J Walking

J Walking

The Bible Biz

I recently bought a new Bible – a TNIV translation that is supposed to be a bit more accurate and a bit more gender accurate. A friend noticed it – still unread – and after teasing me about whether the new translation changes “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” into “the Parent, the child, and the Holy Spirit” (it doesn’t) said, “Well, you’ve discovered the dirty secret of the publishing industry – the need to constantly update to keep the copyrights fresh.”
It turns out he is right. The reason there are so many translations has far less to do with Biblical accuracy and far more to do with modern publishing companies needing to constantly refresh translations to keep making money on newly copyrighted material (since copyrights run out after a certain number of years).
The Bible is big, big business and now it is also bigger and better in the audio world as well with dramatic new Bible readings that include voices like Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Jim Caveziel.
Big audio bucks indeed…


…as well as interesting debates about whether having Madonna and the Bible on the same iPod is sacrilegious. As the MSNBC article points out:

The convenience of these modern miracles is obvious, but they raise a thorny question: now that the holy texts are digital, portable and deletable, how should we treat them? It seems blasphemous to shuffle God into electronic company with Madonna and the Grateful Dead, and later destroy his name as casually as “Control-Delete.” Even downloading the Word through the same fiber-optic cables as the latest Korn album sounds like a bad idea, given that Roman Catholics dispose of holy water through special pipes to keep it from touching sewage.

Questions I’m guessing centuries of Bible scribes never anticipated – and to think, they did it for free and not as a for-profit endeavor. Silly monks.

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posted August 4, 2007 at 2:49 pm

David, from reading your bio, I just cannot believe you are as naive as some of your recent posts sound:
George Bush used religious talk to get elected and then didn’t follow up on his promises! Who could have figured?
A couple of third tier political candidates are using religion to score political points! Who ever thought of such a thing?
Religious media companies are in it for the money? When did that start?
David, in America, organized religion is about money and political control and has been since before the nation was founded. I cannot believe that you are not aware of this. It has been argued that the main religion in America is not Christianity, but rather a nationalistic folk-religion that uses the trappings of Christianity for political and financial gain.

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posted August 4, 2007 at 5:57 pm

I am not sure that copyright refresh is really playing into this. Copyright in the US is pretty much forever (Anything after 1914?) Even the UK that has more reasonable copyright is 50 years. None of the modern translations are close to running out of copyright.
But I have heard that the royalty costs can be astronomical. So Lifeway, the SBC publishing arm, did their own translation because it was cheaper to pay for a whole new translation, than it was to pay royalties to other publishers. So now they have their own translation and can print the bible any way they want for their own uses. Royalties, and not copyright are probably the real reason for so many translations. (That and denominational and theological infighting.)

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posted August 4, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Thanks for the article. For anyone wanting to hear more and view a behind the scenes clip from the upcoming Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible featuring Jim Caviezel should visit or

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posted August 5, 2007 at 11:23 pm

You had YOUR book printed and distributed free?
I’m betting a buck it wasn’t and you didn’t.

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Marian Neudel

posted August 7, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Actually, the Jewish rabbinic establishment started worrying at least ten years ago about whether it is permissible to write the Name on an electronic medium where it can then be erased. They finally decided it’s okay, based on an earlier opinion about whether it is permissible to write the Name on sand, where it will obviously suffer the same fate. Just thought y’all might want to know.

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