Thinking Out Loud

May 20, 2019

The Colorization of Your Bible

On the weekend I realized that several articles we’ve done here at Thinking Out Loud and at Christian Book Shop Talk have a common theme: The progressively increasing use of color in Bibles. By this I don’t mean the addition of illustrations, such as is found in Children’s Bibles such as The Picture Bible or The Action Bible,

but rather the use of color in otherwise unedited, full-text editions.

There also isn’t time to talk about Biblezines, such as these three (lower right of photo) produced by The Gideons in Canada, with beautiful photography running through every page. Besides, they aren’t full Bible editions either, but contain selected themed text, with the Gospel of John complete at the back…

I’m sure it began with covers. I can’t imagine that black was always the cover color of choice. Evangelist Bob Harrington used a cherry red Bible which apparently some found offensive. He countered with, “The Bible should be read;” a homonym pun he repeated (and repeated) at successive appearances in the same churches.

Red letter Bibles are not that old. Wikipedia tells us:

The inspiration for rubricating the Dominical words comes from Luke, 22:20: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you.” On 19 June 1899, Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine, conceived the idea while working on an editorial. Klopsch asked his mentor Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage what he thought of a testament with the Dominical words rubricated and Dr. Talmage replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Klopsch published the first modern red letter edition New Testament later in 1899. The first modern, fully rubricated bible was published in 1901. The rubricated bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Version editions, this format is useful because quotation marks are absent.

But we want to look at more recent developments.

Even as early as 2010, I noted the following Bibles that were offered for sale by a prominent online Christian retailer, and asked readers to reader decide if we are really so excited about Bible engagement that we needed all these permutations, or if the marketers had gone a little crazy on us (and no, I am not making these up):

  • The Veggie Tales Bible
  • The Soldier’s Bible
  • The Grandmother’s Bible
  • The Duct Tape Bible
  • The Busy Life Bible (“Inspiration even if you have only a minute a day”)
  • The Chunky Bible
  • The God Girl Bible (only in “snow white”)
  • The Wisdom and Grace Bible for Young Women of Color
  • The Waterproof Bible (useful in frequently flooded U.S. states)
  • The Pray for a Cure Bible (in pink)
  • The Divine Health Bible
  • The Wild About Horses Bible
  • The Fire Bible

The cover colors offered were just as varied:

  • Raspberry
  • Melon
  • Razzleberry
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Caramel
  • Espresso
  • Toffee
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Glittery Grape Butterfly
  • Plum
  • Lavender (with flowers!)
  • Black Cherry
  • Distressed Umber (?)
  • Mocha/aqua

and remember this was before the “duo-tone” type of Bibles became more entrenched, ultimately exceeding the traditional “bonded leather” editions in terms of popularity.

In January of 2017, we reported on the trend that developed out of a convergence of adult coloring books and scrap-booking. People were apparently coloring the text pages of their Bibles and not everyone was happy with the results.

Bible Journaling 2

Bible Journaling 1

In 2017, Tyndale Publishing House decided to help some aspiring artists kickstart their personalization projects by creating The Inspire Bible, available now in a half dozen different editions.

The primary market for these is women, so I don’t actually own one. This page sample was captured online, and then I darkened it considerably so you would see the graphic art material which is actually printed in a much lighter tone.

They will disagree, but rival publisher Zondervan has never come with anything quite as striking in terms of color, print process (including the page edges) and overall aesthetics for the NIV. Meanwhile Tyndale is about to issue a girls version of Inspire.

Then last week, I discovered that even Bible tabs had joined the party. You can’t buy the ones pictured at Christian bookstores or major Christian online vendors, but through independent sources.

Of course, not every innovation pleases everyone. Just last week someone reacted to the NRSV Pride Bible which we had noted in a past edition of Wednesday Connect:

This, they felt went too far, though minus its appellation, with its primary colors it would make a nice Bible for kids.

Finally, all this is nothing new; people having been been marking their Bibles according to theme for decades. Perhaps this well-marked copy was the inspiration for the various color-coded Bibles on the market today…

…such as the Rainbow Study Bible, pictured here:

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3 Comments »

  1. More color and also more specialization; camo on the Hunter’s Bible, sports scenes and equipment on the Athletes Bible, etc. Color coordinated covers with articles and other bonus material to match the theme. I onced flipped through a waterproof ESV from Crossway. It didn’t just have a waterproof cover that sealed shut; each page was printed on Tyvek. You could read the thing submerged underwater without damaging it.

    But the sad truth is this: there are more Bibles being marketed than ever before even while fewer and fewer people actually read the Bible.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — May 20, 2019 @ 10:57 am

    • Take a look at the pie chart in this Lifeway article from 2017. Only 11% of Americans claim to have read the entire Bible, 9% say they have read it more than once.

      https://lifewayresearch.com/2017/04/25/lifeway-research-americans-are-fond-of-the-bible-dont-actually-read-it/

      Comment by Clark Bunch — May 20, 2019 @ 10:59 am

    • A phrase that’s being propagated intensely in Canada right now is “Bible Engagement.” The Bible League of Canada, and Scripture Union Canada are at the forefront of this. It’s not enough to own a Bible, or even read it superficially. People need to be familiar with it. They need to *use* it.

      I always end up coming back to this same quotation: “It is said that of all the major religions of the world, Christians are the least acquainted with their sacred texts.”

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 20, 2019 @ 11:42 am


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