Monday, March 13, 2006

Dude, Where's My Bible?

Recently I decided I needed a new bible. There’s nothing wrong with my old one, a compact, premium leather-bound NKJV from Thomas Nelson that I’ve had for over 15 years. The problem is with me; more specifically with my eyes. As I draw inexorably closer to my 52nd year I find that the 6-point font in my beloved compact bible is getting harder to read, even with trifocal glasses. So I decided to get a larger bible with bigger print. I also decided to take a step back as it were and go with the original KJV rather than the NKJV because I enjoy the beautiful language of that version, particularly in the Psalms, and also because it lacks the translator bias often found in the NKJV in such places as Acts 1:20 where the Greek word episkopen is translated as “office” rather than as “bishoprick” as the KJV has it. The Protestant translators of the NKJV were apparently uncomfortable having St. Peter speak of bishops in the apostolic Church so they selected the blandest word possible to plug in there.

Anyway, I began my search for a replacement bible. I am not a bible snob, but I do have certain preferences. I like top quality bibles, genuine leather-bound with premium thin paper and super black ink and Smythe-sewn bindings rather than the crummy glued ones that fall apart in two years. These cost two or three times as much but last decades longer than the cheaper books and are much more esthetically pleasing to me as well. OK, I am a bible snob. I can’t help it, I’m Irish; we love good books! I also like a reference bible and one that is laid out simply on the page for ease of reading. One of my few complaints with the Orthodox Study Bible NT is that the layout with all the notes and references is so cluttered that I sometimes find it difficult to read. Old folks are easily confused you know. So off I went to Barnes and Noble to begin my search.

As I said, it’s been awhile since I bought my last bible, so I was in for a surprise when I started shopping. It seems that there are hosts of new translations or paraphrases that are now dominating the market and edging out the older translations. I saw such titles as the “Good News Bible” (Would anyone buy the "Bad News Bible"?) the “New International Version” and “Today’s New International Version” (Presumably better than yesterday’s New International Version) the “New Century” version (Which century would that be? The Church has logged 20 of them, you know) and the “New Living Translation”. Do bible translators have a thing about the word “New”? Breaking ranks with all the “New” bibles was one simply called “The Message”. But this was just the beginning. There was a bible written especially for girls and another for boys (With the requisite pink and blue covers, respectively). There was “The Woman’s Bible” and of course “The Men’s Bible” (What God has joined together let no man cut asunder, unless there’s money to be made in the process!). Lest any potential market go untapped there was even a “Teens Bible”. B&N even stocks “The Gnostic Bible” for all the Dan Brown fans. Oh yeah, and there was also a small selection of King James bibles for those folks who aren’t sure which category they fit within, or who simply want a plain old ordinary bible without the gimmicks. But no quality leather-bound bibles in the KJV were to be found. Not enough of a market for them I guess.

So off I went to a couple of “Christian” bookstores, thinking I would surely find what I was seeking there. No luck. The shelves of the stores I visited were filled with what Canadian comic Red Green calls “Selfish-help books” with such titles as “Finding Power in the Christian Life”, “Finding Peace in the Christian Life”, “Finding Purpose in the Christian Life”, “Finding Meaning, Finding Hope, Finding your Lost Brown Shoe, etc.…” I needed a book titled “Finding a Bible in a Modern Christian bookstore” but I couldn’t locate that one either. Don’t people read bibles anymore, or is the contemporary Christian experience one of great emptiness and longing for power, peace and purpose that can only be found in some new scheme? I did find an audio bible read by Johnny Cash and another read by James Earl Jones. Although having the Gospels read by the voice of Darth Vader might be kind of cool (“Jesus, I am your Father!”) it wasn’t really what I was looking for. I tried a Catholic bookstore, but I guess a “Protestant” bible like the KJV is not generally stocked in such places. I did find a few books on yoga there though; again not what I was looking for.

Finally I turned to the internet and found just the bible I was looking for from a shop called “All Bibles” in Texas. Good old Texas, the heart of the bible-belt! It is a KJV Concord reference bible from Cambridge Publishers. These folks make heirloom-quality bibles, and this one is bound in black calfskin leather with blessed 8-point type on the gilt-edged India paper pages printed with deep black ink for my older eyes. The Concord reference edition is a very clean-looking layout with a single, unobtrusive center column between the two text columns which dispenses with the distracting note indicators in the text itself. I even had it personalized with “Fr. Michael Reagan” in block gold lettering on the front. I haven’t received it yet, so I’m hoping that “Fr.” doesn’t morph into “Mr.” or “Dr.” or something else by whoever does the stamping on the cover. I’d hate to have to send it back after all this!

Obviously I had no idea that finding such a bible would be so difficult in today’s world. I can remember when the shelves of Christian bookstores were filled with such offerings, you know, way back in the last century, in the late 1970’s. Things have changed since then, with a new translation for every possible niche. I wonder if it’s a change for the better or the worse.


At 3/13/2006 11:38 PM , Blogger Sean said...

I hope that a Bible shop would know what the abbreviation "Fr." means. If not, the world is in worse trouble than we thought.

(“Jesus, I am your Father!”)

That was FUNNY. Hahaha!

At 3/14/2006 6:12 PM , Blogger Fr. Michael Reagan said...

As a point of clarification, when I wrote that I had in mind Luke 3:22 where the voice of the Father was heard to say, "Thou art My Beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased". I was picturing James Earl Jones accidentally slipping into his Darth Vader character and taking a bit of license with the text.

No blasphemy was intended!

At 3/15/2006 12:53 AM , Anonymous trenna said...

Dear Father Michael ,
If they mess up your imprint , try The House of Bibles in Fullerton , that is where we got our Cambridge bibles a few years ago .

At 3/17/2006 7:13 AM , Blogger E Rica said...

My Protestant cousin and I were talking about our recent birthdays. She asked what I got from my parents. I responded with, "They gave me an Orthodox Study Bible." I explained shortly what it was and then asked her what she got from her parents. She responded plainly with, "The Reformation Study Bible."



At 4/09/2006 6:27 AM , Anonymous Bruce said...

Dude, I thought you Catholics or Orthodox or whatever you are don't read the Bible!?!


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