The Organic Bible
Reading God's Word with no artificial additives.

Previously, John Dunham from the International Bible Society wrote about the unintended impact of having scripture divided by chapters and verses. It's led to what he calls "verse jacking," taking scripture out of context and using it for a purpose it was never intended. In this follow up post Dunham responds to some of your comments, and introduces an alternative way to read the Bible.

Commenting on my previous post, Glenn Krobel wrote:

There are too many Christians in ministry today who thrive off attacking our heritage without offering a solutions to problems they address.

Thanks for bringing that up, Glenn. I agree. And despite many people thinking the current system is too ingrained to move away from, I think it's worth a try. On August 1, International Bible Society will release The Books of The Bible. Chapter and verse numbers? Gone. Topical section headers? Gone. Extra columns? Gone. On the page helps? Gone. Footnotes? Moved to the back of each book. What you are left with is a no-additives edition of the Bible.

Not only have we taken out the dubiously beneficial additives, but we have also humbly attempted to bring a more faithful structure to today's Bible. There is no doubt the Holy Spirit has worked powerfully throughout the centuries through God's word in the Messiah's church, no matter what form his word has taken. But form does matter as we display the beauty of God's word.

Topical section headers are shortcuts for finding a verse or letting us know what's going on. Therein is the problem. Too often we rely on them to tell us how to interpret a passage without regard to the larger story, and sometimes these breaks come at the worst spots. While trained leaders may easily look past them, most readers are better off without them. The Books of The Bible allows the literary structure of a book to spring out by inserting appropriate amounts of white space in places where the author shows a transition (e.g., the toledot formulae in the Torah or Matthew's five sections of Jesus' activity and teaching).

A single-column typesetting is what we expect when we open any non-fiction book or novel. But most Bibles have two columns. Rick Shott correctly commented that this is for conserving space and reducing white space. This ends up saving publishers about fifteen to twenty percent on paper. But at what cost? Books like the Psalms are absolutely decimated with no reasonable way of making sense of the poetic structure. A single-column text displays poetry more clearly and narrative more naturally.

June 21, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 17 comments


June 30, 2007  11:22pm

I have one quibble, but I think it's significant: I think your decision to place Luke and Acts are misguided. Where other books have been split because of length (1 Sam through 2 Kings), or have been ordered out of no regard for their content (the Pauline epistles), Luke and Acts were separated in order to place the gospel of John as the last gospel. If you have any faith in the efficacy of the scriptures that have guided the church for centuries, you have to trust that God was at work in the construction of the canon. But if you're going to re-order the gospels, you're starting to question the construction of the canon–in which case you have bigger problems than separating Luke from Acts.

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June 29, 2007  5:38am

Reading the blogs just strenghtens my understanding that God is all and in all, according to the Person of the Holy Spirit in me as described in the bible I read. I never met a bible but I have seen the person who handed me a small new testament on my way to war in Vietnam. I also met the person who laid hands on me years later and prayed that I would be healed and I helped the person who was eating out of a dumpster that I fed a meal, who out of his temporary relieved misery placed his hand on my forehead and said " God bless you." in thanksgiving. That Person has many faces but only one concern... my (our) well being, and it is this concern that I have come to recognize as being handed down to me as a Living Legacy to be passed on effortlessly by all effort. It would be interesting to ask Paul the Apostle, which book is his favorite. Which book he would choose to read if stranded on an island. He probably would say (my understanding of the Spirit of the Paul I read in the bible) "The one God would supply me with."

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June 27, 2007  4:08pm

I'm interested in the details–such as how close the translation and rhythm of the psalms matches the Hebrew poetry. I like the idea of letting the text be by itself on the pages, formatted according to the text instead of according to the page layout and limited space. I'm interested to know why there is still a division between "First" and "New" testaments, especially since this version seems to encourage a more unified reading of the Scriptures. I agree with Ms. Caroland that it would have been an ideal opportunity to use the older Tanakh ordering of the Scriptures. There would be something connective and powerful about reading the Scriptures as our Master did, in the order he did. All that said, it looks like an interesting version that could be useful for long readings, Scripture immersion, and understanding context and flow in a new way.

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Juli Daniels

June 27, 2007  8:19am

To be honest, the "sectioning" of the Bible has helped me tremendously in my early Christian walk. This "milk" as I call it, has helped me to understand a lot of the Bible. I had a ding-dong of a time separating different story lines and understanding that this new paragraph was the start of a whole new idea, not just a part of the current story, as some of the books of the Bible do. I think there is a place for those footnotes and sections, and verses. I think for the new believer, this is extremely helpful. But on the other hand, I am really looking forward to this new Bible and having a new understanding of what the Bible is all about.

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June 26, 2007  9:18pm

It appears that quite a few people, many who come across as serious Bible readers, are excited about this publication. I consider it a privilege to be in such company. Can I impose on you folks to kindly help me along in something that I have been mulling over for quite a while: If the work of Christ (death and resurrection) that took place around Passover makes reliance on levitical atonement obsolete(Hebrews), does the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost(giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai)do anything of the like to "the letter that kills"(2 Corinthians)? Of course, I realize that I am prompted to think in this manner because of the significance I attach to the Bible.

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Alan Rathbun

June 26, 2007  3:35pm

I'm looking forward to this new edition! Thanks.

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Jack Hager

June 26, 2007  3:18pm

The ONLY thing I like about chapter/verse is it helps my passion for Bible quizzing! I currently direct two leagues that involve about 150 teens per season (we quiz as part of Bible Quiz Fellowship) But as far as study/preaching/teaching; I look forward to this new edition, and will work thru the groupings as appropriate. I've spoken for about 170 teen weeks over the past three decades, and for the last 7 or 8 years I've been trying to go thru books with the students as opposed to topical etc...simply because of the epidemic of Biblical illiteracy..and, like the Frito potato chip of old, trying to get them to just taste one...and get (correctly) addicted to reading the Word book by book...I look forward to this publication!

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June 26, 2007  9:44am

Very interesting approach. I'll also add it to my Christmas list. I do appreciate the idea of the lack of division, commentary, outline, or whatever. I have studied with too many people who think the additions, etc., are written in stone but not the scripture. Thus, some wild and sometimes destructive conclusions have been voiced which was difinitely not the spirit of author God or the intent of the publishers. This may not cause a revolution in Bible study but I like the idea of a visual "unity" of scripture.

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Charlotte Fortier

June 26, 2007  8:49am

Kenneth Wuest in his Bible study commentaries had already begun the same kind of work. I find chapter and verse a way to navigate at times. I find the Message Bible a way to read continuously without "stop" signs, etc. Whatever method will bring people to the Word of be it.

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June 25, 2007  9:48am

I think this will be an excellent addition to many people's collection, but I don't think its going to revolutionize Scripture reading. It will be much more difficult for someone to read. A collection of writings so large as the Bible really with subheadings and a chapter/verse structure is an invaluable tool for the average busy individual who has 30 minutes to sit down and read. Also, the use of white space and original author structure could be objectionable. The original structure of many writings are controversial still and so the break-up of the text will be a subjective endeavor. I still plan on getting this Bible when it comes out. It will, no doubt, be an interesting and fresh perspective in reading Scripture. I do like the idea of white space and natural writing breaks without any editorial additions inserted. I think it will bring a much more personable understanding to the Bible.

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