Jewish Journal

Reading the Bible bit by bit in the digital age

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 26, 2010 | 11:43 am

Francis Bacon wasn’t fooling around when he said:

Printing, gunpowder and the compass: These three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, in so much that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.

That was in 1620. Translated into 2010 speak, Bacon’s comment might instead begin with the iPhone, atom bomb and Internet. But the truth remains as we approach the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (no, not that King James).

I’d venture to guess that no single book has had a more profound impact on the course of history. (Disagree?) But even the KJV has been transformed by the digital revolution (and I suppose the atomic age).

Recent technological advances are changing how businesses publish the Bible, how people consume the Bible, and how we share the Bible, says John Sawyer, former vice president of Bible marketing at Zondervan and current brand and marketing strategist for Somersault.

Sawyer told attendees of Religion Newswriters Association’s conference yesterday that people are reading the Bible without historical context and reading the Bible in isolation as a result of many technological advances.

“Scripture has been packaged for a sound bite culture,” Sawyer said. “Readers have lost the narrative arc of the Bible.” Technology is also changing how we share the Bible through tagging, Wiki, widgets, webinars, and other recent shifts on the Web.

Of course, one of the ways the Bible is transmitted is through Twitter’s 140 characters. The top tweeted authors include RevRunWisdom, Rick Warren, and John Piper, though Piper’s account has been inactive since March, probably due to his leave. Miley Cyrus was the most frequent recipient of Bible tweets (1,200 times), mostly encouraging her to keep her life in order.

Despite the print Bible’s popularity, publishers have adjusted their approach towards more Web-based tools.

Thanks to my GetReligion colleague Sarah Pulliam Bailey for posting this report on the Christianity Today LiveBlog. There is no doubt that Christians and non-Christians alike turn to tools of the 21st century for educating themselves on the contents of the Bible. Personally, I don’t have the Bible on my iPhone, but I use BibleGateway.com at least 10 times more often than I crack open my old leather-bound.

But I’m not sure I agree Sawyer’s comment about readers having lost the narrative arc of the Bible. Seems like a good study for The Barna Group.

Tracker Pixel for Entry


View our privacy policy and terms of service.




Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

Read more.