wide-margin ESV for serious study/annotation, but use a simple NLT for devotion and prayer.

        • Also, marking up your Bible makes it harder to give to someone else who is interested if that opportunity presents itself.

        • I don’t like to make notes in books or highlight period. I don’t care what book it is. It’s one of my pet peeves.

          Now my husband will make corrections even in library books. But I’m mostly talking about sports books. If they get a baseball stat wrong, he thinks it is his duty to make a correction in the margin.

        • Christiane says:

          Speaking of ‘pet’s,
          has anyone read the LOL Cat Bible ??

  9. Wow, did I ever dodge the bullet on this one! I remember walking into a youth Bible study in the early 70’s carrying my nice new leather-bound NASB Study Bible, and not only not getting grief over it, but discussing passages with those who had other non-KJV Bibles.

    But my recent experience? I wanted a simple paper NLT, in about the same size as the 5″ x 8″ ESV I used at work and for reading on the go. The Bible bookstore I went to had a whole shelf full of the 4″ x 6″ military cover Bibles, but we had to special order the one I wanted because I wasn’t interested in the microscopic print in the smaller version. And at that we finally ended up with an Abundant Life Bible, with more notes than I needed, cuz that was the only one in their system.

    And all I wanted was a simple bible!

    • There should have been plenty of good options for a simple NLT without any notes that meet your criteria. We actually publish more editions of the NLT with just the text (and maybe some cross references) than we do editions with extra stuff. I’m sorry the bookstore employees weren’t able to find one for you.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

        I have found that Christian bookstores are the WORST places to find a good bible. I’ve actually gotten my last several at Barnes & Noble! Absolutely loving my very small and very simple NRSV I got there btw!

        • One of the worst things about Christian bookstores, besides the fact that the big focus for most of them is on the latest music craze, is that the employees there think that they actually know what they are talking about most of the time.

          Case in point, a week or so ago I was in a local Christian Book Store in town. I was browsing around and a customer came in telling the employee that he was looking for a bible dictionary that had Hebrew and Aramaic words in it. The employee told him that Aramaic was a spoken language but not a written language. When the two of them came by the place that I was at I told him that he was wrong and that part of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic. I’m not sure he believed me, but when he found one of the bible dictionaries he discovered that it did indeed have Aramaic words in them.

          Such is life in the Christian market place.

        • Agreed. My local store was, until about 2 years ago, one of the few decent Christian bookstores left on the face of this planet (or at least in this country). But the owners retired, and the new owner has bought into the “Christian Ghetto” mindset so prevalent out there. Now the content is as shallow as any of the other stores in the area.

          If I had to do it again I’d go to Amazon.

  10. I’m not interested in Bibles with devotions in it. The point is….. ???

    The proliferation has to do with these publishing houses bottom line, and the impulse of the average pew sitter to buy some stuff, but make it more about them than the other stuff they had before. Which tells you a lot, both about the publisher, and about the pew sitter. These bibles are props in “My life: The movie”. Time to turn off those voices in the head.

    Do I sound harsh? I hope so. This kind of stuff upsets me no end….

    • Mike McDonald says:

      Trace back who owns whom these days. How many truly independent publishing houses are out there? Zondervan, Eerdmans, Baker Book House (all Grand Rapids, MI origins)? Baker, IIRC, is the only one. The Grand Rapids Press had a very revealing behind-the-scenes story how Zondervan ended up as a subsidiary of HarperCollins. Seems the NIV copyright was highly coveted. With the bulk of Christian publishing effectively controlled by outsiders, the marketing muscle is pretty significant. Oh yeah, look at the Christian music labels while you’re at it.

      What did Mark Felt (aka Deep Throat) tell Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein?

      • ….. and HarperCollins is a division of News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox in the US and Sky in the UK, along with much of the media we are exposed to daily.

  11. Great though provoking post. I’ve looked at all of the options myself and wondered (profit margins notwithstanding) if this isn’t a reflection of some of the 85% of American who claim Christianity, who have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees; that it is what on the outside that counts…..Hmmm…

    • That is part of my concern as well, that the Bible is becoming a cultural commodity.

