Q. Who is more pious, the person with the pristine goatskin Bible or the one with the ragged, dog-eared paperback Bible?
A. I'm not the best person to ask when it comes to judging the piety of others, but I'll take a crack at it. Growing up in church, I was always led to believe there was an inverse relationship between the condition of your Bible and the condition of your soul. The nastier your Bible looked, the better your chance at eternity. We were saved by grace, but with a little help from patina.
These days, the artificial aging of everything from leather goods to jeans is all the craze. I'm surprised the publishers aren't offering pre-distressed Bibles yet. Back then, we had some shortcuts to achieving patina, too. Leaving a cheaply made bonded leather Bible on your dashboard through the Louisiana summer was a good way to get yourself elected deacon.
So let's just say I'm skeptical about the correlation between ragged Bibles and contrite hearts.
Don't get me wrong, though. The Bible is meant to be read. That's the reason I advocate for reader-friendly format and quality production. I want to see more Bibles that lend themselves to long-term use.
The sorry state of Bible manufacture today is due in part to the fact that consumers don't notice the difference. They don't use their Bibles enough for the poor quality to show. And when a Bible does fall apart, the last thing you want to do is replace it. That thing is Pharisee Gold, the ultimate status symbol! Come to think of it, quality publishing might not be such a good thing. If occasional use was no longer tantamount to abuse, what would become of our pretenses?
I'm not a fan of babying "nice" Bibles. I don't buy good hammers for keeping in the toolbox and cheap ones for driving nails, either. You pay for quality because you intend to use it. Patina? Bring it on. But I prefer the kind that enhances the tool rather than destroying it, and that requires quality from the get-go.
J Mark Bertrand