With Christmas coming I thought we would launch into a short series on Bible purchasing. This part is the shorter of the three, in the second we will look at editions and formats and in the third we might brave the thorny subject of translations.
A Bible is a very meaningful and personal gift. On the other hand, a Bible which is a keepsake or meant to mark a significant occasion might get put on a shelf or in a drawer and never get used. You really don’t want that. So a fine leather Bible worth over $100 may seem too nice to use or the recipient might be fearful of something happening to it and be intimidated to put it to practical service.
It’s true that the person you’re giving it to may already have several Bibles. Knowing what they already own and use is critical. You might want to share something recently published knowing of their affection for various Bible translations and formats, or you might want to make it personal and share a particular type of Bible that has meant a lot to you if you have a close friendship with that person.
If the person has never owned their own copy of the scriptures before, buying someone their first Bible is a very important act. You want something that they will be able to settle into comfortably, use often, enjoy, and find easy to understand.
More than any other aspect of the Christian publishing industry, Bible purchasing is where you are most likely to make a mistake if you purchase online. I know I have a bias here, but you are better served when you can actually touch/handle/examine the product in a physical store and utilize the expertise of Christian bookstore staff, many of whom have had to take a Bible sales training course from one of the major publishers. So your ideal source is a Christian bookstore, not Barnes and Noble.
The other advantage with this is the ability to exchange the product over-the-counter if the gift is not suitable. (Be sure not to fill in the presentation page, put the person’s name on it, etc., before you know they are pleased with it and intend to use it.) You’ll also see a selection of products that you might never discover online.
In the second and third parts of this we’ll look at two other decisions you need to make, but let me preview those now so you can be thinking about them. The first involves additional features the person might be helped by. This can include reading plans or devotionals to guide their journey through the scriptures, or study notes; but also includes superficial things such as print size or whether or not they are comfortable with a large, bulky Bible or need something more compact.
The second thing is the issue of which translation of the Bible will be suitable and/or meet with their approval. (Notice that last word choice!) A number of factors influence this including their expectations or previous familiarity with the scriptures, or which translations they already might have had access to.
I really hope you’ll consider giving Bibles this Christmas. The right one in the right hands — even if they have previously owned several — can result in a lot more engagement and passion about Christ, and better understanding of the story arc of God’s dealings with us from in the beginning to today.