    • The Bible as accessory. The Bible as your ID. The Bible as your entry pass. The B-I-B-L-E. Bibliolatry, been there,done that. I often wonder what would happen if someone brought an interlinear KJV-Koine-Hebrew bible along. Would that blow ’em out of the water, or would the criticism be it smacked of pride. Personally, I try to read a version through, then move on to another. Most often, I don’t bother with Lifeway but order through Amazon. (You’ll never see the Jerusalem Bible in a “Christian” bookstore). On another thought, I never brought a waterproof camo Bible along on a deer hunt. It sure would have been handy to wipe the deer blood off the pages. Guess I was too busy praying for that big buck to walk by rather than to keep my eyes fixed on a printed page.

  12. I bought a specialized Bible once, the Celebrate Recovery Bible, because I was in recovery at the time. The devotions in it were specific to my situation and were actually a great help to me. I recommend it to anyone in recovery.

    That said, I do agree that the specialized-Bible thing has gotten out of control. There is only one reason that publishers keep coming up with this stuff, and that’s because it’s selling!

  13. I just wanted to make a quick note about the metal covers that got a why again? I don’t have one of these, but here in university many students will end up with Bibles practically torn to bits from being carried in backpacks, purses, &c. Some people end up buying the fabric covers, others just keep carrying around the box that the Bible came in, but I have seen a few people with the metal cases, and I have to admit, they seem to hold up to wear and tear pretty well.

  14. What was the line the “Cyclops” gave in O’ Brother Where Art Thou? Something like:
    “There’s money to be made in dealin’ the Word O’ God!”

    • yeahhh……then the Gi-normous burning cross came down and plunked him right on the ol’ eye ball…….. there’s a moral in here somewheres…..

      GregR

  15. I was curious how the waterproof Bible is bound. ChristianBook offers the waterproof, sportsman Bible in KJV, NIV, ESV and NLT but I couldn’t find anything about what makes it waterproof.

    Anyway the KJV says their version includes:

    • Devotional Stories
    • Witnessing Prompts
    • Hymns
    • Presentation Page
    • Sportsman’s Prayer
    • Blank lined pages for notes

  16. Tim Becker says:

    Don’t go to a Christian bookstore, go to WalMart, or a regular old bookstore like Borders. I got a large print NIV there- plain, nothing but the text- for cheap.

  17. I wont lie, I thought briefly that a “Duct Tape Bible” would be kind of neat. Then again, the Bible my grandfather gave me 20 years ago could just be taped up and I could save the money.

    While I avoided fundamentalism, I am one of those who’s been given a few “Bible Tests.” I went into a new church and had someone criticize my NIV as corrupt, and earlier had someone mention that my Bible didn’t have much in the ways of underlining.

    The community also had a few Gail Riplinger readers. That made for fun times.

    • I had a Duct Tape Bible once. It wasn’t sold that way, though. The binding was breaking (a combination of fairly heavy use and my tendency to drop things — I’m a klutz) so I needed duct tape to hold it together.

      I’ve also experienced the questions about my lack of Bible underlining, too — but I responded that I didn’t underline because I was uncomfortable adding to God’s perfect Word. Shut them up fast. (That wasn’t my intent — I really do feel uncomfortable scribbling in a Bible!)

      And FWIW: the padded hardcover version is for people like me — klutzes — who tend to lose their grip on their Bibles in rainy parking lots. My first Bible after giving my life to Christ was a padded-covered NASB, and it lasted longer than any other I’ve owned. In fact, I still have it, packing tape and all. (Looks sharper than duct tape.)

      • Does that mean the duct tape bible is like those designer jeans made to look worn out? Get that chic, bible-devoted look without ever opening one?

    • I’ve never had my Bible “attacked” until last week. The NASB that I’ve had for years was criticized by a certain “Bible teacher” and one of his friends said something about “Obama…” after certain verses in my “corrupted” text were “exposed.”

      As I’ve studied the issue during the past week, it has become painfully obvious how certain issues, like the “KJV Only” one, divide Christians unnecessarily.

