Features

Beyond stealth

"Beyond stealth" Continued...

Issue: "Bush: Hail to the chief," Jan. 29, 2005

Zondervan Vice President Paul Caminiti told Christian Retailing Magazine that the publisher plans to answer the critics of the TNIV, to call them "to intellectual honesty and integrity." And, yet, at this point, Zondervan is not even answering the phone, refusing to talk with WORLD. "We've been directed not to speak to anyone from WORLD," said Tara Powers, a Zondervan spokesperson. After that conversation, three more phone calls were neither answered nor returned.

Zondervan is also keeping the complete TNIV under wraps. Normally, new translations are circulated to scholars in advance of their release, but no one outside of IBS circles has yet seen the TNIV Old Testament. Until the new Bible is released, a complete assessment is impossible.

But such reticence is not holding back the marketing campaign. Mr. Caminiti told The Christian Post, "The TNIV will be the biggest Bible translation launch in history." If the first TNIV translation came in like then-new Stealth technology, the complete TNIV is tracking with Raptor, an evasive, lightning-fast, next-generation jet fighter.

Mr. Caminiti told bookstore dealers that the TNIV would be supported by an "aggressive" marketing campaign. "The product rollout will be spectacular," he told CBA Marketplace. "We'll launch nine Bibles," including devotional Bibles for women and men, a church edition, a novel-like edition with only a quarter of the complete biblical text presented in chronological order with Tolkien-like maps, and a Scripture-sampler for evangelism prepared in conjunction with the Willow Creek Association. The marketing push will feature ads in magazines and websites popular with young people. But Rolling Stone, in a bit of anti-religious bigotry, has refused the ads.

For a different reason, LifeWay Christian Stores, the nation's largest religious retailer, refuses to carry the TNIV New Testament. Zondervan is accusing the Southern Baptist chain of hypocrisy, since the stores do sell the New Living Translation, which also uses inclusive language. Zondervan is also insinuating that LifeWay is protecting the Holman Christian Standard Bible, a more literal translation published by the Southern Baptist publisher Broadman & Holman.

But Rob Phillips, the director of communications for LifeWay, told WORLD that no one in the company had seen the complete TNIV yet, so no decision has been made about whether or not to carry it. But the decision not to stock the TNIV New Testament was based on three reasons: (1) More than 100 conservative Bible scholars have said they could not recommend it. (2) A resolution at the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention asked LifeWay not to carry the TNIV. (3) Customers are not asking for it.

Brett Venable, a bookstore owner from Milford, Del., agrees with that last point. He told WORLD that most of his customers want a Bible that is easy to understand and, above all, accurate. When they learn that a particular translation is gender-inclusive, they typically choose a different one.

Dale Buss, writing in the secular marketing online journal BrandChannel.com, discussed Zondervan's marketing strategy in the face of such challenges. He said that Cris Doornbos, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Zondervan, "is trying to outsmart his foes by going around them." The company "is trying to bypass Christian bookstores by pursuing mass merchandisers" such as Wal-Mart and Target. Mr. Buss also said that the TNIV New Testament is being used "as a bit of a decoy. Executives hope that the TNIV's zealous opposition will have expended all of their flak by the time the Old Testament, which makes up about two-thirds of Scripture, debuts."

-with reporting from Mark Bergin

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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