Mankind has developed questionnaires to assist with many life decisions, including choosing a pet, career, or mate that is well-suited to our own personal characteristics. After searching for a Bible last weekend, I wished there were a similar test for Bible selection.
I’ve never bought a Bible. The one I used before was given to me by my grandparents when I was ten years old. It’s a very basic hard cover Bible, like one you would find in the hymn rack on the back of a pew in church. This may sound silly, but I really wanted a Bible with Jesus’ words in red. I also wanted a decent sized print and thumb tabs. While I was dreaming, I added leather cover to the list.
I ordered a Bible online (I read reviews, looked at pictures, as well as read sample pages), but it didn’t work out. There were some pages that didn’t print correctly, so I sent it back. I decided this had to be a face-to-face decision, so I strode into the Christian bookstore, confident that I could find a Bible that met my criteria. I paused and gazed around the large bookstore, where a woman greeted me.
Woman: “Can I help you find something today”
Me: “I wanted to look at your Bibles.”
Woman: “What kind of Bible are you looking for?”
Me: <staring at her blankly> “Um, I think I’ll try the New International Version?”
Woman: “Okay. What kind are you interested in?”
Woman: “We have devotional Bibles, study Bibles, life application Bibles, reference Bibles…”
I don’t know if she named all of the types of Bibles or if she just gave up because of the baffled look on my face. She led me to the back wall of the store. I gaped at the shelves and shelves of Bibles until she slid a couple of them in front of me – a devotional Bible and a study Bible.
I ruled out the devotional Bible right away because it had so much extra text (and an author’s name attached to it) that it didn’t seem like a “real” Bible. Now I knew I wanted something more traditional. I liked the popular study Bible that the woman put in front of me, but I wanted to look at more to make sure it was the right choice.
To the left, I saw a column of shelves containing various King James Version (KJV) Bibles; to the right, I found shelves with New Living Translation (NLT) and English Standard Version (ESV). I took those out of the running because in church, they use NIV. (Well, at least I used some kind of reasoning, rather than a coin toss.)
I flipped through a reference Bible and found the middle column of abbreviated references distracting. Had I been able to decipher them, I may have been more receptive. But I stared at the column of abbreviations and had this strange feeling that there was some kind of decoder or secret key that I needed to unlock the mysteries. I flipped the Bible over and checked the box – I found no clues. I realized at once that this Bible was way over my head; like a first grader reading a book about quantum physics.
My eyes scanned the shelves, until I saw it. My breath caught in my throat and I just knew. It was love at first sight.
I paused. You can’t judge a book by its cover. The thought flashed through my mind and I felt as if a test from God was right in front of me, smartly dressed in orchid and raspberry. I pulled the Bible from the box and inhaled the new book scent. The pages made the familiar crinkling sound as I thumbed through them. I read some of the notes and familiarized myself with the structure.
This Bible departs from the traditional style, but it felt “right” to me. The format was easy for me to follow. But still, I doubted the depth of my attraction (and the shrinkage my bank account would experience as a result of the purchase.) As I pondered the question, “to purchase, or not to purchase,” the following invaded my mind:
Reasons to support a Bible Compatibility Test:
- Objective second opinion (no sneaky interference of emotions)
- Could save money by preventing involvement with the “wrong” Bible
- Reveals whether infatuation is more than cover deep
- Reduces risk of online Bible purchase choices
Reasons against a Bible Compatibility Test:
- High divorce rate
- Over-populated animal shelters
(If compatibility tests were infallible, we would be able to live with our choices until death.)
So, I was forced to rely on my judgment <gulp!> I moved forward on the hope that the wonder of newness wouldn’t grow stale and that our relationship would be filled with exploration and discovery.
What do you look for in a Bible?