One of the top projects on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter right now is a high quality, design-centric edition of the Bible called Bibliotheca. It has struck a nerve: The project’s creator originally sought $37,000 to fund a limited run of the edition and as of 11 a.m. today, the project had garnered more than $998,218 in donations. Of the current projects on Kickstarter, this has raised the fourth most money, after a drone that follows you around, a zombie board game, and a cooler with a built-in boom box. Judging from the comments on Kickstarter, the project has drawn Christians and Jews as well as those from other faiths or no faith.
Artist and book designer Adam Lewis Green has designed a Bible divided into four volumes, with high quality sewn binding and heavier pages than the wispy paper familiar to Bible readers. Green also redacted chapters and verses in an effort to make the Bible less “encyclopedic” and more readable as a story.
“Could it be that the encyclopedic nature of our contemporary Bibles is driving this idea that the Bible literature is dry and boring?” Green said in the promotional video for the project. “We should be able to experience these texts in their original form, as literary works of art.”
Green designed the dimensions of the book based on the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant. He created a typeface exclusively for the text, to emphasize its holiness. The quality is not just to honor the Bible but for longevity.
“A book should last a long time, to span generations of your family,” Green said in the video. Green, who does not share whether he himself is a Christian on the Kickstarter post, has done illustrations for several Crossway publications in the past, including The Final Days of Jesus.
For this project, Green chose the American Standard Version (ASV), a descendant of the King James Version and considered a very literal translation. He planned to change “thees,” “thous,” and “doths" to “you” and “do.” He replaced “the LORD” with the original Hebrew “YHWH” and rearranged some of the books. He organized the Bible into four volumes: the five books of Moses and the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings), the latter prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the 12 minor prophets), the writings (everything else), and the New Testament.
Jim Hamilton, a professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, supports the way Green has reordered the Old Testament. He said the current order is a relatively modern concept, which he theorizes came from a desire to organize the Old Testament by genre. When Jesus talked about the Old Testament in Luke 24, he mentally organized it in the way this edition does: the law, the prophets, and the psalms (the “writings”). This is also the way Hebrew editions were organized. But publishers have had little appetite for rearranging the Old Testament; Hamilton wonders, with the success of this project, if they might consider other editions.
But Hamilton doesn’t think the chapter and verse divisions are going away anytime soon. “It’s really useful to have the numbers in there to locate things,” he said. Still, he likes the idea. “Often chapter division or verse division creates an unnecessary break in thought and causes people to stop reading, when they should keep reading.”
In a larger sense, Hamilton thinks the project especially appeals to the current culture: a longing for craftsmanship, design, and something ancient.
“Even the independent nature of it has some appeal,” he said.
Crossway, the publisher of the English Standard Version of the Bible (sort of a sibling to the ASV), has published a “reader's edition” of the Bible without chapters and verses–but not with the high quality pages that are possible in a four-volume set.
Kickstarter offers the only guaranteed way to buy the four-volume set, through a $75 donation. The fundraiser ends on Sunday.