Late yesterday afternoon, I received a copy of The Green Bible (HarperOne), and I'm not sure what to make of it.
The Bible is "green" in composition, which I appreciate. Its pages are made of 10 percent post-consumer recycled paper, the words are printed with soy-based ink, and the binding is 100 percent cotton/linen. It is certainly a good-looking book (that marketing sleeve comes off). And it smells nice. I wouldn't mind if my bookshelves were lined with cotton covers.
But to put things in perspective, Thomas Nelson released a "green" Bible printed on recycled paper - the first of its kind - almost a year ago. So it's not the composition but the content of HarperOne's ecologically friendly canon that makes it unique.
Before they make it to Genesis, Green Bible readers encounter an impressive roll of contributors, each offering a sermon or article on some aspect of creation care: "Reading the Bible through a Green Lens" and "Knowing Our Place on Earth: Learning Environmental Responsibility from the Old Testament" for example. There's a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an introduction by Matthew Sleeth, poems by Francis of Assisi and Wendell Berry, and articles (mostly reprinted) by Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor, N. T. Wright, and the late Pope John Paul II, among others.
But what truly sets The Green Bible apart is that it's a "green-letter edition." It's akin to the New Testaments in which the words of Jesus are printed in red. Except in this case, "over a thousand references to the earth and caring for creation" appear in green ink. While there are certainly more instances besides the highlighted ones that would have applied, the editors tell us in the prefatory material, they have chosen only those "speaking directly to the project's core mission."
To meet their criteria for what makes it in green, a given biblical text must address:
? how God and Jesus interact with, care for, and are intimately involved with all of creation.
? how all the elements of creation - land, water, air, plants, animals, humans - are interdependent.
? how nature responds to God.
? how we are called to care for creation.
These criteria yield some obvious results. All of Genesis 1 and most of Genesis 2 is green-lettered, as is Romans 8:22: "We know that the whole of creation has been groaning in labor pains until now?" But there are some puzzling passages that make the cut. There's the final sentence of Revelation 19:20, for example: "These two [beasts] were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur." And Jesus' cursing of the fig tree is not green, even though it seems to describe "how God and Jesus interact with?all of creation."
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