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Whatever Happened To . . . PLAIN OLD BIBLES?

In the 1950's my daddy sold Bibles. This was something he did "on the side," and he never enjoyed much monetary profit. He did get a few free Bibles and he was pleased to help others make a purchase. He worked for the Kirkbride company (through mail order; commission sales) and his "inventory" was composed of ONE BIBLE! There were several different kinds of covers or binding materials, colors and sizes. But there was only one Bible: the King James, in the Thompson Chain-Reference format. (The Kirkbride people have been very conservative in producing the Thompson Chain-Reference in other translations; only this year they announced The Expanded Thompson Chain-Reference Study Bible in the New King James Version.)

In the 50's, the Bible my daddy sold was considered "top-of-the-line" and almost an innovation. It wasn't like some of the other Bibles folks carried to the church building; to some it was considered too expensive and too "fancy," but it did contain the King James text, even if some of the reference links were controversial. (Daddy always made it clear that he didn't endorse the reference links.)

The Bible market today has "evolved" far beyond the "old" Thompson Chain-Reference King James. Have you been through a Bible book store lately? Have you browsed through one of the latest catalogs? It's hard to fine a plain ole' Bible anymore. Here's what the market offers today (brief sampling):

The Living Insights Study Bible
The NIV Study Bible
The International Inductive Study Bible
The Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible
The Praise & Worship Study Bible
The Prophesy Study Bible
The Original African Heritage Study Bible
The Men's Study Bible
The Women's Devotional Bible
The Teen Study Bible
The Serendipity Bible
The One-Minute Bible
The Parenting Bible
The Personal Growth Bible
(All of the above listed in Catalog #94709, Christian Book Distributors)

Based on current trends, I can't wait to see what's next! The Engineer's Bible - with built in conversion charts for calculating the dimensions of Noah's Ark; The Car Bible - no text, just looks like a Bible on the outside; leave it on the dash; or the Scratch and Sniff Bible - with embedded aroma tabs in the column so you can scratch and sniff what the smell must have been on board the ark. Seriously, what is to be said about all of these many "kinds" of "special" Bibles?

One aspect of this is the function and pressure of the retail market. This kind of "specialty" competition is characteristic of the modern market place, not just Bibles. Today, there are hundreds of coffees and thousands of hamburgers. Free market conditions drive inventors and producers to offer products in common use, but in such varieties of style as to gain some advantage over competitors. This is obvious in the Bible market; a lot of effort goes into packaging and the promise of some advantage over a "regular" Bible. It is the "better mouse trap" element that operates in virtually every area of the retail market.

The aggressive salesman will suggest that you need more than just the text of God's Word; you need, if you are a man, The Men's Study Bible (promotes the theology and emphasis of Promise Keepers). It may be that some of these specialty Bibles have some limited use. Some, however, advance some human agenda. And don't forget, the impetus behind a lot of this is the free market. (It is my opinion that another factor is the politically correct "multi-cultural" emphasis sweeping our society. Such fads in society are taken into account by retail producers and outlets, you can be sure!)

This may be a good time to be reminded of the power and sufficiency of God's Word. The soul stained by the guilt of sin can be purified by obeying the truth of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:25; Rom. 1:16,17; 1 Pet. 1:23; Psa. 19:7). Men, women, teenagers, African Americans, Engineers and parents can read the Word of God by itself and learn what to believe and do to be saved. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work," (2 Tim. 3:16,17; see also Jude 3 & 2 Pet. 1:3).

Warnings need to be issued about modern translations. The fact that a translation has been produced in modern times does not necessarily argue that it is corrupt. Yet we know some are, and many of the "specialty" Bibles are based on translations which may not be reliable. One concern is, some of the translators and publishers may have an agenda they are advancing through their work!

The proliferation of "specialty" Bibles makes it necessary to carefully distinguish between God's Word and the comments of men. I was teaching someone in a home Bible class one time and challenged someone to find a statement in the Bible establishing a future reign of Christ on earth. A week later the man called and read a section to me from the margin of an annotated reference Bible published by premillennialists! It may seem elementary and obvious to us, but many of those we hope to reach may need an explanation - that there is a difference between the Words of God and the comments and notes supplied by uninspired men. This explanation will serve our purposes well, since this is one of the fundamentals we want alien sinners to accept! "Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him," (Jer. 17:7).

It is absolutely necessary to have a Bible and most of us need one translated into English. This does not mean we are advised to go into any religious book store and purchase anything that is called a Bible. Let the buyer beware.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 5.1; January 1998