Several years ago, I started the practice of buying a new Bible with the express purpose of reading it through before I would use it for anything else. It has done several things for me as the years have progressed, the most obvious of which has been to spur me on to read through my new Bible so I can use it in studies, preaching, and teaching. That alone has immeasurable benefits. It has prompted me to shop around for different translations to familiarize me with what’s out there and what the advantages/disadvantages are of the newer translations. It has also kept my account with the Christian bookstores running and my library never lacking for Bibles.
So when I got online with the really big distributor to order my next Bible, I was ready to wade through the various versions and styles of Bibles available. I had almost forgotten how I also have to wade through the many “features” they equip these Bibles with anymore. I don’t mean small/large/giant print or even vest pocket/ pulpit size. Can anybody get just a Bible anymore? Zondervan has kids’ Bibles, teens’ Bibles, women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, Late Great Planet Earth Bibles, sports Bibles, chronological Bibles, “through the Bible in a year” Bibles, Ryrie Study Bibles, Nave’s Study Bibles. Nelson has a “Max Lucado” Bible.
I wasn’t even aware Max Lucado had written a Bible!
Every Bible listed also comes with a long list of features. It’s not uncommon to have the very incomplete concordance at the end, or a few maps; but these have devotional lists, “through the Bible in a year” reading schedules, weights and measures charts, footnotes, center-column reference notes. Many have an incomplete “plan of salvation.’
So much for the Bible that simply has a couple of extra pages for marriages, births, and deaths!
I don’t want a “red letter” edition. Isn’t the whole Bible the word of God? What difference does it make if it’s a quote from Jesus given by John or an epistle written by John? Either the Holy Spirit stands behind everything John wrote, or you can’t trust anything John wrote, and John wrote nothing in red ink!
When the President gets on the air to give a speech to the American public, I listen to the speech. When the talking heads come on afterward to analyze what he just said, I turn them off. I just listened to the President; why do I need to hear someone tell me that what he really said wasn’t what I just heard him say?
I’ve grown to feel that way about the Bible. I don’t want to hear more of what men say the Bible says. I’d rather have the Bible speak for itself, thank you. Aside from running references through a concordance or looking something up in a Bible dictionary (both of which are much more effective as separate volumes on my desk), I prefer to read the Bible and then gain a better understanding by running the cross-references that come to my own mind without some small print center column that so often leaves me wondering, “What does that have to do with what I just read here?”
Back when the Restoration Movement was restoring and moving, there was a slogan that went, “The Bible only will make Christians only.” Maybe we’re having trouble making Christians only today because we can’t give them any “Bible only” Bibles to read.
Some of you publishers out there, please listen to those of us who really don’t care for red-letter, sports editions. Just print the words legibly and accurately. People who read can figure it out mostly by reading just the Bible in a reliable English translation.
And who knows how many trees you’ll spare from the paper you don’t have to use!
This article was originally published in the January 2008 issue of The Restoration Herald. Jim Nichols is a minister in Indiana and a published author. You may find books by Jim Nichols by visiting our bookstore.