Why Are Bibles Black?

I make no secret of the fact that I think the purpose of reading the Bible is to delight in the Lord, to know him at work in our lives and to follow him by obeying what it says. And, slightly more provocatively, that the aim is not, finally, merely to understand it. The Bible is God's book of Life, not a text book to be dissected and analysed for mere knowledge. (NB Don't hear me saying that knowledge is unimportant, just that it isn't sufficient. It isn't the goal). 

As I was preaching the Bible to Christian university students it occurred to me as I looked around the room just how boring Bibles often look. The most boring one in the room was an imposing, large black leather volume with gilt-edged pages, embossed with the words "Holy Bible, English Standard Version, with concordance and study guide." (It could just as easily have been any other version). It looked like it was designed to sit on a shelf with other leather bound volumes that look impressive but aren't intended to be read.

Before you think I am being a little silly and nit-picking, let me get to the point. The presentation of this Bible wasn't screaming "read and appropriate me for your joy in God. I am your daily source of life, joy, obedience, discipleship and delight. Read me and you will be blown away by God revealing himself by the Holy Spirit." Instead it seemed to be saying "I am an august volume, an impenetrably holy text book to be revered and occasionally referred to. The important thing is not to read me but to keep my leather spine pristine and my gilt-edge pages uncurled." Basically it looked designed to discourage daily delight in God's word rather than encourage it.

Interestingly the owner of this volume, unprompted, asked to talk to me about the fact that he has struggled for ages to find time in the Bible energising or enjoyable. He acknowledged he realises that it ought to be like this for him, but that the reality is that they isn't at the moment. As we talked it became obvious that for him Bible reading had mistakenly become a comprehension exercise, on the odd occasion he does it.

Dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning thinking that we have to read the Bible to educate ourselves from a text book is a very poor motivator indeed for a devoted life with God. It is simply another chore and we almost certainly end up doing it out of duty rather than delight (and then dropping it altogether or do it out of guilt alone). On the other hand getting up in order to come and worship, delight and make ourselves happy in God as we read the Word is a completely different matter. Then there is every incentive to come on tiptoe, waiting to see what God will say and do. And little likelihood of it becoming drudgery.

Why are Bibles black and drab when God's truth within is so beautifully, sweetly, deliciously multi-coloured? I know some trendy versions try to appeal to different people with titles showing different applications tools - life application Bible, youth Bible, women's Bible, ban-the-bomb-and-save-the-whales study Bible - and some of them have some value (and others don't). But I don't see any that actively tell us on the cover that it is God's book of revelation and joy. Maybe I will put a colourful sticker on the front of mine that says "God's book of joy" or "Holy Spirit Speaking" or something like it, to remind me every day of the reason I am reading it.