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Things to Know About the Longest Running Bible Bestseller: The KJV

I have never been a reader of history books, be they Canadian or American history, or even world history. The middle and high schools I attended were the product of experimental education theories, and I actually have no history credits in high school itself, and my middle school history notes would fill about 16 notebook pages. As a result I have a reading deficiency which fortunately does not extend to fiction or biography, but does impair my knowledge of church history.

God's SecretariesSo five years ago when I picked up the book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible a 2005 HarperCollins title by Adam Nicholson, I didn’t realize I was going to finish it, or I might have made more notes. Still there are few things I remember the next morning worth noting, especially given the strange Bibliolatry which surrounds this version in the 21st century.

The Translators were highly motivated by the prestige the project would bring. Climbing the ecclesiastical ladder was as important then as now, and also brought with it political ramifications to more than a few of them. Being a Translator (always spelled with a capital T) meant being part of an exclusive echelon of pastors and theological professors. Like today’s megachurch pastors, they were religious superstars.

Politics guided certain aspects of the translation and what did — or in this case what mostly didn’t — get included in marginal notes.

The Christian community included several different streams. Although the Translators were ostensibly working for the state church, the Church of England, it was against a backdrop which included Roman Catholics and Puritans.

The King, for all his failings, was astute theologically. There was more Biblical literacy back then, and the King was capable of engaging a variety of Bible themes. When was the last time you heard Queen Elizabeth discuss doctrine? Perhaps today advisors to the monarch encourage keeping a safe distance from topics that could be divisive.

However, once it was initiated, the King distanced himself from the day to day workings of the project. There is no evidence that the King interfered once the work was underway.

There is no hint of inspiration included in the mandate given to the Translators. This is important because today there are some marginal groups that use the KJV exclusively and insist that the translation team rested on an inspiration that was secondary or even equal to the original Biblical writers. “There is no hint of inspiration, or even of prayerfulness, no idea that the Translators are to be in the right frame of mind. [Instead] There are exact directions, state orders, not literary or theological suggestions…This is a job to be done…” (p.72)

While literacy increased greatly in the 17th century,priority was given to how the Bible sounded when spoken aloud, not how it communicated when read quietly to oneself. They prized ornamental language, however this had one drawback…

The King James Bible was considered outdated on the day it was published. We often complain about the older language of the KJV being difficult to follow, but from day one the same complaint was heard; the Bible was considered to be using language that was already 60-70 years out of date.

The preface to the original KJV doesn’t quote itself. It’s interesting that there are references in the preface to verses from other translations. In one spot, this affected the verse numbering system used, which means the citation referred to in the introduction is very difficult to find in the Bible it is introducing. It is as though the translation team did not have confidence in the product on offer, a fact confirmed by the following…

Many of the Translators continued to preach from existing versions after completion of the project. Initial acceptance of the project was minimal to say the least.

Nonetheless, the King James Bible was considered a great achievement for both the 17th century church and the nation itself. “…It is easy to see it as England’s equivalent to the great baroque cathedral it never built…”

The King James edition of the Bible was published containing the Apocrypha. I know this is old news to some of you, but it’s interesting to mention it again in light of who currently most uses and reveres the KJV today.

The Translators did not view the KJV as guided by the principles of formal correspondence. They would be very surprised to see the current classification of their work among formal equivalence translations since their goal was dynamic equivalence. What we call formal equivalence was a Puritan value they were seeking to avoid.

The King James Bible of 1611 was, depending on who you ask, about 80% identical to the Tyndale Bible. Although the Lutheran pastor was unable to finish his Old Testament, and worked in exile and was eventually martyred, it’s clear the Translators held William Tyndale’s work in high esteem as they drafted the KJV.

Because of the original KJV was consider an update of an existing work, there is nothing of what we would call today “Library of Congress Publication Data.” This means there isn’t an official record of its publication since it was considered an update of an existing work. Today, that’s almost — but not quite — like saying the book wouldn’t have been assigned an ISBN.

