Niche Bibles and "The Way"

Beyond specific bible translations, there are many many many (MANY!!!) bibles that target specific demographics or segments of culture - women's bibles, youth bibles, sports bibles, farming get the point. I call them niche bibles.

And now, along comes another niche bible: The Way - a new version of the New Living Translation. And the niche? Well, I’m calling it the hipster bible (although its target is young adults in general) with its artsy design, personal stories, photos, and probably most prominent, authenticity - “The truth is, God desires our honest doubts, questions, and complaints. After all, the writers of the Bible regularly lament, crying out to God and questioning him about injustices, pains and problems” (introduction). This theme is evident throughout - its greatest strength in my opinion.

Now, on one level I have a problem with niche bibles - a critique leveled at the whole bible industry in general, not The Way itself. They create a perception that what we believe is the most relevant story in all of history isn’t relevant enough. As one person describes, we produce “entertainment bibles” - one of many products available in the quest for personal fulfillment. This puts too little emphasis on the biblical narrative itself (it’s not merely a product for consumption) while at the same time giving too much credit to the bible’s role in personal faith. God is revealed in scripture, no doubt. But always in context of the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit and the tangible community of God’s people in the world. Niche bibles risk stopping faith at the individual. And interestingly, hipster young adults tend to be suspicious of corporate marketing or branding in general, so it’ll be interesting to see how The Way is received.

On another level, niche bibles aren't all bad. The concept reflects the belief that the bible is relevant for all people and all cultures - doubting hipster artistic folks included. In this sense, I really like The Way (don’t think I can call myself hipster though - jeans are too baggy!). The NLT is a very easy-to-read  translation. The stories and questions throughout anticipate the concerns young adults have with the bible today. And the personal nature of the dialogue invites ongoing reflection, not abstract answers that stifle engagement, however theologically sound they may be. Oh, and the pictures are cool too.

So while I’m hesitant to endorse niche bibles, they aren’t likely going away anytime soon. Overall, then, I definitely recommend The Way bible for anyone seeking an authentic journey through scripture. The publishers and contributors have addressed today’s young adult culture well, hipster packaging and all!

Advanced Reader's Copy of the Bible has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.


Ryan said...

You are too kind, Dave :).

If I were inclined toward cynicism, I would say these niche Bibles are a transparently crass exercise in commercialism and marketing that panders to and baptizes our hyper-individualistic, consumeristic culture.

Good thing I'm not cynical...

David Warkentin said...

I hear you Ryan.

But for what it's worth, this option has promise and good intentions I think. Problem is whether or not it's possible to produce good within such a system of bible production. In many ways your cynicism is warranted.

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