Buying yet another Bible

An illustration by Swiss artist Annie Vallotton, whose work graces the margins of the Good News Bible

I’ve complained to friends about a couple of my favorite bands or musicians—namely you and you—who, every four or five years, try to convince me to repurchase albums and CDs I’ve repurchased a couple of times already. In other words, they try to sell me the same thing over and over again. It’s ingenious, really. They promise me “newly remastered” or “remixed” sound. Usually this just means everything is louder. If it’s more than that, heaven knows I can’t afford the audio equipment to discern the difference.

In the case of my very favorite artist, his record label is now telling me that stereo—which, please recall, was supposed to be an improvement over mono in the first place (and they used to even charge more for it)—isn’t very good after all. If you really want to experience the best possible sound, buy the new mono versions of his albums.

The joys of capitalism, I guess. If they don’t sell us this stuff, the terrorists win, right?

Anyway, the same thing, I believe, goes on in the marketing of Bibles. I have a dozen of them, at least—including three study Bibles of the same translation (NRSV). Even though I don’t even read the ones I have as often as I should, there are now three more to add to my list. (I visited the Cokesbury bookstore today.) They are, in order of consumerist lust-worthiness:

1. The C.S. Lewis Bible. The first music LP I ever purchased (in the bargain bin of a Richway department store in 1977) was a record called Fonzie’s Favorites. The verbiage on the back cover said something like, “No, kids, Fonzie didn’t go into the studio and record these songs” (although that would undoubtedly be cool). “Rather, he selected his very favorite songs from the ’50s and put them on this record!” Similarly, C.S. Lewis didn’t translate the Bible before he died in 1963; rather, this Bible is an NRSV (just what I need!) with pertinent excerpts from Lewis’s writings in the margins.

It looks incredibly awesome, and I must have it.

2. The Common English Bible. Here’s a brand-new, informal, easy-to-read translation written in today’s English. What makes this different from the 23 other informal, easy-to-read translations written in today’s English? I have no idea. I’m Methodist! I don’t know Greek or Hebrew! To me, it doesn’t seem very different (in my spot-checking, verse-by-verse comparisons) from the NRSV, of which, as you might have read, I have quite a few. Also, I fear that there’s an inverse relationship between the number of Bible translations and actual Bible reading.

Still, it has a couple of things going for it: I like many of the names associated with the project—and I’m not just saying that because at least a few of them taught yours truly in seminary. My friend Geoff, who actually knows Hebrew and is working on a Ph.D. in Old Testament, says that this translation rules. Finally, it’s informal and contemporary without being a paraphrase (like Peterson’s The Message) or completely dumbed down. Only the New Testament is out now; the full version comes out next year.

3. The Good News Bible: With Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. This isn’t even new, really. But until today I haven’t seen it in years. It also used to be called the TEV (Today’s English Version) and was marketed in the early ’70s to hippies as a book called The Way and The Good News for Modern Man. I didn’t know it was still in print. It was originally translated by a single person—a Baptist scholar. I don’t think it’s been updated, although I’m pretty sure the Apocrypha part wasn’t originally included.

I don’t read the Apocrypha, mind you. (Thank you, Martin Luther—that’s one less part of the Bible, alongside many of the minor prophets, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Revelation, and Leviticus, to feel guilty about for not reading or preaching.) But my understanding is that if you want your Bible to be taken seriously in the world of academia, not to mention included in Catholic or Orthodox settings, you have to have an Apocrypha. (This is one reason why the NIV, for all its immense popularity, is rarely used in academic circles. They never translated the Apocryphal books. Silly evangelicals!)

I’ve read good things about the translation itself but here’s the best part: Even though its current pressing features sleek and contemporary book designs, it still has those adorable line-drawing illustrations for which the old Good News Bible was justly famous. I have to have one!

4 thoughts on “Buying yet another Bible”

  1. The Common English Bible has a great website with free downloads of Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Luke as well as a passage lookup tool for the entire New Testament: There’s also a twitter feed @commonengbible where free offers are tweeted. You may be able to get a bible free one of these days!

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