Saving the Bible from ourselves (part 1)

A Breath of Fresh Air


Those of us who are worried about Bible designs and publishers’ trends receive this book by Paauw as a breath of fresh air. Author discusses how the Bible we read must be saved from all artifacts publishers have added through centuries since The Geneva Bible (16th c.) as starting point.

The core argument of the book is

that for most of us, most of the time, small readings prevail over big readings […] small readings [are] those diminished sampling of Scripture in which individuals take in fragmentary bits outside of the Bible’s literary, historial and dramatic contexts. […] big readings are the more magnified experiences that result when communities engage natural segments of text, or whole books, taking full account of the Bible’s various contexts.

According to these way of reading the Bible, publishers have accommodated publications to public’s orientation, adding notes, study notes, references, introductions, columns, verse divisions, headings, titles, subtitles… mere artifacts that influence the way we read the Bible as a divine inspired historical drama.

Though we are not a “Scripture-soaked society”, there are fundamental reasons to think the Church or Christian community is not a Scripture-engaged society. The Bible is more a topical book where find help for my own need, fragmenting, taking out of context some verses, and Bible publishers are responsible in certain way.

Paauw states

The Bible needs saving, not because of any defect in itself, but because we’ve buried it, boxed it, wallpapered over it, neutered it, distorted it, isolated it, individualized it,  minimized it, misread it, lied about it, debased it and oversold it. We have over-complicated its form while over-simplifying its content. We’ve become cavalier and even cheesy with our Bibles. We’ll do almost anything with them. What we have not done, truth be told, is trusted it to be itself. It may not be far off the mark to say that the Bible is completely different from what we’ve been led to believe it is.

Following a chiastic pattern the author builds this book in this way:

The Elegant Bible (chapters 1,2)

The Feasting Bible (ch. 3, 4)

The Historical Bible (ch. 5, 6)

The Storiented Bible (ch, 7-9)

The Earthly Bible (ch. 10, 11)

The Synanogue Bible (ch. 12, 13)

The Iconic Bible (ch. 14, 15)

Well, you must read each chapter to enjoy the content. And this is not the place to unveil all the arguments.

If over the centuries, publishers have added a big number of those artifacts, there must be a way to recover the elegance, pertinence and necessity of a readable Bible. Projects as Reader’s Bible by Crossway (even six volumes or single one), Bibliotheca or Biblica have taken account of this and have delighted us with elegant editions, commencing with the removal of artificial additives. This is the beginning of a Bible re-arrangement and re-engagement movement, or in purity, a back to the basics movement.

Biblica edition
Bibliotheca edition
Crossway layout (courtesy of J M Bertrand)
Reader’s Bible by Crossway
Bibliotheca layout

Form and content are knitted together, undoubtedly “form is part of the content of things. If you change the form, you change the content. If you change the form of the Bible, you have already answered the question of what it is” (p. 39)

Author reclaims simplicity, because the modern and complex form given to Bibles has lied to us.

In part 2 I will discuss about the different types of Bibles Paauw identifies in our postmodern world.

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