      When I asked the “Bible teacher” why so many scholars accepted and used other versions, I was told that it was out of ignorance.

      I am prepared to ask the “Bible teacher” a few other questions if I run across him again.

      …And the duct tape Bible. I have a friend of little means who knows his Bible better than most. He has several Bibles and each one have been duct taped out of necessity. The first time I saw one of his duct taped Bibles, I thought it was a beautiful sight.

  18. Tim Becker says:

    A little story of mine: I was at a friend’s house waiting for a small group Bible study to begin. I was sitting on a folding chair, and placed my Bible under the chair on the floor because I got tired of holding it. The study leader instructed me to pick it up because I was “disrespecting” it for sitting it on the floor. I’m not an outspoken person face to face, so I timidly picked it up cause I was speechless. I thought of a lot of things I could have said when I got home though.

    • He must be Jewish. 🙂 When they carry the Torah down the aisle in the synagogue before reading it, pious Jews kiss their prayer shawls and then touch them to the Torah cover as it passes by them. Also, if you drop a Bible, you’re supposed to pick it up and kiss it. And when they read from the Torah, they use a metal pointer to follow along so their fingers don’t come in contact with the pages. I think that’s both to prevent finger oils from staining or damaging the parchment and to show reverence for the Holy Word of God.

      • Buford Hollis says:

        Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims would react similarly to placing their scriptures on the floor. For that matter, so would the Christian minorities from these cultures.

        • Yes, I am Orthodox Christian and we treat the Bible with reverence by kissing it and keeping it on a shelf rather than just lying around.

          If only people would live and obey the words IN the Bible and not get hung up on the cover, study notes, etc inside. I mean, yes, I have a nice study Bible and I appreciate the notes in it, but the whole idea is to learn what God’s Word is saying to us and live it!

      • cermak_rd says:

        I would imagine for some its a devotional thing, and for others, simple practicality. Those Torah scrolls are not cheap if purchased, and making them in house is a real labor of love (the whole thing has to be absolutely perfect)!

    • I had a Muslim friend in college who nonetheless liked to read a Gideons New Testament, and he treated it similarly — kissing it after reading it and the like.

    • My wife grew up in a country Baptist church and when we started attending churches where people actually wrote and marked in their Bibles, it took her awhile to get used to it. I.e., she was taught (or somehow picked up the idea) that you are not to do that to The Holy Bible.

      I tend to think that this marketing and popularizing of the Scriptures in all these faddish covers and colors and formats and trademarks and Veggie Tales etc., etc., tends to denigrate its status, or the status/place it should have. On the other hand, I don’t always treat my Bibles with the utmost respect; my GNT gets tossed in a book bag and when I go to church I stack my various books beside me on the floor – JPS OT diglot, NA27/UBS4 GNT, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, Max & Mary – so I can pick them up as needed. One day I hope to have a laptop with my Logos software on it, which will mean no more pile of books. 🙂

  19. I think it makes more sense to publish a booklet of devos for spotspeople, or hunters, or couples getting married. Printing the whole bible in there is just a ploy to sell more volume. Turns the tables on them I say. Give people flexibility by letting them have just the bible, in whatever size & shape suits, with whatever reading guide or other material suits.

    Given the amount of time we hopefully read the thing, it’s fair enough that we get our choice of cover and size. In my case, I appreciate having a bible that doesn’t take up much space in my bag, and the cover keeps it intact, and it stays open on the table unlike regular paperbacks.

    And if you’re going to be reading it on the train, you want a cover that doesn’t make you feel weird – for some that’s a plain cover, for some it’s a magazine. And sometimes those magazine bibles might be good for getting the Word into the hands of those otherwise uninterested.

    Then there’s the bible covers! Again, no other book gets carried around and used al the time so a cover is ok, but again it’s a way for the industry to “fleece” the customers. (My boss carries his laptop in one so it doesn’t get stolen).

  20. Buford Hollis says:

    Out of curiosity, how many of these different brands feature anything other than the double-column text format?

