In his book Saving the Bible from Ourselves, from IVP Books, Glenn R. Paauw discusses the problems with our Bibles. He makes a strong case that the design of our Bibles actually hurt our understanding and comprehension and keep us from doing the number one thing we should be doing with the Bible- reading it.
Paauw raises two questions: 1, what is the Bible? 2, what are we supposed to do with it? He seeks to demonstrate the answer to these questions by discussing seven Bibles (some are actually ways we use the Bible) and discusses the problems and benefits with them.
He shows that what we should be doing with the Bible is reading it in large chunks. We should read a book at a time and if we have to stop it’s best to stop where it’s natural rather than at a chapter break. He shows how Bibles are not designed to help in this type of reading, but instead hinder it.
He covers the history of Bible design and shows a few examples. This shows how people throughout history have been able to take Scripture out of context because verses sit apart from each other. The design of the verse-by-verse layout makes it easy to take verses out of context. This has become our standard way of Bible study and many people follow this same practice.
He also shows how the apparatus of the tools have become a problem. Verse numbers and even chapter numbers keep us from seeing the bigger picture. Reference keys can get in the way, calling people to follow the references out of context rather than just read the text.
Study and devotional Bibles call attention away from Scripture. Study Bibles constantly give us something other than the text to look at. When we rely on devotionals that take the scriptures out of their context and original settings we can come to the wrong conclusions and misapply Scripture.
People tend to read the Bible, or small pieces of it, with the purpose of applying it to themselves. However, Paauw shows that the Bible was written to an original audience and, even though there can be an application to us, it originally applied to someone else. He shows the Bible should be read in context with an understanding of the original audience. He also talks about how the Bible was originally read in community and we should continue that practice.
This is an interesting book and it will change what you want in a Bible (for the good). Paauw does get repetitive but it makes sense to repeat the same points where he does. He could even go further. He never clearly shows what he thinks is the best Bible, although I think the Crossway 6-Volume Reader’s Set would be the highest on his list. He doesn’t really mention that a readable Bible would extend to the translation or how red-letter can determine how we think about certain verses.
He gives lots of advice on reading the Bible and keeping the text in its proper context and setting. He, and I second this and know many others do too, would like to see Bibles designed around readability. He would also prefer publishing to be in the hands of the Churches rather than secular publishing companies. Lots of references are cited so you can further your own research if you’re interested. If Paauw can get publishers and consumers to see his points we will end up with the best Bibles ever produced.
I enjoyed reading this book and it’s confirming the conclusions that I’ve been coming to myself. I prefer text only, paragraph, poetry set in stanzas on wide columns, verse numbers practically invisible, chapter numbers not unnaturally separating the text but identifiable, no section headings unnaturally separating the text, etc. I read the Bible in large portions more than I run references and I prefer a text that’s clean and readable on high quality paper.
I highly recommend Saving the Bible from Ourselves to every Bible reader, designer, publisher, preacher, student, and pastor to help them get the most out of choosing and using a Bible.
IVP provided this book free for review. I was not required to give a positive review – only an honest review. My opinions are my own.