Several months ago I found a Kickstarter for a Bible that was meant to be read. Rather than cluttering the page with notes, headings, and sidebars filled with useless information, this Bible was clean; just the inspired word. I found it strangely attractive. In a world where everyone is doing their best to outdo everyone else in features there was something refreshing about plain text. I still would like to pick up one of those Bibles but in the meantime, I’ve discovered a cheaper way to get a similar effect.
Crossway published a Reader’s Bible last year that has the same features (or lack of features) that the Bibliotheca kickstarter included: no headings, no verses, no notes. Unfortunately, this Bible is only available in one translation: the ESV. Fortunately, I happened to be reading through the ESV this year and I received this Bible while I was still reading fairly early in the Old Testament. As a result, I got the opportunity to experience both a reader’s Bible and the ESV in one. Two birds, one stone.
I love the cardboard slipcase that it comes in, it’s very sturdy and elegantly designed. It looks great whether it finds itself on a bookshelf, a coffee table, or standing on your office desk. Honestly, I wish there were more nice, hardcover books that included slipcases like this one (that weren’t outrageously priced). The cover is bound in brown and dark tan cloth with gold lettering on the spine. Beware, the gold lettering will quickly rub off if you handle it much. Also, I found that the threads in the brown cloth tend to fray – you can see this in the images below.
The first few and last few pages of the Bible are almost card-stock quality white paper. This would be great if the whole Bible was printed in this; but it isn’t. Instead, several maps are printed in the back of the Bible and there’s a presentation page printed in the front. Other than that, you’re looking at onion-skin paper that lets the text bleed through to the other side. This is my biggest issue with this Bible. If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating a Bible that is meant to be read like any other book – print it like any other book! I have fairly good eyes so it didn’t bother me too much but I could see how someone who has trouble with their eyes would have a difficult time reading this Bible as they would a magazine or novel. The font and text size are both adequate – although I might have paid a little extra to have them bump the font up a point or two. It wasn’t a huge deal for me but I know some older people who wouldn’t be able to read this Bible for long periods of time – and that’s the whole point of having a Reader’s Bible!
At this point you’re probably thinking that I hate it and wouldn’t recommend it but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love this Bible. I love the vanilla flavor of it. I love the fact that there are no headings or verses or notes. I love just having the text in front of me. Don’t get me wrong – studying the scriptures is important – but sometimes I just want to get lost in the narrative. I can do that with this Bible in a way that I’ve never been able to do before. It’s also a great reminder that for the vast majority of Christian history, there have been no notes taking up half of every page. Paul didn’t insert verse numbers into his epistles. These are all great tools and have their place but I believe that the average Christian needs more time in the text. This Bible takes away the distractions and provides an opportunity to get lost in the word. I know of no other accessible Bible on the market today that gives you that opportunity – especially not one that you can find on Amazon for $18.99. For that price, I believe it’s worth every penny.