This particular flavor of avarice is embarrassing, though I’m far from the only person who has this particular form of shopaholism. And shopaholism it is: just glance at this post and see the number of links to separate items I have put in.
I have a “thing” for bibles. I’m fascinated by the multiplicity of formats and sizes and colors that one book can come in. Unlike the good people at the Bible Design Blog, I am delighted not only by the finest that bookbinding can offer described in technical terms like “semi-yapp,” but also missionary bibles printed on what is very nearly newsprint, and fun format bibles like the many-hued “Chunky Bible” with striped pages and inspirational tear-out cards to give away. I spend a lot of time on ChristianBook.com looking at editions of the Bible.
This greediness is not a good thing insofar as it is vastly disproportionate to need. There are really only three bibles I feel fully comfortable wanting to own, the ones that have the expanded Apocrypha, not only the ones in the Catholic Bible but also the Orthodox books. (Bible translations are identified by acronyms): OSB, NRSV, and ESV. (Don’t scoff at the Apocrypha until you have read the Wisdom of Solomon, aka Wisdom, and the Wisdom of Sirach, aka Ecclesiasticus, as well as the bloody, brave IV Maccabees. Good stuff.) And three is 300% of what I need, strictly speaking.
Then, like most people who like bibles, I have many more, miscellaneous, ones: I keep around a single-column paragraphed KJV just because I like to have the version that shaped much of modern English; the large print NIV Archaeological Study Bible that at over six pounds is too big to read easily; the large print NKJV Life Application Bible that millions of people use (except for anybody I know), which I bought from curiosity; a Waterproof New Testament that I particularly like and earns its keep for the opacity of its plastic paper and the way it fits my hand; a beautiful old pocket edition NIV; and a handy Dover KJV paperback Psalter. Then I have a really excellent and useful spiral-bound monastic Psalter that sees use. And the odd Eastern/Greek Orthodox New Testament I haven’t opened yet. And, oh yes, I have one piece of true exotica: A Nestle-Aland parallel-text Latin and Greek New Testament that you can’t get anywhere now that I ought to sell to someone who can read both and treasure the book.
Regardless of this superfluous library, I still want to own several tiny bibles. I am filled with wonder at the idea of holding such magnificence in hand or purse ready to read, my own copies, not in a museum or library. I want, I want, I want:
A “pocket” edition that is proportioned like an ordinary book, but smaller; my pocket edition NIV isn’t enough to fulfill the craving, I want another really fine one. Maybe with a dignified, exciting British accent that says “Oxford” or “Cambridge” on the spine. Prestige brand, you know.
A “checkbook” bible, long and skinny, with a magnet or snap to close it. Maybe with a somewhat less assertive design and color than this particular example. Must be tasteful.
And the hardest wish for me to let go is for a zippered “clutch” bible with a wrist strap and a cover that conveniently doubles as a wallet. Put my bus pass in it with money for a candle, donation, and lunch, and I’m all set to go to church.
I have no excuse at all for wanting these. I don’t even belong to a church where congregants normally bring their own personal copies rather than use the bibles in the pew. If I did, and if I delighted in a nice one to carry and use at Bible study, keeping a bigger one at home, that would be a justifiable purchase. I’ve even met people who seriously use their small-form bibles as their main bibles, all tattered and dog-eared and loved like the Velveteen Rabbit. They are using them the way they should.
But my own fascination with small form factor bibles is all wrong.
God is not a genie to be captured in a bottle, and bibles are not toys.
And who am I kidding, anyway – I don’t even really need the paper versions of my favored editions; I read the Bible mostly online at Bible Gateway, because my galloping presbyopia makes reading from a book tiring.
Nevertheless, if you know Christians who read the Bible, I am sure you could righteously delight them to give them a gift certificate to ChristianBook.com, particularly if they are past their youth and presbyopia has begun its insidious attack on their literacy to make the purchase of a large-print bible desirable. And while you’re at it, do what I’ve done and buy a few extra inexpensive large-print contemporary language New Testaments to give to people or leave with your cleric, because it is surprising how many people want to take up and read, but don’t have a bible at all, or can’t read small type or King James English.
Just don’t do like me and get sucked too far into the kaleidoscope of clever bible formats and impressive translations out there. Your money is needed elsewhere.
Billy Graham was once asked which translation of the Bible he thought was best. He replied: “The one you’ll read.”