The authority of scripture did not negate the need to work out the details of ordinary living. “The difference came in deciding on the lawfulness of religious behavior and belief that were not mentioned in the Bible. If something wasn’t mentioned, did that mean God had no view on it? Or if it wasn’t mentioned, did that mean that God did not approve of it?” (p. 123)

Would the Translators be surprised to see their edition still on bookstore shelves today? Yes and no. I think they would be surprised to see the extreme cult following that has surrounded it, especially among those who claim that salvation cannot be found in any other translation.

It’s also doubtful that those same KJV-Only leaders would be aware of the history I just finished reading. The story frequently refers to Lancelot Andrewes (yes, it’s spelled correctly), director of The First Westminster Company (one of six translation teams) who ought then to be revered as a saint by those who hold the KJV in such high esteem. But how many of those who claim the King James edition’s exclusivity have ever heard his name? Perhaps the truth would get in the way of the agenda.

The beauty and majesty of the KJV are unique. It has served us well enough for 407 years. But the particular translation was never intended to be venerated.

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Give Your Friends a Taste of New Translations

We all have people in our stores who are more than just customers, they have become friends. Many share our passion for Christian literature, and of those, some are Bible geeks just like us. They like to know what’s new!

Just like the woman in the white smock at Costco, you can hand out free samples, using your store newsletter, store website, or store Facebook page. With Family Day weekend happening here in Ontario, we doubled down on the amount of print text in this Facebook post in case people were hungry for some input, and because we wanted to give our customers a sample of The Passion Translation (Broadstreet Publishing/FDI in Canada).

Because we did all the work — selecting verses mostly from page one results at TopVerses.com — you can simply copy and paste what follows!


The Passion Translation New Testament by Brian Simmons is gaining readers. A hardcover edition is now available in two hardcover editions and several leather editions, with two more hardcovers due in March and in addition to the NT contains Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs.
• Ephesians 2:8 – For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!
• Matthew 28:18 – Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 – Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.
• Romans 10:9 – And what is God’s “living message”? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation.
• Romans 8:28 – So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.
• Romans 12:2 – Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
• Philippians 4:13 – I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
…Read more; now available on your computer at Bible Gateway or on your smartphone at You Version.

New Comfort Print Font Will Improve Readability

Like many other stores, I received this notification/reminder from HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada about the conversion taking place among all the Thinline Bibles in the NIV, KJV and NKJV product range issued by the publisher. Although the image below is not as sharp as I would have preferred, the difference in readability is unmistakable:

If there’s any takeaway from this it’s this: Font size doesn’t tell the whole story. Consider what you’re reading right now (if you’re not reading this on a mobile device). This is the typeface for this article. This is the same typeface in bold face. This is the same typeface enlarged one size.

The size differential certainly helps, but the change in the the thickness of the type is all that’s needed to bring much greater clarity. And doing that, instead of going to large print, will keep the Bible at a reasonable size in the customers’ hands.

A website, ComfortPrintBibles.com is under construction but will be finished by the end of October. The video below can be featured on your store website or Facebook page, or embedded in your next store newsletter.

 

It’s Time to Standardize “Large Print” and “Giant Print”

A few weeks ago I encountered a Bible with an 8.5 point font being passed off as large print. I’m quite sure my customers would disagree. Of course there’s more to readability than just point size. There’s also,

  • the degree of inking in the print process (can vary even within a single Bible)
  • the space between lines (leading)
  • the type of font used (sans serif fonts seem to be cleaner)
  • the bleed from the page(s) underneath (paper thickness)

Customers with reading difficulty are quick to mention all of these as well as differing opinions on red letter editions. (On your computer, does that stand out more, or does the black stand out more?)

We definitely are in need of a uniform industry standard which all publishers must conform to. If publishers won’t agree to do this, we at least need the point size indicated on the product packaging.

