Scripture and You

Finding the Right Bible: How has Postmodernism influenced Bible publishing?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Postmodernism has influenced Bible translation and publishing in significant ways - none of them good.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 2 of a series Read Part 1

Postmodernism has influenced Bible translation and publishing in significant ways - none of them good.

Brand Image is Everything

The Bible publishing industry has followed the trends of secular product branding and retailing. Today, the industry operates on the premise that a Bible must have the right brand image in order to be commercially successful. The 21st-century philosophy of product branding is deeply anchored in postmodern psycho-sociology. It focuses not so much on the functional merits of a product as on its perceived intangible, emotional, and experiential benefits. Product branding is highly customer-centric and targets perceived niche markets. Its focus is to compete successfully for customer attention and acceptance, and its goal is to increase market share, revenues, and profits for the publisher.

When applied to Bible publishing, postmodernist thinking dictates that Bibles must be developed and marketed in ways that will appeal to a wide range of customer tastes identified through surveys, focus groups, point-of-sale data, and other techniques of cyber age marketing.

Not Translations But Abominations

Thus, modern Bible publishing has given us Precious Moments Bibles. It has also given us cartoon Bibles depicting Jesus as an action superhero. According to a February 8, 2008 article in The Times of London ("Religious Superheroes Come Back Fighting in a Manga Comic Bible"), The Manga Bible portrays John the Baptist as someone who "looks like a bedraggled fighter from a video game" and Jesus as "dark and moody." In the text, Jesus is called "the 'badass' that kicks everyone's butt." The author of this travesty, Ajin-bayo Akinsiku, admits that "I got into trouble with some Christian forums for talking like that." The Manga Bible is the most popular cartoon book in Great Britain, and is rapidly gaining a following in America. Akinsiku is now working on a new version of the Gospels called The Manga Jesus, in which Jesus will be "the Batman character" and the apostles John and Peter will be his Robin-like sidekicks, providing "humor and light relief." Akinsiku said, "When you have a heavy character like Christ you need a side-kick who softens the tone a little bit."

Postmodern spiritual insanity has also given the world a cell phone text message Bible. Da txt msg Bible published by the Australian Bible Society, (mis)translates the entire Bible into the slang and (mis)spellings of cell-phone text messages. Genesis 1:1 reads, "In da beginning God cre8d da heavens & da earth." Mark 8:36-37 ("For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?") reads, "Wat will u gain, if u own da whole wrld but destroy urself? Wat cld u give 2 get bak ur soul?"

Taken to its worst extremes, postmodern paganism has given the world an abomination called The Sexed-Up Bible. Published in 2004 and endorsed by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, The Sexed-Up Bible omits God's condemnation of homosexuality, and encourages people to engage in all sorts of sexual relationships both inside and outside of marriage.

Products to be Marketed, Not the Word of God

Of course, other Bibles have been produced that are much more worthy of the name. But in today's industry, Bibles are developed and marketed primarily as products, not as the Word of God. Even at its best, much of 21st-century Bible marketing focuses on appealing to the very "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life" (1 John 2:16) against which Scripture itself speaks. It engages in fellowship with the very kingdom of darkness from which Christians have been rescued by their Savior (Colossians 1:12-13).

There is nothing inherently wrong with publishing good Bibles and making a profit. Scripture itself tells us repeatedly that "the laborer is worthy of his wages." There is also nothing inherently wrong with endeavoring to meet legitimate customer needs. But in today's Bible publishing environment, in the vast majority of cases financial profit through appeals to the flesh has become the primary focus rather than disseminating God's truth. Various appeals to the sin nature, from the mild to the malevolent, are more important than pleasing the divine Author of the Book.

Next: Postmodernism's Influence on the Evangelical Church

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