  21. Hey, let’s not forget the Shawshank Redemption Bible…

    • Buford Hollis says:

      Is Rita Hayworth on the cover? (Riding the Beast, perhaps…?)

      • No, but it does have a handy storage compartment.

        • Rev. Chad Williams says:

          I had a NIV that would fit in my overcoat pocket, that was the right size to hollow out and fit a derringer in it. That was he only good thing I can say for the NIV.

  22. Q: First, does the proliferation of Bibles marketed to a certain demographic divide the body of Christ?
    A: I actually have several different versions in print and more electronically. There are some who would use the version you have and use to denote “holiness” but personally, I don’t agree with that. It is good to know the strengths and weaknesses of each translation or paraphrase. I still remember the first edition of “The Living Bible” paraphrased King Saul shouting “You son of a perverse rebellious woman” at David as “You son of a B*****”.

    Q: Second, does the proliferation of what I call “gimmick bibles” cheapen or trivialize the word of God?
    A: On the one hand, if those “gimmick bibles” draw people to read, I don’t have a problem with it. On the other hand, it really seems like a marketing gimmick. There are those special topic Bibles that I do have problems with because the notes take scripture out of context or at least expose the writer/publisher’s bias’.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      A1. The technical term is “niche-marketing the body of Christ.”

      • “niche-marketing”. That sounds about right.

        Are any of the major publishing houses of Bibles not owned by a larger secular brand?

      • The churches are just as bad. There are Sunday schools and small groups for every possible group: high school, college, young adult, singles, parents, grandparents, you name it. Makes you want to ask if there’s a Bible study for Christians.

      • Somehow the idea of using the terms “marketing” and “body of Christ” in the same sentence is just wrong.

  23. Funny thing is the Bible I like the most is the hardest one to find: the original Jerusalem Bible.

    • dumb ox, I bet you know that Tolkien helped work on The Book of Job in the Jerusalem Bible.

      I have a hard time settling on one translation. A friend gave me the NIV years ago and I kind of like the way that flows, though I have read that it has some accuracy problems. The Catholic Church (I am Catholic) “approves” the New American Bible, the Jerusalem Bible (and newer version) Revised Standard Version and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I read a book by the Pope recently and he was quoting from passages from the NRSV translation. I have The Message which I go to when there is a particular passage that confuses me and I want to see what Eugene Peterson did with the passage in The Message He does some interesting things! I love that man.

      When I was involved with an evangelical non-denominational group many years ago, I got a copy of the Thompson Chain-reference that Daniel mentions in his post. (burgandy, soft cover, leather or like leather.) I did the underlining thing, sometimes even in colors to go with the subject being discussed by the pastor! Now, I don’t really want to write in the Bible. I am thinking I need to have a journal beside me though to make some notes, some questions, etc.

      Truth is, though, lately I have been reading books other than the Bible, though they are by folks who have studied and loved the Bible: Wright, Dillard, Kathleen Norris, Pope Benedict, C.S. Lewis (I finally just read The Great Divorce!), Eugene Peterson, Michael Spencer, Robert Capon. And reading stuff HERE is keeping me too busy reading. There is great stuff here though.

  24. The only thing I’ve seriously read for the last couple years has been my iPhone Bibles. I’ve got NIV, NAS and ESV. You can underline and make margin notes and a search function. They’ll also take you through several “Bible in a Year” programs automatically. It’s always with you (for those times you’re in line at the DMV). I’ve also got the Daily Office on the iPhone.

    I go to a church where the majority use iPhone or iPad bibles and the preacher preaches with his notes and his bible on a Kindle. I know…Paul wouldn’t like it. Paul will just have to get over it. I’m 59 years old and grew up on the KJV “slapping bible” that the preacher could wad up in his hand as he elevated it above his head and begged you to come down to the alter just one more time (“Just one more verse of Just As I Am”). Don’t know how I ended up with this iPhone group…but its some of the best fellowship and best bible preaching I’ve ever had. Go figure.