The Type of Men’s Bible Which Meets a Need

This review is appearing tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud; it has been amended for Christian Book Shop Talk…

In the world of Bible marketing, a men’s Bible doesn’t make a splash as do similar products for women, which may be why I was completely unaware of last September’s release of the NIV Bible for Men. Perhaps you missed it as well, which is unfortunate when you consider there is probably a guy in your sphere of influence who would benefit greatly from this edition.

NIV Bible for MenA few things stand out.

First, they carefully avoided the word devotional in the title on this one, but like the Men’s Devotional Bible, there are 260 weekday readings and a single reading for weekends. The placement of these readings is next to adjacent text and there are prompts as to where to go for the subsequent reading which means you could use this as a one-year reading program, but the passages would be of varying length.

Second, they incorporated many newer church leaders and writers for this product. Any awareness of Christian social media means the names of contributors here will create instant recognition; and it also means this is a Bible edition you can confidently place in the hands of younger customers. Some names include:

  • Chris Seay
  • Tony Morgan
  • Matt Chandler
  • Joshua Harris
  • Tim Challies
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Jarrett Stevens
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jeff Manion
  • Pete Wilson
  • Bob Goff
  • Ted Kluck
  • Eric Metaxas
  • Craig Groeschel
  • Joel Rosenberg
  • Andrew Farley
  • John Ortberg
  • David Kinnaman
  • Jeremy Myers
  • Ravi Zacharias

and many, many more. Interestingly, annotations are keyed to the Kindle editions of many of these, an acknowledgement perhaps that guys do much of their other reading on devices. This doesn’t really encourage future purchasing in print.

Third and finally, there are the weekend readings. Set out as Myths, the series of 52 two-page articles cover ideas that are common in society and sometimes even found within the church, such as:

  • It’s possible to get something for nothing
  • Sexual thoughts are harmless
  • The purpose of the church is to meet my needs
  • Image is everything
  • This world is all there is
  • Christians are guaranteed health, wealth and a stress-free life

and some of these will resonate with some guys more than others. Generally, I found this approach more topical than what is usually found within the pages of a Bible, but the second page of each reading — the response — drives you back into scripture. Some guys will want the extra day to cover the material in these weekend readings.

A subject index at the back is extremely helpful for returning to previous topics.

I hope this Bible is doing well as anything which plunges guys into scripture is a resource that needs to be celebrated. Is there a young man you can think of who might appreciate knowing about this?


Note: The Myth section readings appeared previously in Manual: The NIV Bible for Men, published in 2009.

ISBN 9780310409625; 1,684 pages; hardcover; black-letter, double-column format; $34.99 US

Jesus Centered Bible: Promotional Video

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Does the previous page always bleed through like that, or was the reviewer’s camera too sensitive?

Two weeks ago, Bruxy Cavey, Teaching Pastor at The Meeting House, Canada’s fastest growing church movement with 20 locations, shared this video in the middle of the Sunday morning sermon. (Link is to sermon, click video to source.)

Learn more at this link to Group Publishing.

Group Publishing (September, 2015) 1410 pages
Translation: NLT
Hardcover 978147073404 $24.99 US
Turquoise Imit. 9781470722159 $34.99 US
Slate Imit. 9781470726881 $34.99 US

The Message 100: A New Reading Plan, A Different Chronological Approach

We live at a time when Bible publishers have offered us a degree of choices and formats that previous generations would never have imagined. Different editions compete both in terms of brand identification and in their desire to readers engaged in the scriptures.

The Message 100The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence takes the complete text of Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible and divides it into 100 readings and although the reader is encouraged to go at their own pace, this means that one could read this Bible in 100 days, an acceleration of the usual “read the Bible in a year” type of approach.

Starting in Genesis, I decided to time myself with the first section and clocked in at 26 minutes, though I may have rushed the two genealogies. Still, at less than a half hour, and with only 99 readings left, I was impressed that day how easily this pace of reading the whole Bible might be accomplished.

Because the publisher of The Message, NavPress has merged their marketing and distribution with Tyndale (publisher of the NLT) I was a little wary that this new Message might follow the One Year Bible format which scrambles the text considerably.

