In a hotel room I stayed in recently, people had placed a very attractive Bible. Usually, if there is a Bible in a hotel or motel room, it is regularly placed by the Gideons organisation, and normally it is both unattractive in presentation and in translation [sorry, Gideons].

This Bible appears, on first glance, more like a quality coffee-table magazine. You cannot help but flick through it. The translation, the New Living Translation (NLT), is also distinctive. What started as an attempt to revise The Living Bible developed into a totally new translation from the original languages. I know several scholarly people who appreciate its fresh approach.

But wait – there’s more. And this, for many Christians, will be the most surprising: this is a New Testament, but the order of the New Testament books is surprising. The first book is Romans, followed by Galatians, Colossians, 1 John, Mark [these 5 books are under the heading “What God has done; how and why?”]. Then 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians… under “How to live it out”; followed by “The Church and Authority”; with Part 4 being “God’s love and our future hope” with the Gospel of John and Revelation concluding the book.

I was so taken by the attractiveness of this Bible (I will be purchasing a copy) that I asked the hotel who had placed it there. They said Hillsong Church. I have also found out that Hillsong Church produced this Bible.

Some other reflections:

  • [No criticism of Hillsong’s venture here – I hope it’s clear I am enamoured by this, but] I am not convinced that reading a Bible (generally/normally) leads to conversion (etc). I tend to think that encountering Christians and Christian communities is (generally/normally) the way to encourage people to explore Christian life [though if any Bible placed in a hotel room might help someone’s exploration, this version, more than others, would be where I would begin pointing to].
  • I wonder what people think about starting with Romans and Galatians…?
  • And then the deeper theological point: is there something authoritative about the order of the books in the Bible? Can we just rearrange the order? Or is there something about beginning with the Gospels (and the order Matthew, Mark…)? And if you think there is nothing authoritative about the order – are we at liberty to rearrange the First Testament (or is there something about beginning with Genesis, Exodus,…)? And, to press this further, if the order is not authoritative for you, can we mix First and New Testament books (And, just as one example, order a bound Bible: Romans, Isaiah, James, Psalms, Leviticus, 3 John,…)?

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