Of Bibles and the Bible

A Bible translation pitched to a third-grade reading level is the latest effort to help the all-time bestseller keep on selling. In business terms the Bible needs help, according to unusual reports such as last summer's return to publishers of thousands of dollars' worth of King James Versions bounced from the shelves of a bookstore chain.

But market share is not the way to judge the Book of Books any more than numbering the people is the way to judge religions based on it. Nor is the multiplication of versions, now up to several hundred including hip-hop slang, more than a clue to individuals' thirst for what the Bible offers.

It's not only poets like Robert Frost who have found a criterion for self-scrutiny in his favorite Bible verse: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalms 19).

The week of Thanksgiving in the United States is also National Bible Week. This year it happened to be the fifth anniversary of The First Church of Christ, Scientist's opening of its Historical Bible Collection in celebration of National Bible Week in 1991. With 400 Bibles in 13 languages, the collection exemplifies the Bible's universality and "traces humanity's faith in the light of God's Word."

This recalls that another Psalm, like the healing words in both the Old and New Testaments, is addressed to "all ye inhabitants of the world: Both low and high, rich and poor, together."

The message is more than ink and paper, more than all the cyberspace the Scriptures now occupy on the Internet. It is measured not in sales figures but in moments and lives comforted, illumined, and, as many can testify, transformed.

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