Instead, The Message 100 keeps whole books of the Bible fully intact, the First and Second Testaments are completely separated, and the first 30 sections follow the traditional sequence. After that, all bets are off: The minor prophets are co-mingled with books of history, and the wisdom literature is placed at the very end with Psalms wrapping up the 79 OT sections, reminiscent of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) where Prophets come before Writings.

The New Testament begins with the synoptic gospels, then Acts, then the letters (epistles) in a more accurate chronological sequence, not the sorting-by-length with which we are familiar. The writings of John, including his gospel, concludes the 21 NT sections.

The Message 100 also contains a short introduction by Bono — himself quite familiar with the version — which makes it an instant collector’s item for U2 fans.


Connect to the full text of Bono’s intro at fellow-blogger Dave Wainscott’s review.

The Message 100 is 1,808 pages, available in both paperback and hardcover editions, with a North American release date of Tuesday, October 15th.

I know the One-Year Bibles and One-Year Book of… series are very popular in some areas, but in the three cities where we’ve operated bookstores, we’ve never experienced customer appreciation for this particular genre.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bible Typography

February 8, 2015 1 comment

Canadian über-blogger Tim Challies had this linked on the weekend. I don’t know where he finds these things, but hey, he has a staff. How words and paragraphs are set out on the page can affect the meaning we take away from the passage, so this topic actually matters. And Bible sellers should be versed (at least a little bit) on this topic. 48 minutes; some of it quite humourous. [Note: This treatment is translation-neutral.]

The Case for Print

Author Dan Kimball, who is part of a generation that might be more willing to embrace electronic publishing, posted this at Facebook:

“Bring back old school print Bibles to read and carry” was my fellow black leather Bible buddy Dave Lomas from Reality San Francisco ‘s mission cry who taught today at Vintage Faith Church. We both have black leather Bibles where we can draw doodles, underline, color and we are convinced your even learn better with them. Which is ironic coming from two of us living in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley where technology rules. I join Dave in the mission to see hard copy Bibles in hand once again and go retro learning and reading.

Comments included:

  • Studies say comprehension is better, you get a “deeper” connection when holding printed texts compared to a screen. Screens encourage skimming, and it is harder to concentrate.
  • All about the real non-technology bibles. Got a handy brown leather bound ESV myself. I love how you can feel, smell, and write notes in them. Ya can’t do that with technology. I just think it makes your relationship with God organic….I don’t know, that’s me.
  • And when people bring those Bibles to church and look up passages as they are mentioned in the sermon to add notes (or doodles) in the Bible, we all get to hear that great sound of Bible pages turned together when lots of people are reading the Bible all at once. We miss that when you read on a cellphone……

No one is making a similar case for eBooks. They now seem destined to exist on the periphery of the market.

 

Thinking Differently About Translations

This is part three of three consumer articles that appeared on Thinking Out Loud last week…


 

Cartoonist Wes Molebash at The Junia Project website (Sept 2013) (Click image for Wes’ site, Insert Image.)

bible wars

 

 

As we mentioned in part two, usually the first question you ask someone considering a Bible purchase involves trying to qualify which translation they might be interested in. The best way to ask this is, Who is it for? In other words, you want to be told as much as possible about the end user. Young or old? First time Bible reader? Other translations they own? Type of church they attend? Is English their first language?

Much has already been written online about the two broader approaches to translation: Dynamic equivalence and formal correspondence. Lately, some clever marketers have blurred those lines with some new terminology designed to capture interest from those on both sides of the discussion.

While one approach is often termed word for word and the other is thought for thought, really the question is this: To what extent do you retain some of the original forms, and to what extent can you break out of those forms and express the same concept the way we speak today? The challenge is that some of those original forms contain allusions to other Bible passages and you don’t want to rob the Bible of its beauty and symmetry. On the other hand, you don’t want to have to reduce explanations to footnotes, so sometimes just saying things in contemporary language is best. (But then you often find yourself including the historic or literary tie-ins in footnotes instead.)

