Saturday, October 23, 2010

How many versions of the Bible do we need? Or Why the Bible makes good economics.

I ran across this article in a Kansas City newspaper. I found it interesting since it talks about the economics of Bible publishing. Perhaps they read my blog asking whether we have too many translations and were inspired to write this article. :)

If you stacked all the Bibles sitting in American homes, the tower would rise 29 million feet, almost 1,000 times the height of Mount Everest.

More than 90 percent of American households own a Bible, and the average family owns three, according to pollsters at the Barna Group. The American Bible Society hands out 5 million copies each year; 1.5 billion Gideon Bibles wait in hotel rooms worldwide.

Scripture outsells the latest diet fads, murder mysteries and celebrity bios year after year. Evangelical publishers alone sold an estimated 20 million Bibles in recession-battered 2009, raking in about $500 million in sales, according to Michael Covington, information and education director of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

“Bibles are in many ways a cash cow,” said Phyllis Tickle, a former longtime religion editor at Publishers Weekly. “The Bible is the mainstay of many a publishing program.”

However, some Christian scholars wonder whether that popularity can sometimes be a bad thing, as a major new translation and waves of books marking the 400th anniversary of the venerable King James Bible inundate the market this fall.

Read the rest of the article here.


  1. Although I think that having more than one good translation may be helpful for people who have had no education in the original languages, after reading this article I have to say that the writer has a good point. When I was taking languages a couple years back the question was raised as to why some Biblical texts haven't been updated to a more accurate translation. The reason cited was that publishers don't want to mess with familiar texts and turn off potential buyers. The writer stated, "Christian publishers, meanwhile, say they have an obligation — even a divine calling — to make Scripture ready and readable to as many people as possible". I think maybe it's closer to one of his closing remarks; "Ryken,(one of the interviewees), however, suspects publishers’ motives may be more economic than spiritual".
    Paul gave Timothy something to consider that maybe we should also; For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine;
    3 but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
    4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
    New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Ti 4:3-4.

  2. Yeah, I think the number of translations out there is a little over the top, but on the other hand it seems like they all help people. If having a Bible with personal exhortations for men, mothers, or students encourages people in thier faith than they're probably worthwhile; even if someone is getting fat and playing golf off of the profits (which is another discussion).