Thursday, October 4, 2012

Which Bible is the Right One?

I heard today that there is a new product out called "The Founder's Bible."  Apparently this is a regular NASB (New American Standard Bible) stuffed with all kinds of "supplementary material" regarding the "founding fathers" of the United States of America including artwork, articles by David Barton, quotes, embedded commentary, and full color insert pages.  The cost?  $60 hardcover, $80 soft leather, $100 genuine leather.  And that's just talking about the money...

So when I say "product," that is exactly what I mean.  You can go to Bible Gateway and read the full text of the NASB from anywhere you have an internet connection for free.  Or you can purchase a paper copy for as little as $2 at places such as Christian Book Distributors.  What you are paying for, then, is $58-$98 worth of binding, covers, and "supplementary material."

Now to be fair this is certainly not the first "specialty Bible."  There are literally hundreds of them, and it has been this way for decades.  I even own one or two for which I have had particular uses in life and ministry (although they didn't cost anywhere near $100).  In general, though, I am not a fan of the trend, and think it has gone much too far.  I'd much rather see this kind of material released separately, and then sold alongside the Biblical text - rather than packaged together with it as if the Biblical text and the product being sold are one-and-the-same.  *I* know they aren't; I am not so sure that others, though, do not simply come to view the "supplemental material" as equivalent in authority to the text.  I also recognize there isn't a whole lot I can do about this - it is what it is.

So rather than get mired down in the pros and cons and value or lack thereof of "specialty Bibles," let me ask this:  Should the Bible be a "product" at all?  Something off of which people and businesses make money?

Obviously there is some cost associated with producing the paper editions, and will vary according to he materials used and the version of Scripture being produced.  Even the electronic "free" versions such as Bible Gateway aren't really "free" - ever try to own and maintain a web site that gets tens of thousands of hits every day?  It's not cheap.

It's unavoidable in contemporary life that there will be some monetary cost associated with the distribution of the Christian Scriptures.  I don't have any problem with that, at all, especially when and if churches and individual Christians are willing to make the Scriptures available to anyone who desires to have them at very low or no cost.  I have been on staff at several churches who have decided to do this when I brought up the idea to them, and certainly in our Illuminate Peru community, if you need a copy of the Bible and cannot afford to purchase one, we make sure to get you one.  

For those who can afford them, the higher priced Bibles may well help companies earn enough money from their sales to invest in projects that help further the distribution of the Scriptures or other worthy projects that help advance the Kingdom - at least, I hope that is what they do with the profits.  Profit is not inherently evil, and it is a huge motivation for any business - obviously, people go into business to make money to support their family as well as the causes they believe in, and as the business grows, the families and causes of their employees, their investors, and so on.  That is all well and good, and right.  Even so, I would hope that anything above what is needed to achieve these necessary goals would go into goal of further distributing the Scriptures and advancing the Kingdom.

But does distribution of the Scriptures alone - whether given away for free or purchased for $100-a-pop- mean that people will be getting the "right" Bible?  Which Bible *is* the "right" Bible?  More to the point, which Bible is the "right" Bible for you?

Some people believe only free Bibles are the right ones.  Some people believe the ones that interweave faith and politics are the right ones.  For others, only the 1611-King-James-Authorized-Version will do.  Still others believe the NIV is the best (was that the 1984 or the 2011 version?); and yet still others are sold on paraphrases such as the Living Bible.

I have my well-reasoned thoughts on which are the best translation versions, my carefully considered theological beliefs about the role of Scripture and the nature of the Bible, and  my personal opinions about the validity or lack thereof of "specialty Bibles."  But all of those I'll save for another day (although I've touched on that last one quite a bit, today).

My question for today is:  "Which Bible is the right one?"

And here is my answer for today:  "The one you read."

Some of my readers may not be convinced at all that the Bible is even worth reading.  That, too, is a topic worth considering; but also a topic for another day. 

For today I am driving at this, for those who do recognize the value of the Scriptures or are interested in investigating them further:

Have you read the Bible today?  Have you studied it much lately?  Have you memorized any Scriptures recently?  And most importantly - is the Scripture informing and shaping the way you live?  In what ways?

Comments are open.


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