Posts Tagged ‘readers’

Old BibleRecently I walked into a bookstore in the middle of the city. I love books, and a good bookstore is a treat. This one is monstrous – browsing in here is like being let loose in an ice-cream factory with a tiny teaspoon. In both physical floorspace and range of subjects covered, this bookstore would match (and possibly better) more than a few public libraries.

In one corner was the RELIGIONS section. Considering that this wasn’t a specialist Christian bookseller, I was quite surprised at the variety of Bibles on offer. Leather, vinyl, hardback, clothback, paperback. Pocket-sized slim New Testaments to monsters that weigh more than housebricks. More initials than a Pentagon weapons program – KJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT, CEV… also on CD and DVD. Prices ranged from $5 to $250. Study Bibles, “guide” Bibles for men, women, business-people and professionals, high-schoolers, skaters, surfers, athletes. The presentations, translations and applications made for a bewildering range. 

It would be quite easy to view this range with a small measure of cynicism. After all, someone out there is making a handsome profit from selling a book that Christians believe is the very Word of the Living God. It’s a core product, central to the business and marketing strategies of companies like Crossway, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and a range of others. It’s even available in the Penguin Classics range of literature – sitting in the unusual company of Voltaire, the Koran and Machiavelli. Clearly, there’s some money to be made.

There’s just one thing. Whether you call it “demand” or (even more horrifyingly) a “market”, it is quite clear that people still want Bibles.

People want Bibles!

In Western countries, at least, it’s quite easy to get it for free. Actually, it’s hard to think of a book more publicly, freely, accessible. There are any number of websites that allow one to read and print almost all of the main translations since the Reformation. One freely-downloadable Bible program, e-Sword, includes the 1568 Bishop’s Bible, the 1587 Geneva Bible, the 1889 Darby, the 1899 Douay-Rheims, the Vulgate, a Hebrew Old Testament, a Greek New Testament – not to mention some quite sophisticated research tools. And it’s all free!

And yet, even with the advent of such devices, there’s still a remarkable appetite for a Bible. In print. And if the range of Bibles available in this one city bookstore is a reasonable indication, the Bible-buying public is well-informed, literate and sophisticated in their requirements.

About six months before I began to consider writing this book, the newest version  for release was Crossway’s English Standard Version Study Bible. It’s a hefty book, and it’s not exactly cheap. But it caused an on-line sensation when it was released. Reviews exploded through the blog-sphere, people reviewed it on YouTube (I can honestly say that I’d never considered going to YouTube for Bible-buying advice, but it’s there – and it’s being watched), and once again the debate was re-opened into the title of “the best Bible in the world.”

In a world that appears to be more and more godless, in a world where Christianity seems as though it has been relegated to an out-of-the-way corner-shelf, the simple fact that there is still enormous public demand for the Bible is immensely heartening and encouraging.

May it always be so.

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