This is the perfect season to buy a Bible! Despite stereotypes about American youth, faith is a pillar in the lives of thousands of American teens heading off to college—and many would appreciate a contemporary Bible tucked into their duffel bags. Also, nearly 1 million American couples will get married this summer, according to federal data, and weddings are great occasions to start a new family Bible. Then, there’s summer travel, when millions of people enjoy reading the Bible—along with their favorite murder mysteries, romance novels and celebrity biographies.
TODAY, we’ll tell you about a handful of great choices among the tidal wave of Bibles currently available in a rainbow of colors, styles, translations and editions. We’re going to focus, in these recommendations, on King James Version-related books—so you’ve got the added significance of this historic milestone behind your choice. In Part 2, we’ll tell you about two more gems you won’t want to miss!
REVIEW: Thomas Nelson King James Version Family Bible
The massive Thomas Nelson King James Version Family Bible usually is priced with a steep discount at Amazon. The book’s suggested list price is $100, which is what you may pay at a bookstore, but Amazon usually prices it at around $63. This is a keepsake Bible—a show piece. However, the big type in this edition also makes it a potential reading Bible if you’ve got a setting for daily devotions that lets you easily prop up this massive hunk of paper, leather, cloth and gilded flourishes. Nelson has added full-color maps and paintings of biblical scenes. What’s most useful about this symbol of faith—and this big book really is more of a symbol than a daily spiritual tool—is the series of six antique-looking pages at the front for recording family history. Anyone who enjoys family history has a soft spot for family Bibles where men and women have carefully recorded births, deaths and marriages down through the generations. Sure, this book will start with blank pages—but that can change over time.
REVIEW: New Revised Standard Version Thinline Bibles
Thomas Nelson is famous for its KJV editions—and Nelson also played a key role in the development of what today is considered the translation for “mainline” Christians: the New Revised Standard Version. The NRSV is a highly regarded, scholarly translation of the Bible that now appears in a wide range of authorized publications by mainline Protestant churches, such as the United Methodist hymnal. Some of the NRSV texts also appear in official Catholic publications. Today, HarperCollins is known as a major NRSV publisher. But, back in the late 1800s, Thomas Nelson was the publisher who started this ball rolling by agreeing to publish a revised American version of the KJV. That complicated British-American project in the late 19th century evolved into a 1901 landmark: the Revised Version, Standard American Edition, which now usually is refered to as the American Standard Version. That version led to an even greater milestone half a century later: the Revised Standard Version produced after World War II and updated in the 1970s. Eventually, that “family” of Bible translations produced the New Revised Standard Version, known simply as NRSV.
We won’t debate translations here—that’s a lively discussion for another day. And we won’t debate which translation is “most popular”—another complicated argument for another time. The fact is: Millions of people already read the NRSV at home and at church. And the NRSV retains some of the grand cadences and phrasings that originated in the 1611 King James Version.
Bible publishers have produced thousands of editions of scripture over the years. In our ReadTheSpirit Bible collection, we have pocket Bibles as small as an iPhone—plus Bible e-editions that live inside our smart phones as Apps. There also are lots of Bibles designed for travel and even extreme sports. Here’s our 2010 review of the honest-to-goodness Waterproof Bible. We have another Bible in our collection that seals itself inside a rectangular tin can like scriptural sardines!
However, for everyday reading and easy toting around the world, as Editor of ReadTheSpirit, I carry a Thinline Bible. My own is bound in bright red leather—harder to miss when packing up after a retreat or hotel stay—but here are two recent Thinline editions that would make great gifts for that spiritually minded teenager heading off to college (and, no, they won’t necessarily want a bright red cover):
NRSV – The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible [Bonded Leather, Burgundy], which Amazon usually sells at a substantial discount. You can’t beat the Amazon price either for a gift—or as a great choice for your own summer travels. I like the leather-covered editions. They’re sturdy and will feel good in the palm of your hand. This particular link to Amazon lists the Protestant Bible—without the Catholic books. Most Americans have a Protestant background, so this is a popular choice. The type face is only 9 point, which may sound small, but the font used in this edition makes the words pop clearly on the crisp white pages.
NRSV Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible Catholic Edition (Paperback). Here’s another great Thinline choice, this time in a bright blue—and with the entire Bible, including the Catholic books. For those Catholic parents who still check for such things: yes, this edition does carry an official Catholic Imprimatur both for the United States and Canada. More persuasively, it’s an edition recommended by Father James Martin, SJ, the Jesuit author whose own inspirational books are widely enjoyed.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.