My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first thing people notice when I show them this Bible goes like this: “There are no verses!”
Second thing: “There are no chapters!”
Then I get an evaluation. Actual quotes: “Cool!” or “This is not a step forward.”
But I’m certain that it is. This edition of Scripture is the latest fruit of the efforts of Christopher R. Smith and a team of editors who’ve worked hard to present the Bible in a format that is, in one sense, quite novel (read more in Smith’s book After Chapters and Verses) but in another sense very traditional. The Books of the Bible takes a step forward by taking several steps backward in time, eliminating typographical encumbrances from the text that have been added over the centuries. No little numbers dot the text, breaking up your reading and inviting atomistic prooftexting. What you get is pure Bible text in a single column with paragraph divisions and, when appropriate, one or more blank lines in between paragraphs to indicate major breaks in the thought flow of a given writing. In poetical passages, two lines in a couplet are kerned closer together than the couplets around them. Smith put a great deal of thought into this, and he did an excellent job.
A few more steps forward need to be taken, however, to make this Bible my go-to text. The typeface used for this Bible is superior to the odd one used in the first iteration of The Books of the Bible (a strange quasi-serif face I could never get used to), but overall the Bible simply is not as typographically beautiful as it ought to be. And whereas the newest ESVs manage to have supple faux leather, a beautiful font, a well-designed interior, and even “line matching” to prevent text ghosting through pages, this NIV lacks all those features. The binding I have, the “Italian Duo-tone” vinyl, feels chintzy.
I sound like a true complainer, and I shouldn’t, because I’m so glad this idea didn’t die with the somewhat half-hearted, paperback-only first editions from a few years back. But I want this Bible to succeed; I hope it launches a new format used by every major translation. And in a culture full of competing Bibles, it’s more likely to succeed if it’s truly excellent in every respect.
This Bible is a fantastic idea that needs just a bit more help.
Thanks to Zondervan, which sent me a copy of this Bible for review. I wasn’t required to give a glowing recommendation.