So my goal today is to unlock your brain a little bit and help you to start to think about you reading the bible.
I mean, I’m not trying to convince you to read the bible, although you should, I just want to help you think about the act of you reading a bible in a more expansive way.
Ok whatever, just keep reading.
Have you ever wondered how a bible got into your hands? Probably not. I get it. But see, my thing is books. So I DO think about this.
There’s probably waaaaay more people involved in bringing you a bible to you than you realize. Today we’re going to meet them.
God: He’s alive. Active. Attentive. You have a bible because he first and foremost WANTED you to have one. He is the inspiration and spirit behind the ideas in the bible. He is also the main character of the bible.
The Character on the Page: Sometimes they follow God, and sometimes they don’t. They interact with God or his people within their history, culture, understanding, and politics, e.g. Job’s friends, Samson, David, Paul, Noah, Saul, Abigail.
The Writer: These people are sometimes known or sometimes unknown. These are the people that actually put pen(?) to paper(?) for the first time and penned a part of the story of God, whether it be history, poetry, or letters. Maybe they knew their works would make it into the official books, maybe they didn’t. But inspired, they wrote. It’s important to know when a book was written and, if you can figure it out, why (who is the author? The audience? The reason?) I recommend something like this. (Yeah, it’s a seminary textbook. Fight me.)
The Bible Director: OK, so I don’t know the actual title of this person, but basically, someone at some point says “we need a new translation of the bible.” This might be primarily a political issue, this might be to fulfill a need for a bible that is ____ (fill in that blank with whatever, like, “read out loud in church” [KJV], “easy to casually read” [NLT; MSG], “study in depth” [AMP], “the words exactly as translated” [NASB; ESV], “the ideas translated over exact wording” [MSG], “updated language” [NIV]) Depending on who this person is, they might appoint someone else to spearhead the project. They have their hand in translation, edition, style, feel, and/or publishing.
The Publisher: If the bible director doesn’t work directly for them, they’ll work with the director to get the best look & feel for the right price. Most of the time, it’s the publisher ALONE who decides the cover and name of your book (but, like, since your book is “the bible” that name’s pretty much chosen for them.) But the cover art? The paper, whether it’s thick or thin or color or black/white? Allll the publisher’s choice. Not 100% sure about the leather/hardback/paperback options, but my money is on the publisher.
The translator(s): (More on these folks next week) Appointed by the Bible Translation Director. Translating texts gets messy, especially when the texts/words cross cultures, generations, millennia, and values. They struggle through many problems, some of which we will look at next week. Read the editor’s or translator’s notes in the front of your bible. It will provide valuable information as to why the translation is translated that way. For example: the KJV (1611 edition) says right on the front page “To Be Read Aloud In The Churches”. So the text is translated in such a way where it is easily spoken orally. This is why it’s easier to memorize and recite the KJV than most modern translations. This is also why the KJV has hardly any footnotes; it’s not meant as such to be read on a page & any footnotes/margin notes might distract the reader. (Plus, for political reasons, James was trying to seem better than his forebears, Wycliffe and Tyndale, who put notes in the margins that James considered anti-royal.)
Anyway, more on that next week.
The editors: Are responsible for everything else on the page except for the words of the Bible. This includes formatting (emphasis), footnotes, glossa, numbering, etc. If it’s anything except for text, it’s them. Look at a page of a paper bible (ESPECIALLY a study bible) and notice how much stuff is on the page besides the actual text of the bible. There’s chapter headings and numbering (or, if you’re the MSG, the lack thereof), there’s study notes and maybe a short (or long) devo / lesson, there might be as many words in the footnotes as there are text of the bible (these honestly are my favorite).
You: Somehow, God brings this all together for you. The bible is meant to be read, but in you reading it, it begins to read you. Always come with an expectant, observant heart. It’s ok to study it, but don’t ever reduce it to only a book to be studied. The ultimate goal is a deeper revelation of God and his character, and, in that revelation, it is our hope that you would release anything you have been carrying to His hands.
Again my goal isn’t to ruin the mystery of the bible for you. My goal is that you’ll understand greater, and maybe appreciate greater, the lengths it took to get that bible in your hand.
Maybe clutch your favorite bible tighter today and tell God thanks for everything he did to get it in your hands.