Few persons give consideration to the fact that Bible
translations are big business. To produce a popular version will assure
the publisher a handsome return. In his booklet Profit-Dealers! Make
Big Profits Selling the New International Version, p. 5, Pastor
George Burnside reports the observation of a man associated with a
Christian Book Center:
A short time ago, a well-known Bible Institute
teacher visited our Book Room, the Christian Supply Centre, which
handles only KJV Bibles. In the course of conversation concerning the
effectiveness of Christian Book Stores in the ministry of our Lord
Jesus Christ, he made this remark: "Most Book Rooms are no longer a
ministry for the Lord, but a commercial business." With this we agree.
There is probably no group of people doing more to
promote compromise, the ecumenical and charismatic movements, new
evangelicalism, and corrupt Bibles than the so-called Christian Book
Stores of our day.
If this conclusion is correct, we have reached a
sorry state in Christianity. Surely the Word of God, which is of
priceless value, should not become a matter of mere commercialism. God
help those who would so treat this sacred book. We have often wondered
why new, "improved" versions of modern versions are appearing with such
rapidity. We have the Revised English Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible,
the New Revised Standard Version, and others published within two or
three decades of the original. There cannot be any grounds for a further
proliferation of versions on the basis that the language has
dramatically altered in that period. But it is possible that economic
considerations may have played a part in the desire to bring out yet
another version, simply because many faithful souls collect Bible
versions almost as a philatelist collects postage stamps.
In 1978 The Wall Street Journal commented on
the financial gains from the New International Version of Scripture.
Their editor headlined the article: "Zondervan, Blessed with Bible
Contract, Lifts Profit Forecast." Its sub-heading stated: "Church
Leadersí Endorsement Aids Sale of New Version: Initial Press Run Sold
Out." Church leaders should give careful consideration to the propriety
of their endorsement of various versions. Do such versions clarify truth
or do they simply fill coffers? Pastor Burnside has remarked upon Billy
Grahamís penchant for eulogizing new translations as they appear.
Certainly his approval provides a great boost for sales.
The New International Version has been endorsed by
well-known evangelicals like Dr. John R.W. Stott of Inter-Varsity fame
and by Dr. Billy Graham. Dr. Graham said,
I believe this will be one of the most serviceable
versions available, eminently suited to be read in the churches. It
preserves, in a sense, a certain historic familiarity, but couches
Godís message in contemporary and easily understood terms.
The same Dr. Graham endorsed the RSV, one of the most
liberal of all versions, in these words:
The RSV will express itself in a language that the
English-speaking world uses today. These scholars have probably given
us the most perfect translation in the English. While there may be
room for disagreement in certain ares of translation, yet this new
version should supplement the KJV and make Bible reading a habit
Dr. Graham also promoted The Living Bible:
In this book I read the age-abiding truths of the
Scriptures with renewed interest and inspiration as though coming to
me directly from God.
Is Billy Graham referring to 1 Samuel 20:30 in the
Living Bible? "Saul boiled with rage. You ____!"1
Or does he refer to John 9:34 as coming directly from God? "You
illegitimate ___, you."? 1
It is important to study the report in The Wall
Street Journal, for it does indicate the extent to which commercial
considerations are a focus of the production of such a version. The
statement was made in the early days of The New International Version.
Since then this version has achieved the dubious distinction of being
the first English-language version of Scripture to outsell the King
James Version in any year since the latter was produced. It can only be
assumed that profits have risen as a consequence.
Grand Rapids, Mich.óZondervan Corp. believes it has
struck a new vein of gold in the ancient and well-mined lode: the
Bible. Accordingly, it told analysts here, it raised its
already-gleaming sales and earnings forecasts.
Zondervan, a publisher of religious books and
music, has been blessed with a 30-year exclusive contract to publish
the New International Version of the Bible, translated and edited by
the New York International Bible Society. After the version was
endorsed by a number of church leaders, the initial press run of 1.2
million copies sold out before the book went on sale Oct. 27, the
Thus, Zondervan raised its earnings prediction 10
cents a share, to $1.85, and its sales prediction $3 million, to $41
million, for the year. In 1977, the concern earned $1.5 million, or
$1.41 a share, on sales of $32.7 million.
"Bibles are always a much-wanted item at
Christmas," commented Peter Kladder Jr., president. Noting that a
second printing will bring the total of New International Version
Bibles in print at year-end to 1.6 million, he said he isnít sure
stores will be able to meet customer demand.
The executive prophesied that sales of the Bible
will rise in 1979 and 1980, then remain on a "high plateau" because
"the sales pattern for a well-accepted version of the Bible tends to
continue years longer than other best-selling books." The Wall
Street Journal, November 16, 1978
Well may we consider whether these new versions are
written to uplift the Word of the Law and the Prophets or whether they
are seen more in terms of popularity and profits.
1 These words are so foul that we felt it proper that
they be omitted from the quotations as undoubtedly it would offend any
right-thinking person. <BACK>