Monday, October 08, 2007
A Bible Without Additives
Have you ever wondered who put the chapters and verses in the Bible, or why they sometimes seems so counter-intuitive? Have you ever wondered why the books in the Bible are ordered the way they are? Have you ever wanted to go back and read the Bible without all of these "extras" that were added to it over the centuries?

Well, while I was out at the Emergent Gathering in Glorieta, NM I received a free Bible from the International Bible Society entitled "The Books of the Bible". It is a TNIV translation where all of the extras have been taken out. No chapters, no verses, no content headings, no footnotes, etc. The goal is to encourage the reading of whole biblical books in context without all the artificial divisions and later additions. Specifically they describe the following changes:
  • chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (a chapter-and-verse range is at the bottom of each page)
  • individual books are presented with the literary divisions that their authors have indicated
  • footnotes, section headings and other supplementary materials have been removed from the text (translators’ notes are available at the back of each book)
  • the books of the Bible have been placed in an order that provides more help in understanding, based on literary genre, historical circumstance and theological tradition
  • single books that later translations or tradition divided into two or more books are made whole again (example: Luke-Acts or Samuel-Kings)
  • single-column setting that clearly and naturally presents the literary forms of the Bible’s books

This may appear to be mere window dressing, but I wonder how much of our preaching, teaching, and even theology is actually affected by the way the Bible is presented. I know most systematic theologies I have ever read fall into the trap of proof-texting isolated verses outside of their native context, and frankly, this was how I was taught to read the Bible growing up through kids clubs that focused on memorizing individual verses completely devoid of context or explanation. Would we be so inclined to do these kinds of things if we didn't have a convenient numbering system that facilitated it?

I like what the editors of this new edition had to say about their own concerns regarding this in the Preface of this Bible:
When verses are treated as intentional units (as their numbering suggests they should be), they encourage the Bible to be read as a giant reference book, perhaps as a collection of rules or as a series of propositions. Also, when "Bible verses" are treated as independent and free-standing statements, they can be taken selectively out of context and arranged in such a way as to suggest that the Bible supports beliefs and positions that it really doesn't. In order to encourage greater understanding and more responsible use of the Bible, we have removed chapter and verse numberings from the text entirely. The dubious benefit of allowing passages to be located quickly does not outweigh the negative factors that chapters and verses introduce to Bible reading.
Those are excellent points, and I think anyone who is concerned about understanding the text in it's full and original context will appreciate this new Bible. As the editors say elsewhere in the Preface:
The Bible is more than bare words... Many different literary forms are found in the Bible: poetry, narrative, wisdom collections, letters, law codes, apocalyptic visions and more. All of these forms must be read as the literature they really are, or else misunderstanding and distortion of meaning are bound to follow.


posted by Mike Clawson at 1:55 PM | Permalink |


At 10/08/2007 04:07:00 PM, Anonymous Mike S.

This is an excellent idea. While many paraphrased Bibles (The Message, etc.) have done this before, I am not sure I have ever seen a true word-for-word translation published this way. Not only is it good to read the Bible as it is - without the "additives" - it also should encourage actual READING of the Bible. I have never understood the "Read The Bible In A Year" Bibles/books. A YEAR??? The Bible is about 15% longer than WAR & PEACE - about the same for ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. Would someone take a YEAR to read those books? It is very easy to read the Bible in less than a year, if a person really wants to read the Bible! This "additive-free," edition should help in that it's published just like a novel or any other book. Great idea.

Already a long comment, but I wanted to say what a good job you have done with your blog. I have read your posts on and off and now plan to go back and explore some of your archived posts. I've also added Emerging Pensees to my RSS feeder. Keep up the good work!


At 10/08/2007 08:13:00 PM, Blogger Kay

I bought one about a month back. I think I found the link on Swinging from the Vine, but now I'm not sure.

Anyway, I really really like it. The paragraphs make is so much easier to read and I'm noticing things I haven't noticed before. Plus I really like the order of the books.


At 10/08/2007 10:52:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Mike S,

Good suggestion about just reading through the Bible like you would any other book. I haven't attempted it yet, but, as you say, it's no longer than most other larger novels.

And thanks for stopping by my blog. Feel free to peruse the archives. I've also posted a list of "Classic Pensees" (my personal favorites) on the left sidebar, for your convenience.

Oh, and if you ever start your own blog, please feel free to add me to your links, not just your RSS feeder. (Gotta boost those Technorati rankings, right? ;-)



At 10/09/2007 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

The first thing I thought of when I read the title was those insets authored by modern apologists in my "NIV Study Bible" that I got as a Jr. High graduation present and used the crap out of throughout High School.

Though the chapter-verse divisions are a bit more subtle of an attempt to recontextualize scripture to an existing belief structure, the principle is basically the same.


At 10/11/2007 01:21:00 AM, Blogger Steven Carr

Lue-Acts as the author wrote it?

All in capitals and with no spaces between the words , to save that very expensive paper?


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