So today, rather than look at translations in those terms, I’d like to think of them in clusters.

Traditional – Really, with more than 400 years of history, the KJV is in a class by itself here. The person you’re buying one for would have to really be expecting it, or in a church situation where nothing else is permissible.

Formal – With similar syntax and a name association, the New King James Version (NKJV) would fit this category and is still popular in some circles. But so also would the New American Standard Version (NASB), a rigid but accurate translation that is a favorite among Evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges. (See also this article.)

Popular – The New International Version (NIV) is still considered the best-selling English translation and with an update in 2011, isn’t going away any time soon. For Mainline Protestants and some Roman Catholics, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is the translation of choice.

Contemporary – Aimed at the same market that reads the NRSV, the new Common English Bible (CEB) is gaining popularity. Gaining on the NIV is the New Living Translation (NLT), especially among younger Christians. Despite its age, Today’s English Version (TEV, also called Good News Bible or GNT) is still preferred by some readers.

Creative – When The Message was first published with its use of idiomatic language and stripping away of verse numbers, it attracted a lot of attention. Today, The Voice Bible is the choice for those who want something edgy, with everything presented in a dramatic (play script) format. Of course, for those who want to color outside the lines, The Amplified Bible (AMP) has been around for several decades now with its alternative words in brackets. A recent copycat translation, The Expanded Bible offers similar options.

Evangelical Denominations – You’ll find many Baptists gravitating toward the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) and Reformers and Calvinists choosing the English Standard Version (ESV). The translation philosophy for both is somewhat similar to NASB, with a reluctance to make any risky changes to the text as many learned it in the KJV.

Catholic – The New American Bible (NAB, not to be confused with NASB) is the one most identified with the Catholic Church, but you’ll also find interest in the Catholic editions of the Good News Translation (GNT or TEV), the NRSV, and The Jerusalem Bible.

Easy to Read – The New Century Version (NCV) uses a very basic vocabulary but without seeming childish. The New International Readers Version (NIrV) uses a more choppy sentence structure, but is well-suited to people for whom English is a second language.

Children – The two Bibles in this category are actually the same as in the section above. The NCV is marketed as the International Children’s Bible (ICB), while the NIrV is issued as a part of various branded series that lead the kids into reading a regular NIV. Also doing well in Children’s editions is a more obscure translation known as God’s Word (GW).

Worth NotingThe Story is a Bible story book for adults showing the larger story arc of the Bible in a single narrative. The Kingdom New Testament is a NT written by popular Bible scholar N.T. Wright. And speaking of NT editions, people still seek out The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips.

Unfortunately, in many respects this article is not as useful as yesterday’s piece about features, as if some of these are of interest, you’ll have to investigate them elsewhere. Passage comparison at sites like BibleGateway, BibleHub and Blue Letter Bible are a good place to begin. Hopefully this has at least helped you narrow down your search. Bible translation selection is both a science and an art, and many people have a lot of emotional investment in particular Bible versions. In many respects, perhaps it is better that we put the features explanations first, as you might want to simply select the features you want, and then explore which translations offer those particular editions.

For further reading:

Introducing Customers to the World of Bible Options

On my personal blog last weekend I posted a series of consumer articles on choosing a Bible. I decided to leave the question of translation until the third part, and when you think of it, many requests for Bibles these days are more feature driven than translation driven (just as many people seeking a church home are more style driven than denomination driven). This part, part two was the most difficult to write (and keep short) and also the most fun. I offer it to you here for your consideration; you can also get new staff members to read this. Later on, I cross-posted the series to our store website.


 

In Part One we looked at the Bible as one of the most significant gifts you can give someone, and why it’s important to get the selection right. Today we want to help simplify the process of choosing features they might appreciate and use. Normally we might ask the translation question first, but we thought we’d do things differently just this one time.

