Bible publishing is big business these days. One way publishers have kept up sales has been by putting out specialty Bibles to suit every imaginable demographic and interest group, from men, women, teens, and children, to sports fans, hunters, and even surfers (yes, it’s waterproof). Most of these are geared towards American Evangelicals, but there is one new specialty Bible that should be of interest to a much broader group of people: Harper Collins’ new Green Bible.
Concern for and kinship with nature has a long history in mainstream Christianity (as the collection of quotes in the Green Bible attests), but it took the energy of American Evangelicals to make the environment a public Christian issue and thus to make this book possible. This is not a book specifically for Evangelicals, however. It comes from a mainstream publisher, and it uses an up-to-date, scholarly translation of the Bible, the New Revised Standard Version. It also features essays from a variety of faith perspectives: Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant and Evangelical. These writings range from personal stories of growing environmental awareness to sophisticated statements on the Christian’s duty to safeguard what ultimately does not belong to us.
The Green Bible’s main feature is that all verses relating to nature and the environment (there are more than a thousand) are printed in green. This is an idea borrowed from “red letter Bibles,” in which words spoken by Jesus are printed in red. There is also a special concordance of environmental topics at the back, and a “Green Bible Trail Guide” which traces six environmental themes through the Bible with references and study questions. As I mentioned before, there is also a section of quotations from both Christian and Jewish sources arranged chronologically from the first century to the present day. A resource guide, with suggestions for action and website addresses, and a general concordance complete the volume.
It should be mentioned that the book itself is “green,” printed on Forestry Stewardship Council-certified paper with vegetable ink, and made in the U.S. rather than somewhere without pollution controls. Like the other recent Harper Bibles I’ve seen, this book is beautifully produced, but it has the same flaw as the others: bleed-through. The paper is so thin you can see through it easily, which is especially a problem in the green-letter sections, since the green ink is a little lighter than the black. The paper is also quite glossy, which causes glare, depending on your lighting, and that makes reading it more difficult still. It really is such a shame that Harper insists on using inappropriate paper for its Bibles because otherwise they are beautiful books. If the Green Bible is used primarily as a reference these shortcomings should present no problem, but I do hope Harper Collins will “see the light” and start printing Bibles that as readable as they are beautiful and relevant.
Overall I’d have to say I am very impressed with the Green Bible. When I first heard about it I feared it might just be a gimmick, an attempt to capitalize on the green bandwagon. Now I see that it is a serious effort and could be a very effective tool in advancing the environmental agenda among English-speaking Christians. Gripes about paper aside, Harper Collins has done a very good thing here, and not a moment too soon.
The Green Bible (official website)
Disclosure: My copy came courtesy of Harper Collins.