“Bibles are in many ways a cash cow,”

said Phyllis Tickle, a former longtime religion editor at Publishers Weekly.

Tickle? Oh, poor woman.

I’m starting with a quote from an article about bibles and the many versions available for sale.

“The Bible is the mainstay of many a publishing program.”

However, some Christian scholars wonder whether that popularity can sometimes be a bad thing, as a major new translation and waves of books marking the 400th anniversary of the venerable King James Bible inundate the market this fall.

The many translations and “niche Bibles” (think, “The Holy Bible: Stock Car Racing Edition”) sow confusion and division among Christians, invite ridicule from relativists and risk reducing God’s word to just another personal-shopping preference, the scholars say.

Who should get the blame for this, Gutenberg, Tyndale? Or is it all the fault of the rampant consumerism and lust for new beginnings that keeps the self-help industry alive? Bibles are all about self-help, if you get right down to it, and I think all these trendy reissues are just as stupid as any book ever published by a self-help guru. And they aren’t kidding about the Stock Car version.

“I think we are drifting more and more to a diverse Babel of translations,” said David Lyle Jeffrey, former provost of Baylor University and an expert on biblical translations. Jeffrey thinks Americans need a “common Bible” — a role the King James version played for centuries — to communicate the grandeur of Scripture without reducing it to “shopping-center-level” discourse.

Have you read the King James Bible? That thing’s so bloody archaic and indecipherable. Of course it was going to be necessary to rewrite the thing at some point. And considering how much of the public has severely limited literacy skills anyway, having a bible in the simplest form people can get away with publishing at least gives those people a better chance to read the shit for themselves instead of relying on some priest gabbling away in Latin telling people what the book says because nobody else is allowed to read Latin. That was the whole reason the bible got translated in the first place, wasn’t it? To make it more accessible to the wider public?

If they’re complaining now because there are too many translations and ridiculous versions of the thing, whose fucking fault is it really? Are consumers asking for stock car bibles? Teddy bear bibles? Huggable bibles? The Loose Women Woman Thou Art Loosed bibles? Or are greedy publishers simply taking advantage of the continued popularity of that out-of-date tome by trying to keep it looking fresh, new, improved and timely?

Tim Jordan, a marketing manager at B&H Publishing Group, a leading Christian publisher that sells niche Bibles, compared them to conversation starters. “It’s just being smart about where people are at and trying to meet them there,” he said. “We need to engage people into the Bible.”

Ryken, however, suspects publishers’ motives may be more economic than spiritual.

By definition, niche Bibles are designed to corner a market segment, he said. In the process, “the Bible loses its identity as the authoritative word of God and becomes something trivial, on par with shoes for hikers or luggage for the international set.”

It should be trivial. It should be classic historical literature. It should be treated as a look back at a world that isn’t anymore and we should all applaud ourselves for moving past beliefs that allowed for slavery and mistreatment of women and children, and past all that superstition and stupidity about how the world worked. We should all be glad we’re out of it, not wanting to encourage more people to dive in.

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