Friday, May 26, 2006

The Americanisation of the Bible?

Two interesting images for you. Firstly a new version of the Bible for the American military (the NIV Liberty bible - NB it is the New International Version! See Dan Kirk's comments on sibboleth. For a link to the ABS advertisement click here.)

This prompted my recollection of the following image from the invasion of Iraq. Bringing the New Testament to the muslim world? (I saw this photograph in the Times about a year ago; for further information and bigger photos see this from the evangelicaloutpost or this here - doesn't seem like it is a fake)

Does this sort of thing happen in other cultures and nations? Or is it a uniquely American phenomenon?


  1. The good thing about textual criticism based on the original languages is that it is international. I have far more problem with a title like The Evangelical Parallel New Testament (OUP) featuring: English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, The Message, New Living Translation, New International Version, New King James Version, New Century Version, Today's New International Version. The idea of the parallel NT is in itself fine, but the title promotes the idea that evangelicals have a different NT or perhaps that they own the NT.

  2. Does what sort of thing happen in other cultures and nations?

    I honestly don't see anything surprising in the two items in this post. Zondervan and other publishers have been marketing to every niche with specialized Bibles for some time now, and this is by no means the first one geared to the military. The patriotic imagery is dictated wholly by the ideas of the marketing department about how to get the most people to buy it. Perhaps this domination of capitalism even over the realm of Bible publishing is a notably American thing. But I wouldn't read any more into it than that.

    And as far as the name of the tank goes, really why would anyone notice that? I don't know how many tanks the USA owns, but the likelihood that one of them would be given a name having religious connotations by the personnel who man it is pretty close to 100% by shear statistical probablilities. It might be interesting to see a list of the gamut of names that have gotten painted on American military equipment (many of which would not be family friendly). I doubt that Michael Moore would have put the photo on his website if the ascription were some other religious tome like The Avesta, or The Odyssey.

  3. There were attempts at Germanisation of the New Testament during the Nazi era. These went way beyond translation of the text and were part of a re-branding exercise.

  4. Regards "Does this happen ...." -- having been young once and having carried a rifle in my nation's service, I really doubt there was a genuine "Christian" connotation to the words on the 120mm gun. Perhaps closer to the meaning of "kaine diatheke" before it became a technical term.

    Though two wrongs don't make a right, radical Islam's use of "Allah" in the names of terrorist organizations, etc, is just as offensive to mainline Islam.

    War is an obscenity -- are the civilians, soldiers, or "insurgents" less dead or maimed because a tank gun was named "Big Joe" rather than "New Testament" or a jihadist brigade named "Osama's Chosen" rather than "The Will of Allah"?

  5. Eric Rowe wrote:

    "I honestly don't see anything surprising ... "

    Nor do I, if there was a significant market for biker bibles then you would find them decorated with full dress HD hogs or choppers on the cover.

    NB: The flag was also a symbol used by by the antiwar activists in the last decade of the Vietnam conflict.

  6. Read the fine print. It's not the NIV but the CEV. IBS has exclusive bulk distribution rights to the NIV family of manuscripts.

    See also my comment on the Chinese cover in loco.

  7. In a rare segue into politics, I offer the following:

    In the documentary film "The League of Grateful Sons," an American patriotic postor of WWII is depicted, showing "The Holy Bible" on one side and "Mein Kampf" on the other. The caption:

    "Which Will Prevail? Buy Liberty Bonds"

    or words to that effect.

    Pentltimately, it hasn't been the Bible.
    But Ultimately, it will be.

  8. With at least a little bit of my tongue pressing my check....

    I think it was no less than Confederate General Stonewall Jackson who named the Rockbridge Artillery after the four gospels:

    But, ultimately, I suspect naming one's weapons of war after Christian namesakes has a fine European pedigree, antedating American practice. If this practice is no longer in vogue in Europe, I wonder if this comes as a result of biblical illiteracy and disdain for all things Christian, or from the rise of genuine Christian sensitivities!

    I wonder if I, as an American Christian, would find offensive a Hindi-language Bible draped in the Indian national flag, or a Spanish Bible covered with a Mexican flag.

    Hmmm, probably not. I think I would assume that the intended message was, "May God's Word bless this country whose flag covers this Bible."

    On the other hand, if my default position assumed that America were evil and abused the Bible to assert itself into world dominance, as Europeans are sometimes accused of doing during the Crusades and 19th century colonialism, then I suppose that a Bible with the American flag would raise questions.