    • Brad, I have never seen the Bible oniPhones or iPads. I am reading that the iPad is very popular right now. There is a TV commercial that surely makes it look like fun. I use biblegateway online to read through parts of a bunch of different translations, but it’s usually just to check on a couple passages. I think I like an actual book with paper pages for the Bible that I sit down with and read. And then fall asleep with it beside me or on top of me.

      Speaking of which….good night, all, from beautiful Maine.

      • I understand the “I need to be able to curl up with it” thing. But, when I compare the amount of actual reading I do on the iPhone bibles compared to the various “dead tree” bibles I’ve accumulated over the years…the iPhone bibles win. Partly because I’ve always got it in my pocket.

        Although it seems like the ultimate “cool” bible (which is one of the points of this post, I think), the iPhone bibles are really very minimalistic. You’ve got the text, and you can interact with it (notes), or research it (search). Just you and the Word.

      • I’ve had electronic bibles from Laridian and Olive Tree on a Palm & Windows CE device (both hand-held).

        YouVersion.com has iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch electronically. They also have Blackberry, android as well as several other mobile device Bibles. As long as you are connected, you can have your choice of most major translations in english as well as translations in quite a few different languages.

      • Joanie, I was wondering why nobody mentioned ipod apps. I have the usual collection, but don’t carry one unless going to Bible study. I’m Catholic. But, on my Ipod I have the RSVCE, Douay Rhiems and, I think KJV, but I forget. I don’t like the way the NAB is worded, so only use daily readings for mass from that. There is even a Jerusalem app. Quite useful, actually,

        • Hi Anne. I was reading a book of Catholic commentary on one of the books of the Bible (I forget which) and the author says the NAB has an “unfortunate” choice of words for some of their translations. I have the RSVCE at work but the “font” is kind of small. I like the big font in the large letter edition of The Message that I have at home. Getting old and a bit of cataracts (sp?) and bifocals make it not so easy!

    • cermak_rd says:

      I’ve got the Tanukh on iPhone and I love it. It’s great being able to read it anywhere. I also have a couple of Hebrew dictionaries on my iphone, so if I get stuck on a word, it’s easy to figure out what it is. But the best feature of electronic texts IMO..the ability to size the text to what’s comfortable to read. The nikkud (vowel pointers) can be tiny in paper texts, so having it on iPhone is really handy. Move the fingers and presto, it’s big enough for my mortal eyes to read.

  25. Tim Becker says:

    The problem with writing in the margin is that you have to scratch it out when your views change.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I’m 52 and still have a Bible I got in high school. It’s gone from arminian dispensationalist to calvinist amil, to postmil theonomist to partial preterist, and now not much of anything. It has a lot of scratch outs in it. 🙂

  26. The God Girl Bible
    Veggie Tales Bible

    I now understand why versions of the Bible were burned as heretical in the 14th century!

    • I know you are joking joe, so I’ve got to comment on Bibles for kids.

      When our kids started reading, we found an age appropriate “Bible” for them. As they grew, we continued to find one of the many Bibles written for their age level.

      We’ve still got them all, including one of my favorites – The Picture Bible. I can’t resist reading it once in awhile.

      Maybe I’m just blessed or maybe it had something to do with early exposure, but my son (15) reads his Bible daily. Every once in a while I’ll ask him what book he’s in. I’ve tried to get him to go back and forth from Old to New Testaments but he prefers to start at the front and work his way through. I guess I’ll have to accept that.

      My recommendation…start them early with simple Bibles like the “Beginner’s Bible.” I think it had a few lines for the entire book of Genesis along with a nice picture. Never give them something that’s too difficult. They’ll eventually get to that…where we are now.

  27. Hi Daniel,

    I prefer simply to follow a translation prepared by a reliable team of scholars. e.g. The NRSV, NIV, JB, NAB. All these fads listed above seem to me like going over the top. The important thing is to read a good translation of the bible with the heart and the mind, using the best of biblical scholarship and also relying on the Spirit of God to make its meaning clear by applying proper hermeneutical procedures. Make Jesus central.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  28. A new <a href="“>Bible was announced in September: The C.S. Lewis Bible. And the promo for it said: “…By pairing Lewis’ writing with scripture, this Bible offers readers the opportunity to gain fresh insight into Lewis’s writings, his own spiritual journey, and to the scriptures themselves.”

