Illuminated manuscript

Zondervan is promoting the NIV with a bus that is going around getting people to write out a verse by hand until the whole Bible is written out in the handwriting of ordinary people. Then the result will be published. From Publisher puts ‘NIV’ Bible in Americans’ handwriting:

Now Americans coast to coast will have a chance to hand-copy a verse of Scripture to appear in a special edition of the New International Version of the Bible, known as the NIV.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the NIV, which has sold 300 million copies worldwide, publisher Zondervan launches a campaign today to create the unique edition, which will include its 31,173 verses, each handwritten by a different person.

A huge blue RV with the logo “BibleAcrossAmerica.com” splashed on its side and “Inspiration at every turn” on its back takes off on a five-month journey bringing “writing stations” to 90 stops in 44 states at churches, landmarks and popular settings such as NASCAR races.

“Before the Gutenberg (the first Bible printed on a printing press), they were all handwritten,” says Zondervan’s Steve Sammons. “In our digital age, we lose sight of what it means to have a tangible product we create by our hands. This will truly make the NIV America’s Bible.”

But. . .but. . .the hand-copied Bibles before the printing press were beautiful acts of devotion and praise! Here is a project that is more like it.

Do you see any problems with Zondervan’s hand-written-by-the-people Bible? Will you buy it, read it, and use it in your devotions?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://thebookbeast.blogspot.com Darren

    Re: the St. John’s Bible – is it really a good idea to have a Bible that encourages serious breaking of the 9th Commandment (Lutheran numbering)??

  • WebMonk

    This is a promotion, not a production of a beautiful Bible for use. As part of the promo they are emphasizing the physical making of something in an culture where physical creation and writing isn’t common. They don’t actually expect to sell them.

    It’s not trying to recreate the magnificently illuminated Bible’s of ages past, so I’m not going to try to measure them by that standard.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk, it seems that Zondervan does plan to sell them: “A photo facsimile of all the verses will be compiled and published in time for Christmas 2009″ (from the USA Today article). Though I have to doubt that anyone who buys one will actually read it much — can you imagine reading thousands of pages of handwriting, with the “font” changing every verse? Sure, Bibles were handwritten back in the day, but did you see those monks’ handwriting? It was beautiful and consistent!

    I appreciate the interest in making something physical in this age of perfect digital production; I just don’t see what it has to do with the Bible.

  • WebMonk

    Ok, yes. I should have restated that – they don’t expect to sell many at all. It’ll be a curiosity item for people to own – a marketing tool.

  • LAJ

    The St. Johns Bible would be much more interesting if they had chosen a better translation than NRSV. Why can’t these Bible publishers simply explain in footnotes that when the Bible refers to “man,” many times it means both men and women in the singular. Instead they use footnotes to explain why they changed the text from the original meaning. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord is not the same as blessed are they…

  • LAJ

    Sorry that comment was off topic. An artist’s copying of Scriptures is definitely better than what Zondervan is planning. Sounds like a publicity stunt to me.

  • http://www.HempelStudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I love the idea of a handwritten Bible; it gives me some cool art ideas :-)

    As far as the Zondervan Bible goes, Americans love democrazy so much that we don’t honor the vocations of people who have worked hard to attain certain skills. The idea of the St. John’s Bible honors the vocation of the calligrapher. I’d be interested in a Bible that is beautiful and well-crafted like the old illuminated manuscripts, but that is also thoroghly contemporary. (By “contemporary” I mean “right now.”)

    Thanks for the creative idea…

    Also, as an aside, which is the best translation? I like the NIV, but only because it is the translation given to me as a child and all my memory verses are NIV. I don’t know whether or not it is the best.

  • WebMonk

    KJV only!!!! (jk!)

    ESV is my current primary, but the Amplified is also a nice tool. A blunt, modern parlance version that I can’t remember is my third resource – sometimes having a very “blunt” sort of statement makes the words jump out at me better than a precisely phrased version of the same.

    I’m afraid that a beautifully illustrated Bible would be a distraction to me. I’d hate to read it without gloves to protect the pages, and I’d spend too much time looking at the calligraphy and illustrations.

  • Neb

    A better Bible to buy in 2009 would be the new Concordia Study Bible from Concordia Publishing House. It will be ESV (English Standard Version) with the commentary coming from Lutheran’s instead of the heavily reformed comments in the NIV Concordia Study Bible.

    Kudos to Paul McCain and all the great work at CPH.


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