NIV Compact Giant Print 9780310435303Well over 95% of the Bibles sold today are complete editions consisting of the 66 books in the Protestant canon of the Old and New Testaments (or if you prefer First and Second Testaments, or Former and Current Testaments) or the 66 plus a varying number of additional books used in the Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books. In other words, if you’re looking for a New Testament only, beyond a handful of presentation Bibles for babies and children you’ll find a limited selection, and if you’re looking for an Old Testament only, well, good luck.

By the way, not every Bible containing these extra books is a Catholic Bible because in order to be considered one, it would need a sort of kosher seal on the copyright page known as an imprimatur. You can also purchase those books separately — the original KJV contained them — unlike the case with trying to buy an Old Testament by itself.

You will find many Gospels of John however. This is rather strange because John is an argument for the divinity of Christ, but increasingly, that type of persuasion doesn’t work with postmoderns. You would expect more of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) to be produced now, but alas, we’re getting quite off-topic!

A Bible without any additional features is called a text Bible, and if there are some cross-references listing recommended related verses either in a center-column, at the bottom, or at the end of verses, then it’s a text reference or reference Bible. Free of bells and whistles, these are usually the best-priced and most popular. You can save even more by buying into the volume print runs of pew Bibles, now sometimes called church Bibles. These hardcover editions are quite durable. However, my advice would be to avoid what are called gift-and-award Bibles, because by using cheaper (and therefore thicker) paper, they are forced to use a very, very small type font. Generally, an award Bible is something churches give out to kids or visitors they’re not sure they’re ever going to see again. If they know the child, usually they go for something nicer.

Some of the most popular text Bibles often use the trade-style Thinline or Slimline. Introduced originally with more of the women’s market in mind, their style is also useful for pastors on hospital visits, youth workers at a campfire, and anyone else who doesn’t want to carry around a larger book. Also available are compact Bibles, but here you need to watch the print size, though Zondervan has a rather awesome NIV Compact Giant Print Bible that is a must-see if you’re shopping.

This is probably a good place to pause and mention print size. What Thomas Nelson calls Giant Print on their NKJV editions is really everybody else’s Large Print. This is another instance where you are better off buying in person rather than online. Also, just because a Bible advertises that it used 13-point type, that doesn’t tell you what the leading (spacing between lines of type) is, you need to see that for yourself. And if someone is looking for larger print, you should avoid comparing poetic and prophetic sections (which often use much more white space) to narrative sections which are more normally paragraphed.

Red-letter Bibles are by far the most common, but this is not an exact science. Did Jesus say the verse we know as John 3:16 or was that John’s commentary? Some people are divided on this issue. Does it mean those verses are more important? Isn’t all scripture inspired? Also appearing more frequently — perhaps sparked by The Message Bible — are editions stripped of verse numbers.

Bindings vary in quality and cost along a spectrum beginning with paperback, then hardcover, then vinyl, then imitation leather, then bonded leather, and then fine or genuine leathers (including Moroccan, calfskin, etc.) Technically, many of the two-tone or duo-tone Bibles popular now are only imitation leather, but the quality and artistry of those covers has advanced to where you might pay more for those than some bonded leathers.

Bibles which have been thumb indexed may be produced by the publisher and have a separate ISBN (i.e. stock number) or may be done by a bookstore or distributor as an after-market add-on. (Remember when Sears Automotive sold after-market air-conditioning for cars?) You can also decide later to add Bible tabs but this is a process akin to watch repair or untangling coat hangers and is best done by the very patient (i.e. wives, mothers and girlfriends.) While you’re buying your tabs, you might as well go nuts and buy some extra ribbon markers.

Complete Parallel New TestamentParallel Bibles are text editions containing more than one edition, usually side-by-side on the page. Full Bibles are usually 2-translation or 4-translation, but Hendrickson has a nice 8-translation New Testament in hardcover which I really like, but don’t own. (Yet. I’ll send them a copy of this!) There are some very interesting combinations available that blend different translation styles (see part three of this article). There are also a specialized form of parallels called interlinear which weave the original Greek and Hebrew language texts (and often other features) on the same lines as the English translation used as a base.