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that Bible publishers are like George Lucas: releasing a “new and improved” Bible (or in Lucas’ case, Star Wars) every couple of years, not to actually add value and substance but to make money.

  29. Matthäus says:

    Hey, don’t knock the Journaling Bible, it’s actually one of the better wide-margin editions out there.

    I like the fact that there’s a bit of variety in the Bible market, at least as far as binding, typesetting, and translation are concerned. I’d seriously love to see more single-columns and wide-margins.

    • I’m for wide margins! If a verse really “speaks” to a current situation I like to put a note by it with a date so that I can remind myself later of God’s work in my life.

  30. In my circles, it was the biggest, fattest, blackest, most genuine leather Oxford or Cambridge wide margin KJV that gave you the necessary spirituality. Pocket bibles were for sissies.

  31. Donalbain says:

    Have you guys forgotten the Most Important Bible Evah?

    http://www.conservapedia.com/Conservative_Bible_Project

    • Buford Hollis says:

      I had a look at this, and was surprised at interesting (in a good way) it was. I started with the Sermon on the Mount, suspecting that they would hate it, but lo and behold they have a lot of reasonable-sounding commentary–lots of notes about the Greek, stuff like that. The weirdest thing that I saw was that they prefer “grape juice” over “wine” on the basis that according to some book they read, it wasn’t actually fermented. Oh, and the front page complained that the inclusion of “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” is some kind of liberal plot.

  32. I used to try to keep a copy of each of the major translations,and read through each at least once. Then publishers started making translations only because they were mad at the NIV copyright. I hit my limit after that.

  33. This reminds me of my other dilemma, denim jeans. Used to be simple… straight cut or boot leg, blue or faded, Levi or Wrangler. I have too many choices now, hurts my head.

    I have even noticed contemporary churches are divided by denim jeans. I went to one church where everyone wore Wranglers. Another church everyone had expensive brand label jeans. I don’t even know what to wear when visiting a church 🙂

    • The whole country has just gone nuts with choice for everything. We’re drowning in choices and as a result we’ve become ungrateful. Whoever the advertising genius was that came up with the idea of multiples of the same basic product, he didn’t do us any favors.

      • I have often asked missionaries who had returned to America what was the most difficult thing about coming back. Several (most?) mentioned being paralyzed by the obscene amount of choice we have for everything. One woman told me she went into the store to buy some peanut butter, and stared at disbelief and confusion at all the choices. She eventually just left the store without any.

        • A friend of mine was a missionary in one of the black homelands in South Africa in the 1980s, and he mentioned that very thing when he came home–it was in the middle of the “Cola Wars” when Coke and Pepsi were killing each other coming out with new products. I think he wanted to turn around and go back.

  34. I guess of all possible things to be outraged at, this is relatively low on my list. I mean, yeah, the cheese factor of some of the different permutations of these “marketing” Bibles is through the roof. To me most of the things in any given Christian bookstore could be lost in a fire, and next to nothing of real value would be gone.

  35. Jeff {the student pastor) says:

    I confess that I purchased a comic book form of the New Testament for my 8 year old son, but he voluntarily reads it. He has another Bible, but this is the one that he takes off the bookshelf and spends time reading on his own. I don’t really have a problem with this. As he gets older and more mature I expect that he will be ready for a more mature version of the Bible. I’m fairly confident that he will not need a new Bible for every life circumstance that he goes through. That said, I fail to see a problem with having target markets for the extras place in each bible. As long as people as spending time in the word of God, I don’t care how it’s bound or who it’s marketed to.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I had one of those. It was really good when I was around your son’s age. When I was in college, I dated a girl who had really young siblings. Her (and their, of course) father would read to them out of that same comic book bible before bed. I think it was very good for them.

      Similarly, I also had various collections of bible stories growing up that my parents would read to me. It was a good way to get a little-kid-me familiar with the stories and lay the foundation for reading the Bible for real later on. Again, a very good thing.

