You can't help noticing these days, if you're Christian at all, how many Bibles there are. First there are all of the differant translations and paraphrases: there's the venerable King James Bible and the New American Standard, newer scholarly translations like the New International and New Revised Standard Version, simpler and more modern translations like the Contemporary English Version and The Message. There is the New English Version and the New Living Translation, and the New Jerusalem Bible. ("New" seems to be a big thing, doesn't it?) I'm sure I left out somebody's favorite translation here, but I can't forget the translations which, for some reason or another, have been allowed to go out of print: The Revised Standard Version (the one I grew up with) and the Good News Bible (at least I haven't seen it around lately.) The Good News Bible started out as a New Testament called "Good News for Modern Man". The title prompted one elderly widow to wonder, "What does this have to do with me?"
Of course these days, it's not just the translations that multiply. There are also many kinds of Bibles: not just the Life Application Bible mentioned above, but also the Women's Devotional Bible, the Men's Devotional Bible, and the Sports Devotional Bible (do you know how many sports metaphors there are in the Bible?) There's also the the Adventure Bible for Kids and the Celebrate Recovery Bible for people in recovery.
A couple of days ago I was at my local evangelical bookstore and noticed The Reese Chronological Bible, which does exactly what is says. Today I was at the seminry bookstore and caught sight of The Peoples' Bible, which includes the Apocraphya and must be the Bible for Barack Obama, since it sounds suspiciously socialist to me. (On the other hand, I'm glad progressive Christians are learning a little bit about marketing.) I've also noticed The Green Bible recently. Instead of the words of Jesus printed in red, this one includes God's words about creation printed in green.
They say that the Bible is still the best-selling book in the world. We know how to sell the Bible, but do we know how to read the Bible? That's what I want to know.
In my tradition, we always come at the problem of Bible reading from the angle of competence. We want to give people the tools to correct interpretation, and then assume that they will begin to read the Bible on their own.
But I wonder: how do we teach people to love the Bible, to love to read the stories and the poems and the wisdom in that impossible and wonderful book?
Almost all children learn how to read. But some children learn to devour words, to eat up stories, to hunger for poetry, to mine the secrets hidden in all kinds of books.
I'm not sure that even the Life Application Bible can do that.