Book of books
I have about four hundred Bibles. That’s not too many, I think. But my wife doesn’t see it that way. She can’t understand having more than one Bible, if even that. In addition, she complains of the danger of having too many heavy books shelved and stacked around the apartment. If a strong earthquake occurs as happened on Friday, March 11, 2011 the books are liable to topple, cause damage - maybe even injury - and certainly block the way. She constantly harps about getting rid of books. But I tell her that the most dangerous items in the house in that regard are the glass and table ware in the kitchen. So if it's earthquake safety she wants let's get rid of those things before we get rid of the books!
All Bibles are the same to my wife. Age, translation, and denominational affiliation don’t figure into it for her. Similarly, all Christians are the same to her and to other Japanese. They don’t see, and certainly do not understand how Jehovah’s Witnesses, Southern Baptists, tongue-speaking Pentecostals, cosmopolitan Jesuits, evangelicals, Greek Orthodox, Church of England Anglicans, a Mormon and run-of-the-mill Roman Catholics are different. They don’t perceive the difference between a liberal Christian and a conservative Christian. Television evangelists look like normal Christians to them. That’s scary.
My Bibles are part of my 10,000-large library - a burden that is progressively testing the threshold of being a worry for my family. What’s to be done with them all? Read them, love them, feel them, smell them. Books are a good thing to arrange one’s life around. As manufactured works and as are they are wonderful to have. But a book is also an organism. Taking care of them requires commitment and responsibility, but they reward you as other creatures do.
Every edition and translation of the Bible is different, and the differences among them make all the difference to me. Each has something to say about the Word of God and what that Word is saying to us in our lives, in our various times and place and circumstances.
The first Bible I read was a King James Red Letter edition. I thought the Red Letter idea was really cool. Fiona gave me the idea. I read it because of her. It took me a year. Later I tried the New English Bible, because that was the Bible used at a parochial private school I attended. It bored the heck out of me. In university I read The Good News Bible for the first time. I loved it and still do. It’s my favorite edition. Using the Good News Bible I set three months as my fastest Bible-reading pace. Fourteen months for one reading at a casual pace is typical for me, though. The New International Version, and the revised edition, Today’s New International Version (TNIV) are widely considered to be the foremost English translation today. The NIV is okay. But I like the Amplified Bible better than the NIV, but not quite as good as the Good News Bible (GNB, or Today’s English Version, TEV). The Jerusalem Bible is very reputable. But it is a French translation. I have it both in English and in French. The English Revised Standard Version was a confirmation gift to me from my church. I still have it and have always prized it. It smells nice. But now there is the New Revised Standard Version to replace it.
Books are a good thing to arrange one’s life around.
I’ve got one English Standard Version (ESV) study Bible, but I’m looking to get my hands on another one. I have the Reader’s Bible. Of course, there is the Revised King James (RKIJ), the New King James, the American Bible and the New American Bible, the Standard American Bible and the Revised Standard American Bible. The Living Bible is a paraphrase of the Standard American Bible. I’ve got some of hose. I developed a feeling for The Living Bible because it was my father’s chosen Bible for many years. It reminds me of him. There’s the Jewish Tanakh. I have a couple of those. There are Christian Bibles with and without the Old Testament Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. Catholic Bibles integrate the Apocrypha into the order of books, but Protestant Bibles that include them simply collect them at the end of the Old Testament canon, as kind of an intermediary between the testaments. I have more than one edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible. I’ve got Greek and Hebrew interlinear Bibles. I have more than one copy of The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the Jehovah’s Witness Bible. I was first given a copy by SC, and I have had a place for it in my heart ever since.
I have one complete one-volume Bible in graphic novel format: a comic book, in hard cover. It’s a couple decades old, proving that graphic novel form is not strictly contemporary.
Of course I have Bibles in many different languages, including ones that I cannot read. I have it in English, new and old, in German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Welsh, Hebrew (the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia), Latin (the Vulgate), modern and koine Greek (the Greek New Testament and the Septuagint). Among my most prized Bibles are the Inuktituk (Eastern Arctic dialect) and Cree language scriptures. I have facsimiles of the 1611 King James Bible, the Tyndale New Testament, the Wycliffe Bible, the Mathew’s Bible, the famous Geneva Bible, and the even more famous Great Bible of 1540. (A complete facsimile of a Gutenberg Bible is available for a price tag between $6,000 and $12,000.)
The Bishops Bible, the Great Bible, Taverner’s Bible, the Wycliffe Bible, the Matthew’s Bible, the Tyndale New Testament and the King James Bible are all important Early English translations. Much of their text is the same. But just having them on my shelf witnessing the evolution of the scriptures in English is marvelous. Even though they are all the same book, collecting them is like collecting all the books in a serial novel, like The Hardy Boys, or Sherlock Holmes.
I have a couple Bibles that belonged to my grandmothers, given to them in their teens by their own parents, bearing inscriptions inside - faded fountain pen ink in feminine hand. I knew and remember my grandmothers as octogenarians, but these Bibles and their inscriptions belonged to teenaged girls. Cool. Their condition is not great, but the family value of them is high. In addition, I have my family’s own old Family Bible, a huge, heavy King James Bible from the mid-1800s with one-inch thick engraved wooden boards, marvelous plates and copious scholarly expository essays. It is the size of a church lectern Bible and weighs a lot. I have several modern Family Bibles, all King James editions. Each is a little different in its own way. They are wonderful as books as well as decorations.
I love Bible Dictionaries and Handbooks, and especially Study Bibles. Every edition of the Bible has its own matching Study Bible. There are Picture Bibles for children, Bibles for teenagers and study Bibles for high schoolers and college students. Bibles edited and supplemented in such a way as to appeal to women, men or couples. So there are Women’s Bibles, Men’s Bibles, and Couple’s Bibles. I have a Green Bible, which is actually just an NIV translation with environmentally interesting supplements and highlights. I am especially fond of my Interpreter’s Bible and its accompanying Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, both multi-volume sets by Abingdon Press, intended for use by professional pastors and theologians. Trés cool.
I prefer single-volume Bibles, but I have several multi-volume sets. The oldest is a 1913 multi-volume study set in excellent condition. The newest is the Harvard University Vulgate Bible Douay-Rheims translation, a six-volume set whose final volume appeared in April 2013.
There are parallel Bibles, with different translations printed in side-by-side, parallel columns. One volume can contain four different Bible translations. More than that and the pages get a bit cluttered. It helps to compare one translation with another quickly. I have more than one of those. It began with Throckmorton’s Parallel Gospels in divinity school.
More written material was deliberately excluded from the canon than was included in it, so when collected together in one volume, such as Willis Barnstone’s The Other Bible (2005), the non-canonical writings are actually longer than the Bible itself. I have read much of them separately - the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gnostic Gospels, the Old Testament and much of the New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepygrapha. I have a single volume collection of them as well. Usually in Christian congregations if you talk about the Apocrypha and the Pseudepygrapha people don’t know what you mean. That’s sad. On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t matter.