      Here’s something weird, though: I was listening to NT Wright talking about the book of Philemon recently. He said that his parents got he and his sister “coronation Bibles” when the Queen was crowned that were special editions of the KJV. At the respective ages of 4 and 5, he and his sister first read Philemon in this edition of the KJV because they saw that little book as being manageable for them. 4 and 5 and they were reading the Bible itself. Wow.

  36. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    My first real bible, given to me when I was about 7 or 8 (around 1987), was the New American Bible for Catholic Children. My mom gave it to me in this horrible white leather bible cover that managed to get the ink from every bulletin stuck to it. I still have it, though I’ve traded it for a much less annoying black canvas cover. It had margin notes in similar amounts to the venerable Oxford Annotated Bible. Later on I realized that they were rather liberal-leaning and not really geared toward children. I think the only reason it was marketed as a Children’s bible was that it had an illustration of Jesus sitting with several children of diverse ethnicities on the cover (always reminded me of the song “Jesus loves the little children” and its litany of the various “colors” of children that are “precious in his site.”

    I used that bible pretty exclusively until I was in high school. By the time I was in 7th grade, we had left the Catholic church. I used to get a kick out of my youth pastors flipping through my bible and stumbling across Sirach or whatever, ‘cuz they just didn’t quite know what to do with a bible that had the apocrypha/deuterocannonicals in it.

    In high school I was given a NIV Student’s bible (I think the teenager’s edition of the NIV Study Bible). With the wonderful Zondervan three-track reading program I was able to actually read through the bible for the first time at age 16 or so. The notes helped me think about stuff as well. I have since given away all my copies of that edition to folks who were in similar newbie-ish places in their bible readings.

    These days, I usually just get a plain text edition of whatever translation I’m checking out, though I do have a couple of more reputable study bibles. The ESV Study Bible was my most recent. It’s commentary is very good for a single-volume bible/commentary set. That’s about as gimmicky as I get, though.

  37. I tend to use NIV for convenience. The desktop version is easy to search. The print reference version has the largest print so I use it for teaching Sunday school. But I have to tell you, I have some real problems with some of the translations.

    This is the worst I’ve found so far:

    Mk 15:2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

    Fortunately members of the class use various versions, although the majority use KJV or NIV. (One person uses an iPad). So when this chapter came up in class we examined various versions. As far as I can tell only NIV makes Jesus’ response so affirmative.

  38. By way of balance, allow me to state that I am eternally grateful for two modern editions of the scriptures.

    The first is the NIV Study Bible. I have been using this for almost 20 years, and am amazed at its depth, balance, and common sense. Simply by paying close attention to the text, notes, and cross-references, you have as much knowledge on a passage as most commentaries on the English Text.

    The second is the ESV Study Bible. I was given this at a conference last spring, and was amazed to find that not only did I love the ESV translation, but the notes were the best I have seen. This is a superb work, and I read it almost every day. My only quibble is that the 150 pages of articles in the back is a bit much.

    So hats off to Zondervan and Crossway for these two wonderful study Bibles.

  39. The Fire Bible and the Life in the Spirit Study Bible are actually both permutations on the same thing. The Life in the Spirit Study Bible got the nickname “Fire Bible” overseas because of the flame on the cover (think “tongues of fire”, it’s a Pentecostal study Bible with articles, commentary, and even sermon outlines from a Pentecostal perspective — great resource in its foreign-language edition for native pastors, many of whom don’t have access to study helps in their languages). The original title in the U.S. was the Full Life Study Bible. They changed the name to Life in the Spirit Study Bible several years ago. They are now doing editions for teens and children (reworking the articles and study notes to their level), and issuing these editions under the “Fire Bible” name.

    The congregation I’m a member of has a Fire Bible Sunday each year where we take a special offering to provide these Bibles to pastors in another country, usually one where Christians are in the minority and you can’t just go down to the corner bookstore and buy a commentary set.

  40. I can’t believe no-one had any snarky comments about the “God-girl Bible” being only available in “snow white”.

  41. The other night I heard a noise coming from my study, where I keep all those study Bibles that promise to “make the word come alive.” In fact, it sounded like voices arguing.

