How did we get our Bibles? Not just the books of the Bible, but all the apparatus that comes along with it? Chapter and verse numbers, section headings, and cross-references. Two-column format, study notes, and call-out boxes with key ideas. Why do our Bible look so different from any other book (or collection of books) we read?
Desiring God recently posted an important episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, where Tony Reinke interviews Glenn Paauw, the Executive Director of the Biblica Institute for Bible Reading, a think tank dedicated to studying trends in Bible reading and design. Listening to this interview may be some of the best-spent 30 minutes of your week. Paauw explains how the appearance of the page drastically affects how we read this book—and how we lose the ability to read this book as a book.
I particularly appreciate Paauw’s question: Which of the following is the Bible most like?
- Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
- The Reader’s Digest Guide to Home Repairs
- The Collected Papers of the American Antislavery Society
Of course, most of us would pass this test with flying colors. We know the Bible is a collection of writings. But without realizing it, we’ve been trained all our lives not to read the Bible this way. Either we memorize individual verses scattered all throughout the Bible (as we’d handle Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations), or we go to the Bible to learn everything it has to say on a particular topic such as marriage or money (as we’d handle The Reader’s Digest Guide to Home Repairs). And the published presentation of the Bible now serves these market expectations, leading us farther and farther away from reading it like a collection of works.
For this reason, recent uncluttered editions such as the ESV Reader’s Bible have become so important. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. I assure you, it will transform your Bible reading experience.
And listen to DG’s podcast to learn more about how the published presentation is changing the way we approach the Bible. It’s well worth your time.