Devotional Bibles are really two books in one. They contain a year’s worth of devotionals usually for a target audience such as men, women, people in a recovery program, teens, etc. You can expect at least 310 devos (often the weekend reading is combined) or 366, but you’ll pay less than if you bought the two items individually.

Study Bibles contain supplementary notes. Sometimes the same notes are made available in a variety of translations; so the Life Application Bible has NIV, NLT, NKJV editions. I sometimes tell people that the NIV Study Bible takes us back into Bible times where as the Life Application brings the Bible into our times. That’s a bit simplistic, but helps you see there are different approaches to what type of things get annotated, not to mention different uses of charts, diagrams, the inclusion of longer articles, and even what gets defined as a study edition to begin with. As with devotional editions, there are now a wide variety of study editions produced just for kids and teens.

Certain study Bibles are also tied into the teaching ministry of different pastors, TV preachers, authors and ministries. Sometimes these are sold in bookstores and sometimes they are only available through the ministry organization concerned. Presumably, the notes are derived from the individual’s other notes or study guides, but sometimes it just means that the person named on the cover merely vetted the creation of a special study edition. You never know for sure.

I am not a huge fan of the One Year Bible genre (a Tyndale Publishing trademark, if I’m not mistaken) as they can’t be taken to church or small group given the re-ordering of the material. The same is also true of chronological Bibles which often harmonize concurrent passages such as Kings and Chronicles or the gospels; you wouldn’t want these to be someone’s first (or second) Bible. As Yoda might say, ‘Mixed all everything up is.’ On the other hand, Tyndale keeps producing these at an alarming rate so maybe they know something I don’t. I think their appeal tends to be regional, and I don’t live in that region.

Confused? I hope this is more helpful than bewildering. Even as you read this, executives are sitting in board rooms dreaming up new Bible editions for 2015. There are no limits to the imagination. In The People’s Bible, Zondervan did a turnabout on the red-letter concept, and using data from BibleGateway.com, they put frequently sought-after verses in larger type, with a total of about six font sizes. With The Voice translation, you get a delightful dramatic reading of the entire Bible.

Speaking of drama, Bibles on CD usually come in dramatized readings (sometimes complete with a celebrity cast of readers, not to mention sound effects and often a musical score) and straight narrative readings. We end this discussion where we began, because while you can get New Testament-only audio Bibles, you’ll find getting an Old Testament fairly impossible; so make that initial purchase carefully.

Part Three: Navigating the various translations.

Judging a Bible by its Cover

ESV Womens DevotionalThe adage is that you can’t, but people do. Covers can make or break a book and even a Bible edition. Currently, the Canadian Bible Society is offering an ESV Women’s Devotional Bible in a “Burgundy imitation leather with Birch design” for $39.99 that could easily sell for much, much more and in fact has a higher price on the barcode. It has high quality gold edging and inside, the page format is equally classy. Their website describes other features:

Double-column, paragraph format; Two-color interior; 16 articles; 365 devotionals; Book introductions; Character profiles; Dictionary of key terms; Free online access through ESVbible.org    ISBN: 9781433544392

On the other hand, Tyndale has released some new editions of the Life Application Bible that continue to use the powder blue and pink imitation leather as a component of the duo-tone design.  I hope they do well with these elsewhere because our customers notice right away that the suede picks up dirt very quickly. Of course, when Tyndale does connect with customers with something, like that paisley women’s Bible I’ve mentioned before here, they seem to discontinue it in no time flat. (But hey, we’re just retailers, what do we know? If I offered my opinion, I’m sure they’d say, “Nobody asked you.”)

Right now, two of Tyndale’s best covers can be found on a couple of very inexpensive Teen Thinline Bibles. (Oh wait, they can’t use that term, better make that Slimline.) Check out 9781414363295 and 9781414363288. My suggestion is to simply ditch the cardboard sleeve — seriously, throw them out — and market these to non-teen customers.