    When I opened the door, the MacArthur Study Bible was upset that the Reformed Study Bible and the Purpose-Driven Bible were on the same shelf. The Prophecy Study Bible kept saying, “I knew this was going to happen.” The African-American Study Bible just kept saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    The McLaren Study Bible (20 vols., on its own shelf) took five minutes to say something, but there were so many conjunctions and relative clauses that I couldn’t make any sense out of it.

    Then again, it could have been the cough syrup I’ve been taking.

    • perfect!

    • thought maybe the noise was an AiG study bible caught in a tar pit……. or the MacArthur study bible speaking in tongues… maybe a ‘discernment ministries’ bible praying loudly in Latin…. the possibilities are almost endless… until the pre-trib Scofield approved second coming, of course 🙂

      GregR

    • I can’t improve on Daniel’s response, but compliments to the creative.

    • Dave,

      I went to your blog and read the post about the economy. Good stuff.
      I tried to comment, but was unable.
      Am I missing something? I didn’t see a place to comment.

    • Funny, Dave!

      (That’s got to be SOME cough syrup you’ve been taking.)

  42. I used to volunteer at a church bookstore, so I get this whole Bible thing. I stopped shopping at so-called ‘Christian’ book stores–it is what I call ‘Christian Crap’ because it is so junky. Slap a Bible verse on anything and it’s a Christian gift! Wow!
    I have the same Bible I had in high school (i’m over 50) and it works for me.
    When I think about how many people have sacrificed so much so that I can have holy scripture in my language and in my hand–it pains me to see how we have so secularized what is holy and true.

    • Buford Hollis says:

      The trade name for all this stuff–used by everybody in the business–is “Jesus junk.”

  43. I presently am using an NAB/Versión Popular (Spanish and English), having had my Douay taken and destroyed. I do find some of the English a little jarring, but not as bad as one “translation” I saw in which the 23rd Psalm began, “The Lord is my shepherd. I ain’t afraid of nothing:”
    I also like the Jerusalem Bible.
    I had an all Spanish Latin American edition with large print. It was loaned to a friend who allowed some Jehovah’s Witnesses to “edit” it. It is now missing several books, and has black marker throughout, making it virtually impossible to use in coherent fashion.

  44. I basically started out on the NASB(which I occasionally refer to as the HSV (Hair-Splitter’s Version, as it’s extremely literal translation lends itself to hair-splitting), went through a period of using the NIV (useful because it flows better, and lends itself to paying attention to the flow of thought). Currently I carry Olive Tree’s Biblereader software on my Treo, primarily using the NASB (mostly because it includes the Strong’s dictionaries) and the NET (New English Translation), which I’m growing increasingly fond of.

    Two things make me appreciate the NET:
    1. The English style comes across more contemporary or colloquial than is typical of other translations I’ve used. This actually took a bit of getting used to; I initially got the feeling of it making scripture sound ‘ordinary’. I’ve since decided that this seems to me more compatible with a Lord who decided to literally be ‘born in a barn’, whom scripture describes as not being exceptional-looking, and who had the New Testament written in ‘street greek’, rather than the more high-falutin classical greek.
    2. The extensive translator’s and study notes (I believe the count is over 60,000). The translator’s notes point out issues that come up in the original languages, describe alternate meanings, and give the reasons for the rendering used. I find this very useful.

    As an example, recently I heard someone preaching on 1 Pet 5:6-7, pointing out that in the original Greek, ‘casting all your cares on him'(v7) is an expression of how you ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God’. I pulled up the NET and found a translators note (and a study note) to the same effect, and that the NET rearranges the order of verse 6 ‘so that the English reader could more clearly see the connection between “casting(v. 6) and “humble”(v. 7)’ (quote from translator’s note). There are a few things I’m not sure I agree with or where I suspect they’ve veered more in the direction of interpretation than translation (more in the study notes than in the actual translation), but on balance, I’ve found the NET to be a valuable addition to Bible study.