Reader’s Digest Bible

The Reader’s Digest Association published its condensation of the RSV of Bible, known as the Reader’s Digest Bible (RDB), in 1982.
After several years of planning, the task of condensing the Bible was undertaken by a team of editors skilled in the techniques of condensation. They were required to follow a 50-page guide analyzing, describing, and giving examples of each facet of the techniques involved. The work was to take three years.
Early on, it was decided that better known passages such as the Ten Commandments, the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, and other familiar passages would remain untouched – while the rest of the Biblical text was significantly shortened.
The Reader’s Digest effort resulted in widespread protest. Yet, their’s was not the first attempt at condensing the Bible. In 1909 J. M. Dent and Sons published The Shorter Bible, an abridgement of the KJV. The same title was given to an effort published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1921. In 1928 The Living Bible was printed in New York by Alfred Knopf. Edgar Johnson Goodspeed released a condensed Bible, entitled An American Translation, in 1933. In 1936 Simon and Schuster published an editing of the KJV known as “The Bible Designed to be Read as Living Literature,” leaving out the whole of Chronicles, the minor Epistles, genealogies, repetitions, and passages regarded as “unimportant.” The Dartmouth Bible, published in 1950, cut the length of the Bible in half – eliminating material thought to be repetition and material of interest only to technical students. A Shortened Version of the Modern Readers Bible, edited by Robert Ballou, was published as the Living Bible in 1952 by Viking Press. In 1952 the Olive Pell Bible, a shortened version of the KJV, was published by Exposition Press. In 1955 another abridged version known as the Compact Bible was published by Hawthorne Books.
The Reader’s Digest Bible differs from these earlier efforts in that the goal of the editors was to produce a text significantly shortened and clarified, yet which retained all 66 books.
In the RDB, the Old Testament was cut by 55% and the New Testament by 25%. With the exceptions of the epistles of Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude, every book of the Bible was condensed to some degree. The RDB was designed to be a summary of the contents of the Bible text. It was designed for the person who would otherwise not read the Bible at all, or who would do so only sporadically.
While the decision-makers at Reader’s Digest probably did not intend a re-write of the Bible, their effort illustrates a tendency to cater to man’s tendency to prefer brevity and ease.
In contrast to all of this are Paul’s words to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Bible study is a lifelong pursuit – which is deserving of our time, focus, and effort.

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