Themed Bibles may not be a sign of the apocalypse, but if Revelation was being written today I have to wonder if they wouldn’t be right there in the hands of the Four Horsemen. The men of Duck Dynasty and A&E have announced the October release of The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible, a New King James Version published by Thomas Nelson, a Christian publisher and home to such bestsellers as Jesus Calling and Heaven is For Real. This Bible will feature “30 life-changing testimonials along with 125 Set Your Sights features from Phil and Al [Robertson, stars of Duck Dynasty], who serve as Executive Editors on the project.”
This certainly isn’t the first commercially-themed Bible. Zondervan published The Stock Car Racing Bible for NASCAR enthusiasts with life application sections like “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Pastor T.D. Jakes partnered with Thomas Nelson to create the Holy Bible, Woman, Thou Art Loosed! edition. There is a Purified Version of the New Testament that argues all references to wine were actually about non-alcoholic grape juice. There are Bibles for men, women, and children; Bibles for teens; Bibles for people in recovery and people who speak Pidgin and people who are seeking spiritual formation.
Publishing companies make money selling books. Some publishing companies make money selling The Good Book–I’ve worked for one such company, and I’ve owned at least two of the Bibles listed above. Making a profit from selling Bibles isn’t an inherently bad thing; nor are versions of the Bible with added commentary or themes bad.
But the question the Duck Dynasty Bible brings up is just who do we want to give access to our Bibles? The people who contribute commentary to Bibles and other holy books are supplementary on our journeys of faith. I’d want to be really careful about who I read while I’m reading the words of my religious tradition.
This Bible also begs the question of Christianity aligning itself very closely with right-wing sensibilities. Duck Dynasty‘s audience is largely a conservative one, and Phil Robertson was suspended from the show last year over antigay remarks. The Robertsons’ brand of culturally conservative Christianity will probably work very nicely to sell Bibles, but it won’t do a lot to bolster the credibility of the Bible itself.