Gideon Bibles in your hotel room

How did they get there?

Because the Gideons put them there! The Gideon Bible is not some special version or translation of the Bible that hotels really like (the books are usually plain old King James Versions); they’re named for the group that distributes them….

The Gideons don’t go room to room themselves, slipping the books in nightstands like Bible elves. When a hotel opens, local Gideons members will present a Bible to the hotel’s general manager in a small ceremony and then give enough books for each room and some extras to the housekeeping staff for distribution. In addition to hotel rooms, the Gideons also give Bibles to military bases, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and to students on college campuses.

Each Bible handed out is free of charge, and the project is funded entirely by donations to the group. The Gideons will also replace any books that go missing or get worn out, and the group says that the books have a six-year life expectancy, on average. They don’t get bent out of shape when people ignore the “thou shalt not steal” rule when it comes to the Bibles, either. They’d rather you just take the book if you need it that badly.

Based on the success of the Gideons’ Bible project — the group’s own statistics claim 25% of the people who check into a hotel room will read the Bible placed there — other religious groups have begun distributing their own free literature to hotels. The Marriott hotel chain, founded by a Mormon, places the The Book of Mormon in many of its rooms, and many hotels also offer Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Scientist or Scientologist books along with the standard Gideon Bible.

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  • Pat Pope

    I wonder have they ever considered distributing modern language versions?

  • DanO

    Pat, I’m with you on this. I wish they’d go to the NLT version or The Message just for readability sake. I wonder why they don’t. Their web page is really basic and doesn’t have much information.

    Just wait until the other religious groups start asking to put their sacred books in the rooms. Pretty soon the Best Western will start installing bookshelves.

  • Pat (#1), I have had the same thought. The Gideon New Testaments in Canada are typically NASB. A couple of years ago I asked a Gideon representative who came to our church about them offering a more recent translation like the NLT or NIV, because they are more accessible to 21st century readers. I can’t remember what his reason was for the Gideons not doing that, but I do recall him appearing a little offended or at least bothered by the suggestion. Maybe he was just tired of hearing it.

  • Joe Canner

    Modern translations like the NIV are still under copyright and are usually more expensive.

  • Bob

    @Joe is correct, though some “camps” (as Gideon local chapters are called) are moving to using the NKJV. I’d love to see a forward thinking camp try to strike a free-rights deal with a “lesser” translation looking for PR like HCSB or CEV, etc.

  • S

    In England the Gideons give a New Testament (NIV) to every school child. I was given one in 1978 and still use it (recovered and reglued) to this day. Ten years later when I was born from above, I resolved to make an annual donation to Gideons International. Thank God for the Gideons.

    By the way the late great Bill Hicks once did a fab stand-up routine on Gideons. “Have you ever seen one?”, “Have you ever heard one?”, “They must be bible carrying ninjas”, “I’m gonna call reception – tell ’em there’s no Bible in my room and wait behind the door to catch me a Gideon…” Well worth tracking down.

  • Joe Canner

    My favorite (or at least most memorable) pop culture reference to the Gideons is the song “Rocky Raccoon” by the Beatles (White Album):

    Now somewhere in the black mining hills of Dakota
    There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon
    And one day his woman ran off with another guy
    Hit young Rocky in the eye Rocky didn’t like that
    He said I’m gonna get that boy
    So one day he walked into town
    Booked himself a room in the local saloon.

    Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
    Only to find Gideon’s bible….

    [Rocky gets in a duel and gets shot]…

    Now Rocky Raccoon he fell back in his room
    Only to find Gideon’s bible
    Gideon checked out and he left it no doubt
    To help with good Rocky’s revival.

  • The grandfather that raised me was Gideon. In addition to the hotel thing,, they would hand out Bibles in front of local schools- something that I think is no longer smiled upon. We regularly had boxes and boxes of bibles and NTs in our garage.
    And yes- I think the issue is cost of licensing the modern translations. When Bible making became a for-profit venture, it pushed groups like the Gideons to the lowest-cost options. The ones I used to see were a modern translation called the Berkley version- wonder if that’s still around?

  • DRT

    I have read the book of Mormon in a hotel room, but never other religions (except Christian). Well, that is a lie too, I have brought my own copy of other religious texts to hotel rooms…but never their copy…is that any better?

  • Rick in IL

    The Gideons used to also offer a translation called the Berkeley Version –

  • Jason

    They could use the NET version for free because the Gideons are giving the Bibles away for free. The NET copyright has a clause that allows for free distribution (without the full translator notes). They only charge if the recipient of the Bible is being charged.

  • mjk

    My impression is that the American Gideons (unlike other national branches) are deeply committed to a KJV-only philosophy of scripture. When my good friend was asked to be the keynote speaker at their conference, he was told KJV ONLY. I think that, as much as any licensing costs, is behind the choice.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: I wonder have they ever considered distributing modern language versions?

    Ummm maybe they think the King James version is superior. Some people do (including me, though I actually read the mildly edited 21st Century King James, not the original version, and I do usually cross reference with the NRSV, which is generally the pew bible of choice in churches I go to).

  • My grandfather was a traveling salesman, and was so impacted by the Gideon bibles he always found in his hotel room that he left a portion of his estate to the Gideons.

    This is a ministry truly worthy of respect and support

  • Ben Thorp

    I still have the New Testament I got given by the Gideons when I was in “middle” school (about aged 12) – it was an NIV. I have a great respect for the work they do – I’ve heard too many stories of people who’ve been helped by finding God’s Word in an unexpected place to think that it “doesn’t work”.