Reader’s Bibles: Taking Away Distractions?

Reader’s Bibles: Taking Away Distractions?

Christianity Today recently published a piece on the release of Bibliotheca, a more than one million dollar kickstarter-funded project to publish the Bible in four or five volumes (the optional volume is the Apocrypha)—a Bible free of navigational conventions such as chapter and verse numbers, headings, and notes. The volumes are divided following the Hebrew canon:

  • The Five Books & the Former Prophets (Genesis—Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings)
  • The Latter Prophets (Isaiah—Malachi)
  • The Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles)
  • The Apocrypha
  • The New Testament

This Bible, priced at $109 for the hardbound cloth set, is one among a number of recently published Reader’s Bibles, many of which are single volume books. Crossway, for example, has a single volume ESV Reader’s Bible and has recently added a six volume set (the multi-volume set priced from $199–499). The CT piece points to other recent and forthcoming Bibles:

Holman Bible Publishers released the first versions of the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) without chapter and verse numbers this fall, and a reader’s version of the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is due out in 2017, said Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Of course, Reader’s Bibles are not new; the 20th century saw many published. But, to my knowledge, these earlier Bible’s were not marketed and defended as a better alternative to the extent they seem to be now. For example, Glenn Paauw, author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves and Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading, argues strongly that navigational or space-saving conventions, such as chapter numbers or double-columns, can distract the reading experience and make certain genres of texts, like Hebrew poetry, difficult to decipher (Glenn lays out some of his case in a recent interview about the book).

Do reader’s Bibles dramatically improve the Bible reading experience? Of course, it depends on what kind of experience you are after. However, At CODEC, we are continuing to research the area of Bible reading, including issues of how various formats (of both print and digital Bibles) affect the reader. This research is ongoing, so stay tuned.

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