Publishers seek to give the Bible a thoroughly modern makeover

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WASHINGTON (RNS)—The Bible is getting a makeover as publishers try to catch every type of customer’s attention and draw in new readers who would be unlikely to pick it up in its traditional form.

With different packaging, The Green Bible, The Bible Illuminated and the Bible Across America project try to reach specific audiences who otherwise might overlook the ancient text.

“The Bible is America’s favorite book of all time,” said Maureen Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan. The publishers of these Bibles, she said, are just trying to make it more relevant to today’s audience.


The Green Bible, (HarperOne)


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As environmental concerns continue to grow, people are wondering if God has anything to say about it. The publishers of the new Green Bible say God is the ultimate environmentalist.

Like the “red-letter” editions that feature the words of Jesus in red text, The Green Bible highlights more than 1,000 verses about the earth in soy-based green ink. Essays by religious leaders and other resources on eco-justice are bound within the its 100 percent cotton/linen cover.

The environmental movement is “a big part of the Christian agenda today, especially among the youth,” said Michael Maudlin, The Green Bible’s editor.

“And those who thought the Bible had nothing to say about it will find there is quite a bit there.”

Matthew Sleeth, a doctor who’s been pushing fellow evangelicals to go green in recent years, writes in his introduction to The Green Bible that the biggest problem in the world is that the planet is dying.

“Its purpose is to highlight what the Bible has to say about God revealing himself through creation and commanding us to take care of it,” Sleeth said.

The Green Bible only contains 10 percent recycled paper—the highest percentage possible for Bible paper without it getting too big.

Curiously, Psalm 23 and its references to still waters and verdant pastures isn’t printed in green. Sleeth said future revisions will correct some important verses that might have been overlooked.


The Bible Illuminated (New Testament) (American Bible Society)

The Bible Illuminated, with its high-gloss cover and celebrity photos, looks more like a gossip rag you’d find in a dentist’s office than a Bible. There are no chapters or verses, but important quotes are highlighted or bolded for emphasis.

Originally published for a Swedish audience, The Bible Illuminated (New Testament), set to release this fall, has been revamped for American readers.

This “gateway Bible” features intense pictures of violence and death around the world along with the people who are working to find solutions for many of today’s problems.

U2 frontman Bono, actress Angelina Jolie and former Vice President Al Gore all are figures Americans easily recognize as activists, and they each get their own page in The Bible Illuminated.

“It’s a conversation piece,” said Autumn Black, a spokeswoman for the American Bible Society, which is developing the project in the United States. “It will open doors.”

It targets young, urban professionals who want to know the Bible as a piece of culture. The American Bible Society licensed its Good News Translation for the project because it is easier for a mainstream audience to understand.

“Getting the Bible to the Western world is not the problem,” Black said. “Getting the youth of the Western world to engage the Bible and experience its life-changing message is our mission.”

The images found in The Bible Illuminated are “arresting,” Black said, and inevitably will be controversial to some strands of evangelicalism. But the mission of the American Bible Society is to serve the entire church. “None of our projects has satisfied everyone,” she said.


Bible Across America (Zondervan)

Zondervan’s handwritten Bible will enlist more than 31,000 Americans to write in one verse at a time on actual thin-stock Bible paper to be published and sold nationwide. The Smithsonian Institution will receive the original copy of the Bible.

“The Bible Across America is a symbol of Zondervan’s commitment to make the word of God more accessible and more relevant to more people,” Girkins said.

The tour will hit 90 cities, stopping at universities, churches and other venues to allow people “of all ages and walks of life” to contribute to the Bible.

Having people write the Bible in their own hand will help America “rediscover the Bible in a fresh, new way,” she said.

The Bible Across America tour will end in San Diego on Feb. 12, 2009. The Bible will be released in the spring of 2009.


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