Friday, December 31, 2004

Sacred Text...

I just realized today that I have not purchased a Bible since February of 2000 when I was working at ETBU and took a group of students to the National Black Student Converence in Atlanta (Georgia, not Texas) and upon realizing I left my Bible at home stopped at a bookstore in a mall and bought a $7 (coincidence? I think not) paperback NIV. I held on to that Bible for quite some time.

Truth is, since college I have rarely had to purchase a Bible. With a 12 month exception, I have always worked at places (Christian Universities and Churches) where there were Bibles just laying around. Well, add to those 12 months another however many months it's been since I haven't worked at either, but have had regular access to the lost Bible filing cabinet in my church office. Generally in my world Bibles are like pens. Who buys pens? Seriously, I bet about 7% of the world buys pens for those 93% of us who don't buy pens. Take the pen you have closest to you right now. Did you buy it? I didn't think so.

Today I decided it was high time I stop letting other people buy Bibles for me and buy one of my own. So I went to my place of work, which happens to be a bookstore and happens to sell Bibles, to purchase my first Bible since Atlanta.

I was not expecting the Bible search to be as daunting as it was. A couple of things aided the daunt.

I have and will always speak well of my Christian liberal arts education. Most people leave ETBU and enter "the world" with an inferiority complex. Not me. I feel I was well trained to think on feet and to be fairly confident in the midst of society. But one negative my theological education placed on my psyche was a fear of getting the Bible right. It seemed like all manner of sins would be forgiven. Sexual sins, alcoholism, theft, sloth, even missing a couple of Sunday morning services. All would be covered by the grace of an ever loving God. But getting the Bible wrong. You're on shaky ground there.

I've actually forgotten what type of Bible I am supposed to own in order to be a Good Christian. Because, when you think about it, well, when I thought about it on my Bible shopping excursion today, what type of Bible you own says a lot about what kind of Christian you are. I know Dr. Bob advocated looking at several texts side by side to see where they lined up and where they differed. But surely he had a preference, didn't he? Not too long ago I acquired from the Lost Bible Filing Cabinet at UBC a New American Standard Bible. I read it a little and decided it would do. But recently I seem to remember someone... was it a professor or a classmate?... from ETBU who said something negative about the NASB and I have since been real hesitant about letting people see the spine of my New American Standard out of fear that I would be given a questioning glare. I remember in high shool and college using the New International Version but I know some people who think the NIV is like a training Bible.. something to be used to get you accustomed to God's Holy Word before you move on to the real stuff. I know it's ok not to use the King James because it's a bad translation but I really like the New King James but I have voices in my head from the past saying the New King James isn't good either. Those same voices tell me to avoid paraphrases like the Living Bible and the Message. But my pastor generally uses the Message and I like reading the Message and I've yet to hear anyone question Eugene Peterson's scholarship, although I'm sure there's someone somewhere concocting a challenge to it. And do I really want people thinking I need a paraphrase to understand Scripture? Aint I supposed to be smart? Damn, the voices.

I knew there were questions about translations and paraphrases and versions but I faced something in the store today that I never faced before. Something that cuts much deeper than what type of Bible I purchased. Something that transcends questions of Greek and word-for-word vs. phras-for-phrase translation. The Cover. Back in the day Bibles came in leather of various single tone colors, paper of various single tone colors, and a hard cardboard of varios single tone colors. Not today. You should have seen the choices I had. If I go with The Message do I go with the leather bound, which costs more than I was willing to pay (perhaps a sin? I don't know,) or the paperback or large hardback with dust cover or smaller hardback titled THEMESSAGE//REMIX, with a cool picture of a wooden slat wall covering the book and which my pastor and good friend owns and preaches out of and might suggest that I do everything my pastor does because he's my friend and people think he's cool. Another think I didn't have to contend with in that little bookstore in Atlanta were the metal bibles. Yes, metal. The bible itself isn't metal but it has a metal casing to protect the bible, I guess, and to make a statement that your faith is hardcore or airtight or cool or radical or something like that. We just have a silver metal at Barnes and Noble but when I got fed up with our lack of selection and I walked down to The Compass I then had to contend with not only a silver metal but also a cool green colored metal. The Compass also offered me the Policeman's Bible, the Firefigher's Bible, the Soldier's Bible and I think something like The Nurse's Bible. I scoffed at all of those but you can bet your ass that if I had seen The Bookseller's Bible I would have scooped that baby up without a second thought.

The think I forgot to mention about the types of Bibles was what to do with the choices of having a Study Bible where the notes were created by a group of scholars vs. having a Study Bible written by a famous Christian (John MacArthur, Max Lucado,) vs. not having a Study Bible at all because I can read and study for myself and what do these guys know that I don't? Other than Greek and Hebrew, that is. I knew not to go with Lucado because I didn't want people to accuse me of being overly sentimental and John Macarthur was out because I didn't want to be accused of being a fundamentalist and that guy was a total dick when I saw him on Larry King Live a few months ago. In the end I decided against a Study Bible.

When I finished at the Compass I headed back up the steps to Barnes and Noble with my mind set on picking a Bible no matter how hard of a decision it was. I narrowed it down to two. The leather NASV with gold siding, which I decided against because it was skinny and tall and made me look pastor-pretensious when I walked around with it in my hand like you would a pair of shoes in the shoe store to see how they fit.

I picked up THEMESSAGE//REMIX with the wooden slats which Kyle uses and which I decided against earlier because even though he's my friend I don't want people to think I'm his disciple. As I was putting it back on the shelf I noticed a blurb on the back of THEMESSAGE//REMIX. You know, like an acknowledgment on the back of any book by a famous or smart person. The things I look at to determine who I want to align myself with.

The first blurb was by Bono. I didn't bother reading it. Took that Bible to the front and purchased it right on the spot and right now I'm a proud owner of THEMESSAGE://REMIX. Screw what people think of me.

I'm with Bono.

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