The good book: Is a Bible worth $60?


I heard someone say the Bible is their favorite book.

You would think as clergy, I would say the same. But my attention span is way too short. Normally, my favorite book is the one I’m reading at the moment, and that, in this moment, is “Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett. Since it is sitting here just waiting for me to finish the Patchett book, I expect “River Dragon” by Rivera Sun will be my next favorite. She has written several others in the Ari Ara series, and the ones I read earlier were my favorites at the time. I especially like her writing because she schools you in a way of nonviolence, not unlike the Bible.

I heard someone say they have lots of Bibles at home. So do I. I have: The Good News Bible; Revised Standard Version Bible; Phillips New Testament in Modern English; The New English Bible (the front cover has torn off, it has been used so much); The New Testament in Four Versions. There is also a Complete Concordance; the Oxford Bible Commentary; a complete set of the Interpreter’s Bible and a partial set; and a whole host of other biblical reflections and commentaries. With all of this material to choose from, I recognize it’s not a matter of quantity but quality. How much sits on a shelf and how many titles lose their cover to wear?

I’m not sure what I paid for any of my Bibles or related books. Many of them I inherited from my father, including the Concordance and a set of the Interpreter’s Bible. One can purchase a Bible at our library book sale twice a year for $2. The Gideons give them away for free and put them in hotel rooms. Why anyone would pay $60 for a Bible is beyond me, unless they are a Christian Nationalist and want an American flag on the cover with founding documents and a U.S. constitution inside; and the words to that Lee Greenwood song, “God Bless the USA.” I’m wondering if these additions in the $60 Bible come before Genesis or as an appendix? Maybe they are interspersed or make a transition between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament? Maybe someone will inform me.

I understand this new $60 Bible is the King James Version. There are way too many thee’s and thou’s in that version for me. Besides, it was authorized by a king, to help settle some thorny real-world problems and solidify his power. One would think the common person in the U.S. would prefer the Biblical words in common everyday English. And in a democratic society, where kings are ancient history, why have a Biblical translation that upholds authoritarian power?

Back in 2016 the salesman for the $60 Bible was asked for a favorite Bible verse. The one line that came to his lips was “an eye for an eye.” One wonders if this quotation was coming from the Old Testament and followed by “a tooth for a tooth?” Or perhaps if he had continued the quotation it would be from the New Testament and Jesus; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” (Since this individual has been sued many times and continues to wear nice shirts and coats, my guess is he wasn’t quoting Jesus.)

In a 2015 interview when asked for a favorite Bible verse he said, “I wouldn’t want to get into it. Because to me, that’s very personal.

The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.” In a more recent interview when asked for a favorite Bible verse, he demurred and none was cited.

I’m not a biblical scholar. Nor do I read the Bible religiously each and every day. But there are so many biblical passages and stories I would want to share, if asked. There is the Good Samaritan, who tends with care and compassion the needs of an adversary. There are the Ten Commandments, which ask us not to covet, or bear false witness, or steal, or commit adultery; to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy and refrain from worshipping false idols. Then there are the prophets who raise the plight of the poor and condemn the greedy and their riches. And the whole story of the life of Christ reflects the teaching that one needs to love both God and the neighbor, even if they belong to a different race, culture or political party.

One of my professors in seminary told us, if we were planning on going into parish ministry, we should do the health care necessary to help the church die a good death.

His conviction was, that resurrection and new life for Christianity would not happen this side of the grave. It has taken a while for his prediction to develop, but the Christian Church in the USA seems poised for extinction, in the clutches of empire and the mega-rich mega-churches, as well as the political opportunists who put privilege and power before the path-way of Jesus.

I’m writing this on Easter Sunday morning, remembering an empty tomb and a promise of new life.

Given the difficulties of the times, may it be so!