Have you browsed the Bible section of a bookstore lately? If so, you may have noticed a dizzying array of “specialty Bibles.” These days Bible publishers are going after highly specific target audiences. There are Bibles for teens, for singles, for divorcees, for construction workers, for Baptists, for Pentecostals, for Hispanics…well, you get the idea. I even heard about one for environmentalists: every passage mentioning man’s relation to the created world is highlighted in green, and it features soy ink and a completely recyclable cover and binding.
This specialization has always struck me as a little curious. Does a Baptist need a different Bible than a Methodist? Does a white policeman need a different Bible than a black architect?
Of course, in most cases it’s not the actual Bible that’s specialized. The text is usually one of several widely used translations. What’s specialized are the highlights, study notes, and other features that are added by the publisher. Those features are supposedly geared toward a particular kind of reader — single mother, firefighter, or whatever.
I suppose this trend in “specialty Bibles” reflects the fact that people want the Bible to be relevant to their lives, to their particular situations. That in itself is not a bad thing. God’s word speaks about every important area of life, assuring us that life is at its best when we live according to the Creator’s directions (see Proverbs 3:1-2).
But lost in all this, I’m afraid, is an understanding that the Bible’s most basic message — salvation through Jesus Christ — is for every human being. Furthermore, that message is the same for every human being. A married janitor and a divorced accountant both have exactly the same need before God: redemption from sin. And both will find it exactly the same way: by trusting in Christ, repenting, and being united with Him in baptism (see Romans 6:23; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:38). The same Bible tells that to everyone. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22b-24).
God’s word doesn’t say one thing to an Irish-born ditch digger and something completely different to a widowed skydiving instructor. “For the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him” (Romans 10:12).