The Green Bible

The Green Bible
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.

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11 comments on “The Green Bible

  1. wil says:

    Sounds like a cool bible.
    So what do you have to do to get OUP and Harper Collins to send you free books?

  2. Sylvia says:

    Just ask! There's a catch, though: you have to find somewhere to put them! I wonder if any furniture-makers would like me to review their bookshelves? 😀

  3. Stefanie says:

    What a cool sounding bible. The green print for nature and the environment verses is a nice touch. What is it about bibles and thin paper? Makes it impossible to make your own annotations. And if you find a furniture maker who would like you to review their bookshelves, please pass along that information 🙂

  4. Sylvia says:

    You'll be the first to know. 😉

  5. Dorothy W. says:

    Very interesting. I usually roll my eyes at the specialty bibles, but this one is a little different — maybe because the idea of American Christianity (especially of the evangelical type)and environmentalism going together is still relatively new.

  6. Chuck says:

    I'm not going to make a lot of comments about this particular Bible. But it does speak to one of the problems that the NRSV has and that is, as you say, it's seen as a scholarly translation, that or one that gets attached to “liberal” editions. Rightly or wrongly, environmentalism is considered a liberal cause and thus using the NRSV for a green Bible makes it seem once again to be a niche version. This is really too bad because I like the NRSV a lot and I'm an evangelical! In fact, according to Rick Mansfield the NRSV was once highly favoured by evangelicals so I don't see any contradiction. The real problem is, however, that Bible publishers don't seem interested in releasing the NRSV in the kind of popular bindings that ordinary churchgoers who take their Bibles with them would carry. I really like HarperCollins' hardcover editions, thin paper aside, but they're still not exactly the kind of format that most people carry with them. Leather or leatherlike bindings are what most people carry. If HarperCollins really wanted to push the translation, instead of devising more specialized packaging they'd simply publish editions like every other major Bible publisher does. I'd love to see one myself. Good grief, HarperCollins owns Zondervan which publishes countless editions of the NIV. They wouldn't have to look very far to find some ideas.

  7. Sylvia says:

    Wow, that's astounding that evangelicals have rejected the NRSV just because it was adopted by other denominations. I thought they objected on doctrinal grounds. That sort of emphasis on purity of association and rejection of outsiders is extremely worrying. And do they really care what their Bibles look like? Yikes.

  8. Chuck says:

    I think it's a little more nuanced than a case of evangelicals rejecting it just because others like it. It's not about “purity of association and rejection of outsiders”. Insofar as I can speak for evangelicals (and I don't) it seems more a matter of the doctrinal tilt of the churches who adopted it which, right or wrong, shades how the translation is seen. I have little doubt that there are plenty of mainliners who wouldn't touch the TNIV or the ESV because they're too “evangelical”. Some people are or have been a little wary of the ESV because it seems to be the unofficial “Calvinist Bible” based on its popularity with the Reformed. Try suggesting that your nearest non-evangelical church do the lectionary readings from, say, the Holman Christian Standard Bible next Sunday and see what happens. I think I can guess.
    I don't see anything wrong with wanting more variety in the bindings of NRSV Bibles. Many publishers produce so-called thinline editions which are, as the name suggests, thin softcover (but not paperback) editions that are light and easy to carry. I have one that, while the paper is still thin, is more opaque than the tissue-thin paper that HarperCollins chose for it's hardcover NRSVs. I don't think there's anything shallow about wanting a Bible to be comfortable to use. I own two of HarperCollins' hardcover NRSVs but they really need to make them more portable… and use thicker paper. It's not about looks alone, it's about usability.

  9. Sylvia says:

    There's a huge difference between rejecting a translation because it is doctrinally biased and rejecting it because it is used by people you don't agree with. The former is completely valid, the latter obviously is not. I trust the NRSV because the translators represent every Christian denomination as well as Judaism. It is the first and only truly ecumenical translation of the Bible, and to my mind that makes it the least likely to be biased.
    Ah, I see, when you mentioned leather covers I thought you were just talking aesthetics. That sort of usability isn't an issue for Catholics since we use missals, which are very small, or just listen (which I find more fruitful). For home I'd be happy with something half way between pocket book and door stop.

  10. Wendy says:

    Hi Sylvia,
    What an interesting bible and concept. Isn't it interesting how the bible is sort of a “trend” now. Strange.
    Hey I found you from over on another book review site (where she was reviewing Clarissa) and saw you are a big fan of letters. Come over and visit at passionforletters.com sometime! If you ever review an epistolary novel or letter writing book let me know and I'd be happy to blog about your review!

  11. Sylvia says:

    Interesting site, Wendy. Do the letters in the Bible count? 😉

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