Bibliotheca: a 5 volume Bible designed flawlessly so the reader simply reads the text of the Bible. Everything about it is beautiful, from the color scheme to the binding, the font and the weight and tone of the paper. The editors removed all chapters and verses, all study guides, all distractions. The translation is a refreshed version of the American Standard Translation, a very old translation, first written in 1611 and updated over the years until 1901. Bibliotheca eliminated the Shakespearean language, but retained the formal poetic verse and the “weight” of the approach. Bibliotheca was released in 2016.
The Message: Part translation, part interpretation of Scripture written by Eugene Peterson. Peterson saw how his congregation struggled with scripture reading and he sought to offer a translation that kept the energy and life of the original languages. The Message removed verses, but kept chapters in tact. Peterson began with the Psalms and then New Testament and eventually translated the entire Bible from the original languages into his unique voice. The first books of The Message were released in the early 1990s with the full Bible being available by the end of the millennium.
When I read Bibliotheca, I lose track of time and read more chapters than I ever did with a typical Bible. The designer hit his target with the goal to remove distraction and simply offer the words. With other Bibles, I arbitrarily stop at a particular chapter. With Bibliotheca, I read until I am done. The language is a challenge and sometimes I have to fight it to stay focused. The design and weight of the book all aid in the experience. I feel like Ezekiel seeing a heavenly vision of grandeur, describing the awesome wonder of a majestic King. I can request an audience with this King, but I don’t just stroll in. I certainly don’t wear shorts. Formal attire, a gift in my hand when I greet him. I enter and bow and wait for him to speak. God is transcendent.
When I read The Message, the language makes me think about my assumptions. It wakes me up and causes me to consider. The language is energizing and fresh. It feels like the Bible knows exactly the human experience. Sometimes I find the loose translation distracting and fear that Peterson put too much of himself into the text. Reading The Message feels like Jesus just moved into my neighborhood and he brought his toothbrush and pajamas with him (to quote the wonderful Lew Swedes.) My dear friend has popped over unexpectedly for a good chat and he is right here with me. God is imminent.
1 Corinthians 13 sample in Bibliotheca
And moreover a most excellent way am I showing to you.
If I speak with the tongues of men
and of angels,
but have not love,
I have become a sounding bronze or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13 sample in The Message:
But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
One is lofty and reverent, the other is earthy and accessible. I believe we need both and one without the other is missing a fundamental piece of God’s character.
The transcendence and imminence of God.