There seems to be a growing movement among Bible publishers to recognize that the way they present the Scriptures will shape the way people read them. When verses are presented piecemeal on a page, interspersed with frequent interpretive sound bytes, it leads people to read the Bible as a series of disconnected aphorisms. But when they present a clean and unembellished text, they give us permission to take up and read. They communicate that we hold something worth reading. And this direction in Bible publishing is to be celebrated.
The CSB Reader’s Bible takes a noteworthy step in this welcome direction.
What It Does Well
The CSB Reader’s Bible contains the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, typeset just like a novel or book of poetry. With just a single column of text and no chapter or verse numbers, it’s easy to get lost in here. And I mean that in the best possible way. With an edition like this, we’re likely to lose track of time, forget life’s busyness, and simply enjoy the ride.
The CSB Reader’s Bible does a great job helping us to navigate our way. Page footers show which chapters are present on each page, making it easy to find a particular spot. The text also signals new chapters (according to their traditional divisions) with a line break and a large blue first letter, which keeps the text from appearing too monotonous.
And with this volume, Holman Bible Publishers employ a few notable features I’ve not seen before in a Bible:
- Prose is not fully justified, but only left-justified. As I read, I find this prevents my eye from skipping lines.
- Lines of poetry are all indented the same. Most Bibles try to show the Hebrew parallelism by indenting the second line of each couplet further than the first line. But this often causes lines to wrap to the next line, which gets even more confusing. The CSB Reader’s Bible indents all the lines the same amount, and marks off stanzas with line breaks. As I read, I find it a little more difficult to notice the parallelism of each couplet, but easier to follow the flow of the stanza. This is not a bad thing.
The slipcase that comes with the CSB Reader’s Bible is the sturdiest I’ve seen. This thing will surely take a beating in my book bag and remain intact!
Finally, I must mention again that I am impressed by the CSB translation. It is clear and accurate, a delight to read. In my Sunday night family Bible reading, I have switched over to using the CSB Reader’s Bible, and I haven’t looked back.
What It Could Do Better
I could complain about how extremely thin the paper is, but there’s no other option for a publisher without breaking it out into multiple volumes. And Holman made a great choice in paper quality to make it easy to turn pages.
My biggest beef is simply that the CSB Reader’s Bible sticks with all the traditional chapter divisions. With the ingenuity of a reader’s version of the Bible (removing all verse and chapter numbers), a publisher has total freedom to typeset the text according to true literary divisions. So, for example, the first division in the Bible should come at Genesis 2:4 (“These are the records…”) and not Genesis 2:1 (“So the heavens and the earth…”), which is the conclusion of the story of creation in Genesis 1.
Now I’m sure this would have taken significant manpower to decide where the most natural section divisions should be. It must have been easier to simply stick with the traditional divisions, even though they can sometimes obstruct a good read.
But with that said, the beauty of a reader’s Bible is that you have permission to keep reading through any chapter divisions. Why stop at all? Just enjoy the ride and keep going.
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Disclaimer 2: Holman Bible Publishers provided me with a free copy of the CSB Reader’s Bible in exchange for an honest review.